Moorea

Freedom at last! With all our boat repairs complete and nothing left on our ‘to-do’ list we headed out of Papeete and away from Tahiti. Woohoo! We loved that place but felt we’d been trapped there far too long.

We were headed for Moorea, which every guidebook likes to call Tahiti’s little sister. We pulled into ‘Cook’s Bay’ which is reported to be where Cook landed all those years ago, but then conflicting reports say he landed in the next bay around, so take your pick.

We were a little worried, as Cook’s Bay was a deep anchorage, probably deeper than anywhere we’ve tried to anchor on our trip to date, but with our extra 30m of chain that we added in Tahiti we were keen to give it a go.

The anchoring went well but on closer inspection we realised we’d landed a little close to the reef.

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We weren’t sure how much we would stretch backwards with our super-long chain should the wind decide to pick up, so we decided to play it safe and re-anchor a little deeper into the bay. We quickly upped anchor, covering me and everything in the vicinity in a melted-Cadbury’s-chocolate-like mud, but the new, improved location was much better and with the ultra-sticky-mud we were confident of a good holding. So after a bucket shower for me we settled in. What a lovely spot.

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We enjoyed a cold drink on deck to cool us down after a hot crossing and took in the beautiful scenery. Then decided to test out another of the repairs – the ill-fated out-board engine. It worked a treat and we were soon whizzing to shore – nice not to be using those oars again.

We pulled up at the nearby hotel dock. We often have the half-full, half-empty debate but to say this place is half-empty would be being optimistic. It’s a shame but something that we’re slowly becoming accustomed to.

Anyway with not much happening there we decided to head further afield in search of some action. We headed left down the road and found… not really much… ending up in another empty five-star hotel having a beer – at least the view was good.

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Then as there was nothing else to do we headed to ‘Allo Pizza’ which we’ve read serves the best pizza in Polynesia. It was a low-key roulette-style place with stools bumped right up against the kitchen and pizza oven. The pizza was tasty and the friendly atmosphere was fun and welcoming.

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The next day we did something odd, something that we don’t seem to do very often which is to say we did nothing but relax onboard. Right up until about 3pm when we got cabin fever and went to shore for a walk. We wandered around the coast road. It was funny to see Polynesians playing boules and shows the cultural-integration between Polynesians and the French. It seems much closer-knit bonding than in other places we’ve been in the Pacific.

We took a little detour to visit the Rotui plant where they bottle and serve fresh local fruit juices (as well as distilled fruit liqueurs) but alas it was closed, well I suppose it was a holiday Monday.

We tried to peep around the corner to the next bay to check it out but eventually the sun started dropping behind the tall mountains and so we decided it was time to head back. And with nothing open in town we slunk home for a bowl of pasta.

The next day we shuck off our laziness and went out to conquer the Bellevue trek early. We were overtaken time after time by schools of quad-bikes, and maybe this should have hinted at something but it didn’t register until later that this really was a long climb.

Just as we had neared the end of our stamina we came across the agricultural college selling their wares. We tasted a number of local jams and then I had an amazing pineapple juice while Simon opted for a banana smoothie – yummo!

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With the sugar-hit we made it to the top of the mountain to take in the view of the two bays.

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On the way down we decided to take the route to the next bay and then catch the bus back. So after a long downward spiral we ended up in Opunuhu bay. It’s a sleepy little village, in fact so tiny there wasn’t even a shop selling a drink and no bus stop… so we started walking back along the coast road hoping to find one on the way. We didn’t find a bus stop or a shop but we did find a van selling pizza on the beach, and with nothing else available and our stomachs rumbling we indulged again! Now it may sound like we’re pizza-holics but really this is sometimes all there is to eat or at least all we can afford to eat in French Polynesia.

We finally stumbled back into Cook’s bay and back to the boat to collapse! Turns out we’d walked half a marathon (around 21km) which definitely gives me a new-found respect for marathon runners.

The next day we were going to anchor on the reef to do a spot of snorkelling but we woke to a cloudy day and decided to walk into the village instead. Of course as soon as we set off the sun came out!

On the way we found the Yacht Club selling a ‘menu du jour’  at a good price so couldn’t resit. This was an amazing place on the water with a stunning view of the yachts near the reef. It was a pretty crowded anchorage so maybe it’s for the best that we didn’t try to squeeze Interlude in there.

Moorea9After that we wandered into town. Other than a few banks, boutiques and restaurants there’s really not much here either. So we took a slow walk back to the boat and prepared for a night sail to… Tahaa.

Marquesas – Nuku Hiva

We were happy to see Wandering Dream when we reached the little harbour at Nuku Hiva. What’s more Steve wasn’t leaving for once, well at least not until the next day, so we managed to finally catch up over some pizza and beers and get the low-down on the island.

The next day we wandered around town. The first stop for most people is the little cafe on the dock, which offers up internet, unlimited coffee, and free bananas. It’s a great place to relax, meet fellow sailors and listen to the local musicians singing and playing the ukulele. You have to be careful or before you notice several hours have passed by  – our excuse was we were waiting for a break in the rain showers.

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We eventually left only to find our outboard wasn’t working, and of course we didn’t have the oars with us, so we begged a lift with some lovely people that we’d met on a water taxi in the Galapagos – thanks guys!

Later we rowed back to town for sunset drinks at the fancy hotel around the bay. It’s a bit of a trek so by the time we got there the sun had set (grrr!) but we’re joined by another couple from the boat Pallaren. After a few expensive beers and big laughs we decided to head to the pizza joint again. There wasn’t really many options in this little town, but the pizzas and burgers here were ok and the wine was good and cheap! A bit of a rarity in these parts. To end a perfect evening we got another tow back 🙂

Next day we headed to Kevin’s Yacht Services, it’s next door to the cafe and usually has a queue of people outside. He knows the people who can help you fix your yacht (but not your electric outboard engine – doh!) and also has laundry, a book swap and all the essentials. You can also book a car from here to tour the island or a local charity dance – so we signed up.

