Duet Arrives Safely in Fiji


Duet arrived safely in Savusavu, Fiji, and we are awaiting the local officials to clear us in. It is early Tuesday morning here in Fiji, Duet crossed the International Date Line last night.

We traveled 1,766 nautical miles in just under 11 days. More statistics will be available later. Duet, as usual, ran beautifully the entire way, despite some bumpy weather.

It’s very nice to be here!

Thank you all for following along.

Ron, Nancy and Sean
Duet, N50#15
Lying Savusavu, Fiji




Duet Departs Bora Bora Westward for Somewhere

Duet Departs Bora Bora Westward for Somewhere

Duet left Bora Bora yesterday (Thursday June 7) in the late afternoon, bound for either American Samoa or Fiji, depending on what the weather does. Pago Pago in American Samoa is about 1,000 miles, or 7 days, while SavuSavu in Fiji is about 1,800 miles or 12 days, from here. We won’t decide where we are ending up until early next week.

Right now we are on a more northerly track to Pago Pago, which keeps us out of the bumpier weather down south. Turning more south to Fiji at some point won’t increase the trip distance much, so we can do it until about 48 hours before we arrive in Pago Pago, at which point we are pretty far north. Duet has 1,700 gallons of fuel aboard, so we can easily reach Fiji, even with air conditioning at night!

You can follow our track at http://snap.ocens.com/ enter Duet1 and June 7 and you should be able to see us slowly chugging along. Positions are posted every 4 hours or so, but don’t worry if we are a bit late with that, sometimes Nancy forgets to do it ūüėČ

Dawn is just breaking here now, so Nancy is on watch, while Sean and Ron are asleep. We are following the same schedule as we did crossing from Mexico last year, so everyone has fallen easily into the routine. All is well, the weather is good, we have plenty of food and Duet is doing her usual competent job of safely and comfortably conveying us across the globe.

Remember, no news is good news, so don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for a few days, we are still here but not much is going on.

Ron, Nancy and Sean
Duet, Nordhavn 50#15
Crossing the South Pacific



February in Papeete

We returned to Duet in early February.  We are expecting two sets of guests on Bora Bora in May, before we leave for Fiji. Given we weren’t getting back aboard again until mid April, this trip was all about getting things done.  The idea is that Duet will then be ready to pull off the dock in good order, with plenty of time to cruise north at an easy pace.  How this will work out is anyone’s guess, although experience tells us that it may not be quite as orderly or as easy as we hope.    

Good friends from our home town, Barbara and Ken, will be joining us for 5 days in early May.  They will then board the Aranui 5, which is the local French Polynesian supply ship.  It also carries passengers, and, in it’s latest iteration, is a rather interesting looking cross between an island freighter and a cruise ship.  Barbara and Ken will get to see many of the more remote islands, while delivering supplies and picking up local goods for transport to Papeete.  

The Aranui 5



After Barbara and Ken leave, we have about 4 weeks together, then Sean and his wife Celia arrive. Sean, as our regular readers will recall, spent 17 days at sea with us from Mexico to the Marquesas.  He has reenlisted for the 11 day journey to Fiji, which we view as a good sign.  This is Celia’s first cruise aboard Duet, she’s only been aboard once before for a few hours in Portland.  She will be staying 5 days, then returning home to take care of the family, while Sean stays 3 more weeks for the trip to Fiji.  

Duet will remain in the Bora Bora lagoon for both of these visits.  None of our visitors, except of course Sean, want to do any real cruising, unlike our previous guests, Allan and Linda.  So we shall spend our time on the hook, snorkeling, swimming, exploring, talking, dining and sleeping late, which Duet’s crew is very good at.  We do expect to move from one side of Bora Bora to the other, so there will be some boating involved, but not much.

While Ron was getting started on his projects, Nancy worked on what provisions we need for our next three months aboard. She also started planning meals for the 11 day passage from Bora Bora to Fiji.  This is bit of a challenge, as there is little prepared food available in French Polynesia, and cooking isn’t one of Nancy’s strengths.  She will figure it out, but Ron and Sean may be eating some dishes over and over.

Duet looked great when we arrived, we have to commend Tehani and her Tahiti Crew team for taking such good care of her.  They had been checking on her every week, and washing her and cleaning her bottom every month. Their attention to detail really showed.

The picture below was sent us by Jennifer and Mark on Nordhavn 46, Starlet.  They left Starlet at  Marina Taina for a couple of weeks while they visited Easter Island.  We look forward to seeing them again when we return in April.


We knew the weather would not be great.  This was an understatement, as the average day consisted of intermittent rain, with the occasional tropical downpour, interspersed with incredibly hot sunny periods, during which we wished it would start raining again. It was hot and very humid throughout our stay.  Later on in the month, Tropical Cyclone Gita went by and we had considerable wind and rain, although nowhere near what they had on Tonga.

During Gita’s passing, Duet developed several leaks.  Leaks on a boat are a serious problem, they are often difficult to trace and can do significant damage if not sorted out pronto.  Fortunately, we were aboard when these started, initiated, we are sure, by the amazing rainfall during Gita.  Even the locals said it was raining really hard.  

Ron nailed the first leak pretty easily, the Iridium antenna caulking had failed.  It was a pretty simple fix.  




Astute readers will notice that Ron now has a tattoo.  Nancy has one too, also on her shoulder, but we don’t have a good picture of it yet.  The tattoos incorporate the same symbols, but Nancy’s is the more restrained female style, with less ink than Ron’s.  The symbols describe our life together, our Pacific crossing and our family and friends.  They also include several totems, like the turtle, which stands for long life.  Deciding to get a tattoo was a long process for us, but we are very glad we did it.  We will only go this way once, and it feels right to have a lifelong memento of the journey.

We purposely had our work done by a Marquesan, since the Marquesas were our first landfall.  Our regular readers will remember that Sean was tattooed when we arrived in Nuku Hiva.  Our Papeete based artist Herman worked on both of us, so our designs have the same feel, and he gave us a great writeup on what all our symbols mean.  The process took a day each, and, particularly in Ron’s case, was painful enough to be memorable. Tattooing is a serious art form in the South Pacific, and the Marquesans are masters.  

The following is taken from “The Tahiti Traveler”

The tattoo art, always alive in the history of humanity, reached a particularly developed status in Polynesia where it is called ‚Äúlanguage of the Ancients‚ÄĚ by Tapu BONNET ‚Äďthe oldest tattoo master of the region. Due to its geographical isolation and its resistance to the occidental culture, tattoos from the Marquesas islands constitute the most accomplished style in the whole Polynesian triangle.

According to mythology, the two sons of the God Ta‚Äôaroa -Mata Arhu and Tu Ra‚Äôi po‚Äô- found this art decorative and decided to teach it to humans. As there is no writing in the Polynesian culture, Polynesians used this art full of distinctive signs to express their identity and personality. 


Many Polynesians can read these symbols.  During one shopping excursion, Nancy was approached by a Marquesan lady.  This in itself was unusual, as women from the outer islands are often quite shy.  The woman had noticed Nancy’s tattoo and immediately knew it was Marquesan.  

She spoke little English and Nancy speaks no French, but they managed to communicate with some common words, hand signals and lots of giggling.  After a discussion about Nancy’s tattoo, the lady showed Nancy her tattoos, which she started getting when she was 10.  She was homesick for Nuku Hiva and Nancy was happy to have cheered her up.

Back to the boat. The second leak was much more frustrating.  We first discovered it when we were awoken in the wee hours by intermittent dripping from one of the the master stateroom overhead ceiling panels.  It would then stop, for hours, or even days.  It seemed to be tracking down the wiring, from somewhere above, but where was a real mystery.  

At the same time, we also had some water under the pilothouse settee, which soaked the books and charts in the drawer there.  While it seems that this must be related to the leak in the master stateroom ceiling, which is below the pilothouse, we couldn’t find any way that the water was getting from one place to another.  Nor could we figure out where it was coming from in the first place.  By this time we had taken down every ceiling panel in the pilothouse, the master stateroom and the forward stateroom, and still had no idea where the water originated.  

Duet tends to sit bow down when her fuel tanks are empty, which they were.  So we were almost certain that the water was coming from aft of where it was dripping out of the master ceiling.  We did, however, tear the forward guest stateroom apart, just in case, but everything in there was bone dry.  This was a good exercise anyway, as our repairs to the round portholes in the that stateroom were definitely working.  

The interesting part about all this was, while the water was obviously coming from above, it wasn’t coming thru the pilothouse roof.  So where could it be coming from? We dismantled apart the pilothouse, including removing all the gear behind the settee. Duet has an enormous storage cupboard behind the settee, it contains our sea anchor, drogue and rode, the man overboard kit, the big medical kit, endless parts and our damage kit.  The goods on top of the pile were dry, but the ones on the bottom were wet.  Finally, we were making some progress.  

The pilothouse also has a hanging locker, which is inboard of the back of the settee.  Further investigation revealed that the bottom of this locker was damp.  Not wet, but damp.  So was the wall between it and the locker behind the settee.  The A/C ducting leading down from the wall vent and thru the hanging locker above the settee was also damp.  So Ron pulled the A/C vent off the wall, which took some doing because the idiot who had installed it had glued it in, instead of caulking it.  We kept the bits of teak veneer that peeled off during this process and stuck them back on later.

The A/C vent on the back of the pilothouse wall, above the settee.

