Morning lessons.

5:45am, just outside the pass in Tikehau.

“You should seize that shackle sometime,”

The casual words of our friend Spencer, aka master marine macrae, spoken 8 months prior, echoed in my mind, as I saw the boom swing out uncontrollably and smack into the lower shroud, moments after I had hoisted the main sail… The shackle’s pin had wiggled loose, as Spencer had prophesied!

The boom was loose. The boat was not able to sail until the shackle was fixed… which is this tiny thing at the end of a super heavy, and currently unstable object: the boom.

Four lessons learnt in those wee hours:

1. Sweat the small stuff that is crucial. Usually it’s a tiny pin failure that causes collapse of a mast. Like a sour conversation with a friend that, despite seemingly trivial, wrecks a friendship… Seize that pin, matey!

2. Act immediately when someone makes a suggestion that rings true. Don’t be a lazy bum…

3. Listen to your intuition and stay flexible. I had planned to leave late yesterday evening, but the sky looked ominous. “I don’t think this is the time to start a passage,” I had thought. How glad I was for that intuitive postponement, as I’d much rather be dealing with this issue in daylight, instead of in the middle of pitch-black squalls!

4. Have a backup plan. I secured the boom with another line, and dug around for a spare shackle. Cruisers aren’t kidding when they say, “have a spare for every single thing”. The spares don’t have to be exact replicas. It’s kinda like diversifying your investments, you need options when one thing fails.

I secured the boom with another line, and the autopilot steered us along to smooth down the motion. Then with a new pin in my teeth, I teetered precipitously to install the new shackle… like weaving a thread into a sewing needle with the Pacific Ocean swirling underneath you.

By 6am, Aldebaran was sailing south properly, with 10-15kts of breeze. I was shaking my head at my oversight… but we were on our way, and skies were beautiful! Nevertheless, more was in store for us.

Photo: the shackle that attaches the boom to the mainsheet — now properly seized! The “seizing” is the little wire that goes around the shackle’s pin to prevent it from un-doing itself over time… can’t assume it’ll stay in place, just because you tighten it like hell. That little wire is the solution to Murphy’s law, “what might happen, will happen at some point”.

Solo overnight to Tahiti

My last trip with Tabula Raza (a 29ft sloop, back in 2006) was planned as a three week solo exploration of the Channel Islands. On the second day the engine broke.

Bobbing around at anchor in Santa Rosa island, looking at three weeks of food and water packed to the gills in the galley, I started reading all those sailing books that I had collected. “Dang it, I can do this,” I thought, hoisting the mainsail, and pulling up anchor slowly as the boat tacked and zig-zagged on the hook.

Over the next three weeks I sailed alone, in and out of 5 different anchorages, including becher’s bay, coches prietos, forney’s cove, pelican bay, and some random stretch of windy beach that I got stuck in with night falling. I returned to Santa Barbara with skills and confidence that would have taken me years to normally develop.

They say “adventure begins when plans fail.” Well, it sure does speed up learning!

In this mindset, I readied the boat for my first overnight sail on Aldebaran, ever. Hard to believe, but true.. in 8 years I’ve never sailed her overnight alone.

I was heading from Tikehau to Tahiti, 200 nautical miles, to pickup Sabrina, who arrives in one week. I was excited! And I was about to get some good new lessons.

Sailing solo, then riiiiip….

A mixture of anxiety and excitement filled me as I hoisted sail enroute to Tikehau. I was alone aboard Aldebaran. This was the first time I was sailing solo in… a long time.

I remembered my first solo sail, 13 years ago, from Santa Barbara to Morro Bay aboard Tabula Rasa, a Columbia 30ft sloop, my first sailboat. It was 8 months since I had purchased her, and I had never sailed a small boat before.

The quiet thrill and the quiet foreboding were both tangible. There’s a realization that nobody has your back, so your senses are heightened, the mind is sharp. Sailing around Point Conception with a smooth SE wind was liberating. Then storm clouds built, and the weather radio’s information got worse and worse. I pushed myself past delirium to sail straight and true all the way to Port San Luis, where I hunkered down. There is nothing like going solo to give you confidence.

