As I personally couldn’t take part of the rescue operation, I concentrated on documenting this incredible undertaking. The outcome: 830 pictures and 13 HD videos. Because internet here is way too slow to upload a lot, here’s a small snippet of the big moment:
After having arrived at the french Navy base in the early morning, the only thing we could think of was our ship. We knew that today would be a calm day but tomorrow big swell would set in and then a rescue attempt would be impossible. The pilots of the helicopter spent hours on the phone trying to find someone who could help us. Gui went off to get two mobile phones so we could stay in contact. When we reached the marina Taina our rescuers were already there and packing the ‘Vaimiti 9′ with all gear needed. TEN minutes later we were underway towards Tetiaroa.
During the hours we spent on sea we made scetches and discussed possible ways to get the boat off the reef. When we finally arrived just before sunset we saw that she was actually nearly on dry land. The images I made just before we got into the helicopter showed a different picture. So there was absolutely no way we could pull her off the coral, we need to get a crane or a – excavator. And luckily Ti Ai Moana by coincidence also had a special excavator on exactly this island. And it can go through 2m of water ! After we got the permission (this island is private and owned by the son of Marlon Brando) next morning this big yellow beast made its way through the lagoon while Yann and Sebastian were tying ropes around the Rancho Relaxo.
With the help of the digger and the 1500HP of the Vaimiti 9 the 12-ton Rancho Relaxo finally started moving. And when her back was already touching the water and the excavator only needed to retreat – it happened. The arm touched the mast and it immediatly broke. Now we had a new challenge: To get the broken rigging of our ship on the deck before the waves again put her onto the reef. The wires and ropes were cut and the pieces of the mast and boom put on deck. And finally with extremely violent motion the Rancho hit the water – and stayed afloat.
On the inside the ship was a mess but nothing was broken. The rigging was gone, so was the boom, our handrails, the sprayhood and many other little things. But it had no hole – after spending two nights on the reef.
Right now we’re back in the Marina Taina in Tahiti. We try to get some order into the chaos on deck and calculate our options. It probably will take a few days for us to get to a decision as how to move on. Luckily nobody got hurt. And lucky us we have this amazing tank like ship that keeps us save.
So. Now we’re back on the internet and sort through hundreds of emails and FB-messages while trying to understand what had happened during the last three days.
We were on our way from Moorea to the Tuamotus when we hit the southern reef of Tetiaroa at around 3am local time. It took only a few seconds and the ship was thrown onto the rocks. Everything went very quick. The kids got lifevests on, I used the VHF to send out a MAYDAY with our position and situation. As soon as we knew that help would come (in the form of a Navy helicopter) we started to gather our most important things and prepared to abandon ship, I got the sails down and closed all windows just to be sure.
One of the best moments of our life – seeing the searchlight of the helicopter appear in the middle of the night. Followed by one of the scariest things we ever did: Leaving our home, our ship, all our posessions behind and jump into the dark ocean to climb onto the reef with the kids on our arms.
The crew of the helicopter did a fantastic job and got us up in the air in no time, fatigue setting in when we saw our shipwreck from above and escaped into the night to be brought to Papeete….
We’re only 24 hours away from the city-island of Tahiti and we’re already feeling healthier, fresher, happier, etc. Moorea truly is a treat after that crowded anchorage and the polluted air of the city. It’s a good thing that we like it as it could happen that we have to spend a few more days here. There is a big high pressure system passing south of us and the wind will not be right for the passage to the Tuamotus. So we’ll have to wait…
Yesterday Dan and me took the dinghy towards the reef where the wrecked yacht is bouncing in the surf. There were already a few sailors from the anchorage helping the owner get all stuff from the boat. We got all the sails down and into the dinghy to transport them towards the beach. The accident happened when going through the pass of the reef under engine where the propulsion suddenly stopped. Whether it was the gearbox or some failure with the propeller we don’t know. But it certanly was too late to get sails up and the yacht hit the reef only a minute later. The keel and rudder broke off instantly and the ship filled with water. What a sad story and how shocking to see how fast and easy something like that can happen !
In the afternoon we discovered that the small shop close to the beach is also selling burger meat ! We got the big pack and left it in the sun to defrost while we took the sailing dinghy for a ride through the lagoon.
Right before sunset we met back at the beach and Dan showed the kids how to start fire with a firestone and some dry coconuts. The short ones were fascinated !! We had a beautiful evening and everybody fell into the bunks like a stone. Good to be out in the nature again !
