Back on Swedish soil

At long last I find myself with a good internet connection. Uploaded some photos from the past 14 months at my Flickr.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/9218039@N06/

It’s nice to be back, meeting family and some friends and taking care of a list of things to do, to buy, and so on during my stay here.

In mid June, I had expected nice summer weather but so far it’s a bit chilly for my tropics-weakened body. I needed a new set of rain clothes anyway and bought it already the first day. I still get surprised seeing my countrymen in shorts and tees, sipping cold beer at restaurants with tables on the sidewalks. 12-14 C and a fresh breeze in town….the descendants of the vikings are still going strong ;-) For myself, I willingly admit that I haven’t yet adjusted after years spent in the tropics.

A nice benefit from going home at this time, is that I can enjoy watching the games from the World Championship in Football from Brazil. Good times roll!

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Port Phaeton

Time flies, ‘comme d’habitude’ and it’s now over 2 weeks since I arrived. Isa came to me the day after and then she caught dengue fever, poor girl. The next 5 days she spent mostly in bed with high fever, 39-40 C. As soon as she got rid of the fever she booke a flight to France, once again due to bad news in her family. I am currently preparing to go back to Sweden, getting the boat ready with friends keeping an eye on her while we’ll be away. P Phaeton is a very tranquil and pretty little bay, tucked in against the isthmus joining the big Tahiti and the T. Iti, or little T. A yard with haul-out facility on a huge tractordriven trailer (NZ invention I am told) chantier where they build very nice alu yachts and small boats too, an OB engine shop, a sailmaker and a sailing school. In beautiful surroundings couldn’t be much better. In fact this is the best protected anchorage in FrPol, and a hurricane hole. Oh, and furhtermore, a Carrefour (huge Fr supermarket) where all the nice food t
hat makes France # 1 is available. I even foound some Belgian Trappist Monk Beer on the shelves – Amazing! Believe me, after over a year, albeit a fabulous year, in the GAmbiers, I was drooling with delight and walked up and down each shelf in the store on my first visit. Then bought some much missed stuff to celebrate our reunion. Too bad the reunion was of very short duration, but soon enough we’ll be back for a haul-out.

Life is good, even when the not so good news arrives…

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Landfall at Tahiti

The last few days saw less wind, still over the stern no matter which direction the rhumbline. The best sailing of the entire passage was during the last night and the day of arrival. Approaching Tahiti from the South, the wind bends aroung the S tip of Tahiti Iti the ‘little’ Tahiti or the penisula to the south. Therefore I chose to got to Port Phaeton, just at the W side of the narrow, low isthmus between Tahiti Nui and T. Iti. This gave me a better angle, between broad and bean reach and NANNA were sailng at hull speed (7,5 kts) for hours with some nice surfs in the building seas. The windvane took care of the helm, but I was ‘stand-by’ in the cockpit for the first time since the nightly squalls the second day out. Made it in through a very well marked and wide pass and motored the last 5 miles in a perfectly flat and beautiful lagoon before dropping he hook ust before dusk 16.45. Strange feeling sipping a Tequila, still with us since Mexico, in the cockpit before dinner (Wednesda
y evening) No movement whatso ever in the millpond-like cove and sooo quiet and peaceful. The entrance channel serpentined along the shore, allowing me to enjoy the view of nice, well-kept houses on the waterfront, with all kinds of vessels moored in front of them. A few local boats were fishing just outside the barrier reef and in the pass, and once inside lots of ‘pirogues’ were doing their afternoon work-out, probaly to get in top shape until the competiotions the first weeks in July culminating at 14th July, the ‘BAstille Day’ Gonna love Tahiti, no doubt.

