12 – Society Islands

Papeete, Tahiti

We’re on anchor near the marina in Papeete, Tahiti. French Polynesia continues to amaze and impress us at every stop. The Polynesian people are friendly and the islands are spectacular. The traveling is much more challenging than Mexico or Central America, but absolutely worth the extra effort.

The overnight passage from the Tuamotus to Tahiti was quite intense. We had thunder and lightening as bad as any I’ve ever seen in my life – even worse than Central America during the rainy season or the 3 ITCZ crossings we made. We were right in the middle of it for hours as it ever so slowly passed over us. I would see the huge bolts of lightening flash and count seconds to figure out how close it was getting. When it got too close for comfort I just started counting faster, trying to convince myself it really wasn’t only a mile or two off. Rob had put our handheld GPS units and VHF into the stove so we had some way to find our way into Tahiti if we took a hit and lost all of our electronics. The storm finally passed by mid day the next day, and we arrived in Tahiti late on our second day. It was after dark so we pulled in to a bay east of Papeete where there was a wide pass through the reef that was well marked and usable at night.

The next day we moved around into Papeete harbor and Med-moored on a pontoon right in the city. A boat named Imagine was across the dock from us with a new membrane for their watermaker, which Rob spent 5 hours helping install when we arrived. In return for his help, their sister had carried two new laptops down from the states. My brother Tony had helped us find new machines, which we had shipped to his house. He installed all the necessary patches to the operating system and downloaded lots of programs and installed them for us (Thanks TB!). Then with my sister Leslie’s help, they arranged to ship the machines to Kentucky to a person who was flying down to Tahiti the next day. Funny thing was that they were all thinking we were crazy to just ship off two brand new laptops to someone we’ve never heard of before and trust they’ll arrive in Tahiti a day later. In our minds there was no doubt the machines would show up fine – that’s just part of the cruising life. My brother calls it “living by the seat of our Bermuda shorts”; we just call it Karma.

Last night since we were in the city we enjoyed dinner at what they call the Roulottes. They’re a bunch of little vans sitting in a big park near the water with folks making dinner, and they all have little tables and chairs nearby. We had steak with blue cheese and fries for $14, and it was the best value meal in Tahiti. They also make lots of Chinese food. When we were in Lima we found it odd to see Chinese people speaking Spanish after having grown up in the Pacific Northwest where the Chinese speak only Chinese or English. Here the Chinese speak French, which is even more odd for us than Spanish. Another odd event happened our first night out at dinner when two of the local drag queens decided to stop and pose at our table. Don’t know why they chose us, but it was quite a surprise after 6 months away from big cities and big city type people. Apparently the drag queens in this town are quite famous and we shouldn’t have been surprised.

Canoe racing Tahitian styleThe Polynesians are gearing up for their annual winter festival and we’ll likely get to enjoy some dancing and athletic contests. Yesterday there were canoe races with 5 man teams. There were about 40 canoes and they all lined up and started right near our boat at 8 in the morning. About 2:00 in the afternoon they started coming back and they looked absolutely exhausted. We learned this morning that they paddled all the way to Moorea and back – about 12 miles in the open ocean each way. We’ll find out tomorrow what events we can still get tickets for.

We’ll stay in Papeete for a week or so. We’re trying to figure out which way to go at the end of this season, and where there’s some work for two software types. I had hoped to find work in New Zealand or the Marshall Islands, but we need to decide if we’re going north or south. We also need to get a vet out to the boat to draw blood from Maya to ship off to Paris and get a rabies test done. If we end up in New Zealand they’ll need proof that she’s been rabies free for 6 months and only in rabies free countries since then. If we’re working we will undoubtedly be at a dock somewhere and we’ll need to be able to let her off the boat to roam a bit.

Today on Yohelah we’re enjoying Polynesian life and happy to have two new computers……

The anchorage in downtown Papeete is here

12 - Society Islands

Papeete

We’ve been in Papeete for a week now and most of our chores are done. Does it seem like all we do is sail and work on the boat? Well, not entirely.

