After about a week of waiting in
Tahanea, OMNI Bob forecast a short window for Duet to reach Tahiti.
Since our plane home was leaving in less than two weeks and we needed
to get the boat ready to be left alone for three months, we tore
ourselves away from Tahanea and our cruising friends, with promises
to return on our next visit. We exited the atoll just before low
slack at around 11AM local time, with a 40 hour journey putting us
into Papeete Harbor around dawn. The weather was relatively settled,
with the occasional squalls, none of which approached the ferocity of
the first one on our departure from Nuku Hiva.
Our course from Tahanea to Tahiti is shown below on the backup computer in night mode. The chart is north up and Tahanea is in the upper right corner, while Tahiti is at the end of the course line in the lower left.
Duet, naturally, went faster than we
figured, and our Papeete arrival time moved up from dawn to 2AM. We
wrote Tehani, to see if we could enter the harbor in the dark. The
charts are accurate and everyone we talked to said it would be no
problem. Harbor Control, however, was having none of it. We could
enter, they said, but we must tie up at the municipal marina
downtown, as we couldn't start for our marina until 6AM, when it was
safe to cross the airport runway in daylight.
Tahiti, like most Society Islands, is
surrounded by a reef, through which there are passes. Once you get
through the pass, you navigate between the reef and the land to get
to your harbor. For those readers who have not navigated the Papeete
area, the main harbor is on one side of the entrance through the
reef. The airport is on the other. The pass is straight and well
marked, with a lighted range. It is 40-50 feet deep and about 360
feet wide. It faces northwest, and is therefore dangerous in
northerly swell and wind, which we didn't have. Actually, we had
remarkably calm weather for our entrance to Papeete.
Marina Taini, where Duet was to stay,
is about 5 miles SE of Papeete via water. It is reached through a
narrow, well marked channel running between the reef and the land.
The channel's main feature is it crosses both ends of the airport
runways. So, when a plane takes off or lands, it goes right over the channel
at a relatively low altitude. For sailboats, with a 65 foot mast,
this is a considerable issue. For Duet, with an air clearance of
about 27 feet, it's not such a big deal, but there are strict
procedures for how all boats cross the runways, which we had to
The map below shows the entrance to the harbor, the runways and the channel we were to traverse to the marina, which is in the lower left corner. Duet wants to stay in the dark blue water.
Since we didn't want to try to moor at
the municipal marina in the dark, we slowed down. As usual, Duet
didn't slow down enough, even at 1000RPM, so we ended up chugging up
and down off the NE coast of Tahiti between around 1AM and 4:30AM, to
ensure a daylight arrival at the harbor. We stayed on the NE side,
rather than move around nearer the harbor entrance, because the
harbor is on the narrow channel between Tahiti and Moorea, which
often has considerable wind funneling through it. Since the weather
was from the prevailing direction, namely SE, we were able to wait in
the lee of Tahiti, where it was quite calm.
Coming into the harbor was pretty
interesting. First, we had a freighter overtaking us several hundred
yards off our stern while we were lining up for the entrance, which
is always a little stressful. Adding to that was the fact that
neither of us have gotten more than 3-4 hours of sleep that night, as
we had first planned to continue and arrive in the dark, so we had
changed the watch schedule to let Ron sleep earlier to be ready for a
Then we had to rethink to arrive in the
light, which really messed up our sleeping plan, as now Ron was
rested at 12:30AM and Nancy was tired. But we didn't want Ron
getting tired doing station keeping, as we'd rather he was rested to
enter the harbor. So Nancy took over again around 2AM, so Ron could
sleep again until 4:30 or 5. Nancy then slept until about 15 minutes
before we entered the pass at just after 6AM. The other problem was
this trip was so short (40 hours) that we hadn't gotten any rhythm
going on the sleep front, so we hadn't gotten much sleep the day
before either. Suffice it to say, we were tired.
Anyway, the pilot boat called us as it
passed us on the way to the freighter and said go ahead, the
freighter doesn't have clearance yet, but call Harbor Control before
you enter. So we called Harbor Control, who said come on in.
Fortunately everyone spoke English, or at least some variant of it.
We started in, but just then out came a massive high speed ferry.
The ferry decided to cut across our nose, rather than wait for us to
pass down their port side, as is the convention when two boats meet.
This is the equivalent, on land, of cutting someone off at a light.
