Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Taina Marina Moorings: Beware!

The title of this blog could also be “A Boat Owner’s Worst Nightmare!” or “Irie’s Messed up Mooring Lines: Mystery Solved!” or “Ignorance is Bliss!” or “Hear me Out: a Reason to Complain?” but since the responsibility of our latest and most unbelievable revelation lies solely with Taina Marina in Tahiti, they deserve to be part of the title… in a BAD way.

When Mark and I left Irie in Taina Marina, Tahiti, on mooring ball A19 for an indefinite time (after Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we flew to the US for surgery and treatment), we made sure everything was as well prepared as possible in this particular and unexpected situation. We had heard that A19 was a newly serviced mooring ball after it had broken loose recently, something we saw as a positive thing, since we would be the only boat on this mooring and a very light and short one in comparison to other boats in the cruising fleet, so how would we be able to break a mooring suitable for a 40’ monohull? And we had attached three mooring lines through the loop of the ball: one forward off each bow and one “back-up” line in the middle. This set-up meant three things: it kept the ball in front and in the middle of our boat, so nothing was touching our hulls and our newly applied bottom pain, chafing of the lines was impossible, and in case one of the lines developed a problem, there were two other lines to hold Irie securely. Friends frequently checked on her in case something looked suspicious; the marina had their contact information.

On August 15th, Mark and I returned to our floating home, ready to settle back into our life on the water. We saw that Irie was lying slack against the mooring ball. Upon further investigation, we found a pile of mooring lines on the front deck and only one single line ran from one bow to the other through the loop of the mooring ball. From the moment our boat moved, the sawing movement would cause chafe to the one line and/or the loop (something every serious boater knows) with the potential danger of the line snapping and our boat being on the loose. And, the way this one line was tied (around the outsides of the bows!!), our boat was moving over the rope and all the new, expensive bottom paint we put on in Apataki in March, was being rubbed off! Needless to say, we were not very happy about this new found situation and the only thing we found out was that none of our friends were responsible. The neighbors in the mooring field didn’t reveal anything and when we paid our steep bill (which was already higher than expected, because they raised the weekly price when we were gone and did not honor the rate we had received) to the manager Philippe Olite, he took the money without any further information.

(For the people who are interested: catamarans pay double the rate of monohulls, despite the fact that we, at 35 feet, were awake many nights to keep an eye out when oversized monohulls – paying less than us – on neighboring mooring balls came inches from our boat during wind shifts and tidal changes. Price for a cat: 276cfp ($3)/foot/week or 551cfp ($6)/foot/month.)

What had happened to Irie’s mooring lines remained a mystery… until a few days ago. The catamaran Paradocs entered our anchorage in Arue and when passing our boat, one of the crew yelled: “Hey, I saved your boat two weeks ago in Taina Marina! It was just floating…” What?????? From the moment the new arrival had dropped the anchor and settled next to us, Mark and I took our dinghy over and requested more information. Around August 8th, Nicholas had come home by dinghy from playing ukulele elsewhere. It was about midnight when he saw our cat Irie “dragging” through the mooring field. The mooring ball and all three lines were still attached! He had banged on our hull, but nobody was home. Our boat was about to crash into another catamaran, so he urged those owners to wake up and together they fended Irie off just in time to prevent any damage. Then, Nicholas contacted the marina staff, who – begrudgingly because of the late hour – towed our boat to another mooring ball, where she stayed until A19 was fixed. Then, Philippe and crew put Irie back on that one, with only one line attached. And, he never told us about it!

Despite our initial shock and anger, we realize that mooring balls break. Shit happens! What we don’t understand is how Marina Taina did not take any responsibility for what happened, and how Philippe (“I don’t remember. Moorings break all the time.”) feels totally fine about not telling us anything and about the fact that we could have lost our home (“That’s why you have insurance.”). If the wind had come from the other direction, Irie would have ended up on the reefs. That being sad, we are very grateful that Nicholas saved our boat and that no serious damage was done. Discovering that you almost lost your house and way of life is quite the scare and our good karma for having saved at least three other cruising boats from crashing into shore or heading out to sea during our seven years on the water has been put to the test!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sunny Sights in Tahiti

Last Friday, Mark and I – together with our friends on SV Pitufa – paused the usual chores and boat projects for a day (and yes, we even left our computers alone :-)), to explore a little bit more of the island of Tahiti. In pairs, we hitchhiked to PK 22 (pointe kilométrique 22 – the numbers start counting from the capital Pape’ete clockwise and counter clockwise around Tahiti Nui; the bigger round in the tilted figure 8, which, together with Tahiti Iti makes up the island of Tahiti), where the “Trois Cascades” are located. The four of us reunited near the “mile marker” to follow the short road towards the waterfalls. Once at the site (no fee), it was an easy stroll to each of the three tall cascades. We were the only visitors to take in the serene setting. It was prohibited to swim in the pools (“Beware of falling rocks!”) and the bugs were pretty persistent, so after eating our dressed baguettes for lunch, we walked back to the main road. On the seaside, a blowhole was trying to impress us, but since the ocean was very mellow, we had to do with a soft gurgle and a puff of spray. A roaring sound underneath the road announced every wave; a more interesting observation.