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First week at sea

Will be tomorrow morning. So far, so good. A bit too weak winds, bit that was expected, and I did not want to wait maybe 1-2 weeks more for a better weather window. Still making + 100 miles days, and that is with the sailcover still on the main, and not flying the chute either! Why? -Well, for the mainsail, discovered earlier that downwind it’s not worth the hassle and the wear on it. Reefing the main, the shaking it out a few times a day – and night, wears down the crew, who’d better be getting some well needed rest. Also, the main chafes against the lower shrouds and after our 4000 mile passage last year, 3 out of 4 batten pockets needed repairs. For the tiny fractionof a knot in boat speed, just not worth it. For the spinnaker, I am just too lazy unless boat speed goes under 4 knots when single-handing. I’ll get there in time and am truelly enjoying the ride. So far, a few squalls the second night (naturally)for the rest of the trip until here, I have hardly needed to touch a she
et. Rolled a few turns on teh genoa at times and gibed about once a day to avoid low lying atolls or just to make good of a windshift. Low lying atolls, no wonder the Tuamotus were christened ‘the Dangerous Archipelago’ by the early seafarers; I passed within 12 miles from one yesterday and couldn’t visually spot it. GPS might have taken quite a bit of the excitement away from making landfall, but it sure feels secure. If the winds continue as predicted I might just be able to enter ‘Passe Papeete’ and then go down the 5 miles to the anchorage before sunset Tuesday. Need help from the Gods of winds for that, otherewise will have to slow down to arrive Wednesday morning. I know the channel is well marked but I just don’t enter to me ubknown places at night. Acapulco was one exception to the rule. The entrance was about 3 miles wide with a light bouy each side :-)

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Half the distance made

4 d ays at sea. It’s like the dream of trade wind sailing. 10 kts on the quarter, sun, blue skies and so far, knock on wood no probelms or mishaps. Not at all like last years passage when we hardly had a day without squalls, squalls and more of the same. I just passed a milestone of such, les than halfway to Tahiti, and if it weren’t for Isabelle waiting for me there, I would like this to just go ooooon!

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Underway to Tahiti

Third day at sea. Right now it’s the dream of trade wind sailing. 10-12 kts on the starboard quarter, sunny skies with puffy little clouds around the edge, smooth seas and not a single sign of humanity. No vessels, no planes and thanks God, no plastic junk in the water. I’ve gotten into the routine now and are enjoying life at the fullest. The first day was not this good. Sealegs gone after 13 months in the Gambier lagoon and a nasty 1,5 m swell, 3-4 second period out of SSW made life onboard quite miserable. The motion of the boat got very jerky, and I kept bouncing into things in the cabin, like a drunk. A few brusies still to remind me of that. The morning after I woke up feeling fine, sealegs back and the swell slightly smaller and ’rounder’. Very weak winds made NANNA move sloooow thrru the water though. Saw that on the grib just before leaving, will have 12-15 kts as we go further north. Isa ia e-mailing me each evening her owbn text version of the gribs, sat photo etc. she ch
ecks daily. Pure luxury with a shore team when singlehanding. Almost like the VOR guys! :-D

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News, some good and some not so good

Our 4 new batteries arrived a coouple of days ago from Papeete. They are installed and everything is ‘up and running. What would have taken a couple hours in a house, or wherever with good access, took me almost 2 full days of labour, Lying on my right side in the quarterbunk, hence only having one arm – the left- free to work with. Old batteries (30 kg a piece) out, the new ones in. The new ones are a bit highger and longer, enough so to force me to do some modidications of the installation. They arrived almost 50% discharged, likely due to the 2-3 weeks at sea in a 20 ft container on deck in full (?) sun. Batteries do NOT like heat, that’s what caused the old ones to die prematurely. They are livng their life just a foot or so from the engine exhaust pipe! THe worst possible spot o the boat for them. Unfortunately it’s alos the only possible spot to have them installed. Under the salon settees, the most logical space, are oour water tanks. At least as important as batteries obvious ly.

In fact, the (lack of a good) place for the batteries is the weakest point on this boat. Fortunately NANNA is very well thought out in all other aspects, but there has to be some compromises in a 35′ cruising sailboat.

I will go sailing soon, single-handed, to Papeete (Tahiti) where Isabelle is already after flying there due to a medical issue. As I am writing this, we are not sure of the outcome, but most likely to very serious. I am waiting for a wx window to leave Mangareva, and there might be one popping up the coming weekend. Will have to get some provisions, say ‘a bientot’ (see you soon) to friends and then dive to clean the hull. The water is getting cooler and the next few days will provide yet another version of the SPCZ(S Pacific Convergence Zone)weather. This meaans rain abd thunderstorms, squalls and this time winds out of N and W. No good for sailing to Tahiti, 950 miles to the NW. A 3 day window will do, since the weather pattern change so rapidly here, no as the southern hemisphere autumn has arrived. Once out there, I’ll have to deal with what I get.

