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A fine first night on the way to Tahiti

Good morning – we’ve got sun and clouds and a bit of wind coming in from port side, 109 miles to go to Pt. Venus in Tahiti.

Yesterday went well, pulled in my dock lines from the mooring ball, raised the mainsail and drifted slowly on down towards the pass. There was a significant variation in when the pass might be at slack water, I aimed to arrive early just in case as the worst thing you can do is miss the slack and then you’re stuck inside the lagoon for another 6 hours, which would make running miles to Tahiti difficult. At 10:30 the pass was a wall of waves, large ones. At 11:15 the waves were all gone, at 11:30 I went through the pass (it’s 48 feet deep on the center shelf) and there was a light washing machine churning of the water, far less than one sees at Pt. Bonita off San Francisco. Out we popped. Points to Fakarava Yacht Services for getting the slack time most accurately, they were better than SHOM and NOAA.

Outside it was smooth low swell, some wind coming in from the ESE at 10 knots, and off Beetle. By mid-afternoon the wind was 10-12 knots and there was enough boat speed to pull that wind forward to just on the beam, there was a current running in my direction, and the low swell was pushing the boat along wonderfully. We were Speedy Beetle for the afternoon an on into the evening. The atoll of Niau went by, it has lights so there must be people there. And then open ocean.

After the radio net the wind stayed darn nice and we trundled along. Somewhere in the night the first couple of squalls, more like rain clouds, appeared, and with the clouds came some additional pressure from further forward, in went a reef and part of the jib was rolled up to keep boat speed in line with comfortable sailing. I do the short-sleep thing with my timer/alarm and would get up to check for AIS targets (usually none), turn on the radar to check for boats or squalls (found one boat, lots of squalls), adjust whatever needs adjusting as regards the sails, and it’s back to sleep. At 3AM I woke up to discover it was raining and the wind had shifted 80 degrees, instead of 120 AWA on port it was now 160 to starboard. Wow! – that’s a big shift. I rolled up the jib entirely, altered course, and then the wind shut down as the squall moved away over the horizon. Bummer. So on went the motor, centered the main, and pointed the bow at Pt. Venus and off we went into the night.

It looks like arrival early Thursday morning is likely, and the reason for chosing Pt. Venus is the bay behind the point is safe to enter in the dark and easy to get the anchor to stick. If I don’t feel like going through that in the dark I can always slow down out here and amble in with the sunrise. Pitufa mentioned the anchorage in Arue, in front of a yacht club there – they said there are 16 boats on the hook and there’s room for me, should Beetle want to come there. That was nice of them!

Looks to be a nice day out here, not as smooth as it was yesterday afternoon, swell is up a bit (6-7′) and the squalls have chopped up the water. It would be neat if conditions return to what they were yesterday, but unlikely. Time for breakfast, and radio net, and I’ll go catch another sleep or two.

– rob

Headed to Tahiti today

Good morning – it’s being a fine day out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (even though I am inside an atoll’s lagoon): nice puffy white clouds, no squalls in sight at the moment, a light breeze coming in from the ESE, and the pass is supposed to be slack some time between 11:15 AM local time to 1:30PM local time, depending upon which data set you’re looking at and whom you talked to. It’s odd, as I have three distinctly different times of slack water, and that’s when you want to transit the pass. SHOM via Fakarava Yacht Services indicates 11:15, iTides via Ashika indicates 12 Noon, and the offset from my NOAA Rangiroa tides says 23:21 UTC which translates to 1PM local time when you include the time difference between Rangiroa and Fakarava. Go figure. The goal is to go across at slack, and given we can’t agree on when slack is I need to be there on the early side – which means go with Stephanie’s SHOM data and be at the pass at 11. So I’ll be off the mooring at 10 and wander over to the pass and see what’s going on.

I talked with Naoma on the VHF (he’s at the next atoll up the way) and he said Pt. Venus is a great anchorage, as is Arue in front of the Tahiti Yacht Club, and the downtown marina charges roughly $1/ft per night to stay there and they have proper floating docks and no Med-tie needed (a Med-tie is where you set a bow anchor and back into the quay to which are tied stern lines, then you use the bow anchor to pull yourself off the dock. Singlehanders don’t do Med-tie.

Forecast remains for light to moderate wind (9-14 knots) for the next three days between here and Tahiti, the swell is down to less than 5 feet, that should make for reasonable conditions. The conditions are so reasonable that Ashika is going to stay here in Rotoava for another couple of days and wait for the wind to fill in more so they don’t motor to Tahiti. They are a Fuji 45 and must want a bit more wind than Beetle does to get moving.

