Off To Tahiti

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 follow.


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 2AM arrival.


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 August.


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, etc.


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 managed.


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.


Onward to the Tuamotus

Our 500 mile 72 hour trip to the Tuamotus was uneventful, except for a series of squalls. The first was the fiercest, packing winds in the low 40’s. Nancy is glad she slept through it.  This interlude did demonstrate that putting the storm plates back on the port side was a good idea, as this squall came from the port side. Putting the plates on was a bit of tour de force, as we no longer had Sean’s help.


We spent some time figuring out how to actually get the plates on, preferably without dropping one into Daniel’s Bay. We only had two to install, as we’d only removed the ones on the opening windows when we arrived in Nuku Hiva, to give us more ventilation. Then we still had the big dink, which has higher pontoons than the little one, so someone could stand on it and reach the top of windows. The little dink can’t manage that. So installing the windows meant lowering them down the side of the boat, using a block and tackle.



Once each plate was in place, Ron walked along the edge of the salon (Duet is a wide body, so we have no walkway on the port side, just a 3-4 inch ledge under the windows) and installed the upper bolts, while Nancy managed the block and tackle to keep the plate still. We have Sean to thank for the walking method, he demonstrated it when we removed the plates upon our arrival in Nuku Hiva.


The lower bolts were installed from the small dink. Initially, Nancy towed the dink up Duet’s port side, with Ron in it, and secured it, so Ron could have both hands free to put the bolts in. This didn’t work really well, as there was enough chop in Daniel’s Bay that every time Ron let go of Duet to do up a bolt, the dink went up, down and sideways. The bolts have to be lined up just so to work. To make matters worse, one of the plates we were installing has one bolt that is a little off, so it requires some serious jiggling to get it squared away. Given the conditions, jiggling was not in Ron’s repertoire that day.



So Nancy also got in the dink, after tying off the window to the boat deck rail, as a backup just in case. The problem with this is then there was no one to then tow the dink alongside the boat, and there are few handholds there. Fortunately, the flopper pole was deployed on that side, so we used it for leverage to get the dink most of the way forward to the subject window. Nancy then lassoed the base of the pole with the dink bow line and pulled us into position, after we tied off the stern.


We can’t imagine what this looked like to the other boats in the anchorage, but we can say that it worked, the plates were securely on, no one got hurt and, almost as importantly, given the state of the water, no one fell in, nor did we sink a plate. It did take most of a day to do, and it was pretty hot, so beers were issued earlier than usual that night.


Our trip from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus and our cruising on Tahanea are depicted in the following video.  The blog text describes our experiences in more detail.


Cruising Tahanea


We were bound for the Tahanea Atoll in the Tuamotus, which is an uninhabited national park. We arrived at the pass right on time, which was good. One of the tricks to the Tuamotus is managing the passes, they are narrow and the current can flow quickly. We’ve seen this before in BC and Alaska, but in the Tuamotus there is no current information. It turned out that our C-Map charts were quite accurate as far as the tides go, but it took us some time to figure that out. We had time, waiting in the Marquesas, so by the time we left we were pretty confident with our timing at this first pass. That said, it was nice to see a calm entrance when we arrived. Tahanea is one of the easier passes in the Tuamotus, it is straight, deep and oriented NE, as is Tahanea. We had winds and seas from the SE.


The night we came into the Tuamotu Archipelago was a bit squally, but between the radar and the charts we did OK.  The charts were spot on with trafficked atolls, but not so good with those that aren’t visited.  Fortunately the radar doesn’t know the difference, so it got every one.  Most of the targets in the shot below are squalls, but one may be an atoll.  Atolls don’t move, and have a characteristic shape.  


As an aside, on this trip we have also been using Google Earth satellite pictures, as a backup to the chart. A kind Nordhavn owner explained to us how to load these, which we do with a fast connection when we are home. Coastal Explorer can display a split screen with the C-Map chart on one side and the satellite photo on the other, so you can see where the boat is in real time against both the chart and the photo. This is quite helpful, unless there happens to be a lot of cloud cover when satellite passes overhead.


We have found the C-Map charts to be quite accurate so far in the South Pacific. We also run Navionics on Nancy’s iPad. These charts turn out to better detail on the coral heads inside the Tuamotu Atolls than the C-Maps do, more on this below.


After entering the pass with no drama, we anchored in an area recommended by the Compendium, just to the west of the pass. There were several boats there. We did some boat chores and generally had a quiet day. The next day we were pondering the weather and where to go, as one of the disadvantages in any atoll in the Tuamotus is that you have to move around to gain shelter from whatever wind is blowing. We were on the eastern side of the atoll and the wind was projected to come around to SSE. We therefore needed to move south or west, or both, to tuck in.


