It’s hard to believe that yet another month has passed, the moon has made another circuit around our planet. At the end of our last posting, we mentioned that we had picked up a crew mate, Fin. He is still onboard Lungta, and contributing to our quality of life. He’s great in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning. He’s also helped with a couple of refinishing projects around the boat, including the entire pilothouse and the caprail around the perimeter of the boat – both areas are looking beautiful again!
We went back to Tahanea with him the very day we posted our last blog update, arriving 27 hours later after a rather uncomfortable sail. (We were traveling into the wind, and the waves were “bumpier” than we had expected.) We arrived at the entrance pass at exactly the right time (thanks to our trusty engine), but it turned out the current was still flowing out a bit faster than predicted. This meant that our passage over the bar was slower than it would have been, even though we were motoring through the water at a good clip. It was a relief to arrive inside the quiet lagoon and drop our anchor! We enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep and in the morning we went for a snorkel in the pass where we’ve seen mantas before. Again the current was rushing out more than we’d expected. This implies that there had been stronger winds or waves for the previous few days, probably from the southeast, pushing more water over the barrier reef into the lagoon than usual, which then pushes its way out as the tide comes down. Interesting how conditions in one place cause changes in other places and times. 🙂 We enjoyed the snorkel, watching reef sharks patrol the reef looking for lunch while big schools of larger fish aligned themselves with the current.
At mid-day, we traveled down to our favorite anchorage where our German friends had been waiting. It was wonderful to see Eva & Hans and their son Luca again! We spent much of the afternoon just hanging out in their cockpit visiting, and then more time every day for the next two weeks, sometimes sharing a meal, sometimes walking the beach, sometimes consulting on boat repairs. The whole family has gotten into kiteboarding, especially Luca who (was) volunteered to give Fin an intro to the sport. (It turned out that our kite was not functional because the tropical heat has melted the glue in the seams for the bladder that gives the wing its shape. We’ll have to figure out how to repair that before we can use it again.) Our relationship with the family has deepened in the short time we’ve known them, kind of accelerated by the transitory nature of our lives; we really feel a kinship with them! We enjoyed a few nice snorkels and an evening or two of trolling our fishing lines behind the dinghy – and Fin used the speargun to good use a couple of times!
While we were in this anchorage, another boat came in for a couple of days. It turns out that this was a boat that Fin had met previously, and he was excited to see them again. They are an Australian family of four, spending a whirlwind year traveling halfway around the world, ending up back in Australia just in time for the eldest boy to begin his last year of high school. They have had many adventures, but are traveling with a sense of hurrying to make sure they make every moment count – quite the contrast from Lungta’s slow pace. 🙂 It was heartwarming to see the two boys enjoying a really fun day with Luca, wake-boarding behind the dinghy on a kite-board. We had them over to dinner one night, where Dan and Michael had a deep and far-ranging discussion about human nature and how to live a good life. The family moved on after only a couple of days, partially because they were low on provisions and partially because they were anxious to see what the adventures lay in the next island ahead.
After we’d been in this anchorage for a week and a half, the winds threatened to change, so we relocated to the eastern edge of the atoll, to a spot that was new to us but familiar to the folks on Kamiros. We got a later start than we should have, so by the time we arrived the sun was quite low, making it difficult to see the coral obstacles along the way. At one point we had a very close call, missing a shallow coral patch by only a yard or two. Our friends had an even closer call, colliding with a coral bommie and grazing their centerboard. It wouldn’t retract afterwards, indicating that something had bent. Fortunately, the next morning they were able to identify where the problem was, and remove the damaged part so they could repair it themselves and avoid a costly boatyard visit. (When we were in Fakarava last month, we had run into a couple that we met here last fall; they had hit a bommie and damaged their boat badly enough that they were running pumps continuously until they could get to Tahiti to be hauled out for repairs. Yikes!) This was a reminder to all of us how important it is to be diligent and aware while cruising around the Dangerous Archipelago (a nickname for the Tuamotus before GPS). We took a dinghy explore to a nearby islet (called a “motu” here) and walked near the outer reef, collecting debris and a few shells. (Unfortunately it turned out that our favorite was already occupied by a very shy hermit crab, who didn’t pop out to say hello until we had already gotten back to the boat.) We were surprised to see small blacktip reef sharks swimming around the very shallow stream between the motu and the outer reef. Fin emerged from the thicket carrying an armload of coconuts, from which he made coconut milk over the next week or so. We also did a little snorkel between two motus, where it was super calm and there were some interesting formations in the coral bottom. It was kind of a nursery, so there were lots of tiny fish flitting all around.