The lovely people on Sofia took pity on us this time and offered us a lift to shore to see the dancing and we joined a group of sailors for a fun-filled night. The food just kept coming until we couldn’t eat another bean and then the performance began. The local dance troupe mainly consisted of children along with a few other young folks. We were in awe the whole time as they drummed, sang and danced their little hearts out. So talented and obviously having a ball! I had a great view in front row, which of course made me an easy target when it was time to drag a grown-up onto the floor. So I went up and showed them how it was done – ahem!

After that it was time for the ‘Mask competition’, these people go all out for the mask competition, so I’m glad now that I didn’t compete. Each competitor had to walk around the stage and drum up some votes. Our vote went to ‘Cousin It’!Nuku Fiva 3For the next two days it rained. We were pretty much boat-bound except a few supermarket runs for the essentials. Each trip to the grocery store we were followed by a local dog who was after our bread. We would have given him the dog-end except that it’s Simon’s favourite bit and fresh bread is a bit of a luxury after so long at sea. So walking back Simon would have the dog-end and the dog would get the next bit which meant that we had to start buying an extra baguette!

Apart from that we did some boat chores, relaxed a little and even managed to find the time to watch a film. Not sure when we last did that!

We were also pleased when a fellow boat arrived in the harbour. They’d just made the crossing from Galapagos and were missing a rudder so we were pretty impressed when they made it calmly into the anchorage. It’s good to see them safe and sound. It seems unlikely that a boat would loose a rudder but we’ve heard of at least two other cases which is strange, although there have been some big swells out there.

Finally the weather let up a bit and we hired a car to tour the island – a big 4×4 which as we found out was definitely needed.

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First stop was the ‘Baie du Controleur’ for some amazing vistas.

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This part of the island was very green, lush and hilly making for some very exciting driving. On each hairpin bend was a group of wild or tethered horses to make things more interesting.

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We thought we’d taken the wrong road as the concrete turned to rubble, turned to mud and then turned into a stream but we persevered and were finally spat out the other side of the island. We took in yet more postcard views.

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Then it was time to find Yvonne’s restaurant at Hakaenui Bay for a much needed lunch of fish and the local speciality, goat curry.  After that we sought out a bit of culture as we explored a tiki site and hunted down some petroglyphs.

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There was also some pretty crazy trees here. Quiet a magical place 🙂

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We were also told that the other side of the island shouldn’t be missed so we headed off there. First we came across a flat plateau with yet more horses and then we started climbing. Up and up with more and more stops to take photos until eventually we ended up in the clouds, quite literarily. After loosing the road at several places we decided we were pushing our luck and turned about to head home before darkness.

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The next day we dropped the car back and took Interlude to the next bay down. You can’t reach Daniel’s by car which makes it pretty special. The thin entrance to the bay is described as ‘exciting’ but as the swell picked up and pushed us unceremoniously through the gap some other words sprang to mind! Once in the bay it was peaceful and relatively calm except from the odd wind gust to keep us on our toes. And it was stunning with a capital ’S’. High mountains of green surrounded the bay and with only a handful of other boats it was perfect for a bit of lounging in the cockpit over dinner.

The next day we rose early as we were desperate to visit the waterfall, the 3rd highest in the world! But this required a huge hike. And we were also keen to leave for the Tuamotus while we had a good weather window which was closing in fast.

So we hop-footed it up there. I sent Simon first to ward of the numerous spiders that had formed their webs across the trail overnight. What a hero!

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The trail is quite hard going and requires you to wade through stream after stream, sometimes up to waist-height.

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Pretty intrepid but a pure delight too. We passed by some local home-steads where the people called out to try and sell us fruit.

After a while it began to rain which was quite refreshing at first and then we were just wet from head-to-tail. The trail wound its way through an amazing forest, and goes up and up until you are in the middle of no-where, in fact we didn’t see a single soul.

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Eventually the waterfall came into view and we headed towards it. There was a sign that warned about falling rocks and looking up we could see why, the steep-sided mountains were looming above us. But having come this far we decided to continue. We’d heard that you can’t see the full height of the waterfall until you’re at the base. So we made it to the little lake at the bottom and stepped in. Well actually Simon slipped and did a belly-flop scaring the local wildlife which jumped and hopped and skipped in all directions.

Once in we swam across to the other side and climbed behind the rock to see the waterfall. It was pretty impressive, tall and heaps of water cascading down. There again there’s been plenty of rain to feed it! Simon tried to swim underneath it but the current was so strong, just to be there in the spray was amazing!

After that we hop-footed it back to the boat as time was of the essence and the Tuamotus were beckoning.

Marquesas – Ua Pou

WOW POW! Not sure how we ended up in Ua Pou!

One day you’re dreaming of heading South to Fatu Hiva and the next morning you’re further North than you started, in Ua Pou. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, or the wind, or just run away from the bad weather like a girl!

The anchorage was inside a little harbour and as we hunted for a spot a catamaran called up and told us he was thinking of moving to the area we were in so not to anchor there as that was where he was thinking of going. Nice!

Anyway we moved to a different spot, dropped the hook, dragged, dropped the hook again, found ourselves too close for comfort from another boat, dropped the hook again and relaxed. Well until the boat in the perfect spot behind the harbour wall disappeared and then we upped anchor again and grabbed their spot. Perfect! Or maybe just a tad close to the harbour wall. Anyway that’ll teach you Mr Catamaran!