Staying too long in a comfortable port breeds inertia in sailors; and so does having crew members. “I can’t do that alone” percolates your mind. But yes you can; you just need to re-learn how.

So here we go. Soon the sails were in trim and Ziggy the autopilot had the wheel in control. The stereo started bumping louder, captain started dancing to the beats… I was feeling good!

Heading downwind, a sailboat with main & headsail can only go 150 degrees to the wind. Which means that upon approaching the backside of Tikehau I had to go wing-in-wing (mainsail to one side, headsail to the other).

Or, I had to jibe Aldebaran (turning the boat downwind from one side to the other). Either maneuver is tough with the big reacher headsail, which has to sneak between the forestay and the inner jib stay. With another crew member to guide it makes things easier.

Hum… I could either give it a shot, or drop the mainsail. That would let me go straight downwind with just the headsail, but slower. I decided to keep full sail.

The first two jibes worked well. Then I miscalculated the angle to get around the atoll and the waves got too close for comfort. I decided to try wing-in-wing, using the preventer to control the unruly mainsail. When the reacher came around the forestay and filled up, that’s when I heard it…

…Riiiiiiiiiip !!

It had snagged the anchor windlass and ripped the bottom of the sail! I raced forward, dropped the canvas and pulled it out of the water into the nets.

Luckily the damage wasn’t major – just a tear along the bottom edge of the reacher, about 2 feet long. I adjusted course, then keeping a watchful eye on the shoreline, not far from us, I rigged the smaller genoa and inner jib.

In 20 minutes we were again underway. The sail change was for the best, after all. The wind had freshened to 20 knots and veered to 60 degrees off the bow, as we now sailed south in smooth waters towards Tikehau’s pass. Aldebaran gurgled happily, once again. Despite the bit of damage, we had made it to our destination, our pride intact.

Photo: Aldebaran with genoa and inner jib, reefed main, taking waves in the port ama bow.

Tuamotos Tattoo

We had been surfing the righthander on the “crack in the reef” on our own, dodging sets and picking off corners. Most waves were overhead with a few larger bombs. Only the end section was makeable, despite being warbly, and the shallow reef inside kept us on our toes. The surprising sections created an “edginess” that was taxing.

Noho and I were satisfied (relieved?) after catching a few waves in our first session, and thought we’d try out the lefthander. It’s such an incongruous setup, two waves peeling into each other! We needed to give it a shot.

Although the left was less steep, it was also shorter before it closed out; adding a critical element about it. On my second ride I took off a little deeper. Mistake.

I suddenly saw two piles of dry coral just inside of where the wave was heading. It was gonna be close… Nope! Hit the eject button! I forcefully straightened out, and once clear of the rockpile, jumped off the board as a ‘starfish’ – landing on my back, arms and legs outstretched, to skim the surface and avoid going underwater too much.

The strategy worked, as it had many times before. Except the spin cycle of the white water did one extra thrust and dumped this little starfish onto yet another coral bommie.

Thankful for adrenalin, I paddled like crazy through the coral heads back into the channel, before my back really started to burn. I saw Noho going for a wave; I started waving at him frantically, “don’t go, too dangerous!!” I hollered. He didn’t catch it, and we went back to Aldebaran.

The rashguard I was wearing protected the skin somewhat. Usually I wear a 1mm neoprene jacket, which would have been better. After I cleaned up with soap and water, Noho applied the local remedy to coral cuts– fresh lime juice, which as you can imagine burns like hell. Then betadine and gauze.

I was lucky the scrape wasn’t too deep. The bruise was extensive and hurt for several days. It would leave its mark on my back, a reminder of this beautiful – but sketchy – spot.

Who said you can’t get a tattoo for free in French Polynesia?? We’ll see what this Tuamotos Tattoo ends up looking like..

A Crack in the Reef

After a long day of sailing we arrived in a beautiful spot. Coconut trees hung over shallow waters, framing a simple copra house, with a good vantage point over the lagoon. Cartoon-like, outside the reef, a left and right peeled into each other, with nobody around.

Why have I avoided showing any surf photos or writing about the amazing spots we’ve encountered on our trip? The remote breaks in Polynesia are like virgin maidens in a forest; only sighted after enormous efforts, but they can become easy targets for hungry surfer wolves.

