End of the Voyage
28th October 2010
We have arrived! We are tied up in Opua Marina, in the beautiful Bay of Islands, New Zealand. We came in early on the morning of Tuesday 26th October.
Since leaving Panama in April, Shayele has sailed almost 10,000 miles,and for Heather, it is 15,000 miles and 358 days since she set sail with `Ghost` from Gibralter.
The final champagne breakfast was enjoyed ashore, and David leaves the boat in a day or so, with Heather flying home to Skye on the 4th of November. Anton will stay here for a few weeks sorting repairs, of which there are many, before moving down to Whongerai for the haul out and major works. Then a quick trip back to the UK to see family, after which he plans to buy a camper van and tour New Zealand for 6 months, before his next passage to Australia in April, after the cyclone season.
Our final 1200 mile passage was a bit of an anticlimax…but better that than an epic. We had a calm rainy start, then a couple of days of good sailing, followed by around 600 miles of incredibly slow motor sailing in either head winds and into a fair swell or in almost flat calm. We averaged just under 100 miles a day, so it took13 days. So much for the scary south westerly gales! We are finding it really cold, though it’s actually around 16 degrees, but thermals are on, and Anton was even spotted smuggling his hot water bottle to bed!
The genoa furling gear jammed a few days from port, fortunately with it mostly furled, and a rigging check on arrival here revealed the halyard had almost chafed through, and caught in the top drum, and we also found that both shrouds had wires parted………..this could have led to some serious excitement had we got a big blow on the way down! The boat is pretty tired, even Irene, the hydrovane steering gear (as in `goodnight Irene` ) is ripped to shreds, but she got us safely here.
Our approach to the Bay of Islands was in thick fog, so a bit nerve racking as there was quite a lot of radio traffic, including several ferries. Amazingly we heard `Ocean Pearl,` who we met in Hiva Oa at the time of the forestay incident, and yes, they came in an hour behind us, and live here. We also hear that Erasmus are having a fast sail down from Tonga, and expect to be here on Saturday.
Heather has rounded off the trip by crewing on a well set up local boat on race night (we were second), and is enjoying long bush walks on the many tramping trails which
New Zealand is so good at.
So, a few days to enjoy this lovely part of North Island, and that’s it, the end of the voyage, and my final entry in the blog of Shayele. We hope you have enjoyed following our adventures, arm chair ocean cruising is a lot more comfortable than the reality!
Anton, Heather & David.
18th September 2010
We know why Samoa has such luxurious rainforest. it is the wettest place we have been so far, with torrential rain every few hours. The locals just hike up their `lava lava`, sarong like skirt worn by everyone, men and women, and splosh through the mud, so we did likewise. Unfortunately, the weather meant most of the very steep trails in the rugged interior were too dangerous to go off walking.
Robert Louis Stevenson`s house and grave are just outside Apia, and Heather enjoyed a walk in the grounds and up a hill behind, although as she came out of the trees above the cloud level the view was non-existent.
We were based in the main town of Apia, on the smaller Samoan island of Upollu. By Sunday morning it was apparent that everyone in Samoa goes to church and sings their heart out, the close harmony choral singing to be heard from the numerous churches in town was beautiful. On our final Saturday morning Heather went to the market early, around 7.00 am, to shop for the next passage, and found that on Saturday, Samoa goes to market. The entire population seemed to be buying or selling, or getting on/off buses in the adjacent bus station. As usual, the rain never let up, but not to be outdone, a small gospel band with a LARGE sound system set up on the corner of the bus station, and within minutes the entire area, market included, had become a swaying mass of arm waving singing humanity….. it was quite amazing!
On our second day here David was recognised by a local young man he had met here 20 years ago… Veeto was still at school then, and claimed he recognised David by his shoes!!! (He does have a particular penchant for childrens` style blue jellies, which although presumably not the same pair as in 1989, stand out in the land of the flipflop). David spent most of his time here with this family.
Whilst in Samoa we had a lot of boat jobs to get on with, and didn’t really venture as far as would have done the island justice. One of the highlights included going to the Fia Fia at Aggie Grey`s hotel, a traditional feast, dance and fireshow. All the dancers were staff at the hotel, and the standard was so high one wonders what the recruiting policy is. Heather had been in the previous day when they had been practising and it was quite bizarre to watch the waitresses and chef, still in his whites, practicing the wild leaping steps. Once togged out in their traditional dress and flower garlands it all made more sense.
On our penultimate, sunny, day we hired a car and enjoyed a good explore through the rugged rainforested interior, and out to the south coast, where there are beautiful beaches, and still much evidence of a small but vicious tsunami last year. The earthquake was right in the bay off one village, so the wave came ashore so fast there was nowhere to go….over 150 people died. It was a day of empty roads, caves to swim through, deep blow holes, luxuriant forest and flowers, and cheerful samoans.
Fun in Fiji
We left Samoa on Saturday 18th September, headed for the island of Vanua Levu , Fiji, 620 miles away to the south west..
This proved to be one of our most enjoyable sails yet, with calm seas, in other words an ocean behaving as it should, restless on a rather grand scale as opposed to breaking surf!
It didn’t rain, the wind didn’t exceed 25knots, the sun shone and our speed didn`t drop below 4 knots, with most of it around 6, giving us 24 hour runs of 125 miles, a good day for Shayele. We had full main up for several days, a rare sight indeed as most of our downwind sailing is under genoa alone, so the ride was much more comfortable.
After five days we approached the Fijian islands and numerous reefs, which we spent the last 24 hours threading our way through, requiring a bit more concentration on the navigation as charts are reportedly not very reliable here. We timed our passage to coincide with the full moon, making our night sails less daunting.
We crossed the international date line, 180`W, rapidly becoming 179` 59 E, on the 22nd , and our Wednesday evening was instantly Thursday twenty four hours later!
We picked up a mooring in the very pretty creek in Savu Savu Bay, home of Savu Savu Marina, to be met by delightful helpful friendly officials dealing with all our checking in procedures, and enjoyed a shower and excellent, very reasonable, meal ashore at the Yacht Club. At least we think it was reasonable, we haven’t really figured out the exchange rate yet. We seem to have gathered small amounts of utterly useless money as we meander through all these little islands and countries, but its pretty easy to find a local to give it to!
We are looking forward to exploring here a bit, and will be gathering information from other yachties on good anchorages around the outlying “Fijian Jewels” off to the west, the islands of the Mamanucas and Yassawas. The boat Heather spent a couple of months on in the Caribbean, prior to joining Shayele, is also here, moving on tomorrow, and also a boat we met in the Marquesas. We hear on the waves that Greg and Richard, on Fancy Free, have arrived in Australia, the end of their voyage, whilst Meander, and Ghost, who Heather did the ARC with, are in Vanuatu, their jump off point for Australia. We are all closing on our final legs, to escape the approaching cyclone season.
We can spend two or three weeks around Fiji, all the time checking for a weather window for the leg down to New Zealand, which although only just over 1100 miles, is expected to be pretty tough weather wise, and probably on the wind for the last week. The Pacific Crossing Guide, our bible, along with Jimmy Cornell`s World Cruising Handbook, gleefully tells us “of all the Pacific passages on the `Coconut Run`, the final leg down to the Bay of Islands is likely to be the most challenging yet”. Great! We thought we had had quite a few challenges already.
After 5 days here in Sava Savu, Vanua Levu, we are starting to work our way round the south coast of Vitu Levu, the larger of the two main Fijian Islands, and then out to the small groups of islands. The yacht club here has been a very pleasant stop, although to some extent you could be anywhere in the world talking to other yachties and seeing mostly white faces. The small town is very different, full of exuberant friendly Fijians, and the rather more business orientated Indo Fijians, with the smells of sugar and curry spices lingering in the air. The population is half Indian, a result of Britain bringing in Indian labour to work the sugar plantations of the dry north coasts, and sugar is still a huge industry here. Heather jumped on local buses, where the number of bodies bore no relation to the number of seats, to explore the island. The topography changes dramatically between the south and north coast, as the rickety open bus hauls its way over the high mountain ranges in the centre, through dense rainforest and the occasional tiny village, to drop down through pine woods on to the sugar cane clad plains of the north. She didn’t see another white face all day, and was the subject of intense stares from small children on the bus. It would appear most visitors either use taxis or don’t venture very far!
A fun afternoon was spent with some local girls on the beach, playing touch rugby,(still pretty physical). In Fiji, rugby is virtually a religion.
We sailed overnight straight to Suva, the main town on Vitu Levu, anchoring of the Royal Suva Yacht Club, which tuned out to be very run down and not at all as we expected. A short bus/taxi ride, for about £1, took us into town, which had its interesting points, and excellent shopping and restaurants, but was, we all agreed, not somewhere we wished to be. The customs procedures in Fiji are very strict, and you have to check out of one port of entry, (Savu Savu) then not stop anywhere without prior permission until you reach the next port of entry (Suva). Combined with that you have to try and time your need of customs with weekday working hours, or if you time your arrival badly you could be sitting on board all weekend! We arrived at Suva on the Friday afternoon, which meant we couldn’t leave again until Monday, which was pretty frustrating as we are running out of time to explore the little islands off to the west.
