The last place on earth you would expect to find a vet!

Our search for a vet to administer the annual vaccinations for Chui & Scrumpy took us to the Ha’apai group of islands, about 70 miles south of Vava’u.

We had a great overnight sail down to Pangai, the main island in the Ha’apai group. Once we had checked in there, we relocated around to Uoleva to find Kristen, the vet. By an incredible coincidence, Kristen, the vet we had been in contact with (courtesy of our friends Gaylyn & Thomas on Qi) just happened to be the partner of Craig, a guy we had known 20 years earlier in Dar es Salaam! Craig arrived in Tonga some 9 or 10 years ago and had been running a couple of businesses here over the years, the latest being the lodge, which he & Kristen had just sold! It was great to finally get the dogs’ vaccinations sorted out and to reconnect with Craig and meet Kristen. Small, small world and a BIG thank you to Kristen for braving Chui and updating the boys’ vaccinations!

After a couple of days anchored off Uoleva we decided to explore some of the islands further south. The Ha’apai was beautiful with a long fringing reef stretching all the way down the eastern edge of the group and a variety of small islands and sand banks dotted to the west of the reef.

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During our time in these islands we saw whales every day. Nothing can describe the thrill or privilege of watching these enormous creatures just metres away from the anchorage simply having the time of their lives. Tonga is one of the only places in the world where you can actually swim with whales on an organised tour. Back in Vava’u we had met some researchers who were studying the impact of this tourist activity on the behaviour patterns of the whales. We were reminded of the research charter we did back in 2002 when we were the base station for a pilot study in Zanzibar on whales and dolphins and the scientists onboard collected DNA from the whales in order to identify habitat and behaviour patterns.

Another of Tonga’s treasures is the diving/ snorkelling, especially around the Ha’apai group. The only downside was the weather. For much of the time it was unseasonably COLD and often wet, overcast and windy! The mostly small reef fish there are beautiful and the coral is as pristine as we have seen in a very long time. Even more special is listening to the sounds of whales off in the distance as we enjoyed the diving and snorkelling. It was really quite eerie and we half expected to turn around and look straight into their eyes, but  no such luck.

Unfortunately, again due to the weather, we weren’t able to do much diving, but the highlights were Wickham reef on one of the few calm, sunny days that we had and snorkelling around the wreck off Ha’afeva island’s west coast.

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Further south in the Ha’apai group there are plenty of islands to explore, but again, due to weather we had some challenges with the anchorages, so the best advice for Ha’apai (like the Tuamotus in French Polynesia) is PICK your weather, if at all possible, and go there with plenty of time to enjoy these gorgeous places…… We hope you enjoy the photos of Mango, Ha’afeva and Nomuka islands, plus the general photos that we posted on Facebook and do please let us know if you CANNOT access these pages. I believe they are accessible even if you do not use Facebook??

After 3 weeks in the Ha’apai group, we sailed back to Vava’u to explore more of the anchorages, meet up with other cruising friends and join in with the Blue Water Regatta, which is held in the first week of October, somewhat inconvenient for me, as I was back on my Sober for October challenge again, so I diligently remained teetotal for the whole event, and indeed for the whole of October!! Oh, and on that note,…… you can STILL sponsor me until the end of November! Come on George, cough up. I did it!! 😉 Thanks to everyone who did sponsor me and also to those who chose to support The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew) in support of my efforts. All very much appreciated!

Back to the Treasures of Tonga blog post.

Treasures of Tonga

**STOP PRESS:: I have to introduce an extra special TREASURE OF TONGA here.

Tonga has been amazing. We have been here for over 3 months and it has been lovely to just relax and enjoy the country, without having the 3 month time frame that we had to rush through the vast expanse of French Polynesia.

The distances between the lovely, diverse island groups of the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands was mind boggling, but we have enjoyed Tonga at a far more leisurely pace. We arrived at the beginning of August and much of the first month was spent organising the annual vaccinations for our dogs, which proved quite a challenge! Huge thanks to everyone who assisted!

For the rest of our time here we have been discovering many of Tonga’s treasures.

Tonga is famous for the whale swimming charters that operate between July and October when the whales migrate here from the Antarctic to breed.

As we made our way through the islands around to the port of entry at Neiafu, Vava’u on August 3rd we saw more whales in just a few hours than we saw in 4 years in the Caribbean! We also saw more bait balls than we’ve since since Walvis Bay in Namibia!!

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Vava’u is a delightful cruising ground in the northern part of Tonga, consisting of the larger main island in the north and a number of smaller islands to the south. The beauty of Vava’u is that you can be right in town amongst all the action or you can sail just a few miles away and find a wide range of anchorages, many of which are deserted and have lovely isolated beaches, fascinating caves, including Swallow’s Cave and Mariner’s Cave, plenty of bird calls and the ever present whales (July – October).

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The Moorings Yacht Charter company have produced a guide to all the anchorages around Vava’u. There are 42 listed and even now I believe we have only visited about 22 of them! Some are only day anchorages and not recommended in bad weather, but there is a huge choice and despite hundreds of cruisers coming through Tonga during the height of the season it is possible to hide away, especially if you venture further south to the Ha’apai group of islands.

We have done another post here on our time in the Ha’apai, but please also enjoy the various photos that we have shared on our Amarula Sail Facebook page

Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga General Ha’apai photos

Pangai  Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga

Uoleva island Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga 

Whales in Ha’apai  Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga

Snorkellling and diving in Ha’apai

Mango island, Ha’apai, Tonga

Nomuka Island, Ha’apai

Ha’afeva island, Ha’apai, Tonga 

The main harbour at Neiafu is deep and well sheltered with a number of moorings available for rent in front of the town.

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The check in process in Vava’u involves going alongside a big concrete dock with a large overhang, which regularly catches yachts out when they get caught under it during the rise and fall of the tide. You have to be very vigilant with the position of your fenders; even so we still sustained minor damage from the experience.

Provisioning here is significantly less sophisticated than in French Polynesia, however there is a fresh food market, which has a reasonable supply of good quality, delicious fruit and vegetables, as long as you’re happy with whatever is in season on the day you visit.

The main grocery stores are Chinese run (and limited), so the best strategy is ‘take it while you can get it’ as it may well not be there next time you visit. But after years in Dar es Salaam, we feel quite at home with all this! In fact it takes us back to our early days there when the grocery store was a 20 foot container with the usual staples like flour, powdered milk, rice, beans and, if you’re lucky, a fridge with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and maybe even some cheese and butter. As yet, we haven’t found ‘butcheries’ like we had in Dar, where the ‘black’ meat hung and was attacked by an ax-wielding butcher when you asked for a kilo or 2 of beef (the black was flies!).

You can easily see why Vava’u attracts entrepreneurs from around the world. It has a friendly, laid-back vibe with plenty of bars and restaurants to meet up with other cruisers, expats, locals and tourists. There is a very helpful morning cruisers net on the radio at 8.30am on VHF Ch 26, which is run by the various business owners to share information about the weather, promote their businesses along with local events, and answer any questions. And if you prefer to get away from it all, there are numerous island hideaways to set up your eco-lodge, Coconut oil production plant or whale swim charter business.

After provisioning and sorting out local sim cards we spent the first couple of weeks exploring the various anchorages around Vava’u. Having anchored at Mala, Port Maurelle, and Nuku, we went across to Vaka’eitu, expecting to spend one night, then move further south to Ovalou.

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Soon after we arrived in Vaka’eitu we noticed someone attempting to tow a motor boat from its mooring to the beach….. by canoe! Eric went over to offer some help and soon got chatting with the family on the island. He helped them change the spark plugs, which seemed to fix the problem, only to have the shear pin break. As they needed to go across to another island for some provisions we lent them our dinghy. When they came back we chatted with them a little more and gave them some coffee and sugar as the shop on the other island had sold out. One of the things that all the guidebooks in Polynesia recommend is to visit a church to experience the singing. Our new friends, David and Hika, invited us to join them the next day, but when Eric went ashore to collect them for church the next morning they had asked their daughter Andrea to escort us, as they insisted on making lunch for us as a thank you for our help! With only 5 families living on the neighbouring island it was a small church service, but very pleasant. Andrea said that David & Hika normally attend church, but they wanted to cook for us on this particular day. She added that when all the family are home on Vaka’eitu and go off to church they fill it up as David & Hika have 11 children! They are very proud of their children and they love to share their talents and amazing hospitality with their visitors, which they do when they put on their pig roast feasts. After lunch Andrea showed us the trail across to a beautiful beach on the south side of the island, then we took her snorkelling at the coral gardens on the western part of the island between Vaka’eitu and Nuapapu. After a second night at anchor David came out to ask us to stay for the pig roast feast the next day, as they had a group of Moorings charter guests coming. He also needed to borrow our dinghy again to go for provisions – and collect the pig for the pig roast! So we spent another night there. It was a lovely spot to get some boat work done and we enjoyed visiting with the family in between times. We heard on the VHF radio net that there was no petrol available in town until the ferry arrived on the Thursday. This meant that David couldn’t get to town, so on the Friday morning we gave David, Hika and Andrea a lift into Neiafu and said our farewells, until we meet again.

