Newcastle

Australia! We’ve bloody made it! We sailed into Newcastle just as a front hit us but it wasn’t a biggie, not the nicest way to get back home but we were so excited about arriving safely we didn’t care!

A few have asked why Newcastle? Why not Sydney? Two reasons. First is that Sydney isn’t really set up to handle small craft returning to Australia. They deal with the big boys over there really.

Secondly we joined the Port2Port rally which meant we got a free week at the lovely Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and a lot of support for bringing our boat into Australia. As we needed to pay tax and import fees this was actually a big deal. It can be a long and frustrating task that but the rally organisers have worked with Border Control to make the process very simple.

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Australia gets quite a bad rap when it comes to visiting boats. Maybe things were bad in the past but we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. That’s not to say they weren’t thorough, they went over every inch of the boat, but they were generally interested in our trip and very professional.

So. We’re back! What’s next? Well we’ve always wanted to sail under the Sydney harbour bridge to mark the end of our trip so we need to get down the coast for that. We also need to sell poor Interlude which we have very mixed feelings about. She’s been such an amazing boat that’s got us safely 2/3 around the world but the reality is we’re pretty broke now and need to sell her and get back to work. We’ll hopefully find her a nice buyer who’ll enjoy her as much as we have but it’s going to be hard to hand over those keys.

First though we’re going to just relax and celebrate having all the major crossings behind us. Coastal passages can of course have their fair share of challenges but if anything does happen you’re always going to be in radio range, and swimming range if you can outrun the sharks!

New Caledonia to Australia – Last ocean crossing!

Our last ocean crossing! It still blows me away every time I look at a globe and see how far we’ve come. It also blows me away how quickly almost two years off work has gone!

For whatever reason the last crossing had always taken a backseat on this journey. It was just something that would happen and then we’d be back in Australia. Turns out (of course) the trip can be pretty major with fronts hammering you this way and that.

As we wanted to head directly to Newcastle, which is about 60miles north of Sydney, to clear into Australia the chances of making it across without a major system smacking us was quite unlikely.

We’ve never really enjoyed the large offshore passages if we’re totally honest. Some people love them but for us they always follow the same pattern…

4-5 days before setting off: Stressing about weather forecasts (which normally change every few hours as you’re looking so far in advance). Talking with others who are thinking of leaving and getting more stressed and confused.

1-2 days before setting off: Feeling completely unsure about your decision to go. Thinking what if… What if we stay another week? What if we can’t go fast enough and that 40knot front catches us?

First day out there: What was that noise? I hope we’ll be ok. What the hell are we doing out here and seriously- what the HELL is that noise? Everything is just heightened I think. You’re picking up sounds and vibrations that are perfectly normal and getting nervous about them.

During the passage: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? There’s another book read (if you’re lucky and reading is even a possibility). Are we there yet?

1-2 days before arrival: Feelings of excitement. Hard to describe if you haven’t done a big passage but tend to focus on weird material things your brain seems to be missing. ‘I can’t wait for a good coffee, burger, glass of wine, buy that new thing I probably don’t really need, etc.’

Day of arrival: Sense of achievement of making it over, but also worrying that you don’t stuff it up coming into the marina. Once tied up and safe, an overwhelmingly sense of how tired you are but want to push on and celebrate anyhow!

1-2 days after arrival: Telling everyone how easy that passage was and thinking you’re an idiot for worrying about it at all.

Of course we try to arm ourselves, we look at as much info we can, we use a weather router who gives us a detailed go, don’t go, report. I think I’d rather be worried but over prepared than carefree but caught out when it comes to this stuff.

The first 24 hours we knew were going to be tough and they were. 30+ knots. Horrible sea state that never let the boat, or us, settle. Rain. Not nice. We had the boat setup well though and, as always, she performed amazingly.