The sun was beating down on us relentlessly, while we waited for another ride, partly back to where we started. A friendly Polynesian man with a big enough car to fit four adults on the back seat stopped and brought us to Point Venus (PK10). Along the way, he bought some fresh local fruit, new to us. It was called pomme d’ étoile and its soft flesh had a nice, sweet flavor to it. Pointe Vénus is a small outcrop of land with a lot of history. It is here that Captain Cook built an observatory to record the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun, in an attempt to calculate the distance between the sun and the earth. The peninsula defines Matavai Bay, where the early European explorers used to anchor. Now, it is a peaceful anchorage bordering a popular and quite attractive black sand beach. A local student on holiday break stopped immediately after we stuck our thumbs out, and dropped us off at the Tahiti Yacht Club in Arue, where Irie and Pitufa are anchored.

On this beautiful and sunny day, we finally managed to see a few interesting sights on French Polynesia’s most famous island, without spending a dime. And, that was most welcome, since all our other recent activities (like our trip to the US, paying higher than expected mooring fees for Irie, ordering a new jib, buying groceries, bringing boat parts back, paying broker fees to “temporarily import our new sail”, …) have been breaking the bank!
 
Polynesian man rowing his outrigger (va'a) towards the sunset

This massive tree in Arue developed roots to support its branches!

Va'as (outrigger canoes) race towards Irie at anchor

Sunset in the bay (Arue)

Walking to the "trois cascades" with Birgit and Christian

Waterfall 1 of the Faarumai falls

Waterfall 2 of the Faarumai falls

Number 3 of the Faarumai falls

Fishing in a calm ocean

Bay along Tahiti's north coast

Arahoho blowhole along the north coast

Va'as high and dry at point Venus

Point Venus lighthouse

Black sand beach (hot!) and Matavai Bay at Point Venus

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Busy Days on Irie


After three and a half months of living on land and accumulating a lot of “goodies” to bring back with us to Tahiti, Mark and I were a bit anxious about returning home to Irie. With four bulging checked bags and three carry-ons, we kept wondering how we would manage to take everything back, on the plane, into French Polynesia, towards the marina and over water to our boat on a mooring ball. And, how would we adjust to the challenging boat life again after all that had happened? All in all, the trips went pretty smooth, except for a small glitch in LA, which had nothing to do with our luggage, but everything with poorly defined computer screens and infrastructure.

Our plane landed in Faa’a (Pape’ete) at 5am, customs was no issue (we didn’t stand out with our cart piled high), we arrived by taxi van at marina Taina at 6am, where a friendly cruiser – Bonnie from SV Romany Star – picked us up a half hour later, and let us use her dinghy to bring all our bags to Irie. At 7am on Friday, August 15th, we were officially back home. Irie was in decent shape for having been in the tropics this long without us, thanks to some of our cruising friends. Her waterline was very filthy, a whole foot up from the water surface, because of the big swell and chop and the scum passing through in this area. Her decks were gross with the city’s particles falling out of the sky. The bimini was ripped in a few places. All to be expected.

Our biggest surprise came when we looked forward of the bow and found only one mooring line attached - running from one bow to the other, highly non-recommended and something experienced cruisers would NEVER do, because of chafe, let alone the fact that Irie was sitting on top of the ball and the line was rubbing underneath the boat taking all our new bottom paint off! – while we had left our floating home secured by two mooring lines in the safest and best positioned way, and a “back-up” line in the middle! None of our friends had anything to do with this set-up, so the mystery remains unsolved… Why would a stranger get on our boat and replace a perfectly safe and well-prepared situation with one that can cause damage and loss of our boat?

But, Irie was safe and sound (and still there!), so we got to work immediately. By 10am all the bags were unpacked and all the contents stored somehow. A short nap followed. In the afternoon, Mark fixed the outboard engine which was seized from laying on its side for so long, still containing salt water. And, we got the little motor – our lifeline to shore - running again. Our old toilet seat was replaced and a broken burner as well. When it was time to cook, another problem arose. The solenoid for our propane stove didn’t work anymore. Luckily, a new one was found easily (we love our spare parts!) and an hour later, we could make dinner. On Saturday, we both jumped into the water early and cleaned the nasty waterline, while the bay was relatively calm. Good idea, because by noon, the usual choppy waves had arrived. The afternoon was spent searching for healthier food options in the Carrefour supermarket and stocking the boat up with groceries. By the end of the weekend, we had paid our hefty mooring fees, bought a few more odds and ends, had both diesel engines running smoothly, and moved anchorages.