 
Once the vent was out, the whole problem became much clearer.  Duet has aftermarket air conditioning, added by the second owner in Seattle.  We have had endless problems with this, due to poor work by the installer.  Since we’ve had the boat, Ron has redone the plumbing of all 5 units.  To add insult to injury, on this trip the fan in the master unit failed.  It had been installed in a nonstandard way, which we think contributed to it’s early demise.

Anyway, when they put the vent in the pilothouse, they cut a hole in the back of the pilothouse wall to the flybridge, essentially putting in a window, in which they fitted the box for the vent.  While putting in a window isn’t something we would have allowed in the first place, it could have been done properly and thereby reduced the chances of a major leak down the road, which is what we were dealing with now.  

The vent box was installed under the instrument cowling on the flybridge.  Presumably the thinking was that the cowling would protect it from the weather.  Of course, someone forgot that the cowling isn’t completely watertight.

Access to the cowling under the flybridge wheel



When the vent box was installed, a hole was cut down through the flybridge deck under the box to bring in the ducting to the vent from the A/C unit, which is under the settee. The ducting comes up through the pilothouse locker.  The ducting hole through the deck was never weather protected.  

So they not only added a hole in the back of the pilothouse, they also added a drain under it into the pilot house locker.  In normal rain, this didn’t leak, as it was protected by the instrument cowling, but in the incredibly strong driving downpours of the South Pacific it leaked like a sieve.  This was the source of the leak in the master stateroom, no question.

Hole cut into the pilothouse wall behind the hydraulic steering hoses.


But how to fix it?  We didn’t want to relocate the vent, there really isn’t anywhere else to put it, and that would leave a large unsightly hole in the back of the pilothouse wall.  But we had to stop the leak.  Ron also calculated that the vent was seriously undersized for the unit driving it, which probably means that compressor will die a premature death.  But, one thing at a time.  Later, we can worry about the vent sizing.  Right now we had to stop the water flowing in.

So Ron caulked the entire vent window and the duct entry hole on both sides.  The end result wasn’t pretty, but it’s all behind the closet wall and under the deck, so only we know it’s there.  Even better, it stopped the leak cold, fortunately before the full fury of Gita brushed Tahiti.

The white goop is caulk, added by Ron.  This picture is taken looking up into the hole in the flybridge deck, which was cut for the ducting to reach the vent.  It is a pretty big hole. The ducting is not installed in this picture, but it runs up through the hole into the back of the vent.  The vertical hole below the deck leads to the pilothouse locker, where the ducting then runs down and under the settee to the compressor.


Once we got past the leaks, we settled into the usual flow, Nancy made lists, loaded dry provisions and helped with projects.  Ron did projects.  These projects included, in no particular order, replacing the belt on the dryer, finishing the electrical upgrade project for foreign power (see Ron’s separate blog on this), and installing LED bulbs in all navigation lights.

The dryer project, as with all dryer projects, involved a lot of contorting (by Ron), several days of effort (by both Nancy and Ron) and repeated attempts to get everything to fit back together again.  It always comes apart easily, the hard part is putting it all back together.

Ron starting to crawl into the hole behind the dryer


One of several wiring harnesses behind the dryer that need to be disconnected and then reconnected.  The key is to take a picture before you disconnect them, otherwise there is significant confusion when you try to put them back together again.



The old dryer belt


The new dryer belt going on.  This picture was taken from the back of the dryer by Ron, while he was jammed into the tiny space behind the dryer.  Nancy, meanwhile, is in front of the dryer, on the stairway, pushing and pulling to keep the drum steady while Ron fits the belt.



The new belt on the dryer motor.  The dryer is now running more quietly than it has since we’ve owned the boat.



Replacing the navigation lights with LED bulbs was pretty easy, except when it wasn’t.  Our forward steaming light, which is just under our anchor light at the top of the flybridge array, had to have a completely new light, as opposed to just changing out the bulb.  Buying a new light was pretty easy, installing it not so much.

Changing out the starboard running light bulb, so simple even Nancy could have done it.


The new steaming light’s mounting bracket.  Needless to say, initially we had no idea how to connect it to the old light’s mount, which was welded to the mast.  About now we started to realize that changing out the lights might be more difficult than we thought.


The back of the old light, which looks nothing like the new light.


The old light’s mount, as seen from Ron’s perch on the flybridge array.


Ron, drilling the mount to accept the new light.  Fortunately we figured out, after some discussion and several trips (by Ron) up the flybridge array, that the new light could be bolted to the old mount, with a little reconfiguration of the mounting holes.


Mounting the new light.


We also did some scuba diving.  The visibility was terrible, due to the constant rain and runoff from local streams, but we did get some more under water experience, which we enjoyed.  We also added a buoyancy compensator (BCD) for Nancy, and a new regulator, to our scuba gear inventory.  Ron did some scuba gear maintenance, which is a new job for him, but an important one.  

Changing out a gauge


As part of Nancy’s ongoing provisioning research, we even got to try some new foods.

Lychee nuts were in season when we were there. We’d never seen them before, but a helpful fruit vendor showed Nancy the secret.  First you cut open the outer wrapping, which is an attractive strawberry like package.


Inside the lining is the lychee, which is the white ball in the picture below.  It’s very sweet, with a hard nut in the middle.  


A more familiar fruit, the pineapple.  These small ones are also incredibly sweet.  We buy then from street vendors and they are usually quite ripe, so they need to be cleaned immediately.  They are often buggy, so we clean them in the outside sink.



Avocados were in season, the ones in French Polynesia are very large.  Our agent, Tehani, has a tree in her garden, so we didn’t lack for fresh ones!  Tehani also left the beautiful flowers, for our arrival.


In our off hours, we had some great times with the Judy and Julian, crew of the Nordhavn 76, Sirius.  They have traveled all over the world, in their jobs as Captain and Chef of Sirius, and other mega yachts, so we learned a lot from them. Just before we left, we had a super meal on the top of Tahiti, at a place reached only in a 4X4 vehicle.  A marvelous time was had by all, even though we aren’t sure who drank all that wine!

Good inexpensive wine is hard to find in Papeete. Almost all wine is French and we know little about French wines. Alcohol is also expensive, so mistakes are costly.  Fortunately, as Sirius’s chef, Judy knows quite a bit about wines, and she gave us some great recommendations.

Wine testing.


Our time on the boat, as usual, passed quickly.  Soon enough we were boarding the flight back to Los Angeles and then home to Reno.  The house was still standing, and no summons were nailed to the front door, which is always a good sign.  

Right after our return the weather turned to snow, snow and more snow.  It had been a pretty dry winter to date, but we had a Magic March, which caught up our local water supply and went a long way towards meeting northern California’s needs as well.

The view from our kitchen between storms



Chief snowblower Ron, clearing off our deck


We also found that we had become famous, or at least notorious, in our absence.  Duet was a centerfold star, featured in Soundings magazine on the east coast and Sea magazine on the west.  Our friends Jennifer and Mark were the cover boat for Soundings and joined us as one of the 10 crews interviewed for the article ‚ÄúAdventure is Calling‚ÄĚ.  

Soundings cover, with Nordhavn 46 Starlet, photographed in the Red Sea


Duet’s Soundings centerfold


Duet, again, in Sea



In the meantime, we are rushing through endless lists of parts, supplies, paperwork, etc., all designed to get Duet ready to continue on to Fiji in mid June.  She will remain there while we return to Tahoe for Ron to work for part of the summer.  Once we return to Fiji in September, we will be bound for New Caledonia and then Australia, where Duet will spend several years cruising the endless coast.

We wish our readers an enjoying Northern Hemisphere Spring or Southern Hemisphere Fall.

How Will We Adapt To Foreign Power In The Southern Hemisphere?

Preparing Duet for her South Pacific journey included deciding how to deal with foreign electrical power. Duet is configured and outfitted for US-style split-phase power: 120/240 VAC, 60 Hz.  This is the familiar 3 conductor system comprised of 2 hot wires (often labeled L1 and L2), and 1 neutral wire (plus a grounding wire).  This is shown in figure 1.  120 VAC is available between either L and neutral, and 240 VAC is produced between L1 and L2.  Most of our AC equipment requires 120 VAC, so each item is connected to either L1 or L2, plus neutral.  Only our watermaker and laundry machines use 240 VAC, and they are connected to both L1 and L2, without need of a neutral.  

In contrast, the South Pacific offers single phase 230 VAC, 50 Hz (see figure 1).  This is a 2 conductor system, comprised of only 1 hot (L) and 1 neutral wire (plus grounding wire).  Between L and neutral 230 VAC is available; without some intervention on our part, no other voltage can be drawn from this system.  The power available in the South Pacific therefore presents two potential problems for us:  voltage and frequency.  

Initially, I considered installing an isolation transformer, which is a common solution employed by long-legged cruising boats.  Such a device takes single phase 230 VAC power and creates split-phase 115/230 (close enough to 120/240).   The one weakness of this approach is its inability to convert 50 Hz to 60 Hz, except with a very expensive and bulky frequency converter(e.g. Atlas Marine) that is not suited for our size boat (or budget).

Frequency is not a problem for some kinds of AC equipment, like light bulbs and heating elements.  Motors vary in their susceptibility to damage from operation at the wrong frequency.  The motors I was most concerned about were our reverse-cycle air conditioning compressors.  I expected to be in some very warm locations and wanted to be able to run air conditioning without having to run the generator continuously at the dock. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of our reverse-cycle equipment told us that prolonged use on 50 Hz power would burn out the compressors.