As we were chatting about this the VHF radio called our name. It turned out to be friends of friends of friends. In one of those classic cruising situations, we had met a very nice gentleman on the CUBAR rally several years earlier. It turns our his brother has been cruising the South Pacific for several years. He introduced us and we had been corresponding by email. Chuck knew where we were, and he had some friends who were also in Tahanea, so they called us. Chuck and Linda are also the authors of Jacaranda Journey, which provides the Cruising Compendiums, as well as a lot of other valuable information for cruising the South Pacific.


To make a long story short, we traveled westward across the atoll to join Roger and Sasha on their sailboat Ednbal. The journey was interesting, as the interiors of the atolls are not charted, or at least not on C-Maps. We later found out from Roger and Sasha that the Navionics charts on Nancy’s iPad are a much better source of info, but at the time we eyeballed the 8 mile trip.


The Navionics chart shown below is oriented with North up.  Waypoint #3 is just outside the pass.  We anchored south and east of it inside the atoll.  Waypoint #7 is where we met Ednbal and Waypoint #26 is another possible anchorage further south.  All the “spots” on the charts are coral heads.  



In the small world category, the charts below are from Nordhavn 52 Dirona’s blog.  She anchored in almost literally the same place Duet did in Tahanea. James and Jennifer have been very helpful to us during our South Pacific planning.  This was an anchorage we didn’t want to miss, based on their comments when they stayed there.

Dirona’s route across the atoll.  Note that the charts shown below are C-Maps, which have far less detail on the interior of the atoll than do the Navionics chart shown above. 


Anchoring behind the “zed” as it is known locally


The key to managing this kind of crossing safely is to have the sun above or behind you, with preferably not too much cloud or any squalls. We made it across unscathed. The coral heads are very easy to see in the right light, but harder to see without it. This can be a little disconcerting when a squall rolls in as you are moving from one place to another. We would sit in one place until the light improved, on one trip from one anchorage to another we went halfway, then turned around and went the next day, as the light just wasn’t good enough. The Tuamotus are a long way from anywhere, and hitting a large coral head isn’t something we want to do there, or anywhere, for that matter.


In addition to finding your way around the coral heads in the Tuamotus, you also anchor among them. It is quite easy to get the anchor chain tangled in the coral, in which case you hope you can somehow get it untangled by maneuvering the boat, or you are going to have dive on it. Since we don’t carry a tank (we will be adding one in Tahiti) we worried about this a bit. The way to avoid getting tangled, or at least not get all your chain tangled, is to buoy the chain, so it floats above the coral, rather than winding through it. This also protects the coral and, since there isn’t a whole lot of coral left in the world, we wanted to do our best not to damage it.


The diagram below was taken from an article in Yachting World.  In it several buoys are used.  We decided that several buoys would be too complex to deal with in an emergency, so we are only using one.  This does mean that our chain will lay over some, hopefully low, coral, a long way from the boat.  The general idea is to be able to recover that chain without getting stuck or damaging the coral.  We can control the retrieval pretty well in anything but very bumpy weather. 



After some experimentation, and useful advice from Roger and Sasha, we have figured out how to buoy Duet’s chain, although our procedure is by no means perfect. We use our largest ball fender, deployed about 50 feet from the boat. We want to keep at least some of the chain above the coral, so it can’t wrap around a coral head close to the boat as Duet moves around her anchor. With the buoy 50 feet from Duet’s bow, about 80 feet of the chain is lifted up by the fender.  If we are anchored in less than 50 feet of water we will have a maximum of about 150 feet of chain out, with about 70 feet of chain laying in the sand or across the coral.   Normally Duet doesn’t pull on that section of the chain at all, unless it is extremely windy.  


The picture below shows our big buoy, rising ghostlike from the depths, in the evening when the wind has died and the chain has slacked enough to let it come to the surface.  When there is much breeze at all Duet is pulling on the chain and the buoy remains 4-6 feet below the surface.  In the moonlight, you can see it floating serenely underwater, which is rather cool.



The whole idea behind buoying the chain is not to lose the chain catenary. Catenary is the curve, or lazy loop, formed by the chain as it hangs between the anchor and the boat. The catenary is the result of the chain’s weight. The boat has to pull pretty hard on it to straighten it out, so it creates a shock absorber when the seas build and the boat starts to bounce up and down. If you lose the catenary by getting the chain tangled around a coral head, however, the boat will be pulling on the coral head, rather than on the heavy length of lazy chain and/or the anchor itself. 


Without catenary you put a lot more strain on everything if the waves get bigger. A chain snubber (line between the chain and the attachment point of the chain on the boat, so the boat is pulling on the line, not directly on the chain, which has no stretch) helps considerably with this, but we’d rather have both the catenary and the snubber working for us. Worst case, if we do get stuck in rough weather, we plan to let out more chain, with another buoy, rather than struggle to get unstuck in poor conditions. So, when we anchor, we try to leave room around Duet to drop more chain, should we need to.  


