23 Apr 2019

23/4/2019: Fakarava, Tuamotos

22 April 2019: Les Sables Rose, Fakarava

Well we stayed where we were yesterday and probably had our most social day ever: breakfast on Cassiopee (banana and chocolate crepes … delicious); snorkelling and mid-morning chat on Mango; lunch on Chanto and then a sundowner dinghy drift with six boats to round off the day. After leaving Tumi about 8.30 in the morning we finally returned about 7.30 in the evening. Fantastic fun.

We are moving to the north end of Fakarava today in readiness for heading out the northern pass and on to Toau in the next couple of days and in the hope of getting some fresh supplies. We're not very hopeful about the supplies … the supply ship visits once a week on Wednesday so we might have quite literally missed the boat for last week's delivery!

21 April 2019: Happy Easter from Fakarava

We ended up staying 4 nights near the Tumakahoa Pass, it is scenically so beautiful and the snorkelling so awesome you never want to leave! We snorkelled the pass again on the 18th (fantastic) and had plans to do so on the 19th but the morning dawned wet and windy, and with the grey skies thrown in, the snorkelling wouldn't have been that good. So instead, in the company of four other boats, we motored an hour east to the famed Les Sables Rose, a heavenly pink sand beach backed by palm trees and surrounded by a turquoise lagoon, the stuff of South Seas fantasy.

We hosted sundowners on Tumi that evening, fitting thirteen into the cockpit, the largest group yet. When we waved off the final few some give hours later we were pooped but it had been a great night.

Yesterday I was taken paddle-boarding for the first time by friends on Mango. It was pretty hard work paddling against the wind and small swell but a good workout (my muscles are aching a bit today) but such a peaceful way to get around. We were scouting for a good site for the afternoon's beach BBQ and discovered that there was actually a fire pit and rudimentary seating we could use. Yet again Tumi saved the day being the only boat with portable BBQs and charcoal and twenty-two of us merrily cooked, ate, drank and made merry from mid-afternoon until well after dark. We were joined by three dogs, one boar, one sow and about ten piglets, snuffling around the bbq camp looking for scraps and things to eat … one pig rather liked the taste of Paul's toe!

Today is decision day. We have to be in Rangiroa by 27th April to pick up Jon and Hannah on the 28th and hopefully to buy some food before they arrive! We definitely want to visit Toau, just north of Fakarava, and visit the village on Fakarava itself (some 30 miles north of us) and had wondered about Ahe as well but time is running short. Decisions, decisions!!

17 April 2019: Fakarava, Tuamotos archipelago

True to my word I joined Paul this morning on a drift snorkel through the Tumakahoa Pass. Because of the strong current snorkellers and divers have to take certain precautions: snorkel on a flood tide when water is moving into the lagoon rather than out of it; choose to snorkel around slack tide when the current is at its lowest flow; attach lines to the dinghy and effectively drag it behind you so you have a means of getting back to where you want to be and not where the current wants to take you. And that's not to mention the number of sharks in the pass: it's not known as the 'wall of sharks’ for nothing!

As for the experience, all I can say is wow! Amazing! Astounding! The variety and number of different coloured fish blew my mind. It was truly like swimming in an aquarium, there were fish everywhere. Huge groupers, 2 to 3 feet long pipe fish, angel fish, parrot fish of the most irridescent hue and so many more. And as for the sharks, approaching an hundred, a mix of black tips, white tips and reef sharks up to about two metres in length swimming within a few metres of us. Sometimes it looks as though they are swimming directly towards you, which is a bit unnerving I have to say, only to veer away at the last minute. The whole experience was so good we repeated it three times, marvelling at everything we saw in the crystal clear water.

We went to explore the small village in the afternoon and we're pleasantly surprised how nice it is, the Victorian church in particular which has coral garlands and chandeliers decorating the ceiling and an altar made from mother of pearl. There are no roads, just palm-tree lined grassy avenues between the houses, all very green and verdant to say there is no natural water supply apart from rain. Solar panels provide much of the energy, and a cell phone ttower the communication, sticking rather incongruously above the palm trees!

Boats are obviously the lifeblood for the villagers, used to catch fish, reach the main village 30 miles north of here and receive supplies. The supply ship, which comes once a month, arrived mid-afternoon and several village boats set off to meet it, returning with timber, petrol, food and drink and even nuts for the pigs! Everyone in the village seemed to be involved in the fetching and carrying, rolling barrels of petrol away, stowing the food supplies.

It's interesting to see the rush of the water in the pass when it is flowing out … waves build up and swirling eddys stretch fifty or metres or more from shore. Definitely not the time to arrive or depart!