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Back in Neiafu we caught up with cruising friends and went to the big church service on the Sunday, which was packed. Despite the service being conducted in Tongan, the singing really was quite special! A couple of days in town was enough for us, so we went off again to explore some of the other Vava’u anchorages before heading down to Uoleva island in the Ha’apai group, where we had arranged to meet up with a Kiwi vet, who had agreed to administer our dogs’ annual vaccinations. Link to our Ha’apai post here.

After 3 weeks in Ha’apai, we returned to Vava’u mid-September to catch up with more friends and join in with the Blue Water Regatta, which is held in the first week of October, somewhat inconvenient for me, as I was back on my Sober for October challenge again, so I diligently remained teetotal for the whole event, and indeed for the whole of October!! Oh, and on that note,…… you can STILL sponsor me until the end of November! Thanks to everyone who did sponsor me and also to those who chose to support The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew) in support of my efforts. All very much appreciated!

Meanwhile, during September, we enjoyed catching up with more cruising friends and we explored further afield. Those of us lucky enough to have time to spend in Tonga can find even more wonderful treasures over at the east coast anchorages.

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There is quite a tricky pass to get there, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The waypoints for the pass and getting into the lovely anchorage at Kenutu are given in the various cruising guides to Tonga. When we arrived in Kenutu we met up with cruising friends we had first met in various anchorages in French Polynesia. As luck would have it the 3 boats there, SV Kinabalu (Singapore), SV Balvenie (New Zealand) and SV Confidence (Canada) just happened to be having a beach BBQ that evening, so we joined in the fun.

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The Blue Water Regatta (despite my restraint from the odd tipple) in October was a lot of fun with great information for those travelling down to New Zealand for the cyclone season from representatives from NZ ports, businesses and customs in attendance, plus there was a visit to the local primary school, which the NZ ports support and a trip out to collect and destroy crown of thorns starfish organised by VEPA and of course the fun Regatta, which we (Team Quatsino II) ALMOST won! At the prize giving dinner, there was a fabulous local band playing and a great meal put on by the Aquarium restaurant.

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A week after the Regatta Eric flew back to Australia to finally get a chance to catch up with family after way too long and attend to some other matters. Here he is all packed and ready!

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With Eric away for the past month, I have been catching up on boat jobs, getting together with friends and making a daily commitment to update this website. So here it is, at last!! But, one thing I am very proud of is that I did up anchor and SAIL Amarula around to Port Maurelle ALL BY MYSELF!! I was tired of sitting waiting in Neiafu and decided to go for it. Amarula is a big boat and I have never actually sailed her alone before, let alone anchor or pick up a mooring! To be honest, I’ve never had to, but it’s a wonderful, liberating feeling knowing that I CAN! Here are a few photos from the lovely anchorage where I have been biding my time waiting for Eric to return, so we can sail on to our next destination, Fiji!

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SV Amarula is FOR SALE!

It’s been 3 months since our last post on here!

I’m not quite sure why, but I am finding it quite a challenge to sit down and write about our wonderful time in Tonga. Perhaps it’s because it feels, very much, like our journey is almost at an end……

It has been an interesting, wonderful and enlightening experience, living onboard SV Amarula for over 15 years, in various countries, but it is time to go home and begin a new journey, mostly land-based and most certainly family-oriented.

For the past 5 weeks Eric has been back in Australia and it is clear that Australia is where he wants and needs to be now, so the impetus to pack up our floating home, our dogs and move back to Australia is stronger than ever.

For this reason, we ask that our followers, friends and family all around the world PLEASE share this post and our website, so we can find a new, loving owner for SV Amarula soon.

She is a beautiful, blue water catamaran and her forte is as a luxury floating home and strong, comfortable passage maker. Just imagine NOT getting cold, wet or sunburnt on a passage and being tucked up in a cosy, enclosed wheelhouse whilst navigating her across oceans!

SV Amarula would be ideally suited to a family or even a group of friends wishing to circumnavigate the globe. Equally, she is well suited to chartering. Having lived onboard for the past 15 years, we will be delighted to assist with advice/ suggestions depending on her new owners’ requirements.

You can find plenty of information and photos throughout our website, including a record of her construction and launch in our About Amarula section.

Please don’t hesitate to Contact us for any further information and we look forward to working together to now make your dreams come true :)

If you would prefer to go through a broker, SV Amarula is listed with Anna at Nautilus Yacht Management in Sydney, Australia. Details AND PRICE here

And, I have finally published 2 new posts on Tonga:

Treasures of Tonga (mostly about the Vava’u group) and this one about the Ha’apai group

Plus here are the links to our Tonga albums on Facebook:

TONGA Facebook links:

Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga

 David & Hika’s feasts , Vaka’eitu island, Vava’u

 Swallow’s Cave Vava’u

 Blue Water Regatta – Regatta race  & School visit 

 East Coast anchorages, Vava’u

 More Vava’u Highlights  (Euakafa, Tapana, Blue Lagoon & Hunga Lagoon)

Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga  General photos taken on our travels around the beautiful Ha’apai islands of Tonga

 Uoleva island Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga

 Whales in Ha’apai  Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga

 Nomuka Island, Ha’apai

Snorkellling and diving in Ha’apai

 Ha’afeva island, Ha’apai, Tonga 

 Mango island, Ha’apai, Tonga

 Pangai  Ha’apai, Kingdom of Tonga

Bora Bora to Vava’u, Tonga via Suwarrow Atoll

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In our last blog post we left you in Bora Bora just over a month ago and from there we sailed to Suwarrow Atoll in the northern Cook Islands. Our plan was to stop off at Mopelia atoll, the westernmost island of French Polynesia, as a number of friends had recommended a visit.

On our way to Mopelia we changed course towards Suwarrow, as we weren’t making good enough time to reach the very narrow pass in daylight, but increased wind speeds and better angles tricked us into heading back towards Mopelia.

Of course, as so often seems to happen in this part of the world, the weather was playing games with us and the wind dropped off again, so we were just too late to make a safe entry through the Mopelia pass after all.

We decided to drop the sails and wait for day light, but once again the weather had other plans and the wind started gusting up to 30 knots, promising an uncomfortable night ahead. After an hour or so we decided to take the wind and continue to Suwarrow. Once again we had a challenging passage varying from no wind to our best winds and boat speeds since leaving Panama! The bad news…. we lost a lovely mahi mahi on day 2, but we were compensated on day 5 when we caught a good sized (10kg) yellow fin tuna. Yay sashimi for lunch!

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During the final day we actually had to slow the boat down to ensure a daylight arrival or risk another night tacking back and forth outside the atoll….. RIMG0988-001

Suwarrow has an interesting history, as the setting of Tom Neale’s book ‘An Island to Oneself’. This Kiwi hermit spent a number of years living here between 1952 and 1977, which led to him write his book. RIMG0991-001

Once he passed away the island was turned into the Cook Islands’ only national park. It is protected and managed by the rangers who base here during the season from June to November. RIMG0992-001

It is a beautiful place, for sure, reminding us a little of Cosmoledo atoll in the Indian Ocean, where we were the base station for a scientific research charter back in 2002. RIMG0993-001

As with any national park, there are rules, however it seems that some of them have been introduced more recently due to various visitors’ irresponsible behaviour. For instance, one of the must do’s for us was to dive the pass. Not only was the weather not conducive, but we were advised by the rangers that it is no longer permitted, as they had been called out on too many occasions in the past to rescue divers who were swept out to sea.

Visitors are not permitted to go ashore on any of the motus (islands) within the atoll, other than the main island where the rangers live and no diving or fishing is permitted within the lagoon. We were keen to explore the lagoon, but with 20+ knot winds and the forecast giving the same conditions for the next few days, we decided to move on to Tonga sooner rather than later. RIMG0994-001

Had it been just the 2 of us we may have waited out the weather, as Suwarrow is a totally isolated island paradise, but with the dogs stuck onboard (not even allowed to join us for a dinghy ride around the anchorage….) we felt too guilty, once again being reminded just how challenging it is to travel with pets in the Pacific!

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The passage to Tonga started out really well with 15 to 20 knot winds from the south east giving us our best boat speeds in some time despite sailing with 2 reefs in the mainsail. We actually slowed the boat down for safety reasons, due to the tear in the mainsail below the second reef, which we still haven’t had an opportunity to repair yet.

By the third day the wind dropped and we used the spinnaker with the mainsail, maintaining a steady 6 – 7 knots for the next 24 hours or so. But, as luck would have it, the wind died, the current turned against us and our final 48 hours was painful! We ended up motoring the last 24 hours! Aaaghhh!!

We entered the Vava’u group via a precarious pass on the east coast just north of Fonua Unga island. RIMG1011-001

On our Navionics chart and OPEN CPN charts the pass looked doable, however as we approached it the wind started to gust again and waves were breaking on the nearby reef causing us some concern as the breaks were right in the supposed pass. When the depths started showing 3 metres under the keel (not the 7++ shown on the charts) we held our breath and hoped for the best! Later when we purchased the Moorings anchorages chart and saw how the pass was depicted on there we would never have attempted it! Reminiscent of our time in the San Blas without the detailed Eric Bahaus charts!