Our router said to keep pushing South and sure enough after 24 sloppy hours we popped out of the system into lovely conditions! The middle part of the passage was perfect. Flat seas. 12-16 knot winds. Sunny skies by day and stunningly bright stars by night. Give me a lot of time to think about this trip and all we’ll seen and done. Who we’ve met and the highs, and sometimes lows, that sailing around a good chunk of the Earth provides.

It’s going to be interesting in a few months to see how we both feel back on land. I know we’re going to miss the freedom of it all but doing a trip like this takes so much planning, thought, and energy, it’s going to be a relief to be done with it as well. Short term I’m just going to be content with feeling we’re all safe. Helen, myself, and Interlude. I’m not going to miss that… that constant fear, which ranges from mostly background noise to extreme panic. It accompanies you everywhere and while we’ve been extremely lucky on this journey, it’ll be good to leave that side of it at the docks.

After a few days of good winds they dropped for 24 hours forcing us to run under engine which we hate. Not only were we under engine but the crazy current systems around Australia were pushing back against us at almost two knots. Something we said Oz? Oh well, at least the sunsets were nice while we slowly made our way home.

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After a very slow day the winds picked up, the current turned favourable, and away we went.

500 miles, 400, 300… The features of the seabed were interesting on the chart as we sailed over huge underwater mountains shooting up from depths 5000m to 400m below us.

We kept up a good pace with the mighty EAC system helping us then all of a sudden we were on our last night, and oh what a lovely bunch of tricks Australia had in store for us.

We had high winds give way to double troughs, electrical clouds chipped in barking lighting, dark squally clouds raced towards us, then stopped and turned away thinking better of it. Cold fronts advanced. Warm ones retreated. Now I personally have no idea what half of that means but the conditions kept our wind dial truly happy as it danced around in all directions at random speeds ranging from 2-22 knots. Our weather guy summed the madness up well I thought saying something along the lines of…

‘So all in all an interesting days weather lies ahead, although it could be much worse. In July a similar front hit Newcastle with 60knot winds, although tomorrow this seems unlikely.’ We debated his definition of ‘unlikely’ for longer than I care to reveal. :/

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Also overnight that strange phnominom ‘land smell’ kicked in. After a week at sea the sudden smell of a new country as you draw near is powerful. Of course after a few hours it just becomes part of the norm but that first waft can be striking. Australia, I’m sure you’re dying to know, has a lovely scent, very earthy and inviting. Compared to some countries that will rename nameless, Oz smelt great!

Helen raised the Q flag once last time, a job I’m sure she’ll miss, as we approached land. It’s always exciting to see land but this was something very special.

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As we pulled into the Marina in Newcastle and it really did hit us. We’d made it. We were home and safe! Almost 24,000 miles under our belt. Almost 2 years of sailing a big slice of the Earth. Cue celebrations you might think? Nope Customs wouldn’t let us off the dock until tomorrow and we were desperate for sleep. Rock and roll!

Fiji

For the first time in a long time we were feeling a bit pressed by time. We spent longer in Tonga then we shoulda waiting for a weather window so we knew that would cut into time reserved for Fiji.

We already knew Fiji was going to be one of those places we barely scratch the surface of. It’s something we’ve obviously faced during this whole trip but some places you can get a good sense of in a limited time, and see a good chunk of what it has to offer, while others you sail away from knowing you didn’t see diddly squat.

So the problem facing us, as Fiji’s so damn large, is where to go? What to see?

Adding to this dilemma was the fact we needed to get Interlude hauled out for the last time, mostly to clean her bottom and touch up the anti-foul before returning to Oz, plus we always like to know everything under the waterline is working as it should. The anti-foul has been hammered for everyone on this trip that we’ve talked to. I guess we’ve done over 20,000 miles so it’s understandable.

In the end our decision led us to the Western islands of Fiji. This seemed to be the better cruising ground, the reefs were more charted (more on this later) and it’s also meant to be the drier, sunnier side of Fiji (a LOT more on this later).