On the Saturday morning H headed off to the bus station and market…this is always how to find out where the action is and she certainly found it this time! Town was full of coaches crammed with flag waving singing Fijians, not an Indian (or white) in sight, and it rapidly became clear that on Saturday Fiji does Rugby. She jumped on a packed coach, and was adopted by a cheery crowd of supporters of one of the teams playing in the Fiji cup semi-final. 2 hours bouncing later, we arrived at Sigatoka, the main stadium, for a close fought and very fast game. Heather was given a team jersey and Sula,(traditional sarong like wrap) and had a wild afternoon on the crammed terraces. The locals were so keen to look after her it was a wonderful experience.
Anton and David left Suva on Monday midday to sail out to the island of Beqa, and then west along the coast, whilst Heather decided to spend a few days ashore, staying in backpacker hostels. Having had only one night in a shore bed since last November, and that was in March, this was quite a treat, and gave the opportunity to explore this beautiful “Coral Coast” more thoroughly, visiting the Eco Park, the giant sand dunes of Fijis first national park, and of course enjoying the great company of the Fijians.
They are just such wonderful people, full of life and fun, always yelling ”Bula” at you, which means everything from `good morning` to `cheers`. We love them, but their fixation with bureaucracy doesn’t quite fit with their attitude to everything else! The contrast between the indigenous Fijians, who have very little but will share it with you, and the Indo Fijians, who are very keen to ` be your friend and offer very good price` in order to relieve you of what you might have, is stark.
Anton indulged in mediaeval dentistry, fortunately on himself, as having broken off a crown and exposing the sharp metal post, his best option was to cut the post off with the tin snips!!! He succeeded, but it will be interesting to see what his rather expensive private dentist on Jersey will have to say about it.
Robinson Crusoe Island
Friday 8th October
We are now all back on board, anchored off the tiny very pretty island of Likuri, or Robinson Crusoe Island. The pass in here was very narrow and having arrived at low water, a bit nerve racking. We are now caught in another weekend clearance dilemma, as we are not allowed to visit anywhere else until we have cleared back in at the town of Lautoka, 30 miles on, but they wont open up again until Tuesday, as Monday is a public holiday, for Fiji Day, celebrating 14 years of independence. Meanwhile the Indian population have banners everywhere proclaiming Happy Dewali..its all a bit bizarre!
We need to be getting ourselves in a position to leave very soon, Lautoka will be our last fuel and provisioning stop, then out to Musket Cove, and south as soon as the weather window is right, or as good as it is going to get.
Just as I write this, the thunder is crashing around us again, so I guess more rain on the way! Apparently they are having a serious drought in Fiji…it is quite hard to believe this!
We went ashore for dinner at the tiny resort on the island, $10 for 2 course dinner (£4), and some lively company, as suddenly we are amongst a happy group of 20 somethings on their gap year travels, mostly English girls. We joined in their island Kava welcome ceremony (interesting but not pleasant), where the alcoholic brew from the kava root is passed around by Fijian hosts who certainly seem to get the benefit from it…to our wine lubricated palettes it tastes like muddy water, and makes your tongue go numb!!
On the Saturday night we joined their Lovo Island Feast and dance show on the beach…fantastic. As in Samoa the dancers and Firewalkers are all the local Fijian staff, and they are very talented and certainly love performing it.
Farewwell to Fiji
After leaving Robinson Crusoe we had a very easy pleasant 25miles to an overnight anchorage, and then into the city of Lautoka to complete our customs procedures for departure on Tuesday. We are feeling pretty much like another boat we heard singing Hotel California, over the VHF in the Marquesas…… “ you can check out but you just can`t leave”!
A frantic few hours in the market, followed by fuelling up and dealing with the paperwork to go, and we are ready for departure in the morning. There are several boats heading out every day now for New Zealand, so hopefully we will be able to keep in radio contact with some of them, it makes it much more fun, and gives you a (probably misplaced) sense of safety in numbers. We have decided to use the services of an NZ based weather router for this leg, who comes highly recommended and will be sending us updates by satellite phone and email with advice on best course in view of what weather we are heading into.
So, wish us luck. Our next update should be in about two weeks, celebrating our arrival in Opua in the Bay of Islands , New Zealand, and the end of the voyage. The sound of the champagne corks will be heard by you all! Anton will be taking the boat ashore there and heading back to Europe to see family, before spending several months in New Zealand and starting the next leg to wherever in April or so. David will be back at homeon his small farm in New Zealand, hoping to start keeping Alpacas, and Heather flies back home to the Isle of Skye to catch up with family and friends for a month, before going out to the French Alps for her usual ski season work, followed by a return to professional sailing and the real world of gainful employment!.
Beautiful Bora Bora
12th August 2010
Leaving Tahaa on the 12th August, we enjoyed a good day sail in calm sunny conditions following Zenitude..neither boat catching a fish, which was our mission for the day. We arrived in Bora Bora late afternoon and anchored at the head of the American port for the first night..very calm and peaceful for a change..no anchor watch required!
Bora Bora was home to an `invasion` of 6000 American troops after Pearl Harbour, as it became the base for the South Pacific War, though fortunately it was never involved first hand. A great deal of evidence still remains, including tunnels and gun emplacements, the most useful contribution being the international standard airport, which was the main entry point to the Society Islands until Tahiti airport was built. By the second night we have moved round to the social gathering of boats at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, a very friendly easy going establishment, and we use this as a base for our 10 days here, wandering off for a night or two elsewhere as we please.
We find it hard to understand why folk call this lovely little island `Boring Boring`..travel snobs obviously. Guess if you just stuck to your hotel….with their individual solar –panelled thatched huts you could become cynical, but living under your own steam in little anchorages, with calm turquoise waters, superb snorkelling, friendly locals , including a woman who leant Heather her bike for a day to cycle the 35km round the island , it is a wonderful place. We found a perfect anchorage where we could see the sandy bottom at 12m, and watch manta rays and sting rays swimming beneath us. Our inflatable floating armchair became known as Heather’s back garden, to which she would retreat on a long tether, with book and glass of wine….bliss. ( If a bit hard on the increasingly prune –like skin).
The reality of nearing the end of our adventure kicked in as we try to book flights back from New Zealand, where Anton will haul the boat for several months. It became an impossibility to keep an internet connection open long enough to complete a booking, and in the end phone calls to friends in the UK had them making the bookings instead, but hey it wasted several hours, of which we have many.
Farewell French Polynesia
22nd August 2010-09-12
Our departure from Bora Bora was marked by a final night fireworks display in the form of a monster lightening storm all around us, necessitating sticking the navigation and electronic toys in the oven for protection (where they have been many nights since). It is a bit disconcerting watching electrical storms, with about 10 boats in the anchorage all sporting nice tall lightening conductors sticking up towards the sky!
We finally left Bora Bora, and hence French Polynesia, on the 22nd August, headed for Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, 570 miles away.
We will long fondly remember multi-faceted French Polynesia, stretching from the Marquesas to the Societies and covering 5 million square km of ocean, with118 islands, of which we have only visited ten! Whilst the official language is French, and every morning we could get fresh baguettes, there the similarity ends, `petite` and `chic` definitely not featuring in the local psyche. Lingering memories will be of high rugged islands and low lying coral atolls, turquoise lagoons, crowing jungle cockerels, amazing flowers and underwater life, smiling friendly laid back locals, the beat of drums and traditional music everywhere and of course sudden and vicious squalls, hungry mosquitoes and the ridiculously high cost of food.
Our second day out we hooked a huge Mahi Mahi, but after a long fight he won and dropped off the line as he was being hauled aboard. He was as hard to get aboard as a man overboard would be, and considerably less co-operative! The small two foot barracuda later that evening proved to have been on the line a while, and was very dead, with most of its middle eaten off by somebody bigger! We always eat well, but some fresh fish would be really nice now as it has been several weeks since we caught any, it not being advisable to fish inside the reefs as several species carry ciguatera, a very unpleasant disease.
Rarotonga, Southern Cook Islands
28th August 2010
We arrived in Rarotonga`s main port of Avatiu on Saturday morning, just in time for the excellent market, and having caught a perfect mahi mahi on the way in, enough for four meals for the three of us. Yum!
This proved to be a calm six day passage, two of which we motored due to lack of wind, and we wonder if it is the same ocean that has thrown us about so much. We creaked and rolled our way across at a stately 3-4 kts, and ok, so we could have walked it quicker, but we haven’t perfected the technique yet, and it was lovely not to be chucked about the boat for a change. One of the best times was those solitary night watch hours, ghosting along on a calm sea, with a starry sky and a full moon.
`Raro` is a very friendly place, with relaxed Port Authorites coming on board, not complaining about doing paperwork on a weekend, and spraying the boat against bacteria, as this is effectively New Zealand, and governed by their stringent biological regulations. (W e didn’t tell them we have rather numerous extra passengers in the form of cockroaches, but war is shortly to be waged on them) .
The cheap island bus service goes either `clockwise` or `anti-clockwise`, and you get on and off wherever you like. Hitching was also very easy, so Heather enjoyed exploring the island thoroughly, including a rather tough muddy and steep cross-island hike. A week was easily whiled away catching up on jobs, exploring, and enjoying the affordable delights of local restaurants and bars, and some good live music.
