Tag Archives: gambiers

Our New to Us Parasail

Downwind Passage: Gambiers to Hao

After we left Rikitea, we headed to Taravai for one last visit with our friends Herve, Valerie, Alan and Ariki.  We needed a day of rest before our downwind passage. Plus, it is a good excuse for a beach BBQ and volleyball.  Stefan had left us with several fish that we cooked up on the grill along with chicken and lots of sides.  We loaded up on my tasty fruit from Herve’s garden and wore ourselves out with a few volleyball games.

Our friends on Sea Jay (Fred and Chris) and on Hoodoo (Yanell and Missy) were planning on heading to Hao in the Tuamotus as well.  It’s funny as we are all American catamarans and we all left at the same time.  Strange coincidence.

Leaving Gambiers

We got up early to begin our 3.5/4 day downwind passage.  But evidently, not as early as Sea Jay and Hoodoo.  They left about an hour before us right after dawn.  I had to stop to enjoy the beautiful sunrise and give a proper goodbye to this amazing archipelago that has been so good to us.

We left at 0700 and could see our friends up ahead of us with their head-sails.  Sea Jay is in the front with a large spinnaker and Hoodoo is just behind them with their parasail.  Hoodoo is a 38’ Leopard whereas Sea Jay is a 50’ St. Francis custom boat.

We started out flying our large spinnaker.  This is our largest downwind passage sail and reaches from the top of our mast to the waterline.  She is very colorful with blues, green and pink.  We can fly her in light winds up to about 10-12 kts.  She is an asymmetrical kite which means we cannot actually go directly down wind.  We have to go slightly off course to fly her.  But the good news is that the weather forecast had us going east off the rumb-line anyway.

Our Large Spinnaker

Our Large Spinnaker

In the middle of our first night we had shifty winds and big seas.  We were seeing 3 meter seas in 8-10 second intervals.  Good that there was plenty of time between waves, but bad because they were large seas.  The wind picked up, as it usually does late at night.  We decided to do a sail change.  We took down the large spinnaker and put up the parasail (another downwind passage sail).

Our New to Us Parasail

Our New to Us Parasail

New to Us Sails

Reminder…last February, in Nuku Hiva, we purchased two “new to us” downwind sails.  A small spinnaker and a parasail.  We had never flown the parasail before – well except one time in the lagoon when we taught ourselves how to set and take down while sailing in the lagoon.  The small spinnaker is about the same size as our small spinnaker which is in need of repair.

First 24 hours of passage down

In the first 24 hours we managed to fly 3 head sails (large spinnaker, small new spinnaker, and the parasail) and our jib.  In other words we were up most of the night doing sail changes trying to accommodate the wind and ensure we do not overpower the sails and blow them out.

We caught up to Hoodoo within a few hours and then lost them from view a few ours later.  Sea Jay kept to the rumb-line (direct path from Gambiers to Hao) and we veered east.  We lost them on AIS and out of view by sunset.  Lucky for us we have communication via our satellite systems.  Great first day of our passage. 

  • Miles Sailed:  136
  • Miles to Go:  324
  • Max Speed: 9.7kt
  • Average Speed: 5.4kt

Day 2 of our Downwind Passage

We started our day changing back to the small spinnaker as we had winds of about 15-16kts and 3-meter seas.  This sail can hold its shape a little better in higher winds.  We did do a few sail changes to accommodate a pending storm, but came back to the small spinnaker.  This is a really pretty blue spinnaker that dances just above our bow sprit.

Our New to Us Small Spinnaker

Our New to Us Small Spinnaker

We were both tired today as neither one of us got much sleep the first night of this passage.  A few naps and an attempt to fish all day netted zero fish on board.  Maybe tomorrow.  We did have several birds stop by for a visit.

  • Miles Sailed:  153
  • Miles to Go:  171
  • Max Speed:  11.5kt
  • Average Speed:  5.7

We had an expensive day today.  We were flying the “new to us” small spinnaker while the winds were blowing 12-14kts with no problem.  All of sudden we heard a “pop” and down went the sail. It tore from the top all the way down the seam to the clew.  Crap.  Into the water like a heavy water logged fishing net.  Of course, we had multiple fishing lines out as well. First things first, reel in the lines, then secure the sail that was remaining on board.  We determined that most of the sail was under the port hull so we started the starboard engine and put it in reverse.  This caused the sail to float in front of the boat (instead of under).

We successfully got the entire sail onboard and stowed it.  We will have to take it out while at anchor to see what happened.

Photos taken once we got to shore.  We think the rip started from a small tear on the leading edge and under pressure tore straight across all of the panels near the top.  

Small spinnaker ripped

Small spinnaker ripped

Once the top portion was separated from the bottom it ripped the bottom opposed leading edge off from the seam.  This second rip happened while we were trying to secure the boat and get the sail down.