Because of this frequency problem, I decided that an isolation transformer would not solve our foreign power needs.  Instead, I chose to  install an inverter stack that could handle some of our reverse-cycle loads.  Because this amount of inverting requires a substantial amount of incoming DC power to keep the batteries charged, I also would need to install a bank of universal DC battery chargers that could run on any marina voltage or frequency we were likely to encounter.  

Duet was already equipped with a single 3 kVA Victron Multiplus inverter-charger that handled our smaller AC loads (refrigeration plus miscellaneous domestic appliances ‚Äďmicrowave, coffee maker, dishwasher etc.).  Together, all of our reefers and freezers require 0.8 kVA.  Miscellaneous appliances episodically add another 1.2 to 1.5 kVA.  This did not leave enough reserve to power any reverse cycle, especially when taking into account the predictable reduction in capacity as an inverter gets warm.  Like many manufacturers, Victron states the power of its inverters at a temperature of 77F.  At 104F, capacity declines by20%.      

Duet has a total reverse-cycle capacity of 56,000 BTU.  Running all of this on an inverter bank was not practical for us, for reasons that will become clear.  Based on previous experience in the tropics, I knew that running 20,000 BTU would keep the boat comfortable in the mornings, evenings and overnight.  Our plan was to use inverted power to provide cooling during those time periods, and the generator as necessary for maximum cooling during the middle of the day.  

Measurements told us that 20,000 BTU would require an additional 1.4 kVA.  This did not include the large reverse-cycle seawater pump which, thankfully, is capable of running directly on dock power.  

I estimated that a second 3 kVA inverter would address our reverse-cycle needs.  Even accounting for derating as the inverters warm up, there appeared to be more than enough power to handle all of our intended loads (1.4 kVA reverse-cycle + 0.8 kVA refrigeration + 1.5 kVA miscellaneous = 3.7 kVA).  

Apart from considering the sustained load inverters need to handle,  one must also consider transient peak loads.  Motor start-up loads can be 4 to 6 times their sustained running load.  Our largest reverse-cycle unit requires 1.1 kVA to run.  At worst, I could expect a 6.6 kVA transient start-up load. Our next largest reverse-cycle unit requires 0.8 kVA to run with a possible start-up load of 5 kVA.  The combined peak load handling ability of two Multiplus inverters is 12 kVA, theoretically enough to handle the simultaneous start up of our largest and second largest compressors.


DC SIDE OF EQUATION

Our inverters would be useless without adequate DC charging capacity.  To a first approximation, one kVA of AC power requires one kVA of DC power (I am not considering inverter efficiency, which for the Multiplus is around 93% when optimally loaded).   I wanted to install sufficient DC charging capacity to keep up with average power utilization over a 24 hour cycle, with periods of higher than average load handled by the battery bank.  The most significant loads would be reefers, freezers, and 20,000 BTU of reverse cycle, all adding up to 2.2 kVA.  At 12 volts, that requires183 amps DC.  However all those devices don’t run continuously. Assuming 75% duty cycles for each of those devices, over a 24 hour period we would need a continuous DC charge of 138 amps. Two 100-amp Victron universal chargers appeared to be more than sufficient for the task, even allowing for their output reduction with warming up (20% reduction at 120 F).  They are capable of running on 90 to 265VAC, and on frequencies between 45 and 65 Hz, so plugging them in to foreign dock power is no problem.

The two 100 amp chargers require a combined 16 amps at 230 VAC, the typical voltage at south pacific marinas.  The seawater pump for our reverse cycle, which I intend to run directly on dock power, requires another 4 amps, bringing our dockside power requirement up to 20 amps.  Typical single phase power pedestals in the south pacific are either 16 or 32 amps.  I have the necessary adapters (IEC 60309 pin and sleeve wiring devices ‚Äď see figure 2) to plug in to either, but obviously a 16 amp pedestal means we can run only one charger and this reduces the amount of reverse-cycle we can power.   An isolation transformer would not have altered this limitation– there is only so much juice available from the dock.  Hopefully, we will encounter more 32 than 16 amp pedestals.




To simplify power management, I installed a dedicated foreign power inlet on the transom of our boat, rated for 230 VAC, 32 amps (I actually used an ordinary 120/240 50amp inlet since it was less expensive than the ‘european’ model). The inlet cabling (10 AWG) runs to a double-pole 32 amp breaker. Blue Sea Systems makes a nice surface mount enclosure for their AC breakers, rated to IP66 (protected from high pressure water jets), perfect for installing in the lazarette (see figure 3).  



ABYC standards require connection of the DC charger chassis to the boat’s central bonding system using a cable at most one size smaller than the battery bank connection (yes, really, a 3/0 grounding cable!).   Since the grounding wire on the incoming AC shore power is also connected to the chassis, there is no galvanic isolation from other boats at the marina. Therefore, I installed a galvanic isolator, which is where that green bonding cable in the picture is headed.


WIRING UP THE INVERTER STACK

Before installing the second Victron inverter-charger, I needed to decide how it would be connected to the original one.  Victron inverter-chargers can be stacked in parallel or in series (see figure 4 below).  The parallel stacking produces a single phase 2 conductor (one hot, one neutral) 120 VAC system.  The series stacking produces a split phase 3 conductor (two hot, one neutral) 120/240 VAC system.  It is possible to construct a three-phase power system as well (with a third inverter), but this was not relevant for Duet and I will not discuss it further.  




These two options have obvious differences in their external wiring.  What is not obvious from the schematic is that the devices have to be programmed to work in these two distinct ways.  One of the devices is designated ‘master’ and controls how the ‘slave’ is generating power; a cat5 cable maintains communication between the devices .  The key is proper synchronization of the AC wave form (see figure 5).  Our AC power appears on an oscilloscope as a sine wave, with a frequency of 50 or 60 cycles per second.  The sine waves of the paralleled inverters have exactly the same timing.  In contrast, the sine waves of the split-phase inverters are displaced from each other by a half cycle. When one inverter is at peak positive voltage, the other is at peak negative voltage (see figure 5).  




Because the sine waves of paralleled inverters are in perfect synchrony, at any instant in time the voltages in their hot wires are identical.  So, connecting them together will not create a short circuit.  With the split-phase arrangement, when L1 is at plus 120 volts, L2 is at minus 120 volts. There are 240 volts between L1 and L2, and 120 volts between either L and neutral.

As mentioned at the beginning, Duet is set up for 120/240 VAC power.  Our various 120 VAC devices are wired to either L1 and N, or L2 and N, with roughly an equal number on each circuit.  Our only 240 VAC devices are the laundry machines and watermaker.   I was not interested in generating 240 VAC from the inverter bank since running the generator to do laundry is an acceptable option.  In marinas we have no reason to power up the watermaker except to flush, which does not require 240 VAC. Therefore, I decided to wire up the inverter stack in parallel, which provides only 120 VAC power.

When inverters are stacked in parallel, it is important to insure that the DC cables to each inverter are of equal length and cross-section.  If this is not done properly, the inverters will be operating at different DC voltages and this will affect their ability to properly share the AC load.  Equal load sharing can also be adversely affected if the AC output cables of each inverter are not of similar length and cross-section.  Victron’s website contains a variety of helpful documents that discuss the subject of inverter stacking including an excellent Powerpoint presentation entitled ‚ÄúTheory On Wiring Large Systems‚ÄĚ and a whitepaper entitled ‚ÄúParallel and Three-phase VE.Bus Systems.‚ÄĚ
When putting together a system like this, it is helpful to have a meter equipped with an AC current clamp (see figure 6) for confirming equality of load sharing between the inverters.



INVERTER TRANSFER SWITCHING

As mentioned above, roughly half of our 120 VAC loads are connected to L1 and the other half are connected to L2.  The same is true of our reverse-cycle machinery.  Without some additional switching, a single parallel inverter stack can be connected to the loads on only one of those hot legs, L1 or L2, but never both.  When external power is available (e.g. generator), L1 powers the inverter and turns it into a charger.  L1 also passes straight through the device and powers all the loads that were previously on inverted power. If external L1 power is connected to loads that are also receiving L2 power, the result is a destructive short circuit.  

Therefore, there needs to be a way of connecting those L2 loads to the inverter-charger when external power is not available, but safely disconnect and isolate them when external power is on line.  To provide this transfer function, I installed a 3-pole 2-position Blue Sea Systems rotary switch in the pilot house near the AC panel (figure 7). The switching logic is shown in figure 8.  




The inverter loads transfer switch would usually be left in the ‘normal’ position which means that the inverter is connected only to certain equipment items that always derive their power through this circuit (mostly small domestic items like microwave, coffee pot, dishwasher, garbage disposal, electrical outlets, etc).  The remaining 120 VAC equipment (bigger items like reverse cycle, hot water heater) get their power through L1 or L2 which are only energized when external power is available (generator or a 120/240 VAC shore power pedestal).  

When we are in a marina with only 50 Hz power available, the switch can be moved to the ‘inverter’ position, which moves all those larger L1 and L2 loads over to the inverter and safely isolates them from any external power that could be accidentally turned on (e.g. the generator).  