The windvane took a hit from a big beam on wave on an overnight passage in the Tuamotus and bent. Luckily it bent where it was supposed to, on a tube that’s designed to collapse, saving the other parts of the windvane. So we needed to replace the “collision tube”, which is a 16″ piece of stainless steel tubing that has a lighter wall thickness than the rest of the unit. Sounds like it should be fairly easy, but not so. Rob schlepped around our bent up piece of tubing to every chandlery in Papeete. Finally, when he was almost to the last possible store he was asking at the counter and a Frenchman in line behind him said “I think I have some of that at my boatyard”. Turns out the guy owned a local ferry and had a boatyard where he took Rob. He told his guys to dig in the scrap bin, and sure enough they pulled out a piece that was long enough to cut off two spares for us! He wouldn’t take any money for it, saving us what was about to become an emergency shipment from the states if Rob had completely struck out.

The autopilot also barfed on the way in here, giving us a “drive until failure” message. Rob dug down to the back of the boat where it hooks up to the rudder post and one of the bolts had sheared off, leaving the unit basically hanging in mid air. You definitely could call it a drive unit failure when it’s not even hooked up to the drive unit. Some drilling, pounding, grinding and a little hard work later and the autopilot is behaving again.

Our wind generator also died on the way in here, and that one’s still a mystery. Rob’s written to the manufacturer after checking all the connections and technical electrical stuff, but no answer back yet. And having been a marine electrician in a previous life, Rob definitely understands the electrical things, so hopefully we’ll get some help from the folks who built it.

The biggest project here was to get Maya’s blood tested for rabies, in order to get bio-clearance into New Zealand. We need a blood test that’s more than 6 months old and less than a year old when we arrive in New Zealand. We couldn’t get it done in Central America, but knew we could here, reading from cruiser’s adventures in years past. There is a guy in the anchorage who needed to ask Rob some questions about his watermaker, and during the course of the conversation we found out he had dealt with the same issue to get clearance for his dog here in Papeete. And the good news was there was a French vet who spoke good English on a cruising boat about 200 yards away, who is working with a local clinic. The vet came to our boat the next day and I held Maya tight while he drew a big vial of blood from her right arm (she was such a good kitten). That vial will get shipped to the lab in Australia (one of apparently 3 places in the western world who does this test) on Monday when the vet brings back the sample. That’s been one of our biggest worries for the longest time, thinking we had to deal with a French lab in Paris and the potential language difficulties. Finding an Aussie lab is just the best news ever.

So after we get the blood to Federal Express on Monday we can finish up the last of our provisioning and head north to the rest of the Societies. We really need to get heading toward the Cooks where we can afford to fill up the boat with food again. I know I promised not to whine about the prices anymore, but this is just so crazy. I was at the store looking for fresh chicken and I’m sure I totally gasped out loud when I saw the package of 8 chicken legs for $25.00. Luckily we found the frozen chicken section and can afford to eat a little bit of chicken between here and Rarotonga. I’m just hoping Rob’s fishing gear does well for the rest of the month as we sail between the Society Islands.

heiva

Last night we went with friends to the evening’s performance of the Heiva Festival. It’s an annual dance and song competition, with dance troupes and singing groups performing every night for 8 days, and awards given at the end of the week. All the program info is in French, but what I figured out was that there are two types of dance groups, Heiva and Heiva Nui. The first group we saw has only been performing together for three years and has 100 dancers. They were pretty good. The second group we saw has been together since 1993 and has 160 dancers, and they were awesome. The drums and instruments were mesmerizing, the costumes beautiful, and the dancers and choreography amazing. The only bad part was that no cameras were allowed, so we didn’t get to record any of it. OK, well maybe Rob snuck in a few pictures, but the ushers were constantly scanning the crowd and stopping people who got caught. Each dance troupe performed for an hour, which included multiple costume changes, solo dances, and lots of great traditional music. This is not an event for the tourists, it’s for the locals and they were all out and dressed for a special night on the town. I felt lucky to get to be a part of it.

Today we’re going to scuba dive on a wreck inside the lagoon here in Tahiti with some friends. It’s in about 30′ of water on the outer reef. We haven’t been in the water here yet, but it’s so amazingly clear and we’re looking forward to checking out the wreck. Unfortunately the water temp is only 77 degrees, so we’re glad it’s a relatively shallow dive.

