Monday, November 28, 2016

Raiatea/Havai'i - Hauled in The Heart of Polynesia

Raiatea, AKA Havai'i AKA the Sacred Island, is believed to be the starting point of the organised migrations to other parts of Polynesia and the center of the Great Mythical Octopus. The traditional name for Raiatea is Havai'i. 

Apologies in advance for the lack of appropriate accents, etc. on the French words. 

We arrive in the heart of Polynesia: We had a schedule to maintain to get Cinnabar ready for cyclone season. Leave Tahiti on a Tuesday. Arrive Raiatea on Wednesday. Haul the boat at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Then another week to do everything else needed to shut the boat down and get ourselves ready to head back to the states. 

After our idyllic overnight sail from Tahiti to Raiatea we approached the island of Raiatea which is surrounded by a coral reef. Raiatea, like several other islands in The Societies Island Group, have the benefits of both surrounding reef, potentially protecting anchored boats from ocean swell, and tall, green mountains, giving potential protection from strong winds. 

Pass into Raiatea (photo credit

Just like in the Tuamotu we would have to enter the lagoon via an open pass in the reef in order to arrive at the boatyard on the NW side of the island. 

Before entering the pass we dropped our huge, new mainsail and got it secured on the boom. We thought we did a pretty good job of it but just after entering the pass we were hailed on the VHF radio by our friend Andrew aboard EYE CANDY who called to heckle us. He and his wife Claire were sailing within the reef to a southern anchorage and couldn't resist ribbing us about how long it took us to drop our sails. The nerve! But we were glad to see/hear friends and they assured us that there were free moorings outside the boatyard (aka carénage) so we wouldn't have to deal with anchoring.

Raiatea, and its neighboring island Taha'a (within the same encircling coral reef) are stunningly beautiful. As we approached the boatyard's mooring field we had a deja-vu experience. Our friend Matthieu from Pakokota Yacht Services and Lodge (Fakarava atoll, Tuamotu) hailed us on the radio and told us which mooring ball to pick up. Were we in Fakarava or Raiatea? Apparently he was there with the charter catamaran Aquatiki II overseeing some repairs. He helped direct us to a free buoy and we made plans to dinghy into the yard to meet the owner and make sure Cinnabar could actually fit into the holding dock (while waiting for the Travelift). This carénage was the only yard in all of French Polynesia that could (potentially) accommodate Cinnabar's draft (keel depth) and boat size. It looked like it would be a tight fit but doable.

We're happy to see Matthieu again. In addition to owning Pakokota Yacht Services in Fakarava, being the antenna engineer who set up wi-fi on Fakarava, professional diver who installed his own mooring buoys and maintains the Fakarava channel markers, he is also a captain for the dive charter catamaran Aquatiki II.

After a pleasant afternoon and night on the mooring, spent getting Cinnabar ready for haul-out, we took advantage of the next-morning calm to drop our mainsail onto the boat, remove the battens, and fold it up for storage. It's always a huge hassle to do this on a boat, and we were surprised and grateful when the couple aboard nearby FLYING CLOUD dinghied over to assist us. Wow, people would actually volunteer to help with this odious task? After having talked to them on the HF radio many times over the past season it was great to finally meet them face to face.

That morning we waited to hear from the carénage. And we waited. They were finally ready for us in the early afternoon. Because of our depth we had a very narrow window of opportunity to arrive, basically at high tide around noon, and a very narrow channel of water in which to travel, with shallow coral reef on both sides. As we motored over to the concrete holding dock a strong current threatened to crunch us against a rusted old car ferry that was sticking out. But Tom did a great job maneuvering around reefs and barge, I was ready with lots of lines on all sides of the boat, and all the yard workers were ready to catch the lines and secure us to the dock. Whew!!

Tom supervises the tying of lines.

Pas de probleme! We do this all the time.
(Taputu on the right)

We had 1.5 feet of water underneath us and about the same "buffer" on each side.

Cinnabar secured and ready for the Travelift. The grey matter is the washed, deflated dinghy drying on the bow. Note rusting hulk/car-ferry hazard in the background.

It was too late to pull Cinnabar out of the water that day, but at least she was secure in the holding dock, so we left the boat under Matthieu's watchful eye and headed off to our little rental bungalow in town with plans to return the next day to supervise the haul-out.

An unexpected delay: The next morning the crew was waiting for our arrival to lift Cinnabar out of the water. In order to fit in the Travelift we would have to remove the forestay (the rigging that keeps the mast from falling backward, also where the jib is attached). It sounded easy but it took quite a while to loosen the rigging enough to remove the forestay and install the temporary stays which were thrown over the Travelift before securing to the bow. It was interesting to watch them lift Cinnabar, maneuver her into place and actually build and weld the steel cradle as she sat in the slings. 