Still, who doesn’t like to dream over empty lineup shots? We will share pictures on instagram when the places are out of context. And if people really want to know, I can share the details of a spot — over a cup of coffee, not online.

This particular spot is quite difficult to find, and nobody would bother, as better waves are found in “easier” places. Most surf breaks in French Polynesia are on reef passes, which have recognizable features on a chart; yet here is an exception, a rarity located on a random crack in the reef, amid the miles of reef surrounding these ancient atolls.

Aldebaran felt exposed, rolling and pitching in the cross-ocean swells. It reminded me of our surf explorations in Central America. It was what I had dreamed of– spending a season in the vast Tuamotos archipelago finding its hidden gems. Yet, I was also about to pay a price for coming to this place.

Sailing with Noho

A swell was coming but the wind was north. “I know of a spot that might be good in this wind. I’ve never been there, but I heard it gets good,” Noho said.

He bid farewell to his wife and kids, and picked up bags of rice, cans of sausage-beans, bottles of juice, and a pound of sugar. “All we need now is fish and coffee,” he smiled.

His younger cousin Toriki was also going to join us, but at the last minute quarreled with his girlfriend. Tough luck, buddy.

Noho has traveled around the Tuamotos working aboard a large dive charter vessel, but never on a sailboat. We grinned as Aldebaran galloped under sail at 6-7 knots outside of Avatoru pass, heading into the open sea for his first experience sailing outside of the lagoon.

Mooring Setup in Avatoru Pass

What a relief! I thought, once I tied up to the mooring. I had been anchored in Avatoru Pass for 5 days doing chores, enjoying the unbelievably scenic location. But the anchor chain was giving me problems.

As opposed to the atoll’s lagoon, which can be somewhat milky, the water inside the pass are crystalline, reflecting every hue of blue from the seabed. Dozens of fat trigger fish swam among the coral. A stone’s thrown away was Mama Ou’s beach house, on either side being the twin red steeple churches; along with the pleasant bucolic sounds of the village and occasional copra boats running to outer motus. It was all very far away from the busy Scuba tourist waters of the famous Tiputa pass, 6 miles east, and I was loving it.

Yet the anchor chain kept wrapping coral heads with the ebb and flow of the tide. I used 3 buoys to “float” the chain into the water column, which worked well, but everyday I’d have to untangle the buoys lines from the spinning chain. During one of these swims I discovered a huge mooring lying derelict on the sea floor — a 4x4ft slab of concrete with a heavy ship’s chain leading away from it. I asked Noho and he confirmed it was installed by the Rangiroa commune for use of sailboats, but had not been maintained. It was time to change that!

I asked my friend Toriki for some pearl farm buoys, which there is no shortage of, from the heyday of pearl farming in the 90s. I took one buoy down to the chain, which lifted it off the seabed, essential to protect the mooring line from chafing on any coral. I added another float to the surface. Then I checked all the connections, and voilà! the mooring was ready.

Raising anchor in the Tuamotos is always an effort as the anchor chain tends to snag on coral rocks everywhere. There are even cases of the windlass being ripped off the deck as the chain short scopes on a rock, if the wind and seas have grown in the lagoon.

It is considerably easier for the person raising anchor to do it safely if there’s an with extra person to drive the boat; and even better with a person in the water to help guide the boat in a fashion that releases the chain.

On a calm tide I did all this solo, Chinese fire drill style, running back and forth on deck and jumping into the water now and then, to see where the chain was now snagged.

Then I attached to the new mooring… ahhh, satisfaction. The photo shows both of Aldebaran’s anchors on their bow rollers, and the mooring line leading into the gorgeous waters of Avatoru. Now I can come and go easily (and other sailboats too) Hurrah!

Disclaimer: sailors should always inspect moorings and attach to a secure point (which may be underwater, as is the case here). Use this mooring in Avatoru at your own risk.

Life chores in Rangiroa

“Welcome back to Rangiroa!” said my friend Noho, who we had met last September. It was great to see again and strengthen our friendship.

