Pitcairn Island & Mangareva
Kialoa II Information
From the Beginning...
Frank & Cynthia
Future for Frank & Cynthia
Frank's Resume
Tribute - Lillian Robben

Departing Kialoa II

Retired from Sailing

Frank Robben
Honolulu, May 1999

The last days on Kialoa were a bit intense, I was putting together my notes on all the equipment - problems that could arise and how I had learned to fix things. Kialoa II was at the dock in a little marina just beyond Maeva Beach, on the west side of Tahiti, around the Faaa International Airport from Papeete. A brilliant powder-blue lagoon stretched out ahead of us, curling breakers formed and rolled northwards on the reef. Fifteen miles away the razorback ridges and peaks of Moorea stood majestically against the blue sky and puffy clouds, you could see clouds forming on the highest peaks. A great view, shared by the million dollar homes on the slopes behind us and to the north, the latest infusion of capital in these romantic islands by some of the wealthier French and European citizens.

Jos's computer had failed and the used IBM laptop I had purchased for him would not write onto floppy discs. To top it off, when we went to print up my parting epistle the laptop would not run the printer, luckily Kees was skilled at computers and managed to get it working again after some hours of intense work.

Further, both the diesel generator and main engine were running hot and I had no good suggestions on what to do. They should not have been running hot. Jos's wife and two children were flying in early the next morning for two weeks vacation on Kialoa in the beautiful Tahitian Islands, and to me all was not really well with Kialoa. It bothered me, still bothers me when I think about it. I liked my yacht to function properly and was used to working hard at repairs when it did not. However, Kialoa was no longer my yacht nor my responsibility.

So it was with a sense of relief that I finally left Kialoa in the afternoon that Thursday. I had treated Jos, Kees, Marjorie and Adriaan to a nice lunch at the Casablanca restaurant and felt I had completed my obligations. Adriaan took me in his rented car to Fifi's guest house and, in spite of the heat, I dropped on the bed and took a nap.

This was the culmination of five months of intense work on Kialoa, getting her ready for sale, negotiating arrangements, 3 months of helping with maintenance and upgrades for Jos, the new owner, and finally sailing with Jos and his crew to Tahiti, to help on their first trip, and for me, the enjoyment of sailing and visiting interesting places and people.

I stayed in Tahiti another week, as a vacation, so I could not only enjoy the beauty of the islands but also visit the friends I had formed over the years. And I was so glad I could do what I wanted, I felt like I was finally free, and it was true that I was free of the work and expense of maintaining Kialoa II. For a short time I wanted to savor the relief of completing one very major task.

The next afternoon I took one of the high speed commuter ferries from Papeete to Moorea, which must rank among the most beautiful islands in the world. A fine day, warm but not too hot, and I enjoyed the contrasts of leaving the bustling downtown of Papeete and heading out the pass, the ferry accelerating to full speed, watching the lush green razorback ridges of Moorea grow in size and complexity as we made the crossing, and finally arriving 40 minutes later at the relatively tranquil ferry terminal in Moorea. I bypassed the car rental booths at the ferry terminal and called Albert's, the local car rental (and tourist) firm, and shortly after took one of the local buses around the north shore to their office on Cook's Bay, just opposite the Club Bali Hai hotel. It was getting late, and after the necessary paperwork I drove to the west shore of Moorea and, near the Club Med complex, arranged at Chez Nelson Camping for a bed in a room. I could stay for one night only since it was school holidays next week and many families from Tahiti were arriving for a few days of vacation on Moorea, taking up all the cabins available.

I had a whole week of doing whatever I wanted, I could bum around, eat where and when I wished, and with luck crash with friends rather than sleeping on the beach or renting an expensive room. It felt good, it was such a change. That evening I drove to Chez Serge, in Papetoi, for dinner - sand floors and good food. In fact almost all the restaurants in Moorea have excellent food - and prices to match. The next morning, early, I put on my snorkel gear and swam out from the beach at the campground, observing the many kinds of brightly colored coral, brain coral, stag coral, and the small, brightly colored tropical fish. I stopped for a bit and observed a group of little blue fish that stayed near their coral head, at a threatening gesture from me they would all disappear into the coral crevices, and then curiously come out in a minute or so. The bare coral sand bottom was spotted with slow moving seaslugs, and angelfish and parrotfish circled the larger coral groups. Beautiful, I had not seen this underwater panorama since leaving Fiji last year.

For most of the remainder of the week I stayed with friends on the North Shore, escapees from California and Italy who make tie-dyed pareo cloth and T-shirts which they sell to tourists, sometimes directly at the cruise boat dock on Cooks Bay, but mostly through several of the local boutique shops. Nice, intelligent people who live in a secluded forest area in a neat cabin handmade by Lee maybe 15 years ago. I swam and snorkeled quite a bit, and had al fresco showers at a place on Cooks Bay where visiting yacht crews had set up a secluded location with fresh running water. Perhaps the highlight of my week was a dinner party I put together at a friend's place (with her cooking) for 5 families and their children, where beside great food we were treated to songs and Tahitian dancing by both adults and children. Really neat.

Here are thumbnails of three photos I took on Moorea, click on them for a larger view. Unfortunately my new digital camera ran out of storage, and those taken on the trip disappeared in the hard drive of Jos' computer.