Anyway, here we are in the lovely Vava’u group of islands in the Kingdom of Tonga!

We’ve actually been here over 2 weeks! This is our first blog post partly due to poor internet again and the fact that most of the time since we arrived has been spent on working out the logistics of getting the dogs’ annual vaccinations done by the end of next week, an ongoing challenge which we hope to resolve very soon! Finger crossed that it all finally comes together……. !

More to come soon….. in the meantime we hope you enjoy a few photos from Vava’u, Tonga

David & Hika’s delicious pig roast feasts

Exploring the lovely Swallow’s Cave, Vava’u, Tonga

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High Society – From Towering Peaks to Azure Lagoons

Sadly our 3 months in French Polynesia is coming to an end and our final island in the final archipelago we’re visiting is Bora Bora!

Saving the best to the last 😉 Perhaps….. but it’s certainly the most famous of the group known as the Society Islands (bar Tahiti).

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There are actually 5 archipelagos in French Polynesia, but we haven’t had enough time to do justice to the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Societies, never mind the Gambiers and Australs.

Other than Tahiti and Bora Bora, the Society Islands include Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa. Whilst the Marquesas are impressive volcanic islands with steep cliffs dropping off into the ocean, the Tuamotus are flat coral atolls with challenging tidal passes to enter the stunning turquoise lagoons. Meanwhile the Society islands are a combination of both, with volcanic peaks reaching up to the sky, yet these islands are surrounded by fringing reefs, wrapping them in clear, blue waters teaming with marine life, much of which you can get up close and personal with (check out the sting rays in the Moorea & Bora Bora lagoons and the stunning coral gardens in Tahaa!)

We timed our arrival in the Society islands with the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, which is a fabulous get together weekend of yachts, event organisers & sponsors to celebrate crossing the Pacific ocean, probably the longest passage most of us will ever make. Back in Panama in March we attended the Pacific Puddle Jump 2016 meeting that was put on by Andy Turpin of Latitude 38 magazine and Stephanie from the Tahiti Tourism Board along with a host of other contributors and sponsors. Part of the fun of global cruising is meeting like-minded cruisers who are also out here ‘doing it’! Not only do we all learn from each other, we are all far away from home and family, so our cruising family means a lot and hey, who doesn’t love a good party!!

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Our stay in Tahiti was short and wet! In fact the windy, rainy weather we’d ‘enjoyed’ for much of the time in the Tuamotus followed us to Tahiti and we found ourself anchoring in the very busy anchorage off Marina Taina in 35 knot gusts and driving rain! Fortunately we still managed to get a few repairs done and find a new waterproof camera (not quite the quality of the previous one, but as that one cost more than double here than what we paid only a few months ago from UK we decided on a cheaper model, especially taking into account our luck with ‘waterproof’ cameras!!)

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It was fun to reconnect with good friends we had met back in the Caribbean during the past few seasons, others we had met along the way and also to meet new friends. The Tahiti-Moorea RDV kicked off with an Aussie get together on the Friday morning, 24th June, with various Australian marinas and marine specialists showcasing their products. Of course, Steve from Rivergate Marina in Brisbane was a big hit with just about every Aussie he met by presenting them with a tube of Vegemite! The day continued with the event registration at the Tahiti Tourism Office downtown, where we all received our goodie bags with T-shirts, brochures etc and a presentation showcasing many of the islands and what they have to offer, plus a welcome by the Head of Tourism, who caused some amusement by welcoming the various Nationalities, along with the Europeans and not forgetting the British (this was the day of the Brexit announcement!). After a performance of Polynesian dancing and drumming and cocktails, we went off to sample the delights of the Roulottes (food trucks which set up at dusk on the waterfront in Pape’ete).

On the Saturday the plan was for all yachts to rally (not race, Lorna 😉 ) across to Moorea. Unfortunately, after weeks of high winds, the wind decided NOT to blow, so most of us ended up motoring the 15 NM across to Moorea to anchor in the stunning Cook’s Bay, where the party continued through Saturday night and all day Sunday.

We were treated to more dance and drumming performances and more presentations by sponsors from other Pacific nations, including Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. On the Sunday, we began the day with canoe races. In teams of 4, along with 2 locals, we raced in traditional Polynesian outriggers. Our team of 4, the Amarula crew, along with the crew of SV Echo Echo, Jeannette and Neil, did amazingly well, coming in 2nd in our heat! This meant we had to race again in the semi-finals. Something went bizarrly wrong, as we came in last, having rounded the buoy and almost ended up in the next bay! Somehow our canoe simpy did not want to head back towards the finish line….. Ho hum…. There were various other activities and events all day long, more dance and drumming performances and a delicious, traditional Polynesian lunch. All in all a fun and successful event. Thanks to Andy, Stephanie and all the rest of the team! Well done!

Unfortunately, our friend Lorna from SV Quatsino II was quite badly injured in the canoe races as their canoe capsized and hit her on the head. She was concussed and taken to hospital, so sadly she & George missed the rest of Sunday. The good news is that the paramedics were on the spot within minutes and the treatment she received was, thankfully, excellent and she is on the mend. We managed to catch up with George and Lorna again a few times before we moved on to Huahine and they returned to Tahiti.

Moorea was truly beautiful and we enjoyed a relaxing few days in Cooks Bay after the party weekend. In fact we continued partying with various friends who had stuck around and others who had just arrived. We had a fabulous musical evening on Amarula with Dave from SV Eliana plus Shaun and Sabine from SV Chevaldy entertaining us, and the Quatsino and Enchatress crews, and apparently a few of the other yachts in the anchorage!

After a few days we relocated to Opunohu Bay and did the 10km round trip hike up to the Belvedere viewpoint, passing by the Agricultural college, where you can stop for ice cream and a tour of the facility (and free wifi! Wish we’d known. We didn’t bring the tablet…). The more attractive trail through the woods & alongside the river wends its way past an interesting archaeological site, which includes various maraes (stone platforms) and an archery platform.

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After the hike we spent a couple of days in the crystal clear anchorage at the entrance to the bay, where it was easier to dinghy across to spend time getting up close and personal with the tamest sting rays we’ve ever seen! The crews of Amarula, Quatsino II and Moonraker, plus visiting friends enjoyed feeding and stroking these amazing creatures, whose skin felt like velvet. On the way back we stopped off to see the sunken tikis, stone carvings which were allegedly dropped into the lagoon when the missionaries came through the region and destroyed many of these ‘false idols’! We popped ashore to the village of Papetoai to see whether we could pick up internet and got lucky with the reception, as we were able to have great skype calls with the family back in Australia!

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From Moorea we sailed overnight to Huahine. In retrospect we should have waited another day for better wind and to clean the weed off the boat, which had grown prolifically in just the few days we were anchored in Cooks and Opunohu Bays. However, the calmer winds permitted us an easy entry through the east coast pass on Huahine and a chance to explore the bays and motus (islets) there, before moving around to the main town of Fare on the west coast to stock up on supplies. One of the ‘highlights’ of the east coast is to visit the river at Faie Bay where there are the sacred blue-eyed eels. As we had the dogs with us, Eric anchored off in the dinghy whilst I went ashore for a quick look. A small group of tourists were there feeding them, so I managed to take a few shots as they slithered all over each other in a fight for the food. Not quite sure why they are sacred…? We noticed a stilt hut on the water out in the lagoon, which seemed to be getting visits from quite a few tourist boats and only realised later that this must have been Huahine Nui Pearls and Pottery that is mentioned in our Lonely Planet Guide. I wish we’d stopped for a quick look, but the forecast was for stronger winds again, so we decided to head back out through the pass before it became too choppy and we sailed around the north coast down to Fare.

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We anchored in the deep Haavai bay just off the village of Fitii, a mile or so beyond Fare and during the evening we were treated to the sounds of singing and drumming wafting across the bay from the village. It is July and during this month the whole of French Polynesia is engaged in a cultural extravanganza known as Heiva. It is a month long celebration of all that is Polynesian, ranging from dancing and drumming performances to canoe races and other sporting, cultural and artistic events. The villagers from Fitii were preparing for their upcoming performance at the main Heiva site in Huahine. We were lucky enough to enjoy their practice sessions a few days early, as unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the actual performance. Eric’s visa runs out on 18th July and we still had to get cooking gas and provisions in Raiatea, then get to Bora Bora for the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14th. Fingers crossed that the weather is kind to us, as we are leaving our departure until the very last minute!

In retrospect, perhaps we should have applied for the long stay visa for Eric (non-Europeans only get 3 months in any 6 month period, unless they apply in advance for a long stay visa). As it happens Lynne’s British passport may not be much use anyway in the not to distant future if all goes to plan with the Brexit!!!

