Friday, March 1st, 2013
By Kate “Bob” Addison
Well here we are in Huahine, just 100nm from Papetee, but worlds away from the bustle of the big city. Huahine is a large, volcanic island, which looks like a reclining pregnant lady if you stand on the dock at night and look back at the silhouette of the islands curving round to your left. It’s something like a more lively version of Mangareva, and impossibly beautiful, especially in the moments between clouds when the sea shines down and makes the green-ish water inside the reef here all turquoise and sparkly. All very beautiful too.
We are made fast to a 120 ton mooring, which makes for much more secure holding than our anchors in this deep harbour in some of the strong squalls we have been having. The big port admiralty-style anchor weighs about one ton, plus a ton for each shots of chain, so that’s about four tons total if we have three shots of chain out – and Captain says that’s quite heavy ground tackle for a ship our size. The extra-secure holding of a decent mooring is particularly handy as the weather is rather squally, with wind and rain funneling down between the mountains at intervals. There is not much room to drag before the coral reef either, so we’re very happy to be on such a nice mooring with three lines holding us fast – one to the gypsy head on the main windlass and one each to the two well deck bits – Captain says we’re snug enough that he can sleep at night.
Not that the crew are doing too much sleeping at night – there are lovely and lively restaurants along the waterfront under the broad shade trees in the town of Port de Fare (or ‘Home Port’), and caravans selling Poisson Cru in coconut milk, or grilled chicken and chips. I am told this is how les Roulettes at Papeete used to be before their spot was all jazzed up – paved, and crowded and planted with Parisian street lamps and chichi plant pots – self-consciously catering for the cruise ship crowd and the expat middle class. In Port de Fare there are just a handful of vans pulled up at the side of the road with a stack of plastic stools and a couple of tables that you can grab if you’re quick, and a wall to sit on if you’re not, patronised mostly by locals who speak to us as friends and equals, rather than as wallets-on-legs.
But enough about the night life! The real reason we’re here (other than because it’s lovely, and quite the coolest of the Society Islands) is to exercise the small boats and build mastery at handling small boats in our crew. Yesterday morning was all hands so we could launch the Monomoy long boat and Sea Never Dry our pretty sailing dory, and get them rigged up for sailing, and then right before lunch Captain Moreland gave us an inspirational talk, to give us some context about why we take small boat work so seriously, and how it is such a good way to teach the skills of a mariner. So many of the skills you need on a ship can be learned on a boat, and the rapid response of a small boat makes it easy to see when you’re doing something stupid. As an added advantage, the consequences of doing something stupid are often much less severe in a small boat, so it’s a great way to play and learn and have fun with boats.
After lunch, which was spicy, cheesy tomato pasta bake, the 8-12 watch with Mate Michael went out on an all-afternoon expedition with Monomoy – a glorious beam reach towards town and then short tacking up the coast to see what there was to see, avoiding the coral heads, take a look at the fishes and the pod of dolphins in the lagoon, breaching in twos and threes, just hanging out. Out to the reef to say hi to the surfer dudes (and dudettes), the monomoy tried some surfing too, riding the smaller waves, though she couldn’t quite keep up with the surfers on their boards – a bit heavier and more draft than a surfboard, not quite a fair race! Eventually, after what was universally acknowledged to be a great afternoon, they sailed into town, dropped their hook and ran a line ashore, moored up ‘Med style’ stern to, and splashed ashore to check out the town.
Meanwhile AB Allison had taken Sea Never Dry out for a sail with a gang from the 4-8 watch. They had a ripping sail under jib and reefed mainsail, but sadly their sail was cut rather short when the five-year old wooden mast finally gave way just below the sheet hounds, and the crew had to stow the rig and row back to the ship. No serious damage done and not a bad way to experience your first dismasting. We have a blank spar, so making a new mast will be the next big project for our carpenters, but until then we might jury-rig something from our Palmerston project-boat Sydney’s mast so we can keep on sailing.