Late November, boat stocked up with provisions for a few months, all shore-based business finished and concluded for the foreseeable future, we were finally prepared, and ready, to go to sea. The hitherto unvisited- by us- Marquesas group of 8 islands roughly 900 NM northeast of here was the goal for the next 4-5 months with the rainy – aka cyclone- season officially started Nov 1.
We were intent on making good use of an unusual weather window consisting of N to NW winds during 3-4 days making it possible to do some 300-400 miles of Easting though close on the wind.
So far the plan, this window was supposed to take us as far as to Makemo in the central Tuamotus to stay there a few weeks then hopping along the atolls and finally the 400 or so miles to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas.
We left our mooring in the Baie de Phaeton very early one morning and were soon making good progress SE then due East around the southern tip of Tahiti. I was very pleased to notice that Nanna now makes significantly better course on the wind as well as speed. Very close to 6 knots of boat speed close-hauled at 45 degrees as long as the sea stayed reasonably flat. Happy with the decision to rid the boat of the Autohelm aux. rudder/windvane it has been sporting since way before I bought Nanna. ( it’s replaced by a normal servo-pendulum windvane, I found used locally) it’s like getting a new boat. More responsive, goes at least half a knot faster under sail and power since getting rid of the huge drag the old rudder/vane combo caused.
So far the positives, we were going along nicely, doubling the southern point of the island before lunch in the troubled cross seas habitually encountered around this area. ( local knowledge has it as leaving at least 5-10 miles wide berth to this point)
15-20 knots of Northerly wind with the 2 meters wave that creates plus the swell from NE of about one meter meets the always present SW swell of 1,5 meter. Add to it that these wave systems crash into the barrier reef and refracts from it and confused is just beginning to describe the sea state. This was only to be expected though, and wouldn’t last too many hours anyway, but diminishing as we put distance between us and the island.
Unfortunately, when we soon did a routine check down below, we discovered that we were taking on some water at the bow of the boat when plunging down the steeper waves. Not a lot. You can bail out tons of water-literally- a day without being in danger on a boat, but even a few liters a day, as was the case, has a bad effect when ending up under the v-berth where we store lots of precious spares and God knows what else. So sailing on like this for days and weeks is a bad idea and would be very costly at the end, decision soon taken to turn back and fix this leak for good!
A few words about this leak and the background to it. In the seven years we now sailed this boat, this was only the third occasion we went to windward in anything like bumpy seas. ( yes, that’s the reality of trade wind cruising) The first time was our 700 miles crossing of the Gulf of Panama, when we first discovered this leak. The second time, on two separate day sails, while returning to Tahiti from the leewards two years ago. About 250 miles hard on the wind. Still leaking a wee bit.
My mistake was to assume it could only be because water found it’s way in through the hawse pipe on foredeck, where the chain goes through to the chain locker. Now I know this was just a part of it, which is fixed since a while.
This time though, since the boat plunged 2-3 meters, bow downwards, into some steep waves, it was easy for Isabelle, equipped with a good headlamp, to see that the water came in at the stem head, port side, just next to the head stay fitting.
So the good part of these bad news was that now, at long last, I knew how to remedy this problem once and for all!
With that, we turned tail, 180 degree turn back to our home away from home. King Neptune was in a playful mood this lovely sunny day, about half an hour after turning, the wind died out suddenly and totally. After waiting a few minutes I fired up the engine, just for Neptune to send me a little surprise, I could see him grinning to my inner sight! A line of ripples on the water, half a mile ahead had us sailing again in minutes. Close hauled again! 15-20 knots but right on the nose! A few hours later we entered the lagoon at Vaiaro and dropped anchor in a favourite spot in 4 meters of turquoise water.