The big bonus came on the second day, when we discovered the Humpback whales are migrating past just outside the reef, no more than 500m away, and daily they are breaching and tail thrashing, a wonderful spectacle, though sadly we were unable to get any good photographs. This is the breeding season, and apparently large numbers are gathered off Tonga to give birth, where the males are also gathering to mate, and their nightly whale song is heard reverberating through the hulls of friends boats anchored there.
We were sad to discover much of the basically New Zealand economy here is subsidized by contributions from Japan, this initially inexplicable generosity, which we also encountered in the Caribbean, is all about securing the `whale vote`, to keep Japan whaling. Hmmmmm!
It is strange to go from French countries to New Zealand so rapidly, and it makes our destination, Bay of Islands in North Island, seem very close now everyone has kiwi accents and the currency is NZ dollars.
Rarotonga has the same topography , climate and volcanic soils as the French Polynesian islands of the Societies, but a different attitude means here everyone grows crops at least on a self sufficiency scale, and there are stalls everywhere selling good quality local salad crops and vegetables, plus locally reared beef, and pork. Food prices are so much lower, and we are enjoying a fruit and veg frenzy!
On the negative boat jobs side, our hot water tank has split, irreparably, so no more hot water until New Zealand, and over 100 litres of diesel was accidentally pumped into the bilge making it very smelly down in our cabins.
Anton spent an afternoon making up a twizzle rig to try and improve our downwind capabilities. This involves twin headsails both poled out on a kind of wishbone arrangement, not attached to a mast track which is just as well as we haven’t had one since it ripped out mid-atlantic ..the reason we have been unable to pole the genoa or fly the spinnaker for about 6000 miles of downwind sailing.
No doubt the wind will now be on the beam.
And so to Samoa
3rd September 2010
We left Rarotonga on Friday the 3rd, hoping to get close to the whales which where still outside the harbour. Sadly they didn’t oblige, and a heavy rain storm eventually saw us turning onto our course for Samoa, 800 miles to the North West. We are unlikely to see any whales on our passage, as they tend to be on a track close to Nuie, Tonga, and Palmerston.
Light winds are forecast, so we have a rolly but peaceful first night, although it is surprisingly cold, in fact we all had our `atlantic` fleeces on.
By Saturday 1800 we are motoring in no wind, and then suddenly at midnight there is a 180`shift , making it impossible to hold our course, an increase by 25 knots, and all day Sunday it is a rollercoaster of big swells, 5-7m, ( trying to make a conservative guess here..but they were BIG) and up to 36kts of wind. Torrential rain and full atlantic waterproofs on! Pacific?? Placid, peaceful? Pandemonium for these twenty four hours, and sleep impossible. Quite exhilarating to be hand steering to surf the waves, but also a bit apprehensive as if anything breaks it is pretty obvious going forward to fix it will be an adventure we can do without! Needless to say the twizzle rig is securely tied on the foredeck and won’t be getting an outing this trip!
A slight break allows us to gybe onto the right course by Monday afternoon so at least we are heading for Samoa instead of Nuie now. We are all pretty exhausted, and it had its scary few hours. When in the pitch dark you realise the break of light behind you is not the longed for brightening sky but the phosphorescent crest of another monster wave bearing down on you, it’s not very funny.
We run a three hour watch system round the clock, each of us taking turn to huddle in the rain and spray on deck keeping an eye on course, reefing /trimming sails,(i.e. the very small scrap of headsail we have up just now) and making sure there is nothing to hit . We have never seen another boat in the Pacific once we are 50 miles from an anchorage, not even if we left together for the same destination, but you never know! Shayele is an old style boat, so at least we can be relatively dry, with room to move, down below, but the pitch and roll is so wild, standing is a challenge, and cooking near impossible. As for putting in contact lenses or cleaning your teeth without removing your tonsils…….!! Yesterdays lunch was an apple a carrot and a tomato, though H did manage to throw together a one –pot chicken curry for dinner …forget about rice, and chop a potato in with the chicken etc., and Anton ambitiously attempted a shepherd`s (ships`?) pie this evening. If you saw us just now you would wonder what the pleasure in all this is.. well at the minute, absolutely none, but once complete it becomes part of the journey, and means we enjoy the smooth sunny sails even more.
David never encountered any seriously bad weather on his passage twenty years ago, and says if he had he certainly wouldn’t be here again! He did mournfully describe his last watch as the most miserable of his life.
Still, we are making steady progress towards Samoa, now 340 miles away, and the sea state may improve..of course it may also get worse….our Grib files (weather info) didn’t indicate this would be our lot.
It got worse, the wind topped 40 kts, and the seas stayed high. Sitting in the cockpit with solid rain sluicing off you , and visibility under 200m is very exhausting, but, at least the sea when it lands on you is warm, well up the 20`s.
By Thursday morning, we have managed a better nights sleep, and the sun is out for a few hours. We have downloaded new grib files through our satellite phone, which are more reassuring, though not necessarily correct, and we are making good progress at around 6kts in the right direction. Twelve hours without rain would be very welcome just now. We hope to sail by Pago Pago, American Samoa, tomorrow afternoon, then the 60 miles further to Apia, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) by Saturday.
Anton broke his front tooth last night so another task to attend to, and we have a few technology repairs to arrange with the navigation laptop. During the night Heather was just enjoying her watch with a few stars in the tattered sky, and the rain stopped, when she got thumped on the shoulder very hard…a large flying fish and had flown in, its` wings as big as her hands, and was flapping around her feet. We know some boats who collect the `deck catch` every morning and fry it up for breakfast, but we don’t fancy bony flying fish, and they smell really bad even when alive. I t was returned to the deep with some difficulty .
This afternoon we spotted a huge bright blue fish , probably a mahi mahi, swimming alongside so Anton drops the handline in… three straightened out hooks and broken lures later he gives up in disgust. Our gear is really heavy weight but obviously so are the prey.
Friday morning brings the first sight of American Samoa, through the grey laden skies, but it isn’t actually raining.
By Friday evening we decide to slow down to arrive at Samoa in daylight, which we manage by 0800 Saturday morning, in yet another heavy shower, absolutely knackered. We find there is now a marina here, so we have unlimited water and electricity for the first time in months. Amazingly, three unrelated boats on the pontoons adjacent to us, are called `Attitude`, `Gratitude` and `Latitude`!
We will spend a few hours cleaning up, feeding the washing machine, enjoying a long shower, and perhaps a siesta, before hopefully staying awake long enough to head out to the string band at the famous Aggie Grey`s hotel tonight.
There will be several days serious boat jobs now we are here. The anchor windlass has failed both mechanically and electronically, the water maker mysteriously stopped a couple of days ago, and there is a seam coming adrift on the genoa. Each day more tired boats and crew arrive, many of whom we have met previously, and there is a very busy buzz here, with scrubbing, polishing, whirring sewing machines and bits of rig strewn about as we are now all getting our boats ready for the last long drive down to Australia or New Zealand, everyone having to be out of the cyclone zones by November.
When yachties gather in these far flung places it is a great pleasure to swap stories and skills, tools and equipment, and with so many willing helpers everyone gets tied up and seemingly insoluble problems solved as someone will have the part, tool, gadget or knowledge to help them.
Approximately 500 cruising yachts cross the Pacific each year, of which 200 will also have crossed the Atlantic, and the playground available to us is shrinking now we have left French Polynesia. Everyone will leave finally from Fiji or Tonga, the Australia contingent probably going via Vanuatu, the New Zealand lot aware that we have to make as much west as possible before turning south to face 1000 miles on the wind.
So that’s that, oh and much to our great delight, Craig and Mary, on Erasmus , who we haven’t seen since all their help with the forestay in the Marquesas, sailed in here an hour or so after us, also exhausted, having come direct from Bora Bora.
Relaxing Days around the Lagoons
6th August 2010
Moorea proved to be one of our favourite destinations since the Galapagos, with very striking mountain scenery, and beautiful clear lagoons. Heather managed to hitch right round the island in a day,( although it looked like it might end by head torch), and enjoyed good walks to the waterfalls and chatting with the local folk who picked her up.
We left Moorea in the late afternoon of the 22nd July, for the overnight sail to Huahine, just 100 miles away to the northwest. It can only be approached in daylight as there is a great deal of coral either side of the pass. We had an uneventful sail, and approached the pass to Fare, Huahine at 0900 next morning.
Huahine is another “high” island, much smaller, covering only 30 square miles, and with a population less than 6000. They live mainly by growing watermelons on the motus (coral mini islands on the fringes of the reef) , and bananas, exotic fruits and taro (the staple potato like carbohydrate of the islands). The lagoon, once inside the reef, is well marked and relatively deep, so we enjoyed great snorkelling, and being able to motor further south round the island to explore different idyllic anchorages. Well, they were mostly idyllic, although fifteen cruisers managed to find themselves stormbound for a few days in one anchorage.
Huahine boasts some of the largest and best preserved marae, the religious archaeological sites, and also a river, where unique large blue eyed eels are found. (the blue doesn’t show up in the photos, but they really were bright blue, as were the inside of their mouths.)
