The ARGONAUT August 18, 2014 The Passage from Bora Bora to Samoa

CAPTAIN’S LOG At Sea – Bora Bora to Samoa

August 5: Fixing Argo – Bora Bora – Tuesday

We began the day by stopping by the Gendarmerie to check out of French Polynesia and obtain our Zarpe or clearance form. The Gendarmes were very courteous and within a few minutes we had filled out their forms and were on our way. We needed the Zarpe to enter the next port, Apia, Samoa. We picked up Stu Parker (the mechanic from the hydraulics company) on the ferry dock at 0900. Stu was an affable Kiwi (is that politically correct, or should it be New Zealander?) and after the ten minute cruise in our tender across the harbor, he set to work on the stabilizer. Fixing the problem proved more difficult than expected as the bearing on the actuator collar had seized up, which was probably the reason for the actuator seal failure. After applying a crowbar, hammer, bearing puller, and a lot of elbow grease he got the actuator assembly apart. Stu suspected that the cause of the failure was probably the lack of grease on the bearing, which should have been applied when it was manufactured. Altogether it took about two hours, after which he turned his attention to repairing the seals on the manifold up forward. Meanwhile, Rebecca and I walked the mile or so to Panda d’Or, a Chinese restaurant with take-out like nowhere else we have ever seen.

From the street Panda d’Or looks like a conventional Chinese restaurant, but around the side in the alley is an industrial roll-up door that, when opened, reveals a stainless steel counter and a hive of activity inside. People were in motion everywhere. Lying about on the alley pavement cooling themselves were a few dogs, a type of Pit-bull common to all the islands. We found them a little intimidating. At the counter were perhaps a half dozen people standing around waiting for their food orders, all dressed in shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts. In their hands were large bowels used to bring home the stir-fry for their family’s lunch. We stepped forward to place our order with the frantically busy owner who was fully engaged in taking orders, collecting money, and simultaneously delivering meals to the waiting and hungry customers. He kindly handed us an English language menu from under the counter. We quickly gave him our order and he turned to the refrigerator with glass doors aside of him, selected our portion of fish, chicken or tofu from within, put each in a small stainless steel bowl and slid them across a work table behind him to a waiting chef. So far, so good. The surprise is the wok and chef. I have never seen anything like it; the chef flipped a lever under the stove type apparatus that ignited a large blow torch that blasted forth from a metal collar designed to perfectly fit the wok. It sounded like a rocket engine at launch. It produced a huge blue/white flame and a tremendous amount of heat. With his large spoon, the chef flicked a few ounces of several magic Chinese gastronomic solutions into the wok, then at the right moment he dumped our waiting bowls into the bubbling cauldron and within seconds he had made our meal. At the same time a couple of other chefs were working at the row of woks; then-suddenly, somewhere along the line, a flame erupted from a wok and – voila! Another meal was ready.

We walked back to the boat with our treasures, passing little bungalows, some well-kept, others lazily shabby, and many with little backyard shrines atop the tombs of ancestors buried – perhaps recently, or maybe long ago. Cars whizzed by on the narrow road that ran along the lagoon. Unfortunately you cannot see the water for all the buildings that are crammed along the shoreline. When we finally got back on the boat we laid out the nice lunch we had brought. When we finished, Stu wrapped up the repairs and inspected the entire system. By then the time had come for him to return to the ferry dock and catch his plane back to Papeete and later Auckland. That evening we invited Garrick Yrondi (the artist) to farewell dinner. He is a lovely man and we both thoroughly enjoyed his company. Rebecca made a wonderful meal and I grilled filet mignons. Garrick brought a fantastic bottle of Bordeaux. It was a productive day and a memorable evening.

