With Deb, Lisa and Dan off to Tahiti and onward to the US and Mark Fritzer aboard, our first task was to refuel for the transit north to Hawaii. Once again using the good services of our Secret Agent, Pascal from Tahiti Yacht Services, we had prearranged for roughly 8000 liters of fuel in Nuka Hiva.
There were several enormous advantages to this – first, all billings and payments were handled by Pascal who simply invoiced us at the end of each month – no payments required at the time of fueling. Pascal also arranged for our tax exemption as we were departing French Polynesia directly from the Marquesas. Finally, simply arriving at the commercial pier and requesting fuel could well result in the answer that no fuel was available. Prearranging guaranteed that the required fuel would be available. Once again, cannot recommend Pascal highly enough.
The process of fueling was nerve racking at best. The commercial pier where the freighters come in is where the fuel tanks are.
This pier lies in line with the bay which ceases a number of issues. The wind tends to funnel down the valley from town parallel to the commercial dock. Swell from the southeast trades tends to wrap around the point at the entrance to the bay and the swells build as the bay shallows. The swells, like the wind, move parallel to the dock but in the opposite direction from the wind. While at anchor in the depths of the bay, the swells are barely noticeable but along the dock and at the beach, you can get a good sense of just how big they are on a normal day.
As a consequence, the preferred method of bunkering consists of backing the stern of the boat to the commercial wharf, holding the boat off with the anchor and securing the boat to the dock with heavy lines. The following picture shows a large catamaran in the proper position.
Unfortunately, that is it for the pictures as we were far too busy during the actual process to take any.
The procedure went something like the following. I was at the helm, Mark was handling lines on the stern and Steve was in Beer Can (our dink) with our high modulus breast line. I motored down wind towards the open end of the bay and once past the dock, turned 180 degrees and proceeded parallel to the dock into the wind. We had a range ring set up on the radar at 60 meters and I used the radar to maintain this distance from the dock as we proceeded parallel to it.
Once at the far end of the dock, I turned 90 degrees to the wind and swell. With the stern pointed towards the dock. I dropped the anchor. Using reverse gear and the bow thruster while paying out the anchor chain, we backed toward the dock perpendicular to it. Steve tied the end of our breast line off to the dock and brought the free end out to the boat where he passed it to Mark and Mark ran the line thru a turning block to the aft winch. With the boat now secured between the anchor and the dock, we continued to back down while I payed out the anchor and Mark took up slack on the winch. Once we were about 8 feet off the dock, Steve fed two of our beefy braided dock lines from the dick to the boat. It was a nervous time as the boat was coming up hard on the high modulus breast line with each swell and there is little to no give in high modulus line. Even when we were secured with our heavy dock lines, it was stressful to see them come up bar tight with each swell.
The fuel hose was fed across using our breast line and refueling commenced. We spent a total of almost two hours fueling which was complicated by a balky fuel transfer pump shoreside which Steve had to kick and nurse to keep operational.
It was with considerable relief that we tossed the stern lines with a full load of fuel and motored back to the comfort of our anchorage.