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After a nice cuppa we headed to shore and wandered around town. First we checked in with the police. Turns out we needed to show our papers at the Gendarmerie a little distance away – oops! They were friendly peeps though and we usually find a way to  chat with the police one way or another so it was good to get that out of the way.

We wandered in and out of a few grocery stores, and found… TimTams and Arnotts (biscuits). We really must be getting closer to Australia, which also marks the end of our trip – boo! Anyway apart from that there wasn’t much of interest. After a night of sailing we were hungry so stopped at one of the only eateries open – a pizzeria, turns out I make better pizza so at least that’s something.

There was a promising walk up to the cross on the hill but we just weren’t up to it so we went back to the boat. No sooner were we back onboard than a fellow boat called us up and told us we had to move (again) as the cruise/supply ship was due early the next day. So all the little boats in the harbour had to line up like soldiers close to the beach and in line with the solar panel on the dock.

Ok so the last spot was in the far corner. We headed over and the friendly man on the boat next to us came out on his dingy to help us set our stern anchor. He was keen to get us as close to the beach as possible and in line with the other boats but this mean’t we only had 0.8 meters below the keel and with a meter of tide that didn’t seem great to us. Their answer? ‘Well it’s just sand’. I’m sure we must be the most fussy yachts-people I know but grounding doesn’t sound like a good option to me, even if it is sand. So after he left we dragged in some of the anchor chain at the front and let out some more at the back positioning Interlude back into deeper water, but a little out of line. Such rebels!!

After all this, we actually liked our little spot which was really calm and quite picturesque. A quick snooze and we felt much better about this place and the people around us. In fact, we were also considering staying another day. Not because we were in love with this place but just because we were feeling a little (or a lot) lazy.

The next day we awoke to find the huge cruise/supply ship at the dock. Not sure how many times he bumped us on the way in but he hadn’t left a scratch!! And what’s more we were still floating!

Ua Pou 5Anyway we decided to stay and take on the challenge of the hill! We bumped into our fellow cruisers ashore, from the catamaran and the little boat who helped with our anchor. They really are nice people and they told us about the beach in the next bay.

We made the arduous walk up the hill to the cross in the heat of the morning to take in the views.Ua Pou 4Ua Pou 3

Then we went down to the paradise beach for a refreshing swim in the waves with our new friends – there was no-one else there. We didn’t stay too long either as the nono’s (little, evil, biting insects) came out and started eating us alive.

Ua Pou 1Ua Pou 2On the way back we passed a skinny horse and foal that had been standing in the sun all morning and their water bucket was empty so we felt a bit bad for them. We gave them our very precious last bottle of water, tipping it into the bucket. As we wandered away we turned to see the stupid horse had kicked over the bucket. He probably plays this game all day long.

After that it was back to the boat. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to bring ourselves to leave as there’s not much to stay here for. Next stop Nuku Hiva!

Galapagos to Marquesas

Week 1

Our trip to Marquesas got off to a flying start. We picked up our hook just before our buddy boat, ‘Matelot’ but before long they could be seen behind us and the race was on!

They were first to catch a fish while we lost one of our two lures with an oversized catch. The next one got away too. But fear not the guys on Matelot promised to share just as soon as they caught us so then the race was really on! We managed to hook ourselves a lovely skipjack tuna in time for dinner just as Matelot sailed up behind us. At least we managed to save face on one score.

After a lovely fish supper we all reefed our sails and continued into the night. I must say it’s nice to have a little navigation light twinkling behind us on this, our longest trip yet.

They say the Pacific is supposed to be the nice, placid calm ocean but the start to our trip has seen some decent winds and larger than expected swell. At least we are making good speed where traditionally many struggle with little to no wind in these parts. The conditions are actually not that bad but on the advice of our weatherman our heading is quite Southerly to avoid the dreaded ITCZ band (or some such thing) which is prone to dead winds and lightening storms. Because of this we are close hauled, running into the wind instead of with it which always feels worse. It’s been challenging conditions though.

The next day was spent just trying to keep on top of the sailing, watermarking and catching some zzzzs whenever possible.  We did have one decent squall and of course it was then that we discovered that the pin had come out of the roller furler so we couldn’t pull the head sail in. Simon had to go up on the foredeck and man-handle it and just in the nick of time. He’s now jury-rigged it with a new bolt so hopefully that holds up.

Matelot have been kind enough to keep with us which is absolutely lovely.

The next morning I awoke so find them just off our stern for a photo opportunity as they sailed by.

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Pippy had been hand-steering all night and has now shamed us into turning off that auto-pilot a lot more which is helping to save our battery power which will hopefully equate to more watermaking and therefore more showers in time. Although we’re still suffering a little from that leak we had on the way from Panama to Las Palmas and it’s taking us time to catch up with our water.

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Day 3 and I was awoken by friendly banter on the radio as Simon took up Richard’s challenge to overtake him. I hope this trend continues as it allowed me time to have a relaxing cup of tea, coffee and bake some bread.

Simon has had less success in the kitchen just lately. First up a bowl of soup slid across the galley spilling half the contents… everywhere! Then the pepper pot that has been dropped a few times decided to explode when he was making omelettes. Funny as mine were both delicious and his took the brunt of it.

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We spent some time waiting for a squall to pass so we could use the rainwater to shower. But after waiting hours for it to arrive it brought only some English style drizzle so it looks like we’ll have to resort to watermaking again.

Grey skies all day so today was all about energy conservation as the solar struggled to keep up. This meant more hand steering and keeping the nav screens turned off as well as keeping lights off whenever possible.

I was on watch this morning and saw some blue skies. Richard suggested there were trade wind clouds so we headed towards them.

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Otherwise not much to report just a day of eat, sleep, sail, repeat.