Teresa

The anchorage at Marina Taina in Papeete is here

12 - Society Islands

Goodbye To Warrior – But Only For Now

We first met Robin & Michelle on the boat Warrior in Zihuatanejo when we were so busy with Sailfest in January of 2007. After we crossed the Tehuantepec in February of 2008 and anchored off the coast of El Salvador, Warrior pulled in and dropped a hook behind us a few hours later. Since that time we’ve enjoyed Robin & Michelle’s company off and on as we’ve traveled south, back north again, and further south yet.

They were in the US finishing up work on a research grant when they decided to buy a boat, learn to sail, and take her home to Australia. They found Warrior for sale in California. She had been designed by Brit Chance, a designer of America’s Cup boats and the son of a colleague Robin had worked with early in his career. Warrior is a cold molded wooden boat, 50′ long and built for speed. She was famous in the racing circuit in the US for years, winning Trans Pacs and many other long distance ocean races.

When Warrior left Panama last January they were bound for the Galapagos, Easter Island, Pitcairn, the Gambiers and then back up to the Marquesas. It was a several thousand mile detour south that Robin was determined to make and we wish we had the time to do as well. But Warrior was built to sail to weather and they enjoyed the trip immensely. We didn’t catch up with them again, though, until our stop in Anse Amyot in the Tuamotus.

Robin had started feeling a little off in Panama, and by the time we saw them in the Tuamotus he was feeling pretty bad and had lost a lot of weight. We saw him at dinner twice in Anse and he did a little snorkeling, but they were just waiting for the weather to settle so they could get to Papeete to a doctor. Even with Michelle’s doctorate in language, and French as one of her languages, it became apparent that he needed care at home in his native tongue, so he flew back to Brisbane soon after arriving at Tahiti.

The diagnosis is cancer and he’s home to stay for treatments. In the meantime, Michelle has rounded up crew and is sailing Warrior the remaining 3,700 miles back to Brisbane. That’s a daunting task for any of us to have to take sole responsibility for our little boat without our mate. Michelle wants Warrior home though, to give Robin a special place to hang out while he endures chemo. Warrior and Michelle will take good care of each other on the long voyage home.

Teresa

12 - Society Islands

Moorea

mooreaIt’s about 18 miles from Papeete to Cook’s Bay on Moorea. When all our chores were finally done and we headed across the southerly winds and big south swell were running pretty high, making the anchorage at Papeete uncomfortable and the one at Moorea very inviting. We sailed across and dropped a hook in a sandy spot just inside the pass near Cook’s Bay.

The passes in the Society Islands are much more mellow than the passes in the Tuamotus for a couple of reasons. First, the Societies are still islands and not just empty lagoons that fill up with water, so the amount of water inside the barrier reef is much less and the resulting current is less. Also, the Societies are on what’s called an amphidromic point, where tides are minimal and the water level difference is only 8 inches between high and low tide.

Looking down the valley to Cooks BayThe southerlies ended and we moved into Cook’s Bay and decided to go for what the travel guide described as “an excellent day hike” on a shaded three hour trail. We took a shuttle around the island to the ferry terminal and walked inland on a road that eventually turned into a trail up the mountainside. And up it went. It was definitely the steepest trail we’d hiked in a long time. But in about 90 minutes we were at the top on a ridge with beautiful views where we rested and had lunch. We knew we were a bit slow getting up to the top and guessed we’d have another two hours to get back down. Yeah, not. Somehow we must have missed a right turn. The guidebook only said “on the way down avoid taking the wrong turn at a bamboo grove”. But it didn’t say what the right turn was, and apparently we took the wrong one. After traversing the valley on a lovely trail for another three hours we finally found a road. Unfortunately it went down to the wrong bay. When we got to the road that connects the two bays we stuck out our thumb and the third car had room to take us the 5 miles back to Cook’s Bay. It was a very long day, but we definitely saw lots of Moorea.

