Dancing with Herself

The Tuamotus Diaries #45, Day 86 – August 22nd 2016

 

Pesto is a great sailing boat. So much in fact that it tends to keep on sailing even when she is at rest. While at anchor or tied to a mooring buoy, as soon as the wind accelerates above the mid-teens, she gets moving. Tacking at angles of approximately 30 degrees to the wind on each side, she will sail as far as the anchor chain or mooring line will allow her, and then turn to the other side and start all over again. When the wind isn’t too strong, the movement is graceful like a dance. When the wind picks up, tough, it can generate a little anxiety.

The text below is an extract of an email I exchanged with a friend, describing a recent experience of intense sailing-at-rest:

 

Pesto is a keen sailor at rest. Originally I thought I had been the driver of such affliction, for all the extra stuff I added to her topsides, notably the solar panels and the bimini cover. Some time ago however, we shared an anchorage with another HR, one with less extra surfaces than Pesto, and it sailed smartly as well, as much as we did, thus reducing my sense of guilt.

If I didn’t make it worse with the addition of extra real estate to the topsides, our current anchoring technique of floating the chain, to which I confess to have become addicted, definitely augments Pesto’s eagerness to sail. With the absence of attrition at the bottom, the chain offers little lateral resistance, and Pesto feels free to sail. It has been bothersome, but our anchor is so strong and oversized that I can live with it.

Another day, however, the problem peaked as we were riding a couple days of some reinforced tradewinds “on steroids” tied to a mooring ball near Fakarava’s S pass. In order to protect the coral, the mooring was built with pure nylon rode – no chain – and to keep the rode away from the surrounding coral, it was also made short. Just before the wind hit I added 40ft of rode of my own to reduce strain on the system. With just the light rode, Pesto was now even more free to sail and, boy she did! She would accelerate between tacks, reaching speeds of 0.7-0.8kts regularly, peaking at 1 knot on a few occasions. Multiply that by Pesto’s 30 tons, and that makes up a lot of kinetic energy, enough to make me nervous about the physical integrity of our mooring. I immediately engaged on a quest to curb the sailing, which would soon prove to be a fastidious one, made worse by the wind-driven chop. It started with our kedge anchor. I first set it ahead, making an angle of ~30degrees with the mooring, keeping the wind in between. But Pesto kept on sailing and at each of its port tacks it kept on pulling the mooring line as before. It then occurred to me to set the anchor at the stern. It was significantly deeper and more corally there, and I feared losing the anchor. So, instead I had to settle by lowering it more or less 100ft amidships from Pesto. Once engaged, the setup did serve to stop Pesto’s movement, and we enjoyed many hours of motion-less tranquility. The tension at the mooring did increase, but I am sure it was still much less than the dynamic loads imposed at each of Pesto’s tacks. The anchor however couldn’t cope with the tension, and was gradually dislodged and we were soon back sailing.

It then downed on me: the coral! Why not use the coral as my kedge anchor? So simple in theory, putting it in practice was a different story. Working alone, with all that chop, on coral 40-45ft deep, and Pesto moving like a wild horse, it took me at least two hours of hard work in the water to finally lash a loop of old rope to a suitable coral – taking care to attach it to the dead portion of the formation. At times, I had to come back halfway through the dive to wait for the curious shark to give me some more working space – some of them were too big and getting to close for comfort.

With the line finally made fast to the coral, I let Pesto complete a long tack to starboard and brought it in. The boat tacked to port and started to gather momentum. As the line ran off its slack, the knot wrapped tight around the cleat and I watched the line moaning as it got stout and thin – confident at first and cautious at last as Pesto kept moving, taking the line to the limit. The forces eventually got in equilibrium, with a substantial improvement in comfort and anxiety, the mooring line once again working under a static load well within its limits. Even the solar panels, now with the boat sitting at a fixed angle to the sun, increased their output substantially. We enjoyed one tranquil afternoon under that setup as well as the first half of the night. The wind started to veer to the South, however, requiring sequential adjustments to the kedged line – with Pesto tacking again in the process. It must have been the increased movement which facilitated the coral’s job, for by the early hours of the next day I was woken up by a bang, only to find the stern line completely slack, and Pesto merrily sailing against the mooring line again. Defeated, I set the anchor alarm with a short radius and a loud warning and went to bed, trying not to notice the cyclical movement as the boat swung from one side to the other.

Pictures taken from the top of our mast on a day of light winds, tied to a mooring line. Here, Pesto is underway on a starboard tack ...
Pictures taken from the top of our mast on a day of light winds, tied to a mooring line. Here, Pesto is about to complete a Port tack. Note the mooring line angled at ~30 degrees.
On this other picture, taken a few moments later, she has already changed direction and is underway on a starboard tack

Again, But Different

The Tuamotus Diaries #44, Day 85 – August 21st 2016

 

Adriana is gone to the US on a 20-day-or-so trip. Again.

The departure was slightly convoluted, like in Makemo. For different reasons. But … again.

It’s just the three of us and Pesto, in an atoll. Again.

But this time it’s different.

We know the drill.

We are slightly more familiarized with the weather.

We have already scouted the safe places of Fakarava, and laid our “snail trail” in the chart plotter to reach them safely.

We know already how it is to be by ourselves in a quiet anchorage for a while.

So, there’s less of the mystery we had when she travelled the first time.

And, perhaps because of this, her departure was felt more this time. At least for me.

Lounging in Hirifa

The Tuamotus Diaries #43, Day 83 – August 19th 2016

On my previous post I already made reference to Hirifa, where it stays inside Fakarava, and its surroundings. We spent four days there, during a spell of good, settled weather, which brought all the splendor of the place to the fullest.