After one month in Tahiti we finally did it and left ! The ship is packed with paint, tools and groceries and after breakfast we left together with the SY Red Sky Night towards the neighbour island of Moorea.
The anchorage at Maeva beach is known to be very calm but still we were surprised to find ourselfes in a force six after just a few minutes running north. We had to wait for a landing airplane at the airport of Faaa before we were able to continue our journey. After passing the runway we set sail in papeete harbour and left the island with the small genoa. The passage was very fast and quite pleasent. It really was a good thing to be on the move again after such a long time at anchor. Our joy was a bit shortened bya a mayday call from a polynesian yacht that hit the reef in the Passe Tareu – that’s the entrance to the Baie d’ Opunohu which was our goal !
A few hours later we were already sailing along the reef of Moorea and passed the gorgeous Baie d’ Cook. Only two miles further west lies our entrance and we could already see the wrecked yacht. I don’t know yet how this shipwreck happened as the pass is a few hundered meters wide and pretty much without current but maybe we’ll find out tomorrow.
Right now we enjoy the silence of this little bay – no city, no airport and only a handful of boats here. And our kids are on the neighbor boat so we have the Rancho Relaxo all for ourselves ! Yay !
Here are pics of some time ago, when I went with the kids for a car ride while David was recovering from his hike.
We visited Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti with Zac, Sylvie and Dan from the SY Ustupu. They rented a car and Dan managed to drive us all around, and although I wouldn’t say he forgot how it works, I’m sure he did that a little smoother while living in Canada. Together we went looking for fruits near the streets and checked every surf spot of the island… They also started surfing in Galapagos and we where all keen to have a look at Teahopu, the legendary break. On that day the waves where not as impresive as during the Billabong Contest, but it was nice, there are very positive vibes on that whole area. I’m shure I’ll be back some day…. but it could take a little while…
The last time I took my board I got such a mighty wave, that it made me think about my kamikaze nature. It went rrrreally fast and was a massive fun the first seconds ! I was enjoying the speed with all my body and soul, but at the moment I realised I should start getting up and try to get out of there, I saw the reef aproaching. Coming in … three… two… one… SHIT !! I crashed full force into the coral and the only thing I could do was to grab my board as tight as possible and hope for the best. Well, I’m not dead, and got only a few scatches, so I guess it did went for the best ! Yeah, that was a wild ride. So, let’s face the facts. My next surf is going to be at a SANDY beach, with little waves. No harm done.
Slowly the summer is coming. Most sailors are leaving and the anchorage in Faaa (one of my favorite city names) is getting empty. We’re in the south. The moon works the other way around, we don’t know most of the local star signs and the seasons are totally wrong. Wouldn’t it also make sense that the sailing season is actually in winter ?
It’s the same as in the caribbean sailing season there is during the northern winter. Most sailors try to escape the hurricane season when the summer comes. The taifun season in the Pacific officially starts in January and ends around beginning of May. The timing tough is not as strict as in the caribbean. The season is actually only the time when the occurrence somehow peaks. Also the islands in the east are usually quite safe whereas the central Pacific definitely gets some decent storms now and then. So it’s no surprise that most of our friends who will spend the summer in the south have already left and are now in Tonga or in the Cook islands. After having changed our plan for a couple of times we finally came up with something that sounds reasonable: We’ll sail to the Tuamotus and spend the next weeks there. Then we get back to Tahiti at the end of November and my family will leave with an airplane towards South America. I will sail back to the Marquesas solo and we will be united two months later. Sounds good to me.
So why did we spend such a long time in Tahiti where most of the surrounding islands are much more beautiful ? Well, first we had a lot of friends that we met here and as one never does know if and when we could meet again, we had a few farewell parties. We were hiking and explored the island by car, later I was out of order for one week because of my infected toe. The last week we spent mostly in town, searching for missing parts. It’s not as easy as we’re low on money and the shops are quite but not always expensive. A 20l jerry can is 46 USD here but anti fouling paint is actually cheaper than in Europe. The record must be a little 12V piezo beeper that I bought in Panama for 40 cents. Here I found one for 42 USD. (A stupid BEEPER !) But now we got our sails repaired, we got spare parts and new hoses to redo the salt water installation and the bilge pumps, we got paint for the whole ship, new rubber for the windows, screws, filters and hoses for the engine and a hundred more things. On monday a man will come and refill our compressor fridge. After that I will probably spray half of the fridge full of foam to increase the insulation and decrease it’s size. I hope that will help a little. On our next visit I will also buy wood to do some enhancements to the interior and redo the cockpit floor. There’s gonna be enough to do when I’m alone on the boat.