POWERING THE REVERSE CYCLE SEAWATER PUMP

All of our reverse cycle units are cooled by a single large seawater pump.  As mentioned above, it is rated for dual frequencies (50 and 60 Hz) and low or high voltage (120 or 230-240 VAC).  Powering the pump directly off of dock power allowed us to take 0.4 kVA off the loads that the inverter bank would otherwise have needed to power.  There are two sets of windings in the motor, and depending on how they are wired, the pump can accept low or high voltage.  The nameplate contains all the necessary wiring information (see right side of label shown in figure 9).  I wired in a 4-pole rotary selector switch so that the pump could be powered either from the new transom foreign shore power inlet (high voltage) or from the usual 120 VAC sources (generator or US-style shore power).  The wire colors in the pump’s junction box (figure 10) conform to the colors noted on the nameplate.  





PERFORMANCE THUS FAR

We have used the system for about 3 weeks while docked at a marina in Papeete, Tahiti.  It is the tropical summer and the weather has been very hot and humid.  During the mornings, evenings, and nights, we air condition the boat and run all our necessary AC loads on the inverter bank.  Our average AC loads are as expected and the universal DC battery chargers do a good job of keeping the battery bank fully charged over a 24 hour period. As a safety check I have run an IR heat probe over all the high amperage DC cabling and termination lugs, and all are appropriately cool.

I have occasionally pushed the system beyond its original design parameters, by running up to 38,000 BTU of reverse-cycle.  The inverters handle this load without any difficulty (around 3.5 kVA total with refrigeration and freezers) however our charging capacity is exceeded and the battery bank slowly gets drawn down. This seems acceptable for limited time periods and with appropriate monitoring of the batteries.  I have considered adding a third DC charger, but space is tight in the lazarette.  It’s always good to have new projects in mind…

Speaking of  new projects, our lazarette is not well ventilated.  Because of heat generated by the stacked inverters and DC chargers, I find myself leaving the lazarette hatch open.  We have not experienced any heat-related equipment shut-downs, but as I have pointed out, excessive heat causes a drop in capacity of inverters and chargers.  Not to mention wear and tear.  Ideally, any forced air ventilation would run off dock power rather than imposing any further loads on the inverters or DC chargers.  It looks like I will have things to keep me occupied as we continue our cruise through paradise.  


Guests in French Polynesia

 

As our regular readers know, Duet doesn’t have guests. Or at least we didn’t before Sean joined us on our Pacific crossing. After he left, we thought carefully about whether we wanted to have other guests on board. There are advantages, for example, guests mean there is someone else for Nancy to talk to, which gives Ron a break. Friends get to experience what our lifestyle aboard Duet is really like, rather than just viewing the pictures. They see areas of the world that they might not otherwise visit. In Sean’s case, we were able to do a crossing that we couldn’t have done without him to share the watch schedule.

 

There are also disadvantages. Duet is a big boat, but she’s not that big. So everyone has to make allowances for one another and learn to live together in a small, sometimes uncomfortable space. Guests also mean schedules, which we truly hate. But, all in all, after our success with Sean, we concluded that we ought to give this guest thing a try.

 

Our first set of guinea pigs were old friends, we’ve known Allan Field and Linda Field since the early 90s, when Ron and Allan worked together. They are sailors and had just moved up to a bigger boat on their home cruising ground of the Chesapeake Bay. We wanted to show them our new cruising life, as we had cruised together on our respective boats in the Chesapeake before we departed on our travels. They had dreamed about visiting the South Pacific. Most importantly, they actually wanted to visit us.

 

So, after much phoning, emailing, and Skyping, Allan and Linda landed in Papeete in early September. Wisely, they spent their first night ashore in a hotel, before joining us the next morning. Nancy went to fetch them by herself, as our tiny rental car definitely wasn’t man enough to transport Allan, Linda, Ron and all their luggage. They arrived around lunch time, we did the Duet tour and they settled in. A beautiful sunset over Moorea, seen from Duet’s berth at Marina Taina, was enjoyed by all, as was pizza and Hinano beer at the local dining establishment.¬†

 

Many of the photos in this blog were taken by Allan and Linda. We much appreciate their permission to share them with our readers.

 

Allan and Linda at Marina Taina

 

Sunset over Moorea

 

The first couple of days were spent provisioning and getting Duet ready to go. Linda, who speaks French, was very helpful to Nancy during the process of loading enough food for 4 people for 3 weeks. We bought all the usual stuff, beer, lamb, chicken, bread, etc. and took a few flyers on some unidentifiable but extremely smelly cheeses. The amount of food we purchased was an eye opener for Linda, who is used to the more convenient cruising ground of the Chesapeake Bay, where quality provisions are available at every port. Nancy must say, however, that the provisioning in the Society Islands is some of the best she has seen in a remote place. Given this, perhaps we didn’t need to load everything before we left Papeete, but doing so did mean we didn’t have to stop along the way unless we wanted to.

 

We also enjoyed catching up with Jerome and Karen on the Nordhavn 60, Daybreak, with whom we crossed the Pacific earlier in the year. They had guests aboard too, so there was a large and convivial gathering aboard Daybreak almost every evening. The Nordhavn 46, Starlet, with her crew Mark and Jennifer, and Jennifer’s sister Liz, was in port, as were the Nordhavn 78 Reliance (which recently completely a circumnavigation and has visited Antartica), the Nordhavn 76 Sirius (which is spending the summer in Papeete, like Duet) and the Nordhavn 56 Adworld. All these Nordhavns were at Marina Taina at the same time for several days. If we had known this was going to occur we could have had a rendezvous, but, as it was, we all said hello, traded destinations and admired each other’s boats.

 

Ron and Karen catching up aboard Daybreak

 

 

Daybreak was even able to help Adworld get her autopilot straightened out. The motor sailer was on her way from Mexico to her new home in New Zealand, and had been having some electronics problems. Fortunately, a friend of Jerome’s, with considerable Simrad experience, happened to be aboard Daybreak and he was able to help them get going again, twice.

 

After about 4 days of provisioning, boat projects (including cleaning 600 feet of moldy sea anchor line, for which we will be forever grateful to Allan ) we fueled the boat. One of the advantages of having friends aboard, especially those with their own boat, is that they can help. Allan walked around to the fuel dock to help Duet land there safely and Linda made sure everyone stayed hydrated during our slow process of filling up. This exercise was a bit of shock for Allan and Linda, as Duet took on nearly 1,000 gallons of diesel, which would probably fuel their sailboat for her lifetime.

 

Allan waiting on the fuel dock

 

The next day we set off for Moorea. Allan and Linda enjoyed the view from the fly bridge, while Nancy and Ron did their usual piloting thing to get Duet safely out of Tahiti and over to Moorea. Unfortunately, no whales were sighted. 

 

Obstacles in the exit

 

Allan and Linda enjoying the view of Moorea from the flybridge

 

 

Nancy and Ron doing their piloting job

 

 

Daybreak and Starlet joined us in Cooks Bay and we spent several days waiting for a weather window to Huahine and enjoying the surroundings.

 

Nordhavn 46 Starlet in Cooks Bay

 

 

 

Company in the anchorage

 

Locals pirogue racing. This is a very important sport in French Polynesia, there are sponsored factory teams and we saw people practicing and/or racing everywhere.

As is classic with boating, when the weather window came, Duet wasn’t ready. She was ready, but her generator wasn’t, the raw water pump was leaking. We had planned a late afternoon departure on a short overnight, to arrive at the entrance to western Huahine around 7AM. Ron spent most of the day replacing the pump. The generator is critical on the hook, it makes water, does laundry, charges the batteries and runs the air conditioning, so having it down wasn’t an option.

 

Once we were ready to go, Ron was exhausted. He’d spent a lot of time in a hot engine room getting the old pump off (not as easy as it sounds), putting the one on and putting the generator back together. So Duet declared a mulligan and decided to leave the next day. The weather was still good and leaving on a short overnight run where Nancy and Ron would get little sleep with Ron already tired didn’t make sense.

 

Daybreak and Starlet remained as well, to keep us company. Karen and her guests whipped up fantastic leg of lamb, everyone brought side dishes and a great impromptu cruising evening was enjoyed by all.

 

Nancy on Daybreak

 

Another evening in Daybreak’s convivial cockpit

 

All three boats pulled out the following evening and enjoyed a relatively uneventful trip to Huahine. Starlet left the fleet to visit the eastern side of Huahine, but caught up with us a day or two later. Daybreak and Duet arrived together at the western side of the island, negotiated the pass and anchored together about 5 miles south of the primary town, in a sheltered bay with a great muddy bottom.

 

Allan and Linda seemed to handle the overnight OK, Linda slept most of it, while Allan kept Ron company on his watch. The motion of a trawler is quite different from a sailboat, especially in the Pacific, which has more motion to begin with than the Chesapeake, so both of them took seasickness meds.

 

Ron getting us ready to go

 

Linda conserving her energy on the trip

 

We spent several days at Eastern Huahine, with a day in town for shopping and lunch out, and a day for snorkeling on the reef. We saw some good sized rays, none of which wanted to have anything to do with us while we were snorkeling. We were able to sneak up on them in the dinghy, however, by drifting in their general direction while they weren’t looking. Daybreak served as the host boat most evenings and we all enjoyed the cruising life.

 

Huahine is show below, the entrance pass is on the upper left and our anchorage is about 2/3 of the way down the island on the west side, the picture is oriented north up

 

Nordhavn 60 Dayreak

 

Local fishing

 

Lunch in Faha’a, Huahine


The fleet then set off for Bora Bora. Unfortunately, Daybreak had a hydraulic failure just before exiting the Huahine pass, so we all returned to the anchorage to ensure we were available if they needed assistance. Daybreak’s able crew fixed the problem on their own, we went snorkeling and then we all set off again the next morning, destination Bora Bora.