I will let the pictures do the job for me on this one:

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Near Hirifa, we also did two snorkeling dives, one more awesome than the other. Click on the images below to access the videos:

THANK YOU FOR WATCHING !!!

Musings and Ramblings by the Reef

The Tuamotus Diaries #42, Day 82 – August 18th 2016

We are currently anchored in Hirifa, a beach at the very SE corner of Fakarava. This is a truly beautiful place. From the NW comes the 30-mile long motu that forms Fakarava’s Eastern protection against the open ocean. This is a strip of “land”, some 200-300 meters wide, covered by palm trees, scrub, and small human developments here and there. Where it reaches the SE corner – where we are now – the motu comes to an end, and from the corner stretching to the SW lie 5 to 7 miles of reef which is permanently half awash by the sea. This reef is around 500 meters wide, and forms wide pools of crystalline water, with bright colors varying from Tan to Emerald Green, according to the depth. Really beautiful.

Today I took the paddleboard to explore one of these pools, which reaches deep in the reef almost all the way up to the open sea. Departing from Pesto, with depths of around 25 ft, the water was of an intense Royal Blue, and as I paddled toward the reef, and the depth fell accordingly, the water color changed gradually to lighter shades of Blue, then into Greens, and finally reaching Tan, where the tip of the board’s fin started to touch the gravel at the bottom. There, both the wind and the sea water, which sips through the reef into the atoll, were from the opposite direction, and I had to paddle hard to maintain momentum. But the white foam and the roar of the open ocean outside were of an irresistible allure to me, and I kept on going. Paddling hard, I drove into an inlet which went further into the reef. The water was now flowing strong, almost like a river, and I paddled as hard as I could, trying to reach as far deep into the inlet as possible to reach a small motu which lies almost by the ocean. Once there I pulled the board over the beach and walked the remaining 200 meters toward the surf line.

Below, a video while paddling over the sandbank:

With my feet already complaining of stepping on the crushed coral, I finally reached the extremity of the reef, just a few meters from where the ocean ends, and sat by a small tide pool. Sitting there, I realized I had not taken a camera, nor were looking for any kind of animal or plant, wasn’t planning to take anything with me, nor to leave any cairn or other proof of my presence. All the paddling and walking on crushed coral had been for the lure of being closer to the sea. The sea has always drawn me a great deal and yet, now that we are full time cruisers, I still can’t say that I thoroughly enjoy when I am doing passages, which is when I am the closest to the sea. The constant attention to the boat and the elements, peppered by the ongoing threat of seasickness have always stood in the way of my full enjoyment of our passages. Not that I dislike them – to the contrary. But I haven’t reached a point yet where I am truly on my own when we are out at sea. And I truly hope to reach that stage one day.

My thoughts kept going as I listened to the homogeneous rumble of the sea and breathed the purest air, and I relished the fact of being here. The Tuamotus have always belonged in a sacred place of my imagination, somewhere beyond dreams, an ethereal type of aspiration, almost forbidden given the difficulty of reaching it. And sitting there, at a place which encompassed all the elements of what the Tuamotus meant to me, I realized how difficult it had been indeed to arrive here, the way we did. Frankly, the seamanship part of it was probably the least of the challenges. Not to minimize it, for I reckon it was quite a feat to sail halfway across the Pacific and am utterly proud of it. But I think we did our homework right and, whereas we didn’t count with or had particularly any special Good Luck, I also realize we had a definitely welcome dose of “lack of Bad Luck’, which helped in what was a successful passage. But the point is, the most difficult part of getting here was to let go of our previous status quo, to plunge into this new form of life which has in turn led us to reach here, to BE here. Many a time we don’t realize that by not letting go of something we already have, we are in fact forfeiting the opportunity of getting something else which might be of an even greater value to us. Tangible and Intangible are indeed two things hard to measure against each other.

The time came to go back home, and now with the wind and tide with me, I crossed the reef in no time – too fast indeed given the beauty of it. The day, the time, the light were perfect and the water was sparkling in colors I don’t usually see, even here. Tomorrow we leave early morning toward Rotoava, 30 miles up the atoll. But I am confident we will have the opportunity to come back here at least once more before moving on from Fakarava. I really hope we do.

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THANK YOU FOR WATCHING !!!

Worth Waiting For

The Tuamotus Diaries #41, Day 79 – August 15th 2016

When I was a kid, on the verge of my pre-teenage years, when dreams are starting to spawn and go wild, I had already been irreversibly infected by the sailing bug. Back then, my mother used to keep my dreaming juices in boil by bringing home, every now and then, a new copy of Brazil’s then only sailing magazine. I can’t recall if my demand for each new edition was endless or whether she managed supply to keep my desire high, but the fact is that I took each new unit with special joy, reading them entirely from cover to back as soon as she produced them, and then reading them over and over again until the new edition would arrive.

One edition that interested me particularly had on its cover a picture taken from the top of a yacht’s mast. It showed the vessel’s front half, with its tan-silverish teak deck contrasting beautifully with the intense blue of the background, which was not the water itself, but the sea bottom, over which the shadow of the yacht was clearly outlined. To be honest, part of my interest stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t find any element of that magazine’s content that related to the cover image. But as I read and re-read it in search of a logical answer, that image ended up getting pretty engraved in my mind. Later on, based on my ongoing readings, I assumed that picture had been taken in the Tuamotus, and quickly thereafter a dream was formed to one day reach that place with my own yacht.

That was at least 30 years ago.

Today, I finally climbed atop Pesto’s mast and, pointing the camera down, framing Pesto’s tan-silverish deck against the intense blue bottom of Fakarava’s south pass, I felt a very strong satisfaction. This intangible image is as solid and gleaming as a trophy to me.

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Here is a short video I shot from up there:

And here a few more static images … need I say more?

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THANK YOU for watching !!!