With Johnny and Jason aboard, we were eager to get underway for a quick day sail. Moorea is an island 10nm away from Tahiti with two huge bays that make great anchorages. At 10AM, we left Tahiti. Sun was out with a breeze of 12-15 knots from the NE. Just enough wind to make Zephyr fly, not so much to be a challenge. Making 10kts of speed was easy with just the jib and the main out. We weren't even using the spinnaker or gennaker. I had picked up a 24 pack of tall boy Hinano beers before we left Tahiti and the three of us had already downed 6.
The weather looked beautiful, with that being said though, we could see these roving clouds of darkness lurking in the distance. They were like giant dark grey ghosts. You could see a few to the south and a few to the north. Honestly there were a few in every direction. These ghosts were squalls and we would have three run ins with them in the next 9 hours.
The first one caught up to us right as we were getting to the NE point of Moorea. First came the rain. Giant fat globs of warm water. A lot of them too! So much that the visibility dropped to less than 200 feet within a minute. What had been a sunny day in paradise now looked like a full on storm. Then came the wind. It built steadily to 30kts. We hadn't put a reef in the main sail and we were paying for it. The stress on the rigging and the sails was building and the boat was heeling uncomfortably. Right as the wind kicked up, we jumped up and released the main sheet giving ourselves a "fisherman's" reef. This means carrying a portion of the sail like a flag to reduce the effective sail area that the wind sees. Its not great for the sails but it beats loosing the mast or capsizing!
Just as quickly as it came, it left. We had survived our first squall! It probably only lasted 10 minutes or so before the sun was shining again. Feeling adventurous, we pulled out the gennaker and were flying. Approaching cooks bay, we began furled away the gennaker so that we could motor in. Alas.....the furling line came off the drum! F***! The gennaker defiantly unrolled and was once again pushing the boat along. The only option for getting the sail on deck was to drop it unfurled. Good thing we had three folks on board that made quick work of it.
Murphy's law got us good though. The gennaker mounts on a bow sprit (removable metal pole that protrudes from the front of the boat). In order to get the gennaker detached from the bow sprit, we had to be able to remove the sprit. You can't reach the hardware otherwise. The sprit attaches to the boat using a pin and low and behold, it was jammed! The only way to remove the gennaker was to get in the water to reach the pole after we lowered the end of it down.
With 95% of the sail stuffed in the sail locker, we decided to go ahead and wait until we anchored to remove the gennaker from the bow sprit. Now approaching cooks bay, we had another one of those grey masses catching up to us. It hit us right as we were entering the coral pass. Luckily, with all the sails down, the only challenge was the reduced visibility as we came into the anchorage. Johnny nobly volunteered to sit on the bit of gennaker that was sticking out of the sail locker to keep it from flaring up while Jason and I "hid" under the hard top bimini. When I say "hid" though, there really wasn't anywhere to go. If you were on deck, you were soaked. That was a guarantee. Right as we finished anchoring, the storm let up and we found ourselves in the famous "Cooks Bay" in Moorea. Win! Jason immediately jumped in the water which was so warm that it was a relief from being soaked by the already warm rain.
The "Club Bali Hai" hotel is located in the bottom of the bay and was about 1/4 mile away. It has a really awesome bar/restaurant right on shore. Despite having a fully operational 18HP dinghy, we decided to swim it. Having a quick lunch and some more beers, we turned it around and swam back out to the boat. We probably spent about 2 hours in cooks bay before we were already on our way out heading back to Tahiti so I could catch a flight back to the US for a few days.
As we were leaving, we could see one more of those grey ghosts looming off in the distance. As it got closer, three things became clear: we were not going to be able to avoid it, it was darker than the other two had been, and it had us trapped between it and the shore of Moorea. A tiny bit wiser, we put two reefs in the main sail before it got to us which should be good up to 30kts. There are a total of three reef points in the main sail on this boat and in hindsight, we should have gone ahead and put the third one in right there. It hit us hard with a sheet of water proceeding howling winds with gusts that measured up to 38kts! Visibility dropped to 150 feet if you could keep your eyes open long enough to see anything. Even with the reduced sail area, the boat speed peaked at 12.5kts. The amount of power in the vessel was uncomfortable and barely manageable. Johnny managed the jib sheet and Jason managed the main sheet (angle controls for each sail). Lucky for us, the angle we were sailing at kept us on a course that kept us off the reef. Unlucky for us, is that the boat had a distinct lack of stopper knots....in any of the ropes. We had 2 lines run through all the rigging which had to be rerouted through all the blocks and cleats. Maybe the owner removed them to clean the ropes? We weren't sure. After about 20 minutes, it was all over. All that was left were super light winds and an overcast sky. With the gennaker out of commission, and little motivation to hoist the asymmetric spinnaker, we motored back to Tahiti. Everyone had just a little bit of shell shock from doing battle multiple times that day.
Fortunately, its was all a learning experience that will definitely help us out on our next passages. Next time a squall comes along, we know we'll know to put three reefs in the main sail or drop it entirely. Ideally, outremer recommends running from storms which was definitely more comfortable the 2nd time one came along. The second lesson is to check all the knots before taking a new boat out. Not only did we have the gennaker furling line come out, but we also had the two lines run out of their rigging due to a distinct lack of stopper knots.
The adventure resumes on 3/7 when Emily and Lewis get in.