2014 Tahiti to South Africa

April 2014
A photo journal of a proposed sailing voyage from
Tahiti to South Africa

Map1 Proposed Route

 The proposed route

31 Dec 2013

It’s been 4 years since I’ve been on an open water sailing trip. That one had been on a yacht called Jenzminc from Turkey to Oman. In fact 4 years ago to this day we’d been shot at by a group of Yemen soldiers off the Hanish Group of islands in the Red Sea near the Strait of Bab el Mandeb.  Then the motor failed involving long hours slaving over it trying to get it to run properly.  But that’s another story.

I’m now ready to try another venture and on an impulse a couple of weeks ago I checked out a sailing forum to see if any boat owners or skippers of yachts wanted crew for proposed voyages. Several caught my eye so I registered myself at the website and answered a few of the posts made under the Crew Wanted section.

02 AndrewLeft: Skipper Andrew

Andrew was one who responded.  He was laid up in Tahiti waiting out the cyclone season before heading out on the next stage of his voyage.  We started corresponding. Today I accepted Andrew’s offer to join him and Thomas the cat on his 35′ yacht Athena, and set sail for South Africa via Darwin NT sometime in April 2014.

The proposed route subject to possible changes is Tahiti, Samoa, Guadalcanal, possibly the Louisiades (?) pending Andrew’s concurrence, and Darwin.  It’s estimated that it will take about 45 days Tahiti to Darwin plus stopping time at places along the way.

We should be in Darwin by late May. Athena will lay up for a while in Darwin to get anti-fouled, make repairs if needed and for me to show Andrew around Darwin and Kakadu.

After that the idea is sail to Christmas Island, Maldives, north about Madagascar then onto South Africa. It’s about 30 days to the Maldives and 35-45 days to South Africa , plus stopping time at places along the way.  There’s only a 4-month weather window against cyclones across the Indian Ocean so I doubt he’d want to spend too much time hanging around the South Pacific, or in Darwin either for that matter.

01 AthenaRight: SV Athena

Once in South Africa I expect I’ll be coming home. Andrew has lived in Durban before so I assume I’ll get to be shown something of the country there.   However if all has been going well as shipmates there might be a possibility of extending the voyage further to St. Helena, Rio and the Caribbean.  Hoping for the best!

My early plans now are that wife Delma and I will visit one of our daughters in New York for her birthday on 15th March 2014. After that we’ll be taking some tours, including one of the Gettysburg civil war battlefield.  I’ll then fly straight to Tahiti from the US in the last week of March.  This should give me time to take a look around, maybe do a couple of tours in Tahiti, join Athena and get to know Andrew and Thomas before we set sails roughly in the 1st week of April.

Map 2 Tahiti-DarwinLeft: The proposed route from Tahiti to Darwin.

For those who might want to follow this voyage you should know that the posts to this blog are going to be fairly sporadic.  There is a lot of ocean to cross between shore based internet Wi-Fi hotspots.  You’ll notice at the bottom of the right hand column a ‘Follow’ button.  If you click that button you will notified by email whenever a new post is made. I’d appreciate it if you do.

Am really looking forward impatiently to this.

A Change of Plan

12 Feb 2014

Unfortunately Australian Quarantine laws has resulted in a change of route for Athena. The main issue is about the ship’s cat Thomas and the arguably high costs of regular quarantine inspections. Basically they want to come and check on him once or twice a week at around $94 per half hour per visit and take his waste ashore.

So instead Andrew and I have agreed we’ll be sailing to South Africa via Indonesia instead.  The plan now is to enter the country via Kupang in Timor and travel along the archipelago to Bali, from where we’ll exit the country possibly for the Maldives.

The Other Crew – Thomas

As mentioned previously the other crew member onboard Athena is Andrew’s cat Thomas.   He’s a well travelled fellow.  When he and Andrew left Durban in South Africa to go and pick up their yacht Athena in San Pedro, California they flew on different aircraft.

03 Thomas IIRight: Thomas the 2nd Mate.

Thomas flew British Airways from Durban to Johannesburg and Delta from Johannesburg, across the Namib desert and up the centre of the South Atlantic. Just south of Barbados his flight turned west and he landed at Atlanta, Georgia. He then changed planes and flew across America to Los Angeles, California.