There’s nothing to hit between here are Tahiti, apart from other boats moving around, which makes navigation simple – just aim at Pt. Venus and trim sails accordingly. The spinnaker gear is all rigged as it could be somewhat deep wind angle unless the boat speed is enouigh to pull the apparent wind angle forward. Doyce (on Ashika) had sailed on the very fast large ocean racer Double Bullet (big catamaran in Marina del Rey) and he mentioned that Bullet is so fast that they simply never sail downwind, every time they get moving they pull the wind forward and are always reaching. I’ve heard story that Bullet can sail at three times the wind speed – if it’s blowing 10 knots they can hit 30 through the water. That must make it an interesting proposition to get to a windward mark.

Elsewise all is well on board, I’ll clean up the breakfast dishes, and then drop the mooring lines in a half hour.

Have fun!

– rob

Didn’t catch the North pass slack this morning

Well, looks like Tiger Beetle gets to enjoy another beautiful day here in Rotoava – the run around this morning to get to the store, stow the dinghy, etc. in order to catch the slack current at the pass this morning (which was an hour and a half earlier than I’d remembered) took too long; the result is I’m out of time to catch the slack. Conveniently, I’m not on a schedule, I’ll just change plans slightly and will exit the pass tomorrow morning instead of this morning.

The weather outlook is good through Friday, it’s roughly 250 miles to Tahiti, an easy two day run. Today the wind is very light, 6-7 knots and I’d be motoring along in the 4-5′ low swell. Tomorrow the wind should be up in the 9-11 knot range and that would be better for sailing, Wednesday 12-13 knots – I’m not giving up much by delaying my departure a day.

The big red supply ship was here at the town quay, and one thing they offloaded were mnany pallets of potting soil – that might explain how the locals can grow food crops, they do it in dirt from Tahiti. Steve on Liward was describing how food is grown on Tikihau, the atoll he happens to be at: raised planting beds are set up, soil is put down, and then a trench is drug around the raised bed to keep the palm tree roots away from the raised bed they’re watering. I imagine a large block of extra damp fine soil would make palm trees very happy, so you’ve got to discourage them from sucking up all the water your lettuce is growing in.

I also found that there actually is a tanker truck on the island, and it was filling up from a large diameter (4 or 6″) hose running from the red supply ship to the top of the tanker. With the truck being here, the electricity generating plant could be anywhere on the island, not necessarily at the quay.

Other thing of interest is I was talking with the proprietor of La Paillote yesterday afternoon, he was busy making crepes on his two crepe cook tops, and he has an extra thick French accent; I asked him how long they had been here and he said, “Two years. I come straight from Paris to here!” If you want official Paris-style crepes, they can be found on Fakarava.

Now that I can relaxe rather than charge around, I’ll take my time to finish putting away the dinghy and its pieces/parts, and pull out a good book. It’s as flat as a billiard table in the lagoon today, a very nice way to enjoy the lagoon for another day.

– rob

Sunday afternoon and in Rotoava at the north end

Good afternoon – a non-eventful motor up the east channel across the Fakarava lagoon now finds Beetle happily attached to one of the public moorings. This is handy, as I would prefer to not have to dive the anchor chain, unlike this morning when the chain refused to come up all the way – it was stuck under a small bommie about 10 feet from the anchor. At least the chain was wrapped around the bommie, just sort of stuck under an edge of it. So when the chain refused to come up further I left things in place, donned fins and mask and hopped in the water to inspect. From 30 feet down the chain I could see what was going on, hopped back on the boat to ease out a bit of chain and I knew in which direction to motor for a few feet to release the (now loose) chain from the bommie. Then you run to the bow to pick up the chain and anchor before it catches on something new! I would prefer to not repeat that process tomorrow morning – that’s what makes the mooring convenient, as I don’t want to take whatever is on the bottom out the pass with me.

Generic plan still looks good, pass should be slack around 11:30AM-noon local time, which leaves plenty of time to hit the stores briefly (they open at 7AM), stow the dinghy belowdecks, and be out the pass bound for Tahiti.

The Tahiti plans are to get to Pt. Venus or the anchorage near Marina Taina, depending on the time of day I show up. I need to pick up my Carte de Sejour which in theory has been sitting in Tahiti this entire time awaiting my arrival, which begs the question – what if one never shows up to retrieve it? I also need to purchase some 10 gauge tinned electrical wire to complete the backup autopilot installation, there are marine chandleries in Tahiti and one of them is bound to have good wire. Outside of that, I don’t have any particular plans for Tahiti other than see what’s there. That will be fun to do!

