Wednesday, 17 November 2021

BACK ABOARD TAIPAN. 1st OCT 2021


Our new Swift 3.1m RIB Australian made. Our first one lasted for 15 years.

Previously,
we were Medivaced back to Australia from Tahiti. The process was protracted by Covid and the inevitable delay was frustrating and very stressful. After quarantine and several specialists appointments in Perth, we went back to the farm. David underwent endarterectomy surgery in Perth to clear out a blocked Carotid Artery and 6 weeks later we were given the all-clear to fly to Queensland, and back to Taipan. 

Airlines, more specifically QANTAS pissed us around, canceled our flight, and made no endeavor to recompense us or make an alternative booking so we caved in and took a VIRGIN flight direct to Brisbane on the 29th of September. It was great. Stayed a night at an airport hotel and had a driver take us to BOATWORKS Coomera, near the Gold Coast, the following morning. 


Arrival on the 30th of September and inspection of Taipan left us somewhat deflated, as the extent of the damage and dirt were unexpected. The cleaning and repairs we had entirely underestimated.  Now 6 weeks into it with 2 of those weeks back on the water we are mostly back in shape. The major job was the gearbox, which was ominously empty of oil on inspection. Sure enough, the gears were all case hardened and we had to wait 3 weeks for very costly repairs and new parts. The skipper was very lucky to have made it into port in that condition. 


We didn't get the Gyprock finishing done.
Labour was scarce with the building boom.

A new Swift dingy arrived, having been ordered a month or so earlier. We knew the Walker Bay was stuffed. A useless thing it was! A new mast track was installed for the spinnaker pole, a new boom bag replaced our very shabby 12 year old one. Drive Shaft and Propeller were inspected and the Propeller was re-pitched and Prop Speed applied. New cutlass bearing, flexible coupling, and Dripless Seal were fitted. We replaced the air conditioner we installed in Thailand in 2009, after many years of service it finally died in Tahiti just before we left.  The bottom was in good shape and didn't require a lot of prep as they have a great high-pressure wash down here. 

The Boatworks is an outstanding facility staffed by professionals. The best we have ever encountered in all our travels. Proper stairs to each boat deck. No ladders!! Clean facilities and lovely gardens. The service providers are also excellent, prompt, friendly, and effective. Outstanding amongst them was Rene Airconditioning & Refrigeration and Watsons Engineering. Da Met did the Gearbox restoration. 


BBQ area and Yachtie meeting place.

There are 6 vehicles available for patrons' use. A simple phone call will secure one for up to 3 hours at a time during the week and all weekend if you get in early enough. We have secured a car for all but one of our weekends here and have been able to visit cruising friends in Manly, about an hour's drive north, a couple of times. We took a drive up to Mt Tambourine one weekend for a break from the yard. There is no cost for the car. A donation or fuel in the tank suffices. The laundries are free, there are several decent restaurants and cafes, a gym and beautiful BBQ facilities where we meet most nights.




We are still on the dock at Boatworks but looking forward to moving on to anchor soon. Then we will move north into Morton Bay and Brisbane to catch up with friends.

Boats are a lot of work but you have to do something so it might as well be boat work! David's recovery is complete. He shows no signs of having had a stroke. Counting ourselves very lucky.



Tuesday, 10 August 2021

EMERGENCY IN PARADISE August 11th 2021



COVID has run away with our freedoms and unrelated health matters have caused a major re evaluation of our sailing plans.

Wandering about beautiful French Polynesia for over a year waiting for the end of the cyclone period, (May) we had gone to Papeete to do a few maintenance jobs and prepare to haul out before setting off westward to complete our circumnavigation.

Having a quiet coffee aboard Taipan in the Papeete Marina when David suddenly declared that his left arm was behaving strangely. Good friends, Grahame and Janakie from "Leela" were aboard and we immediately called the ambulance and they helped walk David to the marina gate. Rapid response by Fire Brigade in the first instance, then Ambulance shortly afterwards, meant that David was in the Tahoe Hospital in Tahiti in about 20 minuets and straight into Emergency where they performed many tests and scans and administered drugs. David had suffered a stroke!!! The event was caused by a shower of tiny particles coming loose from plaque in his right Carotid Artery. He was admitted to the Neurology Ward and to cut a long story short spent the next 9 days undergoing treatment and preparing for Medical Evacuation to Australia.


New Zealand Air Ambulance



The Australian Government in the early chaos of the pandemic outbreak closed Australian Borders and forbad Australians from leaving the country. At the same time they prohibited Australian Travel Insurance Companies from renewing, or writing new policies for Australians. Our Travel Insurance Company could not renew our travel insurance so in desperation we took out a little Evacuation and Rescue policy with a company called GEOS for a mere $125 each.