16 April 2019: Fakarava, Tuamotos archipelago

Another overnight trip, this time sailing thank goodness, brought us yesterday morning to Fakarava, the second largest atoll and one reknonwed for its diving and snorkeling. There are two passes into the lagoon and we decided on the south one Tumakahoa which, while considered more tricky, got us straight to the diving action. There used to be a village here and the old coral chapel, built in 1867, still remains but most of the inhabitants have left for the north of the island. A few remain to work in the two pensions offering accommodation and food to the increasing number of divers coming to this remote outpost to dive the pass.

Three other World ARC boats were already in the anchorage and it was nice to catch up with our Aussie friends on Resolute 2 and Cabana. Ken, the skipper of Ressie, was celebrating his 60th birthday and we were invited to join the Tahitian themed party that evening. Donning our most suitable outfits from our somewhat limited wardrobe we had a hilarious night, kicked off by Ken turning up dressed as a transvestite Tahitian dancer, complete with make-up, coconut bra top and sarong. He looked a million dollars!! He’s very kindly taking our torn parasailor to Tahiti for us for repair on the 17th April so there is a chance it will be ready by the time we arrive.

Today Paul went off snorkelling in the pass with friends off Mango with me deciding to stay on board given the number of sharks in the water all around us! They're black tips and supposedly don’t have seals (and therefore humans, a similar size) on their menu but all the same I was very apprehensive. Given the strong current in the pass, the technique is to drift-dive (snorkel) by taking the dinghy to the outside of the pass on a flood tide and then, attached to the dinghy by a line, drifting with the current along the reef back into the lagoon. They repeated the experience twice and all returned to Tumi blown away with the fish and corals, urging me to give it a go tomorrow. I've said yes … in for a penny, in for a pound.

14 April 2019: Tahanea, Tuamotos archipelago

An overnight motor saw us arrive at the remote and uninhabited atoll of Tahanea, a series of palmtree covered motu surrounding a crystal-clear lagoon. We anchored off the old deserted village, apparently still used in copra harvesting season, and within thirty minutes were visited by a local man, the only inhabitant of the island, who notes boat names and keeps a tally of how many yachts visit the island, presumably on behalf of the authorities as he completed official looking forms. In 2018, 50 yachts visited … we said it was remote! It turns out Makemo, our previous landfall, got 41 visiting yachts last year, a very small percentage of the global number of sailing vessels.

Unlike Makemo which had a reasonable size village with decent-looking modern facilities (school, church, health centre and even basketball court!) Tahanea has no such luxuries. The island used to be permanently inhabited but the harsh landscape of coral made it impossible to sustain life. No obvious dock or roads for transporting produce exist and quite how the one inhabitant survives is beyond us … presumably he fishes, eats coconuts and periodically receives a delivery of dry goods. A very simple and lonely life but one he chooses.

After a few hours sleep on arrival we felt refreshed and while Paul checked the dinghy repair (it had taken but as is typical with leaks in a seam, another one had appeared alongside it so he patched that one too) I started preparations for hosting dinner on board that evening for two other boats. Given there were four other World ARC yachts in the anchorage we felt a bit bad that we couldn't invite everyone but Tumi isn't big enough to accommodate 15 people for a meal. So we dinghied over to our immediate neighbours to make our apologies and suggest an alternative: we would provide the food and but host our dinner party on their much bigger yacht! Torsten, the German owner, jumped at the chance and so all fifteen of us enjoyed a great evening with the added advantage that we didn't have to wash up (in fact Torsten has two, not one, dishwashers on board so it was soon all clean and tidy with minimum effort). Given all the big yachts and catamarans on the fleet with their little luxuries, it sometimes makes us feel like the poor relations! But whatever the boat size or sophistication we're all enjoying the same amazing adventure and everyone is great fun.

A beach BBQ was proposed for yesterday afternoon …. providing someone had a portable BBQ. At last, Tumi and we came to the fore … maybe no dishwashers or washing machines, but two portable BBQs so the fifteen of us were able to enjoy a few hours ashore! Everyone took along their own meat to cook and drinks, plus a large side dish to share, and alongside the clear waters, watching black tip sharks and a shoal of beautifully coloured Parrot fish, we chatted and laughed our way through a delicious feast.