As an aside, none of the anchorages we have seen in the Tuamotus are free of shallow coral heads.  So, when you anchor, you need to take the boat’s swinging circle into account, to avoid hitting a shallow head when she turns.  If you also plan to have more room to drop chain if necessary, you have to position the boat in the center of a pretty large area with no shallow coral heads.  This is even harder than it sounds.  


We have managed to get stuck, and unstuck, twice so far, from low coral. We are only anchoring in areas recommended as having little coral and we are staying shallow water of well less than 50 feet. Ron is very careful to put on the bigger snubber to take the load off the windlass (it will stretch whereas the chain will yank) when we maneuver the boat to get the chain loose. So far so good.


We now snorkel the anchor as soon as we can, to see if we are already stuck, to check on the set of the hook and to survey the general area in case we need to drop more chain. It is important to remember that, if we have to drop more chain, it will always be in the middle of the night, so it helps to have a good sense of where everything is in daylight first. Also, if the anchor hits a coral head on the way down, it can get tangled, but still feel like it’s hooked when you pull on it. Given Duet’s weight, she will probably break the coral in rough conditions, which would leave us dragging. So we’d rather raise the hook immediately and know the anchor is well set the second time (or the third, or the fourth….) than find out that we are dragging, which also always occurs in the middle of the night.


We are made even more cautious by a recent tale of an experienced skipper who got caught in an unexpected blow and lost his catenary in deep water when his chain wrapped around a coral head. He was in pretty tight quarters, so he couldn’t let out more chain, which would have solved the problem, albeit temporarily. His windlass ripped partially loose from his deck while he was recovering his anchor, but recover it he did.


Anyway, when we arrived at our new anchorage at the “zed” on the other side of Tahanea, it turned out that Roger and Sasha’s refrigeration was on the blink, so we offered space in ours while they fixed it. This was the beginning of a nice cruising interlude, which we much enjoy.  They proved to be a fount of local knowledge about which atolls to visit, how to catch a coconut crab, how to ship parts into French Polynesia, where to provision, etc. They even hosted two beach BBQs, which were very special events. Roger and Sasha have been living aboard for 11 years, starting the in the US, then the Med, then the Caribbean and now French Polynesia, where they have been for 2 years. They are headed home to Australia this summer.


Roger, in a impressive show of electrical skill, repaired their refrigeration by soldering a new capacitor, cannibalized from an old video screen, into the control unit. Friends of theirs also brought a new control unit from the next atoll over, and we met them when we all moved east again to avoid more weather. Nice folks from Sitka, Alaska, with beautiful custom steel sailboat built in New Zealand. He was a general surgeon, so, as Roger said, all he and Ron needed was a patient. Fortunately, none showed up, so we weren’t forced to improvise an operating room in Duet’s cockpit.  We had some great times together telling cruising stories instead.


We much enjoyed Roger and Sasha’s company. The beach BBQs, in particular, were spectacular. There is no light pollution in Tahanea, and we had the additional advantage of a full moon. The beauty is hard to describe and pictures don’t do it justice. The colors are like a Disney Technicolor shot, and the moon reflecting into the crystal clear water, so you can see 20 feet down to the gleaming sand, made the evenings quite memorable. We’ve not seen anything like it before.


To trap a coconut crab, you need an open coconut, tied to a tree so the crab doesn’t haul it off.  The crabs can grow to 4 kilos (9 pounds) and have serious claws.  Roger taught Ron how to grab them from behind, and, while we didn’t catch any big ones, Roger and Sasha did several days later, so we got to eat them anyway.


Coconut crab, courtesy of Wikipedia.



Tempting cracked coconut, carefully secured.

Ron and Roger setting up the BBQ

Crowded beach for our BBQ

BBQ fire, made of coconuts and coconut husks


All ready to go

It wouldn’t be boating without the odd project, so Ron tightened up the main engine mounts, one of which had come a bit loose on the long crossing. He also did the usual oil changes and, wonder of wonders, read several fiction books. Ron reading fiction is something that Nancy hasn’t seen in over 20 years. She was thrilled to see him relaxing that much.


Ron cuts Nancy’s hair, but for some reason she isn’t allowed to cut his.

Visiting booby.  There are large numbers of birds, including boobies, nesting on Tahanea, and they aren’t afraid of people.  We hope it stays that way.

Weather is difficult to come by here in French Polynesia. Much of it is in French, which we don’t speak. Not only that, but there is only a small population here, so there isn’t the demand for sophisticated weather products, as there is in the US or Canada, for example. Also, there is no internet, so everything has to come via email on the Iridium GO. We used a translated version of the local French forecast, which is good for 24 hours, as well as GRIB files via both Saildocs and PredictWind. Even so, we decided to work with our weather router, OMNI Bob, again for the short 36 hour journey to Tahiti. He had been very helpful on choosing our window from the Marqusas and so he proved again.