 

It was an easy trip. Daybreak caught a 200 pound blue marlin right beyond the Huahine reef, so we knew what we were having for dinner. We all anchored on the western side of the Bora Bora lagoon. The next day Daybreak moved to the marina, as she was preparing to depart for Tonga and needed easy access to land to get her exit paperwork in order.

 

Bora Bora is shown below. The fleet was anchored to the west of the motu of To’opua, the picture is oriented north up

 

 

Sad sight in the anchorage

 

Another evening on Daybreak

The ladies of the group, except Nancy who must have taken the picture

 

Sunset over the reef in Bora Bora

 

We were expecting to spend more time with Daybreak during their stay in Bora Bora. The weather, however, had other plans. OMNI Bob, from Ocean Marine Navigation, whom both we and Daybreak use for weather routing, announced a window for Tonga two days after our arrival. So the farewell dinner was moved forward, and we journeyed, in the pouring rain, across the harbor to join Daybreak and Starlet’s crew for a wonderful evening. Our return journey, while not so wet, was made more interesting by a burnt out light on a reef marker. Ron had careful marked the track on our handheld GPS, but we still strayed into pretty shallow water while crossing over the reef into the anchorage. Fortunately, all was well, and we made it safely back to Duet.

 

Farewell dinner

 

Local artist painting during dinner

 

Daybreak departed around noon the following day and had an uneventful, if a bit bumpy in parts, journey to Tonga. They spoke highly of it and it’s on our list to visit this year on our way to Australia. Daybreak later continued to New Zealand, where she will be spending a year cruising those beautiful environs.

 

Duet’s crew, in the meantime, took a day long land tour of Bora Bora. This is another advantage to having guests aboard, they push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. We’ve never taken a land tour anywhere in the past, but, given how much we enjoyed this trip, we will do so again in the future.

 

Tour transport

 

One of the US Army gun emplacements, our guide gave a great impression of how it worked

 

Learning to tie a pareo. The American in the picture, with her husband, joined us on the tour. They are from Reno and she works in medicine. She and Ron knew many people in common. We never cease to be amazed by how small a world it really is.

 

Duet’s crew

 

 

Soon enough the weather intervened in our journey as well. We needed to make sure that Allan and Linda were back in Papeete in time to catch their flight home, so we departed Bora Bora a few days after Daybreak, bound for eastern Huahine to position for a long day run back to Moorea. Starlet remained in Bora Bora, so our little group broke up. This is a common occurrence while cruising, groups coalesce and split apart on a regular basis, driven by weather, destinations and other factors beyond our control. But we do have a great time while we are together and we often see each other again, somewhere down the road.

 

Eastern Huahine was beautiful. Ron and I are looking forward to returning after Allan and Linda go home. Unfortunately, this time we had to push on immediately, as the weather was beginning to deteriorate. We made Moorea on a long but calm 13 hour day and spent some time there before returning to Papeete.

 

The cliffs of Moorea

 

 

 

More racing

 

Ron trying out the new paddle board

 

Allan getting ready to return to Papeete

 

Allan and Linda saying goodbye to Moorea

Once we returned to Papeete Allan was pressed into service yet again to help Ron unload our crate of supplies, which had arrived in our absence. It made it through customs untouched, thanks to Tehani of Tahiti Crew, and everything was intact.

 

Before Allan and Linda left we jumped in our rental car and toured Tahiti. Tahiti is actually two islands, a large one and a small one, connected by a bridge. We traveled to the ends of the earth, literally the end of the road on both the eastern and western side of the smaller southern island, Tahiti Iti. We found some beautiful beaches, and many whales. We also saw a temple, which was very well maintained, in the middle of a neighborhood.

 

Tahiti Iti, with the ends of the road marked on the south western and north eastern sides, the picture is north up.

 

 

 

Map of the temple

 

The main alter

Description of tiki gods

Linda and a tiki god

More temple

Ron and Nancy on black sand beach at south eastern end of Tahiti Iti

Local fish market

Allan and Linda on black sand beach

Beach before we descended on it

Mother and baby whale just outside the reef

 

Soon enough the time came to transport Allan and Linda to the airport for the overnight flight home. This time we managed to fit everyone, and the luggage, in the car, although it was a tight squeeze. We were sorry to see them go, but we now had a good understanding, thanks to their volunteering as guinea pigs, of how to handle guests aboard the boat.

 

Duet cast off her lines several days later and returned north to eastern Raiatea, via Moorea. An easy trip, initially, but it got rather bumpy as we rounded the bottom of the island and headed north for the entrance pass. Naturally, Nancy was asleep when this occurred, having gone off watch at around 5AM, leaving Ron with calm conditions. She was awoken by the usual thumping, bashing and general rolling around that indicates a good size quartering sea, and that’s indeed what it was. Seas tend to build up around the ‚Äúends‚ÄĚ of the islands where they meet the surrounding reefs, and this was accentuated by a series of squalls moving through the area.

 

The larger seas gradually abated as we moved north, and Ron slowed Duet down so she didn’t surf down them, but allowed them to pass gracefully underneath her. After several hours of this, during which Nancy lay on the pilothouse sofa and talked about how calm the conditions had been when she turned the boat over to Ron, we arrived at the pass.

 

Raiatea and Taha’a are shown below in a satellite image, north up. Passes in the Societies are well marked. This one is the primary eastern pass for both Raiatea and Taha’a, which share a lagoon, so the supply ships use it.

Video of our entry is available here. The pass where Duet entered on the eastern side is circled, as is our south eastern anchorage at the temple. 


 

We entered with little difficulty despite the rather boisterous conditions, and worked our way south to an anchorage off the most sacred temple in all of French Polynesia, Taputapuatea. Raiatea is considered the ‚Äúcenter‚ÄĚ of French Polynesia, as it is here that the nomadic sailors from the west first settled. The following description is courtesy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this temple is a UNESCO site.

 

Taputapuatea on Ra‚Äôiatea Island is at the centre of the ‚ÄėPolynesian Triangle‚Äô, a vast portion of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with islands, and the last part of the globe to be settled by humans. The property includes two forested valleys, a portion of lagoon and coral reef and a strip of open ocean. At the heart of the property is the Taputapuatea¬†marae¬†complex, a political, ceremonial and funerary centre. It is characterized by several marae, with different functions. Widespread in Polynesia, the¬†marae¬†were places where the world of the living intersected the world of the ancestors and the gods. Taputapuatea is an exceptional testimony to 1,000¬†years of¬†ma’ohi¬†civilization.

 

We recovered from our journey for the day and set off the next morning to explore the temple. We spent about half a day there, walking around and looking at various parts of the ruins. We also met a nice couple on a small yellow sail boat, who had arrived via the ‚Äúwrong way‚ÄĚ, namely run northeast from New Zealand into Gambiers and thence to the Society Islands. It sounded like a long bumpy trip. They were bound for Hawaii, also potentially a bit of a bumpy trip, but they had a sound boat and the right attitude, which makes all the difference.

 

Starlet joined us several days later and we had a nice catch up over a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated almost immediately so we all sought better shelter elsewhere. Starlet went around the southern toe of Raiatea to the western side, while we went around the top, to Taha’a in the northern end of the lagoon. Getting out of the anchorage tested Nancy’s boat handling skills, as we raised the hook in 25-30 knots of wind, considerable chop and heavy rain. The anchorage is quite deep, nearly 100 feet, so we had a lot of chain down, which slows the process even more.

 

One of the few problems with the N50 is that the chain locker is shallow, so, when we have a lot of chain out, Ron has to stop raising it every 100 feet or so and come inside to knock over the pile of chain that builds up. Otherwise the chain will ‚Äúhockle‚ÄĚ or jam in the chain pipe. This means that Nancy has to keep Duet in approximately the same place, without much help from the anchor, as it now has less chain to help it stay put, while Ron sorts the chain out.

 

Keeping the boat from hitting something or running over the anchor chain is not a simple task with high wind, chop, limited visibility and no room to maneuver when the anchorage is small, as this one was. Of course Nancy was better off inside driving than Ron was outside in the storm, he was soaked through and quite cold by the time we were done. Duet handled it all in her usual calm predictable manner, and Nancy’s confidence was considerably boosted by the experience.

 

In the chart below, Duet is shown in the red circle, the wind and wave came from the direction of the black arrow

 

We then spent several days anchored on the western side of Taha’a enjoying the hospitality of the Hotel Taha’a, which is friendly to boaters. The Hotel is located on it’s own private ‚Äúmotu‚ÄĚ which is a sandy island reachable only by boat. We were given the run of the property and much enjoyed snorkeling the channel that runs north of the hotel. While the channel is quite shallow, so you have to make sure your tummy is tucked up or risk a coral cut, the current runs from one end to the other, so you can just float along, watching the large variety of fish and fauna.

 

We also ate lunch at the hotel, but had no real idea how much it cost until we got home and got the credit card bill. We had signed the bill without seeing the amount, as it was on a house charge since we weren’t hotel guests. This was a good thing, as lunch for two with two beers and two nice glasses of chablis, was $140USD. Worth every penny though, we had a great time and would return.

 

On the satellite image below, Hotel Taha’a is circled in the north western corner, the picture is north up.