The next leg to Fakarava is about 75 miles and the timings of slack water both there and here on Tahanea give 12 hours grace. Two of the boats are left at first light this morning but we and two others are going to enjoy one more day here and sail overnight this evening. We’ve changed anchorage to.one just off a reef the other side of the entrance channel, very Robinson Crusoe. Palm trees,, blue skies, turquoise seas, you get the picture. Once Paul's Reiki clinic is finished (two clients yesterday, two more today) we will enjoy snorkelling the reef and having a relaxing afternoon in this little slice of paradise.

12 Apr 2019

11th April 2019 Pouheva, Makemo, Tuamotos

We made a real day of it partying yesterday.

Mango arrived in the morning and before long we and the other ARC boats were invited to go over to their boat for a drink and some lunch, which went on for quite some time. We also booked to eat out last night at the only restaurant in town and all boats joined in.

Unfortunately, during the day we developed a small leak in one of the seams in a tube on the dinghy (the front one), probably the result of being trodden on a few times too many. We have located the leak, and have stuck a repair patch on today to try and cure it. Now we need to leave it deflated for 24 hours for the glue to set properly.

We leave tonight to head for Tahanea, another atoll on the way to Fakarava. It doesn't look as though we will have much wind, but who knows, the forecast might be wrong!

11 Apr 2019

9 April 2019: Marquesas to Tuamotos

It was a slow old sail overnight, motoring in company with Chanto and Makara, but a fabulous sunrise as shown on the photo below. Despite our slow progress we still arrived a bit early for slack water and had to circle. But just before the magic hour we proceeded through the pass into the lagoon at Makemo, and despite only having a knot or so of current against us the waters were swirling making it quite tricky to steer on a steady course. Anyway we made it in without incident and are now anchored off the small village of Pouheva, home to about 300 islanders. It's a surprisingly together village for the middle of nowhere with good roads, proper houses, a big church and school and several small stores including a boulangerie, typical French looking after the bread and pastry essentials, hurrah! We'll spend a few days here before moving on to Fakarava.

8 April 2019: At Sea

Once again in the early hours a squall hit …. neither of us has ever seen sheet lightening so bright and frequent, lighting up the skies as far as the eye can see, nor heard thunder so loud. And as for the rain, torrential. It was actually  more of a storm, raging all around us and apparently moving along with us so we switched on the radar to check out the limit of the storm … a few miles wide so it took several hours to escape it.

We fully expected to have to motor all day but at 7am the wind picked up and we were able to sail once again. The morning proved to be very squally though and consequently the amount of sail we were flying had to be constantly adjusted. Chanto, one of the other rally boats, appeared on the AIS a few miles in front of us and over the course of the day we slowly caught up with. They, like us, are trying to time their arrival for slack water.

The highlight of the day was catching a large sail fish, maybe 6’ long. As Paul started to reel it in it thrashed around, jumping clear out of the water. It looked magnificent and we were both quite pleased when it spat out the lure and swam off. Interestingly the majority of our bites are just before sunset and tonight's was stunning.

Now at 9.30pm we are still sailing, albeit very slowly. Makara, yet another rally boat is also nearby. We’re on track to arrive an hour before slack water … perfect timing.

7 April 2019: At Sea

Why is it that bad things tend to happen at night? A rhetorical question really but explains why at 2am this morning, just before Paul was scheduled to spell me on watch, a big squall hit us with high winds and lumpy seas. We frantically reduced sail and still made a very good speed. It lasted for 5 hours making for a poor night's sleep for us both. Typically by daybreak when you can actually see what you're doing it had passed over!

The wind dropped just before midday, very much as forecast and so now we are motorsailing along, setting our speed for arrival at Makemo at slack tide. Maybe we'll get lucky and the winds will return, but maybe not. If they don't then at least we've sailed 50% of the time which is infinitely better than motoring all the way.

Just before dusk we could see we were approaching another squall, the skies ahead looked almost black with heavy clouds, so we put the sails away, fitted the cockpit panels to keep us dry, fired up the radar to determine the narrowest point of the weather system and then motored towards it. As it happened we didn't get a lot in the way of wind and rain but with very light airs once we had cleared the cloud bank, we left the sails away and powered on with the motor.

6 April 2019: At Sea

We enjoyed an easy night, sailing along quite happily and averaging just under 7 knots as the winds held. During the morning they started to drop so we decided to get big blue out again and were making a decent speed in the light airs when disaster struck: a 40 knot squall came from nowhere and ripped big blue badly. We battled to get the shredded sail down in high winds, lying flat on the deck fighting to snuff the sail. It got caught on the wind generator and Paul had to cut it free, and then the retrieval line itself got knotted at the top of the forestay. Another cut needed but better than Paul having to be winched to the top of the mast.

