Sun 30 Jul 2023 20:48
17 35.2S 149 36.9W

We managed to do a couple of days rock climbing and caving on Makatea. It was really special, over 100 sport climbing routes, not a soul in sight. Beautiful limestone cliffs reaching up from the coral reefs 100m high to the table top plateau. There was also an amazing but fairly terrifying via ferrata which we braved and loved.
We met some really nice folk who showed us around and took us into the huge cave system with crystal clear water that you can dive down further than your torch could reach. Most of this system is still yet to be explored by divers.
We had a good look around the old mining town, the remains of unbelievable infrastructure. Essentially they hand dug holes down into the rocks across the island to harvest the phosphate. There are over a million holes, some up to 40m deep. There were old railways, steam trains and massive machinery just left to decay. The old town has almost all been reclaimed by the jungle. The old photos show an enormous iron bridge with a crane that stretched out to sea in order to load the ships whilst they were tied to a buoy. It was clearly impossible to built a proper dock.

On the second day we got dropped off at the climbing route on the NE side and left with a couple of bikes to cycle back to the boat on. The rock had formed this natural terrace below the main walls for which you could walk along above the crashing waves. A truly special place to climb.

We set off the next day for Tahiti about 125nm to the SW. we were slow with the wind on the beam and not having access to the main sail. We eventually arrived around midday, and then our next problem occurred. We turned the engine on, started fine and then the revs kept dropping, suggesting a fuel problem. We cleaned out the stand pipe, there was some muck in it so we presumed that to be the problem, but it wasn’t. As we were drifting closer to the coral reefs of Tahiti we decided to bypass the fuel system and connect the proximal most fuel pipe to a jerry can of diesel to get us in through the reefs and to safety. That seemed to work fine so there must have been a fuel problem somewhere along the line.
We headed into marina Papette which weren’t really answering the radio but there were loads of spaces so we just went in and tied up. About 20seconds later an enormous catamaran turned up and said we were in his space! So off we went to the other marina about 5 miles away. They were also full but the riggers who we had booked in with sorted us a mooring for the next day so we dropped the hook just outside the marina. Exhausted and deflated with yet another thing to fix, we decided to go ashore for what would be the first proper civilised bar/restaurant in months. Delicious cold IPA on tap and pizzas went down a treat!

The next morning we tied up along side in the marina, the first since Panama. It felt very strange just stepping off the boat onto land. The riggers were there to greet us and had the rig checked, tuned and the D1’s replaced by lunch time. Really great guys! So now with the mast secured we had to tackle the fuel problem.
We took the whole system apart, blew and sucked fuel through every pipe until we felt it was good. We ran it up for a while and all seemed well again.
The next day we did some towing with the foils in a wave outside one of the passes and then headed into town on the bus. We collected the parts for the autohelm, picked up the old alternator, dropped off the CO2 can to be filled and had a really nice lunch in a typical French restaurant.
The next morning we headed off to go around the SE of the island. Urrgh…the same symptoms again as we motored out! We went back alongside and a nice guy called Luc who was fixing Bens paddle came by to take a look. We have always been suspicious that the fuel pump wasn’t really pulling fuel through fast enough. So we decided to bypass that by connecting a hose to fuel and feed it by gravity…bingo, that worked, so it was most likely the fuel pump.
We took it off and opened it up and there sat a little fuel filter which was as black as the night. We put it back together without the filter and hey presto!
The trouble is that we can’t source one of these filters on the island so it’ll require a bit more head scratching. We do have a Racor filter before the pump and the main engine filter after so we hope that’s enough for now.

Confident at last that we’d worked out the problem, we set off the next day for the SE in less favourable conditions. There was absolutely no wind in the Lee of the island but as we rounded the SW corner we suddenly had 25kts and a big swell on the nose with 15miles left to go and a difficult pass to navigate. We decided to turn around and anchor inside another pass for the night in Baie de Maraa. A delightful spot, we were the only boat there, totally flat calm with not a breath of wind.
Here we fixed the autohelm, hurrah and serviced one of the winches, after we’d done some tow foiling of course.

Think we’ll ditch the plan for the SE and head over to the island of Moorea tomorrow which is 20nm to the NW whilst we await the delivery of our new alternator and various other bits.