Unfortunately our battery/generator/freezer series of issues continued to plague us. The latest twist was that the freshwater cooling pump developed a leak, which began as a small spray from around the bearing but rapidly developed into a serious stream of water, dumping the contents of our radiator on the floor of the hold every time we charged our sad batteries. This would of course be followed soon afterwards by our generator overheating and turning off. We tried to insert another electric pump in the circuit in its place, but couldn’t successfully cobble together a system from the pieces we had on hand. It was amazing to watch Dan and Hans play off of each other, each one learning from the other and making incremental improvements. Ultimately, though, we realized that we were not going to be able to get this generator working “in the field”, and we had to go back to Tahiti to find the necessary parts. We were able to delay for a few days, though, by using our backup gasoline-powered portable Honda generator.
Our sail back to Tahiti was relatively uneventful; the biggest event was when Fin landed a big tuna – the biggest we’ve ever caught (34″)! We’ve got many delicious meals ahead of us (and a few already inside of us)! 🙂
We returned to the busy anchorage nearer to the city because we wanted to get things done as quickly as possible so we could return to the island paradise that we love. 🙂 We had a couple of full days running around town: successful but expensive. In particular, a miracle happened when we were searching for a water pump for the generator. The motor inside our generator is made by Kubota, so (after checking the shops that service boaters) we looked for a Kubota dealer. We got directions from a local, but when we walked all the way out there we couldn’t find the building he had described, only car dealerships. 🙁 We were tired and a bit discouraged, but Fin suggested going an additional block down the road. He wandered off and was gone for quite a while. When he returned he said he thought he had found something. We followed him to a shop that supported Hondas and some big equipment from Komatsu. We showed them the old pump that we wanted to replace, and the guys behind the counter showed us a shiny new one that was virtually identical. Score! They said that they don’t carry this product, but had received it in error when they ordered a different part a few months earlier. They hadn’t yet written it off and thrown it out, but had thought it useless to them. It was gold for us! Unfortunately, the price was closer to gold than “useless” – we paid $450 for a pump “now” that would have cost us less than $100 if ordered from Amazon. But there’s an opportunity cost to having it TODAY, and we were willing to pay it. 🙂 We installed it the next morning, and it was indeed perfect. What luck! Now we are able to safely lift and deploy our anchor, run our freezer and clean water with our watermaker. Next on the list is to get our new batteries, which we have been anxiously anticipating since March. They are due to arrive some time in the next couple of weeks – we are so ready to be done with all of the power juggling that has been necessary these last few months!
While we were in the Marina Taina anchorage, we were paid a visit by a couple that we had met way back in 2012 in Mexico. Jaye and Irwin remembered us as well as we remembered them, although we haven’t seen each other since that short time that we shared an anchorage. It was exciting to see them again and catch up on where our lives had taken us in the meantime! We had dinner with them one evening at a group of food trucks, called roulottes. This is a popular form of eatery throughout French Polynesia, but is usually found in the more populous places that we are normally not drawn to. It was a fun outing. Another day we were able to help them out with our “rescue dinghy” service. 🙂 They had been returning from a trip into town when their dinghy’s outboard engine just stopped. They couldn’t get it started, but began paddling back home. Unfortunately it was late in the day, and after a while they realized that it would be quite dark before they got back. So they called us on the radio and we zipped out to give them a hand. 10 minutes later we arrived at their back door, with their dinghy (connected by a long rope) close behind. They are preparing to leave French Polynesia in the next few days, just as their visas expire, so we are unlikely to see them again for a while, but it was really nice to get reacquainted after all these years!
Most of the nights we were in this anchorage, we could hear drumming coming from a park just on shore. It was a delightful way to wind down from our days of city and repairs! We kept saying we wanted to go ashore to watch, but never found an evening which was “just right”. Perhaps we will have another opportunity…
Our major repair completed, and two weeks until our batteries arrive, we have decided to pop over to the island “next door”, Mo’orea. Mo’orea is only 10 miles away, which makes it an accessible place for locals and tourists to visit, but it is still a spectacular natural environment. It’s a young atoll like Tahiti, where the barrier reef surrounds a rough volcanic island covered in lush tropical jungle. The island of Mo’orea is particularly rugged, with many spires and sheer cliffs, which create deep shadows and also concentrate and funnel the prevailing winds in unexpected ways. The many mountains often create their own weather, and are frequently shrouded in clouds even when the rest of the area is clear and sunny. Two rivers carry silt down from the mountains, feeding into the bay where we are anchored which has a thick muddy bottom as a result. Although the water right here is dark and murky, just a mile away the waters around the reef are beautifully clear and great for snorkeling and diving. We hope to do both in the coming days.