We’ve been making great progress with some excellent winds and some great speeds. We’ve had a little more sun but it’s mostly cloudy. Simon has solar panel envy. Matelot have adjustable solar panels so they can tilt them in the direction of the sun. This means they have recharged their batteries before the sun has got high enough to shine on ours. Grrrr!

The winds are still good though and we’ve completed a third of our trip in just 6 days! If this continues we’ll be very happy bunnies.

All the hand-steering means doing anything else on watch is hard. Thank goodness for audio books. Simon has the Game of Thrones Series while I have War and Peace. Not sure which is longest but I think they will keep us occupied for a while.

Pizza Friday! We decided to treat ourselves to some home-cooked pizza as we had picked up a couple of blocks of mozzarella cheese in Galapagos. We tried take-out but apparently we’re not in their delivery area. Anyway we didn’t hold much hope for it but it worked out a treat! Not sure if it’s beginners luck though so we’ll have to have another go.

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Week 2

We had a bit of roll today. The three-meter swell that was promised came and went but we had 20 hours or so of rolling around which makes doing anything and everything difficult. It was nothing like the swell we had in the Atlantic so we weren’t worried, it’s just very, very annoying. We’re still getting great winds though.

Week 2 and our average speed is 6.9 which must be a record for us on a long passage – let’s hope it continues. A lot of the time we’ve been sailing at our hull speed of around 8.2knots. Amazing stuff!

A huge pod of huge dolphins came by at morning coffee time. I thought you were supposed to pick-up-a-pick-up-a-penguin but maybe things are different out here. We’ve also seen lot of birdlife.

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Urghh! That ground-hog day has feeling set in… one day feels exactly like the next.

We gave Matelot a bit of a scare tonight. We were playing that game of ‘What appliances are using our amps?’ We inadvertently switched off our nav lights and radio during this process. So Matelot saw us disappear and then couldn’t reach us on the radio. They flashed us with a torch – a sign we’d agreed on earlier and then it was our turn to worry. Finally caught up on the radio to find out it was all a mistake. Good that our system works though, although maybe we should have let them know our plans beforehand! Oops.

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It’s harder and harder to get up for those night watches. Last night I got fully rigged up in my jumper, wet-weather jacket, hat, life-jacket – the whole shebang and bounded on deck only for Simon to tell me I had another two hours of sleeping to go. Either my mind was playing tricks on me or Simon is. Didn’t know whether to be pleased or grumpy – went for grumpy.

The following night we noticed some chaffing on the main halyard (the rope that holds the sail up). So we gave Matelot the heads up before doing some crazy manoeuvres. Took the sail down, chopped off the offending bit of rope, burnt the end to stop fraying, tied the new end back on and hoisted the sail again. It was an old wound so it’s good to get a more permanent fix in place.

On Sunday we started to get some manky, rolly seas and overnight the wind picked up. At first I thought it was a squall the change was so fast, but then a couple of hours later I realised it had really set in. The conditions continued through Monday making us all a bit tired and a little grumpy. Big winds, big waves, big bruises.

In good news we passed our half-way mark. The celebrations are on hold until conditions improve.

We’ve started to plan the rest of our passages back and are pleased to report that all but one passage should be less than five days. Good, we’re well over passages at the moment!

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Another beautiful sunset, another drama. We’ve been rolling around in swelly seas again and trying to keep a nice SW heading which has meant trying to keep as downwind as possible. But every now and then a particularly ferocious wave will send us flying causing the self-tacking jib to smack from one side to the other. It wasn’t too surprising then when the car-slider knocked the end block off the track and went flying into the air. We calmly rolled in the sail, tied off the jib sheet, jury-rigged a new line and continued on our way. At least that’s one less thing banging around.

Today’s drama began early when I switched on the water-maker and it didn’t switch on – great. We got the instruction manual out and after a bit of deliberation decided it was a fuse. So Simon got the spares out and pulled the fuse ready to replace it. Just as he did the boat turned 90 degrees sending the sails flapping and everything flying. Turns out it was the fuse for the autopilot! Oops!

Anyway after a bit more deliberation we couldn’t work out what was wrong so we tried it again and it worked perfectly. Bloody charming! Probably just a bit of air in the pipe from all the swell we’re getting.

We keep trying to head West but the weather is forcing us more and more South making us all scratch our heads. Tomorrow we will have to find a new solution. The angle we’re forced to take as well as this continuous swell is driving us all to our wit’s end. Horrid!

Ok no ideal solution presented itself overnight so Matelot tried the old wing-and-wing but unfortunately we don’t have a pole. They disappeared from site 🙁

After an hour or two fighting the waves we gybed and followed them North to try and find the marginally better conditions. We hit squall after squall, and in between two particularly rainy ones we spotted Matelot in the distance and then we lost them.

And it turns out I turned the radio down and couldn’t hear their hails. We finally caught up via email to find they’ve found a nice Westerly heading while we’re still fighting North. With no sign of any improved conditions we reduced sail and turned West once again. Hopefully we can track them down tomorrow. It sure is lonely out here without their guiding light.

We found them! Or at least they found us. With a bit of back and forth on email we were finally able to catch up on the radio and then eventually we had visual. It’s great to head into another night with their little light ahead again. Turns out they couldn’t hold their wing-and-wing for long either as the swell was bouncing them around also. We’re both just sailing under mains at the moment (and still flying along with just that sail up!).

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Week 3

The last few nights we have been playing frogger with the clouds. There are these huge bands of black clouds streaming across the night sky and the aim of the game is to nip through between them, not under them. It is strangely satisfying when you get it right, when you get it wrong it’s windy and wet 🙁

Another day, another challenge. We’ve been hearing this strange groaning noise at the stern between the steering wheels and Simon has been convinced that it’s the steering cable in the floor below.

‘What would happen if it broke?’ I asked him ‘The steering wheels would stop working.’ Didn’t sound great.