Re-attaching the forestay gave us even more trouble. We had to really crank on all the forward halyards and we ended up cracking the deck (in an already-weakened area) at the blocks. So great, one more repair to add to the list.

Cinnabar in the Travelift, forestay temporarily removed.

We give ourselves a half day off: After a few days of getting Cinnabar settled in her cradle, we made plans to drive our rental car to the other side of the island to visit Andrew and Claire aboard EYE CANDY. 

Andrew and Claire, Aussie flag proudly flying.

Back in Papeete our tour guide Corinne had told us about a must-see historical archaeological site, Taputapuatea Marea, which was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. This sacred site, well-established by 1,000 A.D., was a navigational Mecca well into the 18th century.

According to the photos and information at the marae, restoration began in 1968, came to a head in 1994, and continues today.

There was an interesting drawing of Captain Cook helping the natives perform a religious HUMAN sacrifice at this site. 

In its heyday the marae was visited by all  navigators before starting off on their journeys by sailing canoe to the rest of Polynesia, going as far as Hawaii and New Zealand.

These early navigators viewed the ocean not as a separation between islands, but as the path from one land to the next.

France has officially submitted a bid to UNESCO to have the Marae recognized as a World Heritage site for its cultural significance.

A great day spent with friends. We hope to see each other again next season.

The final push: Back at the yard there was much to do to prepare to leave the boat for cyclone season - meet with the boat manager Cathy who will do weekly checks on Cinnabar, oil and transmission change for the engine, clean and sanitize refrigerator/freezer/stove/oven, fresh-water flush for engine/genset/refrig./toilet/bilge, pickle watermaker, wash clothes and seal in plastic bags, remove halyards and run messenger lines, clean dodger and bimini canvas and store down below, clean and remove solar panels, add zipper to boat cover to install one solar panel for a trickle charge, clean and stow below everything that usually lives above deck...

Below decks cleaned, surfboard wrapped in plastic and stowed below.
...remove auto-pilot parts to bring to USA for repairs, clean/declutter and vinegar wipe every freaking cupboard and cabinet to help prevent mildew, remove all rat-attractive food, store remaining canned and other goods in a plastic bin, set out ant and cockroach traps, stuff all openings with bronze wool to prevent varmint entry, install boat cover (This task took FOUR hours! Did it shrink???) and a hundred other things. Oh, and waterproof the part of the deck that cracked while re-installing the forestay. 

Two blocks removed (main halyard block got to stay), the offending area is waterproofed for the rainy season.

The last few nights we worked late and we pretty much worked until the moment we left for the airport. 

Boat cover installed.

It's always hard to leave your home behind, but the last few days of heat, humidity, rain and mosquitoes reminded us that French Polynesia was starting its uncomfortable summer season. Also, we were looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family back home, so we locked up the boat as best we could and reluctantly bid farewell to the only home we'd known for the past year. 

Cinnabar next to her friends WHISPER and FLYING CLOUD

We departed almost exactly the same date as we had arrived in Mexico the year before.

A+ Cinnabar!!

(A+, short for A plus, short for "a plus tard", French for "see you later". Thanks to my sister the French teacher for teaching us this tres cool shortcut.)

Departing Raiatea we begin our 36-hour journey home via Tahiti and Honolulu.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Last Days in Papeete - Dance, Art, Tours

Acting all angelic in the Papeete Street Art Museum

Just a few more words about Papeete before we return to Raiatea where Cinnabar will be hauled for cyclone season...

Much as we enjoyed Papeete, it was time to wrap things up and plan for our journey to Raiatea. There is so much to do in Papeete it was impossible to fit everything into our days, not to mention the ubiquitous boat maintenance that is always on our agenda.

Tom goes aloft to check the top of the mast.  One day while I was alone on the boat one of our mainsheet electric winches spontaneously activated and nearly ground the rigging off the boat before I was able to race to the cockpit and whip the sheet off the winch. The loud groaning and popping noises scared the hell out of me! But all was well with the rigging, thank goodness.

We borrowed Maluhia's sewing machine to repair the dinghy chaps that got shredded at the Nuku Hiva dinghy dock. Plus other sundry sewing projects.

Once in a while we had to tear ourselves away from boat tasks to get a little bit of the "local color". Tehani, our yacht services agent, told some of us about a Tahitian women's dance class nearby, so one night a group of cruiser ladies grabbed our pareos (sarongs) and walked to the nearby dance school. the hour-long class was fun and interesting but very hard work! I haven't sweated so much in a long time and I have a newfound respect for Tahitian dancers.