After that big blow out we were a little gun shy to fly another head sail.  So, we decided to raise the main and fly the jib.  However, we could not get the main up past the first reef.  After a diagnosis, we discovered the main halyard (the 100-meter line that lifts and lowers the 300lb sail) had a section where the cover had separated from the inner coil.  It does not decrease the strength of the line but it did prevent us from raising and lowering the main.  Since it is pitch dark out we will have to fix this in the morning.

Passage Day 3

The next morning, Matt was able to sew the lower portion of the main halyard but he could not reach the top portion until we lower the sail.  It will need to be replaced when we get to Tahiti, Argh!

The winds have shifted to the East and the swell has gone down to 2-2.5 meters which is a nicer ride.  The skies are blue and the sun is out.  Would be nice if we could get a little more wind to fly the head sail.

Passage Day 3.5-4 

We decided to slow the boat way down after we realized we would not make it in time to enter the pass during slack tide (when there is little to no incoming or outgoing current and swell).  So, we dropped the main and reefed the jib to avoid having to drift once we arrived.

Why is it that you go “fastish” when you want to go slow and you go slowish when you want to go fast?  As it turned out we arrived at the pass at 2200 which meant we had to circle or drift for the next 11 hours.  We ended up drifting about 8nm out, came back and went out again.  Waiting for sunrise and slack tide. 

Hoodoo arrived around 0500.  Then we both drifted until 0900 for slack tide.  Entering the pass is always a challenge as you never know what you are going to get.  Hoodoo was closer so they went first and we followed.  We both saw about a 3.5kt outgoing current which was not terrible.  It was in fact rather easy with auto pilot steering the boat.

Arrived and Tied Up

Sea Jay helped Hoodoo tie up and then they all helped us.  Love this community!  The last time we were tied up to a dock, where we could walk off the boat to shore, was back in Costa Rica after our lightning strike (over 2.5 years ago).  This will be a treat!

Tied up at Hao Basin

Tied up at Hao Basin

A small mono, Queen B came in the day after we arrived (they left the same day we did but it took them 36 hours longer than us).  They decided it was best for them to squeeze in between Hoodoo and our boat.  We had told them they could medmoor (stern tie to the wall) yet they squeezed their entire boat sideways in.  It took both Hoodoo and us to secure them and a few choice words.  They are French – nothing else needs to be said!

Here is a link to another boat’s passage from Gambier to Hao.

Not the ideal downwind passage we had hoped for, but we made it safely.

This post was written in May 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Rikitea – Parting is Such a Sweet Sorrow

We decided to spend a week in Rikitea which is the main anchorage of Mangareva.  Typically, we try to avoid staying in this anchorage for that length of time because it is often crowded with other cruising boats.  However, it is the main island with the only village and we needed to get a few things done like fixing our alternator plate and provisioning.  As a bonus we would have time to spend with our local friends who live in the main village.

The Rikitea anchorage was crowded with over 30 boats.  In addition, we were hit with a maramu (storm) which brought rain, high winds, rolly waves, and cold weather.  But there is always lemonade to be made with those lemons.

Rikitea Rrewards

Rikitea Rewards

We hung out with our local friends Stefan and Manu a lot.  They have baby goats that needed constant feeding and cuddling.  I signed up for that chore.  I dragged Missy and Yanel (HooDoo) along to help out.

Stefan's Baby Goats

Stefan’s Baby Goats

Polynesian Party Sugar Shack

We invited Stefan, Manu, and Popo back onboard Sugar Shack for the weekend.  We had planned on sailing to another island, but bad weather made it a weekend at anchor in Rikitea.  Dada and his two kids came for dinner and brunch the next day but did not stay the night like the others.  Our local friends brought an immense about of food and showed us how to prepare meals Polynesian style.

Tangled and Twisted

One day during our 10-day stay in Rikitea we had a particularly hard blow (gusty winds).  It whipped us around and close to a float.  We watched it and felt that we were far enough away to avoid getting tangled.  However, when we woke the next morning, we discovered the ball wrapped around the chain and the bridle.

We could not do anything about it as the winds were howling and the seas were a large.  We finally get a calm day with no wind and no swell a week later.

Matt starts to pull up the chain only to realize that it is not one float, but many.  In fact, it looks like we hooked the entire pearl float farm!  These shots were taken from the bow looking down.


We had to tie a secondary line to raise the chain since the floats were all tangled.  Of course, I got the line all messed up and it over rode onto itself.

Matt hops back in the dinghy to try to figure out this mess.  5 balls, tons of line and everything tethered to a big cement block at the bottom of the 16-meter Riketea anchorage.

After several hours, we finally came to the realization that we could not detangle this mess without getting the hooka or dive gear out.  Our friends on Hoodoo have a dive compressor and offered up one of their dive tanks. 