So I was sat on watch this morning and looked up to find the steering wheels weren’t moving. We opened her up and had a look, sure enough the cable had sheered through. I hate it when he’s right. Anyway lucky for us I was using the autopilot which continues to work. We took some time to make sure we could fit the emergency tiller, and then continued under way on the autopilot. No drama for now but it sure is going to make anchoring harder.

We’ve decided to head straight to Hiva Oa as there are rumours of a welder there that might be able to help us with a temporary fix. Also it’s a port of entry so we avoid risking a fine by heading to the nearest island, Fata Hiva as many people do. Hopefully we can back-track and see that island later, it’s supposed to be stunning.

In other news we had the best sunset yet so that made up for a pretty crappy day – almost.

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Finally the wind died down and it was time to hoist to the big sail for the day. That was followed by a night of motoring and another day of the sails flapping. We’ve been waiting for the wind and swell to drop for two weeks and now it’s here we’re fed up of flappy sails and slow speeds. There’s just no pleasing some people. It did give us a chance to do some boat chores so hopefully we’ll head into the anchorage all spick and span, and with a working outboard motor.

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At last! Today ended with less than 100nm to go. Woohoo! Hopefully we will see land tomorrow morning and make landfall tomorrow afternoon.

I love it when you awake to see land! Time to dig out that trusty French flag and get the anchor ready.

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Hiva Oa looks stunning but then what wouldn’t after 19 days at sea. We followed Matelot into the harbour. We were a bit nervous as our usual steering system wasn’t working, however, we had the autopilot on and the emergency tiller rigged and all our fingers and toes crossed.

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Despite all the rumours of this being a rolly anchorage it looked pretty flat so we chose a spot out of the way near the entrance and dropped our anchor. Everyone here has their stern anchor out so we got ready to despatch ours. That’s when our knights in a dinghy turned up from Savannah (who had heard of our plight) and offered to set our stern anchor. So thanks to them we’re perfectly set and taking in the stunning scenery 🙂

Then it was time to celebrate with our buddies – the longest crossing yet!

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Panama to Galapagos

We were up with the ducks again to start our way across the Pacific Ocean!

Simon got the launch over to the yacht club to settle up while I got the boat ready. Then it was time to cast our lines and head South again. Well that’s what we thought until the line got caught around the dodgy mooring buoy and Simon had to jump in the canal again to free it. He loves that canal water!!

After that we scooted down the outside of the channel watching the big ships motor on by.

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There were heaps of birds too. I’m not sure if they live here or if they are getting ready to migrate but there are huge flocks of pelicans, cormorants, as well as terns. We also saw another big pod of crazy dolphins doing somersaults and generally larking around.

After leaving the canal we got the sails up and it was all making for a pleasant journey to the islands. That is until Simon found the taps had stopped working, the pump wasn’t pumping and a huge puddle of water was forming in the front cabin. The pipe on the water tank had come loose again this time spilling half the contents into the boat.

Simon managed to put it back together in a flood of panic and we continued on our way. Then he mentioned ‘I’m not sure where all that water went’. On closer inspection we found puddle after puddle in each of the bilge holes. What’s worse you would clean one out and a river of water would fill it again finding its way from some other location.

Back on deck the scenery and wildlife was stunning. They do say cruising is fixing boats in exotic locations and it certainly was today.

We finally made it to the islands which were covered in bird life. We went to Contadora and picked up a mooring buoy. They’re provided by a local restaurant that we planned to go to, but they didn’t come out to greet us – it is Easter though.

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We spent still more hours mopping up water from the leak and cleaning the soot off the deck which descended on us everyday in Balboa. We weren’t up for dinner after that so we had a can of soup and an early night. We still had the hull to clean ready for Galapagos.

We’ve hired a professional weatherman who said heading to Galapagos sooner rather than later was the way to go so we were feeling the pressure. It’s a shame as we’ve put in a lot of work to get ready and now we’ve been hit with a few curve balls.  Hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Day 1 – and Happy 21st Anniversary to us!

We were woken pleasantly by the sun and then remembered that we still had heaps to do and had forgotten to set our alarms. The restaurant idea seems to have fallen by the wayside but instead we’ve promised ourselves we’ll get underway to Galapagos then celebrate tonight with some pasta and a single can of beer. Whoop!

First things first the hull needs cleaning ready for our Galapagos inspection so Simon jumped in. Secondly everything that was stored in the bilge needed drying and packing away. Oh and we had to move the Parasail for easier access which meant unloading everything out of ‘the shed’ and repacking it all.

Once I was finished with that I went to check on Simon who seemed to be having fun too, There’s a little bit of growth covering the entire hull which means diving down and holding your breath while you rub away the green. If that’s not enough there was a strong current coming through the anchorage, oh and some stinging jelly fish.

It takes time so it looked like I’d be joining him then – after all how hard could it be? I busied myself with the bit at the top near the waterline. I’m not a fan of diving in currents or stinging jelly fish. It was all going swimmingly just the odd sting here and there. Then I got a double wammy stinger and headed for the swim platform. As I clung to the swim ladder in relative safety another one wrapped itself around my leg. I jumped out and the sodding thing came with me. They don’t give up easily!

I was cursing like a trouper as I tried to untangle it and run fresh water over my leg when a lovely English couple tootled by in their dinghy. Typically English myself, my candour changed with a smiley ‘Good morning, nice weather’ and the usual pleasantries. Turns out they’re heading back to Oz too where their son lives and will be heading to Galapagos shortly so hopefully see them there. After that little Interlude I went back to cursing and hopping around on deck. I tried to look busy as there was no way I was getting back in the water.

Ten minutes later Simon appeared, flaunting his own set of stings and rashes. The air turned blue once again and we agreed enough was enough. So we packed up and shipped off destined for Galapagos.