Yesterday was a good day, went for a dinghy run up the motu a ways, saw some rays and small blacktip sharks in the shallow sandy area, and generally had a fine time. Avatar arrived in Hirifa with their repaired dive compressor on board, and I was invited to pop over for a chilled beer – which I did around sunset time. Very pleasant folks, Shelly and Mike. Their plans are to go dive the South Pass for the next week as the wind is forecast to lay down nicely, and following that look at getting over to Tahanea (next atoll over) if weather conditions allow.

My plans for today are to re-inflate the dinghy and swing by the french restaurant to use their internet and have a cold beer, then finish putting away the anchor for going to sea (right now it’s mostly in place, but not sufficiently tied in place for heading out the pass).

Enjoy the afternoon!

– rob

underway to Rotopava, north end of Fakarava

A quick note between reefy bits while underway here across the lagoon of Fakarava. Wind is 10 knots or so from the east, a pleasant motor along following the channel and my prior tracks on the chart plotter – should be in Rotoava this afternoon.

Plan is to spend the night in Rotoava, get a little bit done with internet access, and tomorrow afternoon catch the north pass at slack tide and head out for Tahiti.

I’ll send more later when I have more time. I have to get back topsides to watch for stuff to hit.

– rob

Saturday – nice in Hirifa

It’s a lovely Saturday morning, the squalls and lots of drizzle from last night have moved on, the breeze is back up a bit, looks like a solid sunshine day is starting.

Yesterday was lots of fun, dinghied out to a different reefy patch about a mile from the anchorage and spent some time in the water snorkeling around it. Lots of fun fishes, even more big clams set into the reef (which I learned last night are the small relative of the Giant clam – the one that grows to 3 feet across or more), and the water is definitely clearer the further from the beach one gets. That was a good time in the water.

In the afternoon I was over at Katie G to hand-off a copy of the satellite images I have for the area, as they ran out of time to do that while in Mexico and you can’t do it here as the network bandwidth is too limited. While there they suggested a pot luck dinner on board that evening, which sounded like fun. As they got busy calling the other boats in the anchorage I went over and finally met Liza; she was not going to be in that evening as she was going out fishing, so no stopping by for sunset drinks at her place. Perhaps tomorrow?

By evening there were a a bunch of folks on board Katie G, and they had a good photo identification book called ‘Reef Life’ (as opposed to just fish), and that’s where I found the photo of the big clams I’m seeing. There are at least two kinds – those with green mantles and those with blue; both are very bright colors and with the movement the mantles seem to glow, that’s how bright they are. The food was great, everybody brought something (I supplied pasta with canned corned beef mixed in), and lots of interesting conversations going on in different parts of the boat.

When I got back to Beetle it was well after dark and it was already drizzling, which made putting the dinghy up on deck a bit more work as I don’t like to use the Milwaukee battery operated drill to operate the winch when it’s wet on deck – back to the original 10″ winch handle. With dinghy put away if was clean up the galley and off to sleep.

Weather is looking excellent for departing Fakarava Monday noon-ish at the North pass bound for Tahiti (aiming at Point Venus, on the north end of the island near Papeete). My plan is to hop up to Rotoava Sunday morning and see about obtaining 10 gallons of diesel from Fakarava Yacht Services, then a quick store-stop Monday morning and out the pass Beetle will go. I’m quite looking forward to learning about the Society Islands.

All is good at this end!

– rob

Friday morning – the wind is down!

Good morning – for the first time the wind is down in the 6-8 knot range, leaving behind a really nice surface for running the dinghy around. First order of business is to load into the handheld GPS the positions of two reefs that appear on the satellite imagery, they’re about a mile away, and then go visit them with the dinghy and do some good snorkeling. I’m told that lion fish can be found in these waters and they like to hide during the day in little underwater caves and can be found hanging upside down up against the roof of the cave. I would prefer to not run into one of those, so I shall avoid going into little caves (not that I would anyway, but meeting the pointy bits of a lion fish is not near the top of my list of things to do today).

Liza’s aluminum skiff shot by earlier this morning, looks like she headed to the north to get more supplies (perhaps), I have heard she was perilously low on things to serve to guests arriving from the resorts. So I will wait for the skiff to return before going over to see if she’s home.

Yesterday was another not-much-moving day for the boats here in the anchorage, what with the squalls and the wind building back up a bit. I did a brief snorkel to check under the boat (my remoras are there, waiting patiently for food to fall in the water), and also checked the anchor – all is good in that department.

So I’ve got the dinghy launched and ready, I’ll fetch out the Olympus camera and underwater housing and go find a reefy patch or two and go see what’s there. We’ve got good sun at the moment, that will help with the color one gets in the pictures.

All is good, time to go play!

– rob