The northeasterlies started blowing pretty strong, so we moved around into Opunohu Bay looking for some shelter. We wanted to dive on the outer reef and had to wait for the wind to settle down. Yesterday it was finally calm and we hauled out the dive gear, threw it all into the dink and went out the pass to the buoys the commercial dive boats use. As we descended we were literally swarmed by fish. It’s obvious that the local divemasters feed the fish to amuse their customers. Everything on the dive was looking for a handout, including a huge mooray eel who came half out of his hole looking hopeful, and a 4′ black tipped reef shark who swam with us the entire 40 minutes we were down (I named him Sammy). There were two enormous turtles snacking on the reef that weren’t bothered by us and we swam with them for about 10 minutes. I’ve never been 5′ from a turtle before and could have swam up and grabbed ahold and gone for a ride, but I really didn’t want to bother them. Sadly though, the coral was nearly all dead. It would have been an incredible dive if the coral had been alive, and it didn’t look like it had been dead for long like the reefs in the Caribbean, but there were scarcely few places where it was healthy. We were extremely happy we had done the dives in the Tuamotus and seen coral reefs still spectacularly healthy because apparently here they’re not.

Last night we were going to leave for the northern Societies, which are just far enough northwest that we have to travel overnight in order to arrive during daylight. But a front was passing through and it was cloudy and rainy in the afternoon when we should have been getting ready to leave, which did not inspire us to get ready and go. The winds were forecast to be light overnight and the thought of motoring all night in the rain didn’t have much appeal. Of course as soon as it got dark the skies cleared and the wind started howling. We ended up with 25 knots of wind for most of the night in the anchorage, which was really noisy and unpleasant given that we were anchored in a narrow slot between two reefs (definitely between and rock and a hard place). This morning the sun is back out and the winds seem to have settled back into a southeasterly, which is the normal direction for the trades. So we moved back into Cook’s Bay so I can upload some pictures to the website. Tonight for sure we’ll hoist sail at sunset and make our overnight passage to Huahine.

I’ve been studying the weather down here for a long time and am finally starting to understand a little bit of what’s going on. There are definitely lots of factors down here that affect the weather differently than in the northern hemisphere; the primary one being that there are no huge continents. The forecasters here are now nearly officially calling this an El Nino year, which for us is ok. What it means is the trades will be lighter than normal, which we’ve already experienced all the way from the Galapagos. It also means the south pacific convergence zone (the area where the southeast trades bump into the equatorial easterlies) will be further north than usual. That makes our choice to visit the southern Cook Islands a good one, but might make a visit to Niue and Samoa difficult and unpleasant.

So far we’ve enjoyed the Societies and look forward to our last 17 days in French Polynesia before our visas expire. I was hopeful that since we’ve got our international zarpe already, maybe we could cheat a little bit in Bora Bora and not quite get underway on time. But this morning the local Gendarme boat came by and four guys came aboard and checked all our papers and passports. Guess we’ll have to play by the rules afterall.

Teresa

Cook’s Bay in Moorea is here

12 - Society Islands

I’m Still Waiting

When we were in Playa Coco during Papagayo season last winter we met a guy who was singlehanding a Union 36 from the east coast of the US around and up to Alaska, traveling upwind most of the time. He was convinced that there was absolutely no such thing as a “good passage”, and that we just managed to forget the horrid stuff and remember the not so terrible parts. At the time we strongly disagreed.

We’ve met plenty of people who hate passages but many more who enjoy them. Most folks just endure them, I think. Rob & I were strongly in the camp of really enjoying most of our passages. Then we got to the South Pacific. What was it I said yesterday about finally starting to understand the weather here? Apparently that was a mistake!

Looking closer this afternoon at the weather charts I can see the front that we drove out into last night. It was a beautiful day in Moorea and I thought the front had passed through well enough to have a decent passage. Nope. The seas were a mess and the boat rolled and pitched violently all night. Things were flying from every corner of the boat, and we’re really good at keeping things put up. The boat has never been this much of a mess.

When we arrived this morning a squall was passing through and it was raining so hard I couldn’t see to drive into the pass and get an anchor down. So we turned around and waited until the squall passed and the rain slowed down enough to see. When we came back into the anchorage another squall moved on top of us and we were trying to anchor in 75 feet of water with 35 knots of wind. Not an easy task, and we got a hook down but ended up in the middle of the channel. After that squall passed by we up anchored, came in closer to shore and settled into a lovely spot in 20 feet of water just off the beach.

It was so rough we didn’t eat any dinner last night, which wouldn’t have mattered to me anyway because I was actually seasick enough to throw up before I managed to get a dose of Stugeron into me. So needless to say our first order of business this morning was breakfast, followed by a nap. When the boat is rolling violently side to side every 8-10 seconds there is little sleep happening on your off watch.