Huahine Iti, the smaller southern part of the island was lovely, and we spent several days in a couple of anchorages here. Heather persuaded a local to lend her his outrigger canoe, and discovered it is relatively easy to go very fast and straight, but nearly impossible to turn, as if you don’t lean in towards the outrigger all the time, even when paddling on the other side, you just turn over. She managed to stay upright but there were a few high speed wobbles, much to the amusement of the owner watching from the beach.
The main town, Fare, is a great example of how relaxed the South Pacific approach to life is. We were boarded by uniformed Customs officers , usually quite a serious affair, but here, they came on board grinning, and wearing T-shirts, shorts, flip flops…….and guns! After leaving us, they tied up the scary looking grey ship at the dock, and went ashore to play a heated game of petanque (bowls) on the beach. The local kids promptly boarded the customs ship and started diving off the bows. This seems to be the weekend activity, when up to fifty kids, aged five to fifteen, would gather at the harbour and fling themselves off the dock, quite often still attached to their bikes!
We met up again with some friends from other boats, and also enjoyed meeting some young Dane; the unlikely duo of Casper and Jasper. David treated us all to dinner at a lovely waterside restaurant, as compensation for galley skills not being his forte, which means Heather and Anton share all the cooking.
Heather managed another round-the-island hitch; this is fun and interesting but involves a great deal of `hike` and not enough `hitch` as there is so little traffic, and no public transport at all.
We planned to leave Huahine on the 3rd August, and both Anton and David managed to arrange haircuts with the cruising hairdresser, Steve, on Endimion, the night before. Steve is funding his way across the Pacific by cutting hair, both for cruisers and locals…never were so many well coiffed yachties seen before in these anchorages. Payment ranges from cash to weird barter, including live chickens on one occasion.
We also learned that another friend had to be flown back to Pape`ete for a scan, as he got knocked out by a falling coconut, which we are told is a major cause of death in the islands. Fortunately he is fine, and in fact is anchored alongside us as I write this, in Tahaa.
We enjoyed a rare event…a blue sky and twinkley sea sail …from Huahine to Raiatea and Tahaa, only 25 miles further on, arriving here on the 3rd august. Raiatea and Tahaa share a huge lagoon, with many motu on the encircling reefs, and lots of anchorages to explore. Raiatea is quite developed, twice the size of Tahaa, and the centre for the Polynesian yacht charter fleets, so there are lots of boats, and good shore facilities for cruisers. We enjoyed a couple of nights alongside in the main town of Utoroa, and then crossed the lagoon to the quiet anchorages of Tahaa, where we are now on a mooring in Haamene Bay. Anton got lots of boat and engine jobs done, and Heather had another mammoth walk, covering the length of the island along a remote track following the central densely forested ridge, and being very relieved to get a good lift all the way back to the boat.
We plan to sail right round Tahaa and most of Raiatea, inside the lagoon, stopping off to anchor in the bays or to snorkel in the clear shallows at the motus. There are very few islands where this is possible, but the channels here are deep and well marked, no doubt due to the number of charter boats!
Once we leave here, it will be on to Bora Bora, which we can see in the distance, with a very dramatic and rugged skyline. Bora Bora will be our departure point from French Polynesia, which we first entered when we arrived at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas in early June. We have enjoyed wonderful scenery, and very friendly happy easy going locals in all of French Polynesia, and appreciated the total lack of any need for security. They don’t seem to have to work very hard for their lifestyle, which invariably includes flashy new pick-ups, and there is no doubt they benefit hugely from the financial support of the French government. You can`t help but compare this with the islands of the Caribbean, where poverty, and hence theft, was the norm, except also on the French islands, where life was so much easier.
The Coral Atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago
2nd July 2010
After leaving Hiva Oa in the Marquesas on the 28th June, we did a short trial sail to check the new rig to our favourite island of Tahuata, on the way being treated to Spinner Dolphins bow riding for about half an hour. They are quite small, and great to watch; as their name suggests, when they jump clear they spin very fast as they arc back into the water. After a peaceful night in Tahuata we set off towards the Tuamotu Archipelago, aiming for Manihi, just over 500 miles away. The rig behaved perfectly, and we certainly had plenty of wind to test it, with several squalls of up to 35kts reminding us that the Pacific can be pretty vicious. The Tuamotus would be our first experience of approaching coral atolls…..these islands are enormous circles of coral, with massive breakers all
around them, surrounding tranquil blue lagoons, and are notoriously difficult to spot on approach as the highest thing above sea level is the 60 ft palm trees . You can only enter the lagoons by “passes”, gaps in the coral rarely more than 100m wide, which you have to run at slack water, or just a little tide, otherwise you either can’t make any progress at all or hurtle through out of control onto the reef inside, as the 5-9 kts tidal flow pretty much dictates what happens to you!
We had done all the sums for our attempt on the Pass at Manahi, and four days after leaving Tahuata, managed to arrive at about the right state of tide, but with dusk falling, and sudden violent squalls, with near zero visibility in the torrential rain, passing through every fifteen minutes or so. We had to decide to either go for it after the next squall, or sail around all night outside ….. no contest really! Although pretty nerve wracking for our first pass, it all went well, with just a slight current against us, and only a few minutes of watching the depth decrease rapidly leaving us with less than 50cms to spare.
We anchored in the lagoon, the only boat there, in more squalls, and wondered why everyone raves about turquoise lagoons, and great snorkelling. Nothing would have induced us to jump overboard into the grey uninviting water, too rough to spot for sharks. Dinner and a good nights sleep improved matters, and though it was never perfect weather, we were able to dinghy ashore in the morning, to chat with the very friendly locals in the tiny village. The best entertainment for two of our party was watching David being chatted up by a very drunk, very determined transvestite!
Polynesian tradition is that if the first three children born are all male, the third is dressed and treated as a girl from birth, and helps with all the domestic chores and rearing of further children. They are obviously integrated and readily accepted in their own communities, but it does seem to leave some rather confused adults, as they have to choose how to proceed after leaving the family home, and international travel and communications tend to undermine local traditions. We found it hard to decide how we felt about this, as the freedom of choice isn’t exactly with the individual concerned, and we are told that because it is so acceptable in French Polynesia, transvestites and homosexuals from other countries tend to descend on cities such as Tahiti, bringing very different cultural values.
The Manihi locals were busy building the stands for their Heiva festivities, on 14th July, which will involve outrigger canoe races, lots of dancing and chanting, and bike races, since everyone travels around by bike or giant ancient looking tri-cycles (well with the highest thing above sea level being a tree, you would wouldn’t you!) .
We have to admit to being rather disappointed with our first lagoon experience; Pacific sailing is proving more challenging than normal for this time of year; the visibility was so bad we couldn’t see across the lagoon; the pearl farms though visible were surrounded by coral heads, which rear up from the deep to grab unsuspecting yachts; the surface was too rough to spot the coral heads making getting ashore even in the dinghy difficult, and when we left two days later, our anchor was so securely wrapped around a huge coral head in ten metres of water, we were very lucky not to lose it. Still, it was obvious that normally these places are exceptionally beautiful….just not for us this time.
We had been chatting on the radio to friends on other yachts, and it became clear that we were all getting split up, so with a plan to try to meet up in Tahiti for the 14th July celebrations, we headed on towards Rangiroa, another Tuamotu Atoll, just over a hundred miles further west.
We arrived having done the tidal sums again for the Tiputa Pass into the Rangiroa Lagoon. Something wrong with the sums here, and as we approached, in good visibility but late afternoon, it was plain this was anything but slack tide! A pretty strong ebb was running, and only could get worse before it got better…by which time it would be dark. Decision time again.
Anton revved up, we aimed for the safest part of the channel, and made our way in at about 2 knots against the flow, through the standing waves and disconcerting eddies. It was pretty exciting, surrounded by breaking water, and we didn’t have much time to admire the big dolphins jumping at the bow.
Once inside and motoring to the anchorage, this all looked much more like what we hoped for, calm blue water, stripy fish, pretty local boats, and as a bonus some other boats we knew, plus new ones to get to meet. We put the dinghy in and ventured ashore to find a lovely little village, with an almost reasonably priced restaurant, from which you could watch stingrays drift under the terrace, and the usual small grocery store with prices that are jaw dropping! (£7 for 6 potatoes or £6 for a cabbage is quite sobering. Even local bananas and spinach are astronomical.
There was a good spot overlooking the pass with a viewing platform, from which we watched the leaping dolphins that come in on every ebb tide to play as the waves stack up. The dolphins` behaviour became the best way of working out when slack water was, and by the time we left, we had it perfect.
It was Heathers` birthday while we were here, and the gentlemen took her out for lunch, and let her off all domestic duties for a day! H also hired a bike for a day and had a lovely time cycling around the atoll, stopping to snorkel every now and then, and enjoying the very pretty and easy going island.
Having accomplished a few boat jobs, and recharged our own batteries, we set off again on the 9th July for Tahiti, 220 miles further on, with a near perfect run through the Tiputa Pass on our departure.
