29 Jun 2019

28/6/2019: Savusavu, Vanua Levu

An overnight sail saw us arrive on the second largest Fijian island of Vanua Levu in the second town of Savu Savu which actually boasts a couple of small marinas and quite a few moorings. We, as many other boats, have chosen it to ride out the storm that's due to hit on Saturday night into Sunday and so we got here reasonably early to ensure we could be accommodated. Even by Wednesday the place was filling up but we have been lucky enough to get a cyclone-proof mooring so we should hopefully be okay, fingers crossed.

This island has a real Indo-Fijian culture, apparently dating back a hundred or so years and to some extent it now dominates the island. There are still indigenous Fijian villages (we visited one yesterday) but the town itself is a colourful mix of Indian fabrics and restaurants and the locals definitely look more Indian than Fijian.

Unlike some of the neighbouring islands where tourism is a major industry, cane and copra farming provide the main economy for Vanua Levu with just a few resorts along the southern coast. It feels very authentic with few Westerners walking the streets but very friendly and welcoming all the same.

We hired a car for 24 hours, spanning two days, with friends Nicky and Peter to see something of the island. Yesterday we headed inland to Vuadomo Village and waterfall, a traditional Fijian village where we were greeted by the chief's grandaughter and shown around the well-tended village. Unfortunately we had forgotten our gift of cava root and after making our apologies we bought a couple of mats from one of the villagers.

Set in a beautiful, tropical valley running down to the sea, the residents of Vuadomo lead a simple existence fishing and farming. There were around fifteen houses, a meeting room, church and something called a 'lali', a hollowed out log which is beaten with wooden sticks to summon the villagers.

Everywhere was very well maintained and the village boasted an enormous satellite dish so some 21st century comforts are available! By contrast their fishing vessels were bamboo rafts lashed together with ropes made from coconut fibres.

The village has its own waterfall set beyond the farmland and our guide happily walked us through the allotments pointing out taro, bananas, coconuts, papaya, ginger, pineapples, chillies and (of course) cava itself.

We meandered through the tropical plants to the waterfall, by no means the tallest we have seen on this trip but very pretty nonetheless.

As we mentioned before this island is not big on tourism and so for lunch we had to head back to Savusavu. As we were parking alongside the river where Tumi is moored, I happened to look over to where she should be on a mooring buoy, only to see the buoy empty and Tumi motoring out to sea!! Now we knew a large barge was set to come upriver that day and so assumed that was why she needed to be moved but we had no idea who was on board and whether they were competent or not! Jumping in the dinghy we gave chase only to find one of our fellow World ARC participants at the helm, and certainly very competent. What a relief!!

The car needed to be returned by 10.30 this morning and so we were up early to visit the ruins of an ancient Fijian village called Nukubolo deep in the mountains north of Savusavu. Set in a volcanic crater with steaming hot springs, the setting is lovely but very remote. We wound our way 8kms up a dirt track in our trusty Suzuki Jimmy jeep, crossing a wide river and a couple of isolated villages before arriving at Biaugunu, the closest village to the ruins and the place we needed to meet the chief to ask for permission to wander around.

Foolishly I had worn shorts today and had my knees exposed and so Nicky and I sat in the car while Paul and Peter went to formally meet the chief, give our gift (sevusevu) of cava powder and be officially welcomed to the village. And then we continued, stopping off to ask directions from locals before finally arriving at another river crossing that we decided the Suzuki wasn't up to. It was time to wade across!

Being a resourceful type I remembered we had a bag of laundry in the back of the car and so I fashioned a sarong out of a bath towel to cover my knees and off we went.

The river while reasonably wide, wasn't very deep and we were soon in the remains of the village on the far bank.

One family lives there in a shack, so primitive it made yesterday's village seem positively first world. Despite the depravations and threadbare clothing the father was happy to show us the hot springs nearby where he has fashioned a pool for bathing, and the piped hot water to a standpipe outside his home. He also showed us the corrugated metal sheeting suspended over the hot springs on which the family dry the copra they harvest before taking it to the mills.