I do remind myself that even though the passages suck down here, I am still afterall in the South Pacific on my own little boat, living a life I do love. But truly, I am still waiting for a decent South Pacific passage.

Teresa

Huahine is here

12 - Society Islands

A Quick Stop in Raiatea

Something you never get to do at home is hop in the water with your snorkel gear to check your anchor when it’s being fussy about setting. That’s just what I did yesterday after the third time we tried to get it to set and still weren’t sure it really was. We could see the bottom as we dropped and it looked like there was just rock over hardpan, and sure enough I think we were right. The anchor was wrapped in 90 degree turns around two bommies and just laying on it’s side on top of the rocks. The cruising guides called it a “fair weather anchorage”, which I guess means you don’t need more than the weight of your anchor and chain.

We’re in Raiatea where there’s a wreck inside the lagoon that we stopped to dive on. We took the dink over to the dive site after we anchored and found the visibility in the lagoon really crappy. Even after I got in the water and snorkeled down as deep as I could, I couldn’t see any evidence of the 200′ ship in 80′ of water. There seems to be some sort of a bloom in the water, maybe even jellyfish. 100′ visibility in the South Pacific isn’t unusual, and I couldn’t see probably more than 15′.

About 3:00 the wind started picking up from the southeast and the waves started building in the lagoon. I quickly checked the weather forecast and discovered that nope, this wouldn’t be a “fair weather” night, so we opted out of the pretty little anchorage in front of the motu. Not surprisingly, when we got ready to up anchor we realized all the other cruising boats but one had left and there were only charter boats remaining.

A huge lagoon inside the reef with lots of room for sailingFrom what we’ve seen so far, the Society Islands seem to be the best of the Marquesas and Tuamotus. The islands are beautiful towering green mountains, with high peaks, sharp cliffs and steep faces, which are surrounded by coral reefs with a lagoon between the reef and the shoreline that’s generally deep enough to navigate through. We have beautiful bays to anchor in with no ocean swell. Of course you lose the isolation of the Tuamotus and Marquesas, so if it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for you don’t come here for that. But if it’s a lovely anchorage that’s not rolly with stunning islands behind you, right here is the place to be.

Surprisingly to us it gets really cold here at night. We didn’t notice this in Tahiti, but as soon as we got to Moorea we found very chilly nights and mornings. Chilly, of course, is truly a relative term. But let’s just say there are no fans running at night and the hatches are closed for the first time in years. Maya goes out to play usually about 3 or 4 in the morning, and when she came in this morning (in the front portlight directly onto our bed) she was soaking wet from the heavy dew. She’s the only cat I’ve ever had who just doesn’t care that she’s wet, and plays in the sink with the faucet running. Needless to say, with as hot as it gets during the day, we’re enjoying the refreshingly cool nights.

I was sitting in the cockpit enjoying the cool evening air two nights ago when Maya found a lone wasp out late to chase. My hair was unpinned and hanging down, and she chased it right into my hair. Truly a big hair nightmare to have a wasp tangled up in it. Neither of us was very happy, both before he stung me in the face and after.

Today we’ll head over to Bora Bora and stay there until our visas run out. We’ve got about 10 days left and want to get rested up and enjoy Bora Bora for a while before we have to leave. It’s called “the most beautiful island in the South Pacific”, so we have high expectations after what we’ve seen so far. There’s a dive site called “manta dance” inside the lagoon where the manta rays come play, and we’re looking forward to that. I haven’t seen any manta rays up close yet and want a chance to add that to the list of amazing things we’ve enjoyed here in French Polynesia.

Teresa

Raiatea is here

12 - Society Islands

A Very Eventful Evening

I was in the cockpit last night after dinner enjoying the cool evening air and the end of a very good book when I suddenly heard a local speedboat come flying past our boat. It was so close to that us I was amazed it hadn’t hit our dinghy, which we hoist off the port bow at night. It was racing through the dark anchorage towards shore where the locals keep their boats. The moon was full but the sky was overcast, and the water in the harbor was flat calm. I can’t estimate exactly how fast he was going because I don’t travel in speedboats very often, but I would guess it was between 30 and 40 knots.

