Only a two night crossing from Rangiroa to Papeete, Tahiti, no problem, right. WRONG again. Truly amazing how quickly things can change. We were in dead calm conditions, almost like being in the doldrums. Then out of no where the winds pipe up at 11 PM to up to 30 knots and the seas along with it… Of course is pitch black with no moon and no way to see which way the seas are coming from. What a ride, made the crossing which was only two nights seem like 22 nights. We lost touch with our friend Jonathan, still haven’t reconnected but I’m sure he’s ok. I think.
Now a word from Cap’n Rick: One of the smartest things I did before leaving Dana Point (far away and a seemingly long time ago), was to install AIS (Automatic Identification System which all commercial vessels are required to have). You sometimes wonder will all the safety, trick stuff you install before such a voyage as this will pay off. Well AIS did, big time. I knew Papeete would be a busy port, most likely the busiest in the South Pacific. Ships, big and small, would be in and out at all hours of the day. Sure enough, in the roughest part of this very boisterous night time journey, 3 times the AIS alerted us to another ship in our vicinity – heading in or out of our destination port. Two of those were critical.
The AIS icon (an elongated triangle), for the first of the 3 appeared on our chart plotter. Checking the icon tells you their name, identification number, speed, direction, size, destination, CPA (closest point of approach), and time to CPA (closest point of approach). It passed harmlessly off our stern. The second one was coming at us. After plotting his direction, I concluded he was almost exactly 180 degrees from our course or more exactly, we were headed directly for each other. We were about 20 minutes apart – 6 miles. He was traveling at 12 kts. and we at 5 kts. – combined, 17 kts. closing speed and our CPA was now under a mile and lessening – confirmation of the collision course. I checked his course on the radar and put a VRM and EBL on him (variable range marker, electronic bearing line). But it wasn’t precise enough. My calculation from the AIS information had to rule. I turned to port 10 degrees, deciding that turning to starboard would put me across his bow. But turning to port put me into the wind and heavy seas, not good, pitching and slowing Rhino down dramatically. Knowing the ships name (a 170 foot private vessel heading to Hawaii out of Papeete), I called him on VHF. I raised the skipper and explained we were a 32′ sail boat very close to a collision course with him and that I had beared off to port 10 degrees but it was most difficult in the wind and sea conditions to maintain control. I asked him if he could bear off to his port so I could resume my original course (he had seen me, with my AIS, but didn’t seem too concerned – well, at 170’at 12 kts. versus 32’at 5 kts., I guess I understood). He agreed and did so. Whew! problem solved with less than 15 minutes to go. Then, at about 4 AM, there was a vessel heading up from behind us on my starboard quarter at 14 kts. Again, we would directly cross paths (collision) within the hour. It was heading directly to Papeete also. I could turn to port, but same problem as above. It was a 374′ inter-island trader. Again, knowing the ships name from the AIS info, I called the skipper and again explained my situation and requested he turn to starboard about 10 degrees to pass me safely. He would overtake me in about 20 minutes and then could resume his original course. He understood and also agreed to change course. He soon steamed past us and whew, problem solved.
AIS, you got to love it. It gives you the information for immediate contact with a “dangerous” vessel. Much better than trying to contact an unknown vessel by lat and long. If they are properly manning their bridge, they will respond – they know you know EXACTLY who they are. Exhausting night and was glad daylight was coming! Yeah, don’t be jealous or envious of our journey until you try a few nights like this!
When we arrived in Tahiti it was blowing like crazy and we were headed for Taina Marina area to anchor but Rick decided he we would see if a slip was available, which is fine with me. They had one available and told us where to go. Only problem is they are speaking French and we don’t understand French. We get to the spot, they actually send a tender out to help you in, which is a good thing since you have to BACK into the “slip”, which is only a space on a concrete wall between 2 other boats – no side docks. What an ordeal. I was running around on deck with the boat hook trying to keep us off other 2 boats, it was like a comedy. These guys one in the tender and one on the dock are telling Rick in French what to do. Well long story short, we finally backed into the space, we only bumped one of the other boats once – no damage to anyone. Thank you God. So now we’re backed into the dock, how do we get on the dock? We have a wind vane at the stern, so we’re about 5′ away. The guys that helped us get in, place a gang plank across, so now when we get on or off the boat we walk the 8″ gang plank, and it’s not so easy. Especially if you’ve had a cocktail or two and it’s night… So far we’re both dry.
Sleep is a good thing, especially after a crossing. So we checked in at the Marina office came back to the boat, had our mini celebration (I surprised Rick with a bottle of Kettle One, I’ve been saving for a special occasion) that we made it and slept over 10 hours.
We found the laundromat and it’s only $8.00 per load to wash and about the same to dry. Yikes, things really are expensive here. Not much you can do about it, they have a captive audience. So that took almost all day, doing laundry and cleaning up the boat.
Yesterday we were going up to our local pub for happy hour and we ran into The Boys From Holland. So fun to reconnect with the friends we made in Taiohae bay. We were also joined by a few other cruisers that we had met and it turned into a party. I did post a quick picture on Facebook.
Today, Dion and Johan came by Rhino and took us out to the anchorage in their dinghy. Our’s is not in the water because we’re at the dock and don’t really need it. It was fun to go out and see what things look like from there… The anchorage here is big and there are a lot of boats, including some MEGA yachts. In fact Dustin Hoffman’s beautiful, huge sail boat is here and apparently he was here last week. Fun to see how the really wealthy live. Some of them even have helicopters on top, along with smaller boats inside, just amazing to see. Hard to imagine how much money you need to live like that. Anyway, I’ll never know and don’t really care, we’re here just like they are, right? And we did it not as birds in a gilded cage, but close to the water, of our own efforts – no hired hands.
Tonight at our favorite spot, they had the Polynesian dancers and drummers and they put on a really great show and it was FREE.
We’ll be renting a car and checking out the rest of the island very soon.
Thanks again for listening. LAC & Skipper Rick