Still sweating even after class - L to R Wendy (LINDA), Sylvia (CINNABAR), Kim (MALUHIA), Kim (NORTH STAR), our teacher Macao. Sitting - Tehani our yacht agent (she's a really good dancer)

During our walks throughout Papeete we kept seeing some very interesting and quite excellent street art. 

Hangin' Loose with Batman

Tom monkeys around with the beach crowd.

Street art in Tahiti? And then Tom found this cool article in the Huffington Post about the subject: Jellyfish and Sharks and Octopi, Oh My! 

Turns out a local woman is an afficionada and starting in 2014 she almost single-handedly arranged an international street art and graffiti competition/festival in Tahiti and some of the other nearby islands. 

Street art goddess Sarah Roopina (right) who conceived and created the festival, with NY Post photog Martha Cooper (left) who is one of the judges. (photo Instagram)

The festival was very popular and has been growing annually, attracting famous street artists from around the world. Sarah's Street Art and Graffiti Museum had just opened days earlier so Tom and I walked over to get ourselves educated.

Street Art Museum outside, trash octopus sculpture created by found items. Its tentacles were aerosol can caps.

Our lovely guide gave us a tour of the museum.

One might think that an indoor museum of street art is a contradiction. In reality the indoor exhibit gives the artists a chance to expand their medium by the use of videos and interesting lighting.

We liked the black light room where we were invited to take flash photographs of the art. With the black light the art had one appearance...

...and with the camera flash it had another. 

Fierce snarl and artists signature revealed.

Coincidentally, the museum was right next to an outstanding pastry shop. Tom and I enjoyed some decadent pastries and great coffee; every single bite was truly divine. Yum!

They look beautiful and taste even better. Best pastry we've had in years.
(Les Reves de Lucie - free wifi, easy walk from PPT marina)

One thing we really wanted to do before leaving Tahiti was to take a tour with a knowledgeable guide. Turns out our yacht agent Tehani's Auntie Corinne has a PhD in Polynesian Languages and Civilizations and we could hire her to give us a tour of the entire island of Tahiti. Corinne knows her island very well and specializes in Tahitian legends and history. She also gave us a reading list of books and stories that have to do with Polynesia.

Corinne and Sylvia 

I knew Tom would be happy with Corinne as a guide since our first stop was at a combination hardware and kiting store. He was able to pick up a board bag and an on-sale machete. Watch out coconuts!

We headed north to Point Venus to visit the site of our first anchorage and where Captain Cook traveled to watch the Transit of Venus in 1769.

We stopped along the way to visit the grave site of the last Tahitian King, Pomare V, d. 1891. 

A mausoleum built of coral.
I asked Corinne what was the bottle on top of the mausoleum, was it an urn that contained his ashes? "He loved Benedictine, so it's a Benedictine bottle" she replied with a laugh. 

The point Venus lighthouse decorated with posters of smiling Tahitians.

On our way around the island Corinne took us to the best juice bar and fruit stand ever. This guy owns a big farm and he grows all sorts of fruits and vegies. We had a refreshing juice of banana, papaya and soursop all blended up with crushed ice. Very refreshing! Then we bought some fruit and veg and headed on our way.

Fantastic juice bar on the highway. All fruit and veg grown on the premises.
We continued on with Corinne telling us all about the Tahitian legends of the various locations. Did you know that the coconut represents the Eel-King? When the Eel-King was beheaded by a jealous god (yes, a beautiful woman was involved) his decapitated head swore "those who hate me will eventually kiss me on the mouth." Urk. Turns out the three depressions on the coconut are the Eel-King's eyes and mouth, and when you pierce the soft depression and drink from the nut you are now kissing the Eel-King. Prediction confirmed!

Hina the seductress who caused the Eel-King's death can't resist the Eel-King's coconuts.

We stopped for lunch in the south island of Tahiti Nui. Our friends Nicole and Ryan on NAOMA were anchored here and Tom surprised us by hailing them on the VHF radio and they joined us for an excellent lunch of fresh fish.

L to R - Nicole, Ryan, Corinne, Sylvia, Tom

Tom made sure that Corinne stopped at all the good surfing spots, especially the world renowned Teahupoo beach. The name ("place of skulls") comes from the legend that the locals used to stack the heads of their victims into a wall along the beach. One of the locals told Tom to be sure to pronounce each vowel carefully. He said a lot of people pronounce it "Cho- Poo", which means "head up your butt". This place is famous for its big wave surfing competitions and is the site of the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti surf competition.

Sorry Tom, no waves today so this is the best you'll get.

We continued circumnavigating the island, stopping at various points of interest, and happened to to time the sunset perfectly at another surfing beach, Taapuna.