In the meantime Andrew flew Emirates up the East Coast of Africa over Somalia and the pirates to Dubai in the Persian Gulf. From there he flew over Iraq, Southern Russia, Norway, Greenland and Canada following the great circle route to LA.

Both of them arrived in LA within twenty minutes of each other but it took an entire day for Andrew to find Thomas and liberate him from the red tape! They arrived at Athena in San Pedro, California late at night to a boat that had not been aired or cleaned in the year since Andrew had bought her, and it was black with mildew.

Thomas has since travelled overland across the Mojave and Sonora deserts to Phoenix, Arizona. Has sailed down the Pacific West Coast of the United States and Mexico and achieved a lifelong ambition to be a ship’s cat on the Spanish Main!

He’s spent 18 months based in La Paz, Mexico and has voyaged extensively in the Sea of Cortez before crossing the Pacific from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico via the Socorro Islands (Property of Mexico) to Hiva Oa in French Polynesia. On the crossing he encountered an Ecuadorian fishing boat that provided him with two enormous tunny. On watch one night he saw a huge molten meteorite crash into the sea not far from Athena.

Map 3 TahitiRight: Tahiti showing location of Port Phaeton where Athena is anchored.

Thomas encountered a six day storm just west of the Tuamotu Archipelago which he rode out, hove to. Against Thomas’ advice his negligent skipper left a large central hatch open for air. A huge wave swept Athena from bow to stern. Water cascaded through the open hatch drowning Thomas’ berth and the navigational computer. As a result Athena had to be navigated to Tahiti “by the seat of the pants”. By the time another computer had been brought in from London and the war with French customs duly waged, it was too late in the season to sail on.

Thomas is currently sitting out the hurricane season in Port Phaeton, Tahiti. This is a place of which he disapproves as the local fish are all infected with ciguatera from the coral reef and are inedible. Ciguatera causes paralysis in humans: it is fatal to cats – so sea food in any form is off the menu!

The New Route

Map 4 New Voyage Area

6 Mar 2014

By accounts from skipper Andrew there’s been some pretty heavy weather out there in Tahiti, keeping him aboard Athena for some days at a time. In the meantime he’s been working on the bureaucratic paperwork to obtain a sailing permit known as a CAIT for Indonesia.  This is for the vessel only and if we don’t have one by the time we arrive in Indonesia we can expect long delays – or worse. It’s not unknown in the past for vessels to be held in port and the crew sent home. In fact I’d once been threatened with the same because although my CAIT was fully approved, the copy sent to me too early was missing one stamp! Getting a visa may be another headache but nothing much can be done just yet until we get our CAIT authorised and issued.

Andrew tells me Athena’s hull really needs to be scaped and antifouled. Unfortunately everything is pretty expensive in Tahiti so he’s looking to get it done at Pago Pago in American Samoa. I understand he’s also picking up a new sail there and apparently it’s a good place to stock up on supplies.

I’ve suggested whether we might go to Tonga instead to get the antifouling done because apparently there are better facilities, and entry requirements to the country for yachts are pretty straightforward. It’s a touch WSW – west-south-west from Tahiti but the trade winds tend to be more from the SE so it shouldn’t bother us too much.  I thought maybe we could either then backtrack north to Pago Pago in American Samoa or else continue west on through Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon’s?

Not a good idea it seems. The skipper tells me the area south of Tahiti and Tonga tend to have semi-permanent low-pressure weather systems, meaning bad weather and hard sailing.  He’s had enough of that coming over from Mexico to Tahiti and I must say I’ve had my share of bad weather and rough sailing too.  He wants to keep pretty much in the lower latitudes i.e. closer to the equator between latitudes 8 to 12 where the weather is a bit milder and gentle than further south. And he points out the route across the Indian Ocean later on also takes this in account.

We still propose to stop at Apia in Western Samoa and at Honiara in the Solomon Islands. From there it’s going to be a long haul. I don’t want to pre-empt  Andrew but I’m thinking maybe we’d be going through the Louisiade Islands which is part of Papua New Guinea.  The most difficult stretch navigation wise will probably be through the Torres Strait where we enter the main shipping channel at Bligh Entrance on the eastern side.  From there it should be a straight run across the Arafura and Timor Seas to Timor Island where the further north you go I’ve found that the winds tend to be more easterly i.e. behind us blowing from the east to west.

