Posted by: powellpjc | October 1, 2010

We Cut Loose from Papeete at Last

Ulic stocks up on some big game fishing lures.

I needed a new system for sliding my mainsail up the mast. My standard system of plastic slides kept failing for me. The mainsail would luff from time to time during tacking maneuvers and the top slide or two, or five would snap, leaving the sail sagging at the top of the mast and about to separate completely. I tried everything including all new sail slides, a change of the heavy shackle and even made my own sail slides out of stainless steel. Nothing worked. While in Papeete I mentioned my problem to the local sail maker and he proposed and new track with external cars. He showed me how easy the cars, on their ball-bearings, slid up the track and I was sold. Had to order them from France. It would be 2 weeks. Five weeks later the parts arrived. Ulic and I spent a day installing the track (10 trips up the mast for me). The new system looks to be a work of art and so far I’m happy I bit the bullet in time and money.

The new sail track is bolted on.

These are the cars the sail attaches to.

The reverse side of the car shows the lovely ball bearings. Slides up like warm butter.


About 12 trips up the mast for me. Whew.

 An unplanned benefit of the long wait for the sail track was that my pal, Paul Mahony, was able to join us for 3 weeks. He arrived in Papeete on September 10 and we finally cut loose from Tahiti two days later, destination Hauhine, about 120 miles away.

There was some talk around the marina about strong winds but the computer forecast looked fine. 20 knots of wind in the right direction. Turned out the talk was more accurate than the computer. We sailed through some lumpy water and light winds to Moorea but then, as night fell, the wind picked up. We shortened sail a couple of times and eventually went to bare poles and were still doing 6 knots. It was unpleasant.

Paulie suffers through the shit weather. He feels better than he looks.

No one was feeling well and it was very wet on deck. We eventually let the boat go–it was lying a-hull (sort of sideways and unattended) and I went down below. Ulic and Paul stayed on deck where the motion was easier to take. We were pooped a few times by breaking waves including one monster that lifted the boys off their seats, washed a number of things overboard and half-filled the cockpit. I don’t know how strong the wind was (no anemometer on board) but over 50 knots. An inter-island supply ship (230 feet long) overtook us at midnight and slowly sidled up alongside us, maybe 800 metres away. We got out the VHF radio in case he wanted to talk to us but we heard nothing. We thought he might be just looking out for us on a rough night. Thank you mister but we were alright. Sort of.

We were happy to see the pass through the reef on Huahine the next morning and we found a nice spot anchored off of a remote hotel on the island’s west side. The anchoring ground turned out to be difficult-looking coral however so after one night we moved a few miles south along the coast, all the while inside the reef.

While picking up the anchor, Paul snorkeled above the anchor and chain, Ulic managed the windlass (the electric motor device used to haul anchor) and I managed the boat’s maneuvering. The teamwork worked well and we cleared the chain and anchor safely.

We spent a few nights off a small village, Haapu (fresh baguettes) and then further south. The charting didn’t look complete so I climbed up the mast to the first spreader and we used a combination of eyeballs and chart to work our way through the coral patches. The colours and depths are much easier to see from the that height.

Lots of cheap New Zealand lamb around. No reason to go hungry.

By the end of the first week we had retraced our route back up to the north end of the island to the village of Fare. Excellent supermarket there and a nice seaside bar, the New Temarara. This is the supposed site where Jimmy Buffet wrote the songs, ‘One Particular Harbour’ and ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’. Of course we had a round of cheeseburgers there.

Paul and I rented scooters one day and roared around the island (at 55 kph). Good roads, lots of vanilla plantations, some lovely views and a dandy lunch.

la Rosa anchored at south end of Huahine.

We left Fare with difficulty. Had trouble getting the engine to start (balky solenoid?), the steering system was jamming and then the anchor gave us grief. After the usual maneuvering we managed to get the anchor off the bottom but then man nor machine could budge it. We still had 40 feet of chain out, we were drifting towards the reef, the steering was protesting big time and we could not budge the anchor. What gives? Our only thought was that we had snagged something heavy and managed to drag it clear of the harbour bottom but could not lift the whole mess aboard. We motored slowly towards safety and let the chain free-fall. That did the trick and we were able to recover the anchor. Might have been a chunk of coral or an old piece of steel/anchor that we had hooked and we’ll never know. We docked in Fare for an hour trying to understand the steering problem. It is a chain and sprocket issue and will take some more time and money to fix but did not prevent us from sailing from Hauhine to Raitea the same day. A lovely 4 hour sail to the south end of Raitea. We entered the same pass I’ve entered before, 31 years ago on the ‘idiot wind’ and then we motor-sailed to the SW corner and anchored behind a lovely ‘Motu’ or small, isolated island connected to the reef system.

Ulic and Paul in the dink. For some reason it looks bow heavy. No idea why.

The usual eating and snorkeling. Oh, and drinking.

Paulie does up a roast. Keep those roasts coming, boys.

We stayed a couple of days at the yacht careenage, anchored in a field of 25 other yachts. One evening became an exciting event, it being a squally night with strong wind gusts. I woke up and poked my head out into the driving rain to see us gliding by another boat. Our anchor popped off the bottom and we dragged about 200 metres, missing two other boats until we hooked in again. We laid out more chain and stayed on anchor watch for the rest of the night but no further action.

After a lovely circumnavigation of Tahaa we headed for the Pearl of the Pacific, Bora Bora.

A Paris Hilton on Bora Bora.

Bonfires on the beach, good food and good company. Paul and Ulic went diving one day. Not for me that particular deal. I have the gear but intend to use it only for underwater jobs on the boat.

Bora Bora, bonfire and the boys.

Holding on to the glasses, serious like at Bloody Mary's, Bora Bora.

The dive boat came alongside to pick up Ulic and Paul for their dives.

Paul leaves in a week and then Ule and I ride for Aitutaki in the Cook Island group.



  1. Looking good! Safe travels.


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