Friday, October 14, 2011

Tahiti and the Tuamotu's.

I've been really busy doing all sorts of things and so have neglected my writing here. I'm so sorry. I'm about to rectify that right now.
We've been sitting in Tahiti for just over a month now. Shortly after we arrived we were told that the weather was going to be quite rough out in the ocean and the waves would be high enough to climb over the reef and make life pretty uncomfortable for us. David decided to wait it out and see how bad it was. In the mean time he'd check over the boat at all the rigging and such to decide if he wanted to do any work on the boat here or if we could wait to get to New Zealand. Everything checked out okay..except of course for those two plates on the mast and the two plates supporting the seagull striker loads on the crossbeam that were broken on the crossing to the Marquises Islands. He knew about those and had taken appropriate measures to ensure that the mast was still sturdily held in place.

The day arrived when we were expecting this bad weather and wow, it sure got bumpy in here. We could not go ashore. The huge mega yachts left the marina because the waves were so destructive that one actually damaged their stern. The restaurants were closed due to the fact that the water was cascading over the top of the wharf. In fact the water was at least 3 feet higher than normal here. Many sections of the walkways in the marina got rather beaten up and broken. We swung and jerked around on the anchor but it held and we just waited. By the next day everything calmed down and we went ashore to see the damage.
A couple of boats having a meeting...the Cat was dragging her on board either boat..note the rough water.
 The water doesn't look so bad in the photo's..but it was really rough.
 Oh yes....This yacht, (below), dragged it's anchor and came right down the side of Puddytat, David had to lean over our rails and push her off so she wouldn't hit us...we then gave lines to some chaps in a dinghy and they tied them to this boat and we tied off on Puddytat...I had the engines on very slowly forward, David was pulling up our anchor....We had to try and keep that boat off the reef that was just behind us. The owner was not on board, but the Port Captain gave some other sailors permission to get on board and try and get her motor started....They eventually did and were able to let our lines go and relay the anchor. Whew what a relief. There was a dog on board and he was very scared. He seemed to know that something was wrong..the boat's not supposed to move when the boss isn't on board...shame poor thing.
This boat literally swept down on us, David was fending it off as it  dragged it's anchor. 

The yacht we visited before the weather turned bad...notice the calm waters.
There was another Catana Catamaran anchored here. David said it was of the same vintage as ours and so we went over to chat with the owner. His was a year older than Puddytat. He told us he'd been dis-masted out at sea and then told us why it had happened. He took us around the deck to see the new rig and the changes he'd made. We went back to Puddytat with David in a thoughtful mood. The next morning he checked over Puddytat again to see if there had been any damage to her during that bumpy spat and there was. He was really surprised. If he hadn't checked he told me, it's probable we would have lost the rig between here and NZ. Gulp...There were a few more key structural rigging items broken! not just one but several...Oh heck, now we knew we'd have to get the mast taken off here, it couldn't wait for NZ...and we didn't have enough time. My visa was expiring at the end of September..what to do.

He went to our agent and explained the situation..she went to the powers that be and they said sorry no, no extension, you'll have to fly her out to Fiji where she can apply for another visa and then fly her back again. WHAT! Now that's what I call real friendly. I'm not the only one with this problem. There is a Captain, from Grenada in the Caribbean, of a charter yacht and he is experiencing the same problems. His Seaman's passport is also being ignored.

David had a more pressing problem in that he had to go to court in Trinidad, and therefore needed to know where he was going to be to arrange flight tickets. The obvious solution was to stay in Tahiti and get the rigging repaired while he went to Trini. But I had to stay on Puddytat to look after it.

He then spoke to our agent again..she told us..sorry they aren't listening to her, he was going to have to go and see them himself. Okay David thought, I'll do that.
He dressed himself nice and smart and went in to see the authorities. He was advised to write a letter stating that urgent work was required on the boat to make it seaworthy and that I was the only crew member and was required in order to look after the boat whilst he was away in Trini, and to crew the boat when we eventually left French Polynesia. It would also be necessary to have local confirmation that the work had to be carried out. The letter had to be in French of course ...... Google Translate to the rescue.

David hired a rigging surveyor to come and inspect the rig. He confirmed David's findings that the mast that the tangs for the cap shrouds and the front beam need work before going to sea. He wrote a letter to the high commissioner to confirm that urgent work needed to be done and that it would take 8 weeks to complete. This letter, plus David's did convinced the authorities to grant an extension.

They very reluctantly extended my visa by one month..BUT..I'm not allowed to leave the Marina basically I'm boat bound. Now if we'd not really been getting work done and were trying to pull a fast one on these bods and had planned an extensive exploration of the island I'd understand their reasoning, but as it stands, I really don't.

They wouldn't even accept my seaman's passport because, they said, I wasn't on a mega yacht! first they said..If I had been the Captain of the yacht then it would have been fine, then they said, its not acceptable because it's Zimbabwean, Zim is landlocked it can't issue seaman's passports, so that's irritatingly's in fact a South African seaman's passport, then they came up with the Mega yacht story!

