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New Zealand - Tahiti 25.4. - 24.5.2003

updates: 25.4.   3.5.  11.5.  17.5.  24.5.  

25.4.2003 Lyttelton, New Zealand
We should already be going, but there was so much to (f.ex. a pc backup with 9 cds!) that we decided to leave tomorrow, on Saturday. Leaving on Friday would have been bad luck, anyway. Yesterday we enjoyed again the sauna at Pilvio's, and left the house with freshly baked rye bread, some rye flour, and a bunch of computer advice. Thanks Riitta and Ville!

The merry farewell lasagne!

We have 3000 miles ahead to Tahiti, which will take about a month. We try to update the homepage once a week.

3.5.2003 Pacific Ocean 38 S 165 W
We had 40 knots southerlies three first days, and Auli was seasick all the time. Hannu wasn't feeling very good either, and both of us stayed in bunk most of the time, except the two-hour cold night watches wearing winter overalls in +10 C. On the third day we were able to make the first warm meal, rice and tuna (from a can!) - easy to mix in one pot. Despite the faint physical condition of the crew, our spirits were high. The speed was splendid. With bottom reefed main and a little bit of genoa we made 126, 154, 163 and 132 miles the first four days. We knew that we couldn't be that fast for long, so we enjoyed the speed even if our stomacks didn't. The gale blew us from Christchurch at 43 to 40 S.
Then a high came over us and we were rolling with floppy sails in calm. Although we had decided not to motor, with 600 litres diesel it wasn't easy to be patient. Engine on. After 11 hours motoring, it was blowing again. This time from north. We continued our way east.

Soon after we were on the other tack, we could smell diesel inside. The reason was easy to guess: our new tank was leaking from the manushole again. This happened first when we fuelled in Christchurch, and Hannu had to empty the tank, but the tacking filled it again. Fortunately the weather was not bad. We turned around for half an hour, Hannu emptied the tank and blocked the hose. We were angry about the careless job. The tank was also 20 litres smaller than it should be, despite of prompt measurements, and the lid of the manushole was leaking when we first got the tank. It was repaired, but diesel seemed to have done something to the sealant. The whole idea of an extra tank, which is located in the best place in the middle of the boat, was ruined. 

Early morning on the 29.4. we passed the longitude 180 and the dateline, which gave us an extra day. We were thinking which day of our life we'd like to live twice. Should we live yesterday today? Or should we live it on Tahiti? Is today yesterday? Finally the logbook has two Tuesdays of 29.4. At the same time Finland went ahead of us in time. When we celebrated the Eve of First of May with potato salad and sausages, Finland was waking up for 1. of May.
As soon as the wind had calmed a bit, we put out a fishing line, and got a small tuna. So small that it wasn't even weighted. After the sausage meal it was time to get fresh food again. Just when the sun was setting, the brake of the troll was squeaking. There was a 11 kilo tuna, and it became dark before we got it aboard.
During the days albatrosses and storm petrels are amusing us. It's marvellous to follow the giant birds' gliding. According the bird book, we are followed at least by the Wandering albatross and  Pintado petrel, which is easy to recognise because it's white-brown colour. The smaller shearwaters are funny, they occassionally take a few steps on the water surface. For what ever reason, showing up or washing their feet. Only once we have seen whales, a huge flock of pilot whales. We haven't seen any ships or other boats.

The high on our north side is moving slowly, which has kept the northerlies rather steady in 20-30 knots. Occassionally a shower makes wind gusty, but otherwise the sailing has been steady. Wave hight has remained surprisingly low, about 1-2 metres.
We have 700 miles to the "turning point", longitude 150 W. After 8 days we have come 1086 miles. Direct route to Tahiti is 1500 miles.