We had a nice sail and a manky sandwich for lunch and decided to settle down for a nice bowl of pasta and a cold beer once we had cleared the traffic separation scheme (the motorway for tankers). With eyes trained in the chart plotter we chose our gap between a tug towing a tanker and two other tankers all headed for Panama.

As we approached the wind started to pick up so we reduced our sail and put in a reef. We congratulated ourselves on doing that early especially as the wind continued to rise during our approach.

Then Simon called out ‘what’s that in the water?’ He’d seen some water movement so I checked the chart, no rocks or reef. Must be a pod of dolphins or some large fish – so long as it’s not a whale.

I couldn’t see anything and thought it unlikely with all the tankers around so we continued forward our thoughts and eyes trained on them.

Next thing a huge whale breaches on our port side, proper David Attenborough styley. Now I think perhaps the best way to see a whale is on the sofa with cup of tea, a hobnob and your favourite wildlife presenter.

This way was not so fun, in fact it was damn scary. I went into a whirl, making Simon steer to port (towards the tankers!). Then he suggested I get our life jackets and maybe the small radio. I came back with everything, 2 radios a sat phone, a cuddly toy and the kitchen sink. I was promptly sent back downstairs with half my wares and told to close the windows. That done I came back on deck and closed the hatch, just as a freak wave ripped through covering everything with cold salt water.

I guess that calmed me down a little but I was still on the look out for crazy whales. Simon on the other hand was diligently negotiating the traffic separation scheme. We crossed the first lane and then sidled down the ‘central reservation’, then crossed behind another super-sized tanker.

After that we were still screaming along with strong winds and rolly seas. Anyone feel like trying to make pasta? Not a chance! Another manky sandwich then?

Happy ruddy anniversary! 😉

Day 2

We fell into our watch patterns overnight and it feels strangely familiar with our Puerto Rico to Panama trip not that far behind us. We had good winds and were belting along with favourable currents.

Sometime during the night I heard the engine turn on so I popped up on deck to check on Simon. He had heard a bang and felt something ‘nudging the boat’. I guess he hadn’t been left unaffected by the whale incident after all. He’d put the engine on to scare whatever it was away. I mentioned that I’d bumped my head on the hull in the back berth (it can be a little disorientating) but he didn’t think it was that.

After a while a great big whale jumped on deck! Only joking! Nothing happened so Simon switched the engine off and I took myself back to bed.

We had some pleasant sailing. We ate some wraps with heaps of salad – our new fav. What can I say it was a slow-news day.

Later the wind dropped and we increased or sail to match until eventually we had no wind so had to drop our sails altogether and put the engine on. We’re pretty disappointed as we were expecting wind for at least two days and we’re worried that we don’t have enough fuel to motor all the way from here.

Motoring 659 miles on 300 liters of fuel at 1.8 liters per hour doesn’t leave much in the tank.

On AIS we could see two sail boats nearby but further South and judging from their speed they seem to be sailing but we’re not sure. The one that we could actually see seemed to have her sails up. We tried hailing them on the radio to find out but can’t reach them.

Anyway we took the opportunity to use the battery power generated by the engine to run the watermaker and top up the tanks. A steady 25% now. Woohoo!

Simon checked our email to see if we have received an update from our weatherman. We’ve been struggling to receive some of his emails which is a shame. Nothing there but we do have a position update from our friends. The funny thing is it seems to be in decimals. We’ve never seen this before and have only ever seen positions given as degrees, minutes and seconds.

This seems to be a degree and then a point if a degree instead of minutes.

We wondered if that is what our weatherman is using too. This would put our waypoint further South. This would also make sense as when we studied the gribs (weather files) there was more wind down there.

Simon fired an email off to our weatherman. It was frustrating as now we would have to wait for Australia to wake up to get an answer. In the meantime we were burning fuel and heading in a general SW direction. It’s always at night when these things happen which makes everything feel worse.

Anyway Simon ploughed on while I went downstairs and buried my head under a pillow. Not long after we heard a big thudding sound under the hull and Simon sees something dark and heavy spew out the back of the boat. I checked downstairs for damage but the only leaks I find are the ones from the water tank. Some of those haven’t given up all their water yet.

Day 3

A happier day today!  Overnight we received an email from the weatherman which said he is using decimals. This means our heading should have been further South. The good news is if we head South we should pick up some more wind.

And voila in the wee hours of the morning the wind picked up and the Capitaino helped me hoist the sails. Yay, sailing again!  🙂

We sailed across some low water today. It went down to hundreds instead of thousands of meters deep. There I was surprised to see a turtle. I thought they ate sea-grass but I can’t imagine them going that far below the surface. Perhaps they eat that dreaded seaweed that floats about and wraps itself around the keel. Later on, in really deep waters, we saw another turtle and then another turtle. They seemed really surprised to see us as they floated up to take breath just as we floated past. Do they just live here or are they just passing through?

Anyway it got us thinking about that bump in the night. Sorry Mr Turtle!

After all that motoring in the night we were able to get the watermarker on. We even managed to sneak in a fresh water shower! Smells better!

Then as the sun went down so did the wind. Maybe another night of motoring. Then maybe tomorrow we’ll get the big sail out again. Yikes!

Day 4

I woke Simon at 4am to help me get the sails up. We finally had some wind. Over the course of the morning it grew to almost 20 knots and with a good angle we were soaring along.

Then it gradually dropped and finally around 4pm there was only a little breeze and we were getting knocked around a fair bit with the waves so we took them down again. In the afternoons we tend to get confused seas which we think maybe due to the current fighting against the wind. It makes for a bumpy ride and with low winds our sails flog terribly.