Roger, Sasha and Ron reviewing the weather

Similar to the Marquesas, we ended up waiting nearly a week for a window. At this time of the year, which is the Southern Hemisphere winter, the storms from the Southern Ocean make their impact felt even this far north. So we were waiting for a series of southern fronts, and their associated winds and seas, to pass, before we could go. It is similar to the fronts we experienced in the Bahamas, which were driven by weather in North America. Of course, waiting for a weather window at Tahanea wasn’t exactly hard duty, we had friends to spend time with, boat projects to do and fantastic sunsets to view. Our brief time in the Tuamotus gave us a taste of how beautiful they can be. We shall definitely return in the fall.   


Moonrise over Tahanea




Cruising the Marquesas

Duet has been in French Polynesia for about 7 weeks. We cruised the Marquesas Islands for three weeks after our arrival. They are really spectacular, they look just like Jurassic Park, high stone cliffs, lush vegetation. They are also quite hot and humid, so Duet’s air conditioning was working overtime. After the Marquesas, we visited an atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago for two weeks, before moving the boat to Tahiti, where she will spend the summer.

Our big news is that we have decided to keep Duet in French Polynesia until mid 2018, rather than continuing to New Zealand this year. This area has too much to offer, and it took too much effort to get here, to rush through it. When we return in late August, we shall cruise the Society Islands and the Tuamotus until December.

We will return to the boat in February to do some boat work and perhaps a little touring. November to April is the wet season here and there is some risk of cyclones, so we don’t want to go far from shelter during that time. Tahiti is infrequently hit by cyclones, it tends to just get brushed, so we hope that Duet will be well protected.


When we leave French Polynesia, we will be bound for Australia. Astute readers will note that we are no longer going to New Zealand, at least just now. We think we will find the westbound journey to Australia, particularly with just Nancy and Ron aboard for most of the trip, easier than the southwestern track required for New Zealand. As is obvious from this post, however, plans change.


Logistically, remaining in French Polynesia is easier than you might think. Duet can stay up to 3 years on a temporary import permit. Nancy and Ron hopefully can get, with some paperwork and an interview, a 12 month visa. Papeete is a major yachting destination so we can find everything from boat washers to a 300 ton lift, should we need it. Our insurance has no restrictions, all that was required was a navigation change, with no change in premium. We can even extend our duty free fuel permit for another 6 months.


Now that we’ve disclosed the big story up front, let’s go back to the start. We arrived in Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands around noon on Sunday April 2 after 17 days at sea. We ran up our yellow “Q”, for Quarantine, flag and had a beer. This tasted pretty good, we must admit, as, other than our brief taste of rum at the Equator, we’d spent 17 days as a dry ship. We then watched our buddy boat Daybreak anchor, and headed over to her for a celebratory dinner, where much fun was had by all. Daybreak gifted us several pounds of the 200 pound blue marlin they landed during the trip and both crews got a much needed night of uninterrupted rest.





The next morning we went ashore and checked into French Polynesia. This process was made much easier with help from Kevin, the local agent, who works with our agent, Tehani, in Tahiti. Kevin filled in all our paperwork, drove Ron to the local Gendarme office, where our passports and boat papers were stamped and Ron met the Chief Gendarme, which apparently doesn’t happen to everyone. An hour later we were legal. After that we took a walk, and bought some local beer, which was $16 a six pack. French Polynesia is not for the faint of wallet.



Taiohae Bay, Nuku HIva


Nancy even managed to pay a bill, via wifi.  It took 45 minutes but who’s counting.  There are far worse places to be paying bills!



Taiohoe Bay, Nuku Hiva, is a beautiful bay in the center of the caldera of the old volcano that formed Nuku Hiva. It is, however, the rolliest place we have ever anchored. We immediately put the flopper stopper in the water to counter the 1-2 foot swell which ran steadily shoreward throughout the bay. It did help, Ron took some video of the “level” in front of Duet’s engine room door. With the flopper in the water, we rolled about 5 degrees, without it we were rolling about 10. That said, we were anxious to find somewhere less bumpy. What we didn’t know, and it was probably a good thing that we didn’t, is that there are few anchorage in the Marquesas that aren’t rolly. They are all open roadsteads, and the prevailing swell comes right in the door. The only ones that sometimes don’t roll are the ones on the north side of Nuku Hiva but, when we were there, the weather was coming from the north, so they would be rolling too.


Video of the flopper stopper working is shown below


Flopper Stopper Working


Duet has two dinghies, the big one which we normally use, and the small one, which is used for difficult landings. The big one relies on the hydraulic crane to launch and retrieve it. So, when we first arrived, we launched the big dink, as it hauls all three of us comfortably and was easy to dock at the rolly quay. Sean and Nancy used it for a provisioning trip, and to haul the trash and used oil, after Ron changed the oil in the main and generator. Taiohoe Bay is very welcoming to cruisers, there is no charge to dispose of trash or oil, unlike many places we have visited.


Sean ready for ferrying duty.