Goodbye Morea

With the Pandemic raging the Evacuation process was protracted. The Australian government had to give permission for us to return and Air Ambulances had to get international permits to enter etc. The whole debacle took 7 days of negotiation to arrange our repatriation to Perth. At A$10,000 a day in the hospital with no medical cover it was altogether a very stressful process I never want to relive. Geos only cover the Repatriation.

On the 28th of March at 700am we were collected by a team from New Zealand Air Ambulance, and aboard a nice little Beechcraft Nexis we were flown to Brisbane, with refueling stops at Nui and Nauru, New Caledonia. There were 2 pilots and an emergency nurse aboard and we touched down at Brisbane at about 4pm after a 9 hour flight in beautiful weather. The whole team were outstanding, caring and fed us amazing food!!!





Customs and Immigration processed inbound clearances and we boarded the Life Flite Ambulance, a Challenger 605: all leather and mirrors apart from the 2 intensive care stretchers. There were 2 pilots, a doctor and an emergency nurse taking care of things. Food was great too! It was the ex-prime ministers plane and let me tell you they don't slum it!! We touched down in Perth at 6pm, Perth time and I was chauffeured off the Hotel quarantine and David was transported by Ambulance to Royal Perth Hospital Quarantine. I don't know what it all cost but we were very grateful to the whole team at GEOS for getting us home. I am never flying cattle class again!!

Queensland Coast. Australia!!

We were extremely lucky to be right in Tahiti. The biggest hospital in the Pacific outside New Zealand right on the doorstep. A highly skilled team of cardiologists and neurologists from France meant David was in very good hands very quickly. Had we been in a remote island anchorage the outcome could have been much different.

Since arriving back we have done the bloody quarantine without catching Covid in the hotel! Corinne and Michael, our illustrious Panama to Galapagos crew, among others were instrumental in making sure we didn't die of starvation in the hotel. David has, after multiple consultations had an Enterectomy. That is, they open the carotid and scrape out the crap and close it all up. Good as new... Well nearly.

After being homeless and imposing on numerous friends and rellies for nearly 2 months we moved back into our farm house in Albany. It took a month or so to catch our breath at this point.

Taipan on the hardstand at Boatworks


Meanwhile back in Tahiti, Taipan was in the capable hands of Paul Stratfold an Australian delivery skipper. Grahame and Janakie spent days previously putting Taipan back together as David had just completed an entirely new Lifepo4 battery installation. There were still some unfinished issues to be tidied up. Between them they returned Taipan to working condition for Paul to take over. Paul agreed to return Taipan to Australia for us and was hoping to come with at least one other crew person. After protracted and frustrating liaison with the Australian Immigration it became apparent that he was going to have to go it alone. The intransigent authorities refused to let his Australian crew leave the  country again to return to Tahiti to his work. If he entered he would be forced to remain. So Paul came from Tahiti to Brisbane, 3500nm, 25 days, alone and was put into 14 days quarantine on arrival!! Taipan had to be anchored in Southport uninsured. There are no facilities for arriving yachts. The marinas are unable to accommodate unless you arrange for a deep clean of the boat and a local delivery skipper to move it to a marina. There are not even any moorings for the quarantine anchorage!!! Paul has since moved Taipan to Boatworks and she's on the hard awaiting our arrival. Covid permitting.


Knocked out a few ceilings walls and a fire place


Life goes on on the farm while we wait for the East Coast to get its sh## together so we can fly to Queensland, pick up Taipan, perform maintenance and set sail for WA. That's on the other side of Australia for the foreigners out there. Australian border rules are going to make it very tricky. Sailing down the east coast to Bass Strait in one hit may be the only option. 860nm south from Southport Queensland to avoid New South Wales which is a Covid disaster area right now and may be closed  till Xmas or longer. To cross the Great Australian Bight we need to be positioned in Bass Strait or South Australia by mid Janurary. Then the Easterly winds will be steady for the run west. The shortest distance is about 480m but that relies on being able to enter South Australia and work west along the coast. The distance doubles if that's not possible. Bloody COVID!!


Raptor. The stump grinder


Goodbye stumps.

Meanwhile on the farm we've knocked out a lot of tree stumps, knocked the gardens back into shape and knocked a few walls and ceilings out of shape. As we speak there are 2 electricians in the roof and a builder fixing stuff and installing a dropped ceiling in the kitchen. Between us we have removed a big old brick chimney and all the interior wall finishes of 3 rooms. The gyprock will be replaced with big loads of insulation behind it. Its been a very cold and wet winter in Albany. The work has been exhausting causing us both to fall into bed knackered each evening. Its a good test of David's strength and recovery.