It remains to be seen whether we go straight to the southern side of Timor Island to get to Kupang the regional capital of West Timor. My own preference would be to go over the top of Timor and visit Dili in East Timor on the way through.  I think I’ll be trying to talk Andrew into it because by the time we get to Dili we’ll have been at sea for quite a while, so that would be a good place to stop and stretch the legs.  There’s also an Indonesian Consulate there if we’re still having paperwork problems for entry into Indonesia.  And last but not least, from Dili to Kupang we’d at least be following the coast of Timor with something to look at besides another week of open sea.

However at the end of the day it remains to Andrew to make his final decision on which way we’ll go.  Who knows what vagaries of weather or fortune may require a change of plans?  Flexibility with plans is a key ingredient for travelling under sails.

Hopefully we won’t be delayed for too long at Kupang.  I don’t have a particularly good regard for the place.  On the brighter side upon leaving Kupang there’s lots of interesting places to see as we sail along the many islands of archipelago including but not limited to Lembata, Flores, Sumbawa, Komodo, Mataram  and finally Bali. Some of these places are still volcanically active.  Maybe we’ll get to see where the ancient Flores Man lived. They only stood about 1 metre tall and were on Flores Island about 12,000 years ago. Or maybe Kelimutu, an active volcano with it’s three coloured lakes. Or the dragons on Komodo Island.

However whichever way we go or however long we’ll stop at any one place, I’m hoping I might get a chance to fly home for a short visit to family once we get to Bali.

Starting Out

Map 5 DwntoNZ
Map 5 Flight path Darwin to Auckland

Several weeks ago I’d gone through some complicated hoops trying to sort out a problem of arriving in Tahiti without a return air ticket. I mean I’ll be sailing out on a yacht, not taking a plane. But no one seemed to know what the requirement for entry were – not the French Embassy in Sydney, nor the Australian Embassy in Tahiti.

I eventually had to find someone to talk to in Immigration in Tahiti and after several re-directions found someone who could speak English well enough to be understood. I was assured I only needed a letter of invitation from the skipper of the vessel, and to have travel insurance. This was done. Bookings made through Qantas to Tahiti travelling via Emirate Brisbane to Auckland, and then Air Tahiti Nui to Tahiti. Nothing to do now but wait.

26 Mar 2014

At last the day has arrived to set out on this trip. Uneventful flight to Brisbane. Bit rainy on arrival and cooler than I’m used to in the tropics. In-laws Mark and Diane once again came to the rescue with a place to stay overnight.  They always do. I think they’d be offended if I arrived in Brisbane and didn’t call them.

27 Mar 2014

0630hrs. Mark made sure he had me at the airport early in the morning in plenty of time to catch the flight to Auckland NZ. Approach the Emirates desk to check in for the flight to Auckland and the clerk asked for the return ticket. Explained I was sailing out on a yacht.  Explained the enquires I’d made and the answer I’d been given.  Then showed him the invitation by the skipper of the boat, plus another email I’d received from him. He took them away to check with someone else, then books my bag through to Papeete and sends me off to board the aircraft.

Outskirts of Auckland NZ Turning around for final
approach into Auckland NZ

Not so at Auckland. No return air ticket, no flight. Have to buy a return air ticket – see you later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight: My intended flight Air Tahiti Nui about to take off without me onboard.

Stuck in Auckland tonight but I won’t complain about Qantas again. A wonderful gentlemen named Neville at the Qantas Ticketing office booked me another flight for tomorrow, and then arranged for accommodation at the Holiday Inn, Dinner, Breakfast and airport transfers to be paid by Qantas. Thank God for that! Especially after it cost me $2034 NZD for a plane ticket I’m not expecting to use! But again my man helps out and makes the ticket refundable in case I don’t take it. How good is that?