Seconds after he passed us we heard the noise of the first collision as he slammed into a small boat anchored behind us. Rob came running up with our spotlight and we started to head towards the dinghy to go to the scene of the accident and see if we could lend assistance. Other folks in the harbor were doing the same, as the noise could be heard on the quiet night throughout the bay. Suddenly we heard the boat heading back towards us. We were both astounded that anyone could have survived a collision with that much force, much less turn the boat around and try to escape.

But that’s exactly what he was trying to do. As it passed us the second time on the way back out of the harbor, Rob aimed the spotlight at the boat to see if there was a driver or if it was just a runaway boat situation. Soon it veered towards us and slammed into our bow. We were still in the cockpit and could see that it was going to ram us, but there was nothing we could do but scream (I screamed, Rob didn’t). It came up over the toerail and to a stop with the front 3′ of it extended over our foredeck.

crash

We looked forward, saw the driver sitting in the seat and I wasn’t sure at that moment if we was still alive. He had flown through his windshield and back into the seat when he collided with our boat. He attempted to back off our boat and escape again, but Rob yelled, went forward and grabbed his bow line. Within seconds there were two dinghys at our boat with cruisers lending aid. The driver was bleeding profusely from his arm where it had been gouged in the windshield. He had to be convinced to get into their dinghy and go ashore, and passed out from lack of blood before he even got there. I had called for help on the VHF and people were already arranging for an ambulance and the Gendarme.

After the first two dinghys had taken him off his boat it started taking on water. As it began to sink our boat started to list to port. I again called on the radio for any help from the anchorage, as our dinghy was pinned up sideways and we were unable to get off our boat and do much. Again, more cruisers came to our aid. Soon the boat stopped taking on water and everything settled. Moments after that a cruiser who spoke French came with two officers from the Gendarme and helped translate for us.

Oops he left his boat behindWe were concerned that no one knew if there had been other passengers in the boat who might have been ejected in either collision. We looked down at where the speedboat was laying over our toerail and saw a little kid’s shoe which had come out of the bow and was laying on our deck. We were worried there may be other passengers in the bow of the boat, but a local in a canoe with a light did confirm that there was no one else up inside the bow. The kid’s shoe did totally creep us out, though, but thankfully it was empty.

The Gendarme took our statements and called for the police/fire boat to come and remove the speedboat from our deck. The police boat arrived several minutes later, tied lines around the bow and stern and towed the boat to the shoreline and left it in shallow water. The Gendarme went to the other boat, took their statement and the statement of a witness in a third boat anchored between us, then instructed us to be at their office first thing in the morning.

They pull it off our bow and tow it away into the nightAfter they pulled the boat away from ours we got a look at the damage to our boat. Amazingly (or not so amazingly I guess, knowing how strong our boat is), the damage was superficial. There appears to be no damage to either the toerail or the hull. Three of our deck stanchions are bent, one beyond repair, and one of our lifelines is destroyed. At this time that seems to be the extent of the damage. We were much luckier than the other boat, which was left with a 10″ hole in the side and extensive damage to the toerail and cockpit combing.

Our biggest issue at this point is time, or more importantly lack of it. Our visas expire in six days, we now have a boat without lifelines that we feel is not safe to take to sea, and a potentially difficult 500+ mile passage to Rarotonga. When Rob finished giving his statement to the Commandant of the Gendarme he asked for an extension to our visa to give us time to find parts and make the repairs. The commandant explained that it was very difficult to get an extension, and called Papeete to find out what we documents we needed to provide. The list includes several items, such as proof of medical insurance, money in the bank, an estimate for repairs to the boat, and importantly, a letter in French explaining the circumstances for the extension request.

I asked the commandant what would be the fine if we were caught without an extension, since it would be his employees that would catch us here in Bora Bora. I explained that we would not leave his harbor until our boat was repaired and made safe again. At that point he told us to bring the documents to his office in the morning and he would write the letter to the officials in Papeete himself and fax them for us. He gave us his personal phone number and email address and a recommendation for a repair facility to provide an estimate.

Of course by now it was lunchtime, which in every country south of the United States means that all businesses are closed for two hours. So we stopped with the folks from the other damaged boat and had some lunch and waited for the repair shop to reopen. When Rob explained to the repair shop owner that we needed a report for the Gendarme, he said he would meet us at the Yacht Club dock at 9:00 tomorrow morning and there would be no fee for his time to prepare two estimates.