More street art at the beach!

We enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Corinne gave us a tour from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I'd say we got our money's worth.

A few days later our hydraulic boom vang (important boat part that holds up the boom, which helps hold the mainsail) arrived from being serviced in San Diego. 

Boom Vang carefully packaged. Tom's super robust packaging job was damaged in transit but luckily the vang remained intact, so worth the $75 shipping tube.

Not surprisingly the freight cost (much) more than the repair, and not surprisingly it was a pain in the butt (a gross understatement; 3 weeks time!) to coordinate shipping. But on the plus side our good friends Henri and Ellis (from the new sails delivery) delivered the vang directly to the boat on a Monday afternoon. Luckily we were able to install it with minimal drama the next morning, and that Tuesday evening at around 17:00 (5:00 pm) we sailed out of Papeete Harbor bound for Raiatea. (Navtec hydraulics must be serviced by authorized technicians only; we highly recommend Rigworks in San Diego).

Next Up: Cinnabar gets hauled with inches to spare on sides and bottom.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cinnabar Gets A New Prom Dress ( sails actually)

Why is this man making a "snow angel" on a crisp, new mainsail in the middle of a tropical  park?

After 14 years Cinnabar's sails needed replacing, especially our mainsail which started delaminating during our journey across the Pacific. We fretted over the mainsail during most of our cruising season, babying it and hoping it would last until we ordered our new sails. And we even poked holes in it to drain water out during one particularly nasty squall! 

After we arrived in the Marquesas this April, we ordered a new mainsail and working jib from North Sails New Zealand, the same loft who had made our original sails. The value of the NZ$ compared to US$, and an additional discount provided by North made ordering sails from NZ our best option. After lots of email and Skype communication with the North NZ rep, nerve-wracking decision-making (Dacron? Spectra? Carbon? What size jib? What options? So much money! Is using a remote Sailmaker a wise choice?) we decided to go with improved/updated versions of the sails we had before and what had served us so well, the Spectra laminate material.

We then cruised around the Tuamotus for a few months while our new sails were being made with the intent to eventually pick them up in Tahiti.

Delivery day in Tahiti, October 10,  was exciting. 

Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name?

The nicest guys in the world delivered our sails (and other gear packed along with them including 10 meters of Sunbrella) and insisted on delivering the gigantic and heavy box right to our boat! 

Sylvia with Henri and Ellis, box on dock next to Cinnabar in the background.

The first order of business was to take both old and new mainsails over to the nearby park...

New sail in dock cart, old sail on hand cart

...where there was room to lay them out, compare them, and identify where to put the spreader patches on the new sail. (Spreader patch - placed where the sail rubs up against the spreader and gets worn.) 

New sail on top of old to compare.

The sails weren't exactly the same size, but very close; the new sail was slightly bigger by design due to expected shrinkage over time of the old one. In fact, the leech of the old sail was about 14" shorter (!!) than the new sail so took a bit of calculating (only four freaking hours!) to guesstimate where to put the patches.

Unflattering photo of Sylvia locating the spreader patch on the old sail (underneath), marking it on the new, then moving it up four inches.

It took all day and it was HOT, but we finally finished and Tom was able to zen out with the new mainsail. All I wanted to do was take a cool shower and have a cold rum drink.

You will be a perfect fit...ohmmmmm...

Now all we had to do was install it. All 132 lbs of it.Ugh.

It was incredibly hot during the days, also windy (from abeam) making mainsail installation impossible, but the wind usually died around 6:00 p.m., so a couple of nights later we waited until the wind died and the heat subsided and we hoisted the new mainsail to take a look. Tom "jumped" the halyard at the mast while I used the winch to raise the sail.

It's a bit longer on all three sides than the old sail, but it looks like it fits.

Lowering it and flaking it on the boom to store until ready to sail.

Now it was time to put up the jib. Luckily we had a calm morning so we knew it would be a good time to hoist. It was so much easier to install the (91 lb) jib than the huge mainsail. 

Out of the bag and ready to hoist.

She's a beauty!! 

With the new sails installed we were just about ready to sail to Raiatea where we would store Cinnabar for cyclone season.

Fast forward one month and here are the sails pulling us from Papeete to Raiatea:

New sails in action. (Luff tension on jib should be tighter as the wind increased.)
And wonder of wonders, the spreader patches were perfect! 

The boat traveled swiftly along her 120 nm course in the moderate winds (10-14 kts TWS) and seas (1 m) of her first sea trial of the new  "prom dress". So far, the sails seem to be a proper fit. 

The overall duration of the new sails process, from initial quote request to first sail of the product was 8 months. The total emails exchanged was just over 100.