Kind of restores your faith doesn’t it? Thanks to Neville finding and re-booking me a flight to Tahiti at such short notice I’ve only lost the one night accommodation in Papeete. Will be arriving just after midnight on Thursday night so at least I’ll still be able to take the island tour I’d arranged for Friday. Three cheers for Nev!


Touring Papeete


Fri 28 Mar 2014

Map 6 Auckland to Tahiti

Late rise and breakfast. Good bed and restful sleep. Late morning catch the big yellow bus transfer back to the airport. Can’t check in my bag until I show the check-in agent my return ticket. Everything’s hunky-dory after that. Spend the rest of the day waiting around the airport for my flight.

1830hrs: Board Air New Zealand flight NZ40 for the 5 hour flight to Tahiti.

Note: Clock wound back 24 hours crossing the International Date Line.

Fri 28 Mar 2014

0055hrs: Arrive Tahiti. Trio of 2 Tahitian men singing and playing a ukulele and a graceful hula dancing woman greet arrivals at the International airport. No problems through immigration and a customs man just nods me straight through. Met outside by an over-sized taxi driver named Pascale sent by the Ahitea Lodge where I’ll be staying for the next few nights. Short trip of about 10 mins into Papeete. Very little traffic about. CBD area brightly lit with quaint street lamps.

0200hrs: The lodge is not at all what I expected. More of a homestay and very basic. No TV, fridge, radio, clock, rubbish bin or desk except a little bedside light stand. Nor is there a glass for drinking water let alone guest soap. Probably an oversight. At least there’s a hot water shower, it’s clean and within walking distance of the CBD.

0800hrs: Breakfast is simple fare; coffee or tea with powdered milk, orange juice cordial and a roll or two of bread and jam. Everyone speaks mainly French and all are Tahitian.

0920brs. Tahiti Safari Expeditions arrive in a Nissan 4WD that is similar in function to the bemo’s that the Indonesians use, i.e. an open back with bench seats and canopy. There’s 6 other people consisting of 3 couples from Taiwan, USA and Italy respectively. Our driver/guide is Eric who is a native Tahitian aged 54 years, an ex-French Legionairre, now going grey and obviously proud of his culture.

Tahiti has only one main highway and that’s around the coast. Other roads branch off into the centre of the island. We follow the coastal road easterly going past Matavai Bay where Captains Cook and Bligh had once anchored. At about the 18km point we turn into the interior to make our way along the Papenoo valley until we stop at a restaurant for lunch.

The tour group stopped for photos. Start of the Papanoo Valley
Eric showing a “time” flower which changes
colour from yellow in the morning to orange
in the afternoon.
A wild orchid
Typical roadside scenery There’s at least 10 waterfalls cascading
down this mountain.
A tour guide from another tour company. The setting for lunch.
View from restaurant verandah. The receptionist is also the dancer/entertainer
and waitress too. Note the markings on her neck.

The receptionist with a deep voice and flat-chested woman/man – some of us are not too sure which, dances for us to Tahitian music on a stereo. Does a great job too.

Afternoon: Push on to the caldera of the 3-million year old, now extinct volcano that spawned Tahiti, ending at a tunnel through the caldera and which marks the end of the navigable road. During the day our driver/guide Eric shows us a hydro electric power station, numerous plants and their traditional uses, awe inspiring waterfalls and a Polynesian temple. Mosquitoes get far too friendly if we stop too long and I’m reminded of a sign at the airport advising there is a current outbreak of Dengue fever in Tahiti. Eric also points out an introduced makonia plant. It’s everywhere and is slowly killing the native jungle and forests. Am surprised on the return home by a long traffic jam on the road heading outbound from Papeete.

The road up the valley ends at this tunnel.
It’s private property from here and the track
becomes very dangerous.
Inside the tunnel.
A section of the caldera wall. Mikonia plant.

According to Eric the Tahitians have to learn two languages with French being the main one and traditional Tahitian. English, German and other languages are optional. Plenty of people getting around with tattoos but seem to be mostly on one arm or the neck. Apparently tattoos are not there for decoration. They have much more serious and symbolic reasons, not the least being to identify an individuals “totem” animal, e.g. dolphin, fish, wild boar. But it seems the young Tahitian people are slowly moving away from their culture. For example, and to Eric’s disgust his son does not want to speak Tahitian in his own home. Nor is he doing too well in school either but Eric doesn’t care too much. “Let him work in the plantations”, he says.