I had sailed the 40 miles from Tikehau to Rangiroa for a dentist appointment. I had dropped off my friends Jesse & Anna here, who had spent New Year’s with me. Now I was alone for the first time in a year.

I was surprised to discover the good quality dentist I visited had no way of accepting my money — how’s that for medical care? So I got a cavity filled courtesy of the taxpayers of French Polynesia. “Just come back when you get signed up with the local health insurance,” the dentist told me amicably.

In exchange, it was time for me to pay Uncle Sam. I needed to get my USA taxes done, but internet here is slow as molasses. Websites spin for minutes before loading. Pathetically slow internet is undeniably the greatest challenge of being in Tuamotos. Nevertheless my bank statements eventually loaded and I sifted through a year’s worth of expenses and income.

Fortunately, Noho would wave at me from the beach and come visit me for a break. Tagging along was his cousin Toriki, who paddled an outrigger everyday past Aldebaran. They are so pumped on the boat, it is fun sharing it with them. The photo shows us about to head on a dinghy mission together.

Back to Real Time

As many of you may have noticed, our blog has been months behind where we actually are — this is changing today! Welcome back to the present moment, Aldebaran!

During our 21 day passage in April ’17 across the Pacific – then thru Pitcairn, Gambier, and Marquesas – we were posting to the blog “real time”. However, our boatyard purgatory in Hiva Oa threw a tailspin into our lives as we battled for our ship’s integrity (and our sanity). One casualty, beside our health, was that we fell terribly behind on the blog.

Well, I’m following my own New Year’s advice: following the stoke. Which means… sharing what’s happening right now.

Wait! What about our last 3 months cruising the world famous Society Islands — like Tahiti, Moorea, Bora-Bora, and also other lesser known beauties? They are incredible, truly a jewel of the Earth. We’ll reminisce about those adventures on Instagram : so please follow us via computer at instagram.com/greencoconutrun , or better yet your phone’s Instagram app, by searching for greencoconutrun.

But… it’s time for the blog to come back to the “present”; which, as they say, is the real gift.

Photo: Aldebaran anchored in Avatoru pass, Rangiroa. This is the view from Mama Ou’s house, who we visited 3 months ago, and now we are back! The boat is empty of crew; I’m doing much needed maintenance, while Sabby is in California.

Slideshow this Friday (Santa Barbara)

“Highlights from 2017”

When: Friday the 12th at 5:30p

Location: THE SANDBOX

Address: 414 Olive Street, Santa Barbara

BYOC (bring your own cup) and plates and utensils as we are making this a plastic free event

Details:

Gathering all ocean lovers, adventurers, stoke harvesters, and dreamers to come together for a slideshow highlighting Green Coconut Run’s adventures throughout French Polynesia this past year. We found paradise and we want to share it all with you… the stories, the footage, and what’s up next! Feel free to invite your friends. Potluck style like usual. This event will be plastic free, so BYOC (bring your own cup) & plate/bowl/utensils to avoid single use plastics at this event. Thank you! See ya there.

TikeWow

Over the course of a few days, the atoll of Tikehau turned into “TikeWow”! We were enchanted.

As we relaxed into its slow pace and idyllic beauty, a switch turned in our minds. Left brain slowed down, right brain activated. It was a fantasy movie scene, and we were the actors, playing in this south seas wonderland…

“TikeWow” must be one of the most beautiful atolls in French Polynesia! We leave the photos to do the talking 🙂

Just one resolution for the New Year

A message from a few stoked sailors in the south seas:

“When making resolutions this New Year… disregard the guilty ones, and embrace your dreams instead!! It is much more satisfying to focus on what we love — than on the errors we find hard to let go of.”

(Giving up stuff is best suited for Lent, anyway…)

How do we recreate the life we want? Dreaming big, working really hard, and making those tricky decisions that bring your vision to life – even if life is murky.

The holidays bring out the spirit of generosity and gratitude in each of us. Carrying that feeling forth into the year, seeing the obstacles as part of the journey; we keep trying and doing better.

With our sailing voyage, we’ve been able to realize our dreams; not only alone, but as a whole community. We feel so incredibly blessed! Despite being tested by the efforts. We hope that this magic inspiration can percolate others.