Our sail from Huahine to Raiatea was one of the faster ones we’ve experienced in some time and really quite choppy, as the wind was beam on. Once through the pass we headed up towards Uturoa, the main town of Raiatea, looking for a decent anchorage. With no anchoring anywhere close to town, we motored a good 5 miles north of town, through a pass into a deep channel and back south again, to anchor a mile away from Uturoa across the lagoon. With 20+ knot winds from the south east, heading into town was a rather wet affair and unsuccessful, as we were looking to fill our cooking gas bottles and hadn’t realised that the Carenage Yacht Services, which does gas refills is actually around on the north west side of the island! Oops! Had we been a bit more up to speed, we would have found a much more pleasant, calmer anchorage in the lee of the island, which we did the next morning.

We took our gas bottles ashore to be filled, caught up on some internetting and even enjoyed good skype calls from the boat later that evening, a first since Panama! Onboard internet, especially good enough to make skype calls, has been almost non-existent here in French Polynesia, so this was a real bonus! Another job we had to do in Raiatea was fill up our diesel tanks before leaving for Tonga. French Polynesia very kindly offers duty free diesel to visiting yachts for up to 6 months.

From the fuel dock we motored back south to visit the Taputapuatea Marae site, which allegedly dates back to the late 900’s and is deemed the most important cultural heritage site in French Poynesia. From here Raiateans sailed out to ‘colonise’ other Pacific islands, as far north as Hawaii, east to the Tuamotus, west to the Cook islands and south west to New Zealand in their dugout canoes with their elementary knowledge of planetary navigation.

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After visiting the marae site, we decided to head round to the deeper, more protected bay of Faaroa to anchor for the night, where we caught up with cruiser friends on SV Haven, Kinabalu and Blowing Bubbles. Eric went and joined them all for sundowners, but unfortunately my allergies were playing up so I stayed onboard and had an early night. However the next morning we all dinghied up the nearby river, one of the only navigable rivers in French Polynesia and we were treated to a mini tour of the plantation of a local man, Andre, who shared produce from his farm with us for a minimal fee. We enjoyed tastes of papaya, coconut, guava and orange limes (good for a facial workout!), plus a fruit called pakai, which was new to us; similar in taste and texture to a lychee, except it grows in a long pod containing a number of cells each with it’s own dark seed in the centre, rather than a single encased cell with a single seed like a lychee. We came away with a couple of large bunches of bananas, sweet potatoes and taro to share between us.

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After another very enjoyable evening of sundowners onboard SV Kinabalu, we all went our separate ways again the next day. Eric & I had hoped to stop for a dive on the Nordby, one of the only wreck dives in French Polynesia, but the wind was still gusting 25 – 30 knots, so we sailed up through the lagoon to the west coast of Tahaa, known as the Vanilla island and enclosed within the same fringing reef as the island of Raiatea. Our plan was to sail around to the north of Tahaa to visit a small pearl farm and check internet at the village of Patio, but again the strong winds changed our minds for us. Instead we anchored in the calm, protected bay of Tapuamu, directly across from Motu Taotao, which is home to Tahaa’s luxurious lodge and spa Le Taha’a Private Island and Spa and also the site of the lovely coral gardens. This is some of the best snorkelling we have done in a long time, as you float just above the coral in between the 2 islets. It is teaming with fish and the coral is healthy and plentiful. Back at the anchorage we enjoyed lovely sunset views over Bora Bora and the next day we had a great sail across to our final island in French Polynesia.

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Bora Bora is one of those magical bucket list places and we were fortunate to visit during the Heiva and Bastille Day celebrations. (We sadly learned about the horrors of Bastille Day in Nice, France, the next day. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been irrevocably affected and to the whole free world) Initially when we inquired about what was happening for Bastille Day in Bora Bora no one seemed to know and we also learned that most of the Heiva cultural events had finished, however we got lucky! Early in the morning, on Bastille Day, there was a colourful parade, followed by a Polynesian dance performance at the Heiva events area.

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 We were even treated to a firework display across the bay in the evening! So it turned out to be a great day! In between cultural events we dinghied across the lagoon to another area where tourist boats go to feed rays. We didn’t take food ourselves this time, having fed the rays in Moorea, but once again we got a chance to snorkel with these amazing creatures. Such a treat!

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The downside of all this touristy activity is that many boat jobs have gone by the wayside and now we have run out of time! Oh well, maybe we’ll get a chance to do some boat work in Tonga…..!!

Tuamotu Atolls, French Polynesia (formerly referred to as the Dangerous islands!)

We can’t remember the last time we spent so many days holed up on the boat due to weather. But certainly this was the case for much of our time spent in the Tuamotus, the world’s largest archipelago of coral atolls that lies 500 miles south west of the Marquesas and around 200 miles east of the Society islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora etc). With regular, sustained winds of 20+ knots and constant rain showers DSCN2301 the main goal for our time in the Tuamotus was severly impacted! Not exactly conducive weather for drift diving!

 However, we enjoyed our limited time there, and despite not making it to some of the atolls on our list, due to weather constraints, we enjoyed the few we visited.

 Highlights include, in order of the atolls we visited:

* making landfall at Tahanea atoll at daybreak after a challenging 8 day passage from the Tuamotus!

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* wandering around the tiny village of Tearavero at Kauehi atoll and meeting a few locals, including the maire (mayor), and especially the children who wanted to practice their English as they cycled around us on their bikes. Picking up very slow internet at the Post Office there, enough to upload a blog post, read a few Facebook posts, but not enough to upload photos. Relishing in the atmosphere as the supply boat offloaded supplies and the community gathered by the pier to collect their goodies. By the next morning any fresh fruit and vegetables were already long gone….

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* the anchorage in the bommie field to the west of the south pass of Fakarava atoll. Even though we didn’t get in as much diving as we would have liked we did pop ashore during breaks in the weather to walk on the lovely pink sand beaches and enjoy the tranquility and isolation here.

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* drift diving through the south pass, Tumakohua, at Fakarava. Stunning coral, particuarly in the shallows, plenty of reef fish, huge Napoleon wrasse, large schools of brown mottled grouper and the ‘wall of sharks’

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* donning our rain gear at 6.30am one Sunday morning to head in for the morning service at the oldest coral church in the Tuamotus at Tetamanu village, south Fakarava. We had been told that attending church services to hear the locals sing was a real treat. On this particular morning one of the cruisers had organised to sing. Despite the ‘service’ being attended by only 2 locals, ourselves and the cruiser and her husband, we were not disappointed. Leslie, a former professional singer has the most beautiful voice and we were treated to her moving rendition of Ave Maria.

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* the lovely leisurely 28NM sail, under headsail only, up through the Fakarava lagoon from the south pass to the north, where we anchored just south of the village by the Havaiki Pearl Farm and Resort. IMG 1015, 429 Much of the east coast is protected by landmass so, although we had plenty of wind to sail, we had no swells. When we arrived in Fakarava north we treated ourselves to a few goodies from the local minimarket and some fresh fruit and vegetables from the street stall. Provisions in the Tuamotus are few and far between and any fresh produce all but disappears within hours of the supply boats entering the villages!

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* the brief but fast drift dive at Fakatahuna pass on Toau’s east coast, where I felt like Mary Poppins as I hung on to our dinghy rope and flew through the water from depths of 5 to 20 metres. By the time Eric had kitted up and entered the water to join me the drift dive was almost over!

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* the wall dive on the outer edge of the reef on Toau’s north coast. As we headed to the marker buoy for the dive spot we were accompanied by a group of spinner dolphins leaping out of the water & spinning right alongside the dinghy! Wow! The last time we were treated to spinners was in northern Zanzibar many, many years ago. What a treat! Then we arrived at the dive spot, tied our dinghy to the marker buoy and went down the buoy line into a caldera of coral swarming with myriad small, colourful reef fish. From here we swam over the edge of the caldera across to the wall. The wall dropped off as far as we could see and it felt like we were falling down, down, down. The weirdest feeling! One minute we were in 10 metres, the next we were in 30! And sooo many beautiful fish, many of which we don’t recall seeing before. (Unfortunately, no photos, as my latest underwater camera got swamped with water at the south pass in Fakarava, when the door to the battery compartment managed to suddenly pop open when I went for a quick snorkel after we had been wandering around the village taking photos. I am certainly destined not to be an underwater photographer, having lost my previous Nikon when I enthusiastically jumped in the water in Bonaire last October and suddenly found myself at 25 metres with an 18 metre camera! Having replaced that camera with a GoPro in Bonaire, which is good to 40 metres, this was stolen along with heaps of other stuff when we were robbed in Colombia less than a month later…. :( )

Well when I started this post we were in Tahiti provisioning and preparing for the Pacific Puddle Jump Rendezvous this past weekend, 24 – 26th June. This is an annual gathering of many of the yachts that crossed the Pacific from various points in the Americas, as a celebration of our achievments, a chance to reconnect and meet both cruisers and sponsors, enjoy French Polynesian culture, traditions, food and hospitality. On Saturday we all sailed (motored actually!) together across to Moorea, where the party continued on Saturday evening and all of Sunday.