A lot of boats head to Savu-Savu in the North first and we were a little gutted by missing out on this but we’d read stories of people being stuck there for weeks as the trade winds can zip between the islands holding everyone captive in port and we couldn’t take that risk.

The passage over from Tonga was shared with our buddy boat Whale and the Bird. We had a great sail for once (the Pacific hasn’t been the calm sea everyone claims for any of us traversing it this season). In fact, this passage was so good we were all a little caught out on the final night as we sailed under the bottom of Fiji’s south coast and a 35 knot squall hit us complete with sheets of blinding rain and sudden increases in seas. Of course this had to coincide with us passing through the busy shipping area with tankers flying about all over the place. Good stuff weather Gods! Well played!

The only other drama was halfway over when my life jacket decided to self inflate for no reason at all. Helen’s went off about two days before in a locker but I was wearing mine and it scared the life out of me when it blew up! Not sure why they both went off, maybe the gas canisters only last two years (that’s how old they are) and then go off so you need to renew them?

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Fiji is well known for it’s reefs. Everyone has them on their mind and if they don’t they jolly well should. We were heading for Vuda Point marina which is inside a large reef with a smallish channel you have to pass through. Unluckily we hit this pass around midnight and so were faced with staying outside where the seas were still a little unruly or head in during darkness.

Maybe we were crazy but we decided that due to having so many points of reference that lined up we’d head in. To be fair we did do our homework. We had detailed waypoints from a local who sells them to everyone here. Our radar was showing land to be matching up perfectly with the charts, something that didn’t happen in Tonga. And there were leading lights helping us into the pass exactly where they should be.

So with that we blindly turned in. Everything went well and we were patting ourselves on the back when I said to Helen- ‘Quick, check the chart plotter AIS as that thing we thought was a hotel is moving towards us!’. Sure enough that ‘hotel’ was a 161m long shipping container which was now doing a donut in the area just before the channel as we were blocking up the pass. The ‘ferry’ we’d been watching also turned out to be a pilot boat. It confused things even more but we slowly worked out what was happening and kept out of their way as best we could. Once we were clear the tanker finished his 360 and headed out. I hate to think how much we had just cost him in fuel. Sorry pal.

After that bit of entertainment the trip over to the marina, which was about 30 miles away, was a breeze and we arrived at dawn to a lovely sunrise over Fiji and headed into the customs dock to clear in.

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Our clearance went without a hitch and after 30 pages of forms we were officially in. Whale and the Bird didn’t fare so well as five customs officers tore their boat apart for three hours looking for all the drugs they must have thought they had on board. Seems it was all because they bought the boat in Mexico. I think it’s more down to how doggy Pete looks, oh well, they never did find the 100kg’s of coke he had hidden in his fenders.

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Vuda Point marina was to become our home for the next week. Home’s a great word for it as the people we met were so welcoming we felt like part of the family. We’ve never been to such a friendly marina, amazing place. The actual marina is weird though. It’s a huge bowl that all the boats line up like the minute ticks on a watch face.

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The best thing is that the tide is about two meters here and none of the pontoons float so at high tide you’ve got a one-meter jump off the boat and at low a one-meter climb on your hands. It’s not unheard of for people to fall in the drink trying to get on and off their boats and while very unsafe really adds to the quirkiness of the place. Helen didn’t appreciate this particular quirkiness and wore a big bruise from one of the many near misses.

Oh, it’s got a kick-ass bar with the most amazing sunsets as well!

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Vuda also has all the haul out facilities right there in the marina. Compared to Martinique (where she was last taken out of the water) this boat yard is five star. The lift went without a hitch and the work was very professional, and about half the price of what we paid in the Caribbean. And yes, that is one of the workers hitching a ride on our keel – lazy git! 😉

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The cost of labour is so cheap we got a guy to give the boat a full polish and wax. If you’re ever in Fiji look no further than Mosses!