The provisioning is pretty good, considering how remote the Marquesas are. Almost everything comes in via the supply boat, except for some fruit and vegetables. There isn’t much available on the fruit and veg front, Nancy rapidly learned that if she saw it and wanted it, she should buy it, as it wouldn’t be there long. The bread was locally baked and very good, there was excellent cheese and plenty of great NZ butter. We didn’t buy any meat, but everything was available, from New Zealand lamb to French duck. Most things were expensive, except the bread and locally grown fruit and vegetables. We did eat out one night with Daybreak’s crew and found the prices quite high. The food ranged from great to mediocre, depending on what you ordered.

When the time came to refuel, we recovered the big dink using the crane. Once the recovery was complete, we noticed that the crane had suffered an arterial hydraulic fluid bleed. The good news was the dink was already on the boat, not still in the water. The bad news was that the motor that drives the crane’s power rotation function, which is critical to safely managing the 750 pound big dink, had what Ron and Sean figured was a bad seal and needed to be replaced or rebuilt. The crane did swing around a bit during the long crossing without stabilizers. That said, swinging around shouldn’t destroy the seal, so Ron is looking forward to taking the motor apart to see what really happened.


One of the things we’ve learned on this trip is that stuff breaks. You can either let it stop you enjoying the journey, or not. We choose not. Someone, we can’t remember who, wrote “tie a knot and go on” to describe dealing with adverse circumstances. This has become a new Duet saying. So we tied a knot in the crane and went on by using the small dink for the rest of our stay. The small dink and motor can easily be deployed manually. The small dink, however, is slow and quite wet in any conditions other than flat calm. That said, it ran fine through the remainder of our trip. Also, unlike Alaska, the water in French Polynesia is warm, so repeated dousings were not a big deal.

The dinghy dock in Taiohae Bay, photo credit to sailing vessel mysticeti.  


After Ron and Sean worked through a diagnosis of the crane, emails went out to the technical support guys at Steelhead. Rebuilding the motor is apparently difficult, so we decided to order a new one, although Ron will also try to have the old one rebuilt or rebuild it himself. During the next three weeks we sorted out the cost to get it delivered to Tahiti. The shipping was more than the part, so in the end we decided to hand carry it back when we return in August. In the meantime we figured out a good way to launch and retrieve the little dink. Landing it in Nuku Hiva with three of us aboard (it’s load limit) wasn’t so easy, but we managed it. Then we got organized to depart for the rest of our tour of the Marquesas Islands.


Sean made a habit of buying the crew ice cream every time we went ashore in Taiohae Bay.  We hate to admit it, but we kept doing it after he left.




First, though, we refueled. In Nuku Hiva this is an interesting exercise involving a med moor, which is not something we have done before. This operation had been described by boaters who had gone before us as not something you really wanted to sign up for, but we had no choice, so off we went. To be honest, refueling was something that had worried Ron and Nancy ever since we decided to come to the Marquesas, but we figured if other boats could do it, so could we.


To reach the fuel hose, you need to back the boat up to a large concrete commercial dock and line her stern up with a single bollard. Setting the boat up for this is a multi step process. First, you drop the anchor, about 300 feet out, so you can get enough chain in the water to be sure she doesn’t drag the anchor while being shoved around by the surge of the waves banging against the dock. Then you slowly back up, paying out the chain, pick a distance from the dock to set the anchor and set it by pulling on it, the same way we do every time we anchor. That hopefully ensures that she will stay put at your set distance from the dock.


Then you put on the snubber to unload the windlass, which another boat neglected to do several days before, thereby destroying their windlass as the surge yanked their chain back and forth. After all this you hope you end up close enough to the dock for the fuel hose to reach, or else you have to do it all again. The hose is pretty long, so you don’t have to get much closer to the dock than about 20 feet. Frankly, you don’t want to get any closer than that, it’s a big concrete dock and not friendly to recreational vessels.


Ron calmly managed the anchoring and the positioning using a combination of radar and Nancy feeding him numbers from our range finder as we got closer. It worked pretty well. The big advantage was we had Sean, who could manage the lines, while Ron and Nancy got the boat lined up. Without him it would have been doable, but harder. Kevin often serves as a third crew member for boats refueling and we might have gone with that option, had we needed to.


This process is made more interesting by the continuous sea surging against the dock. The surge causes Duet to move up and down and forward and back, thereby stressing both the anchor and the lines from her stern to the dock. The primary line securing her to the dock (we also had a backup just in case) made a low pitched rumble as it stretched and transmitted vibration to the hawse it was attached to. Nancy was not a fan of this noise. The lines had to be adjusted throughout the process to account for the stretch and keep Duet properly positioned, so no strain was transmitted to the fuel hose.


Attaching these lines is an art in and of itself. First you have to have the stern lined up straight with the dock bollard, not blowing off one way or another. Duet doesn’t have a stern thruster, so backing down straight was a challenge, fortunately both days we did this (yes we did it twice, since we used quite a bit of fuel cruising the Marquesas and wanted full tanks for the run to through the Tuamotus to Tahiti) we were lucky and the winds were relatively calm. We also picked days where the surge was low, and went as soon as the fuel dock opened, as mornings were calmer than the afternoons.


