Week 14 - If At First You Don't Succeed......
Astra fully loaded with fuel on the morning of her (second) departure from Tahiti
Well, it feels like we have been forced to take a 1,600 mile penalty on the circumnavigation. We were 800 miles out from Tahiti at the point when we had to returned due to NZ keeping its maritime borders closed to us. This difficult decision was taken once a realistic assessment of how we could stretch the fuel we had onboard was further hampered by the presence of tropical storms that made it too risky to press on.
However, as the Ed revealed last week, we were all a bit drained after a cold bug had left us all achy/shaky and dealing with sweats, so sitting out the weather in Tahiti for a few days was really not a bad place to recuperate!
The first task as we arrived on Tue 01 Mar (Day 91) was to move the remaining fuel in to the Tote/IBC tanks on deck, so that we could load from the road tanker on Wednesday morning in one straight load. This internal fuel transfer began as soon as we berthed on Tuesday afternoon and continued through to 23:00 hrs.
Wed 02 March (Day 92) the bunker truck arrived in the morning and we loaded 25,000 litres in two hours.
This was our largest fuel lift so far - 1,000 litres more than we began with in Lanzarote and a whopping 3,000 litres more than we had crossed the Pacific with!
Covid Booster shots Kat, our DPA, was seeing the mood music back in the Northern hemisphere (and Australia) for the third covid vaccine and suggested that we should take the opportunity to see if it would be possibly to obtain our booster shots in Tahiti. A quick call was made to the agent and it was arranged for Thursday morning for the whole crew.
Exploring the south of the island
Thursday lunchtime the team headed to the south of the island for exploration and a night away from the boat. However, after the bug we had all suffered, followed by the covid booster, we all managed one glass of wine and were all in our beds by 10pm! The pic below shows the view from the tree lodges where we stayed.
Carlos was up early for some offshore surfing on Tahiti’s famous reefs and for lunch we went to Matavai Bay, where Captain Cook’s HMS Bounty anchored on 26 October 1788. (Not a bad wee break - but anyone who read last week's post will know I think it was absolutely necessary!.....DPA/ED/Kat/Wife!)
Departing Tahiti – Take Two
On Sat 05 Mar (Day 95) at 10:00 the Port Captain brought our Port Clearance papers and Laurent, our Agent from Tahiti Yacht Support, was on hand to ensure everything went smoothly and that there were no last minute issues.
Iain presented the Port Captain of Papeete Port, Tahiti with a commemorative plaque of Astra’s circumnavigation.
At 7am on Saturday, Iain was disturbed with shouts from the quayside. It turned out to be a French Batchelor Party, who had a list of challenges for the day. One of them was to get a picture onboard a ship!
It was Dan's chance to take the opportunity to take Astra off the berth and proceed out through Papeete Port. He dealt well with the cross currents approaching the bar and the large canoes! (That's it now, no more shots at getting out of Papeete.....Ed).
Dan commented afterwards on how powerful the bow thruster felt, which was very reassuring as he could see how heavily laden Astra was alongside.
Tropical Storms in this region
If you are tracking us or read last week's update, you will know we are having to be extra vigilant for Tropical Storms on our passage from Tahiti to the east of NZ as it is approaching the end of the defined cyclone season. Onboard any vessel a passage plan is accompanied by relevant information for the bridge watchkeepers.
What follows is from the research that was completed before the circumnavigation and is the accompanying information that our watchkeepers have to hand on the chart table written from Astra’s perspective.
----------------WEATHER NERD ALERT--------------
Occurrence/Frequency In the SW Pacific Ocean, tropical storms with winds > Force 8 have been recorded in each month from October to June. While December to March is the main cyclone season, the greatest frequency occurs across the months of January and February.
Formation Tropical storms and cyclones in this area usually originate between 5° and 20°S and are typically formed (or birthed) around Tonga.