A Polynesian Temple lays hidden in a
clearing beside the road. A number of “memory” stones are scattered about.
Temples like these are where Tahitians come to remember their ancestors, although no one is actually buried here.

Evening: Ta’eva from the Lodge takes me into the CBD. He shows me where the bus station is located and drops me in front of an ATM. I haven’t had a chance to draw any Polynesian Francs yet. Being a Friday night there’s plenty of activity around. Crowds of people milling around especially on Place Vaiete, a large area next to the ferries and cruising ships. Lots of food and market stalls similar to Mindil Markets in Darwin except all menus are displayed on billboards in French. It’s suddenly quite difficult to know what to order. Can only find one place that can produce a menu in English so the method of getting something to eat is to point to a billboard photo of what you want. Then you have to work out the exchange rate. However most people seem to be able to speak a little English though comprehension sometimes takes a little work.

Sat 29 Mar 2014

Walk into town fairly early. Only about 10 mins plus time looking into various shops along the way. Visit the Tourist Bureau for information about public buses on weekends. There isn’t any, at least not after about 10am on Saturday. Pretty much Mondays to Fridays only and even then it’s haphazard – they only go when they’re full up. The only way to get down to the other side of the island tomorrow is by taxi, or go on a round-island tour and get off half-way, or hitch hike.

BIG mistake arriving in Tahiti at the end of a week.

Check at the local taxi rank and arrange for a driver to come to the Ahitea Lodge about 10am and take me the 47km or so down to Taravao. Quotes me $11,000 Polynesian Francs (roughly just under $140 AUS). Actually works out better. Cost will be about the same as booking another night at this lodge plus bus ticket, and I can get the driver to go directly to the Carrafour (pron. Gafoor) Supermarket where I’m to meet skipper Andrew for the first time. At least I won’t have to lug my bag along the side of a road.

Follow a tourist trail on foot around the city taking in the sights. Have coffee. More walking. Getting hot now. Have lunch. More walking and return to Lodge. Do the washing. Take a swim in the pool. Watch a bit of TV but it’s all in French. Lose interest when a soapie comes on, though at one point there’s an unusual actress literally shaped like a barrel and only about half the height of everyone one. Peroxicide blond too.

Ladies making haku headbands of flowers Completed haku headbands.
Papeete market. Papeete Cathedral – Roman Catholic in gothic style built in 1875. Survived a tidal wave in 1906, bombing by the German Navy in 1914, cyclone in 1983 and riots in 1987.
Queen Marau’s House. Married a Tahitian prince and became a Queen in 1877. Marriage didn’t last and she moved here with her 3 children to live out her life in this modest wooden house. Street scene
Street scene. Street scene with memorial to Tahitians who served and died in the French Army during WW1.
Street scene. Street scene.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Left: The Paofai Gardens has several acres along the foreshore of Papeete Harbour. Colourful brick pathways, green lawns, fountains and ponds with fish and water lilies, trees and coconut palms. This is called a fare potee – little hut.

Evening: Not quite as busy downtown as last night but almost. A band of 4 aged gentlemen sit busking, playing a variety of ukulele type instruments and sounding from a distance almost like Mexicans. Getting a little used to some of the French words and not quite so much of a problem getting a meal tonight. Very quiet in the back streets as I walk back to the Lodge. Small groups of people with children out in the street. Not so much vehicle traffic.

Ta’eva greets me back at the Lodge. Offers me a ride to Taravao for $7,000 Franks which is about $50 AUS cheaper than the taxi. Watch a movie on the laptop.

Onboard Athena

Sun 30 Mar 2014

Arrange with the Lodge office to cancel the taxi. Some more lodgers arrived last night. One family spending time around the pool. Ta’eva (pron Teeva) announces he’s ready to go and helps me carry my bag down to the van. Another young man from the Lodge climbs into the back for the ride and off we go. Large groups of people standing around all along the road waving large flags basically blue or orange colours. Ta’eva tells me over and over that blue is for Independents – good, and orange is for French – bad. In between this constant explanation he says today is for voting and first mentions the Mayor then mentions the President. So I don’t actually know which. In any case there’s no apparent animosity between the groups with many of them mingling side by side.