So there you are, neatly backed up, about 20 feet off the dock, but now you have to get the lines to the dock. Fortunately for us, Sean can really throw a dock line. He learned it as part of his river rescue training. Sean is based in Vancouver, Washington, on the Columbia River, so his fire department also does river rescues. He threw the lines. The fuel guy caught them and tied us up. But what if we try something like this and it’s just Ron and Nancy?



Sean had the answer, he gave us a line throw bag, which even Nancy could throw it’s full length of 25 feet. So we could have thrown that and then attached a dock line to it. Actually we did throw it to pass our credit card back and forth when it came time to pay, and it worked beautifully. Sean uses these bags on the river rescue boat and also while working as a fireman, in case he needs to get a line to someone. We highly recommend them, they would also be handy in a man overboard situation, or to pass a line or package from one boat to another. We keep ours on the floor by the starboard pilothouse door, where it is readily available in an emergency.


Once we got the lines to the dock, and the hose to Duet, we started fueling. It was slow, since we were fueling from a standard gas station pump. We specified how many liters we wanted, by tank, and the attendant set the pump to deliver that. When we had filled one tank, we attracted his attention (Sean, among his other skills, can also whistle rather loudly) and he would reset the pump for the next tank. The first time, when we took on slightly over 900 gallons, this process took over 3 hours to complete. The second time we only bunkered 300 gallons, so that wasn’t bad.

Fueling at Taiohae Bay

Fuel prices in French Polynesia are quite reasonable, under $3/gallon with the duty free exemption, which our agent helped us get. Without it, fuel is over $6/gallon. We have found having an agent very useful, Tehani has helped with hotel reservations for Sean, dockage for Duet, paperwork, etc. Kevin is a great guy, he handles the check in in Nuku Hiva, has rental cars available and he knows a lot about the island.


The following is a longer video of our trip around the Marquesas.  The various places we visited are shown and are discussed below.  

Cruising Around the Marquesas




So, after fueling, we set off for Ua Poa, which is about 20 miles southwest of Nuku Hiva. It’s a small island, famous for it’s rock spires. Sometimes you even get to see the spires, although they are often covered by clouds. We did see some of them as we headed towards the island. We tried to anchor in the main bay of D’Hakahau, but it is small and was already full of boats.



So we headed westward around the island and ended up in an interesting spot in Bay de Vaiehu. It is bowl shaped and the swell rumbles up the cliff edges and then back out. There was a catamaran there before us, so we anchored in about 60 feet of water in the center of the bowl. The sunset was fabulous, and we took our daily swim. After a day of cruising, there is nothing like jumping into the clear, relatively cold (85F) water of the South Pacific.



The next day we continued on around Ua Poa, bound for the island of Tahuata, which was an uphill run, into wind and wave, of about 65 miles. Our arrival in the northern part of the Marquesas at Nuku Hiva meant we had to beat our way south, against the prevailing trade winds, to the other islands. The plus was, once we got there, coming back would be easy. In the meantime, Nancy slept a good part of the trip, head seas not being her favorite. Sean took most of the watch, with Ron resting in the salon in case he needed backup. Head seas aren’t Ron’s favorite either. Sean had a great time, as he had not piloted Duet in head seas before, and even made some video.


Sean is shown below with Sky Diamond, who belongs to his daughter Elizabeth.  He took pictures of Sky Diamond in all sorts of unlikely places to show Elizabeth when he returned home. 



Tahuata had gotten rave reviews in the Marquesas Cruising Compendium. There are few cruising “guides” to French Polynesia, especially the more remote islands of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus. The Compendiums are prepared by the sailing vessel Soggy Paws and are a compilation of guidebook references and cruising reports from those who have gone before us. They are available free from the Soggy Paws website. We relied on these extensively. We also had Charlie’s Charts for French Polynesia, which, while out of date, did give us some additional information.


Anyway, the word on Hanamoenoa Bay on Tahuata was that it was the most perfect beach in the Marquesas. That alone recommended it to us. We wanted somewhere we could hang out, sleep late, swim, snorkel, and generally recover from the long journey, before Sean flew home. Hanamoenoa fit the bill perfectly. We were the only boat there for several nights. We could walk on the beach, but not go inland, as the natives who lived there forbade it. That didn’t matter, it was a beautiful beach and the snorkeling was great. Nancy even managed to teach Ron and Sean a cannonball dive, which she learned as a child. They couldn’t make as big a splash as she could, which everyone was sure was due to her better dive technique, rather than a difference in body mass, but they had a great time trying.



We even did some boat projects.  First, though, Ron and Sean discussed which projects to do, from seems to be an endless list


Nancy worked on the blog

Ron and Sean fixed the ice maker,  a project which was well received by all.


