Tahiti, On Schedule

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Approaching Tahiti under sail

We left Kauehi a day earlier than planned, and we still arrived in Tahiti on schedule. The passage from Kauhei to Papeete took us longer than we expected. That’s mostly because of the weather, but also because of a broken engine mount.

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The Island of Tahiti Nui is connected by an isthmus to the smaller Tahiti Iti on the south. Papeete is on the north coast, on the leeward side from the SE trade winds and swell.

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The city of Papeete, passing the airport and outside the reef. We had the good fortune of an unusually calm day to approach Tahiti.

We waited for favorable wind to leave Kauehi. We wanted to be in Papeete by Thursday, June 16, as we were meeting family and wanted a couple of days to settle in, do laundry and a few other things before hand. We watched the various sources of weather information we use for several days and, on a Friday, the forecast was for the wind we needed to begin filling in by Tuesday. But the weather system came through faster than predicted, which is not uncommon, and we decided on Monday morning that conditions looked good for leaving that day. By 10:00 am the anchor was up and we were motor-sailing toward the pass.

As we were pulling up our anchor in Kauehi, Ruth noticed that the engine throttle control in the cockpit was sticking. Randy checked in the engine compartment and discovered that we had a broken right front engine mount! This broken mount allowed the engine to “tip” slightly and impinge on the throttle cable. The four engine mounts are bolted onto the engine block and are then fastened to flex mounts on the bed logs that are fiberglassed to the hull. Having a broken engine mount meant that using the engine for propulsion would likely damage the drive train to the propeller, something we wanted to avoid. This meant not using the engine to drive the boat, even when we had no wind and were rolling uncomfortably in a swell. Staying in Kauehi was not a viable option. We would need to be in Papeete to get replacement parts and make repairs.

The sun was shining overhead as we left, but there were a few clouds building on the horizon and they continued to grow as we approached the pass. We made it through the pass without problems but just as we were through, the squall that we’d been watching approach finally hit. It was a big one. After an exciting and wet hour, the deluge eased to a steady rain. At the same time the wind began to ease up, soon lightened still further, and finally died away altogether. It’s not unusual for a squall to be followed by a lull in the wind. This “lull” lasted for hours. A big swell rolled under the boat as we wallowed in light air under dripping sails. Velic is a dry boat inside, but we brought a lot of water into the cabin on our rain gear as we went in and out of the cabin. Fortunately, the wet stayed mostly around the companionway, but the cabin air became humid and stuffy, since we couldn’t open the ports or hatches. By late evening the wind started to come back again, from the right direction, and we finally were able to open the boat and let some air in. Even more important, we finally started making real miles toward Papeete. We were relieved when the breeze began to build again – we would be able to sail, at last!

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Looking north from Marina Taina towards the island of Moorea, about 12 miles away. The mooring field of cruising yachts is inside the coral reef on the north shore of Tahiti. Navigating in the lagoons: Leave green marks on the coral reef side, leave red marks on the island side.

By this time it was late on Tuesday, almost Wednesday. We wanted to enter the pass through the coral reef to Papeete and the yacht harbor during daylight hours. We had lost more than half a day already, and coordinating our entrance with daylight hours meant that we should slow the boat so that we’d enter the pass on Thursday midday rather than on Wednesday after dark. One more night offshore, but we knew we had a slip reserved at the marina for Thursday.

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Little Velic tucked in between larger cruising yachts.

As we approached the marina, they sent out a small boat to guide us in. We motored slowly and gingerly into a very snug “Mediterrean moorage” style dock. In the end, even though we left a day early, we still managed to arrive on schedule.

Med mooring is typically stern to the wall – easy on & off into the wide transom and cockpit of modern boats. Because Velic is pointy at both ends, and has the Aries wind vane on the back, we Med moor bow to the wall. This means climbing over the pulpit (bow railing) to step onto the plank, or “passerelle”- walking the plank, indeed.

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Med Moor means stern, or bow, to the quay – and using a ‘passerelle’ to get on & off the boat (literally “foot bridge”.) The marina has ‘loaner’ passerelles for American boats that don’t carry their own, consisting of a 2×12 plank.

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Getting back aboard is interesting, especially at night, or when a swell is running and the boats are all rolling a bit. We always push the passerelle off the boat when not using it; then retrieve it with a rope when needed. This avoids a lot of creaking & squeaking all night.

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European and local boats carry custom passerelle. Typically hinged on the stern and suspended with bungee from the masthead. Step lightly on the end and it sets down on the quay. But, where to stow such a contraption on little Velic? You can see the typical dock assemblages of kayaks, surfboards, scooters, and bikes in our neighborhood.

 

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Med mooring in our neighborhood, looking the other direction. Catamarans have it easy…lots of space for the passerelle.

Med mooring saves a lot of space and allows many more boats along the quay than docks with slips for each boat. Boats use their own dock lines to tie to the quay. Mooring lines are provided for the other end, usually the bow – putting the stern towards the quay. The mooring lines are secured to the bottom out in the middle of the fairway. A light tag line runs along the bottom and up to the quay. It works like this: Pull up on the tag line to retrieve the mooring line while walking towards the other end of the boat. Then secure the mooring line to your bow cleats. If you have followed all of this, you would realize that, when not in use, the tag line and mooring line lie on the bottom – growing all sorts of marine life. Some folks call the tag lines “slime lines” for this reason.

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Larger boats all Med moored with their passerelle suspended nicely.

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A very nice custom passerelle, suspended with bungee and sporting little roller wheels to accommodate the ‘rock & roll’ when in use. Boats of this class usually have a special garage for the passerelle.

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2 thoughts on “Tahiti, On Schedule

  1. We continue to enjoy your postings. Lots of fun living vicariously. As for our adventures, quite the opposite of yours. We just completed 6 days in Kings Canyon and Sequioa. Those big trees are phenomenal. The mountains continue to free my spirit. Now back in Aptos thru 4 July, then home for a few weeks. You have our best wishes as we continue to think good thoughts on your behalf. Mark and Carol

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  2. When we moored in Papeete in 1973, boarding ramps were whatever you could find. When a boat left, there was a scramble for everyone to “upgrade”. Finally, we got a good one, but we weren’t around to enjoy it too long.

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