11.5.2003 Pacific Ocean 31 S 152 W
The past week has been everything but steady winds described in the previous update. It includes three gales and an almost fallen mast.
When the first gale was over, Hannu went out to hoist some more sails. I heard a voice full of disbelief: Auli, the lower shrouds are all loose! Before we had time to think how it is possible, we took down the reefed main and turned the boat down wind. The four lower shrouds are fastened with one 12 mm steel bolt through the mast. We had no time to wonder how a steel bolt this thick can crack, but rather think where to get a new one. The nearest hardware stores were in Papeete 1400 miles and in Rarotonga 900 miles away. Hannu noticed that there was another, similar steel bolt in the mast above the spreaders, having some kind of reinforcing function, but it was possible to take it off. I winched Hannu up to mast again, he couldn't use the steps because there were no shrouds. He got the bolt off and started to replace it. But it was too short, only the other side was possible to fasten with it. Then the nut didn't screw, so he had to come down again and file the worm. All that seemed to take long, too long time. The mast was waving and pumping in the big swell, remains of the gale. And it was still blowing 15-20 knots. The smoke pipe, which was fastened to the mast, came loose, but that was only a good thing, because the pipe had been swinging with the mast making terrible noise. Hannu went up to the mast the nut in his mouth being afraid that he will drop it. He got the windward shrouds fastened and I tightened them right away. The swinging of the mast calmed down. Then we had to think how to fasten the other side. That day we just tied them with a unstrechable spektra-rope, but already the next day there was chafe on the rope. Hannu took a big turnbuckle and made a new construction with that, secured with the rope.

We were a bit worried when the next gale came over, how the rig will take it. But it seemed to be fine. And better so, because the worst was still ahead. A low came suddenly from the north, and we got 40 knot winds over night. No big deal with storm jib and reefed main. But after that we met a real eggbeater, the squash zone between a high and a low, as a kiwi weather guru calls it. We diminished sails with the increasing wind, and finally we were dashing with bare rig 6-7 knots on 5-7 meter high waves. The record was 7,5 knots. We made 140 mails in 24-hours, of that six hours without sails! The wind was from behind, and Kristiina was sailing beautifully, rising her stern on the waves. The autopilot took care of steering, so we had no better to do than to lie in our punks, waiting. There was no point to crouch outside, you couldn't see anything and it was hard to stay on place. We just had to hope that there were no ships, as there hadn't been so far. Our backs were aching for all the lieing, as well as the continious rolling. We felt like a well done dough. But fortunately no sea sickness, and we were able to read. A good pile of books were read. The gale lasted two days, from Thursday to Saturday. Now the low is gone and life is back to normal routines: writing letters, washing, baking, making joghurt, cleaning and fishing.

In 15 days we have sailed 1931 miles, an average of 129 miles per day. Tahiti is 850 miles away. The oil stove has been turned off, day temperatures are around 20 deg C. We may stop at Tubuai, which is 330 miles south of Tahiti. Tomorrow, the 12th of May, it is exactly two years since we left our home harbour Sindbad in Lauttasaari.

17.5.2003 Raivavae, French Polynesia
We studied our handbook on Polynesia a bit closer and decided to stop at the remote island of Raivavae instead of Tubuai. They both belong to Austral Islands (Tubuai Islands in some charts), which is one of the five islands groups in French Polynesia, others being Society, Tuamotu, Gambier and Marquesas. Every group of islands have somekind of self government, and when you change from one area to another, you have to see the local gendarme with passports and papers. The French Polynesia covers some 4,5 million square kilometres of ocean. Alltogether 119 islands cover about 4200 sqkm. There are about 285.000 inhabitants. Capital Papeete is located on Tahiti at the Society Islands.

Early on Thursday morning (15.5.), after we had spent the night close to the island just waiting the sunrise, we motored inside the Raivavae reef and tied up to a concrete wharf. We had sailed 2477 miles in 19 days and 19 hours. The last week had been pleasant tradewind sailing in warm weather, so we were not tired. But still it felt good to get ashore and know that we could sleep whole nights in a steady boat. The pilot book described Raivavae as the most beautiful of the Polynesian islands, beating even the much praised Bora-Bora. And it wasn't very wrong. The lush green island is surrounded by a reef with some motus, islets. From the centre rises three peaks, not higher than 300-400 metres, but all different shapes. Raivavae is situated 400 miles southeast from Tahiti, off the sailing routes. Some boats visit the island every year. We were the first boat of the season. There are no facilities or supplies for boaters, no water, no fuel. The two shops in the village sell mainly canned food. No alcohol is sold on the island. There is a health centre and a post office, but no bank. To our surprise the gendarme officer spoke excellent English. He changed some US dollars to Pacific francs, because we had to mail a copy of the entry document to Papeete. This was the arrangemant also a year ago on Marquesas. We were wondering which would be first at Papeete, we or the document, but the officer ensured that mail is faster: they have air mail nowdays. The airstrip is only a half year old. The ship comes twice a month. There is no school on Raivavae, so all the kids are sent to Tubuai. They visit home twice a year, in December and July. About 700 people live on Raivavae.
The small village is tidy and wealthy-looking, cars relatively new. This we noticed also a year ago on the other French Polynesian islands, and the difference f.ex. to Tonga is obvious. The money has to come from France. Earlier also these islands sent coffee, bananas, oranges and other things to Papeete, but not anymore. Now they are grown just for own use.
We had expected to meet the annoying fruit traders again, who ask a bottle of rhum for a couple of bananas, but the locals are not interested in us. They greet friendly and maybe a conversation could start if we would share a language. We spoke to one English speaking woman who described the locals as special, introvert people.