We didn't realize what the ferry captain had in mind, as sometimes
it's hard to figure out who is doing what in a narrow channel, so Ron
continued on his course for a standard port to port pass. It is
important to follow convention when meeting other boats, otherwise no
one can figure out what you are going to do next.
Ron's move wasn't popular with the
ferry, as it meant she had to change course to get around us. She
did, but she also stepped on the hammers, came up on plane in the
channel and blew down our port side. This maneuver left a 3-4 foot
choppy wake, which Duet plowed straight through. For us the wake
wasn't a big deal, Duet's 42 tons going 8 knots, guided by her
bulbous bow, deep keel and big rudder, coupled with active
stabilization, can flatten out some pretty big bumps. The ferry
captain, however, couldn't have known this, and he had to know he was
going to leave a big wake. That said, we understood the move, the
ferry has a schedule to keep and we were in the way.
This is a picture of a ferry like the one we saw, courtesy of Google images.
Then the tug for the freighter decided
to come out. We passed him easily enough, port to port. The second
high speed ferry kindly waited for us to clear the pass before he
started his exit. At this point, we figured out that the buoys were
different than at home, so the green is on our right when we return
to harbor, instead of our left. This is new for us, since Papeete is
the first place we have seen buoys since we got here. Fortunately,
this was pretty obvious on our electronic charts, and the pattern
continued down the channel, although there are a lot of other yellow
and white buoys as well, which delineate the inside of the reef where
it meets the channel. It is also easy to see the shallows, as a lot
of debris and trash is stuck there.
Having sorted all that out, we call
Harbor Control again to ask permission to transit the airport runway.
While we were doing that a jumbo jet took off about 100 feet above
our heads, just in front of us. Harbor Control asked for our
"address" which turns out to mean “air draft” in a
heavy French accent, namely they want to know how much we stick up
above the water. Once we calculated that in meters and reported back,
we got the OK to pass. Then things calmed down a bit, until we got
to the marina.
The marina said they'd send a boat out
to lead us in, which sounded pretty good. They also said a starboard
tie would work. So Nancy rigged up lines and fenders to tie up on
our starboard side, out comes a dink and off we go. The dink barrels
into the marina and we immediately lose sight of him in the warren of
docks, fairways and med moored boats. Various people on the dock
t-heads are yelling and pointing in all directions. They are yelling
in French, which isn't very helpful as we don't speak French. They,
of course, have no way of knowing this, so they wonder why we aren't
doing as they ask.
Lacking any substantive information,
other than the dinghy might have disappeared behind the last dock, as
we don't see it anywhere else, Ron continues straight on until the
last fairway, where we run out of road. Fortunately that turned out
to be it, but it's a port side tie. So Nancy runs around in circles
and gets all the fenders and lines on the port side, and the dock
guys help us tie up port side on. The dock guys leave. We can't get
off, because they tied the bow in too tight and the stern won't come
in far enough for us to reach the dock. Ron extends the bow line and
we manage to get off. We've arrived!
Marina Taini shown on the north up map below. The main entrance is in the center left, you can just see a dinghy speeding in. Duet is moored on the upper innermost north south facing dock.
We share a hug, calculate that we have
traveled just about 3,900 nautical miles in the 9 weeks since we left
Mexico, and sit down for our standard arrival breakfast of eggs,
toast, fruit and coffee, rather than beer, as we have things to do.
We then head off to the local restaurant, where we finally meet
Tehani and her team face to face. We fill out some paperwork, give
her a list of what we need and generally get organized.
The next day Heirani, one of Tehani's
folks, plus a nice young lady who is interning with Tahiti Crew,
drove us downtown to get our spare starter tested. As regular
readers may recall, the main engine starter acted up the day we were
to leave Mexico. While Ron and Sean could find nothing wrong with
it, and it has behaved perfectly since, it will be replaced with the
spare and rebuilt, just in case. The spare came with the boat and,
as far as we can tell, is the same age as Duet, namely 17. So Ron
felt it made sense to make sure it worked, before going through all
the effort to install it.
Dieseltec, a local shop, put it on a
test bench and carefully secured it, as starters can go walkabout
when they are activated, wired it up, and bingo, it started. So that
was a major blow for freedom. Ron also figured out, he hopes, how to
get the old one off without having to remove much of the equipment on
the port side of the main engine, so that was good. He does,
naturally, need one new tool, but it should be easy to get. He will
replace the suspect starter with the spare when we return in late
The spare starter, resting after it's journey downtown.