To celebrate the now working ice maker, Ron taught Sean to make a Manhattan, which, while it doesn’t really count as a boat project, was fun.


Sean cooked breakfast several mornings

Ron inventoried all the belts on the boat


Nancy and Sean did some cleaning


Nancy cleaning the boot stripe along the hull.  The warm water allows some amazing things to grow, amazingly fast. 

Ron revised the flopper stopper system, again




Sean fixed more canvas snaps and cleaned up the fishing gear, again


Sean resting after too many projects


After three days of lazing around at Hanamoenoa, celebrating our successful voyage, we decided we should get off our collective sterns and visit what is considered one of the most beautiful anchorages in all of the South Pacific, Hanavave Bay on Fatu-Hiva. Reaching this bay was an uphill slog of about 40 miles but it was definitely worth it. Nancy even managed not to sleep the entire way.


Hanavave Bay definitely lived up to it’s billing. It is one of the most beautiful bays we’ve ever seen. It’s narrow, and the anchorage is in a rolly bowl in front of a beautiful green valley, surrounded by tall cliffs. The cliffs are made up of large spires of rock, and the bay used to be known, before the arrival of the missionaries, as the “bay of the penises”. This appellation didn’t sit well with the conservative newcomers, so it is now known as the “bay of the virgins”. It’s not clear how that transition was achieved, nor why the new name was considered appropriate. Whatever it’s name is, it’s gorgeous.



Duet was anchored in about 110 feet of water, at the outskirts of the anchorage, which was narrow and crowded. 




It rains a great deal in the Marquesas, so everything is incredibly green.

That afternoon we were visited by some local fisherman, who sold us 3 kilos of just caught tuna for $10. Sean filleted it, we froze some and ate the rest, grilled with salt, pepper and olive oil. It was some of the finest tuna any of us have had. The only downside was we didn’t catch it. Our fishing has, despite Sean’s talented presence, truly sucked. So far we have only hooked one very large grouper while playing with spinning rod in Hanamoenoa Bay. Even if we had managed to catch it, rather than have it break the line and run off with the lure, Ron wouldn’t have let us eat it. Reef fish here can carry cigeratoa, which is a nerve disease, so we make a point of not eating them unless we know other people who have safely done so.



The next day we launched the small dink, loaded up and headed ashore. As we got closer the valley revealed itself as being larger and more spectacular than we realized from the boat. The small harbor was, however, undergoing renovations, so it was dominated by a large crane busy setting huge concrete blocks in the water. We hope this isn’t to allow cruise ship tenders to access the island, as that will definitely spoil it. In the meantime, it is one of the few Marquesas where the cruise ships don’t stop, and it has no airport, so it is relatively untouched.


We walked through town, looking for a path to the local waterfall, which we had read about in the Compendium. We immediately got lost, and Nancy asked a local lady for directions. She didn’t speak English and we speak no French, so she took us to her house, as her husband spoke some English. They invited us in, he drew us a map and they tried to give us a large bag of pampelmousse, which is a giant tasty version of a grapefruit. It grows everywhere. We refused the gift as we didn’t want to carry it to the waterfall, but promised to stop by on our way back to collect it.


Heading into town


Tourist Sean

Coconut drying before being shipped to Tahiti to be turned into oil

The hike to the waterfall was relatively easy, although it is important to remember that the Marquesas are a jungle, complete with mud, bugs, dark dank areas, huge plants which represent an opportunity to get stung or acquire a rash, big eels (which may or may not bite depending on who you ask) in the rivers you cross, the odd horse or cow wandering around, lots of wild chickens and some incredible scenery. We did reach the waterfall and spent some time sitting in the natural air conditioning of it’s spray, while munching trail mix and taking pictures. We then hiked back down and visited our new friends. It turned out he was a woodcarver, so we bought some of his work, the carvings here are beautifully done. We all parted friends.


Into the jungle

 Up the hill


More jungle


Rock cairn to mark the way


Sean channeling his inner flower child


Nancy wondering whose idea this was anyway


We found it – the waterfall!

After the falls we returned to Duet, ate some more tuna and got up early the next morning to head back to Hanamoenoa Bay. Yes we were rushing, but Sean had a plane to catch. Before that, however, he wanted to get a tattoo. The Marquesans are believed to have originated the art of tattooing, and their work is unique. We also wanted to rent a car and tour Nuku Hiva, an activity which had been highly recommend by Jerome from Daybreak.


It took two easy days to return to Taiohae Bay, where it was still rolling.  On arrival, we picked up the new Gates Predator Belt for the Naiads, which Sean and Ron promptly installed.  We shall see how it does on our next leg to the Tuamotus.