So now with 350 miles to go we have no lightweight sail and a forecast of falling winds. We're managing to make a decent speed with the main and jib at the moment but as the wind drops we will have to motorsail if we're to make the entry time for the lagoon on the first island we plan to visit, Makemo. There is a one hour window twice a day to enter/exit these lagoons at slack water in the daylight and if you miss them you have to wait another 18 hours before you can try again. At least when we are motorsailing we can tailor our speed accordingly.

5 April 2019: Taohaie, Nuka Hiva

We were ashore bright and early this morning (think 6.30am) as there were rumours of tomatoes being available! Several other rally boats were there also making the most of the unexpected  opportunity to buy salad, something in very short supply. We also walked along to the boulangerie but by 7am they had already sold out! Fortunately one of the shops had bread so we did pretty well all told.

And then the discussions about the weather and the best window to reach the Tuamotos archipelago. We had hoped to spend a few more days in the Marquesas but the weather had a different agenda: two days (Friday/Saturday) with a modicum of wind and then nothing for a week so we took the decision to head off and by midday were on our way, along with a few other rally boats.

A few hours in the wind dropped so we decided to bring out the big blue parasailor. What a trial that proved to be. On the first attempt Paul somehow managed to get the lines wrapped around themselves and the sail was inside out! It was a struggle for him to get it down again but undaunted we got it up again, only for the wind to change direction so it came down again! Meanwhile our buddy boat gained 5 or 6 miles on us!

5 Apr 2019

3 April 2019: Taiohae, Nuka Hiva

Dan departed early on Tuesday morning leaving just Phil and us for the next couple of days before he heads home as well. We decided to remain in Taiohae until he leaves and have had a super time, hiking out to the headland at the mouth of the bay, enjoying delicious Marquesan food in company, attending a traditional Polynesian afternoon of dancing, flowers and food-tasting and finally the World ARC awards evening last night.

Sadly Tumi wasn't on the winners podium last night but we did get second place in estimating how long the leg from the Galapagos to Marquesas would take us … we were within 4 hours, not bad in 18.5 days!

We were also very touched when the children on the rally conducted their own awards ceremony and presented Tumi with a 'good luck T-shirt’ for fishing. After learning of the theft of our fishing rod in Puerto Ayora, they thought we deserved some luck and so made the t-shirt for us, decorating it with writing and fish. We were very touched but it did bring us luck …. we caught 5 fish on the leg to the Marquesas, the joint highest tally of the fleet.

The weather forecast for sailing down to the Tuamotos archipelago is not looking too good …. no wind! We would like to see a bit more of Nuka Hiva before we leave so we are thinking of going along to a neighbouring bay tomorrow to hike to a waterfall, the third highest in the world, and then the following day around to the north coast to a beautiful bay. Hopefully the winds will return for us to then sail down to Fakarava! Just a bit more provisioning and comms to do as we'll be even more off the grid there than we are here. And talking of provisioning, the prices here are very high .... $7 for a head of celery, $4.50 a dozen eggs, $16+ for a bottle of table wine and $25+ for a recognisable variety; $2.50 for a green pepper or can of coke ... and this is all assuming you can find any! Rumour has is that there might be some tomatoes available this morning .... we'll get up early to see!

2 Apr 2019

1/4/2019: Nuka Hiva

Wow! What a beautiful island. We hired a car today to tour as much of it as we could and were blown away by the scenery and views. Spectacular and so quiet: tourism hasn't really arrived in the Marquesas. The roads up the peaks are steep and narrow with a lot of hair-pin bends to negotiate with dramatic drops and no crash barriers. Not for the faint-hearted!!

As we crossed the various ridges in the middle of the island we descended into a hidden valley and stumbled upon a magnificent archeological site in the tropical woodlands near Hakaehu. This ceremonial site saw human sacrifices in years gone by, thank goodness no longer made!

We wanted to have lunch at a local restaurant on the other side of the island that specialises in local pig and goat, wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the ground for six hours. It was a great setting: an open-sided, thatched structure alongside a beautiful bay with welcoming staff and rustic, tasty food. The leftovers are fed to the blue-eyed indigenous eels in the small stream running next to the restaurant, great big fat slimy creatures!!

As with Hiva Oa there aren't many roads and so a circular route wasn't an option. On both the drive out and back we passed through a small village called Taipivai nestling in a valley next to a river. It's here that Herman Melville skipped the whaling ship he was on and was taken captive by a group of cannibals. After six months of convincing them not to eat him they let him go and he returned to England and wrote Taipi about his time as a captive, and then went on to write Moby Dick.