Well if everything works out, we’ll be gone by the mid of the next week. It’s time.
Some have been asking and – yes – we’re still in Tahiti. Somehow we seem to can’t get going. But as today we finally have a rainy day (first one since ages) I’ll hopefully find the time to do a few missing blog posts.
Right now I just wanted to announce that we’re still here and that I update our website slightly. I’m gonna write another blog post soon. Promised.
Somehow lately I’m not really motivated to write blog posts. It might have to do with the flakey internet connection or that we’re not doing too much lately. We’re still in Papeete, still in the same anchorage and we still did not yet get all the parts that we need for the boat repair.
But in the meantime we ran into a lot of our friends that we met along the way. The Papillon arrived, we last saw them at Galapagos. The Red Sky Night arrived which we last saw in Fatu Hiva. And just yesterday I discovered the ‘Armatura Borealis’ that we ran into in Gran Canaria – a year ago !
So we spend a lot of time hanging out with friends, doing BBQ, the kids playing together, hichhiking to the city to get boat parts, etc.
We will stay for a few more days to wait until my toe gets better. – After climbing the mountains barefoot for two days, I managed to hit my toe on the way from the Carrefour to the Marina. Needless to say, the toe immediately got infected and my leg swollen. So now I’m enjoying antibiotics for the first time since we left Berlin….
Thanks to my parents we took notice of some good development in Somalia. It seems the country is heading towards having a government and the piracy rate during the last year went way down. There’s still a lot of danger in those waters but we immediately started plotting a possible new course through the read sea. Oooo if that would be possible it would be really nice. I’d not think twice of skipping that long crossing of the Indian ocean and then the Atlantic crossing from south to north for a nice, short ride throught the med. Well, in one year’s time we’ll know what to do…
To avoid mental meltdown after staying on the boat for too long, Zac and me got out to climb a mountain. The Mont Aorai with its 2070m should be a very beautiful hike and it has two huts in convenient locations to spend a night there.
So we took the bus around midday and arrived at Pirae at 13h. We walked past the village and asked our way through towards the Belvedere, a small restaurant at 700m where the actual trail will start.
It took us quite some time to get there and the walk on the paved road was quite exhausting but once on the trail I removed the shoes and we finally walk through nature. One of the better things is to walk barefoot and feel the moist, stony, muddy ground. The beginning of the trail follows along the side of a valley until it reaches the ridge on which it stays for quite some while. Actually most part of the trail is right ON the ridge with both sides being quite steep and usually leading a few hundered meters down.
Just before nightfall we reached the first hut on 1400m and we had a nice dinner with Couscous, vegetables, soup and coffee. The night was chilly and windy and we were glad that the backpack Zac got from the SY Ustupu would fit perfectly into the empty windowframe. That way it was much more comfortable and after having fun with our headlamps and the long-exposure mode of the camera, we slept until eight in the morning.
On the second day we continued our way up through the clouds and a wild, dripping wet rainforest full of fern trees and with everything covered with moss and lichen (old man’s beard). The air is damp and completely saturated and the scene might change on the next corner after which we might find ourselves out of the clouds and surrounded with pine trees and walking on dry grass.
After a short stop at the hut on 1800m we leave our backpacks and continue towards the summit. The path gets slightly more difficult and we reach the peak shortly after midday. A little snack and a few photos later we’re already on our way down where we soon again find ourselves surrounded by the clouds. Unfortunately those are now over-saturated and it starts to rain around us. It will continue to be wet until we reach the end of the footpath.
That of course means that a big part of the hike downwards is quite slippery and gets very tricky as much of the ground is composed of red clay. But we reach the Belvedere just before sunset and are very lucky to get a ride down to the village. And as we already know the polynesian way, we’re not surprised as one of the guys who is riding with us in the back of the pickup truck offers to get us to the marina. He just has to get back home and get his own car. The local people are extremely friendly and helpful and are not shy to drive two dirty, sweaty aliens around the island.
All of the above photos were made by Zachary Shane Orion Lough. You can find more pictures on his website.