We also purchased an adapter for the
local electric. Marina Taini is wired for single phase 220V, which
Duet cannot accept, as we are a two phase 120V boat. We do not have
an isolation transformer, which would create two legs of 120 from the
incoming 220. Tahiti is, however, 60hz, so that's good. This was
the first test of Ron's new foreign power electrical installation,
which is actually only half done. The half that is finished, namely
the special plug on the transom and the wiring from that to one of
our 100 amp chargers, which in turn powers one 3KW inverter/charger,
worked just fine.
Ron wired a local plug into one of our cord adapters to connect us to local power. It is 16 amp at 220V.
Below the other end of our power cord is plugged into Duet's new "foreign power" plug. We have a right angle adapter so the plug is not sticking out where it can be inadvertently bumped by someone on the swim platform.
Since the second charger, the second
inverter/charger and the switching to manage larger loads aren't
installed yet, Duet is running on a combination of dock power and the
generator if we need air conditioning, the dishwasher (which doesn't
like inverter power) or the washer and dryer. Ron will finish the
system when we return. That will allow us to run one or two air
conditioners on dock power. The washer, dryer and dishwasher will
always need the generator.
Ron then started on his long list of
oil changes, fresh water flushes, etc., that are standard when we
leave Duet. Nancy found the supermarket, so we could have some fresh
fruit and vegetables, and then started on her list, which includes
arranging for interior and exterior cleaning, making sure our
paperwork is in order, inventorying what's on board, figuring out if
we can replace what we need locally or need to bring it from home,
Changing the impeller on the generator's raw water pump.
In addition to his usual boat storage
tasks, Ron also focused on the continuing issue with the Naiad
stabilizers. As regular readers know, our stabilizers gave up the
ghost halfway through our 2,700 mile journey from Mexico to the
Marquesas. This was a character building exercise, but one we'd
rather not repeat, so repairing the problem was high on Ron's list.
The initial issue, namely the disintegration of the belt that drives
the stabilizer's hydraulic pump, was easy to fix, just install a
tougher belt. Diagnosing why it self destructed however, requires
figuring out the cause of the hydraulic pressure drop, which occurs
when the fins are working hard and rapidly calling for high pressure.
In addition to the problems with the
fluctuating pressure, we also had issues with the fins “chattering”
while we were underway across the Pacific. This means the fin can't
find it's center, so when it moves across it's arc it just keeps
moving back and forth very rapidly, creating a “chattering”
noise. The fin finds center using a potentiometer, which is a wire
coil that the fin sensor moves back and forth across. The sensor
knows where the center is on the coil. Since the fins spend a lot of
time at center, when the boat isn't moving, the center of the coil
becomes worn and the sensor can't find it. This is a common problem
and replacing the potentiometer is usually the simple fix.
Below is a standard potentiometer technical diagram.
A potentiometer like the one Ron and Sean installed.
Unfortunately, it wasn't so simple in
Duet's case. As readers may recall, Ron, with a lot of help from
Sean, replaced the potentiometer while we were running from Mexico to
French Polynesia. Since it didn't fix the problem, we then started
trying to figure out what else might be wrong. It turned out that
the problem was electrical, and Nancy diagnosed it, which, with an
electrical problem, is unheard of. When the dishwasher ran, the fins
chattered. When it stopped, the chattering stopped. When the
microwave ran, the fins chattered. When it stopped, they stopped.
Chris Fontaneau figured this one out,
once we were able to give him clear symptoms and correlation. Our
Naiad system had an older DC to DC converter for the Datum electronic
head. The Datum needs clean 24V power, which the converter makes
from Duet's 12V power. The older converters, however, are notorious
for providing less than clean solid 24V power. When Ron tested ours,
it wasn't delivering anything near what the Datum needed when there
were large inverter loads, like the dishwasher and the microwave,
drawing on Duet's electrical system. Karen, from Daybreak, hand
carried in a new converter, which Ron installed. Presto, problem
solved, dishwashers and microwaves now run with impunity on Duet.
The new DC to DC converter, you can see the checked box indicating it's specs.
Ron has spent a lot of time with Christ
Fonteneau of Fonteneau Yacht Services in San Diego on our stabilizer
issues. Chris has gone way beyond the call of duty, even sending Ron
detailed technical schematics, plus annotated pictures, on how to
service and/or diagnose several potential problems. As part of this
ongoing conversation, Ron recalculated the loads on the hydraulic
pump and the belt, using Naiad's standards for Duet's installation.