Movement/Path Once the storm moves South of 25°S, they are well developed and ‘typically’ track SE or S. Tropical storms that move to higher S latitudes tend to lose some of their tropical features, such as the eye and deep circulation, as they acquire the characteristics of temperate zone depressions and form extensive low-pressure systems with associated weather fronts. It should never be assumed that a storm will maintain its speed or direction or follow a forecast track. Early avoiding action is the most advisable.
Areas Affected Tropical storms particularly affect the area between NZ and AUS and result in heavy swells around the North end of NZ. It is recommended that no yacht should be cruising in the cyclone area during the cyclone season.
On the rare occasions that a tropical storm crosses NZ these more intense storms give rise to extremely violent and dangerous conditions, with winds of force 12, torrential rain and mountainous seas.
----------------WEATHER NERD ALERT ENDS--------------
Boating Tip - Crew members travelling with spares
On a voyage where crew members join and leave along the route in the way that our two Chief Engineers Luke and Paul do, we have an opportunity for them to bring out essential spares for us in a dedicated holdall.
Some of these spares had incredibly long lead times and were adversely affected by the global supply chain issues of 2021. In other cases they are urgent spares that we have required along the route.
In the ports where our Chief Engineers have joined, they have flown with ~20kg of spares within the holdall, so it’s not quite a few filters in among your own suitcase, and it represents a substantial amount of ‘ship spares in transit’, with a value of ~ $10-20,000 USD.
We have now experienced on number of occasions and for boat owners out there, who may have this need on longer voyages, or when their boat is in another country, we thought we would share our approach with you.
Customs officers at airports know when a holdall containing a load of machinery/spare parts goes through an x-ray machine. However, they are professional and will know how to process them into the country.
The document they will look for is a ‘Commercial Invoice’ that details all the spares being carried and their value.
As our office is back in the UK, we prepare a ‘Commercial Invoice’ originating from that office and the 'Receiver' details are entered as the agent for the port the carrier is headed to.
For each line item, we detail: Quantity, Description of Goods, Supplier or Manufacturer, Value and Commodity Code (invoice or Purchase Order No)
The Net sales value for each is added and, at the bottom of the invoice, VAT is applied as it would be in the country of origin. This is not a sales invoice, so it is not payable by any party, but it is a ‘Commercial Invoice’ for customs purposes that documents the spare parts you are bringing into the country.
Before the crew member flies to join the vessel, and once they are in possession of all the spares, the are given an invoice that details the information and a copy of this is sent to the agent in your port of destination.
In our experience, it is a 50/50 chance as to whether or not customs wish to hold the spare parts awaiting clearance. This is typically the case in countries that revel in bureaucracy (and I’ll let you be your own judge of where these could be). Where they are inspected, the customs officer will be looking for the ‘Commercial Invoice’ and the agent details and will probably advise that this will be held until the next working day until the ‘customs clearing agent’ that your ship’s agent uses is able to clear the consignment. You need to be aware of this, particularly if you have crew joining on a Saturday. If ship spares are held by customs you may not get them clear until the following Monday afternoon.
We have not had to pay any customs charges as the goods are recognised as ‘Ship Spares in Transit’ and are not being landed, distributed or used in that country, but customs may want to record the value for their own figures. The only charges have been the small fee to the customs clearing agent.
While this all takes time to prepare and you need to ensure that the joining crew member understands the process and that you have pre-informed your ship’s agent, we have found it a far better process than relying on international courier companies, where you have little control over the process, particularly if they miss the shipment date.
Our experience says the days of international courier companies being able to say that they ‘keep your promises’ are no more!
Our route out of Tahiti has again taken us south of the great circle track to best optimise available currents and the predicted best route for weather. However, this route has plunged us back into to the western extremity of our old friend the Pacific VSAT blackhole and we will remain in this satellite blackhole for about a week.
The limits of the blackhole are denoted by the pecked blackline as shown on our electronic charting system.