In the middle of Nuka Hiva is a large plateau at around 800 metres high. It's a completely different topography with pine forests and meadows, and a lot of cattle and horses wandering around, surrounded by high peaks.  The views were outstanding and the ambient temperature far cooler. In times gone this plateau provided all the beef and dairy for the archipelago but now it is largely imported.

A great day overall!

31/3/2019: Tahaioe, Nuka Hiva

Oa Pou was a big disappointment to us all ... the anchorage wasn't particularly scenic, the small town was closed up, no bars or restaurants and there were no taxis to take us inland to explore! It felt a bit like a day wasted but by the time we had managed to get the stern anchor set (five attempts!) it was too late to be able to head off anywhere else! So we made the best of it, walked a reasonable distance into the hills, and then returned to Tumi for a night on board. Just before dinner was ready, two of the crew off one of the other rally boats turned up asking if they could join us for a drink and so we welcomed them on board and four hours later encouraged them to leave!

We were up bright and early today to head over to Nuka Hiva, the neighbouring island about 25 miles away and the last sail for Dan and Phil. Fortunately the wind played ball and we did actually sail and arrived into a beautiful large bay surrounded by towering peaks and with plenty of room to anchor. Perfect! We ventured ashore late afternoon and explored the little town of Tahaioe and the tiki park by the port, home of the tallest contemporary tiki in the Pacific. It seems very nice and we look forward to spending a few days here.

29/3/2019: Baie Hanamoenoa, Tahuata

There are a few challenges in the Marquesas: poor communication links, limited provisioning and virtually unpronounceable place names! Each day since arriving we have had to visit one of the two restaurants in Atuona that has Wifi available, to touch base with friends and family and catch up with admin. It’s lovely to touch base with people but the speed and quality of the link makes it somewhat frustrating with poor reception on calls and very slow internet speeds.

We motored over to Tahuata yesterday afternoon and dropped anchor in this very nice bay, joining a few other ARC boats. Later in the afternoon, a few cats arrived and settled in among the monohulls, and we were in the midst of our friends again. We invited three of the cats aboard Tumi for drinks and Mango duly invited us back for dinner to help them eat the massive wahoo that they had caught. The evening turned out to be brilliant, and Phil was something of a star, regaling the crowd with his singing. So much for not drinking much alcohol after our three-week detox, that has gone right out of the window!

Today we have been doing boat things, Phil cleaned the steel work, Dan scrubbed the decks and went around the waterline to remove any green algae (he’s the only one that can get in the water for the next few days while our tattoos heal up a bit) and Debra and I defrosted the fridge and freezer. We relaxed during the day, had a BBQ this afternoon, and this evening we set off for Ua Pou, travelling overnight so that we arrive in the daylight. Unfortunately, the winds have dropped to nothing and we are motoring. Ho hum.

27/3/2019: Atuona, Hiva Oa

It’s tattoo day! Phil and I had called into the tattoo studio on Monday to discuss what we wanted and to allow the artist time to design our respective tattoos. I wanted something traditional, utilising Marquesan symbols to represent what is important to me and what we are doing. So, I chose adventure, the sea, nature, friendship, family etc. I duly turned up at 9am feeling a little bit apprehensive but excited to be finally getting my tattoo. It has only taken me 62 years! The Marquesas are surprisingly the home of the tattoo, rather strange for such small, off the beaten track islands, and many tattoo artists in other parts of Polynesia hail from here.

Given I wanted a band all the way around my arm, it was a slightly more complicated undertaking than if I had been having a circular tattoo where in effect a type of stencil can be used to transfer the design onto the body and accelerate the process. Having approved the design, the artist then had to draw it on my arm freehand, first in red pen and then green. This took an hour and then he got to work with the needle and ink. It was a strange sensation, rather like having a series of mini-electric shocks, and the underside of my arm was definitely more sensitive than the outer arm, not painful but I was certainly aware of it being done. Some two hours later, making three hours in total, the final tattoo was complete, and I am thrilled with it.

Debra joined me in the studio for the final hour and after questioning me about how much it hurt, she decided to go ahead with a very small complementary tattoo depicting the ocean and adventure. It was very much a “now or never” thing for her, and if the artist hadn’t been able to fit her in there and then she would never have returned. She opted to have the tattoo just above her right hip bone and, whether the skin there is more sensitive I don’t know, but she didn’t enjoy the experience at all finding it uncomfortable verging on painful. She was very relieved that her tattoo only took five minutes!

So now we both have a permanent reminder of our time in the Marquesas and the biggest adventure of our lives …. to date!