The Rendezvous event was a fun weekend of activities, socialising and showcasing Polynesia and other countries across the South Pacific, all put together by a consortium consisting of the Tahiti Tourism Board, Latitude 38 sailing magazine and a host of other contributors and sponsors. It was an excellent weekend and we would like to say a big thank you to all the organisers and sponsors.

After a few days winding down here in Moorea and getting some long awaited cleaning and boat jobs done, we will head off to visit the other Society islands, before Eric’s visa expires on 18 July and we’ll move on to Tonga…..!

Marvellous Marquesas

The Captain’s comments from our 4+ weeks in the Marquesas….

After our 38 day passage from Panama City it was a genuine relief to make our 20th April landfall at Tahauku Bay, Hiva Oa, which is the first port of entry to the Marquesas Archipelago, the easternmost of the 5 far strung Archipelago’s that make up French Polynesia. (FP), a total area that is larger than Europe.

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The Marquesas are visually spectacular volcanic islands that are geologically “young”. There are sheer cliffs that, at various locations, fall 300m into the ocean and, being so young there are no fringing coral reefs or in fact, very little coral at all.

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The Marquesas are renowned for the abundance of manta rays in their waters. The morning of our arrival at Hiva Oa we were welcomed by 5 mantas in the anchorage. DSCN1043 At every other anchorage barring the last island of Ua Pou we saw mantas. Though they were not large, averaging about 1.5m wingspan, they were prolific in numbers. There is an abundance of plankton in the Marquesas, which limits visibility and snorkelling opportunities, but the flipside is to see these graceful creatures gliding around the anchorages feeding on the plankton. The dogs did not appreciate these intrusions into their space and we doubt that our neighbours appreciated them voicing their objections. 

There is a restricted inner anchorage at Tahauku Bay, protected by a breakwater that has room enough for about 40 yachts. It was tight so we chose to anchor outside the breakwater. The downside was that we were exposed to quite a bit of swell and movement.

 Soon after we arrived we heard the dogs barking and we went out to be welcomed by our friends, John & Sue on SV Marilyn who had arrived a few days earlier. They gave us a briefing on the anchorage, stores, local routines etc that was very helpful.

We were also delighted to meet Chuck & Linda on SV Jacaranda, whose excellent blog we had read, giving us detailed information on the various anchorages, cultural sites and general information on the islands that make up the Marquesas.

 Just before leaving Panama City , we attended the annual “Pacific Puddle Jump” presentation at the Balboa Yacht Club sponsored by the yachting magazine “Latitude 38”, the Tahiti Tourist Board and other presenters. We, along with many others, signed up with a Yacht Agency Service that provides assistance with entry procedures for non-Europeans and duty free fuel, which at half price is well worth having.

 Sandra of Hiva Oa Yacht Services was very helpful with our entry formalities. Sandra also manages the local internet services that are available under the covered awning attached to a shipping container overlooking the anchorage. DSCN1052

The total population of the Marquesas is approx 6,500, with around 2,200 living on Hiva Oa, 3,000 in Nuku Hiva and the remainder on the other islands. With such a small population, investment in support services is quite limited.

The local township of Atuona is a 4 Km walk from the anchorage. There are 3 small supermarkets and a selection of local fruit & veg. It was quite a mission to re provision as there is no public transport but on half the provisioning forays, we were given lifts by locals to whom we were very grateful.
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At dusk on the evening of our arrival, I put a flying fish baited line in the water and hit the jackpot.

I had 8 fish within the hour, the majority were a smaller specie of Barracuda, each about 1 Kg. This was plenty for our freezer to deal with. After the fish drought of the passage, we, and the dogs, were very pleased to have fish back on the menu.

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The first few days we sat in awe viewing the scenery from the anchorage. Such dramatic peaks, pinnacles, ridges, contours and vegetation. There is a peak above Atuona that rises to the skies and is generally covered in cloud & mist. Early morning was the time to see the peak. I was talking to an American cruiser who gave the very apt description of the Marqueasas as being like “Hawaii on Steroids”.

 3 days after our arrival we joined John, Sue & a Dutch lady, Mia, on an Island tour with a local guide called John. It was an all day event with the first stop at John’s house where his wife showed us her “Tapas”, a form of artwork made from the bark of various trees, Banyan and Breadfruit being most favoured. After preparing the bark, the locals create indigenous Marquesan designs.

 The Marquesas, according to locals, is the birthplace of the Tiki. Easter Island, Hawaii and other tiki locations descend from the Marquesas.

An hour into our trip we stopped by the roadside and hiked 20 minutes to the site of the “Smiling Tiki”. He sits with a smile and his hands on his stomach, protecting an ancient ceremonial site and village, all that is left is the foundation of boulders, which once supported a large commmunity of houses built from branches and palms.

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 The Marquesans had no written language to record their civilisation and visiting the ancient ceremonial and archaelogical sites is a grim reminder of the collision of cultures during the colonial expansion period of the 1800’s. It is estimated that there was in excess of 100,000 inhabitants in the Marquesas before French occupation in 1832. By the 1920’s there were an estimated 2,000 or less than 2% of the original population living in the archapelago. Typhoid, small pox, syphilis and other diseases decimated the population.

 We travelled further on across the upper ridge of the island towards the east coast and the village of Puamau, passing through areas of dense rainforest with mist at the higher altitudes. Pine trees have been introduced since the early 1960’s and presently the high ridges have a distinct serrated skyline of large pines. There is some harvesting being undertaken but it will be a serious challenge to take trees from this difficult terrain.

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Almost 3 hours into the trip we were overlooking the delightful panorama of Puamau Bay before negotiating the numerous hairpin bends as we decended into the village. There was a $3 entry fee to the site known as Ma’ae Iipona where there are numerous Tiki’s arranged in an amphitheatre overlooking the original village. The largest Tiki sculpted in French Polynesia, standing 2.8m high and known as Tiki Takaii is here (interestingly takai is the word for tall in Japanese. Coincidence??). DSCN1097 There is another of a woman lying on her stomach that experts suggest is a woman giving birth. It is a very impressive site and would have been home to hundreds of the former inhabitants.

 Later John took us to the beach front where he assembled a table from his roof rack and served us a local lunch comprised of stewed chicken, local vegetables and rice. We were invited to identify one of the vegetables. We all fell short. It was green papaya from his garden which had a good taste and texture. Almost all meals are served with bananas as part of the dish or as a side. After lunch we reversed our path two hours back to Atuona over the 50/50 paved road & unpaved track that was tough on the body. Overall it was a very good day, we traversed the island, visited most of the ancient sites, had some stunning views over land and sea and John was a very informative guide.

We also managed to procure some of the wonderful Pamplemousse, a large citrus fruit in the form of a grapefruit that is very juicy, semi sweet and very refreshing to eat.

 The modern history of Hiva Oa includes the final resting place of the famous French artist, Paul Gaugin, who spent his final years in Atuona. There is a 300 passenger specialised cruise ship that carries his name based in Papeete, which cruises French Polynesia, occasionally stopping in at the Marquesas. On our second day in port, the Paul Gaugin made one of her infrequent visits to Hiva Oa!DSCN1049

Another famous son of Hiva Oa is the Belgian born singer songwriter Jaques Brei who, like Paul Gaugin, sought personal solitude in this very remote outpost of FP. He also died a few years after his arrival and is buried there.

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On Sunday 24th April we sailed across the Canal du Bordelais to Tahuata Island, looking for a more sheltered anchorage and white sand beaches. We found both! DSCN1225 DSCN1128Many of the beaches are open to the surf, so even though we were on the protected side of the island, on our first attempt to land, I got it wrong and we were unceremoniously thrown out of the dinghy into the surf. It was only a matter of sheer luck that the dinghy did not also capsize and land on us. It’s all about timing!

Later in Hanamoenoa Bay we went ashore and met Stephen, a local “Man Friday” who lives at the beach, speaks good English, is a former fisherman and is passionate about his islands and the environment. On his plot he grows limes, papaya, bananas, spices, some vegetables and of course coconuts which he trades for goods from yachts.

The next day he went to Atuona by water taxi and returned with numerous plants and 2 coconut plants. He was dropped at Amarula and I took him by dinghy back to the beach where we took some salt water when beaching. He washed the plants in fresh water from the stream and I queried him about the coconut plants. He told me that there are 40 different varieties of palms. His new plants would bear double the fruit of traditional trees and bear in 7 years rather than 10. That makes sense to me!

I caught some fish that night and we kayaked ashore with a few for Steven next morning. He set about cooking some for us, fried in his pan with oil and soy sauce along with some breadfruit on the open fire, it was very tasty.

Later we took the dinghy down to visit the main village on Tahuata, Vaitahu, where there is a magnificent Catholic church serving the population of 600. The church is of open design, built in 1987 and the attention to detail with the stone selection, laying and grouting is a fine testament to the skills of the local people. The church has large stained glass windows and as the light reflects the colours into the church, has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

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 Sue and John arranged a surprise 70th birthday party for me on SV Marilyn with Chuck & Linda off SV Jacaranda, Jordy, Mia and a number of other cruisers, which was a wonderful experience. Special thanks to Sue. 