Diving the Tangled Web

The good news about having to dive this mess in Rikitea is that we get to check out Matt’s dive gear which has not been in use for a awhile.  Matt got all his gear on and went down under.  It took him well over an hour to remove everything including 6 floats, a pear net, half dozen lines in various widths, and 3 pearl floats anchors.  It appears Gambiers did not want us to leave either.

And we are now free to leave Rikitea.

Smack, Crack, Fall. Alternator Down

This post is a long time in the making so bear with me.  It all started back in mid-February 2020 when we were trying to leave the Marquesas.  One alternator decided it did not want to be attached to the engine…

We rose early on the morning that we planned to leave for the Gambiers.  Not because we wanted to leave early, but because we anchored on top of another boat’s anchor.  We had to start the engines and move our boat forward so they could safely retrieve their anchor.  Not a big deal, but an early morning.

The Bay of Virgins (in the Marquesas) is a gusty little devil, with katabatic winds coming down the valley.  All good, took a while but we were able to maneuver out of the other boat’s way without dislodging our anchor.

While Matt waited for the other boat to sort out their anchor, he heard a loud clunk.  Sort of a smack, crack, clunk.  He figured I had opened or closed a bilge or something.  But, no, not me.  He did not mention it to me right away so I was clueless.

A few hours of going over the forecast and future forecast, we finally decided to get going.  As usual the “pre-flight engine checks” were in-order.  This time a surprise of all surprises. 

Surprise Surprise

When Matt opened the port hatch to the engine room, he saw the auxiliary alternator that charges the house batteries, was missing in action.  WTF?  This is a 50lb, white alternator.  It’s a hard thing to miss. 

The belts were not on the front of the engine.  Turns out the engine mount that holds the heavy alternator gave out, ¼ steel plate broke right off.  The plate that holds the alternator is also part of the engine mount.  So, when we go to fix it we will have no use of the port engine. 

Pretty sure that was the smack, crack, clunk, sound he heard earlier.  Guess we will be looking for a welder in the Gambiers.

Project on Hold

A week after we arrived in the Gambiers, we attended a Sunday Funday BBQ in Taravai where Matt was able to ask several people about local welders.  It appears there are two people who have the tools and capabilities.  One cruiser had something welded by the main group of welders and he was not impressed with their work.  The other is a friend of a friend that we would have to hunt down.

Looks like we will put this project on the back burner for a few weeks.  This is a secondary alternator that is used to charge the house batteries.  So, without it we just have to use the Starboard secondary alternator to charge the batteries.  We have 4 alternators (two for the engines and two for the house batteries).

Lucky Break

Fast forward past some down time, then the corona virus 45-day quarantine, and we are at 3 months later.  Our friends on Storm Along have a metal boat and Niels is a welder with all the welding equipment. He has agreed to help us out if we can get some extra steel for the support brackets.

We come up with a game plan.  Matt and I need to find some steel to reinforce the plate in three sections.  Then we will meet Nils on the beach to weld the plate back together.  Now, to find some steel.

Stefan to the Rescue

Fast forward a few more weeks and we are back in the anchorage of Rikitea in Mangareva.  We asked our local friend Stefan if he knows anyone who can do some welding for us.  He works at the school which has professional technical training and we heard they teach welding.  He asked what we needed and to our great surprise he had all of the tools, equipment, steel, and supplies.

Stefan cut three pieces of steel to Matt’s specifications.  The triangle will be welded to the vertical and horizontal pieces.  The long flat bar will be welded between the alternator plate and the engine plate on the bottom. The short flat bar will be welded between the same two plates but on top.

Welding Begins 

We met Niels at the beach with all of equipment.  We used our 220v Honda Generator for power.  It worked great for the grinding and for short welds.  Niels was able to make the initial weld holding the two pieces together.  Then Niels and Matt started off by grinding the pieces for a better weld.

Then the boys attach the first support bracket across the bottom of the two plates.  The image below shows them testing placement, then grinding the bar, then Matt holds it in place for initial small welds and then Niels tries to do a long weld.

Unfortunately, the Honda generator was not strong enough to power the welding equipment which required a 100 amps (at 220volts).  Looks like we need a Plan B.

Plan B

We visit the local “Commune” where the islands has most of its machinery and a welding shop (the place mentioned above that did not do such a good job for another sailor).  They graciously allowed us to use their power to complete our job.

Commune Building in Rikitea

Commune Building in Rikitea

Matt got to grinding the remaining parts while Niels welded.  Perfect set up to complete our project.

The welding was complete about 90 minutes later.  The big ugly weld was not Neils but the previous weld we had done in St. Lucia.

Next, Matt sprayed a anti-corrosion paint and two coats of Volvo green paint to match the engine.

Project done!