 

 

Hotel Taha’a is shown below. Photo courtesy of Hotel Taha’a

 

 

Once the weather moderated, we returned to Bora Bora. Nothing much had changed, even Starlet was still there. We had a nice dinner with Mark and Jennifer at the marina where we had said bon voyage to Daybreak, what seemed like so long ago. Time on the boat seems to pass more slowly for us than time on land, we live in the moment much more when aboard than when ashore.

 

Evening in the lagoon at Bora Bora

Jennifer and Mark provided some great info on how to reach the eastern side of the lagoon, which is a bit tricky as it involves a narrow passage that was blasted through the rather complex reef structure. This passage was built for boats taking guests to the extremely expensive hotels on the motus at the edge of the reef. The key is to have the right light, as charts aren’t that useful in spaces this small. It does also help to clearly understand how the Cardinal system reef markers work, they are not complex but when you encounter one you don’t want to have to look it up in the guide.

 

Cardinal beacon guide courtesy of The Moorings

 

 

We decided to navigate Duet from the flybridge, as the visibility is much better up there. We do not, however, have much navigation equipment at that station. We do have depth, which is key, and we brought up Nancy’s iPad running iNavX and Navionics charts to give us some general guidelines on what to expect. Better still, we followed a sailboat through the most confusing part. Their draft was also 6 feet, so if they could go there so could we.

 

Chart of Bora Bora, oriented north up with the tricky bits marked. Duet traveled from the western to the eastern side, inside the reef. Her eventual anchoring spot is on the lower right.

 


 

Satellite image of Bora Bora, north up

 

Close up satellite image of the narrowest pass, north up. The vessels shown are probably less than 20 feet long, they transport visitors to and from the hotels to the east

 

The trip was uneventful, which is always good as it means that the time spent planning has been worth it. The anchorage was spectacular and we remained there for several days. We even picked our way, in the dinghy, around the southern end of Bora Bora, which shallows to less than 3 feet in spots. Given the vast amounts of sand and sun in that area, it is highly popular with the rays, who hang out everywhere. Nancy became quite good at telling the difference between a ray and a coral head from the moving dinghy, which was a useful skill, as the rays will get out of the way, while the coral heads are not quite so cooperative.

 

Duet in the eastern lagoon of Bora Bora, photo taken with Ron’s new drone, Dilbert.

 

Looking south east

 

Looking North West at the island of Bora Bora

 

 

Eventually we returned to Papeete, to give Ron time to complete at least some of his projects. The weather was starting to deteriorate into a lot of rain and squalls, as we were entering the Southern Hemisphere Summer, so it was time to go.

Perhaps the largest project was replacing the old starter with the spare, which we actually did in the marina before Allan and Linda arrived. After much study, Ron had determined that this wasn’t as difficult as it originally looked, namely he didn’t have to remove the heat exchangers and various other bits and pieces on the side of the engine. He did purchase a new tool, a metric 12 point socket, to remove the fasteners that hold the starter on the engine. He also needed to mount the socket on a wobble socket extension, to reach one of the fasteners. The wobbler was key, without it he would still be there trying to get the starter off.

 

Wobbler socket extension

 

 

The new starter needed to be painted before installation. There was also a rather tense moment when it became apparent that the mounting flange on the new starter wouldn’t fit the way it was aligned. Fortunately the mounting flange is rotatable, so Ron, with some help from Nancy, got it aligned correctly and all was well.

 

New starter going for a ride, we painted it in the parking lot of the marina

 

 

Looking at the alignment of the mounting flange, part of which is seen on the part of the motor facing away from camera.

The new starter then did it’s job perfectly, namely it started the main engine, and another project was checked off the endless list. Starters are unsung heroes, they deliver considerable energy to the main engine over and over and over again, until they don’t. When that happens, the jig is up, until they are fixed or replaced. We hauled the old starter off to Dieseltec to be rebuilt. They didn’t have the right parts, so Ron will get them while we are home over the winter and it can be done when we return in February.

 

Nancy at Dieseltec

 

While we were working on Duet, a boat just¬†down the way sank. This is a little disconcerting to say the least. We didn’t realize what had¬†happened for a day, although we¬†did¬†notice a lot of diesel in the water. The vessel was raised and later hauled away. At this time there had been an awful lot of rain, and the local scuttlebutt was that her bilge pump had given out.

 

 


Ron also continued his work on the Naiad stabilizers. He replaced the vent valve and the pressure relief valve before we left again in October, after we dropped off Allan and Linda. The latter required rotating the oil reservoir/cooler, which weighs over 100 pounds, or nearly as much as Ron. Sorting this out required the usual brains over brawn approach. Also, as usual, Nancy pulled on the block and tackle while Ron did the tricky stuff.

 

Chris Fonteneau, of Fonteneau Yacht Services in San Diego, sent along detailed instructions on how to change the valves, reproduced below

 

 

Suspending the oil reservoir/cooler


Dinghy tie downs pressed in to service to hold unit


Turning the unit once we got it up in the air

Getting the valve out

 

 

Changing the o ring 


 

Neither of the valve replacements have completely solved the Naiad’s pressure drop problem, but it has definitely improved. The drops are less dramatic and less frequent, even at low RPM in big seas. So, when we returned in November, Ron tested the rams for internal oil leakage which could create pressure drop. We had brought a manual hydraulic ram pump to Papeete on the plane, in checked baggage. Each ram has two hydraulic ports, one for each direction of ram movement. The ram position was¬†mechanically locked and each port was pressurized in turn. Measurements were conducted for 5 minutes to see if the pressure fell. Both rams tested normally.

 

Spare ram

 

Setting up the pump

 

Pump pressurized

 

Hose hookup


Nancy inspecting the situation

 

This left us with the pump as the possible culprit. Testing it is a much bigger deal, it requires a hydraulic shop. Given the language barrier for us in French Polynesia, and the fact that the pump is nearly new, so the chances of it being the culprit are less, Ron decided to hold off on this step, at least until he could talk to Chris again when we got home.

 

After another strategic discussion with Chris about what level of transient pressure drop is acceptable in a system like ours, Ron has decided to declare the Naiads fixed, or at least fixed enough to stabilize us safely to Australia. We do not plan any long low RPM runs, although never say never. Even if we do that again, the system is not alarming or showing signs of stress, now we are using the Kevlar belt on the overhung load adapter and the valves have been replaced.

 

Part of this decision was driven by the fact that, if we were to go down the road of testing the pump, Ron would probably just upsize it to a 7GPH from a 5GPH. That would require a double belt system to drive it, which, while doable, means the pulley on the main engine would need to be reconfigured. Again, doable, but not in French Polynesia, unless we absolutely have to. Since we don’t have to, we aren’t going to, Ron’s got plenty of other things to do before we leave.

 

The plus in all of this work is that Ron now really understands how the Naiads work and what their operating parameters are. Our current conclusion is that our 252 system, with the biggest fins the system can handle, namely 7.5 foot square, is pushing the edge of the envelope of the 5GPH pump at low RPM in big sea conditions, even though the 5GPH pump is, according to Naiad’s specs, the right sized pump. It isn’t pushing it hard enough to cause it to fail, but it is producing the transient pressure drops.

 

Ron also continued work on the never ending electrical system upgrade. On this trip, he installed the second stand alone charger, and installed the switching and wiring so the salt water A/C pump can run off either 120 60hz or 230V 50hz. This means that we can now run the master stateroom A/C at night without having to use the generator, which is a major blow for freedom. The rest of the system will be completed when we come back for a month of boat work in February.

 

Pump

 

Switch box

Relay

 

 

This trip also revealed a possible weakness in our preparation routines for leaving the boat. In the past, we have added SaltAway to the sea strainers and pumped the salt water/ Salt Away mixture through all the salt water systems, namely the main engine and generator raw water cooling systems, the air conditioning salt water cooling system, etc.

 

During this trip the seals on the raw water cooling pump for the generator failed as did the low pressure raw water pump for the¬†water maker. We had a spare generator raw water pump, so Ron installed it. We did not have a spare low pressure¬†water maker pump, but we did have a spare seal kit, so Ron removed the old seals, cleaned up the shaft with¬†emery cloth, and installed the new seals. The usual cause of seal failure is corrosion from salt water, which shouldn’t have happened if the Salt Away did it’s job.

 

The generator’s exhaust elbow also developed a pinhole leak, so it was replaced with the spare. Our generator works very hard, and Ron likes to keep it in tip top shape all the time.

 

New generator stainless steel raw water exhaust elbow

 

After some thought, Ron concluded that the seawater in French Polynesia is so hot that the Salt Away is overwhelmed. This trend was borne out in the main engine pencil zincs, which have required changing more frequently than when we were in higher latitudes. Ron did extensive testing of the bonding system and all is well, so it is probably the water temperature.

 

Duet’s main engine is even running a bit warm at wide open throttle, which it has not done before. The raw water cooling system appears in good¬†condition, so we figure it is because we are operating in hotter water than the system is designed for. Ron will tear down the¬†cooling system when we reach Australia and have the heat exchangers cleaned, just to be sure. In the meantime, we run at slightly less than wide open RPM on our daily wide open exercises to avoid stressing the¬†engine.¬†

 

New engine zinc versus old engine zinc

 

When we left the boat this time, Ron flushed all salt water pumps with fresh water, and then opened up and drained the impeller housings, leaving them open to dry. We are hoping that this approach will provide better protection. We’ll see when we start off again in mid April.