We returned to Hiva Oa on 29th April to provision after the supply ship had called, then sailed overnight down to Fatu Hiva, arriving at Hanavave Bay by 0800 the next morning. This bay is known as the “Bay of Virgins” and is rated as one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world, and we agree! It is an absolutely stunning vista with basalt rock pinnacles rising vertically from the surrounding ridges and the village, separated by a stream, nestled in the valley by the sea. The anchorage is on the north west of the island and is generally well protected with minimal swell influence.

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We visited the village of about 300, noted for their skills in carving Tiki’s from wood and stone.

Whilst there we enquired about getting a goat as we were getting low on red meat. 2 days later a 12 Kg dressed goat (Lynne insisted headless) arrived by boat. We let it hang overnight then broke it down into legs for baking and portions for stewing, then it was up to the freezer to do its job.

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This was the first calm anchorage since arriving in Marquesas so I went up the mast to re rig the spinakker halyard and check the rigging. DSCN1481 It was my 70th birthday and we had John & Sue and other friends for sundowners and snacks.

Every day in this anchorage we were in awe of the sheer beauty of the landscape that surrounded us. The afternoon vista changed as the sun moved from its zenith creating ever changing shadows on the hills, pinnacles and valleys as it moved to the set. DSCN1649

Prior to European settlement Hanavave Bay was known as “The Bay of Penises”. This did not go well with the French Catholic missionaries, who rearranged one letter in the name and “Voila” it suddenly became the “Bay of Virgins”. We are not too sure about how this comes about, but is a good story.

The local people are friendly, generous and very pleasantly present their artifacts for sale. We were looking to buy bananas, enquired to a woman at a house where a few bunches were hanging on the verandah but they were not for sale!

Not missing an opportunity, she gave a presentation of her excellent wood carvings of ebony and rosewood and Cat bought a small rosewood mask.

When the transaction was completed, she made a whirlwind lap of her garden and presented us with 3 pamplemousse, 1 breadfruit, 3 coconuts, 4 cooked bananas and 1 bunch of green bananas as a bonus present for buying the mask.

Later that morning we hiked up to a lovely waterfall where we had a swim in the pool. It was an hour each way and a good stretch for our still suffering “Boat Legs”.

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The next day we went the 4 Km by dinghy (17 Km by road) to visit the main village (350 people) at Omoa Bay. It is an interesting and very neat village where Lynne bought a Tapa and a beautiful local designed, Fatu Hiva sarong.

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You can find more of our Fatu Hiva photos here on Facebook 

We sailed overnight back to Hiva Oa to collect our “Duty Free Fuel Certificate” and to catch up with George & Lorna on S.V. Quatsino  who we had not seen for almost a year and who had just arrived from Panama. Just before they arrived, George caught his first fish! A 6 Kg Yellowfin Tuna so we had a lunchtime feast of sashimi, grilled tuna steaks with some fresh salad from the vege market that we rinsed down with plenty of “Clos” white wine. It was great to catch up with them after so long and the socialising carried on through the next afternoon and evening.

The next day we set off to visit the northernmost anchorage on Hiva Oa, Hanamenu Bay, where there are a few houses tucked in the valley with traditional gardens, pigs in pens and wild goats that roam the hills. We went ashore to a black sand beach for a brief walk before we were forced out by the “no see um’s” or sandflies, locally known as no-no’s, the worst we had experienced to date. Lynne’s legs were covered with itchy welts for a whole week after that delightful encounter!

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After an overnight sail we found ourselves in the very tight bay of Vaipaee, Ua Huka. I wasn’t comfortable leaving the boat, so I dropped Lynne and Catrin ashore and they went to explore and found the interesting little museum that Lynne had read about in our guide books. Here are our Facebook photos from Ua Huka  

From Ua Huka we sailed across to the very large Taiohae Bay in the Marquesas Administrative island of Nuku Hiva (population approx 3000) Whilst Taiohae bay enjoys yet another stunning backdrop to the anchorage, it is open to the South East and is subject to the entering swell. There were 70 yachts anchored there with plenty of room for at least as many more.

We managed to get some used sail material and other materials from Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services to repair our mainsail. We didn’t have the weather to comply however so it was some days later down in Ua Pou before we managed to complete the repairs! Kevin is very helpful and runs an efficient business ranging from offering clearance services to wifi to car hire to sail repairs to chandlery services…..!

There is a twice weekly early morning veg market by the dock that had sold out by 0630 the first time I went, so the next time I was an early bird at 0400 and had the best choice to stock up on the limited range of local produce.

On 12th May we motored 8 miles south to “Daniels Bay”, a well protected, calm bay set in a gorge surrounded by steep hills. It was raining hard and we were welcomed by plenty of no see um’s. 

The third highest/tallest waterfall in the world is located a 2 hour hike from Daniels Bay and after some solid rain overnight we set off in the dinghy at 0800, entered a narrow river that has a bar entrance and set off on a well marked trail to make our assault on the falls. We were joined by the 4 man crew of another vessel S.V. Rhumb Runner

The trail was quite muddy and slippery due to the rain overnight. The first river crossing, a half hour into the hike, was reasonably simple, although it was already thigh deep for some of our party! DSCN1906 The trail was a gradual incline through rainforest, where half the hike was under the forest canopy. 90 minutes into the hike we had our first glimpse of the falls and it was spectacular. It is not possible to view the total falls but we could see the sheer vertical fall estimated to be 205m.

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Onwards and upwards took us past a large archeologocal site of a former village and ceremonial site.

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Just before the falls we came to another river crossing that was about 20m wide, waist deep and fast running. There were a few large boulders that retained some remnants of trees that gave us the opportunity to link hands and help each other across. It was quite challenging. DSCN1940 On the return crossing we noticed a number of eels approx 600mm long in the eddies at the river crossing. A week later we met a woman who had been bitten by an eel at this crossing, something one would not anticipate.

The effort made was well rewarded with a spectacular view of the falls that were well fed from the previous nights rains. There is a theory that half the water that passes over these falls evaporates on the way down. That may be the case in dry times but we could not imagine that being the case when we viewed them. The hike back was an easier task, but overall it was a tough 4 hour hike with spectacular scenery and well enjoyed.

Back in Taiohae Bay we hired a 4WD vehicle from Kevin (Nuka Hiva Yacht Services) for a day trip around the island. John & Sue joined us. We took a picnic lunch and set off at 0900 after a thorough briefing from Kevin on what to see and anticipate. First stop was to buy fresh Baguettes then onwards & upwards to a great view over the bay and anchorage. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle, a woman came running across to us and gave us a bag containing 9 large avocados. Prior to and thereafter we did not see any avocados anywhere and we enjoyed them all that following week. Such a treat!

Nuku Hiva, as an island, is a photographer’s paradise, stunning views from many and varied locations and an archeological treasure trove. The eastern part of the island is green and lush with plenty of archaeological sites dotted in amongst the rainforest, waterfalls and peaks along the route from the south of the island past Controleur Bay and across to Hatiheu on the north coast. The coast road west from Hatiheu is more of a track and we were advised by Kevin to return the way we had come after having our lunch there and then take the higher, drier road across the western part of the island, passing the Marquesan Grand Canyon to the airport on the north west point. Cattle and pigs can be seen all along this route and they were once the main source of meat for the whole of the Marquesas.

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A few days after our island tour we motored east to the well protected Controleur Bay, intent on doing sail repairs, but it rained yet again. We walked on one of the few sand beaches in the bay on the lookout for a villager to buy some fresh fruit from. One of the shacks had a few lime trees, bananas and about 20 free range pigs. DSCN2114The adjacent shack/house had a larger beach area split by a creek, a plantation with approx 20 lime trees, some tall papaya trees, about 100 banana palms and at least 200 plus free range pigs. I collected a small bucket of limes that had dropped on the ground and I soon had a following of about 50 pigs!

It rained heavily overnight and next morning we made another foray ashore and I ventured into the plantation, once again in search of a resident as I did not want to take fruit without permission. Nobody there, bananas galore but I only collected more limes which had dropped to the ground and were obviously not a favourite food for the pigs. The ground had turned into a quagmire overnight as the pigs trod the paths. This time I had a following of all 200 plus pigs, a bit like the Pied Piper but slipping and skidding through the mud and rain rather than dancing down the streets. My mind started playing games and I half wondered what a catastrophy it could have been if I had slipped over and the pigs fancied fresh meat for breakfast that morning!

Had there been anyone present we would have asked if we could buy a pig, then tested the capacity and capability of our freezer.

Ua Pou was our final destination in the Marquesas. We arrived later that afternoon, greeted by a large pod of dolphins P1070179who welcomed us into Hakehatau Bay, which has arguably the most spectacular skyline of all the Marquesas. There are 9 dramatic pinacles that command the skyline, the majority of which can be reached by day hikes.

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Unfortunately the anchorage was subject to a lot of wave motion and quite uncomfortable. At 1500 we ventured ashore and wandered through the sleepy village, looking for more fruit & veg before departing for the Tuamotus.