For the New Year, Green Coco recommends just one resolution… “harvest stoke”.

How you will mine gold nuggets of joy in this next year, no matter what is happening, is your own art and path.

Happy 2018!

Lagoonarium Tikehau

The shack on the water looks like an abandoned pearl farm. But actually, it used to be a natural aquarium, or as they like to call them in French Polynesia: a “lagoonarium”.

In its heyday, tourists came to see the feeding of fish, sharks, and morays, all kept in large pens in the lagoon water. But the owner had legal problems and left the shack to the forces of nature.

The old lagoonarium is still very picturesque, straddling the periphery of the anchorage at Tikehau’s pass. It is now ours to explore…

Jewels took this great picture with an X-Shot housing for a Go Pro, borrowed from a friend back home. Thanks Jewels!

Christmas on the Boat: Poem

T’was the night before Christmas and anchored afloat,
Not a creature was stirring, inside of the boat.
The anchor was set with quite enough scope,
So the yacht would stay put… well at least that’s the hope!

T’was the night before Christmas, the boat gently rocking,
And hung on the mast were the holiday stockings.
No tree, wreath, or candles, but lots of good cheer,
It’s joyful enough that we can be here!

We wondered if Santa would somehow appear,
He can swim surely, but do his reindeer?
Do sleighs have EPIRB, AIS, and good charts?
We hope he is carrying sufficient spare parts.

T’was the night before Christmas when we heard an “ahoy!”,
It brought to our hearts such a feeling of joy!
We could be mistaken, the red light we saw,
Was it nav lights, or Rudolf, we watched it with awe.

Whether sailboat or sleigh, dancing waves with such ease,
Moving so swiftly with quite a good breeze.
Then heard in the distance as it seemed to take flight,
Merry Cruising to all, and to all a good night!

Happy Holidays from Tikehau!

All I want for Christmas is….

A tropical deserted beach?
A cheesy photograph with great friends?
Stoke that even the famous “stoke-o-meter” can’t properly register?

Check, check, check!

The Polynesian transformation has begun.

May you realize your dreams and receive the best gifts: deep gratitude for all, and a surge of generosity towards others that requires nothing in return.

Happy holidays!

Avoid getting bitten by Moray Eels

The locals in the French Polynesia all claim the Moray Eels are more dangerous than the sharks.

“They’ll defend their territory if you get too close without realizing,” they warn. The Morays hide deep within the rocky reefs, and they don’t like visitors encroaching on their doorway.

However, when they are visible outside their holes, it is fun to watch their menacing stare, and admire their predatory teeth which softly gnaw as they breathe and survey the surroundings…

Michael and Sondra demonstrate how to observe them safely in this photo. Just don’t get too close 😉

How the Tuamotos gets supplies

This aerial photo of the venerable ship “Dory” tells a story of how economic trade has enabled remote places like Tuamoto atolls to thrive (shown here in Avatoru pass of Rangiroa).

It is quite difficult to grow crops in the sandy terrain of the Tuamotos, just a few feet above sea level, with high salinity contaminating the soil during storms and king tides. The historical solution has been “do with less, and trade what you have plenty of”. In the case of Tuamotos, they have abundant fish, and abundant copra. The latter is dried coconut meat — processed into many well known body products.

Just like the schooners of the past, the cargo ships like Dory visit the atolls on a regular schedule to bring imported produce and ship exported copra. All the ships also accept a limited number of passengers. It is possible to travel somewhat affordably between atolls if you have time and are willing to “rough it”.

Like all the locals, we are tuned in to the arrival of the cargo ship, because that means the general store will be stocked the next day. The exhorbitantly priced fresh produce runs out after just two or three days. So, if you want something other than onions and potatoes, keep a sharp lookout for when cargo ships arrive in the Tuamotos…!

Anchoring in Avatoru pass

Due to the dramatic currents, we rarely anchor inside a pass. In Rangiroa, however, our friend Noho pointed out a nice spot near his grandma’s house. “The current is very mild there,” he remarked.

The last time we spent the night in a pass was in Faaite where we snapped the mooring line due to the force of the current. So this calm eddy in the pass was a welcome change!