For our technical readers, Duet’s Lugger 6108 engine requires a water flow of approximately 18-20 gallons per minute to flush it while it’s idling at about 750RPM. This is equivalent to one standard garden hose, with the water saver installed by the marina on the dock end removed. We did try two hoses, but that wasn’t a big success, although it did wash the engine room and Ron pretty well when one of the hoses burst. Nancy could, fortunately, hear his screams to turn the hose off, so the flood didn’t last very long.

 

Our primary bilge pump also failed on this trip. Naturally, this happened during cocktail hour, but at least we were tied to the dock, not in the middle of the ocean somewhere. The high water alarm did it’s job and went off with an almighty noise. It kept going off as Ron worked to figure out what was wrong. Fortunately, this didn’t take long and the replacement pump fit exactly. Replacements usually don’t go this easily, dinner was only an hour late.

 

Changing out the bilge pump

 

Ron started the usual parts list, including some a new stator for the big dinghy engine mount, as it’s was looking a bit long in the tooth.

 


On the personal front, we took up scuba diving again on this visit. We had given it up some years ago, after diving in the Caribbean for several years. The diving in the South Pacific is some of the best in the world, so it seemed a pity not to give it a try. We took a refresher course at home and then did a check out dive with the local dive shop, Fluid. We were lucky to draw Baptiste as our instructor for our check out dive. He did a super job getting Nancy through the mask removal test jitters, which are a real problem for her. The key is to close your eyes, who knew.

 

Once we passed the basics again, Baptiste showed us around the underwater world of Tahiti. We visited sleeping turtles and sharks, both of which nap during the day. Turtles tend to stick their heads behind rocks, operating on the theory that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. They still need to breath, but they can slow their breathing rate way down to catch some zzzs. Sharks sleep floating about a foot above the sandy bottom, and, yes, their eyes are closed.

 

We then did the well known White Valley shark dive, just outside the reef, off the airport. It’s a drift dive and we had a tough day for it, with strong wind and swell. The first trick was to roll backwards off the boat as the captain tried to hold it in one place. Once Nancy got that figured out, after a false start, we all met at about 50 feet and began to drift, courtesy of the current, through the White Valley. This dive is known for it’s shark sightings and it didn’t disappoint. Baptiste felt that there weren’t that many sharks, but the several dozen we saw were plenty for us.

 

We slowly descended to about 80 feet, all the while watching the parade of white tips, black tips, lemon sharks (which, while large, are particularly scared of the air bubbles from our regulators so we were all breathing as slowly as possible), and other members of the species. They were indifferent to us, even if we weren’t indifferent to them. We didn’t see the apex predator, the tiger shark, which is apparently quite common in White Valley, but we plan to go back on our February visit so we live in hope.

 

Finally, on the paperwork front, we received our Carte de Sejours, which are our 12 month long term visas, or temporary residence permits, for French Polynesia. These greatly simplify our scheduling, as normally one can only spend 90 days in French Polynesia and then must be gone for 90 days. With a Carte de Sejour you may stay up to 12 months and come and go as you wish. The application process is long, but not complex. We did have to make a visit to the French Consulate in San Francisco when we were home over the summer, and submit all our paperwork in French.

 

Essentially, they want to make sure you are self supporting, do not work while you are there, have health insurance which will cover you if you get sick, are a citizen in good standing in your own country (which in our case required a letter from our local Sheriff) and have a good reason for wanting to remain. We managed to pass all those criteria and, with a lot of help from Tahiti Crew, are now the proud owners of our own Carte de Sejours. This was a good thing, as on our last trip we were in country for 96 days. The astute immigration official picked this up during our departure check out and, without the requisite paperwork, we would have been deported, imprisoned or at least given a stern talking to.

 

The paperwork requirements for the kind of cruising we do are considerable. Nancy spends a lot of time dealing with the various authorities in every country we visit. To make matters more complex, we and Duet are considered completely different entities. Duet, for example, has a 3 year permit for French Polynesia, while we can only stay a year without renewal. Funnily enough, most countries seem happy to have the boat visit, but the people less so. The boat is a positive contributor to the economy, money is spent on local services wherever she goes. Perhaps the people are not viewed the same way. Regardless, we make a point of always being in compliance with every requirement to the best of our ability.

 

Prior to our departure we deployed our new ProStock fenders. These fenders are huge, but fortunately they are inflatable, so they are pretty easy to handle. We also took marina management at its word when it said we could move some cleats around, we even removed some from a nearby dock and redeployed them to hold Duet. We figured they weren’t doing anything over there and we could really use them. While we aren’t happy about leaving her in the cyclone zone, although Tahiti is on the edge and usually only gets brushed, we were determined to do our best to protect her from the elements.¬†

 

New fender

 

Rigging additional lines for the marina, just in case they need to pull Duet off the dock and secure her to underwater concrete blocks in the fairway on her port side.

 

 

Duet all set to go, except her rear awning hasn’t been removed yet. It does a great job keeping the heat out, so we leave it up until the last possible minute.


Soon enough it was time to go home, we closed Duet up and left her in the competent hands of the Tahiti Crew team and flew home to Tahoe, where it was cold and snowy. We wish our readers a happy new year and will write again after our next visit in February.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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 ‚Äúair draft‚ÄĚ 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.

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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 ‚Äúchattering‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúchattering‚ÄĚ 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

Sunset

 

Rainbow


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

 


 

Pictures from Duet’s Pacific Crossing

During our crossing of the Eastern Pacific, from Mexico to the Marquesas, we used an Iridium GO! for email.  It worked perfectly throughout the journey, but is not capable of sending pictures of any size.  Once we got back home we got the pictures sorted out and are posting them now.  For the first time, we are also including some video, although it is mainly unedited.  

As regular readers will recall, we departed Puerto Los Cabos a day later than planned, so we have several sets of departure photographs.  These were taken by Jo, whom we met while at the marina.  She and her husband cruise aboard a sailboat and were on their way north.    Duet is shown below waiting in her slip for Ron and Sean to test the starter.

When we finally did pull out, everyone was enthusiastic.

 

 

Once we are underway not much happens.  We read, watch the miles go by, eat, rest, and then start it all over again.  In the meantime, the boat runs automatically.  Someone is always in the pilothouse, however, just in case.  Once we were more than about 400 miles from land, however, we saw no more boat traffic until we arrived.

Ron napping.  Sean brought us a set of Bose noise canceling headphones, which were superb.  In this photo you can see our survival suits, out and ready.  The overboard bag is also out on the floor, just in case.

Sean talking to his family via his DeLorme InReach or the Iridium GO!.  Both units ran continuously, and we often had multiple beeps and other electronic sounds in the pilothouse, indicating a communication from somewhere. 

 

Sean spent some time keeping Duet looking spick and span.

Ron and Sean watched videos on various exciting technical topics, such as how to dismantle your lawn mower.  

Nancy and Sean awaiting supper.  What to have for dinner was the biggest decision of the day, and was seriously discussed each morning.  We took turns preparing it and cleaning up. 

Sean is a big believer in vegetables.  Since Nancy isn’t a big fan of green beans, she fed most of them to Sean while Ron, who likes them, wasn’t looking.

Every morning and evening we were treated to an incredible sunrise or sunset.  We don’t know which one this is, but it’s typical of what we saw every day.

 

Sean brought us a set of 3 hand lines to fish.  He also brought us a set of fish identifying documents. He and Nancy fished every day the weather was relatively calm.  We caught nothing on the entire trip, but Nancy wanted to be sure she was ready, just in case.

 

A little over halfway through the journey Sean started recording what he saw every night when he came on watch at 4AM.  For example, at about the halfway point, this is what he saw.  TTG is Time To Go, namely 8.8 days.  Duet’s Heading is 221 Degrees Magnetic, the Range to the waypoint is 1,382 miles, the Bearing on the waypoint is 215 Degrees Magnetic, so Duet is steering slightly to the starboard of the waypoint to make up for the impact of current or weather, her Course over Ground is 220 Degrees Magnetic so the correction is working, her Speed Over Ground is 6.4 knots and the Depth doesn’t make any sense.  The depth sounder doesn’t see anything below about 1,000 feet and at this point the ocean was about 12,000 feet deep.

 

About 7 days into the journey we started having problems with our hydraulic stabilizers.  Eventually, Ron decided to shut them off, rather than have the belt that drives them disintegrate .  Over time, we gradually reduced the use of the fins, so everyone was pretty acclimatized to the motion by the time they were turned off completely.  Once the fins were off, Duet handled the situation with her usual aplomb, her motion did increase a bit, but it was entirely predictable.

 

In the first video you can see the fuel bladder, which is being emptied, so at this point it is about half full

Life without stabilizers stern view

 

In the video below, you will see water come in the cockpit scupper.  This is not unusual, and happens whenever the waves whack the cockpit at a certain angle.  The water runs right out again.

Water in the scuppers

 

During Days 7-10 we got a lot of support from Chris Fonteneau, who is the Naiad guru in San Diego.  Ron talked to him several times on the  phone and Chris sent Ron a lot of technical information.  

 

As part of the testing, Ron also sent a lot of information to Chris

The culprit belt is show below, after it was removed when we arrived.  As you can see, it wasn’t in good shape.

We still don’t know what caused the stabilizer failure.  Ron is troubleshooting it with Chris.  Sean and Ron installed a much tougher new belt once we reached the Marquesas and the fins are operating normally, except for infrequent rapid pressure drops in heavy sea conditions.

The highlight of our trip was crossing the Equator.  None of us had done this before, and it required we conduct a special initiation rite to ensure that King Neptune let us cross unhindered. Prior to crossing the Equator we were Polliwogs.  Now we are Shellbacks.  The initiation rite, like all good rites, is kept secret.  Sean wrote ours and he did a great job.  