This should have been a straightforward sail, but endless lines of squalls, with winds changing from 20 to 40 knots within minutes, made for some very uncomfortable seas, white water on all sides, and pretty challenging night watches, as it is not easy for one person to reef the boat in a hurry if you haven’t spotted the squall coming before it arrives. There were some memorable rainbows and dramatic sunsets, and more soakings with both salt and fresh water than we could count.
The highlight was the solar eclipse on the 11th July, we were only eighty miles from the arc of totality, and with a clear sky enjoyed a superb 98.5% eclipse conveniently in between squalls.
The conditions meant progress wasn’t as fast as hoped for, and it felt like a very long 50 hours to do just over 200 miles, although we did have a wonderful final six hours, with the wind on the beam and full sail under clear skies.
The High Islands of the Society Islands Archipelago
11th July 2010
We approached Tahiti, the main island of the Societies, on the evening of the 11th, entering a pass just east of the capital of Pape`ete, to pick up a mooring at the Tahiti Yacht Club. In total contrast to the Tuamotus, the Societies are high volcanic islands, surrounded by coral reefs. Tahiti has a circumference of 120kms, a population of 210,000, all on the flat coastal fringes, and reaches over 7000` in the interior, so the scenery is very dramatic.
None of the boats we had planned to meet here were around, they had mostly moved on, or two are now behind us, the bad weather has everyone just doing what they can, and plans have had to be abandoned. We enjoyed five days here, hitching into the city, enjoying the 14th July celebrations, and hiring a car for a memorable tour of the whole island, getting away from the very busy traffic of the city. It is quite a shock to find dual carriageways and teeming city life after months in semi isolation…Panama was our last city experience, in April, though Tahiti is very different, being safe and friendly!
We visited Venus Point, where the “Bounty” came ashore in 1788, and Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus. David and Heather spent a day watching the Heiva Festival Pirogue racing…canoe racing with twin hulled canoes, each carrying 16 frantic paddlers.
This is a really serious event, with thousands of spectators, and the main harbour closed for the day as the 7km course passed through it. First teams had to report to the finish line, and then paddle the 7kms up to the start, before belting back down, in fairly rough water, to the finish, complete with collisions and sinkings. There were classes for youths, women and men, the last attracting 13 pirogues, 16 men in each, and some very fast paddling. On the final night Heather & David went to the specially built main stadium, seating 6000, to watch the finale of the traditional dances. This was a spectacular show, lasting several hours, and making Polynesian dancing look a good candidate for an Olympic event. We enjoyed the novel luxury of water front city café society, with a few drinks at a jazz bar, before leaving, although we did have to walk the four miles back to the boat, at 1am, but it was still worth it.
We left Tahiti on the 17th July, for Moorea, only 20 miles away. We had a lovely fast run down here, at 7kts, with just the genoa, and are now looking forward to some island hopping day sails, ending with good dinners and peaceful nights sleep! Moorea is unbelievably beautiful, fringing reefs, very fertile, and with high jagged mountains, it is only 60kms in circumference, but feels bigger because of the mountainous interior. We are in a deep inlet, surrounded by 3000 foot spectacular jagged ridges, with the fertile valley at the head of the bay holding pineapple plantations, as well as vanilla, ginger, and the ever present grapefruit, mango and bananas.
Heather met a couple in Manahi who live here, and offered us use of their mooring, which as it is a very deep anchorage has been really useful. We have enjoyed a day relaxing or madly hiking/hitching, depending on our preferences, and plan to move from here, Cooks. Bay, (Cook anchored here) to Opunohu Bay tomorrow, where there is a lovely beach and superb snorkelling (a large chunk of the film South Pacific was filmed here), just five miles away. There are many very good, fairly strenuous hikes in Moorea, so Heather will want to stay several days, and the men will be relieved to enjoy their books and beer in peace!
Once we leave Moorea, we have a 90 mile passage to Huahine, on our way towards Bora- Bora, but since we cant lave Fiji until early October to hit the weather right for the last long leg to New Zealand, we can take things slowly for a few weeks.
18th June 2010
We are still in the vicinity of Atuona, Hiva Oa, awaiting what we hope is the imminent arrival of our new forestay. In the end the parts had to be ordered from New Zealand, and left Auckland for Tahiti yesterday, with an onward flight to here. Tomorrow is realistically the soonest we will get them, but more likely to be Monday. The transport and import duty has cost more than the parts. However, we have had a lovely 10 days exploring islands close by, and most of the other boats have been doing the same, so socially life has been pretty good. We all headed off to the nearby island of Tahuata, where the small deserted bay of Hanamoenoa is described in our pilot as the one of the three most beautiful anchorages in French Polynesia.
Our seven yacht party anchored in clear turquoise waters off a white sand palm fringed beach, and over twenty of us enjoyed a wonderful beach BBQ to celebrate Greg’s birthday ( Greg owns Fancy Free). We all stayed several days, enjoying excellent snorkelling in the clear water, with only a few reef sharks being seen, and nothing that looked like it might see us as lunch. A lime tree ashore was surrounded by fallen fruit, so we all gathered a bucketful. Sadly we were unable to find the Gin & Tonic tree! The place is as about as idyllic as you could possibly imagine a South Seas island to be.
David, on Shayele, and Greg discovered they had both anchored in this same bay twenty one years ago, within three days of each other, although they never met. We also had a visit from men in their traditional outrigger, wanting to trade grapefruit and speared fish for whatever we could offer. ( Could this be the role of the corned beef?!) The grapefruit are melon sized and delicious. We chatted to these guys for a while and David asked if they knew anything of the man who used to live in a small hut in the bay, as he had entertained David and his crew to dinner in 1989. Amazingly, the fisherman turned out to be the son of that family. David remembers a boy of about ten, and hopes to be able to dig up some old photos to send them.
Heather attempted to explore inland, hoping to climb part of the 3000 ft ridge, but there are no tracks and very dense vegetation, plus a few unsavoury residents, so after three hours of confrontations with things with stings and thorns, and eventually teeth and horns, she gave up, and struggled back to the beach. The teeth and horns belonged to a wild boar which came charging out of the undergrowth, and its intentions not being totally clear, Heather was up the nearest tree pretty quick! The guys were a bit sceptical about the reported size of the beast, until they saw him wandering along the beach early the next morning, apparently rooting up crabs.
While Shayele has sat waiting for news of our parts, several of the others have been off forty miles south to the lovely little island of Fatu Hiva, and are now working their way north to Ua Poa and Nuka Hiva. We decided we really could not risk any strain on our rig until all is fixed, so have not ventured any further afield. There is quite a swell running and we would be pretty upset if our impatience resulted in bringing the rig down.
It was Anton’s birthday on the 16th, so he awoke to find the boat decked in balloons bow to stern, and as Chris & Lorraine on Gryphon II had come back into the bay for the night, an impromptu party was organised on board.
We have now come back in to the main anchorage ( about 12 yachts) of Hiva Oa to await our delivery, and as we anchored noticed a catamaran beside us with no mast. It transpires that they came in three days ago, the two 30 something lads on board having had an uneventful 3000 miles from the Galapagos, only to have a shroud give way within sight of Fatu Hiva, which brought down their mast. As they tried to recover the sails and rig, they wrapped up one prop, causing serious engine damage as well. With it looking like the hull could get punctured, they had to cut the entire rig and sails free and watch the very costly mess disappear. Their insurance company is proposing to ship the hull on a cargo vessel the 900 miles to Tahiti for repairs, at a cost of $30,000 for the transport alone. We were pretty lucky really!
There is a music festival here over the weekend, so we are looking forward to this. David and Heather watched the local young dancers practising last week, and even when not in costume it looked pretty impressive. There are also several new boats in the anchorage, so will be good to meet new cruisers.
26th June 2010
To our enormous relief, the new forestay finally arrived yesterday, having sat in Tahiti for over a week waiting for its customs papers to catch up with it, so that it could get flown on to Hiva Oa. You can imagine our frustration and the daily phone calls and emails to Auckland and the freight company. However, with the help of several yachties in the anchorage, and especially Craig from Erasmus, the old foil sections were fitted back onto the new wire, and then the semi rigid 17m stay carried from the beach to the boat balanced across six dinghies. There was a marathon mast head session for Anton, dealing with the very difficult task of attaching all the bits at the top of a swaying mast and trying not to drop either the tools or the fiddly new parts. There was a great cheer, and offer of a beer up on another halyard when he succeeded! It has taken most of today to get all the ends attached, and finally the sail back up the (rather bent) foil. As the length was not exactly the same as the old one, we had to adjust every other stay on the boat to pull the mast back, whilst trying to keep everything in balance, but IT IS DONE.
In the waiting period, we did indeed enjoy the music festival. It was not a full traditional event by any means…more T in the Grass Hut, but the atmosphere was good, the entire island seemed to be there, and there were some exciting demonstrations of local dances. There will be new photos in the gallery shortly. The local police were having a day out too, and we decided this must be the only place in the world where police (both men and women) are encouraged to wear their hair long and loose, and have extensive tattoos on their arms and legs. There is a growing interest in re-awakening the old traditions, and the tattoos are a large part of this. The locals are very friendly, very striking, and VERY large.