As with most anchorages in the Tuamotos, we selected a spot that looked sandy, but coral bommies (rock formations) are still scattered about in the sand. As the wind and current shift the anchor chain gets snagged on some of these bommies, which can cause a lot of problems.

In the photo below, Michael is in the water advising us which way to motor in order to release any snags in the anchor chain. This helps avoid damage to the coral formations (we also use buoys to elevate the chain off the coral – more on this later!). Finally, this technique also makes raising anchor much easier and causes less wear on the electric windlass.

The Girls and Mama Ou

During our trip from Fakarava to Rangiroa, Sabrina had gracefully endured two weeks with a boat full of guys. Now, Ben and Johnny flew home… and two beautiful ladies were joining us: Jewels and Sonya.

Talk about getting an upgrade! (Just kidding fellas – we love and miss you)

There was lots of work to “de-bachelorize” the boat. First impressions are important! Then, we spent the morning with Noho as he showed us how to make pandanus hats while his grandma, Mama Ou, taught us to make fresh flower leis as welcome gifts for the ladies.

When Sonya and Jewels arrived they were ecstatic with the beauty of the place and their new gifts. They took this photo together with Noho’s grandma. The simple elegance of posing together, all the ladies adorned with fresh flower leis, affected Mama Ou deeply. She started tearing up — she was so moved! It was a beautiful scene of feminine grace across the ages.

Noho’s family

We met Noho in Fakarava while he was taking guests to dive the south pass – he works for a scuba dive charter company. “Come visit me at home in Rangiroa!” He had said.

We gave him a call upon our arrival. Despite only briefly meeting us in passing while in Fakarava, he greeted us like family when we arrived in Rangiroa. He showed us where to anchor Aldebaran inside the Avatoru pass, right in front of his grandma’s house, and joined us for dinner with his wife and baby.

Upon hearing of our desperate need for laundry, he set us up with his grandma’s laundry machine. This is Noho and his wife tremendously enjoying the ancient photo film camera that Alex brought… on the day we were doing laundry at his grandma’s house. A truly hospitable family in Rangiroa.

“Slack Current” in Tuamotos

Many sailors crossing the Pacific choose not to stop in many of the Tuamotos atolls due to the challenge of navigating the reef passes — the currents can be extremely dangerous, flowing up to 10 knots, occasionally creating standing waves to 2-3 feet.

Predicting when it is safe to navigate a reef pass can be tricky. Sailors often talk about “timing the slack tide” in Tuamotos passes, but this is somewhat misleading. What is really important is the overall current in the pass– which is caused by a combination of tide, swell and wind.

The tide has the most obvious effect on the current. Luckily the tidal variation in French Polynesia is only about 1-2ft, but the atolls are so large that a formidable amount of water still needs to move in and out of the lagoon twice a day.

Slack tide is normally the calmest time in a reef pass – assuming there is no wind and swell. The wind can seriously disturb the pass when it is moving in the opposite direction to a strong current, resulting in confused standing waves. So we avoid transiting the pass when wind and current are in opposition.

An even more significant hazard for the pass, however, are the swell conditions. If there’s a moderate to large swell (2m+) there is a huge amount of water that is poured into the lagoon. Satellite images and nautical charts make it seem like the atolls are a complete ring of land, but the majority of the ring is actually submerged reef with a peppering of motus ( little islands of land in the barrier reef).

Waves can come from groundswell (far away storms, with large periods) or windswell (localized strong winds with short periods) such as the ‘Maraamu’ South-East trade winds that blow 25knots+. The extra water these swells push into the lagoon must escape through the reef pass. This creates an additional outgoing current of 1-6 knots.

When this swell-driven outgoing current combines with an outflowing tide, a river of water can flow towards the ocean at an incredible 8-10 knots! Even a big ship might have a hard time during such conditions.

The best time to enter a pass during such a swell event is usually during the peak of an incoming tide, so that it neutralizes the outgoing current. Then, the outgoing current may be a reasonable 1-2 knots. Therefore, in the case of swell events, slack current is NOT slack tide.