Roughly the proposed route.



I will update on progress sooner next time.

Farewell beautiful Huahine. FP



Monday, 30 November 2020

CHASING SQUALLS. THERE AND BACK TO SEE HOW FAR IT IS. November 28th 2020

 

Beautiful Avea Bay Huahine. Drone photo by Jocke PerssonFurusten

We're back in Papeete Marina after a 900nm round trip to nowhere! It'd have been OK if it had at least been a successful fishing trip but we didn’t have a single bite. Squalls, of which there were many, were our only source of wind so rather than avoid them we were chasing them. The night squalls were unpredictable as we couldn’t see them without the radar which had decided to go AWOL in spite of having reported for duty prior to departure!. So the trip was main up…furlers out... furlers in..furlers reefed...main reefed…motor on… motor off. Repeat….repeat for 8 days


Trip to nowhere.

Leaving beautiful Tahaa on the 6th of November bound for Australia was a risk we decided to take in order to make it home to WA this year. The cyclone season had commenced, although it's very unlikely a system would develop this early. We planned to make a straight run for Southport on the southern Queensland coast. 3200nm. All our ducks were in a row. We had clearance to arrive in Oz and Quarantine Exemption permission. The new Mainsail and halyard were installed and ready to go sailing. Extra fuel jerrys were filled to get us into the wind, which was possibly as long as 4 days away. 




The first 4 days were predicted to be very light and it fulfilled that prophecy, but we watched in dismay as weather systems develop ahead of us with the potential wind dying and continuing to die ahead of us for the forthcoming fortnight. (The extent of forecasting.) There was a Tropical Depression forecast to develop just at the extreme of the forecast and unless we could make 140nm a day our weather router advised we would be caught in it. With the lack of wind, we couldn’t guarantee 140nm a day motoring for 12 days so 400 miles out we decided to turn around and head back to Raiatea. The only wind we saw on the trip was that night with an unpleasant 20+ over the deck on the nose whipping up a short steep sea in the inevitable counter current. The rest of the return trip was slow and rolly to begin, but settled as we approached Raiatea south pass on Friday the 13th! After a 24hour rest, we decided to head onto Papeete overnight.



The Staysail furler had detached during that first night we turned back and we needed some welding done. In order to get to the tang, we needed to disable the windlass, which meant anchoring was risky. Papeete marina had pens available so on Sunday the 15th we tied up and plugged in the airconditioning!!!



A month previously we had to abort our departure to Oz. When we hauled the anchor, the windlass stopped with the anchor just 4 meters from the deck. So we re-anchored to repair the solenoid failure. When David was packing the main away the aft edge of the sail came away in his hand! We also noticed a wire coming adrift on a forward lower!! Things happen in 3s!  The sail had done 36,000nm and had been on the boat since South Africa 7 years previously. It showed no signs of wear so we were quite dismayed. In hindsight, we did get a very good run out of that sail and it was good to the death. No repairs or money spent on it.  The forward lowers, 7 years old. Not so happy. The windlass solenoid was just 2 years old. Not happy. 




A new sail was ordered from North Sails in South Africa, who built our old and we had it aboard in 3 weeks. An excellent outcome. The shrouds were replaced with new ones made up by Fenua Rigging in Tahiti and flown into Fare, Huahine. While we waited for the new Main we wiled away time in Avea Bay with lots of swimming and snorkelling. "Sea Rose",  Brian and Sue, very old friends from way back in Thailand, caught us there and after a week or so we moved on with them to circumnavigate Tahaa and Raiatea The new sail was shipped over to Huahine from Tahiti and we went back to pick that up and fit it.



Highlights of the circumnavigation of Tahaa and Raiatea were BBQs on deserted Motus, snorkelling the Coral Garden, Rum Distillery, Taputapuatea Mare: a World Heritage site, and a wonderful day upriver at the Botanic Gardens and fruit farm. Excellent company and lots of interesting experiences to fill the days.





Covid numbers increased as tourists and French workers were permitted to re-enter French Polynesia back in May. As I write French Polynesia has the most active cases per head of population in the world. Tahiti is the worst island, closely followed by the remainder of the Society Islands. Extreme vigilance by ourselves and most yachties means that socializing has been quite limited. Our cockpit is not big enough to allow the required social distancing so our friends list as shrunk considerably. 