We met a local, Atai, who took us to his house where we bought some bananas and placed an order for fruit and veg which we arranged to collect the following morning.

Atai excelled. From his hillside garden he provided us with:

2 Breadfruit, 11 mangoes (some of the tastiest we have ever eaten), 3 papaya, approx 4 Kg of Manioc (Cassava root or Tapioca) 20 oranges and a full bunch of bananas, all of which he loaded into his wheelbarrow for us to take down to the dock, accompanied by his son Roderick, who returned home with the empty barrow.

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With fresh fruit it is all or nothing. To avoid any wastage we sun dried many bananas and some of the mangoes that we enjoyed for over a month later. We also froze many bananas to blend with fruit juice to make smoothies for breakfast. Limes, kept in plastic containers in the refrigerator will keep for well over a month. Although our plan was to leave later that day, we spotted a delightful, well sheltered anchorage further to the south where we spent 2 more days in good weather repairing our mainsail before setting off for the planned 420 mile passage to Raroia Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practising Patience on Pacific Passages!

Patience is a virtue, right?
Practice makes perfect…..
We’ve had plenty of practice so far on our Pacific passages, but we are far from perfectly patient yet!

However, when we look at this, we are once again reminded just how lucky we are and why we do what we do!

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After exactly 8 days at sea, sailing from a small bay called Hakaotu in Ua Pou, Marquesas, we finally made landfall at our first atoll, Tahanea, in the stunning Tuamotu Archipelago.

Our original plan had been to sail the 420NM passage to Raroia in the central part of the Tuamotus, however the wind, when it finally started blowing 6 days into our passage, had other plans and after 2 changes of direction, we finally decided to submit and we set a course for Tahanea Atoll, an uninhabited atoll some 140NM to the south west of Raroia.

We began our passage at 1215 on Friday 19th May from the very rolly but impressive Hakahetau bay in Ua Pou DSCN2169, where we had stocked up with fruit and vegetables for the next 3 to 4 weeks.

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We had been advised that fresh provisions are difficult to find in the Tuamotus and the islanders there love to trade lobster and coconut crab for fresh pamplemousse (grapefruit) and limes from the Marquesas.

As we set sail down the west coast of Ua Pou, we spotted a lovely, calm anchorage and after a couple of hours with too much wind for the spinnaker, but not enough to sail just with the headsail, we decided that, with a 420NM passage ahead of us, we would turn back and repair the main sail, which had ripped on Day 17 of our 38 day passage from Panama to the Marquesas, almost 2 months ago. When we had tried to do the repairs before leaving Nuku Hiva, after we scored some sail material and purchased some Sikaflex and sail tape from Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Supplies, rain had stopped play on numerous occasions.

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After repairing the mainsail, we finally departed at 0630 on Monday 23rd May. Unfortunately, we had missed the weather window, as the forecast was for light winds for the coming week, but the job had to be done and, as it turned out, our mainsail proved a godsend in the last couple of days of our passage when we had consistent 20 – 30 knot winds from the south east.

23rd – 30th May 2016 – Passage from Hakaota Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas to Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.
Distance: 420NM
Direction: 225 degrees
Expected passage time: 4 days

Monday 23 – Winds were around 8 – 10 knots from the SE, dropping overnight to 4 – 5 knots. Slow progress, even with the mainsail & MPS, but no hurry, right…? At 2330 we dropped the mainsail.
Tuesday 24 – Wind shifted around to E, then ENE 5 – 7 knots dying down to zero by afternoon. We were lucky to make 3 knots all day and spent much of the day just drifting. Meanwhile we dessicated some coconut and froze some bananas and sun-dried others. DSCN2245Our MPS was up and down like a bride’s nightie during the early days of this passage!
Wednesday 25 – By the start of day 3 we had sailed less than a quarter of the ‘4 day’ passage distance! Sure, we could have put on the engines and motored, but the grib (weather) files were showing that whichever direction we went, other than back to the Marquesas, there would be little to no wind, so we just went with it. We made banana bread, froze more bananas and made fishcakes. And of course we read and even watched movies!

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Thursday 26 – What wind we had blew from NNE and died again completely after some midday squalls, so more drifting….

Friday 27 – After 4 days at sea we had completed just 1/2 of our 420NM passage! Must be a record….. By 0900 we had to motor away from the squalls, so we were practically going backwards at this point! As the day went on, the wind picked up and so did the squalls, so we once again dropped the MPS and motored. Later in the afternoon, soon after we’d raised the MPS (yet again), the pin on the block in the spinnaker pole sheared and broke, so down came the MPS once again. By now we had more wind and decided to raise the mainsail. Unfortunately the wind changed its mind and direction yet again. It shifted round to the west, then to the SSW, which by this stage was our desired course, so we dropped the sails and motored through the night hoping for the elusive south east trade winds, which we’re now convinced are a myth!DSCN2257

Saturday 28 – By daybreak we finally had enough wind, albeit still from SSW, to raise the mainsail again. Unfortunately, as we did so we noticed a long tear between the 1st and 2nd reefing points! We put in the 2nd reef and started to finally make good progress, but the wind was certainly out to get us on this trip. Despite the grib files showing 4 – 5 knots from the NE, we were getting 16 – 20 knots from the SW by mid-morning. By midday the wind had picked up to 25 – 30 knots ON THE NOSE! By mid afternoon we were getting gusts up to 40 knots! At 1500 we hove to and waited out the winds and storms, but after battling rough, sloppy seas and almost head on winds through the night, we decided by mid-morning the next day that we really had little choice but to change course from Raroia to an atoll further to the west.
Sunday 29 – The strong winds continued through Sunday and having made the decision to change course for Kauehi Atoll, we set the sails and the wind (finally) gradually shifted around to the SE! Knowing that it would be a major challenge to head back to the eastern Tuamotus once we reached Kauehi, we decided to pinch as much east as we could and attempt to make landfall at the western end of Makemo or head for Tahanea, another 47 NM further south.
Monday 30 – As Monday progressed we continued on our course towards Tahanea. Unless we could get to Makemo before late afternoon it wasn’t worth risking entering the atoll as the Tuamotus are renowned for challenging passes and strong current as you enter the lagoons and it is vital to pick your times to enter and exit. DSCN2289 We slowed the boat down on dark so we could continue through the night in time to arrive at the pass into Tahanea at daylight.
Tuesday 31 May – What a beautiful starlit sky as we drifted outside the pass until daylight. By 0630, just 8 days after departing Ua Pou, we had dropped the anchor inside the lagoon at Tahanea, ready for a well-deserved rest!

 

 

Distance from Hakaota Bay, Ua Pou to Tahanea Atoll: 522NM as the crow flies
Actual distance travelled: 776NM!
Time: 8 days
Average speed: 4 knots

Postscript Saturday 4th June:
Having finally found an atoll with wifi, we have had a day of solid rain, not exactly conducive to going ashore and sitting on the wall outside the post office trying to pick up wifi and upload blog posts!! At least our water tanks are now completely full and we’ve had a pleasant onboard day getting these posts ready to upload when we finally do pick up the internet. Hope you enjoy them :) DSCN2301

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We are hoping to do some diving here in the Tuamotus, but so far we’ve had too much wind and rain to get out and explore. We have another couple of weeks here before we head to Tahiti for the Pacific Puddle Jump Rendezvous over the weekend of 24 – 26th June.

If you haven’t checked out our photos from the Marquesas, you can find them on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AmarulaSail/

And remember, when we are on passage we will continue to send our progress reports to this link http://www.pangolin.co.nz/xtras/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=Amarula using our HF radio and we will pick up any emails sent to us via the contact page on our website
We will not be able to check Facebook though, so any comments and messages will only be picked up when we get access to the internet, which is something of a challenge when crossing the Pacific!

We have very limited bandwidth to post photos on our blog at present, but here the links to the Marquesas photos we have shared on our Amarula Sail Facebook page.

Photos from Fatu Hiva on Amarula Sail Facebook page

Photos from Tahuata

Photos from Hiva Oa

Photos from Ua Huka

Photos from our Nuku Hiva day trip and Daniel’s Bay

We will post more photos when we can…..

More of our albums from the past few years are here

38 days at sea! Really….!!!

Yes, that’s how long our passage from Las Perlas, Panama to Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia took. With little to no wind for most of it and a couple of issues with sails/ damaged blocks etc we had a record slow trip. The good news is we didn’t have any truly adverse weather :)

Hope you enjoy the photos. More great photos below from our crew member Catrin, who has shared many photos on her Facebook page Adventures At Sea

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First Mate’s musings:

Day 20, not even half the distance into our Panama to Marquesas passage…. what a challenging trip!
After weeks of checking the weather on various sites prior to departure, in particular www.windyty.com, we elected to stay north of the Galapagos for the initial part of the trip, as predictions were for very light winds, so by staying at around 2 degrees north we picked up strong favourable currents. These currents enabled us to drift during these windless days and nights at a speed of around 2.5 to 3 knots. Every few days we picked up the weather grib files via the HF radio sailmail system and winds were consistently non-existent for most of the area west of the Galapagos, so we eventually started to make our way south/ south west in search of the south east trade winds. Unfortunately this meant a lot of motoring. We tried just about every sail configuration with various levels of frustration! But no, there was simply not enough wind for most of the time until we reached 5 degrees south.
For the first 2 weeks we had hardly any wind, no rain and no fish, except for 2 large trevally, which Eric caught on the first day.