Note: swell can also create large waves that break next to narrow reef passes making them difficult to impossible – like Maupiti in the western Society Islands. This is an entirely different problem, but still relevant for navigation!

Naturally, it’s best to travel across reef passes when the swell and wind is moderate, and tide is slack. But we don’t always have that luxury. Being able to factor for the effects of swell and wind is critical for the safe navigation of reef passes in less-than-ideal conditions.

PHOTO: shows the Tiputa pass in Rangiroa. It is a 40 mile wide atoll with a huge amount of water moving in and out of the pass, generating large standing waves which can be seen on satellite images. This famously attracts dolphins, which divers come to swim with. We entered Tiputa pass after waiting an hour for the tide to shift, and still the outgoing current was nearly 6 knots. However we were blessed with an amazing moment when a huge dolphin jumped directly in front of Aldebaran as we were barely moving forward with the engine at full throttle!

Rangiroa, and the resurrection of Honey Bee!

From Apataki, we sailed overnight to Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world, with an unbelievably long 42nm lagoon. When anchored at one side, you can’t even see the other side of the lagoon; it just looks like a vast lake. Due to its huge size, Rangiroa’s passes have extremely strong currents, usually outflowing at river-rapid speeds. We barely made it inside with Aldebaran at full throttle.

Rangiroa is also the “metropolis” of Tuamotos, a cultural and educational hub for many of the regional atolls. Dancers were practicing every night for upcoming competitions.

The exciting news for you, dear reader, is that in Rangiroa we got our new Mavic drone, Honey Bee 2 !

Our new crew mate Jewels, joining us for the leg to Tahiti, brought us the package. DJI’s insurance was still processing our claim, and we were sadly contemplating months without the incredible aerial views we’ve been enjoying in French Polynesia. We really didn’t want to miss out on sharing these images with you.

Thankfully we have been receiving generous support via our Green Coco Patrons for our media, which helped us make the decision– we purchased another Mavic drone while waiting for our damaged one to get fixed!

We are so grateful for all the support, and the ability to continue recording our voyage and sharing these amazing views. Deep thanks!!

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If you enjoy seeing the images from our trip (eventually videos too!) consider supporting us on Patreon.com/greencoconutrun with $2, $5, $10 or more per month. We truly appreciate the support and are committed to keep sharing the trip in the best way possible!

Reflections from Apataki

From just 5 miles away, we could see only a string of coconut trees above the horizon, stretching across the open ocean.  That was it. 

“Wow, these atolls are so fragile” is the first thought that comes to mind, seeing such tiny specks of low-lying land in the middle of the sea.

House on the lagoon edge in Apataki

Climate scientists have warned us that low-lying atolls like Apataki (and the entire Tuamotos archipelago ) are at risk. This is due to the slow infiltration of sea water rise into the fresh water aquifer, making it very hard to grow crops (as reported in Kiribati). Or, by storm surge that destroys the land, either due to higher than normal tides (as seen in the East Coast of US) or by tropical cyclones (such as the terrible devastation this year in the Caribbean).

Johnny, Michael, and Alex admire the crystalline water next to Apataki’s village

Although cyclones are relatively rare in Tuamotos, they can still occur, especially during El Niño events. As we visit these atolls, we are impressed by how vulnerable they are. Therefore it comes as a shock to get news of catastrophic weather events occurring back home in California in the form of huge drought-driven wildfires. One of the epicenters of the wildfire battle is in Ventura, which we call the “birthplace” of Aldebaran. Read our last post about our connection to Ventura.

We met SV Kaimana of Scott and Melissa in Apataki. They are also originally from San Diego, although they now live in Oahu (when they’re not sailing their catamaran!)

We are saddened and humbled by the losses of many friends and community members back home. In day-to-day life in California, characterized by idyllic weather and a happy-go-lucky culture, it is easy to forget that the weather can turn so destructive. 

As we visit atolls like Apataki, that live with the constant reality of disaster, we see there are some key lessons to dealing with catastrophic weather… 1. preparing for the bad scenarios  2. preparing for the very worst scenario 3. enjoying the present moment fully, and not being attached to material possessions.

We hope to learn from the wisdom of these atolls, so we may be prepared back home and resilient in the future…

A local legend.