Raivavae in the sunrise

We took the first day slowly. We anchored, because even with small waves the boat was bumping unpleasantly against the concrete wall. The calmness of the bay was broken by a far noise of a generator. Hannu started to go through the steering, which had kept obscure noise on the way. To our big annoyance the reason was the bearing. It had been changed in Cuba in February 2002 when it was crushed, and now it seems to have happened again. The Volkswagen bearing system is not suitable for heavy ruddering. Fortunately Hannu had been so far-sighted that he had asked Busse and Holle, who visited Kristiina in January, to bring an extra bearing shell with them. So we have the spare part, and the work will be done in Papeete. It seems that we'll stay there for a while, reparing the rigging and the steering.
Last night we woke up to a pouring rain and wind shift. It's still raining and blowing from northwest. The rain is good, it rinses the salt away, but the wind could shift for tomorrow, so that we can continue. But rather in a sheltered harbour than fighting against the wind at sea.

24.5.2003 Tahiti, French Polynesia
Three days sailing from Raivavae to Tahiti was hard. The 30-40 knot tailwind rocked the boat so much, that the only bearable place was the bunk again. But it was difficult to sleep in the roll. The stop at Raivavae had taken our sea routines and the sailing became an impatience waiting for arrival. It had been easier to adapt to the 2400 mile leg than to the "short" 400 miles. In addition it was raining the first 24 hours. But last the magnificient silhouette of Tahiti appeared in the horizon on Wednesday morning 21.5., and by the midday we motored into the Papeete harbour. It was nice to come to a familiar place, to know exactly where to moor and where to find the authorities. There were only few foreign boats this early in the season. We tied between the local boats along the quay, by the busy boulevard. Although the traffic is a bit disturbing, the advantage of these places are the strong mooring ropes coming from the bottom, because anchor holding is very poor in the muddy bottom. We know from the last visit that normally shelter harbour can sometimes be very windy. The log told that we had sailed 2882 miles in 23 days, excluding the stop at Raivavae.
The first evening we celebrated Auli's birthday in the same restaurant which was chosen a year ago for Hannu's birthday dinner. Entrecôte with roquefort sauce, french fries and - of course - mousse de chocolat made the perfect French dinner. Our knowledge of French remains almost to these words, so the first cultural shock was the language. The second was the heat. Although the temperature had risen along the way, the 30 C in Papeete was paralysing. During the wool-clothes-period we had forgotten how it feels when you are constatly covered with sweat, sleeping just with a sheet is too much. We digged our rosty fans out and try to adjust.
The next day we started to work. Hannu went through the steering and in this case we were lucky: the bearing is unbroken, the reason for the noise was the rusty autopilot chain. Hannu ordered a new bolt for the mast, and the smoke pipe of the stove is mounted on its place. Auli washed all the possible clothes from salty winter overalls to dirty potholders. 

Steering under inspection

Winter overalls had to be washed from salt

On Saturday morning we got a happy telephone call from Suomenlinna, Helsinki, where ten boats the Yacht Club Sindbad were spending the weekend. It was great to hear the voices of our friends! The satellite phone is on all the time when we are in the harbour, just call us! And feel free to write e-mails, friends and unknown, although we are too bad answering to the letters.

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