Below Ron is showing Sean the “Krikits” he uses to tension belts


We scheduled Sean’s tattoo for the next day. At the appointed hour we showed up at the artist’s house. Fortunately for Sean, as the artist spoke little English, there happened to be a nice Brazilian girl there who spoke good English and French. She was able to help translate Sean’s “story” for the artist. Marquesan tattoos are story based, in Sean’s case his incorporated his job as a firefighter, his family and the ocean crossing we had just completed. The tattoo was drawn in ink on Sean, and, once it was approved, the artist set to work.


In the meantime, Ron and I, who came along as moral support, chatted with the next customer, who turned out to be an English guy skippering a custom built ketch for a Dutch couple. They were on a 17 month voyage around the world, having left Holland the previous year. Much too fast for us, but driven by the owner’s work schedule. We also met a young Brazilian guy, who had arrived with the Brazilian girl, aboard his father’s 80 foot steel ketch. They had come from Chile, after cruising Antartica, and were bound for Alaska, via Hawaii. There are some very interesting cruisers in French Polynesia. It is hard to reach in a small boat, which tends to separate the women from the girls, so to speak, as far as cruising skills go.


Once Sean was inked, we headed back to the boat for the day, as he needed to get some rest and stay out of the sun. We fired up the generator and the A/C and settled in for an “industrial” day where we do laundry, make water, etc. We had an early night. Sean was feeling pretty good, but we wanted to make sure there were no issues with the tattoo.


Happily tattooed.  Note the two circles of tattooing are Marquesan, the inner symbol was there already. The artist did a great job of combing the two designs. 



The next day we refueled, again. We had traveled 250 miles in our Marquesan tour, but, more importantly, the generator was running a lot more than expected, to power the air conditioning. We wanted to be sure we had plenty of fuel aboard for the approximately 900 mile journey to Papeete, without stinting on the A/C.


Once Duet was full of fuel, we anchored in the bay again and went ashore to pick up our rental car. It turned out to be a 4 wheel drive truck, with a crew cab and a manual transmission. Ron drove, Sean navigated and Nancy helped. We set off, with detailed directions and a map from Kevin, to visit the far side of the island. The roads are good, concrete all the way, but it’s a big climb from one side to the other. It had been raining a lot, and we slid backward on one of the really steep bits. Once we got safely stopped, Sean taught Ron how to use a manual 4 wheel drive system. After we got that worked out, we proceeded. Marquesans drive slowly to avoid all the livestock in the road, which includes dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and cows, not to mention people.


We visited two places. First, a 500 year old Marquesan village with a temple for human sacrifices, which is now an archeological site. Cannibalism was also practiced there. It was in the deep dark jungle and was eerie. Nevertheless, Duet’s intrepid crew scrambled all over it, only regretting that we couldn’t read the French information posted at each area. We did find the pit where they kept the unfortunate victims before their turn on the alter and the dinner table, and we also found several fine petroglyphs.


The banyon tree where sacrifices waited 


Sean looking for cannibals

Sean surrendering to cannibals

Nancy taking a break from scrambling over rocks


Nancy and Ron, going for that honeymoon look at the site.

After that we went somewhere a little more cheerful, a nearby village on the beach. We parked near the Catholic church, which appeared to be the center of town. It was surrounded by a green, with several common buildings. It was late in the afternoon and children were at play while parents and teenagers were sitting on porches talking, playing music, etc. We walked around for a bit and then headed back to Taiohae Bay to have our last dinner with Sean, or at least our last one until we get to Portland to visit him and the family.


The next morning we awoke to the sound of a very big horn. A Holland America cruise ship had come to visit and was anchored right off Duet’s stern. Launches were shuttling passengers ashore. We decided to move up our schedule to make sure we got Sean to the airport in time, so we set off early to the dock, retrieved the truck and, following Kevin’s map, started off over the mountains once more.


This part of the island was quite different from the jungles we had visited the day before. It was dry and grassy, with many horses and cows, and no fences. Ron dodged livestock like a local and we arrived at the airport in good time. Sean checked in, we had lunch together and then, once it was apparent the airplane was actually going to arrive, we set off back to Duet, while Sean headed to Papeete for his flight home.


Nancy at the airport.


Once Sean left, the plan was to leave on the next weather window for the Tuamotus. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. We waited 8 days for a window, during which time it rained a great deal. When it rains in the Marquesas, muddy water runs down into the Bays, and floats on top of the seawater. This fresh water is very dirty, so running the water maker, or swimming, is out of the question. Not only that, but Taiohae Bay was even rollier than usual due to the fronts passing by, so we decamped for Daniel’s Bay, made famous by the first season of Survivor, which was filmed there.


Daniel’s Bay was actually named, by cruisers, after a Marquesan named Daniel, who lived there for 60 years and allowed folks to visit and share his fresh water source. He is no longer there, but the name remains. This bay proved to be far less rolly than Taiohae, and we remained there, absent a couple of trips outside to make water, until we got a window for the Tuamotus.


Weather rolling into Daniel’s Bay


Nancy on the beach one day it wasn’t raining

Wet weather visitor