Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 16, 2017

Sailing from Pitcairn to Gambier Archipelago

10.5.17 – Wednesday – At 0730 l.t we left Pitcairn. The distance to the south-eastern pass into the Gambier lagoon was 288 miles.The wind was from the north 17-20 knots. We raised the main to first reef and opened the jib fully. Two Oceans started romping along like a racing horse. I was amazed and perplexed by the speeds on the instruments: the speed over water was 11 knots, that on the GPS showed 12 plus. Zulu said the instruments were wrong and I laughed him off: “how is it possible that both instruments and especially the GPS plotter, would be wrong?” Danny took out his I Pad and opened his nav-program; it showed we were doing 7 knots… So the laugh was on me! Restarting the Raymarine instruments corrected the strange phenomenon; I should contact Raymarine about it.

We continued sailing, the wind abated and we opened the main fully. We were trying to gain distance to the north of track in anticipation of the forecasted north-westerlies. We had to treat a small tear that appeared on the jib using the repair tape; another item on the maintenance list. Zulu has discovered that he did not close his hatch properly and his beddings got wet by a wave; he took them out to dry in the cockpit. In the evening we had to dodge a big rain cloud that sneaked on us from the north, bringing a short period of shower and strong wind but after that the wind stabilized at 10-13 knots from the NNE and we had nice sailing conditions.

11.5.17 – Thursday – Mercifully the north-west wind did not materialize and we continued fast running towards Gambier. To put things in order I should explain that Gambier is the name of the archipelago, consisting of 14, mostly uninhabited islands the main of which is Mangareva; the main village or town on that island is called Rikitea and this is the place we are sailing to.

After lunch I looked into the engine room; oh, oh! I saw a puddle of water in the bilge. I started the engine to determine its origin but could see no leak. To get a better look at the water pipes and pumps I squeezed into that small space behind the engine and asked the guys to start it. I suddenly saw green coolant accumulating in the bilge but still could not find the source. Filling up fresh coolant did not help, the liquid found its hidden way to the bilge. The consequences of losing that engine were daunting – no propulsion, no battery charging – we were in real trouble. We had enough time to discuss how we would deal with the situation and then my eyes were drawn to the two pipes connecting the engine heat exchanger to the hot water tank behind my back. Both of them were broken at the connection to that tank and this was the source of the leak!

Pipes reconnected, coolant refilled and engine started – we were back in business. We tried to reconstruct what happened and came to the conclusion that the initial leak was through the transom shower pipe entrance to the hull, perhaps when Danny was taking a shower there and that when I went in to investigate I somehow stepped on those hot water pipes, breaking them off the tank.

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I said:”Just imagine what would have happened had I not found those broken pipes!” (no refrigeration, hand steering, sailing all the way into the reef enclosed lagoon up to the anchorage) and Zulu countered by saying:”Just imagine what you would have felt when a mechanic in Rikitea would have found it in two minutes!”. Another lesson learned the hard way.

12.5.17 – Friday – Good winds continued all through the night and we were going fast, even too fast for fishing. We changed the clock to Rikitea time – u.t.c minus 9 and at midday we entered the Gambier lagoon.

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                          Approaching the Gambier archipelago

With the wind from the north we had to take down the sails and continue under our single operating engine towards the Rikitea anchorage. The Navionics chart on Danny’s I Pad was very accurate and by it we joined the main channel which is well marked. There were nineteen yachts in the anchorage, including Kalibu, who left Easter Island the same day we did. I spoke to them later and found out they just came in the morning, so compared to us they had a slow passage. We anchored near them in 13 meters. I was wondering about the whereabouts of Pakia Tea, which also went to Gambier at the same time; I expected to find them here. We went to the Gendarmerie to do the check in procedure, then back to the boat, happy hour, a light meal and early to bed. The flat water, quiet anchorage, after the ones in Easter island and Pitcairn was magical.

So, we made it to French Polynesia; will it be the paradise on earth I dreamed about? Time will tell.


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