At another point he tells me again, “Independents – free! Can go to car yard, pick car, free! Get TV, free!” He continues on several more times like this until the young man in the back who still goes to school says simply and somewhat forcefully, “Dreaming!” Silently concur with this but it doesn’t seem to put Ta’eva off. And all this to the accompaniment of electronic disco music obviously best played at full volume. Was glad when we finally arrive at the Carrafour Supermarket at Taravao and can climb out of that van.

Andrew soon turns up. Easy enough to recognise from the photograph he’d sent, just an older version. Sit down for a coffee to quickly get acquainted, then do a little shopping for supper tonight. Walk about 800 metres or so down to a dirt landing where I wait while Andrew goes out to another yacht to borrow their larger dinghy. Andrew’s dinghy is small and can only carry two people and then only in calm water. It can’t carry my baggage as well. A young American man named Mike appears rowing a black painted dinghy. He’d volunteered to collect me and rows me out to Athena. Mike strikes me as a very nice chap, friendly and obviously helpful. He’d come out to Tahiti just to mind one of the yachts while the owner returned to the United States for a wedding.

Thomas the cat is standing by the cap-shrouds to see what’s happening. Proves to be quite friendly and ever ready for a pat so it looks like we’ll be friends. Climb aboard Athena and carry my gear down below and immediately my anxiety levels blow out. I’m getting hand tremors, heart racing and shortness of breath with no explainable cause. Inside the boat is quite cramped. Not much room to move about and there’s a shortage of storage space.

Interior of Athena looking from companionway toward V Berth Looking forward from cockpit.

Spend the rest of the day and evening settling in, stowing gear and chatting with Andrew, who does most of the talking I think. He stands a little shorter than me, has thinning grey hair and a white beard, is quite intelligent and describes himself as a vagabond seaman. As the evening draws on we play a movie on the laptop computer before getting to bed.

Mon 31 Mar 2014

Toss and turn all night unable to shake the anxiety despite using the breathing exercises I’d been taught. Spend an uneasy day aboard catching up on sleep and reading. Thomas spends most of his time sleeping or moving from place to place and plopping himself anywhere. Nothing escapes his notice. Andrew attends to a few jobs up on deck. Later he shows me around up topsides and I’m a bit taken aback at the poor condition of a portion of headsail I can see under the covers and lashed to the bow rails. It’s actually rotten and unlikely to stand any strain from the wind without ripping. Begin to wonder what else is not up to scratch and it adds to whatever it is that’s concerning me.

Later we spend more time chatting or at least Andrew does most of it. Andrew was a Sociologist but spent most of his working life as a lawyer, quite successfully by the sounds of it. He’s also spent most of his adult life sailing and has extensive experience. It’s evident that is true just by listening to him recount some of his voyages and experiences, including that of a being a yacht delivery skipper. It’s easy for me to see he’s quite the accomplished seaman. Watch another movie before bed.

Tue 1 Apr 2014

Another restless night waking up feeling quite dull and still anxious. Light showers and drizzle outside. Break the news to Andrew that I cannot continue with this trip. That kind gentle man just says, “What’s wrong Russ?” I show him my still shaking hands and tell him how I’d had a mental collapse in 2004, three relapses since and earlier this year diagnosed with PTSD as well. He asks about my symptoms. I think he has a right to know so explain them, then finish by telling him that I think if I ignore it and push things then it will probably get worse.

Andrew agrees.

I also mention my concern about the condition of the genoa headsail – the primary one to use in lighter winds. He assures me it’s actually a yankee jib – a smaller sail for heavier winds which is high cut so that waves can pass more easily underneath as the yacht leans over. The genoa is in good condition and lashed underneath. I’m also told there’s a spare headsail and mainsail both in good condition and that another yankee headsail is being delivered at Samoa. It’s not coming here because of the additional hefty expense in bringing it into French Polynesia. I’m relieved on hearing this and my estimation of the man rises. Note that the yacht is actually quite well equipped for ocean travel, although I would have liked to see a dedicated GPS unit rather than rely on a laptop computer and USB GPS devices.