Craig and Mary, on Erasmus, caught a monster wahoo…..about six feet long. It seems when you fish here you either get nothing or a bit more than you bargained for. Big fish are very hard to land on the boat, and the cockpit looks like a murder scene afterwards. We all helped dispose of it, and Craig smoked a large amount, giving a delicious firm white flesh. Very few yachties go out to either of the two local restaurants for dinner as it is very expensive, but we have enjoyed alternating between being guests and hosts.
We also hired a car for a day to explore the island. It is so rugged and steep that it is near impossible to walk more than a few miles in the heat. Five of us piled into a Suzuki Jeep….not renowned for its size. The roads are mostly dirt tracks with steep drop offs over cliffs, and numerous hairpin bends. The interior is heavily forested, mainly cloud forest, and very beautiful. There are many indented deep bays, and we visited the sites of several Tiki. These are the rock carved statues, representative of gods and ancestors, which were very important to the Pacific Islanders several hundred years ago, Easter Island being known for its well preserved examples. The largest Tiki in the world is here in Hiva Oa, at eight feet tall. Several of the sites are being restored, with information provided on the various meanings and purposes of the stone platforms, basins and statues.
They appear to have been a sort of village gathering place where people feasted and danced or else sacrificed and ate each other, depending on the mood of the participating tribes and their chief at the time.
We bounced for miles down rutted tracks, ending up at pretty little villages, where locals obviously take great pride in their surroundings. All kinds of fruit are grown, especially breadfruit, grapefruit, banana, mango and noni, this last a cash crop which in recent years has improved the local economy enormously as it is a key component of some trendy vitamin drink popular in the States and Japan. We collected bags of mango on the way back, and made mango chutney for a curry party we hosted last night and are experimenting with a mango and rum concoction that might be jam, or a crepe filling. There are also many goats and horses, all well cared for, and quite a few pigs. Walking through one very isolated village we passed the local primary school, where all the staff and pupils were playing football together in the playground…. one teacher and five children.
Everywhere we go, there tend to be sounds which will forever conjure up memories of our adventures, and we would like to say this is the perceived romance and nostalgia of the islands, the tree frogs, the surf, the local music, but actually here, it will forever be the whine of a mosquito about to devour you, the swirl of a shark with like intent, and the constant crowing of feral cockerels, with no awareness of when dawn is, who just seem to be everywhere! Chicken is the only affordable meat here, so I guess that tells us something.
Hiring a car was an expensive treat, but well worth it as we see little point in sailing past all these beautiful places we will probably never see again, without learning a little more about them. Having said we will never see them again, it is remarkable how many cruisers we meet who are on their third time round the world. Typically these are couples in their sixties, who have sold a property and bought a boat and a flat, the flat then being rented out to help fund the adventure. Our friends on Erasmus sailed from New Zealand twelve years ago, and although they have flown back periodically, the boat will return for the first time in November. We have also met a few families with young children, usually European, but not British, who are sailing for a couple of years. This must be pretty challenging, dealing with the safety, childhood illnesses, and home schooling of the kids, in addition to all the unpredictable stresses of sailing downwind for thousands of miles, which is tough on the boat and the budget. Still, we have heard very few family arguments in the anchorages, and generally see tanned healthy happy children, very competent in the dinghy, and obviously taking a full part in sailing the boat. Whether they can ever settle to a normal life after this is another question….one we ask ourselves quite often as well!
That’s all our news for now; we will put the genoa up later this evening when the wind dies to check we have everything rigged correctly, and then go for a short island hop tomorrow to test it, and see how the main sets with the change of mast rake, before heading off towards the Tuamotos, 500 miles away.
Magnificent Marquesas (eventually!)
8th June 2010
Finally, 3,332 miles and 26 days 2hours later, we have arrived here in stunningly beautiful Atuona, the port of entry on Hiva Oa, in the Ilas Marquesas, French Polynesia.
There is not a lot to say about the last month except it seemed very long and very lumpy. We had winds ranging from 5 knots to 30, Shayele is a heavy boat so likes the windier end of the scale. The sea was only anything approaching flat for a couple of days, mostly we were flung across the boat and our bunks on a daily basis, and meals and cupboard contents had an ongoing relationship with the floor. We had been assured this would be the best passage we would ever do…we hope this is not true!!
Unfortunately, the spinnaker pole mast track was ripped out when crossing the Atlantic so we are unable to use either poled out headsails or spinnaker to sail dead downwind, and the wind direction getting here was such that we found ourselves having to sail off course and gybe a few times, adding a few hundred miles. Then near disaster struck, as our forestay snapped, typically at the top of the mast, 300 miles from here.We are very lucky this happened within motoring range of the Marquesas, as it was too rolly to attempt to go up the mast and in any case, we couldn’t have fixed it well enough to take a sail. It would have been a very slow sail without the engine to help. We used a spinnaker halyard to help support the mast, lowered the main, and rigged the storm jib on the inner forestay…this is when you appreciate a cutter rig. We then sailed very gently watching the furled genoa on the damaged forestay and foil, swinging ominously about, expecting at every moment that the genoa halyard, - all that remained to support the sail and foil, would come crashing down into the sea, leaving us with some very expensive damage, and a difficult recovery job.
Our luck was in, the rig stayed up, and we arrived in the anchorage with no further mishap, with a passage average speed of a pretty pathetic 5.1 knots. Of the eight boats leaving Galapagos within a few days of each other, a few made it in under 20 days, most in 21, but our late arrival and champagne breakfast was still greatly celebrated, and several boats helped us remove the forestay and transport it ashore, straddled over 5 dinghies to avoid bending the foil. The damage to the wire is extensive, but it looks like the foil can be re-used once we get a new wire and fittings flown in from Tahiti.
Highlights of the passage included being surrounded by about 20 pilot whales one morning; being visited on several occasions by white beaked dolphins, including one afternoon when literally numbers close to a thousand were travelling in the opposite direction and seeing two great whales, thought to be humpbacks, breaching about half a mile away . The fishing was not as successful as we would have liked, but in addition to a couple of nice tuna and a mahi mahi, Anton caught a monster mahi mahi, 13 kg and just over a metre long, on our last night. We are still eating it.
Our cruisers` radio net, which we all logged on to every morning to report positions and catch up on weather information proved very successful, and enjoyable, and when our forestay broke, it was comforting to know other boats knew exactly where we were and what was going on.
We are now enjoying exploring Hiva Oa, a very rugged and lush island, with beautiful palm fringed beaches…….and so many sharks no-one goes swimming. The Marquesas, claimed by the French in 1842 , are made up of 11 high islands, of which only six are inhabited. 8700 people live in the archipelago, 2500 of whom live on Hiva Oa, the largest island. The people are extremely friendly, and some yacht crews have had dinner with the chief on a smaller island. There are many historical sites, with petroglyphs, stone carvings and tikis ( carved statues of gods and deified ancestors), and still strong traditions of music and dance, wood carving, and making cloth from tree bark.
In the anchorage each evening Polynesian young men are training in their racing outrigger canoes for the Bastille Day events, which are an excuse for a mega party throughout French Polynesia for two weeks around the 14th July. It is an impressive sight watching the muscled up long haired crews of four or five, with their bronzed and heavily tattooed backs, straining on their paddles as they slice through the water incredibly swiftly and gracefully in the sleek eight metre canoes.
We plan to be here a few days sorting out boat jobs, always very exhausting in the heat, then motor or very gently sail around the neighbouring islands, all within a day`s sail, whilst we wait for the new forestay to arrive. The yachts we have become friendly with are planning on much the same, and we are enjoying having guests on board for dinner, whilst the catamaran Meander makes a good base for sundowners for several yachts in the evening. Food supplies are somewhat depleted after our long passages, and drinks here are so expensive that meals and soirees are becoming increasingly inventive. A rather delicious pate can be made from spam, garlic paste and chilli, although we are still struggling to find anything desirable to do with corned beef, which for some reason every british boat seems to carry, but nobody eats! As we cruise our separate ways from here, spending time exploring the local islands and then groups west of here, we plan to all meet up again in Tahiti for the Bastille Day celebrations
8th May 2010-05-09
Well, we had high expectations of The Galapagos Islands, and they have been exceeded! It is such a delight to be somewhere which is not only stunningly beautiful, but also clean, well managed, and very friendly and safe. An added bonus is that it is not as expensive as we expected. We have spent a fantastic 10 days exploring San Cristobal, and visiting the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella by the Inter Island Ferry (more of that later!).
The Galapagos, part of Ecuador, are made up of 13 major islands, 6 small ones and over 100 other islets and rocks. Only 5 islands are inhabited, with a population of around 20,000, boosted annually by 170,000 visitors and volunteers. The archipelago is best known for Darwin`s `Theory of the Evolution nof Species`, published in 1859, following his visit here on HMS Beagle in 1835. The Galapagos have been a National Park since 1959, and are also a Marine Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, and World Heritage Site. The amazing biodiversity of species found here is due mainly to the combination of isolation and the convergence of warm and cold currents creating favourable conditions for some very unlikely looking neighbours, such as tortoises and penguins. Almost half the species found here are endemic.(not found anywhere else).