The local mode of transport.

Fires in Ventura, our boat’s birthplace

We’ve been heavy hearted the past few days hearing the news from home: the fire that has been devastating Ventura & Ojai.  It seems like each day we hear of a different friend’s house that burned down — it is terrible and terrifying. Read about recent details on LA Times. 

@nasa photo

Although Santa Barbara is our home port, where we lived and sailed Aldebaran before our trip to the South Seas, Ventura felt like our boat’s “birthplace”. It is no coincidence that we were deep in “labor” at the Ventura Boatyard, struggling with sweat blood and tears to deliver the boat into new life.

Ryan, Sabrina, Ventura foreman Tom Bowman, and Kristian. Tom had built multi-hulls in the past and kept us in line with our boat reinforcements, to put it mildly!

The Ventura Boatyard staff was always supremely nice and took us under their wing, setting us greenhorns straight more than once when it comes to vessel integrity and sea worthiness. We spent 4 months there in preparation for the trip alone, and 8 months over the course of 4 years for haul-outs. If it wasn’t for this yard, Aldebaran wouldn’t be where she is now! We thank all the firefighters for their hard efforts in protecting the City, and  send many prayers to people back home struggling with the fires and hope that from the ashes new life may be born…

Jewels was in Ventura with us and recently sailed for a month on Aldebaran in the Tuamotos.

Tory came after work to Ventura; he recently came to the Society Islands to join Aldebaran with a crew of friends from Jackson Hole.

Snapped mooring!!

The common sense rule is, “don’t use moorings… unless locals say it is good.” After this fateful night, we’ve changed it to — “don’t trust anyone’s opinion, always dive down to inspect the mooring; and never fail to run a secondary line!”

Here’s what happened. Locals had told us that our anchor spot outside the pass in Faaite was tenuous – if the wind changed to the north, it could swing the boat into the shallow reef. They were adamant: “The mooring in the pass is more safe! Even our cargo boat uses it!”

We weren’t concerned, but we decided to give their mooring a shot for a few hours in our last afternoon in Faaite… for a change of scenery.

We motored up to the mooring and were instantly sketched out. The current was flowing out of the pass like a fast river at 3.5 knots. We attached our line to their mooring loop. Normally we would have run a secondary line but nobody was very keen to get in the ripping current… you get it?! Ripping current?

Aldebaran jackknifed dramatically from the unusual forces. We debated the situation and decided I would stay on board while crew did their final chores in town. “At least the view is good,” I grumbled, and access was easy for the dinghy.

Well, one thing led to another and we decided to spend the night. Sabrina was not pleased with this and we should have listened to her intuition. But the argument was that even if the mooring failed, the strong current would simply sweep us out to sea. Not very comforting, ultimately, so we set various anchor drag and depth alarms to advise us of any changes in our location.

At 1am, the alarms went off!! Beep beep beep!!!

Michael was sleeping in the cockpit bunk and woke us up quickly, and we jumped to action, as Aldebaran drifted freely through the pitch black pass, with waves on either side! A very scary moment !!

In the first 10 seconds, it was disorienting to figure out where we were, with the confusing town lights, and our sleepy eyes. I was about to drop the anchor in the 60ft water to give us a moment; but by then Sabrina had turned on the engine and we had developed a sense that the current and wind were indeed just sending us harmlessly towards the open ocean — as we had hoped.

(The current in Faaite’s pass is nearly always outgoing, with only rare times calm or incoming; and the predominant trade wind also blows out to sea.)

We motored outside the pass and re-anchored in the dark at our old location. Next, we inspected the line still attached to our bow. The mooring loop was intact, but its line had snapped right through the middle due to the heavy load of Aldebaran in pulsating current.

This failure came as quite a surprise: usually lines break at chafe points or knots, not in their mid section. This was indeed a “cheap lesson” — always attach the secondary line further down, ideally to a solid shackle. If the current is too strong to do so, well, consider moving to another place. 😉

We felt fortunate to escape unscathed from that terrible situation, which could have resulted in a shipwreck. Shaken up, we tried to get some sleep before departing the next day, heading north to the atoll of Apataki.