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Interlude was checked from top to bottom and we found no issues at all which was reassuring. We had an amazing view from where our boat was in the yard. Looking right out over the ocean. Quite good fun living in a treehouse again!

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While the paint was drying we took a few trips to the local town of Latouka. The bus ride there was great fun! No windows, no suspension, no worries! Great tunes blasted out of the amazing 20 speaker audio setup onboard, which must have cost as much as the rest of the bus (priorities bro!). All the school kids bounced along to the beats (when they weren’t reaching out the windows to smack branches on trees).

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We’d read that Fiji has some problems with how it’s people integrate with each other. There’s a strong Indian presence here and sometimes things blow up. It’s definitely different to Samoa or Tonga where people are so friendly. Here you felt like you were being watched a little and we were told to just be on our guard. It’s a shame but you have to play by the rules when you’re playing in someone else’s backyard.

Personally we never felt any problems while in Latouka. However other cruisers reported that the nearby town of Nadi was pretty full on with locals coming up to them and staying they shouldn’t be there as it wasn’t safe, or saying they should only buy things in local Fijian shops and not Indian stores.

We had a few supplies to get and Latouka delivered. The market is HUGE!

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The real reason we were here was to grab a curry though as we’d been told you can get some of the best Indian food in the world from Fiji. After a big search we found a little place full of local Indian people and rolled out of there two hours later after having the best curry we can remember. Sure we couldn’t feel our mouths for the rest of the day but that’s the price you pay! Yum!

The rest of the week was spent relaxing while we waited for our turn to get back in the water. The weather was amazing. Bright sunny days, cool nights. After some of the greyness that seems to be following us across the pacific we soaked up the rays.

Then of course as soon as we wanted to head out to the islands we checked the weather and it looked like being very overcast and wet for the next week. Grrr! So much for the ‘dry’ side of Fiji!

We headed out anyway, over to an area called Musket Cove which is a small yacht club and marina but also linked with the fancy resorts on the island. For a small fee you can become lifelong members of the yacht club. No one was really sure what this meant as you seemed to be able to use everything regardless but we did get these really fancy cards that we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives. Pure quality.IMG_7974The resort was just what the doctor ordered. Long swims in the pool, lazy afternoons walking around the island. It was what we were hoping for and although knowing we’d missed out on other places in Fiji we felt good about of decision to just focus on one small area and enjoy it rather than our normal trick of trying to see as much as possible in a haze.

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Whale and Bird and some other of our travel buddies popped over a few days later and we had some good nights out with them at the bar listening to some great old rockers bang out the classics.

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From Musket we wanted to head North up through the Yassawa group. The weather was really starting to turn for the worst though and although I’m sure the islands are amazing we’ve been spoilt on this trip by seeing so many that we knew they aren’t that much fun if it’s raining and grey.

We did venture out to Cloud 9 which is just beyond the reef. Talking of reefs there’s a brand new Swan 52’ on it’s side about 300m from here. It smashed into the reef about three weeks ago and sank. No one really knows what happened but we’d heard he’d typed in the wrong waypoints and just sailed straight over the reef – at night!

To us that’s just crazy! You really need someone on the bow around this area at all times. The charts are pretty good but there’s a lot of stuff missed out. And this area is meant to be safer to cruise than say the Lau group to the East. It did make us think how nuts we were coming into the pass at night. There is a big difference between coming into a large shipping channel as we did and playing frogger with reefs like his guy did. Game over.

Cloud 9 was such a cool place, basically a massive floating bar that serves healthy doses of cool drinks and unhealthy doses of amazing pizza. Most of the customers come from the small tour boats that zip over from the mainland but they have a few moorings for yachts. We hung out with a local guy who works there. He told us a bit about Fiji and sadly some of it’s problems, it was great to chat with him and it does seem that the younger generations see the integration issue as less of a problem. Fingers crossed.IMG_7864

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After Cloud 9 we snuck back behind the reef at Musket as the wind started to blow. The next day we headed back to Vuda after trying our luck at the other marina in the area which was full and the anchorage that was just too slippery.

