Author Archives: Christine

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Easter Celebration

Easter Celebrations in Gambier

We celebrate Easter Polynesian style in Gambier.  I join my friend Poerani (the English teacher in Gambier) at St. Michael’s church.  Several days before Easter we peek in the church and see them creating magnificent floral arrangements.

Easter floral arrangements

Easter floral arrangements

They are both beautiful look at and smell amazing.  The kind of smell you want to roll around in!  The church always leaves the windows and doors open.  However, it is always super duper hot once the population fill the pews.  I decided to sit near the side door so I can get a breeze and escape if I get too hot.  Lucky for me it was not a particularly roasting day and there was a decent breeze.

Easter services at St. Michael’s church meant that the entire church was decked out.  Flowers on the pews and the vestibule covered in a pretty pale yellow.

Easter at St. Michael's Church

Easter at St. Michael’s Church

They had about 20-25 people singing and several others on instruments.  The songs were in both French and Mangarevan which did not help me at all.  A large screen displayed the words but by the time I figured out how to say one word, they were twenty words down the road.  But I enjoyed it none the less.

I had to use my imagination a lot and did my best to remember Easter services back in the states.  With everything in French there were few words I understood.  But it felt good to participate.

Afterwards, Matt met us for Easter lunch at Poerani’s house.  She went crazy with lunch.  She served a huge leg of lamb, rice and corn, and a gratin plantains.  After two bottles of wine and lots of food we waddled back to the boat.

A truly wonderful Easter celebration

Events from this blog took place on 4 April 2021.  Yes, we are very behind on our blog postings because the internet is 2G in Gambier. At least they are coming out 🙂 

Rainbow across Mangareva

A Community Coming Together

A nightmare = getting injured in remote places.  A blessing = a community coming together.  Do you remember how the United States pulled together and stood as “one” a truly “united” country after 911?  Where you were proud to help your neighbor and proud to be an American?  I had that same feeling again (on a much smaller scale) with our local community here in Gambier.

Several boats were anchored near a small uninhabited motu called Tauna (pronounced Towna) which is about 7-8 miles from the main village of Rikitea.  It takes a sail boat about 2-2.5 hours to get from Tauna to Rikitea. 

A father of two girls was up early to foil board (kite boarding on a foil).  He fell near his boat and was stung by a jelly fish.  The father, now patient, had a severe allergic reaction.  His friends brought him on his sail boat where he was ferociously vomiting and in extreme pain.

Sugar Shack was located in Rikitea.  We first heard about the incident on our hand-held VHF radio.  However, we only heard bits of the conversation because our handheld was not strong enough to receive the transmission.  We turning on the ship VHF because it has a larger antenna and we could hear better.  Not expecting to be able to do anything – just being curiously nosey.

The Help

Eve from “Auntie” was visiting us on Sugar Shack during this time which was around 0830.  Nathan, a 14-year old boy on a neighboring yacht in Tauna, hailed us on the VHF (thank goodness we switched to the ship VHF). He asked if the physician was in at the clinic.  Their plan was to bring the patient to Rikitea on their sail boat, which would take 2-2.5 hours.  That’s a long time to be in severe pain.  As I am communicating with them, Eve flags down a panga with 75hp outboard (super-fast).  The men on the panga are part of the pearl farm community, we did not know them.

We were able to communicate the medical emergency using broken French.  The panga had a dozen empty water jugs and a cooler in their panga.  These items had to be removed and were quickly unloaded onto Sugar Shack. Matt jumped in with them to take them to take them to the patient at Tauna.  The plan was to load the patient and bring him back to Rikitea in the panga.  The panga can make this route in 15-minutes vs the 2-2.5 hours in a sail boat.  Of course, this is in the midst of a rain storm and the arrival of the supply ship.  But our community did not waiver. 

With Matt on the way to the patient, I convey to Nathan (who is on a boat near the patient’s boat), that they should not head this way in their sail boat.  I told him that a panga was on the way and will transport the patient and his family to the hospital.

Community

The community jumps into action.  I call my friend Stephan (local) and ask him to help me secure to take the patient from the dock to the hospital.  He calls his friend at the gendarmerie (local police) and tells me they are on standby to help.

Another cruiser went to the hospital to tell the doctor a patient with a severe allergic reaction to a jelly fish sting was coming in and to be on standby.

And yet another cruiser went to the dock to wait for the panga to arrive to help load the patient into the vehicle.