Taputapuatea The cradle of Ma'ohi civilization Link to more info 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taputapuatea_marae


Some of the beautiful heliconia  and  ginger at the Botanic Gardens
More about Heliconia

We now plan to wait out cyclone season and have another go at it next year. Not such an onerous undertaking. Plans going forward as to our whereabouts are sketchy. Cyclone season here is predicted to be mild with a well developed la Nina. Possibly we will head east again to the Marquesas via the Tuamotos …. or we may just go and hang out in Avea Bay. If you get curious you can always check our map or tracker 


Tuatau anchorage at the south end of Raiatea.


Taipans Anchorages

Taipans Tracker


Meanwhile, we await the completion of a few repairs whilst enjoying some air-conditioning and a little very careful retail therapy and social interactions with a couple of other boats. 

Best wishes to everyone for a jolly ol' festive season wherever you may be. Be safe.



Raiatea Southern End

Andre and his family farm a little further inland and opposite the Botanic Gardens. He welcomes visitors and sells fruits and vegetables in season, as well as providing an interesting free tour.






Cruising Guide by Dream Yacht Charters for Raiatea, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine.


Thursday, 3 September 2020

SAILING THE SOCIETY ISLANDS. PRIVILEGE IN THESE DIFFICULT TIMES 1st September 2020

 


Marae at Huahine

I left you with the news that we were headed from Morea to Tahiti to commence departure planning, implying that we were heading to Australia. This was definitely the plan at the time



Kris n David Island style

So much has already been written about the difficulties encountered around the world during the pandemic but we've been fortunate to be in French Polynesia throughout. We were lucky to not be separated in different countries when I had to fly back to Western Australia in January and then encountered difficulties with my return due to a Visa mix up. An injury forced us to rush to Tahiti from Nuku Hiva, causing us to miss the Tuamotos, a vast cruising area of atolls to the east of Tahiti.



Tracks between Huahine and Raitea Tahaa. 

Subsequent lockdown in Papeete coincided with my back injury recovery and thus didn't inconvenience us much at all. We were able to fit in annual bottom maintenance on the hard before the end of lockdown. We were ready to head out as soon as it was announced that travel within the Archipelago was permitted. 



To stay or to go??

Our first destination was Moorea, just a 15nm west. Then our promised return to Tahiti. By now French Polynesia was totally CV19 free. Everything was normal except the country was closed to the world. Destinations to the west remained closed but there were promising signs of Fiji opening up to yachts.  So we decided to wait it out. With the weather particularly unfavourable because the big southerly systems heading well north this year we were pleased we did. Watching the progress of some boats which chose to head directly to Aus was enough to convince us that waiting was the better option. Added to the long sail, Australias forced Quarantine for all international arrivals without any consideration of sea time was another reason for delaying our departure. 



My ideal beach shack

Australian Border Force regulations count sea time from the last port but Health Authorities in each state has been given the power to impose their own rules. Their stupidity would choke a horse!! One couple spent 35 days alone at sea, nonstop from Tahiti (COVID Free for 2 months), and were forced to quarantine in a Queensland hotel for 14 days. This was not an isolated incident. The rules were not applied consistently and occasionally we would hear of sailors who were not forced to quarantine on arrival. The application of the rules seems indiscriminate which is also very annoying.


Huahine

Our current anchorage is the red spot at the bottom. Avea bay

So here we are, still in French Polynesia, which has opened borders and has CV cases rising. Were are not worried about that so much, as we are fortunate to be able to keep contact to a real minimum. Huahine is located 86nm NW of Morea and we made the overnight passage arriving on July 5th  Huahine has a population of only 6000. There is an excellent supermarket and we try to load up and stay on anchor somewhere remote for weeks at a time.



Taipan is visited by whales in Fare, The small town on Huahine

Our favourite bay, Avea, is at the southern end of the island and it has a long white sandy beach with a few houses and a resort, La Mahana, which also welcomes yachties....  (we don't frequent it now the tourists are back.) The entire island is surrounded by fringing reef providing excellent protection from swell. There's a road right around and not a lot of traffic so maybe the bikes will come out soon. Within the bay and only meters from Taipan is some satisfactory snorkelling in warm clear water where we can happily while away several hours every day. 



Cruisers gathered aboard Taipan for sundowners.

Just 30 miles west is a double island with an enclosed reef Raiatea and Tahaa offer a little more facilities with a couple of marinas and boatyards. There are airports out of most islands except Tahaa which is only a short boat ride from Raiatea airport. A lot of charter boats operate out of Raiatea. From Raiatea to Bora Bora its only 16nm but we've not ventured there yet. It's not a very cruiser friendly destination. No anchoring and quite steep fees for the moorings.