The forecast was looking grim as you like. A front was hovering over Fiji and didn’t look like moving on for at least a week. We talked with others and decided to just leave for New Caledonia as the weather was actually way better over there.

So that’s what we did. We cut our time short in Fiji and decided to move on. And it felt horrible.

Back to those feelings of totally missing out on a place. Grr! Oh well. We did, and saw, what we could. We left feeling relaxed and recharged for the final push back to Oz. We met up with friends- including our Galapagos to French Polynesia heroes Matelot who sailed over to Vuda to wish us farewell as they are heading back to New Zealand.

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We’re sorry Fiji, we know we never gave you a chance. We loved what we saw and will be back we promise. It’s not you it’s us.

Samoa

After a few nasty weather days in Suwarrow a smallish / not so bad / should be alright / screw it let’s go for it / window opened up and we decided to press on.

The weather really has been horrible of late. Really bad. We’re all pretty fed up with it and it’s testing everyone as they cross the Pacific. Up until now it’s been the odd day of stormy rubbish surrounded by many days of sunny calm conditions. Since arriving at Bora Bora that pattern has reversed.

The more we read and learn about this area the more we come to realise that’s just how it is most of the time. There are large conversion zones in these parts, where different weather systems smack and crash into each other. The net result is unpredictable weather that can really ruin your day.

As we left Suwarrow we got smacked with one last 30+ knot squall as a farewell gift then quickly got onto our heading over to Samoa. The passage took about four days. 50% was good weather, 50% was ok but not likely to make our top ten passage list. In short we were pleased to head into Apia harbour and anchor as the sun rose.

We’re traveling with a few other boats at the moment. Winterlude (of Tahiti DHL package mix up fame), Imoogi, and Whale and the Bird. It’s good travelling as a pack, the support you feel can’t be measured, plus it’s always good to get a heads up on a new country’s check-in procedures. Two of the boats are faster than us and therefore always arrive a few hours ahead of us.

Talking of check-in’s, Samoa’s was great fun. About eight people visited our boat, all being ferried around by the dingies of the boats trying to clear in. A great time was had by all as huge Samoan customs guys leaped into their transports. One boat that had to move four such guys between a few boats suddenly realised that the weight onboard was actually slowly sinking it!

Once checked in we decided berth at the marina in town. It’s tiny, with only a few spaces, so we were pleased to see a slot free. Upon entering the marina it turns out Four Choices was in the exact same place we had berthed next to them in Tahiti. Was good to catch up with their adventures.

Apia is the main town in Samoa. It’s a strange mix of clashing building styles, spread out around the long harbour. It’s one of those nothing quite works but I like it anyway types of places. The recent history of the place explains a lot as a huge tsunami hit the area a few years back. They are still working to rebuild but some of the old buildings remain which are amazing.

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As we wandered about one thing instantly struck us. It’s easily the friendliest place we’ve visited so far. A lot of places claim this, but honestly we’ve never felt more welcomed. Five mins after stepping off the boat, we were looking for an ATM to get some local currency. A guy and his wife pulled over in their beat-up car to ask what was wrong as we ‘looked confused’. Instead of giving directions they drove us across town to the bank with the lowest fees explaining the history of the island to us as they went.

The main town is an odd place. It primarily sells cheap Chinese plastic crap, with a few places offering amazing locally crafted carvings, and nothing in between. If you want some mis-shapen rip-off plastic superheroes with the paint rubbing off… this is your place.

What the town does have is some amazing places to eat. We went out for a few meals with the little group we’re travelling with and enjoyed some amazing dishes. It also has a McDonalds.