In the meantime, it is still raining, the dock is getting more and more crowded in anticipation of the supply ship and we have no way to reach the panga to tell them we made transport arrangements on shore.

The VHF and the SSB are constantly in use as Sugar Shack becomes the central hub for all communications.  We end up using the SSB radio to communicate with the boats in Tauna and use the VHF to communicate with shore.  The community was calling me on three different VHF channels and the SSB trying to solidify arrangements.

About an 45 minutes after they left, I see the panga on the horizon and call everyone into action.  It worked seamlessly.  The transport and gendarmerie met them at the dock and rushed him to the waiting physician who was able to treat him and get him stable.  He was released and feeling much better within 5 hours.

What Happened?

Once the patient was onboard his boat, he would not stop vomiting.  He was in extreme pain.  The patient’s wet clothes were removed just before the panga arrived.  He was laying on the floor of his boat as they helped change him.  This caused tremendous pain and his breathing became labored. His breathing was so bad that he almost stopped breathing.  They gave him an epi pen injection which helped tremendously.

As the patient and his family were coming to Rikitea, one of his friend’s was hanging his swim trunks.  He found a 3’-4’ barb / tentacle inside the patient’s shorts.  They called me to tell the physician and family.  Yikes!

The Outcome

The patient had massive welts all across his belly.  The same panga brought him back to his boat and he was resting by evening. 

The rain finally stopped and the community was able to retrieve packages, water, propane, and fuel from the supply ship with no delay.

The local community and the sailing community reacted quickly, efficiently, and professionally.  It was one team coming together to provide aid and care for this human.  It was so fulfilling to be a part of this community.

I did not have an opportunity to whip out my phone to take any photos which is why there are none for this blog.  Imagine that?

Events from this blog post occurred on 9 February 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Sweetie back from the spa

Dinghy Spa for Sweetie

Our sweet 20-year-old dinghy has had a slow leak for a few months.  However, she has required air 2-3 times per day over the last few weeks which is simply unacceptable.  One it is annoying and two it is not good for the velcro holding the chaps (chaps=sunbrella dinghy cover).  We decided it was time to take Sweetie out of the water. 

Getting Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack

Our Yamaha 25hp outboard is a beast weighing in at 50 kilos (110lbs).  Way too heavy and awkward to lift by ourselves. We used the main sheet and the boom to hoist the outboard over the transom (stern of the boat).  Matt was in the dinghy, in the water, holding the outboard steady as I hand cranked her up over the lifelines.  She is secured on the stanchion while we work on the dinghy.

Next, we had to find out how to get Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack.  Matt decided it was best to copy our monohull friends. Using the spin halyard that comes from the top of the mast, hoist her over the side of the boat.  Our dinghy is an Avon rib with a hard bottom.  She weighs in at 82 kilos (180lbs) and is 3.4 meters in length (without the outboard).  Matt cranked this time raising the main sheet as I attempted to keep the dinghy off the side of the boat and over the life lines.  Once onboard and safely resting on towels (to prevent scratching the deck), we deflated her.  She looks so sad.

Dinghy deflated and sad

Dinghy deflated and sad

She IS 20-years old which is remarkably old for an inflatable dinghy.  We’ve been very happy with her and hope to get a few more years out of her before having to buy a new one.

Patching Sweetie – Slow Leak

One day while snorkeling, we noticed a leak on the port side bow (just below the attached line hold). The valve cover also has a slow leak.  It was time to repair them. But first, Matt took dish soap and water to the entire dinghy to see if he could find any other leaks.  Luckily those were the only ones that were found.

The pontoons are made of Hypalon (it like a heavy-duty rubber).  Matt had purchased specific glue made for Hypalon.  Unfortunately, it was a few years old and had dried up making it unusable.  Of course!  You try to be prepared by purchasing necessary items in advanced – but it doesn’t always work out.  Instead, he used G/Flex waterproof, flexible glue which we had used before.  Matt cleaned the area, applied the glue to the patch, then applied the patch to the dinghy, and added weight to it.  Now we wait 24 hours until it is dry.

The valve leak repair is only temporary as we are waiting for our new valve covers to come from the States.  We need a visitor (or as we like to call them “pack mules” – you know who you are :).

The first image shows the exposed or weak area causing a leak.  The upper right photo shows the glue during with “weight” and the last is the new patch.