Following the advice of our cruising friends Birgit and Christian on SV Pitufa, we motored two hours north, to arrive in the comfortable anchorage of Arue, where we used our new chain for the first time. Happy to be at anchor again and not bounce around anymore, we enjoyed the new surroundings and figured out a way to obtain decent internet (by paying lots of money and having a great WiFi product!), which kept us entertained for the rest of the day. When the sun set at 5:45pm, a local woman onshore kept yelling at us to move. We promised her to do so first thing in the morning, since it was getting dark quickly and we couldn’t see the reefs. But, she did not let up, screaming and urging us to move NOW. So, against better judgment, we upped anchor and plopped ourselves in the middle of other anchored boats, only to have to move again later on, when the wind shifted and we were too close to our neighbors. No surprise there… This was the first time we were approached in such an unfriendly and inhospitable way by a Polynesian resident!

We met up with our friends on Pitufa after many months of having different experiences and adventures, and the chores on Irie continued: scrubbing the decks, cleaning the roof to be able to collect rainwater again, installing a new accumulator tank, changing the oil in both engines, and performing other engine maintenance. We have much more cleaning to do and a new jib (head sail) is waiting for us. It’s good to be back on Irie! :-)

Leaving Boston by plane
 
Approaching Los Angeles

Moorea still beckons in the distance... Soon!

Replacing the solenoid at nightfall to be able to cook dinner

Scrubbing the waterline - the sea was very clear that morning; we saw the bottom in 70ft of water

The new toilet seat (bought in the US) matches the new pump I brought from Belgium earlier this year

Sunset over Moorea

Locals playing around on a home built raft

New Zealand mussels and Tahitian beer - life is good!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wrapping Things up in the USA


When Mark and I returned to Newburyport, MA from our “little” road trip to North Carolina, we had less than two weeks to get ourselves and all our luggage ready and prepared for our trip back to Tahiti. And to relax a little bit after the intense “cancer” months and before settling into the boat life again. We shopped some more online and in stores, we watched the fireworks concluding Yankee Homecoming, we helped Mark’s brother Tim move his boat Silhouette downriver, and a week later we went for a great sail on her with Tim’s family. Both times, Mark and I were very happy to be on the water again – we felt Irie’s call! There was a farewell family dinner at Carol and Stan’s place, we spent more time with the adorable twins Cera and Lily, and, unfortunately, we had to say “goodbye” to dog Oliver, who suffered from a rare cancer. He was only five years old and will be missed!

Mark’s mom Carol treated me to my first pedicure, which was an interesting, but relaxing experience and another family reunion consisted of meeting up with Mark’s niece Chelsea in the cute inn and restaurant “Publick House”, a two hour drive away. We also saw our friends Lisa and Scott again for a fun evening in Amesbury. In between, we took advantage of the reliable internet service and the hot, pressurized showers, before we would be without. On our last day in the States, we managed to fill four bags as checked luggage and three pieces of carry-ons! And then, it was time for the long flights back to Tahiti and to come home to Irie!

Fireworks in Newburyport

Merri-Mar Yacht Basin (owned by the helpful and friendly Jay and Deb), from where we moved SV Silhouette

Mark's dad Stan weaving a Nantucket basket

My first ever pedicure (I enjoy trying "everything" at least once)- the color was supposed to be a little bit lighter, though; ooops

Days of hot weather and then all of a sudden... yes, that is hail!

Giving some extra love to sweet Oliver
 
And, to smiley Cera

Lily and Cera with the pearls we brought them from the Gambier Islands in the Pacific - although they are more interested in a pretzel as of now!

Family dinner at Stan and Carol's

Niece Jo and Liesbet

Kristen giving some of her deliciously made blueberry pie to Lily

Feeding baby girl Lily onboard Silhouette

Choppy channel into the ocean

Mark and Jo at the helm

Silhouette under sail - it felt great to be on the water again!

Our nieces Suzy and Jo on the bow

Mark's brother Tim enjoying his boat

Mark, captain of boats and oceans!

Ordering superb pizzas with Scott and Lisa at "Flatbread" in Amesbury

And finishing off the night with a yummy dessert, while I still could!

Liesbet, Mark, Stan, Carol, and Chelsea at the Publick House in Sturbridge, MA

Back home in Tahiti!!!