The locals all told us that Apia isn’t the real Samoa so we got together and hired one of the local taxi guys (more on them later) to take us on a tour of the island. It’s a truly stunning place. Lush and green with crystal clear waters. We swam in waterfalls, visited great beaches, climbed down ladders to hidden caves, and, erm, drank a lot of beer! :)

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Samoa6 Samoa7 Samoa10 Samoa11Between all the beer drinking the road trip took us to the house where Robert Louis Stevenson lived, he of Treasure Island ilk. The place was amazing and perfectly preserved. Turns out the poor guy was a very sickly person and after traveling the world made Samoa his home as he found the climate more agreeable with his constitution (whatever that means). The tour guide said the Samoan people loved him as he was very fair to them, although from what I could see that meant him living in a huge house while they worked and served for him. Oh well, was interesting all the same and a lot of info on old sickly Stevenson was absorbed.

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Next day we visited the Samoan cultural centre. We were worried this would be a bit cheesy and touristy but it was actually really interesting. Samoan people take great pride in trying to preserving their way of life (cheap Chinese plastic crap not withstanding). A lot of their arts and crafts are created at the centre which was built to help keep the old skills alive. The wood carvers were amazing to watch, turning solid cubes of teak into beautiful dishes and bowls.

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We also were allowed to watch one of the local guys getting his ink on. Once the family thinks a guy is ready for this procedure (he’d bring much shame on the family if part way through he stopped) he can get a huge tattoo that runs from his middle right down to his knees. It’s pretty much solid ink but with very delicate work running throughout and it’s done traditionally. No electric needle and numbing cream here. We watched the poor fellow as the village inker used basically a small nail dipped in ink and then hammered it over his skin. Ouchy! The guy was clearly in a lot of pain but his family members and local tribesmen all watch over him and try to offer comfort. He was on his 3rd 4 hour session out of 15. Pretty impressive.

After we’d finished looking over all the different skills on display Helen and I returned to the wood carvers who we were really impressed with. Helen had spotted a design she liked so asked if he could create a piece for us. The guy agreed and we were told to return in two days.

For a small place Apia has a LOT of cool bars. We checked a few out during our stay but the most memorable was stopping by Ace bar one Friday with some of the yachties. It’s a busy bar with pool tables out the back and I loves me a game of pool. The locals were again really friendly and we were soon playing doubles against a local pair. I teamed up with Bob off Four-Choices and we won our first three games. Dean off Imoogi was looking for a partner to play with and asked the ref (a guy who sets up all the tables and resolves any issues) if he could find someone. Next moment this HUGE local guy walks over to our table towers over Dean and says ‘I’m playing with you, we’re up next.’.

Turns out he was captain of the Samoan rugby team! The rest of the team followed behind him and hung out by the bar. Fiji had just beaten Samoa in a very close final of the Pacific cup over in Vancouver and the team had just arrived back in Samoa. They clearly wanted to let off a bit of steam and we ended up playing about ten games with them.

The rules were a little all over the place and very fluid, for some reason they changed to make sure  the Captain would win. At one point I’d snookered him and he called a ‘challenge’ which seemed to suddenly mean I had to to hit his ball to win or lose if I missed. It was an easy snooker to get out as the ball was just off the top cushion but when I lined the shot up he then changed the rules so I couldn’t hit off that. I had to go off a side cushion making the shot harder. None of us could work out what was going on and with the whole rugby team watching I wasn’t going to argue. I took the shot and missed. Somehow I’d gone from a commanding position to losing the game in an instant. Still, when the smallest guy at the bar was about 7 feet tall and not much less wide I was happy to get out with my legs still attached!

The drinks flowed and we had a great time with them. They started getting a bit ‘slappy’ with each other by the end of the night so we ducked out before an accidental slap knocked one of our heads clean off.

Once again the weather was proving to be all over the place and we ended up trapped as conditions were too rough to venture out. We did a tour over the other island nearby, Savai’i, which was nice but not as much fun as the mainland actually. Was good to see the differences between the islands and of course the locals of each think their’s is the best. The ferry over was fun as well. I think it was an ex Manly Ferry from Sydney circa 1835. There wasn’t anywhere to sit so we were in the crew quarters from what we could tell. The guy who kept heading into the engine room with a huge spanner really reassured us as well.