August 6: Departing Bora Bora – Day 1 – Wednesday

A front had moved in and it was raining cats and dogs. Untying from the Mai Kai dock was quite an ordeal. ARGO was tied to the dock at the stern with three lines. There were no lines to the dock on the port side, as we were moored at the end of the dock. The bow was initially held in place by the anchor, which was set three hundred feet off the port bow in 65 ft. of water. The anchor and chain is not enough to keep her stationary, so bow and beam lines were set that were attached to concrete moorings placed on the harbor’s floor. Teiva, the very helpful and energetic marina owner, scurried about in his tender/mini-tug to hand off lines and push Argo to the desired location for final tie-up. (We didn’t need his help as a tug because we have thrusters). Altogether we had nine lines and an anchor chain to hold us in place. Undoing all this was quit a job, given that there was a boat tied next to us on the starboard side, it was raining heavily, and the wind was pushing us to starboard. Once free of the lines, we needed to recover our chain and anchor; this took about ten minutes. Meanwhile, other boats at anchor were close enough to swing into us, so Teiva pushed them about in his mini-tug until we could get free. We then proceeded a couple of miles to the fuel dock.

Fueling the boat in the driving rain was miserable. Tyler had caught my cold, however, he wouldn’t hear of me taking over for him on the deck. Wet and miserable though we were, we accomplished refueling and left Bora Bora at 16:00 after taking on 5,700 liters of diesel fuel in preparation for our passage to Samoa. Fuel prices were fairly reasonable at $4.43/gal, so we decided to use our bladder and take on an extra 500 gallons. Our trip to Samoa was 1,200 miles, and with the fuel taken on here in Bora Bora, we should have enough to get us to New Zealand. The weather forecast called for pleasant conditions, although the sea state in this area over the last two weeks had been in the 11-12 ft. range with winds up to 50 knots in places. We learned of a sailboat at Surarrow Island that dragged its anchor during the high winds, went onto the reef and sank during that storm. As we left, it was pouring rain as only it can in the tropics. One of the young waitresses at Mai Kai Restaurant said that if you leave the island in the rain, it means Bora Bora is sad. What a poetic thought to end our visit here.

August 7: At Sea- Day 2 – Thursday

It is a pleasant day, light winds, a fair sky, and low seas in the range of six feet on the port quarter. We always feel a little sea sick on the first day out, followed by a day or two of fatigue. By the third day we are usually into the routine of watch standing and feeling normal again.

ARGO is making about 7.5 knots, which adds up to 185 miles or so a day. On this trip she is burning a little less than a gallon per mile. There is no consistent ocean current to help move us along, so it will take a little more effort than on our last long passage. No observed no other ships or sea life.

What do we do all day when we are at sea? We stand watch, which means watching the Argo’s mechanical operations by visiting the engine room every hour, then returning to the pilot house and watching the radar and other instruments and filling out the ship’s log. Sometimes I work on the computer writing the blog or editing pictures, reading or watching videos. Sometimes I plan our next cruise or study charts and timetables to plan future passages. Rebecca likes to bake, or prepare meals. She does laundry about every other day, and reads or does CE for her professional certification. Sometimes we take a nap, or exercise if it isn’t too hot. We like to watch extended series like The Tudors, Breaking Bad or Dexter. Somehow the time flies!

August 8: At Sea – Day 3 – Friday

The sea state is low with loping swells in the six foot range, very light winds, and a clear sky. Overnight squalls formed in line aft of Argo and slowly spread over us. The direction of the swells is a little confused, caused perhaps by the large fronts both north and south of us. In any case it is a pleasant cruise. We haven’t seen any sea life – no whales or dolphins. Maybe the noise of our engine scares them away, but we saw plenty of whales up close when we traveled on Odyssey. A few albatross are flying about, but not many. There are no flying fish or squid on deck as in past passages, and no ships or boats either. It seems to be a lonely ocean!

August 9: At sea – Day 4 – Saturday

Not much has changed from yesterday except that seas may have come down a little. It is clear and beautiful.