Crystal clear water.

Huahine like most islands has its ancient stone ceremonial sites called Marae. On an afternoon drive with some new friends we met in the resort before the tourists were allowed back we visited some of these sites. They are quite different from the sites in Tahiti. It's incredible to think these huge stones were assembled with no machinery. Lots of slaves I think!. Aside from the Maraes we also visited the Rum distillery in Fare the only town on the island. Chocolate Rum!! Yum

For now, we remain in Huahine and wait to see how the rest of the world, particularly Australia and the countries to the west of us, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, handle the CV situation. Cyclone season commences on Nov 1st which means we have to head directly to Australia or back East and north. Maybe as far as the Marquesas again. 

Watch this space.



Sunday, 7 June 2020

RELEASED FROM THE LOCKUPJune 5th 2020

Tahiti Airport Anchorage towards Morea.

After a very long period of confinement from10th March to 30th of April, we have emerged from hibernation. 

North Coast of Tahiti
Tahiti recorded 60 CV19 cases and one hospitalized with no deaths, so it was very well handled and Tahiti and Morea were the only two islands amongst the hundreds comprising French Polynesia to record cases. An early case in Fakarava was airlifted to Tahiti and didn’t spread and a late case was airlifted to a Tahiti from an Ecuadorian Fishing boat near NukuHiva and the boat was sent back to Ecuador there have been no new cases for about one month. 

Only 1 barnacle!!

The lockdown was pretty similar to most places I think. We had to have ID on us if we left the boat and no stores except essential grocery, fuel, pharmacy, etc only one person was permitted to shop from any lockdown group. There was a special form we had to fill out for every visit ashore which stated place of residence, time of departure, intended destination, etc and two hours was maximum time allowed. No alcohol sales at all. David only made two trips to the grocery. I swam against the wall beside the boat most days as waking was still a challenge. At the end of May they lifted that restriction to sales Monday to Thursday. No weekend sales There was also an 8am to 5 am curfew lifted at the end of April 

That darn ladder!

The first job, once we were let loose, was to get Taipans ass out of the water and replace her cutlass bearing. That’s a tube thingy that fits over the propeller shaft inside another thing and stops it clanking when we have to motor. So while she was out David also splashed some antifoul paint on in an attempt to dissuade critters that like to freeload on boats and in so doing can cause the boat go very slow, dragging all that crap through the water, and we don’t want that.


Technimarine hardstand was very good. Their travel lift team were professional and the yard very clean. Pity about the bathrooms. It’s a high dock, however, so we were forced to remove our forestay to enable the lift to get our keel high enough to clear the edge. Lucky we extended the backstay in the UK which now provides enough thread to loosen it without having to remove it entirely, making removing the forestay, furler and sail intact, a much simpler job now.

Tahiti Graffiti

We stayed aboard for the duration; up Monday and relaunch Thursday and it was ok. This was the last 4 days of full lockdown and everything was very quiet but we were able to get the required supplies for painting etc. My back has improved and the ladder was good exercise.
 
Taipan in Cooks Bay


After launching we took off around the island and tried unsuccessfully to catch a fish on our way to the lagoon and we anchored near the airport with a big group of other stranded yachts. No boats were allowed to move without express permission until Mid May. The Hotel California Cruising Net on VHF each morning was our source of local news and provided entertainment each evening either with Quiz shows, Dingy Raft-Up get together with social distancing or later dingy-in Movie nights with a movie showing on the aft of a big catamaran and everyone snuggled in their dingy. We missed those because we left for Moorea about 14 nm west beforehand to rendezvous with old sailing palls Sal and John Potter on Capal Mara. A good two weeks of catching up saw the total and simultaneous destruction of the cellar and our livers.

Cooks Bay

The anchorage at Cooks Bay, famous for a visit by the good Captain Cook, is a superb anchorage deeply cut into the interior with high mountains each side, and with good fringing reef protection from the sea  We have been here social distancing for three weeks, and with no sign of any of the island groups between 

Excellent restaurant in Cooks Bay

French Polynesia and Australia opening their borders any time soon it has become inevitable that the passage back will be a long one. Cairns is roughly 3700nm from here and that could take up to 30 days if winds are fickle and possibly less if we see good consistent breezes. 


On Sunday we plan to return to Tahiti and start clearance procedures. Stay tuned for departure. You can follow our progress on the Iridium tracking site. It’s live and shows the weather in real-time. See you on the other side 



View into Cooks bay from the back door
Now in Papeete Marina. Tahiti. Waiting for a weather window.