While on San Crisotbal we took an island taxi tour, visiting the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, snorkelling with Sea Lions , ( check out the photos), watching Marine Iguanas, and getting a feel for the island. Several days where spent just wandering around, tripping over sea lions on the footpaths, watching local children play with them in the lagoon, and enjoying the never ending wildlife viewing opportunities. It has been like stepping into a wildlife text book, with three species of Booby, Brown Pelicans and Frigate Birds circling the boat, very tame Darwin`s Finches ashore and so many iguanas, tortoises and turtles it is surreal.
The excellent San Cristobal Interpretive Centre sets the scene for us, and we enjoy lovely beaches and clean water for swimming. A guided snorkel trip, using a local boat, takes us first to swim with marine iguanas, and we can sit on the bottom and watch them feed. Anton swam along with one (very gently) holding its tail, which apparently the sea lions also do! We are joined by sea lions that play with the anchor rope of our dive boat, grab our fins and generally have a good time shooting up to our masks before turning away at the last second. We also see turtles and spotted rays at close quarters. We head on out to Kicker Rock, and a long snorkel on a steep wall rewards us with lots of big fish, several turtles, beautiful colours on the wall, and deep down, a couple of small sharks. We had hoped to see hammerhead sharks here as they are often present, but not on our trip - some of us were less disappointed than others!
The three of us, plus Simon from Meander, then went off exploring the other islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella for a few days, which are over 60 miles away. David went on an organised guided 4 day trip, whilst the rest of us cobbled together the poor mans` DIY version….very rewarding , but more effort in the planning! The Park regulations do not permit visiting yachts to move once they have anchored in their port of entry. This is part of their conservation and sustainable tourism strategy. There is a great deal of very complicated , expensive and time consuming paperwork involved in meeting their requirements, but having accepted the system we thoroughly enjoyed our guided visits, and three nights staying in comfortable, and reasonable, hotels. The islands are accessed by Inter Island Ferries, which are basically 27ft launches of dubious vintage, with enormous twin 250 hp outboards perched on the stern, carrying 15 passengers. You are then hurled forwards at over 20 knots, slamming into the swell for several hours and asking yourself how this rate of fuel consumption ( about 60 litres an hour) can fit in with any sustainability policy, and wondering if your back, and stomach contents, will ever recover. For anyone planning a visit, we strongly recommend making sure your method of visiting the various islands is on one of the comfortable live aboard mini cruises.
Highlights of our trip included snorkelling with Galapagos Penguins, Spotted Rays and White Tipped Reef Sharks, watching flamingos at dawn, exploring enormous lava tunnels, and watching many tortoises and marine iguanas. There are so many iguanas one of their favourite road crossing spots is marked with an “Iguana Crossing” sign. Heather and David both enjoyed guided hikes up the still active Isabella Volcanoes of Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico, an exhausting 16km day, which Heather topped off by hiring a bike and cycling another 20kms to visit The Wall of Tears and other sites….she was later found enjoying a well earned mojito in a hammock at one of the beach bars. It is hard to believe that somewhere as beautiful and unspoilt as Isabella was a penal colony until 1959, with a particularly cruel history surrounding the building of the Wall of Tears, basically a massive wall built of lava rocks that the convicts were forced to build and dismantle many times. Happily it is now just a great vantage point, inhabited by lumbering tortoises and hundreds of birds.
Davids trip also included a visit to the smaller islands of Floreana and Santa Fe. On Floreana he visited Post Office Bay. You can `post` cards here, without a stamp, and other visitors pick them up, take them home and post them on to the addressee from wherever they live. He went armed with a large handful, so it will be interesting to see how long they take to reach their destinations.
All of us found Isabella wonderful; very simple, with just one small village, sand roads and several hostels, guest houses and simple restaurants. There are beautiful white beaches, and many marked trails and special wildlife encounters that you can access on your own, as well as the many National Park sites which you need an official Guide to take you to. We found all the Guides to well informed and very proud of their islands. There are 30 Guides on Isabella , and 160 in the Galapagos as a whole, with many of them guiding dive and snorkel trips as well as walking tours.
We have now returned to San Cristobal, and are readying the boat for our departure to the Marquesas tomorrow. This morning’s tasks included several hours snorkelling on the hull scraping off the weed and barnacles that have grown whilst we have remained on anchor – a lovely job. We were surrounded by puffer fish chasing the falling barnacles, and tried not to think what else might come along to eat the fish. Heather got a fright when the rope she was using to stop her drifting away started tugging sharply; fortunately the culprit was a young sea lion who had got hold of the end dangling below her and was having a lot of fun with it!
We will be sad to leave this amazing place, but are looking forward to the next adventure, sailing to French Polynesia. Several other yachts are headed the same way, and we are all leaving within a few days of each other, so can maintain radio contact. This next leg can be notoriously slow, it could take from 22-35 days, and as we are unable to update this site at sea, you will hear no more until we arrive. Our position will be updated regularly on the www.yotreps.com website.
Welcome to the Web Page of the Yacht Shayele!
For those of you who know the boat already, this web site has not been in use for a while, and as Shayele is entering a new ocean this seems a good time to start afresh.
In 2010 Shayele is heading for the Pacific and New Zealand.
Until we work out how to insert photos in the text, please check out the gallery page for our pictures..
Introducing the Boat:
Shayele is a South African built Bruce Roberts 45, built in 1994, and bought in 2003 by Anton Dupoy, in Fort Lauderdale. Anton, from Jersey, in the Channel Islands, left Fort Lauderdale in May 2003, headed for Europe and the Med, and has lived aboard and sailed over 70,000 miles with her since, much of it single handed. Prior to owning Shayele, Anton had an Evasion 32, which he kept in Jersey and sailed for many years.
Shayele is very well set up for long distance cruising, and although not the prettiest or fastest of boats, her 17 ton displacement and deep hull make her a safe sturdy sea boat, and with four cabins, two heads, fair sized galley, saloon and navigation station, we have plenty of space for provisions and getting on with boat life. The four large solar panels and wind generator can put in up to 20A, and she also has wind vane steering. This means we can keep up with all our power needs to run the instruments, lap tops, and water maker without having to run the engine, and on a good day can even use such luxuries as the washing machine, hoover and bread maker!
A Quick Summary of the Atlantic and Caribbean adventures:
November 2009-March 2010
Shayele left the Mediterranean late summer of 2009, and set out across the Atlantic from Las Palmas on 27th November, with Anton and his crew ; Rex Miller, Joe Clarke and Mike Pickering. They had a great crossing, though lack of wind approaching the West Indies meant they arrived in Antigua 23 days later. Anton moved north to St Martin in early January, and then spent a month or so with a new crew member, Davina Menduno, cruising south to Grenada, enjoying visiting the major islands in between. Anton made a trip home to Jersey in late February to meet his first grandchild, Jonathon, and then returned to Grenada to prepare for the next stage of the adventure west.
Shayele left Grenada on 13th March, headed for Curacao, off Venezuala, and after some serious provisioning, arrival of new crew member Heather and waiting for a vague weather window, Shayele left Curacao on 24th March for a wild 800 mile ride to Shelter Bay Marina, the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, and start of the Pacific Adventure. Davina left the boat here to join friends in the Dominican Republic.
The Rest of the Crew:
Heather McNeill, from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, joined the boat in Curacao. Heather came across the Atlantic in November , with the ARC 2009, ( Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). She spent three months cruising the Caribbean on a couple of yachts, prior to being introduced to Anton in Grenada by a mutual friend, and taking up the invitation to join his adventure. Heather normally works yacht charter summers in the Hebrides and Ski season winters in the French Alps, and is enjoying a grown up gap year!
David Sharland, from Waikato, North Island New Zealand, joined Shayele in Shelter Bay, Panama, on 6th April. His flight to join us was considerably shorter than his journey home will be, which we expect to take around seven months. David sailed away from the UK in his own boat in 1985, and crossed both Atlantic and Pacific in 1989, to set up home in New Zealand. He has a small farm there, where a friend raises race horses. He has been frequently asked by friends why he wants to do this long passage again…...we are still waiting for the answer.
THE PACIFIC ADVENTURE.
The Panama Canal
Early April 2010
Shayele arrived at Shelter Bay Marina, on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal on 30th March. Anton and Heather spent a frantic week cleaning, polishing, repairing, checking rigging and generally getting ready for the next major voyage. David arrived on 6th April, and over $2000 lighter, and with the boat down on her marks, Shayele was provisioned, (well those bilges can swallow a lot of wine!) . Some repairs involved somewhat creative thinking, such as when the newly replaced lens for the bow light decided to jump overboard, an application of blood red nail polish to the old one, which had lost all colour, made it good as new. (Heather would like to point out she does not wear bright red nail polish…..it was bought specifically for the job.)