After this great day sail, we rewarded ourselves with a week of swimming and snorkeling before heading back to “our” bay. 😉
About a week spent on the mooring again, with heavy wet season rains for much of the time and we were ready for departure. Not quite the same weather window, but Weak northerlies forecasted for a week. This means convergence, and so heavy rains and finicky winds, with nothing much of a flow between the squalls. Thus we revised our plans a bit and left for a 45ish mile daysail to the southern part of Moorea, where we haven’t yet explored. Obviously hard on the wind for the duration, just to be able to tick off this enervating little leak (@ more about the fix below@)
This turned out to be a nice daysail in bright sun, brisk winds from 3 different directions! Yes, sailing around these small but very mountainous islands is always entertaining and interesting 🙂
First a couple hours on a beam reach SB tack followed by dead calm for half an hour, and then 15-20 knots SW(!) yes, Noetherlies forecasted! And mid afternoon the third shift to North, at last, and us being close hauled SB tack after the port tack. I couldn’t have gotten better “test conditions” had I dreamed them up myself. All good, leak totally subdued. Hopefully for good!
We spent a week or so in the SE part of the lagoon before another daysail to Haapiti at the SW part of Moorea. This is Tahitis little sister island, and Haapiti their little version of Tahitis world famous surf spot, Tehuaupoo, also at the SW part of the island where the swells from the southern ocean provides the renown “tube” of this place.
Writing these lines 29 December, we’ve been about a week in Haapiti enjoying what we love most, after sailing that is; swimming, snorkeling and free diving, now with addition of messing about in our inflatable kayak which has turned out to be a great instrument to explore shallow parts of the reef and shoreline too.
Wet season here is even wetter than the so called dry season. Normally though, there is a few hours a day to play around on and in the water. And the water is WARM! As in 27-29 degree Celsius.
As you may have figured, our plans – never written in stone- have been revised slightly. Again!
From here, we’ll likely revisit the already loved, northern part of Moorea, before hopping to one or a few of the nearest Tuamotus atolls some 200-350 miles off to the north and northeast.
The Marquesas won’t go anywhere anytime soon, and when we make the effort of moving our “house” there we’d like to have 6 months or so to really explore all or most of the islands.
Today is lovely, sunny and weak and variable winds, between the “wet rainy events” one can enjoy weeks of this kind of weather, which is why I largely prefer the wet season here to the “dry” season which is considered the cruising season. Guess we’ve developed a habit, in the Sea of Cortez we much preferred the hot season too…
It is a slight gamble with the risk of a cyclone or tropical storm, though both FrPol and to some extent the SoC are usually saved from those monsters.
A very Happy New Year to all faithful readers!!!!
Ah, the leaking bow! What happened to it?
Here it goes!
One big reason I chose to buy Nanna, a Southern Cross 35’instead of the others we looked at, was the fact that the joint between the hull and the deck was entirely glassed together and bolted. Or so the broschure says at least. Why is this a big deal? Well, most production fibreglass boats are not. Most are only bolted with a sealant in the joint. Over the lifetime of a boat, and especially if sailed extensively in swells and big seas ( as in ocean cruising) the hull and deck are flexing a wee bit ( especially on lightly built boats) which is known to cause mysterious and almost impossible to rectify leaks along this joint while at sea.
Not a desired feature in my humble opinion. No doubt this is one reason some folks shy away from fibreglass construction and opt to go with metal hulls. Well, not all of those are welded all along the joint either, so due diligence is always a good measure….
Anyway, since I obviously assumed this joint in fact was glassed all along it’s length I always failed to verify this except in a couple of easy access spots where it’s plain to see…
If I had been more suspicious from the start, I would have discovered and repaired this one leak a lot earlier and saved some grey hairs and destroyed stores under the veeberth. No point weeping over lost milk.
It turned out, for whatever reason that there was a 15 cm long gap, just aft of the stem fitting on port side with neither bolt or sealant, not to mention glass. It’s not quite clear to me why. Perhaps this was simply “forgotten” at the build, as a Friday afternoon- Monday morning event of sorts, or it’s of a later date. What I could see without doubt, is that there was some kind of putty, like thickened polyester that originally did the job. After all, the first owners of this boat, did a sabbatical through the south seas to Japan and back via Alaska to their home port in the San Fransisco Bay, and they likely did a few miles in mature seas on that trip.
Anyway, this “putty” thing was cracked up and some pieces of it was gone altogether. To discover this it had to look hard at it from underneath the double bow roller SS plate. The repairs were done from the dinghy with thickened epoxy and strips of glass. Should be good for another 35 years!
The repair took a couple hours in all, done in 15-20 minutes at a time in between the downpours we had during that week.
40 years of sailing and owning boats, I am still learning!
Sent from my iBrain