Patching a slow leak

Patching a slow leak

Sealing Up another Leak

Our dinghy has a false floor.  The floor inside the dinghy is a flat surface and is called the “false floor.”  Which is great as the “V” shape floor makes it hard to stand, walk, keep your gas tank, and groceries flat and dry.  Back to our false floor.  Between the false floor and the actual bottom of the dinghy is a space that would periodically fill up with water.  Not a big deal as you simply pull the plug to drain it (see bottom right photo with 2 plugs).  The top plug drains water out of the dinghy (above the false floor) and the bottom plug drains water between the false floor and the bottom of the dinghy.  But how did the water get in there?We also would get water in our forward locker where we stow our dinghy anchor chain, tools, and inflate pump.  Everything can get wet, but they rust and make a mess.  How did water get in there?

With Sweetie out of the water we are able to explore all possibilities.  Matt decided to remove the tow eye (bracket) in the front of the bow that holds our painter (long line that we use to tie the dinghy up).  He noticed that it was not sealed properly which is not a surprise considering it is 20-years old.  It appears that water was getting in through these two holes filling up the bow locker and the space under the false floor – ah ha!

Photo: top right is the bow locker.  Top photos show the holes that hold the tow eye.  Bottom row shows the tow eye out and then secured back in place with new sealant. 

Sealing a leak at Tow Eye

Sealing a leak at Tow Eye

Gluing Velcro to Hold the Chaps

Sweetie has a blue dress that covers her pontoons to keep them safe and last longer.  The dress, aka “chaps” have been sewn and patched several times over but are still in good working condition.  The chaps are attached to Sweetie using velcro.  The velcro is stitched to a small strip of Hypalon which is then glued to the dinghy.  Glue adheres better when it is Hypalon to Hypalon. Part of this strip needed all new velcro.  No small task as the thread/stitching is smothered in glue.  After a few hours of picking, I was able to remove the old velcro and stitches.  The new velcro was stitched to the strip which was then glued back on to Sweetie.

The top image shows the old velcro (white) just above the rub rail. The new velcro (black) was sewn on to the strip of Hypalon which was then glued on to the pontoon (bottom photo)

Re-attaching the velcro strip

Re-attaching the velcro strip

RE-ATTACHING THE RUB RAIL

Every dinghy has a rub rail as the rub rail takes a beating to protect the pontoons.  It is not us ramming into things, but rather the dinghy bumping against docks while we are at shore.  Also, the glue loses its adhesiveness when the dinghy deflates as there is no pressure holding the rub rail to the pontoon.  So, we had to do lots of gluing with special epoxy to get the rub rail back in place.

Attaching the rub rail to the dinghy

Attaching the rub rail to the dinghy

SCRUB AND SHINE

The last part of Sweetie’s spa day is a scrub and shine.  I know she looks really disgusting with the green growth, but I have to tell you this is nothing compared to most dinghy bottoms.  However, this is bad for us and for our dinghy.  It is really difficult to clean her bottom as she has to be out of the water.  Our dinghy and outboard are too heavy to lift by ourselves unless we bring her on deck which is a huge ordeal.

It takes a lot of muscle and several products to clean the growth off.  We use “On Off,” bleach, and soap and water.  Some of the products we can only use on the hard-bottom surface while others we can only use on the Hypalon.  I’m pretty darn pleased with how she turned out.  The hard-bottom is white again and the green, black, and brown spots are done.

Bottom of dinghy scrub and shine

Bottom of dinghy scrub and shine

Fiberglass Repair

The hard bottom of the dinghy was a little banged up.  Partly from us dragging her on to the beach and partly just wear and tear.  So, Matt added some fiberglass and epoxy to some of the worn areas.  Almost good as new.  Top left photo is the “before picture” and bottom right is “after.”

Fiberglass repair

Fiberglass repair

After a week on the deck, she was finally ready to go back in the water.  Lucky for us, we did not need our “car” while at our current anchorage.  We swam to shore a few times. Remember, Sugar Shack is our home and our dinghy is our car to get from our home to everywhere else.  Putting the outboard back on the dinghy.  Matt tried a new method using a dynema line and 3:1 purchase which reduced the rubbing and pressure on the main sheet and boom.

Putting the outboard back on the dinghy

Putting the outboard back on the dinghy

It was really good to be mobile again. 

Sweetie back from the spa

Sweetie back from the spa

Dinghies can be very expensive so it is in our best interest to make our little girl last as long as possible.  Check out new dinghy rates.

Events from this blog post occurred during the month of January 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.