We heard our friends behind us have decided to fly their spinnaker so no doubt we will see them passing by soon enough. But as it was nearing sunset we resorted to the motor. I’m not sure we’re ready to fly the Parasailor at night just yet.

The wind seems to follow a similar pattern each day which is different to the pattern we had from Puerto Rico to Panama when our biggest winds were during the night. I must say it’s nicer to have the bigger winds during the day.

We got a weather update with some areas to avoid and when we plotted them we found there were a fair distance away which was a relief. We passed our waypoint so now we’re headed straight for Galapogos.

Apart from that we’re just mooching along, taking the chance to rest when we can and spend some time reading. We talked about Galapogos today, what we want to do there and did a bit more research. Really excited about seeing the wildlife. It still seems a long way off although I think we passed halfway today. Woohoo!

Day 5

Just when you think you have it all sussed, Mother Nature decides to mix it up. No 4am winds today so we continued in the motor. That is until 8am (aka my snoozy time) when the winds picked up, well at least to 8 knots. So I was dragged out of bed screaming and kicking to help put up the big red Parasailor. Yes this is the moment we’d all been dreading!

I don’t know why we’re so scared of this thing, maybe because it’s big and dangerous in the wrong conditions, maybe just our inexperience with it or maybe the disaster we had with it last time. And probably a bit of all three.

Anyway the conditions were right and the time had finally come or was perhaps a little overdue. There was no more putting it off. So we spent some time rigging it all up and then away she went.

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She works like a dream. No more clanging and bagging just a smooth ride. Plus we get 4 knots of speed from just 8 knots of wind. We sat down triumphant with big smiles on our faces.

It was unbelievably hot so we hung out in the cockpit enjoying the breeze and watching her fly. Or maybe we were just too scared to leave her unattended for even a second.

After a few hours the wind dropped again to under 5 knots so we had to drop her again and put on the engine. Getting her down worked out just fine too and with no chafe on the halyard we were as pleased as punch.

After a couple of rolly, noisy hours on the engine the wind picked up a little so we pushed our luck and hoisted the Parasailor again. It went up a treat and we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around in any bit of shade we could find. A lovely relaxing day.

During the afternoon when Simon was downstairs I kept hearing a funny noise. It sounded like either a sail or rope tearing or a whale snorting water. Or maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.

At about 5.30pm we decided we should drop the big sail before the sun set. Of course just then the wind picked up to 12 knots which shouldn’t really be a problem so long as it didn’t get too much higher. So following the same procedure as before Simon went up front to snub the sail while I stayed at the back to release the lines. Only this time he couldn’t pull it down. He swung on the halyard for a while and could get it down so far but then had to let it go again.

Ok so we had a bit more wind but it wasn’t exactly huge. We tried putting the motor on to reduce the actual winds speed but this didn’t make much odds. So we looked at each other with that knowing look of concern.

I looked at the windometer only to see the wind rising to 13 knots… But then it dropped back to 12 again – phew! Still with only 8 knots of actual it still shouldn’t be a problem. It was then that it dawned on me that we we quite beamy, the wind coming across the boat, whereas this morning it was coming from behind us. We altered course 20 degrees and the whole thing fell down easily – a piece of cake!

That done we went back to our familiar little white sails.

A little later we were both out of deck recovering from that ordeal and a flock of terns turned up. It seems they make a funny noise as they call to one another – the little devils! Ok so maybe I’m just paranoid about sails and whales. Anyway we tried throwing some raisin bread but they just looked at it disgusted. They’re still hanging around though.

Day 6

Another lovely day of sailing! We were waiting all day for the wind to drop but it continued at around 8 knots and with a beamy angle so we were able to make good progress on the white sails. We’re not making any speed records with an average speed today of about 4.8 knots, however we’ve calculated that unless we increase our speed to over 6 knots we’re not going to make it in on Sunday and with a knot of current against us that would be pushing. So we’re taking our time and hope to arrive around first light on Monday. This also means we’re conserving our fuel which is always a plus.

Life onboard is pretty relaxed and with a cooler wind blowing today it was a lot more comfortable. We put the fishing line out today but no bite yet. We have lots of terns circling our lure but luckily it’s too deep for them to reach. It’s fun watching them try though and if we don’t catch a fish tomorrow we might be looking for alternative prey as our food stores start to dwindle. Actually we have heaps of food but the good stuff like chocolate, biscuits and crisps are quickly disappearing. The midnight sugar fixes are taking their toll.

We haven’t seen much shipping action. We spotted a tanker on AIS briefly the night before last and saw a light at daybreak this morning but apart from that we seem to be on our own. We know that our friends on Matelot are just 100 miles behind us so that’s reassuring. Hopefully they will make good speed and arrive safely on Monday too. We’ve taken a rather unusual Northerly route on the advice of our weatherman instead of the usual Southerly route suggested by Jimmy Cornell so perhaps that explains it.

In other news we think we have almost seen the back of the water in the bilge – woohoo! And our thoughts are turning to one last cleanup before our arrival in Galapagos. Not long to go. We should also cross the equator tomorrow, officially putting us back into the Southern Hemisphere. The bubbly is on ice!

We’ve also started researching the French Polynesia. There’s some cool places coming up as well as some tough navigation challenges so we’ll have to keep our wits about us. And tides again, I thought we’d left them behind us in Northern Europe.

All in all we can’t believe the luck we’ve had with this crossing (touch wood) which can sometimes be problematic. This area is infamous for its lack of wind.

Day 7 – (aka Equator day)

Last night we turned the engine on at about 11pm as the wind dropped to a measly 5 knots. Whether we hoist the sails again this trip remains to be seen but looks doubtful.

We were accompanied by of flock of terns that look ghostly in the nightlight. We also had bright luminescence and flashing jellyfish as well as a sky full of stars. Simply beautiful!

