Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for July, 2017

Society Islands – Bora Bora

A really nice few days here in Bora Bora catching up with friends and finishing boat jobs. I’ve made some adjustments to the rigging following the shakedown sail from Raiatea with the new forestay  Departing shortly for Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, about 5 or 6 days at sea. Hope the weather cooperates and allows a stop there as the island should be a fascinating and unique place to visit.

sunset from Raiatea with Bora Bora in the background



arrival in Bora Bora

arriving Bora Bora. thanks Bill on SV Ballena for the photo

arriving Bora Bora. thanks Bill on SV Ballena for the photo


Posted on 26 Jul in: Society Islands

Society Islands – Raiatea

Fathom arrived at the carenage (boatyard) on the island of Raiatea on the 3rd July after a pleasant overnight sail from Mo’orea with Waterhoen again in convoy. Both boats managed to get a berth inside the little harbour and this would end up being Fathom’s home for just about the next three weeks. I had made prior arrangements with Richard, a boaty handyman on the island, who would help me with the repair to the mast step and deck. He would provide jacks, 2×4’s and various electric tools needed for the job. The reason for doing all this work was to investigate and try and rectify the depression in the mast step where the mast step fitting had been slowly sinking into the deck at a slight angle to starboard. I was hoping Richard would arrive the following day but he was finishing another job and then got sick so in the end didn’t turn up until Saturday 8th. It was a frustrating few days waiting around but I got a lot of the prep work done such as removing the sails and boom to reduce weight on the mast, slacking off the rigging and setting up a tent in the cabin to try and contain the dust. Adva was still around on Waterhoen so we made a quick visit to Taputapuatea. Here there is a site with a number of marae and other stone structures and was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia.

Once Richard showed up the first task was to jack up the deck slightly with two pieces of 2×4 to support the weight of the mast and cabin top so we could remove the support post. We calculated it was safe to leave the mast up with slack rigging and wedges on the deck to help spread the weight. Once the support post was removed we cut out a section of the fibreglass and plywood under the mast step to see if it was wet or there had been any other structural failure. It turned out the wood was dry but had been notably compressed compared with areas further from the step. I am surprised that no load bearing plate or wood had been added above the support post when Fathom was built instead the compression post was in direct contact with the underside of the deck presenting a relatively small area for the loads from the mast and rigging to be transferred to the bulkhead.

The next step was to glue a piece of hardwood into the hole with thickened epoxy. We discovered there was no epoxy available to buy on the whole of the island due to a stock issue in Tahiti but luckily some Swiss friends sold me theirs so it didn’t slow us down too much. Once in place the hardwood plug was covered and glued by a piece of fibreglass offcut so that it came up nice and flush with the surround.

Richard was still struggling with flu like symptoms over the next couple of days but in fear of further delays I managed to keep him alive by providing regular doses of Ibroforin, hot water with lemon juice and bowls of soup. In order to add strength to the deck support I wanted to shorten the compression post and add a piece of hardwood to the underside of the deck to help spread the load. There is only one place to buy wood on Raiatea and thankfully they sold some hardwood, a bit narrower than I would have liked but workable. The hardwood was shaped using a jigsaw and two 18mm pieces epoxied together. Once dry a hole saw was used to make four cut outs allowing access to the mast step nuts and bolts. The hardwood was then attached to the underside of the deck with thickened epoxy.

Once the epoxy had cured the final task was to jack up the deck very slightly, shorten the support post and put back in place. This took some careful measuring and a steady hand with the saw. I rebuilt some of the headlining support around the post and then it was time to clean up and remove the dust. From the deck the mast step fitting now looks straight again and is no longer rubbing away at the mast heel. Nearly all of the depression in the mast step area has been removed except directly under the mast step fitting which is permanently bowed. When the mast is next stepped I will install a new mast step and flatten this area.

Fathom spick and span again I was all ready to depart Raiatea for Bora Bora on the 14th when I noticed a broken strand at the top of the forestay while doing a rig check. Very very thankful I discovered this as I could have got in a spot of bother on the way to New Zealand otherwise. With the help of friends Robin and Fiona from ‘Monarch’ the forestay was detached and taken ashore inside the foil of the furling gear. The stainless screws in the aluminium foil were completely seized so it was not possible to take the foil apart and separate from the forestay. I got in contact with a rigger in Tahiti who was able to make up a new forestay, supply a swageless terminal and deliver here to the carenage in Raiatea by plane. The new wire had to be spliced to the old one and pushed through the foil. A norseman swageless terminal was then fixed to the top end. It took quite a while to get everything back installed, thanks again to Robin and Fiona for their help. Touch wood Fathom is now back in commission and ready to get some more miles under her keel.