Andrew surprises me by saying he really does understand my situation, and says he’d once had very similar symptoms 30 years ago but is now cured. He’d been lucky enough to get the services of a world class psychologist who gained his experience by treating victims of the Rhodesian war and was well regarded. This man taught Andrew a system of physical and mental exercises, ordered him to give up drinking and smoking, avoid any stressful activity including watching television and practice the exercises twice a day.

Andrew equates anxiety and I think depression would probably fit in here too, as a lack of mental energy. He likened it to a cell-phone battery. If you are running at about 10% then you don’t have the energy – mental or physical to do anything. You just can’t function properly and your mental defences are very weak. And unless your battery levels are at least up to 50% you are going to quickly run out of energy if you try to do anything stressful. As a result you go through life in a series of small highs and lows.

I can relate exactly to that . Andrew gives me a verbal overview of what these physical and mental exercises entail, and promises to write it out and email them to me. I knew of similar exercises before and had tried them, but didn’t get any benefit so stopped doing them. He tells me it will take between 4 to 6 months before seeing any improvements, but after that things should get better much more quickly.

I say that I feel bad about having to leave him on his own like this, but he assures me it’s not much of a problem. He’s done a lot of solo sailing before. In fact he said he’d probably go it alone from here on anyway. I assume he means all the way to South Africa.

Later that afternoon we go ashore to the supermarket which has a wifi hotspot and I’m able to find accommodation in Papeete for tomorrow. Once I’m back in Papeete in the hotel, I’ll set about booking flights back home to Darwin.

Weds 2 Apr 2014

Raining off an on. Pack up but find out later I’d left my toilet bag behind on the boat. Andrew demurs when I give him the $500 he’d mentioned in an much earlier email to me as the amount needed when we planned to go to Darwin. My position on this is that if you leave a boat of your own choice you lose your contribution and I knew he needed it. Also gave him some new marine charts covering the area from Fiji to Timor and Torres Strait.

Mike comes over once again and rows me ashore followed in close order by Andrew. We wait about 40 minutes or so before the bus to Papeete shows up. There’s no real timetable here. Cost 450 Swiss Francs – approx just over $5.00. Bid farewell to Andrew. Wish him good luck and say goodbye.

The trip into town is uneventful. Interesting to watch the locals come and go. There’s a huge cruise ship and a United States warship docked at separate wharves nearby. Takes about 40 minutes before a taxi pulls up at one of the main taxi ranks and takes me to the Sarah Nui hotel. Takes the receptionists a while to find the booking and an even longer while to process it, but eventually manage to get into my room and take a long, hot shower. Thankfully there’s soap here unlike the other place. Spend the rest of the day looking for and booking flights home to Darwin.

Dinner back down at the PlaceVaiete at the harbour. Have a television in the room but it’s all in French. Watch a movie on the laptop instead.

Tomorrow I’ll spend the day waiting around for my flight to Auckland, thence to Brisbane and finally Darwin. I know I’m going to have regrets about not going on the voyage with Andrew but it can’t be helped. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and I don’t like it one little bit when I can’t rise to meet it. I’m used to meeting them but perhaps I just set my goals too high this time. I’d thought things would be okay because I wasn’t sailing solo on my own boat. And I’d sailed as crew on another boat previously from Turkey to Oman in 2009. No hint of problem there. And I’d sailed from Cairns to Innisfail in Queensland and back with one crewman in 2012 and never had a problem there either. Why should this one have been any different? I don’t know.

But if anything there is one aspect to this trip that is markedly significant. And that was meeting a true gentleman and getting advice which may lead to improving the rest of my life. If that happens then I’ll be forever grateful to Andrew.




3 thoughts on “2014 Tahiti to South Africa

  1. Russ,
    We hope everything went well with your flight today. Enjoy the sites of Papeete and the rest of Tahiti. We also hope that all goes well with skipper and yacht.
    Mark & Di

    • It probably might have been except I didn’t actually end up going on it.
      And I never heard from Andrew again, despite several attempts to contact him by email, and unfortunately he had no phone number – so I don’t know if he made it, or not.

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