It has been an incredible week of patience. Last week the entire week’s forecast was for heavy 30 knot winds and it was more than true to its predictions. We wanted to be closer to the city so we anchored in one of the few places that were safe for Southeast winds on the free municipal docks and spent the last week being jostled around like a washing machine. We could hear the winds howling past our mast and on three occasions had some of our lines snap that were holding us to the dock. They would just slowly chafe as they would rub on the dock or cleat. Fortunately we had nine lines holding us to the dock. The lines were strung out a fair distance as they had no conveniently located cleats on the cement dock. We even had to tie back one of the neighboring boat’s lines as it ran alongside our boat and started to chafe at the rope holding the fender in place.
A few days ago I finally noticed that there was going to be a little bit of a break in the weather with the winds dropping down to about 21 knots. We knew that was our window of opportunity to move on to Tonga, our next destination. We had wanted to visit Huahine and Tahaa but with the extra week delay we decided that we just needed to move on. We have had an incredible two and a half months in French Polynesia but time is moving on and we have so much more distance to cover in the next three months that we can’t put it off any longer.
As we made final preparations last night the winds were howling at about 28 knots and then we had a short downpour. As the rain came dumping down on us we hunkered down in the boat and noticed a drizzle of water coming down the inside of the starboard window. It was a window that had only one week earlier been re-sealed by the boatyard we were in. My guess was that after they re-sealed the bottom section of the window, it slipped down a little bit creating a bit of a gap in the top section of the silicon seal. Just one more thing needing attention.
At 9 in the morning we made our final provisioning grocery shop (for about the fifth time this week). Friends came to say goodbye and I made a quick call to the boatyard to see if they could make a quick repair of the window seal.
Instead of heading right out of the Raiatea reef we sailed under jib in the 22 knot winds with good speed to the boatyard. That’s when I noticed another potential problem. The autopilot on the Raymarine navigational equipment would not hold our course. Every time I would program the autopilot to a specific course it would swing hard to starboard about 45 degrees before keeping that as its new course. That was not really a problem as I could simply adjust my course by the same 45 degrees but after a minute the autopilot would just start to do its routine beeping alarm to indicate that it was not on course. Even though I had a solution this was not going to work for the next 3000 miles.
We arrived at the boatyard at 10:30 am and I rushed in to see when we could get someone on our boat to start the repairs. Unfortunately the person assigned to help us was busy and was not available to help us until after lunch. That meant yet another delay. I also checked to see if an electrician could come by to help with our electrical. He too was busy and would not be able to help until Monday but was going to see what he could do.
After hearing the news I ran over to the neighboring boatyard located on the same property. They had the name of another electrician to help us. I managed to call him and schedule him to come over at 2pm. When both of these workers came by I was surprised that Richard the electrician was the same person that had come by and helped for a few minutes to troubleshoot the broken engine cable. He got to work on our navigation equipment and after a half hour had a good workaround for us. He disconnected the autopilot wire that managed complicated multiple waypoint navigation and left the cable that managed simple point to point navigation. This was simple enough for us as it was really all we had ever used it for. The challenge was in the wiring as it took him another hour and a half to do a sea trial and then wire things up so that it did not disconnect our depth metre and knot meter. At the same time Sylvain worked on resealing our windows and discovered another 2 places where the windows could use a bit of re-caulking. Jaeden even got to work on a two hour job of replacing a window seal from the supply of spare seals that were in our boat.
By the time everything was done it was 4:30 in the evening. I had checked out of French Polynesia yesterday and so we were ready to go. As I went into the boatyard to pay for our latest repairs the receptionist asked me, so when are you leaving? Monday? After I said, “No, we are leaving tonight after everything is done.” I was looked upon with a horrified look. “Don’t you know that it’s Friday? It’s bad luck to leave on a Friday?”
“Hmmm, I’m not very superstitious I said” as I walked out of the office a bit surprised. I had never heard of such a thing but apparently the old sailors wanted one last weekend at home and so they never started a trip at the beginning of the weekend. Perhaps it would have been better if I had not been told.
By the time it was 5pm we had pulled off the mooring buoy and were on our way out of the pass that would take us out of the reef. We all shouted an excited cry of relief that our multiple delays of weather and repairs was coming to a close for the short term.
As we motored out of the pass we noticed however that the winds were much calmer than had been predicted. The twenty knot winds were not materializing and only 5 knot gusts were around us as we pulled out of the shelter of the island. I kept on motoring for a few more miles trying to get out of the shadow of the mountains of Raiatea to where our stronger winds had been forecast only to be disappointed by the 8 knot winds.
I guess when you wait a week for the gale force winds to die down one never knows what will happen. In our case however it died down a little bit more than we wanted. We were expecting another boomerang departure. In the end we are just happy to be on our way and ready for the new adventures on new islands in other languages. Our plan for the coming weeks are to sail from Raiatea to the Vava’u group of islands in Northern Tonga with a quick stop in the small island nation of Niue and maybe even a first stop on the Cook Island atoll of Palmerston. We’ll see where the winds take us this coming week!