We emptied the bladder tank into our main engine room tanks, which seems to have improved our posture on the sea and the speed we are able to make. Since taking that 3,500 pounds of weight off the stern, we have been making over 8 knots at 6.8 gallons per hour. The night sky this evening is nearly like daylight, with a full moon pouring its beautiful silvery beams on the black ocean. 

Although this weather is perfect for a motor yacht, it won’t be welcomed by our friends with sailboats who headed out for Samoa or Tonga this week from Bora Bora; the wind is so light they will have to motor, which makes them less stable than if they were under sail. When full, the sails hold them to the waves, which keeps them from bouncing around, although they would be hove to an angle. In this weather they will have to motor so they will be bouncing around in the swells and traveling at a much lower speed then they are accustomed. We hope to see quite a few of our sailor friends in Samoa.

I think we will put out the fishing gear tomorrow and see what Poseidon has for us!

August 10: At Sea – Day 5 – Sunday

Another pleasant day at sea, a repeat of yesterday’s beautiful weather. It is 940 with humidity to match. We made 185 miles yesterday. We had radar targets of two Chinese trawlers (I suspect) at 16 miles. I wouldn’t have noticed them except that they broke radio silence on VHF, which is unusual for them. They don’t use AIS, so it is unclear exactly who they are. From what a Polynesian told me, the Chinese bought the fishing rights to many island countries such as Tonga. The agreement, so I was told, precludes locals from fishing. The Chinese send in their fishing fleet and strip the waters over time. They build processing plants on the islands and if the people want to buy fish, they must do so from the Chinese. The locals aren’t used to working as hard as the Chinese expect, so Chinese workers are brought in from the mainland to work the plants. The locals then become unemployed, except for young women who earn money providing companionship to the Chinese workers. Not a pretty story if it is true. 

We set our clocks back one hour, so we are now -11 hours from GMT or – 7 hours from Eastern Time. Samoa is -12 hours.

August 12: At Sea– Day 6 – Tuesday

Yesterday we made 205 miles. Today is another beautiful day, just like yesterday and all of the days of this passage so far. As required we emailed via our Iridium phone a notification to the authorities in Samoa of our pending arrival. 

Although we are not yet at the International Dateline (Longitude 1800), Samoa’s calendar and clocks are set to correspond to New Zealand plus one hour. We decided to advance our calendars today (so we skipped August 11), which is why it isn’t shown above.

We hooked a beautiful Wahoo late this afternoon. It fought hard for about twenty minutes. I brought it up to the boat toward Tyler, who was standing on the swim platform ready to land him. Suddenly the great fish leaped up in the air toward Tyler. I was very concerned for Tyler’s safety considering those razor sharp teeth. The fish then settled back in the water and moved toward the port rub-rail, ready to be ushered aboard. Sliding in the water next to Argo, we could see what a gorgeous creature he was; about 5 feet long, a beautiful brownish tiger stripped fish, magnificent to see in action in the water. Suddenly a lurch, the lure flew about 10 ft. up into the air toward Tyler, and he was gone. Oh well. He was too beautiful for us anyway, but he was the biggest Wahoo I almost caught!

August 13: At Sea/ Arriving Apia, Samoa – Day 7 – Wednesday

Another perfect cruising day. The sea came up a little overnight and is now in the 7-8 ft. range on our beam, but it is confused and mixed with a long moment, so it is comfortable despite its size. Argo is running perfectly. We run the generator almost 24/7 so that we can keep the temperature and humidity comfortable onboard. The rugged peaks of American Samoa can be seen off to our port about 25 miles away. We’re skipping it because of its ridiculously high immigration fee on motor vessels. Samoa is another 85 miles further west and we should be anchored in Apia Harbor about 21:00 this evening. Neptune gave up one of his own this afternoon, a nice Mahi Mahi. 

We anchored in Apia Harbor at 21:00, safe and sound after a long voyage. We will be here about five days, then move on to Vava’U, Tonga.

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