On the other island we did stop at this amazing lava flow area where it ran straight through a church. Not sure what the big guy upstairs had in mind that day but it made for a cool area to explore.

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We also visited an area where Turtles hung out. They were quite tame and loved eating fruit which Helen shared with them, all say Arhhhhhrrr.

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The taxi guy also found us a pretty nice spot for lunch. After the boozey road trip a few days before we were actually quite well behaved (maybe the thought of being half cut on that ferry heading back had something to do with it).

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Apia is known for being hot and towards the end of our stay it got crazy. Luckily an amazing snorkelling beach is just behind the marina where we went to cool off a few times. As with most places the coral is just starting to come back after getting smacked with the tsunami that hit a few years earlier. Still lots of fish around though and chilling in the waters was more like survival then anything.

The bar near the marina also offered some nice shade in the afternoons.Samoa13

Before we left we returned to the cultural village to pick up our wood carving. Very impressed. Good work Mr. Carver!

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After nine or so days in Samoa we finally got a window to head South to Tonga so took it. Looks like being a mix of sailing and motoring but as this passage is well known as being a tricky one with the trade winds hitting almost on the nose we’re going to get out while we can, even if that means burning some fuel.

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Bora Bora, more like horror horror! (Well at least for our first two nights here).

We had a very quick sail over from Tahaa in rising winds knowing that the weather was about to change for the worst. Our plan was to get over to the Bora Bora yacht club, which would hopefully offer us shelter, and then pick up a mooring.

We got through the pass just as the wind kicked up and rain fell hard, ok so we didn’t quite time it right but luckily the rest of our plan was solid. Once tucked in around the headland where the Bora Bora yacht club was located the winds dropped and we picked up the last mooring!

From that point on the rain fell, the wind blew, the place turned to mud. In fact it’s pretty much the worst weather we’ve seen on this trip. You couldn’t see the famous twin peaks of Bora Bora let alone explore the islands and take in the sights. We did what we could on board, and checked out a few places to eat in the evenings but after a while cabin fever started kicking in.

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One positive to come from all the rain was our new water collection system, or WCS as I’ll now refer to it. The idea was to collect the water that drains off the decks and is eventually led to the back of the boat where it pours into the sea. The design evolved quickly from a somewhat basic v1.0  (a plastic box taped on the back of the boat which leaked more than it collected) to the, dare I say it, elegant high end v2.0 (a plastic water bottle taped to the back with a hose stuck through the lid).

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Ok it might not look like much but WCS v2.0 collected over 100 litres of water in a few hours and filled our tanks back up. There are plans to market the unit worldwide, if any investors out there are interested and want to give us the $10,000,000 estimated development costs we’d be pleased to hear from you.

Just to top it all off our outboard stopped working again. After waiting all that time for the replacement part in Tahiti it just stopped working and throwing up error messages. ARGHHHHHH!!!!!

After 2-3 days the front passed through, the skies cleared, my mood improved, and we finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

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Bora Bora1Bora Bora is a small little place, stunning landscapes, nice beaches, amazing restaurants, and the most high-end hotels we’ve ever seen.

The small village was buzzing once we managed to get our walking shoes on and explore. The Heiva Festival was in full swing. This yearly event is the highlight of their calendar here. Locals from all the villages on the island fight it out in dance competitions, spear throwing, singing, dug-out canoe racing – it’s amazing to watch. It’s very competitive but as everyone knows each other here it’s all done in very good spirits.

The dancing in particular was great to watch. Hip shaking to the max! The winners go on to represent Bora Bora over in Raitea and then Tahiti. Good luck guys and gals!