For family reasons (read; aging parents with not so good health) we have decided to leave the boat in Tahiti, and fly back to Europe within a few months. A change in plans, in part due to the fact that the law regarding the ‘papeetization’ of the boat has changed. Nanna can now stay in Fr Polynesia 36 months w/o this import tax. We are very greatful for this change and the fact that it also includes boats like ours, which have already been here for a year.

With new batteries and the Airmail software issues sorted out, I expect to be able to post regularly while underway to Papeete.

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Mangareva foreva’?

I borrowed the title of this entry from my friend Dave, who sent me an e-mail over 6 months ago with that subject line. A very good question considering we have now just past the 12 months here in the Gambiers. There are different ways of cruising, we always like to explore on land and get a bit ‘under the skin’ on the culture in the places we visit. Also, as transients, the local folks are not all that interested in spending time on getting to know you, since the all to well know that you’ll be off one morning, as silently as you once arrived.

Yesterday I stopped by a new arrival here flying the Finland boat flag to chat a few minutes. They arrived the day before yesterday and will leave today for Tahiti. The skipper told me that August next year they’ll be in Greece after a detour via the Caribbean. That’s a very different pace for sure. Nothing wrong with that at all but we enjoy not only the sailing and being at sea, but also getting into the local culture and it has been very rewarding staying here for a year, though that was not in our plans originally.

Everything in life happens for a reason, and our delay initially, which had me rebuild the transmission to start with, then Isabelle having to go back to France for 3 months as her Dad passed away, actually opened  the door for what has become a unique experience during this past year.

Particular highlights, though there is to much to describe, in a blog, has been making friends with some local families, helping them in their daily work, lots of fishing, diving, collecting seafood, taking part in gardening and agriculture, repairing their lawnmowers, outboards and all kinds of little adventures. Not to mention goat hunting and lots of dinners and parties! We also made friends with some of the other yachties of course and all in all we’re full of memories for life.

 

That said, we’re now ready to leave for the approx. 1000 miles passage to the Societies for a much needed haul-out. It’s almost 3,5 years since the last one and we do not have any antifouling paint left and thus cleaning the hull is a weekly exercise. Some of you might remember that I had to dive in at mid-ocean a little over a year ago to clean off excessive marine growth that threatened to keep us at sea until our provisions ebbed out. Alll in all we had a very slow passage, but we’ve heard of slower ones too.

We need to change cutless bearing on our prop shaft, and some other little projects while on the hard. The price to stay in the yard is very high per day, so we will not paint our topsides this time. Isabelle will strip all exterior varnish though while I’ll have fun sanding th bottom and undertake a couple of fibreglass repairs on the keel.

Our plan is then to quit the Fr Pol for 6 months in order to then re-enter with a fresh 18 months ‘boat in transit’ status. This means a ‘little’ walkabout of 1800 miles one way to the Line Islands (Kiribati) just N of the equator (approx, position N 4-5 degrees and W 159) This is since we’d like to stay a year or two, or perhaps longer, in Polynesia before eventually heading West.

More to come on this later…

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Fighting microbes?

What about them?
Er, yes I did forget that part. Staphylocochs are abundant in Polynesia, both on shore and in the water. All those little cuts one gets on the coral, or on whatever are potentially lethal. I’ve had a number over these last few months, and they never caused me much trouble. If one started to look slightly infected the day after I got it, I cleaned it with Betadine or similar and they have healed nicely and never kept me from being as much as I’d like in the water.

This time was different. A miniscule little dot on top of my right foot after walking on the fringing reef for a few hours at night, in search of octopus seemed totally harmless. The morning after my foot was like a red ball and felt like it could explode just about anytime. The Betadine cleaning didn’ do it this time. It was obvious that it needed to be drained and that I had to get a antibiotics treatment, so off I went to the ‘dispensaire’. The french young nurse did the above mentioned and informed me that it’s the same all over FrPol. She works a few months on one island and then moves to another so she ought to know.