Simon woke me excited as over the past few hours we’d found some friends. After seeing no-one for some time here they all were. It reminds me of the last few days of our ARC Atlantic crossing when everyone converged.

The nearest boat to us was a sailboat called ‘Boxing Kangaroo’, a fellow Aussie no doubt. We could even see this boat and he still had his sails up. ‘How’s he doing that?’ we asked ourselves and at that point the wind picked up surprisingly and so we hoisted the big sail again! It’s getting much easier now as we’re getting the procedure down pat.

Then it was time to watch as our longitude fell to zero marking our passage over the equator. In the final moments I woke Simon up from his nap with some loud music and we grabbed the bubbly! Then hurrah there it was! We made a toast to Neptune which will hopefully bring us luck and fair winds for the rest of our trip. It was nice to let loose and have a glass of bubbly. We usually run a dry ship. But with such a momentous landmark occasion it definitely needed celebrating. Although it’s a bit odd to celebrate something you can’t actually see.

FullSizeRender 2 copyFullSizeRender 4I’ve read about so many other famous sailors celebrating their equator crossing, Joshua Slocum, Ellen McArthur and Jessica Watson. I couldn’t believe it was our turn and we’d made it this far.

Minutes later we we’re hailed by ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ who congratulated us. It was lovely to share our celebrations with them. Turns out their boat used to be owned by an Aussie but the folks onboard were from Belgium. He told us he was about to clean his hull. He didn’t dare do it in Las Perlas as he had seen a saltwater crocodile in the bay, so maybe we had a lucky escape with just the jellyfish.

It’s great that someone thought to put the equator here, conveniently located a days throw away from Galapagos to perk you up when your stamina is waning and just enough time to have a drink and recover 🙂

Anyway no rest for the wicked, the wind dropped so we hopped around the decks dropping the sails and back on the motor. Oh well at least we can top up the batteries and run the water maker – still need to top up those tanks but we’re making progress.

No sooner had we done that but it was time for us to congratulate ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ Well done!!

After that it was time for lunch. We were just putting everything back downstairs when Simon went back on deck and shouted ‘whale’. Sure enough there he was serenely sliding past our boat. We really need to keep on ‘whale watch’.

Late in the afternoon we saw a huge pod of whales. They were all around us and we didn’t know which way to turn. They say if you get between a whale and her cub there can be trouble. They were going pretty slowly so we put on a few revs and got out of their way.

Dinner turned into a bit of a flop as the chicken that we’d been patiently defrosting was off. Simon made a great veggie curry, but as we are all out of chocolate we had to forego desert. My sister, Melanie, chose this time to email and tell us about her Sunday lunch with chocolate pudding. Grrrrr! So that started the game of ‘what shall we eat when we get to shore’, however, I think our food options will be pretty limited from here on in.

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After that it was back to watches. I had a quick nana nap and then went on deck for changeover. We’ve been making good progress which meant that our estimated time of arrival was 2am – too early. One of the other boats on AIS was doing 1.5 knots, presumably drifting so we decided to give that a go. We switched the engine off and floated with the current – ahhh peace and quiet. Well at least for a little while and then we heard a strangely familiar sound … Another whale?!

Back on with the engine. With no better plan we headed on low revs towards our destination but with the current with us it was hard to slow down.

Simon decided to do a check of the email to see if we had a weather update before heading to bed. Funnily enough we received one to say that there might be some lightening activity over the island but it should dissipate before our arrival. We looked up and low and behold there was a lightening flash in the distance. Not sure if this guy is predicting the weather or controlling it.

Anyway we didn’t have long to ponder this issue as next thing we know a huge alarm goes off and the chart plotter starts flashing up a message. Man overboard alarm. What was strange was we were both on deck. Simon went below to switch it off before our eardrums burst. Back in Gibraltar the guy who installed the AIS alarm said ‘sorry I only have a large one meant for a bigger vessel’, ‘no worries the louder the better, we want to be woken up if one of us goes over’. We were soon to regret that statement.

Well since we were both on board it must be a fault with one of our AIS SART devices that we have fitted in our life jackets right? But there was no position marked on the chart plotter (the way it was when it we tested them) so no way of telling who’s. Simon checked both and they seemed ok.

And then the alarm went off again! This time we got a message on the chart plotter giving us the MMSI identification number. We matched it against our lifejackets to find the faulty device only to find it wasn’t either of them. Humm. Maybe it’s coming from another vessel then but which?

We put a call out on the radio to see if anyone was having trouble or was experiencing the same thing. Another vessel in the area had reported it to the coastguard and there didn’t seem much else we could do.

The problem was every ten minutes the alarm would go off and it’s deafening. It was going to be one of those nights.

Eventually Simon managed to access more information and we found the coordinates of the vessel 168nm away and ironically named  ‘Feeling Good’. We reported this to our new friends on ‘Por Dos’ who were able to relay the message to the coastguard. It turns out it was a man overboard beacon aboard a large ship. From the speed and coordinates we could see that the beacon was onboard the ship so was probably just a malfunction. Phew!

We later heard the Coastguard call the vessel with no response. And the alarm continued…

Feeling very tired by now, Simon pulled the fuse on the alarm and we went back to our watches. Which really meant watching the lightening storm, avoiding other boats and biting our nails.

Before my last watch ended, the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was in view, all twinkly lights. It’s much bigger than I thought it would be.

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I fell asleep on deck and when I awoke it was daylight and we were in the Galapagos! I know this for sure as we were greeted by a seal 🙂 Very, very exciting.

As we pulled into the anchorage we were welcomed in by Steve on Wandering Dreams, who we have been following since the Isles des Saintes and is leaving for the Marquesas tomorrow. Always one step ahead.

Can’t wait to explore Galapagos now – but first some food and sleep!