After arriving in Honolulu last November we became totally taken up by the details of selling Kialoa. At that time I had accepted a bid and the prospective buyer was coming for inspection early December. We hired a couple of local boat workers and spent 3 weeks at exterior paint touchup and exterior and selected interior varnishing, generally trying to make Kialoa look as presentable as possible in the time (and budget) available. In December this fellow arrived from New York along with his broker, and with a local surveyor they inspected Kialoa both in and out of the water and had a test sail under rather windy conditions.

I thought the survey and inspection went well and assumed that the sale would be completed. However, the surveyor wrote a negative report, and the bottom line was that the fellow would buy Kialoa but wanted a price reduction. Perhaps the surveyor's job was to help his client negotiate a lower price. Be that as it may, I was not happy and not inclined to reduce the price. I hired another surveyor to give a second opinion, and he agreed with me that Kialoa was in quite good condition.

And I had another prospect. I had some time before received e-mail from a contact in Holland who had a client very interested in Kialoa and who I had referred to my broker. He later e-mailed me in Honolulu that he had made no progress with my broker but was still very interested, I had replied that Kialoa was under contract for possible sale, and again they replied that if the contract fell through they would come and inspect Kialoa. I called Holland and managed to speak directly to Jos, the prospective buyer. I told him the details straightforwardly, and he arranged to come visit Kialoa between Christmas and New Year.

When Jos arrived he also brought his son Jani with him, a very polite and likeable 13 year old boy. For a test sail we went over to Molokai, anchored in an unused barge harbor where we spent the night, and returned the next day. Cynthia and Maria were with us, we all got on very well, and in the end before he departed for Holland we arrived at an arrangement whereby I would continue to be able to use Kialoa when she was free, but in effect he would own her. Very satisfactory for me.

Jos wanted to take Kialoa II back to Europe, initially to Turkey, was thinking of going east through the Panama Canal and crossing the Atlantic. I advised him that this was the hard way, one had to go against the prevailing wind much of the distance, it required going north to colder weather to get more favorable winds, and also hurricane season in the Caribbean would soon be setting in and one would have to rush. I advised him it would be easier, both for the crew and for the boat, to instead go west through the South Pacific, across the Indian Ocean and up through the Suez canal. This route would generally have easy downwind sailing, would be warm and go through interesting and beautiful places. Also a shorter distance to Turkey. Jos decided on the South Pacific route, and to have his family and some friends join him in Tahiti and in Fiji for vacationing on Kialoa.

For this trip Jos wanted some upgrades in Kialoa, in maintenance, and some minor interior changes so her appearance would conform more to his taste. His wife and daughter also visited Honolulu to see Kialoa, to decide on carpets and to purchase supplies. This visit was also a pleasant time for all of us, Anneke had traveled extensively in India and the Far East and was a very pleasant, interesting and kind lady. From January on into early April when we left for Tahiti between 3 and 5 people (including me) were busy continuously working on Kialoa, and we accomplished a lot.

The weather was good and Kialoa performed well on the trip to Tahiti. Jos had engaged a young couple, the son of a friend and his girlfriend, Kees and Marjorie, as crew, and had another friend along, Karel. In addition a friend of mine, Adriaan, (who had not made the trip from Fiji here to Honolulu because of a back problem) joined us so there were six on board, a good number for such a trip on Kialoa. Interestingly, Adriaan, who just retired as a physician and had practiced for his entire career in Arizona, was born and educated in Holland and thus spoke Dutch. So I got used to hearing a lot of Dutch on the trip.

There was a fairly strong trade wind when we left, 30 knots plus, common in the islands. It was easterly and a bit to the south, and since Tahiti is almost due south we were sailing upwind, requiring a double reef in the main and the next to smallest jib. It was wet on deck with considerable spray and an occasional wave climbing over the bow and weather rail. But fast on the course to Tahiti, 9 to 10 knots. Marjorie, who had never sailed before, was quite seasick and we hardly saw her for several days. But then she recovered and was just fine.

The wind eased up after a few days, we changed to larger sails and the speed dropped to 7 to 8 knots, still excellent progress. As we neared the equator I expected a distance of several hundred miles with little or no wind, known either as the doldrums, or more technically the ITCZ, the inter tropical convergence zone. But this never occurred, we sailed right on across the equator without slowing, but as expected finding a few thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds. These resulted in several hours of tense sailing, Kialoa had too much sail up and we struggled to hold her on a reasonable course and hope that nothing would break or be damaged.

As we neared Tahiti the wind died down and we were reduced to a few knots of speed. Had we used the engine we would have arrived in 14 days, but Jos wanted to continue sailing so we used the engine only the last night when the loom of the lights of Tahiti could be seen. The following morning the wind was back up and we sailed the last bit, dramatically sailing into Opunoho Bay on Tahiti's sister island of Moorea. Opunoho Bay is the most beautiful and dramatic anchorage I have seen, it was a great landfall, peaceful and quiet, lush green vegetation on the canyon walls, jagged ridges and peaks on almost all sides.

Thus my adventures with Kialoa draw to a close. We will be able to visit and sail on Kialoa in the future, perhaps in New Zealand, Turkey or Greece, but it will not at all be the same as when I was totally responsible for her. Looking back, I have no regrets, I have had wonderful and fulfilling adventures with Kialoa, done things I would never have attempted had I not almost been forced to by nature of Kialoa and the impact she had on my life. And now it seems fine to make a change, 14 years is a long time, and I am looking forward to other activities.

Frank Robben, Honolulu, May 1999