We can reveal that part of the rite requires the wearing of silly costumes. 

 

 

 


After the rite was completed, we all swam across the Equator. This was not something we had originally planned but Bill on our buddy boat Daybreak was going to do it and Duet’s crew rose to the challenge. We did it in two teams, Nancy and Sean first, then Nancy and Ron.  Nancy is the best swimmer and so serves as Duet’s lifeguard.  Conditions were about as perfect as they get, calm and sunny.  The water was warm and 2.5 miles deep.  

After the Equator swim was completed Duet got underway again.  Before we left Mexico our good friend Christy baked us a rum cake to celebrate our crossing. 

Now we are near the Equator, it is hot.  And humid.  Did we mention it was hot?  Running Duet’s air conditioning, however, requires the generator, which uses diesel.  Ron wanted to maintain our diesel reserve until he was certain we wouldn’t need it to reach our destination.  The only time we were able to cool down was when the water maker ran, every other day, or when there was a big squall.  During the squalls, we closed the boat up, as the rain was often torrential.

Ron hoping for a squall

 

Singing in the rain


By this time we were getting pretty close


Squalls on the way

 

 

 

Most exciting, we could finally see, and eventually communicate with, Daybreak.  She had been slowly catching us during the passage, but she never passed us.  We had gradually speeded up, as Ron became more comfortable with our fuel reserve.  Daybreaks AIS signal (blue) is visible to the right of our course.  The large island to the left is Nuku Hiva, our destination.

We watched our final sunset at sea

 

Sean did his last night watch from midnight to 4AM

 

Last night at sea

Nancy took over at 4AM and watched her last sunrise at sea

 

Then the radar, which usually sees things first, sighted land.  About an hour later Nancy saw it, Ron and Sean woke up and we all watched Nuku Hiva emerge slowly from the mist


 

We had arrived.  Taihoe Bay, Nuku Hiva.

 

In the video below, after the engine shuts down, you can hear the engine room ventilation fans running.

Shutting down the main

 

That night we had dinner aboard Daybreak.

Jerome spent some time telling Nancy how big the waves really were.

 

Pacific Ocean Crossing

This blog was written by Sean Kearns, who came with us aboard Duet when we crossed the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Marquesas, French Polynesia. Sean is the first person we have ever had travel with us on Duet. He did a great job of not only living compatibly with us in close quarters, but also fulfilling his role as a key member of the team throughout what was an incredible, but sometimes difficult, 17 day journey.

This chapter of crewing on Duet is where my adventure begins and ends. My first visit to Duet in LaPaz gave me an opportunity to anticipate needs both for myself and for the boat. I was lucky to be welcomed by Ron and Nancy with ideas I had. It’s easy to invest your skills and time into any endeavor when you are collectively working as a team. As crew I could see some things from my past experience that would make things more efficient for me or the task in the long run.

I say the “me” part as I’m afflicted with the firefighter organization OCD complex of neat and orderly, it’s a curse, let me tell you folks. A couple of examples include bringing organizing bags for the Ditch Kit and a D handle pull start for the little Honda 2.3 hp engine, as well as reworking the shower curtain in my head. Back at home these little additions kept me busy, which is a good thing for a boat geek to be doing weeks before leaving on a big trip.

Ron and Nancy also shipped me lots of last minute equipment and gear. Every day seemed like Christmas when a package arrived. And now that I’ve been back home I’m sad not to be getting boat related packages for Duet a couple times a week. With a bag of goodies for Duet and a bag of stuff to keep me clothed and happy I headed back to Mexico. I was stopped in customs and had to empty out a bag and explain why and what I was bringing into Mexico. Good old fashioned honesty got me through without any troubles. I just told them these were for the boat and I was free to proceed, which was a relief as we’ve all heard horror stories.

Ron and Nancy met me in a rental car and it was great to see them again and relax. Once aboard Duet I fell into place quickly thanks to my previous visit. Time flew by very fast and before I knew it we were crossing the breakwater heading southwest. After the initial excitement wore off it took a couple days to get into the swing of things and establish a routine. Once in the routine the only changes were the weather and any technical discoveries.

All three of us had our watch schedules and we all had time solo and at least one shared meal per day. Ron typically gave us a update on fuel burns each morning after Nancy awoke. Nancy kept us informed on the goings on from the outside world either via email from friends or world news, which she had emailed to her. For me I enjoyed the simple pace of things. The slower the pace the finer the clarity in which I could see my surroundings.

I remember seeing my first flying fish that perished on the deck. I picked it up and studied it as the wings seemed very fascinating to me. Later on after watching these fish fly randomly through the air I noticed that they also have small rudders on their tails like airplanes. Rudders isn’t quite the right term, but I’m no pilot so I apologize.

The other fascination I found was the sea state. The ocean is in constant motion and, although Ron and Nancy might never invite me back for saying this, I actually enjoyed the ever changing wave action. Like snow falling in front of your car while you’re driving down the road, the waves passing under us held my attention. I will say though I wasn’t prepared for 8-10 foot following and quartering seas for 4/5 days straight. On day 4 my patience was thinning as it seemed I couldn’t synchronize with the movements of the boat while attempting simple tasks, like clothing myself after a shower, or laying in bed trying to sleep before my midnight watch and bouncing around.

That night was the only time I couldn’t sleep and so with blanket and pillow in hand I made the walk to the salon and slept on the settee. I awoke hours later feeling like I had been run over by a train and at this time I’d say I was at rock bottom. Lucky for me this didn’t last very long. My midnight watch was filled with so much beauty I had to give in to positive feelings. First, the stars were out in such brilliance they almost obscured each other in numbers and depth. I then noticed the phosphorescent glow in our bow wake. The ocean was alive in tiny bursts of lightning dancing through the waves, our wake, or a flying fish passing by. My frustrations melted away in the symphony of the sky and the show on the ocean’s surface. I verbally apologized for my lack of patience and placing my tiny needs of that over the ocean. I honestly couldn’t say if it was my perception or that the sea state actually lessened that night, but I was good to go from then on.

As we got within a few days of crossing the equator I became very excited. Once again, being a boat geek, I studied all I could about the shellback ceremonies. Since we didn’t have any shellbacks aboard Duet we did our best to devise a honorable, yet fun, induction into King Neptune’s realm. We collectively decided to keep the details of the ceremony private, but I will say that we presented ourselves fully to King Neptune when we jumped off Duet and swam across the equator. And yes I was wearing my wife’s swim suit when I made that swim. How many of the people who can claim they’ve swum across the equator can also say they did so in their wife’s swim suit? That simple action was one of the highlights of the trip that I’m sure I’ll be sharing for years to come.

A few more days passed and we sighted Nuku Hiva in the distance and our ocean crossing was over. We deployed the anchor and turned off the lifeblood of our world, the main engine. Without the required helm watch we transitioned into the slow and easy life one hopes to live while cruising. Each day we had chores or tasks to complete, however we didn’t waste effort when it was time to soak up new sights and enjoy an afternoon swim to cap off our day.

I had another 2 and a half weeks aboard Duet after we made it to the Marquesas. Ron and Nancy graciously invited me to stay aboard in the very beginning when we planned out this trip, so I could experience the Island life and be rewarded for making such a long journey. However, without the focus of our major crossing to galvanize my attention I quickly grew homesick. Guilt crept in as I was playing around on Duet while Celia was home wrestling our kids and working full-time.

I’ve never been away from the kids for this long and I was starting to think needlessly that my 2 year old son might forget who his daddy was. Celia never placed any ideas of guilt via our limited communications and she always assured me our kids loved and missed me. I couldn’t have thought of anything more Celia could have done to support me better and maybe that in itself added to my homesickness. The double edge sword was my place on Duet. Ron and Nancy were a part of my close circle of friends and I wasn’t excited about leaving Duet either. As my time was nearing for me to leave I was excited to get back home, but also sad to be leaving Duet.

Ron and Nancy rented a truck and drove me to the airport. On paper this sounds straightforward and easy, however it was a bit of an adventure. First Ron loaded me and my gear up in the little dinghy. I could probably write a book about all the things I packed, and my goal was to pack light, but I can’t say I actually met this goal. We didn’t have a nice level dock to tie off to when got into town. Now picture two grown men wrestling 40 pounds of awkwardness above their heads on a inflatable bottom dinghy while balancing with the swells of the open bay. Oh and just for fun lets add in 80 something degrees and 95% humidity. Lucky for me Ron is strong and my bags didn’t go swimming.

Ron doubled back to Duet to get Nancy, as with my gear she didn’t fit on the first trip. We had a very nice drive over the tropical mountains of the island to the other side where the airport is located. I was worried my bag might be overweight, so Ron and Nancy waited with me to make sure I didn’t have to ditch any last minute items from my bag. Just as they picked me up from the airport weeks ago in Cabo I was relieved to have them help me here on my way out. Once again luck was on my side and my bag was good to go. We had our last lunch together and did our best not to make too much drama in saying our goodbyes, as I’m an emotional cry baby at times.

Ron and Nancy assured me that Celia and I would be welcome anytime our schedules allowed. Wow, how lucky are we? I don’t know many folks that can fly to a tropical paradise and have a world capable cruising yacht to crash on. This boat geek is a lucky guy! Thanks for allowing me to share my experience aboard Duet- 1st crew Sean