We were not entirely sure what our expectations of Panama were, but agreed Shelter Bay was a very pleasant surprise. We had heard so much about the serious violence in nearby Colon and Panama City (sadly, all true), and certainly had to be extremely careful where we went. However the Marina itself was well run, friendly, clean, air conditioned and with a swimming pool…..I guess the 12 foot crocodile living just outside the marina may have had something to do with that. Anton and Heather were delighted to meet up again with boats each had met through the ARC and their Caribbean cruising. The marina backs onto the San Lorenzo National Park, and a highlight quickly became the informal early morning walking group…..safety in numbers. We wandered through the jungle, lucky enough to have met another yachtie with extensive local knowledge, and watched Howler Monkeys, Capuchins, enormous electric blue morpho butterflies, elusive Toucans, lots of parrots and exotic tropical birds, agoutis ( a sort of giant guinea pig), all to the endless background sound of a myriad insects and tree frogs. The dusk and dawn calls of the Howler Monkies are very loud and pretty spooky. Of course there are also quite a few nasties, particularily snakes , and we kept an eye out on the branches above for any Boa Constrictors trying to drop on us for that friendly, and final, hug!
The logistics of a Panama Canal Transit are mind boggling and it took many frustrating hours of emails, radio and red tape to get all our bits in place for our scheduled slot. David crossed through in 1989 with minimal fuss at a cost of $25; in 2010 we had to hire an agent, fill in triplicate everything, hire lines and line handlers ( or borrow other yachties, as we all did), and the overall cost was around $1500. Anton stoically just handed it over.
We finally passed through on the weekend of 10th and 11th April, having borrowed Richard and Greg off Fancy Free as line handlers. They had been badly holed on a reef on the way into Shelter Bay so were on the hard getting repaired, and happy for the diversion of action, hilarity and gourmet food which seems to be the acceptable way of conducting a transit.
On the first evening your Panamanian advisor comes aboard, as you cannot transit without an advisor or a pilot, and Francesco arrived to guide us to the first set of Gatun Lochs, and helped us with the procedure, all at night, up the three lock system, raising us the 90 feet to Gatun Lake. It`s not that difficult but everything is on an enormous scale, the loads on the lines are considerable, you are rafted up to another yacht, with a massive ship in front of you, and if a line was lost the results could be quite spectacular.
We anchored in the fresh water lake for the night, with Francesco being taken off by the official launch. The guys jumped in for a swim.. whilst we listened for the snap of the Caymans….. fresh water Crocs. Obviously they weren’t very hungry that night.
A new Advisor, Max, joined us at 0530 and we set off again, sailing through the 25 mile long lake, dodging big ships en route in the dredged channels. Initially Max seemed very dour and serious, especially when he told us to take down our Panama courtesy flag as it was too bedraggled! However, he quickly lightened up and was very entertaining and informative. Gatun Lake is the result of massive flooding during the construction of the canal, which opened in 1909. It is an amazing feat of engineering, and a humbling reminder of the great hardships of such labour, which cost over 20,000 lives, mostly to malaria. The canal is just under 40 miles long, and takes ships up to 950 feet in length, and 100 foot beam, so Shayele was a little bit dwarfed by the company. Examples of abandoned American fortifications are everywhere reminding us of how nations argued over ownership of the adjoining lands and control of the Canal. The shores are uninhabited wild jungle, and we saw crocodiles sunning on the banks, and enjoyed flypasts of brown pelicans.
By mid afternoon we were approaching the Pedro Miguel Lock and Miraflores Lock, the three lock system dropping us down to the Pacific. We had let friends and family know when we expected to arrive at this point as there is a live web camera located above the lock. We asked Max to radio the tower to get them to focus the camera on us, which they did, and then made a couple of hasty calls on our satellite phone to get the viewing parties organised. Skye did particularly well on this, and many friends watched us pass through, with Heather`s neighbour ringing to say they saw us and had captured several web cam shots, which have since been emailed to us and you can see in our gallery. Thank you Jan!
It is hard to describe the thrill of that last enormous gate opening and allowing you to pass under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific Ocean.
We moored at a nearby yacht club for the night and much partying was enjoyed with our helpers, plus friends from the Catamaran Meander. We then moved to an anchorage under the Panama City Skyline, which was pretty impressive, more like Manhattan. In contrast to Shelter Bay, this side of Panama is unbelievably disgusting! The waters around us were a daily trail of rubbish, when tying up the dinghy ashore you tried not to put your hand in the water which bore a distinct resemblance to a sewer, not improved by the searing midday heat. Our impressions were not improved by the news that police were on the dinghy dock loading a body into an ambulance. It transpired that this was the frozen remains of an elderly cruise liner passenger, so no foul play involved, but it was still quite disconcerting. We were well told that apart from the small shopping area next to the dock, we were to walk nowhere…we taxied to the city centre mall to finish the fresh goods provisioning and the few who ventured into the urban jungle did not have pleasant tales to tell. A great pity, as the adjacent countryside was beautiful and we met many very friendly and helpful locals, however in a country with so much poverty and drug related violence, those perceived to have wealth are an easy target. On the plus side, shopping was incredibly cheap, so we stocked up on shorts and tee shirts, and anchored as we were under a Brown Pelican roost, the nightly flights of something that doesn’t look like it should be so graceful were a delight to watch.
We had our Genoa off to the sailmaker for a fairly major repair, so had to sit tight for almost a week. In the end we left the anchorage on the 17th April, and motored the seven miles into the Gulf of Panama to Isla Taboga, the `Island of Flowers`, where the sail maker lived, to collect it ourselves. What a pleasure! Beautiful little island, flowers and birds everywhere, clean water for swimming, and a friendly village ashore. The sail was duly fitted, and we were itching to head off into our new Ocean.
Panama to the Equator & Galapagos
Late April 2010
Early afternoon of the 19th we weighed anchor, and motored away from Taboga, next stop the Galapagos Islands. Boats ahead had sent back messages saying there was no wind, supporting the information gathered from our Grib files ( weather system info.), so we were well fuelled up with 900 litres, and expected the 850mile trip to take around 6 days, crossing the Equator on the way.
How wrong could we be! It started off promisingly, with by early evening a light breeze allowing us to sail, and a good sized Tuna presenting itself for dinner. Our high tech catching method involves a hand line loaded with something more akin to a clothes line, and a large lure concealing a gaff sized hook. The whole is tied to a bucket and the rails so that a bite results in the bucket leaping about to alert whoever is on watch. It works!
The Spotted Dolphins visited just before midnight. That first flash of phosphorescent green torpedo shooting by the boat is quite disconcerting until you realise what it is, then what a pleasure to watch the green tunnels vanish under the boat and the phosphorescence showers as they break the surface.
However by 0100 the wind has died, the engine is on, and we motor…and motor….and motor. We manage to get caught in an adverse current sweeping us north west, and the `no wind` turns into an on the nose 25 knots, with a steep sea , all making it impossible for us to make much headway south to where we should be. There is still a lot of floating debris, including sizeable semi-submerged logs you would not want to hit at speed. On top of this, we have dramatic nightly electrical storms, so our spare electronics and navigation toys live in the oven to protect them from a strike, and torrential rain means the boat is shut up and very sticky in the heat. We saw little wildlife during these days, apart from an enormous Marlin flinging itself skywards. Apparently this is to clean off the lice, but it looked pretty good fun! Our Birds of Passage included an exhausted Swallow, who was a little shocked when Anton, in his enthusiasm to watch him, threw his gin and tonic over him - including the glass - but he didn’t fly away. We also had a Brown Booby (gannet family) on the pulpit for a night. After four days of battering into the weather, often at only 2 knots, and with us being thrown around like skittles, at dawn on the 27th we break out into the south easterlies we are seeking, raise the sails, and have a blissful fast flat blue seas and clear skies ride towards the Equator. How quickly we can forget the horrors of those few days!
We crossed the Equator this morning, at 0915, position 00` 00.01`S 87` 54.42`W, and celebrated with Champagne and bacon rolls. David has done this once before, but Anton and Heather found the moment really special. Two Brown Boobies had been roosting on our deck all night and stayed with us most of the morning, adding to our enjoyment of the occasion. The general celebratory air led a nameless crew member to pen the following:
A Brown Booby sat on our Bow
As we crossed the Equator just now
We had Bubbly and Bacon
But unless we`re mistaken,
He would rather have Fish than a Sow!
We expect to arrive in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands early tomorrow morning, and hear on the daily cruisers net that a number of our friends` yachts are already there. There is something very reassuring about hearing familiar voices on the SSB radio when you haven’t seen a light or other boat for days. After so much preparation we can hardly believe we are nearly there, and very much looking forward to exploring such a world renowned destination.
We have arrived in Wreck Bay, San Cristobal, and are anchored behind Meander, who we will join ashore for a celebration dinner later. It is a beautiful day, although apparently it is quite normal for it to be cloudy and comparatively cool here. On our way in we saw dozens of Leaches Petrels (or something that looks just like them),shearwaters, dolphins leaping all over the place, and a sea lion swam lazily by for a look.
There are over a dozen sea lions hauled out on the deck of a fishing boat in front of us, and we have been warned that if we put our dinghy in the water they think it is a toy and all jump in, often turning them over! There are water taxis to help us avoid this entertaining problem.
Anton will shortly go ashore and meet our agent Bolivar, whom Heather has been emailing all the passport and ships papers to, so that we have a smooth entry. Then we should have up to 20 days to explore the islands, although under the conservation policies of the marine park private yachts are not allowed to move their boats at all, so we will take local tours…. We expect the next two weeks to be an (another) expensive highlight of our passage!
© Scott Dupoy