Running out of Gas on a Country Road

I went to pick up our sails that were being repaired and ran into a few problems. The problems however did not relate to the sails themselves but rather my lack of a good grasp of the French language. Here I thought I was doing so well with my French. After 20 years of not constantly speaking French every day, it really showed today.

The sail-maker, Michael picked up our sails last week as I was told he came by our marina every week to pick up sails. I should have asked him however how frequently he dropped off sails. When I called at the beginning of this week, he advised me that he would not be coming by this week. The problem however was that we want to leave Tahiti this coming week and need our sails. As a result I told him I would come by. One thing after another came up (including driving Jaeden and a local friend Frederic around the island to find a surfing beach) and I was unable to do this.

Finally I found some time yesterday and so I headed off for “Nauti-sport” in Papeete where I was advised to go as his office was directly behind this chandler sailing supply store. After driving around for 20 minutes I finally gave in and called the Sail-maker for more instructions. I went back to the “Nauti-sport” supply store and even they did not know what I was talking about. The store teller was kind enough to call the sail-maker and it was at this time that I discovered my error. When I had called for directions I did not pay attention to one simple word, “Taravao”. I thought that Michael was simply inserting some Tahitian word and so I ignored it. What I didn’t realize was that Taravao is a small village to the south of the main island of Tahiti, about an hour away from Papeete. There was a different Nauti-sport marina in that village as well as the one in Papeete! By the time I realized the problem I was absolutely disappointed and very frustrated with my shortcomings with the language. I was an hour away from picking up our sails and it was getting late in the evening.

It was for this reason that I put off picking up the sails to today. We were getting ready to go and needed to get them on the boat.

I decided that I would take my Mother, Eli and Teyauna with me and drop them off 45 minutes away at the Vaima Pool. It was on the way to where I had to go and is a great natural spring where one can see the cool water bubbling up out of the ground. It was a very hot day with 34 degree Celcius weather and the kids even fell asleep in the back of the truck on our drive. I dropped them off with the intention of coming back in about 40 minutes.

I continued on down the highway and missed the turnoff to the marina where I was to pick up our mainsail. As a result I ended up driving an additional 10 minutes before having to drive 10 minutes back. It took me a little while to find the sail-maker tucked away behind an old warehouse at the private and tattered marina, but I eventually found the right place. I looked over the sail and then we loaded it up into the back of our borrowed truck. In a bit of a rush I sped off to pick up the rest of my family who had by now been waiting an extra 40 minutes than they had anticipated. As I rushed 4 kilometres down the road the car started to sputter. Although the fuel pedal seemed a bit soft, it continued to run and then coast before running again. I looked at the fuel gauge and discovered the problem. The fuel dial was still registering slightly more than an empty tank… but it had been in the same spot prior to leaving the boat an hour earlier. Finally the truck sputtered to a stop. This was not a good situation to be in. I was about 6 kilometres from the nearest gas station and I had my mom and two of my kids waiting at a cold spring with sunset approaching in an hour.

I pulled over to the side of the road as my truck rolled to a stop not knowing if I should continue forward in hopes of a gas station nearby or if I should try to get the car going and turn around to return to the nearest town. My mind went to thinking about how far of a walk it would be in either direction. That’s when I said a hopeful prayer as I tried turning the key. The truck just chugged along without the engine starting. I pumped furiously on the gas pedal and that’s when it caught and I was able to move forward. I quickly made a U-turn and headed back as fast as I could toward the town of Taravao. I prayed that I would be able to make it. That’s when the vehicle stalled again only 2 kilometres down the road, again I glided to a stop at the side of the road on the far side of a narrow two lane land bridge, relieved I was not stalled on it. Again I pumped the gas furiously 20 times and was able to get the truck moving again. I sped on down the road hoping to keep the momentum of the truck going but knowing that my time was very short. I stalled again at the bottom of a small hill and repeated the same thing one more time. Again I was able to move forward, through a round-point and then the car stalled about 200 metres from a gas station in the distance. This time however I was stalled and the only place for me to pull over was at a bus stop and to make matters worse there were two police officers there speaking to another vehicle that had been pulled over. I pumped the gas another 20 times and once again the vehicle started up. I zipped up the hill to the gas station and pulled in with the feeling that I was simply coasting in on fumes. There was obviously little left in the tank but I had made it back to the city on the South of the main island of Tahiti.

I was anxious to fill up with gas, relieved that I had made it. I made a mental note to no longer trust the gas gauge of the truck.

The kids and my mom were all sitting down waiting for me at the side of the road by the time I returned. They had had a good time but it was getting late and cool and so they were waiting for me. The drive back to the marina was beautiful but it sure kept me thinking about what could have happened had the vehicle we were driving, not been able to get me back to the gas station. I didn’t know anyone on that side of the island and was a long way away from our boat. It would not have been a good situation. But in the end we made it back home although about an hour later than I had anticipated.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. WE are glad that you made the trip even though there was a little delay. We enjoy reading about your adventures. Some coming out of left field. RH.

  2. Reading your little mishaps you have me at the edge of my seat. I can so see you, Normand… and hear you cussing, er, talking to the truck!

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