The plan is to sail to Bora Bora tomorrow for a shakedown sail and there I will begin the process of checking out of French Polynesia on Monday. Weather permitting I hope to stop at Aitataki, Palmerston and Niue in the Cook Islands en-route to Tonga.

Posted on 22 Jul in: Society Islands

Society Islands – Tahiti & Mo’orea

My time in Tahiti seems a bit of a blur but after months of sleepy islands and remote anchorages I don’t think i’d ever been more excited about being in a city. Fresh produce market two minutes walk from the boat, warm baguettes every morning, plenty of options to grab a morning coffee or evening beer ashore and an open air food court. I tried to do boat jobs but didn’t achieve much, drank a lot of coffee, drank probably too much rum and partied with old and new friends alike. For a few days I lost track of the big picture, didn’t think about the next destination or anchorage, what the weather was doing or my bank balance. It was like I had been sucked into a Papeete bubble, and I enjoyed it.

another day, another bay

Adva, Oceana and I hired a car for a couple of days and did a road trip around the island. We visited some caves, did a couple of hikes and stopped at Venus Point to have a beer on the beach and watch the sunset. It was here that Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus in 1769 during his first voyage around the world. The car also came in useful for taking jerry cans to the fuel station and doing a big food shop at the supermarket. It was great to catch up with Ned, a friend from back home, who is now Captain of the ‘Wind Spirit, a four masted sailing cruise ship that travels around the leeward islands. Thanks Ned for bringing all those bits and bobs out for me from the UK.

After nearly two weeks of city life it was definitely time to escape. Oceana joined me for the short sail to the neighbouring island of Mo’orea with Waterhoen sailing alongside Fathom once again. A pleasant sail in 10 to 15 knots of wind on the beam. It was nice to have crew for the day but Oceana must learn that if she throws a banana skin over her shoulder into the wind it is likely to fly back across the boat and hit the skipper in the face who is sitting on the downwind side of the cockpit. She did make a nice lunch so all was forgiven!

Once in Mo’orea, Oceana returned to her boat Danika and Fathom and Waterhoen spent two days at anchor in the lagoon at the entrance of Opanohu Bay. Beautiful turquoise water and dramatic scenery. We got driven around to see some sights including a stop at the Belvedere, a view point that looks down on both Cooks Bay and Opanohu Bay, somewhere I had visited when I was here ten years ago. After a couple of days we decided to head round to Cook’s Bay and join some other boats we know. The bay is very deep and our small boats don’t carry so much anchor chain but we found a shallower spot in the S.W corner and settled in there. The weather became very unsettled as a trough approached from the west with 30 knots + of wind funnelling into the bay and heavy rain. Several boats dragged but Fathom and Waterhoen held firm. Unfortunately the bad weather put pay to doing a planned hike and more exploration inland.

Some highlights of my time in Mo’orea included playing football in the late afternoons with the local kids. They are hard as nails and play in barefoot or flip flops on concrete. I felt a bit of a cheat wearing trainers but received my comeuppance when I was tackled by an 8 year old less than half my height, fell over and grazed my knee quite impressively. A few of us got together several times to sing and play guitar the best time being the evening on Danika where we first cooked home made pizza and then had a good jam session in the cockpit. One day Adva, Oceana and I hitched a ride to the next bay so we could get on some faster internet. The older frenchman that stopped to pick us up proceeded to play ‘Blue Christmas’ on full blast and we all sang along without saying a word to each other. Singing along to a christmas tune with a complete stranger on a tropical island in the South Pacific in JUNE was certainly unusual.

One day John, the Owner of Danika, and I dinghied down the coast to a small spot where we had heard black tip sharks and stingrays hang out. We found it and proceeded to swim amongst them. What an amazing experience that was (see video). The next day ‘Wind Spirit’ was visiting the island so Captain Ned invited us onboard and gave us a tour of the ship with lunch after. You have no idea how exciting an all you can eat buffet lunch is after living on a small boat for over a year. Cheers Ned.

With so much of the South Pacific still to see and time ticking I was keen to get to the island of Raiatea soonest to make a start on the repair to the deck under the mast step. I met a Canadian guy called Richard in Papeete who lives in Raiatea and is a licensed professional electrician and boat builder. He is going to help me with the repair which unfortunately is going to be a fairly big job. We think we can do it by leaving Fathom in the water and the mast up with loosened rigging and hydraulic jacks. I write this now at the carenage in Raiatea and work on the repair will begin in the next day or two. The mess and disruption is about to start so fingers crossed all goes well and the mast doesn’t end up in the cabin. I’ll write about how it goes in the next post hopefully sooner rather than later.

Posted on 06 Jul in: Society Islands

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