This engineering exercise made it clear that our original belt wasn't
man enough for the task it had been set. It was replaced with a heavy
duty Gates Kevlar B52 belt called a Predator, which is capable of
delivering twice the horsepower we need to the pump without breaking.
Karen, from Daybreak, hand carried two of these belts to us in Nuku
Hiva and Ron and Sean immediately installed one to see how it
While the new belt has run well and
shown no signs of strain, the hydraulic pressure still fluctuates.
These fluctuations vary with the main engine RPM, namely low RPM
equals more frequent pressure drops, in an equivalent sea state. The
fins run without alarming, and, in relatively calm seas states there
are very few variations at cruising RPM, but in the long run this
needs to be fixed.
So Ron and Chris went back to the
drawing board. The next question was do we have a large enough
hydraulic pump? Some more math from Ron, using tables provided by
Chris, and the answer was yes. The pump is relatively new, having
been replaced in early 2015. It is not leaking and appears to be
performing as specified. It is also has the correct part number,
which, while it sounds a bit farfetched, wouldn't be the first time
an incorrect part has been installed.
In the meantime, Ron has spent quite a
bit of time with the Naiads while we are underway. Part of that time
he has spent listening to various components with a stethoscope, and
he has noticed that the pressure relief valve is clicking when the
fins demand high pressure. This may mean that the valve is clogged,
or it's spring is no longer effective. So Chris sent another set of
documents on how to service the pressure relief valve.
Once Ron disassembled the valve, it
became apparent that the popit, which closes the valve, was damaged.
One side of it is fine, but the other is scored by wear. This
suggests it might not be closing properly. Replacing the popit might
solve our pressure fluctuation problem, but, until we get a new one,
replace it and do some sea trialing of it, we won't know for sure.
We will take the damaged valve to Chris when we visit San Diego in
June to get his opinion and to get a new one. Until then, the Naiads
are on hold.
You can see the scoring on the nose of the popit in the photo below.
If it's not the pressure relief valve
popit, then Ron plans to work his way through the other valves,
solenoids and gaskets in the system, as any one of them could be
malfunctioning, either all the time or intermittently. Since we
aren't leaving French Polynesia for a year, he's got some time to
figure this one out. Also, we won't be making a long low RPM journey
in the foreseeable future, as the legs to Australia are much shorter
than the big jump to the Marquesas. Ron will eventually fix this, it
just may take some time.
Ron also took apart the fuel supply
manifold, as we have had several small leaks at the valves. He
believes this is the source of the very small bubbles that have been
appearing in the Racor fuel filters. Over time, the valves wear out,
so he is replacing all of them. We are hoping that will solve the
problem. If not, the manifold itself will need to be replaced, as
the fittings where the valves screw on may have worn beyond recovery.
Ron already replaced two valves before we left Mexico and those have
not leaked since, so we are hoping that the rest will also make a
complete recovery, without having to replace the entire manifold.
One of the fuel manifolds, sans valves
New valves being installed.
We have been having some weird smells
and intermittent damp in our dryer. It had finally reached the point
where things weren't drying properly, so it moved up the list. Ron
spent most of a day taking apart and cleaning the dryer's vent, and
some of it's internal bits. All were heavily covered in mold, which
we figure has been slowly growing in there for years. During this
exercise, Ron noted that the belt that turns the drum is badly worn,
so it is on the list to be replaced when we return in the fall.
Some of the considerable mold in the dryer.
Duet has worked hard over the last
three months, she has covered nearly 4,000 miles, much of it in the
open ocean, and we have lived entirely on the anchor, which works the
systems harder. She was due for some TLC. We have been very pleased
with the way she has performed as we have stretched her legs and
can't say enough about how much we like the Nordhavn 50. The hull is
sea kindly, as we proved by testing it without stabilizers, the boat
is comfortable to live aboard, with enough creature comforts to keep
almost anyone happy, and she wears well. We do wish she carried a
bit more fuel, but we'd guess that is true of almost any boat we
would use for this kind of long distance work.
We will be spending the summer at home,
while Duet takes a well earned rest. We will return to cruising at
the end of August. We wish our readers a pleasant Northern
Hemisphere summer or a mild Southern Hemisphere winter.