So now we sit here, no mast as it has been taken off and David has taken the front cross beam off and examined it. he's having new plates made up to make it safer for our next leg to NZ. The cap shrouds and their mast tangs are being replaced. Our Genoa sail is being re-stitched, and as I write this David is flying back from Trinidad where he went to go and try and sort out the mess that involves a boat yard that destroyed his previous yacht..that's a whole other story....and so I'm all alone, with the CD player blasting out music, me painting, writing or swimming and having a great time...:-D

Before we got here we spent about a month traveling around the Tuamotus. There are an unbelievable number of these places poking their tiny strips of land out of the ocean and on some of them there are a surprisingly large number people living and working. A lot of them work on their own pearl farms. This is a full time occupation it seems, as it takes a pearl 5 years to grow to a decent size and they have to cultivate the spore, nurse them till they are large enough to insert a small piece of shell, that they have cut and shaped into a ball, along with a small piece of the mantle that gives the pearl it's colours, then they string them up in an area where there is no surf, a calm area with good clean water, and they watch them, scrub their shells clean so that barnacles and such don't take root on them. The shells have to be absolutely clean because when the pearl is harvested, the shells are sold to the Chinese who make jewelry out of them. They have to have a new batch every year so that after 5 years they still have more coming up start they have to wait 5 years before they can harvest their first pearl...and...not all of the pearls are 1st it's a lot of hard work.

The snorkeling on these places is fabulous!!! There are clams that are from a few cms to 15 or 20 cm in length with the most beautiful mantles of emerald green or brilliant peacock blue..I wish I'd had a camera to take a few underwater photo's.
Crystal Clear Waters in Paradise :-D
We went to one place, dropped the anchor and jumped into the water. We swam towards the little knoll that was reaching up out of the depths..we swam towards the ridge. The water seemed a dark blue on the other side and we were curious as to as to how deep it was there. Holy Toledo! an incredible sight met our startled eyes. The ridge was the top of a very steep drop. almost a wall...dropping away into oblivion it seemed... we raised our eyes and looked out and saw the hugest groupers and other fish that we'd ever seen on a reef. These guys were about 50 feet away from us and looked to be about 3 feet in! Just then we caught a movement out of the corner of our eyes and there was a shark..really interested in us..really scary...we swiveled around..we were holding hands so as to be able to call attention to things we saw and also it makes us look big and menacing to any interested sharks..I hoped....we hung in the water almost motionless and faced him.. he swam back and forth in front of he was pacing and deciding just what to do with us....I'd never seen David so wary, he normally just shrugs and continues swimming, but I couldn't see a black tip or a white tip of the normal reef shark, this one was all grey..what was it and why was David so wary of it? It seemed to pace up and down for ages, I was rather scared I must say, I was trying to remember what I'd been told about how to defend myself against an attack...but I tried to tell myself..he's only about 5 ft long and maybe our combined size will make him think twice.... then he made up his mind, turned, and swam leisurely off back down over the ridge..whew...It sure hadn't taken him long to spot us, we'd only just poked our heads over for a few seconds when he came to see what we wanted...David later told me he thought it was a Mako....but later we realised it wasn't.
Well we had a wonderful snorkel after that, that shark didn't come back again, though we both kept a very sharp eye out for him or any of his mates. We did see others though, the black tip and the white tip, I spotted a cousin of the seahorse a tiny little thing, I forget what it's called, it looks pretty much like a seahorse :-D we also saw fully grown spider conch...they were easily 15 inches 36cm from tip to tip..absolutely beautiful. It was a really busy shelf with all sorts of life...

The next day we went the way there was not another human to be seen for as far as the eye could see....we walked on the beach and around a knoll that seemed to have two different species of Terns breeding. They got really upset when we walked anywhere near to them so we stayed off a way. We saw, in two of the little rock pools, a Moray eel trapped by the fallen tide. Both of them were trying in vain to hide under a rock. What a glorious day we had.
We pulled Limo up onto the was tiny shells instead of sand..
Tiny shells.
The little island where the Terns were breeding..and Limo on the beach.
A brittle one of the rock pools.
Moray eel hiding ..caught in a rock pool at low tide.
A hermit crab in a super smart home.
There's a crab in here too..
Black Terns nesting ...
They were nesting here too..

Billy his wife, cat and dog visiting us.
One day we sailed into Katui and tied up to the dock's free and sits in an eddy of the entrance, so the water a few feet away is racing by at 10 knots but it's really calm right by the dock. At the turn of the tide we went snorkeling with a local guy called Billy...we would never had tried this if he hadn't been with us..Absolute shock as we dropped into the water and took in our surroundings!.. Wall to wall corals..I cannot even begin to describe it...all shapes sizes and colours, white, yellow, greens, reds, brilliant blues, purples, pinks...and then there are the fish...yeah I was talking about the corals...astoundingly stunning. Billy was going fishing for his dinner. He had a spear gun. Now I don't like spearing reef fish, but he was going for Wahoo and other game fish that were cruising the area. He did shoot a beautiful parrot fish and I felt so sad...and at the end of the snorkel he presented it to us for our dinner...ugh...We couldn't say no thanks, it would have been rude so we took it and David filleted it. It was a huge fish and we barely got enough meat off it to eat..what a waste of a beautiful life... :-( During the swim, David had the privilege of keeping the speared fish on a line. He had to drag these behind him as he swam around..consequently about 5 reef sharks were rather interested in him :-) I didn't swim too close to him...they made me really nervous, but he didn't seem to be very perturbed. :-D

All in All if anyone wants to experience the South Pacific Islands then these are the places to go. The folks are friendly, there's not much in the way of what we think of as luxuries, but they would just spoil the whole area. The charm of these places lie in the absolute remoteness of them all, the peace and quiet, the turquoise waters and tranquil evenings...I hope they stay that way for a long time to come. One thing we noticed was that when we had some locals aboard and offered them drinks, they were horrified when they thought we were offering them alcohol, they'd only accept soft drinks, they didn't drink tea or coffee either..hee hee ;-)

Of course I haven't been to Bora Bora or any of the islands around I can't say anything about them ...yet. :-D


  1. No recent post? Hope everything is going well.
    The crew of S/V Ulalena, Teri, Scott & Bosun.

  2. Will be updating today.. sorry the delay :-) We were sailing when you wrote your comment.... had a bit of excitement :-)