September – October 2014
Upon Wil’s return to Tahiti, our days following were a whirlwind of activity. The day he returned, we spent one last night in “Carrefour Bay” near Marina Taina, where we shared drinks out with s/v Liward and s/v Macha. This would be the last time to see our dear friends, Steve and Lili (s/v Liward), for a long time to come.
Early the following morning, we sailed for Port Phaeton to do some last minute provisioning, as well as collect rainwater from the 100% chance of daily rain there. In a 24-hour period, we completely filled our 200-gallon capacity, plus all jerry cans!
s/v Macha was also in Port Phaeton wrapping up their season and preparing for their flights back to California. The boat would remain in Tahiti until their return. The Macha crew had rented a car, so we were able to have a lift to the fuel station to fill our diesel cans. Hawaii was a lot of miles ahead of us, and we needed enough fuel in the event there were too many no-wind days when crossing the ITCZ (the Intertropical Convergence Zone) near the equator.
From Port Phaeton, we sailed for the Tuamotus. In order to sail comfortably for Hawaii, it’s best to make some easting with respect to the NE trade winds that begin near latitude 10 degrees North. It is most ideal to sail to Hawaii from the Marquesas. However, we had already cleared out of French Polynesia, and we did not want to press our luck by overstaying our welcome.
We made a brief stop in the anchorage at the south end of Fakarava, where we waited on a desired wind. While waiting, we snorkeled the famous Passe Tumakohua where hundreds of sharks can be seen at once. However, because it was late in the season, we only saw a small handful of sharks. It was still a heart-pumping experience though!
From Fakarava we sailed to Kauehi. We tucked up in the southeast anchorage to sit out some stronger winds. It was wonderful to revisit this atoll that we love so much. Every where we turned, we reminisced about specific events or experiences that had happened the previous year with our big group of kid boats. There were crumbling walls of an abandoned building that still contained year-old chalk drawings from several of the kids. It was fun to see where the kids had had their wild camping night out on the island. While it had been great fun with the big group, we were also enjoying the fact that now we were the only cruising boat in the lagoon. Other than fishermen passing by, or an occasional local family that would come down to play at the beach, we felt completely isolated. It was peaceful and a perfect time to reflect on the recent loss of Wil’s brother-in-law.
The longer we sat in Kauehi, the more boat issues began to creep up. We were still at least a 3-4 week sail to Hawaii, and our very well-stocked freezer decided to call it quits. At first, we could turn the freezer off for some time, and then turn it back on. When we did this, it would run for about 24 hours before it would stop cooling. After a couple of rounds of the on/off thing, and analyzing line pressures, it was realized that there was probably a blockage within the refrigerant line. Wil was able to vacuum out the old refrigerant, pump in new refrigerant, and the freezer was as good as new. However, throughout the whole process, we didn’t want all of our meats (including a Thanksgiving turkey!!) to go to waste, so we were forced to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a family who normally only eats meat a few times a week, this was tough to stomach.
The next thing to go was the generator. An electronic sensor for voltage regulation stopped working. This was a very serious issue because the generator powers our water maker. We usually try not to run our water tanks low in the event that we can’t refill. However, this time one tank was empty, and the other tank was very nearly empty. If we became desperate, we could go the 10 miles to the village and carry jerry cans for water. Fortunately, Wil was able to by-pass the faulty sensor. The generator worked again, and the water tanks could be refilled.
Next, the Pactor which is used for receiving weather and email through the HF radio began to die. We were getting ready to start the 3-4 week passage to Hawaii, and it was crucial that we be able to receive weather information throughout the trip. While it would have been possible to find a weather station on the HF radio, or get verbal reports from my dad via a ham frequency, I totally prefer to do our weather routing by studying the grib files for our immediate area. This allows us to tweak our course daily with respect to forecasted wind direction and strength. Over time, I discovered that if I allowed the Pactor to warm up prior to use, it would work long enough for me to pull in email and gribs. Some mornings, I literally covered it with a blanket. Talk about nursing the equipment! With the help of a friend over the HF radio, we were able to determine that the Pactor would need to be sent in for repair once we arrived in Hawaii. Fortunately, the repair would cost significantly less than buying a new one.
In an attempt to replenish some of what had been consumed when our freezer had its trouble, we decided to do a quick day trip to the village of Tearavero. Unfortunately, the only provisions we purchased were two cans of corned beef. As sad as we were to have not found more, the corned beef would be a brief, additional sustenance in the event that food stores ran low on the way to Hawaii.
On the brighter side, we got to pass by Motu Toe Toe where we had sought refuge from a storm the previous year. We also got to stroll around the village taking in the sights.
A side note regarding Motu Toe Toe: Some time later, after we had departed French Polynesia and had been in Hawaii, we were contacted about using some of our Kauehi photos to help promote the new up and coming Blue Pearl Island. Blue Pearl Island is an eco-friendly lodge located on Motu Toe Toe where one can go for a variety of experiences, including a work exchange program for free lodging. There is hope that this project will be a source of income for the people of Kauehi, as well as remain in the atoll’s best interest. You can see some of our Kauehi photos in the Gallery on Blue Pearl Farm’s website!
Since we would be at sea for Halloween, and we had no way of obtaining a pumpkin, the kids got creative with some coconuts. The Halloween coconuts were left for the local family that would eventually come down for a day at the beach.
Before the start of the 3-4 week passage to Hawaii, there was one last little bit of fun to be had and energy that needed to be burned.
Eventually, we finally had a decent weather window for sailing north. This was a passage that would lead us to the next phase in our lives. French Polynesia had become a true love in our hearts, and we would miss her dearly. We considered ourselves lucky to have been able to re-visit these beautiful islands for a second time. There was a strong hope in all of us that we would one day return to French Polynesia again.