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After a few more days over at Bora Bora Yacht Club we motored over the bay for a mile or so to the Bloody Mary’s moorings. Just as we approached a boat left and we picked up his mooring which was about 50m from the dock. With no outboard this was the first bit of luck we’d had in about five days. We had a meal there that night, which we later found out the locals call Bora Bora McDonald’s. Yes it’s very American but we enjoyed it there and had some wonderful food and made good use of the half-price happy hour. The location of the moorings allowed us to explore that part of the island more as well.

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We did a big walk one day over to the public beaches and had an amazing lunch at one of the snack bars just off the water.

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The public beaches are good to see as most of the island has been taken over by the vast number of hotels here and you’re not allowed anywhere on their beaches. We heard of one sailor’s dingy being let loose into the lagoon after he came ashore at the Four Seasons in search of a beer. I guess if you’re paying $3000 a night for a hotel the last thing you want to see is some scruffy sailor wandering around using your facilities. Then again maybe they should welcome us more. We learn’t five of the major hotels had closed in the past three years and the others didn’t exactly look full. When times are hard around the world $3000 per night hotels seem to struggle for some reason. Weird hey?

It does bug me that new hotels are still being built here when 4-5 year old developments are left to rot. Come on people sort it out.

We spent another night or two over at Bloody Mary’s hanging around the beaches and finding some great places to eat. It’s a really different vibe in this area- a lot more how we expected Bora Bora to be. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the place for the first few days but get why people love it now.

One thing we really wanted to do here was a hike of the main island and get higher up it’s peaks. We tracked down a guide to take us and set off one morning to the other side of the island. He was very chatty and very proud of what he’d accomplished on the island since moving from France about 14 years ago. Based on what he told us the locals were only living on the areas of land near the beaches so none of the interior of the island had been explored for hundreds of years. This guy had hacked his way through jungle and found the ruins of whole villages and temples that no one knew still existed. The missionaries pretty much burnt and destroyed everything opposing their religion when they showed up just after Captain Cook arrived so this was very exciting and National Geographic even came out to film his findings. He’s also been trying to get the locals to depend less on imported goods here (which are crazy expensive) and revert back to the old ways of farming the land. He showed us all the areas the ancestors of the island used to grow their food and we left with full backpacks of the best tasting fruit.

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Afterwards we hiked higher through the jungle and came out to a wonderful view looking down over the reef and lagoon. You can do a hike to the very top of the peaks but he wouldn’t take us due to all the rain. I’m kind of glad as the hike we did partake in ticked every box for us.

We moved over to the Mai Kai yacht club that afternoon and picked up a great mooring near the front so rowing the dingy once again would be easy. The yacht club here is really close to town so we can provision well and refuel for the next leg in the trip where once again we’ll be away from services for a while.

In good news after taking apart and rebuilding the outboard it started working again! No idea what fixed it but we think it was just some build up on the data pins that connect the parts together. Whatever the reason it’s working well. Woohoo!

As often happens one afternoon a boat we got to know in Tahiti came past so we radioed them to welcome their arrival in Bora Bora and to talk of our plans after leaving here. A few people must have been listening in (wouldn’t catch us doing that 😉 ) as 5mins later we had three dingy’s hanging off the back with people talking about the pros and cons of each route. The beers came out and a good time was had by all. And just like that we’d made friends with two other boats, headed out for dinner later with them and were invited to a BBQ the following night.

That’s one of the best things about this trip. Out of nowhere these links with other boats form. As we’re all heading the same way we’ll hopefully keep in touch.

Just as the weather sucked when we arrived it turned for the worse as we were ready to leave. After heading into a very muddy town to clear out of French Polynesia (a process we’d been told would take a few hours/days depending on who we talked to but actually took us 8mins) there was nothing to do but hang out on the boat (which felt worse than it does at sea) and wait for a good weather window.

We’ve head eight weeks here in French Polynesia. What a place. What wonderful people. But now it’s time to leave and head the 700 miles or so over to the Cook Islands.