When we left our boat this morning our outboard wouldn’t start and we thought it was just flooded, so a cruiser happened by to check on us and towed us into the dock. We hitchhiked into town from there instead of taking our dink to the city dock. When we got back to the dock this afternoon we found our dinghy motor still unwilling to start, so someone from the yacht club towed us back to our boat. Apparently our outboard has been damaged as well, but hopefully Rob can fix it today or tomorrow.

Will we get any money for our repairs? Rob thinks not. It didn’t sound from the commandant like the guy who hit us has any money. We’re insured, but the cost of the repairs, thankfully, should be much less than our deductible. The local will be charged in court and the estimate for the repairs will be provided to the court. By law he should pay, but we’re doubtful that will really happen. The local who picked us up and gave us a ride into town this morning already knew about the accident and said the guy drank too much whiskey. The commandant said a blood test will be taken, but likely it was alcohol related.

The good news this morning from the other cruiser who helped get the local ashore is that his arm was not as severed as we were told last night. Hopefully he won’t lose it. Our damage is superficial and repairable. Eva, the other boat, will be repaired as well. Then we’ll both be on our way to another island where hopefully we won’t have any more eventful evenings like last night.

Teresa
Bora Bora Yacht Club is here

12 - Society Islands

Update on repairs

Life continues to return to normal here after the collision. We’ve gotten to know Michael and Gerald on Eva, the other boat that was hit, pretty well through all our trips to the Gendarmerie, chandlery, and other marine businesses. Nice thing about cruising is there is always a silver lining.

The gendarmes and other officials have been fabulous. When I was giving my statement I asked the gendarme if there was any chance we would have legal issues with the speed boat driver. He looked at me like I was truly crazy. It seems that here in French Polynesia when an unlit speedboat with a suspected drunk-on-his-ass driver speeds through a mooring field at night and hits an anchored boat or two and puts himself in the hospital, there is no attempt at shifting blame from the idiot driving the speed boat Refreshingly different from recent actions in backward, third world places like Mexico or Lake County, California. (BTW, has it occurred to anyone else that the Lake County prosecutor’s recent statements re: not being able to charge Perdoc because the drifting sailboat he flattened was driven by an intoxicated person means that the rest of Lake County’s deputy sheriffs have a free pass to crash into any boat driven by persons suspected of drinking? Lets hope boat ownership is relatively low in this particular population segment.)

The local businesses have also been extraordinary. Jean-Noel at Bora Bora Marine gave both boats repair estimates that were required to document the damage, at no cost. He couldn’t even expect repair business out of it because his shop doesn’t do the stainless, hull, or wood repairs required. After he dropped off our estimates he gave us a ride to the Gendarmerie. Gerald was in the front with Jean-Noel and convinced him to accept compensation for all his work on our behalf. Jean-Noel also called Raitea and set up my trip for stainless steel repairs. Today I took the express ferry over to Raitea, arriving at 9:30 am. Greg from ALUNOX Marine picked me up at the ferry terminal and drove me to the shop. He and Claude measured the lifelines and sent dimensions to a business in Papeete for a replacement estimate. By the time we left the shop at 12:45 for my one o’clock ferry back to Bora Bora, Claude had straightened one gate stanchion and welded new sections into the other two bent stanchions. They also firmed up the order for the lifelines and arranged shipment to Bora Bora for delivery next week. Never thought I’d have three fixed stanchions that quickly.

Arriving back in Bora Bora early, I met Teresa at the Gendarmerie where we learned our visa extension had been approved and we received our official extension, good until Sept 10th! Jean-Luc Chombart, the Commandant, provided assistance in writing letters, faxing all required docs to the officials in Papeete, and calling several times to keep things moving. None of this is the responsibility of the gendarmes, he was just helping us out. A very successful day, indeed, thanks to the locals.

It looks like the repairs, not counting my time, are going to cost us around $500. I don’t mind though. When I think back to Monday night, that single moment when we were tracking the speedboat with the spotlight and it was a second or two from an inevitable collision with us, it would have never occured to me that we would have a fixed boat again for only 500 bucks.