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We spent days drifting about in hot, muggy conditions, the highlight being an occasional swim with water frisbee for the boys!

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When the wind finally kicked in during the start of week 3, not long after we crossed the equator (Cat was on watch & took this great shot!) along with rain, rain and more rain, we encountered ‘a series of unfortunate events’…..
First of all, during Cat’s early evening watch on Day 15, there was a loud bang. Eric was asleep down below so I went outside to check the cockpit. Everything appeared to be in order, but about 10 minutes later, another much louder bang and this time I saw the gate swinging open at the back of the boat and when I looked up, the boom was way out to starboard with the preventer pulling the starboard guard rail out of whack. I ran up to the wheelhouse to winch in the boom, but nothing happened and it was then that we realised that the main sheet block had snapped and the boom was swinging freely! Thank goodness we had the preventer on! Eric was soon on deck and somehow, between the 3 of us, in the dark, we had the boom in the crutch and managed to lower the mainsail.
Once again, back to slow sailing with the head sail…..
A couple of nights later, the wind kicked in again after 2 painful days of motoring/ drifting without even a current to help us along, so we raised the mainsail.
Eric had fixed the block by this time, but soon after dark the wind seemed to shift and Cat tried to steer us back on course, but nothing she could do would bring the boat round, so I started the engines to drive the boat round. We had been having a problem with our port rudder and we wondered if the steering had gone, but when we looked up there was a tear right across the top section of the mainsail! Once again we dropped the sail and limped along at a measly 1 – 3 knots…..
The next day we checked the damage and realised that, when the main sheet block broke and the boom swung out, the main sail must have got punctured by the top spreader on the mast and when we next raised it and the wind picked up, it got hold of the hole and tore it right across the sail. So now we were without a mainsail again.

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By this time we were at 5 degrees south and the winds were slowly starting to kick in more consistently, yet light enough to run the spinnaker (the brand new one, which we’d been waiting for just before we left Panama). After many days of well under 100 nautical mile runs, we were finally on track for a good 100+ NM day, when Cat yelled out and the spinnaker came tumbling down. What NOW??!!!
Way up at the top of the mast, the spinnaker block had broken and the halyard snapped, so down came our brand new sail, splash into the water getting caught up around the starboard hull. Eric had to get in the water to untangle it, whilst Cat and I carefully hoisted it back onboard. After assessing the damage we noticed a couple of 2 small tears, which we ultimately repaired, once the rain let up enough. The most upsetting part is that the sail wasn’t even a month old and we had made the decision to invest in this new sail after a number of go bads with our old spinnaker and now, here we were again, with a damaged mainsail and a damaged spinnaker – reminiscent of our passage from Trinidad to Bonaire in October last year, both of which were repaired in Cartagena after our horrible piracy attack in Taganga, Colombia. This was all too much for me and I took myself off to have a good old cry whilst watching a beautiful double rainbow over the horizon.

Another week down the track and rain daily, so any sail repairs remained in abeyance, however we had pretty good runs averaging 125NM just with our head sails. We were all beginning to get cabin fever with the overcast, rainy days and choppy seas and dreaming of the delicious pineapples, mangoes and all the other goodies we hoped to find in the Marquesas
(Note: sadly it seems that now is not the season; no mangoes, no pineapples, no avocadoes etc!!. We were told by a local tour guide that we should have been here 3 months ago. People couldn’t give all their fruit away and it was littering the ground all over the island!!)

The good news is we finally had some luck with the fishing and landed a small yellowfin tuna on day 19 (the big one got away…) and a wahoo a couple of days later.

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Since arriving in the Marquesas Eric has made up for his poor ‘on passage’ record by catching plenty of fish most nights, at dusk, off the back of the boat, so fish is back on the menu!

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One that we threw back, due to the possibility of ciguatera…. too big…

From time to time we were visited by various birds, including swallows, red-footed boobies etc,

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and occasionally we had dolphins swimming in our bow wakes. On day 20 we enjoyed the company of a good sized pod of pilot whales, but other than that not much to report, except of course, for the glorious sunrises, sunsets, moon and stars miles away from anywhere :) Absolutely, one of my favourite aspects of being on long passages!

Yet another stunning sunset at sea

Yet another stunning sunset at sea

Finally in week 5 we enjoyed a few days of comfortable downwind sailing and made some progress with our sail repairs. Eric managed to rig an external halyard for the spinnaker

Eric rigging a temporary spinnaker halyard

Eric rigging a temporary spinnaker halyard

Whilst we were all definitely ready for some fresh fruit and vegies Cat and I used the time at sea to do the 5:2 Fast Diet, which made us feel less guilty about the home-made bread rolls and Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate brownies on the non-fast days! I had also kick-started my weight loss by doing the 10 day Ketopia body reset plan, which I started a few days into the passage. With all the boat movement I was unable to weigh myself accurately, but I did lose an inch off my waist, hips, thighs & chest!! Unfortunately, now in the land of baguettes, French cheeses and pates, not to mention getting back to socialising* with old and new friends, keeping the weight off may prove somewhat more challenging!

Eventually by the start of week 6 (Yes!! week 6) we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and expected to arrive in the Marquesas by mid-week, at least a week later than initially expected. Despite starting the week with fair winds and a pleasant downwind sail (and hope!), the wind once again died by day 3 of week 6 and we decided that, if we wanted to make landfall in daylight we would need to motor the last few hours….. We finally dropped anchor at 1620 Marquesas time on Wednesday 20th April, some 38 days, 4 hours and 5 minutes since departure!

Entering Hiva Oa anchorage, Marquesas, French Polynesia on day 38

Entering Hiva Oa anchorage, Marquesas, French Polynesia on day 38

Meanwhile we made a large dent in our book and movie collections and enjoyed the offline time, which it seems that now we’ve arrived in French Polynesia, offline time will continue barely unabated! Wifi and local data sim cards here are extremely elusive, so please don’t expect too many updates and certainly the former Facebook chit chat I loved to induldge in will be a rare luxury, but I am certainly thinking of all our friends and family all around the world. Miss you heaps and hope to hear from you as and when we get a chance to check in!

Captain’s comments:

This passage is one of the longest in the world and is a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG way!
Panama City is located at 08 Degrees 53 Min North, 078 Degrees 41 West
Hiva Oa is located at 09 Degrees 50 Min South, 139 Degrees 01 West

Monday, 18th April 2016 (Day 36)
It does not get much better than this!
We are 250 miles out from our landfall, 0300 hours, almost full moon, clear sky, bright stars and we are sailing directly downwind on our rhumb line, with both head sails winged out with a breeze of 13 knots and our boat speed varying between 5 and 6 knots.
At this rate we should make our landfall at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas in 2 days….. (hmmm, wind died at daybreak…)

For weeks prior to our departure we had studied the weather patterns to determine which way to go to pass through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), commonly known as “The Doldrums”.
There are 2 options:
1) To immediately head south/southwest to around 4 Degrees S before heading west
2) Generally follow the Rhumb Line to 2 Degrees North then head west, taking options to make South, as and when available
We had advice on weather patterns, current conditions, anticipated speed and time frame in the forecast conditions up to the time we set out and chose to follow the Rhumb Line option.

We left Panama City and sailed 35 miles south to the Las Perlas Islands where we careened Amarula to clean the bottom and touch up our anti fouling for a clean passage. We spent a few more days exploring the more remote islands in the group before setting off at 1645 on Sunday 13th March (Panama time).

*Had a lovely get together in the anchorage the other night when friends we’d met in the Caribbean a couple of years ago threw a surprise early birthday party for Eric before they took off to Fatu Hiva!

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The Marquesas here we come!

Enjoying yet another stunning sunset at Contadora as we complete our final preparations before sailing off across the vast Pacific Ocean on what will be our longest passage yet. Possibly a whole month at sea before we reach the Marquesas!

Sunset at Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama

Tomorrow we careen the boat and give her a good bottom scrub, then we’ll be on our way as soon as the wind decides to blow :)
Meanwhile we have updated a few of our website pages.

Check out our Find Us page and our revised Marine Consultancy page with details of our new BOAT INSURANCE agency!
Please note:
Even though we will NOT see any Facebook messages for the next few weeks you can still contact us via the form on our Contact page

If you want to follow our passage, you can check this link to see our progress and where we report from http://www.pangolin.co.nz/xtras/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=Amarula

 

So, at last we start to make our way across the Pacific Ocean and are excited to visit the numerous Polynesian islands en route. The lush, towering islands of the Marquesas in French Polynesia will be our first landfall, followed by the flat, turquoise atolls of the Tuamotos and eventually those classic dreamlike names, Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora.

More to follow…..!

Update:

Bottom all clean and we’re raring to go! The boys had a great time on the beach :)

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