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 “language of the Ancients” by Tapu BONNET –the 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’aroa -Mata Arhu and Tu Ra’i po’- 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 “Adventure is Calling”.  

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.

5 thoughts on “February in Papeete”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: February in Papeete

    Wow! Great blog again. We are at Green Turtle Cay and surprisingly enjoying the Bahamas.
    The clear and warm water offset the $18 hamburgers and $5/gal dinghy fuel-sorta…..

    Did the dryer thing and two days is about right! Well done. Hope you inspected the rear bearing
    While you were there. Front rollers are shot in my current dryer but have a set on order. Still loving the
    57. Draft has not been much of an issue here so far.


  2. SUBJECT: Re: February in Papeete

    OMG………what a special adventure I just had !!!!!!!! Just reading “February in Papeete” was thrilling !!!!

    It is incredible to me how many abilities and how much knowledge you two have, including your writing ability. Please keep me in your email loop…………………..Thank you Thank you………………….. Adele

    > On Apr 11, 2018, at 11:23 AM, http://www.mvduet.com (http://www.mvduet.com) wrote:

  3. SUBJECT: Re: February in Papeete

    So glad to hear the update. As usual your writing is always elegant and very entertaining! I’m exhausted hearing about all the work done on Duet. Wonderful to hear about culture in the South Pacific. We’ve run into several Nordhavns and your blog seems to always make it’s way into the conversation. You have many faithful followers. Having had the 57 for over a year, we are beginning to understand it. Gale has finally been able to catch up on his to do list af

  4. Hello,
    I enjoy reading your blog and follow several of the Nordhavn owner blogs.
    Reading about your leaks, here is a product I’ve been using for some time to stop leaks in cooling towers, rooftop units and just about anything else that I’ve run across that I thought would benefit from it.
    https://www.youtube.com/wat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4gXJNaUs1E)
    Just about any HVAC wholesaler would have it and I’m sure you could find it online.

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