That’s it for now, I think I’m ready to be done with the collision aftermath. The diversion the past week has had its interesting moments but seems to have consumed the last 4 days with no time left for anything else. We’ll have to remedy that and switch over to tourist mode. I only wish Michael and Gerald on Eva were as close to finished as we are.

Today on Yohelah we are tired but happy to have the repairs under control and ready to discuss dive sites rather than collision sites.

Rob

12 - Society Islands

Let’s define ‘T-Bone’

We’ve received a lot of very good advice from many people who’ve read about our encounter with a speedboat. As a result we will be taking a careful look at the inside of the hull and our bulkheads to ensure there is no hidden damage. I believe additional damage is unlikely because of the nature of the impact.

The speedboat hit us at half the speed he hit Eva, probably because of operator and boat damage. Our AB Aluminum RIB was hanging on our port side with the tubes just below the cap rail, tied fore and aft. The speedboat hit the inflatable first, flipping it sideways as seen in the first photo we posted. I believe the deep vee bow of the inflatable pushed the speed boat up and forward, impacting our cap rail and lifelines. The energy of the collision was dissipated through our lifelines and stanchion and by the shredding of the plywood hull as it chewed its way over our bulwarks. We really didn’t have a classic T-bone with the bone jarring impact as reported by Eva. In fact, when the boat hit us we felt no boat movement at all.

Inspection of our inflatable revealed one small dent on the bottom near the tube/hull join, not worth repairing. The next time I have hypalon glue mixed I’ll probably slap a patch over the slight abrasion in the hypalon.

Our damage has been luckily minor, thankfully because of the nature of the impact and the construction of both boats.

Rob

12 - Society Islands

Pigs Fly in Bora Bora

I don’t even remember when I got the roll of sunbrella, but I’m positive it was on my boat when we sailed north to Alaska in April ’06. I’m pretty sure Cindy bought it when she went to the discount store and got all the hardware for us to do canvas making. I do know the fabric in the aft cabin was always intended for a cover for our dink. The dink is made of hypalon, which is relatively strong and resistant to UV damage, but it will wear eventually. So finally last year in Ecuador I dug out the instructions we and made a pattern for the dink cover. That was probably in August, which was a year ago. I’ve been working on it ever since, and moving it in and out of the aft cabin every time I’ve straightened up.

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Over the course of the last 12 months we became pretty sure pigs would be airborne long before the cover actually got finished and went on the dink. Today I’m happy to say that pigs are flying in Bora Bora. I can finally not only check that one off the eternal list, but also stop having to move the huge pile of sunbrella every time I clean up the aft cabin.

We’re still on a buoy at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. We were going to move today, but last night about 2:30 in the morning the wind started howling. We’re in the lee of the mountain and don’t think there’s a better protected spot on the island, so here we’ll stay until it slows down tomorrow. There’s a big low that passed by deep in the Southern Ocean earlier this week, and a huge high that has followed, making a squash zone between them with some pretty good winds. Hopefully the worst of it will blow over tonight and we’ll have calmer conditions tomorrow.

Which would be good, because we have to go over to the commercial dock and pick up our lifelines that arrive from Papeete. Apparently they’ll be on “the blue ship”. So we have to watch for it to come in the pass and go to the dock to unload. Somehow we’ll figure out where our stuff is and pick them up. That’ll be the end of the repairs from the collision, so we’ll be free to go and enjoy Bora Bora as soon as this wind dies.

In other good news, Michelle has Warrior as far as New Caledonia, which on a straight line course is nearly 3,000 miles from Tahiti. She’s been dodging low pressure systems and weather fronts, and reports it as a very wet ride so far. She said she’s definitely learned the difference between cruising and delivering a boat. But the best news is that Robin’s first round of chemo is done and he’s feeling good enough to fly up and spend a week in New Caledonia with Michelle before the last leg home to Aus.

Our next stop is Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, but I’m not planning too far ahead yet. Right now we’re going to enjoy some time in Bora Bora. Brit & Axel are just leaving Tahiti when this wind stops blowing, so hopefully we’ll get to see them before we head west to the Cooks. Maya’s blood test came back positive from the lab in Australia and the Kiwi officials have confirmed that we’re good to go to import her into New Zealand, so that’s good news also.

Today on Yohelah we’re waiting for the wind to slow down and watching for flying pork….

Teresa

Bora Bora Yacht Club is here

12 - Society Islands