The bummer is that I can’t go in the water until it’s properly heeled. As I am writng, I am on my 2nd day of the treatment and it’s already a lot better. A friend of ours on another boat had the same thing happen some weeks ago, though he waited longer before going to the little clinic and was ‘banned’ from diving during 4 weeks. I hope it won’t take me more than a week from now.

By the way, the locals are not immune to this. Of the 5 people in line when I arrived to the ‘dispensaire’ 4 had bandages on legs or arms. Same stuff!

We already know there’s a snake in every Paradise, but here now we’ve got two. Staphs and ciguatera. So far the ciguatera (they call it ‘la Grate’ here, meaning ‘the itch’) We’re very prudent of not eating any fish that our local friends aren;\’t eating and touch wood, no symptoms. Some of the other crusiers have been ill though, but after taking their chances with other species.

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Diving with sharks – and fighting microbes

We’ve really enjoyed it the last few weeks. ‘Island Life; the Real Deal part II’ if you like. Spending time on the motus, with these wonderful polynesians who have choosed to live a simpler and more ‘pure’ polynesian life away from the main settlement on Mangareva. Fishing, hunting, collecting shellfish and other ‘fruits de Mer’. We were both quite afraid of sharks when we arrived here. I had never even seen a shark in real life before, and neither had Isabelle, despite she worked 2 years as a snorkeling guide in the Caribbean some years ago.

Here, you’ll meet them on your first dive/spearfishing experience. I had my baptism of fire while Isa was in France. Toghether with a local friend who see them almost daily, as he’s ‘collecting his dinner. Mostly the reef sharks, Black- and whitetips, but grays are abundant too, and we’ve encountered a few lemon sharks and others, as dark forms rising from the deep. The short comment is, that you’ll get used to them very quick. Spearfishing; we learnt to always tow a plastic crate. Once you pulled the trigger, the sharks pops up out of nowhere, making it very important to get your catch out of the water and into that crate VERY fast. This is a lot easier than it sounds, giving that seeing them closing in really gets your adrenaline pumping.

With another friend, on another island we’ve done some trolling from his boat. We’ve caught ‘carangue’(fr) a member of the tuna family. I enjyed that very much, since at least I had the -rather thin- hull of the boat between me and the sharks. This too, turned out to be adrenaline fishing, since once you’ve got a bite, playing the fish like I’m used to is a no-no. Again, the sharks are hungry, so you pull that line and carangue out of the water as if you’re goal is to pull the lure out of his mouth, or his head of the body, before the shark takes the whole fish off! Needless to add, once in a while you’ll find yourself NOT fast ENOUGH (yes. the local guys are RELAAY fast, they’ve practised a few years) and it happens once in a while that you’re pulling the shark up to the boat. I had one incident when a 2,5 m Gray Shark was about half a meter from my face, mouth wide-open (that probably goes for me too)before he somehow let go and dissapeared in the depth. This is not sportfishing,
we fish for ‘bread’ but it’s done at night and for me that really makes it good sport! This is when the carangue, as well as those gray guys hunt, after sunset and a couple hours on.

What I really love with the locals here, once we all have enough for our dinner, we quit. No point in killing unless eating your catch!

I also did some diving for ‘sept doights’(FR: seven fingers) a big (conch size)shell fish that is quite easy to spot on sandy bottoms, but thety are at 6-7 m depths so makes ‘sport’ too. I’ve always had trouble equalizing when deeper than 4-5 meters, but motivation did the trick. THey are considered delicacious here. Quite a job to clean, cutting all kinds of ‘small parts’ off, then ‘washing them’ in a handful of sand before eating some parts raw and saving the rest to be cooked for dinner. All this after crashing the heavy shells with a rock or a hammer.

Tomorrow we’ll kill a pig with yeat another island friend, and then cook it in a Polynesian oven (in the ground)

We’re good here!

Next hurricane season is still very distant :-D

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