We wished we had brought items of clothing for the family, they seemed to have so little yet made us so welcome. The only gift we could offer was cava powder and so the father and his two children accompanied us back to the car to collect it.

It was a fascinating insight into the real Fiji, a lifestyle that has probably barely changed in generations. We westerners really don't know how lucky we are.

25 Jun 2019

25/6/2019: Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji

Breathtaking. That's the best way to describe the scenery on the twenty miles trip to the Bay of Islands on Vanua Balavu 's north-west coast. Of course it was helped by a vivid blue sky reflecting on the azure and turquoise seas.

The geology is interesting on the islands with dramatic and high undercut cliffs surrounding the bays and smaller, scattered rocks within them, again undercut and looking a bit like mushrooms.

The area would be very quiet indeed without the presence of the World ARC fleet. Most of us enjoyed a few nights at anchor here, making the most of the snorkelling at the 'bat cave', probably the best coral reef we have ever seen. And also enjoying rafting up in the dinghy to watch the large fruit bats take flight at dusk for a night hunting.

There's a pretty significant weather system heading our way in a few days time which has impacted all of our plans. Instead of heading for the island of Taveuni for a few days we're heading overnight to SavuSavu, one of the larger towns on the second d largest island of Vanua Levu where we can tuck away up a creek and ride the high winds out. Such a shame that the forecast is interfering with our plans but not a lot we can do about it.

We have had to say farewell to a few boats in the last couple of days, ones that are dropping out of the rally, and a few tears have been shed. Intense friendships have developed in a relatively short period of time, engendered by the shared experience and crazy amount of socialising we have all done. In fitting fashion we enjoyed a farewell beach bbq today with special friends, saddened to be saying goodbye but knowing we will all meet up again in the new year in New Zealand.

21 Jun 2019

21/6/2019: Lomolomo, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group, Fiji

After 48 hours at sea we entered the lagoon surrounding the island of Vanua Balavu with Paul keeping watch for coral reefs on the bow as we approached the main settlement for the Lau Group of islands, and probably the most remote part of Fiji.

One flight a week and nothing in the way of hotels, has resulted in a very traditional culture where the village chief is definitely the head man. Visitors must present themselves to the chief and take a gift of cava powder (a root crop) to mix with water to make a muddy coloured drink. This is shared with visitors in a formal sevu sevu ceremony, a cultural experience to behold apparently and one we will probably partake in several times. We have to dress appropriately, with covered knees and shoulders so Paul chose to wear a sarong, again part of the local culture.

The sail down was good but rolly and we were tired by the time we arrived. Fijian customs clearance is a strict affair and we had to remain on board until our turn in the queue to clear in. That turned out to be over 20 hours after our arrival but given we slept 11 hours of that it soon passed!

Venturing ashore this afternoon we strolled through the village, chatting to locals and watching the high school students playing both netball and sevens rugby. The island is very tropical with palm trees framed by vivid blue skies, lovely. The locals are very welcoming: one man scaled a palm tree to harvest coconuts for us which he opened and we gratefully drank the coconut water.

We rounded off the day hosting dinner for 8 on board Tumi, an international mix of French Canadians, Germans and Brits. A lot of fun with everyone contributing a dish of food to share. Tomorrow we'll move on to the Bay of Islands, reputedly stunningly beautiful. A few days rest and relaxation beckons!

16 Jun 2019

17th June 2019 Vava'u Tonga

We had a busy day yesterday: joining a tour to see the local botanical gardens in the morning and the World ARC awards dinner for leg 5 (which of course we were disqualified from for not going to Suwarrow!) that evening.

We actually awoke to some blue sky, such a pleasant sight after almost a week of cloudy and at times very wet weather. Piling onto a coach we set off for the other side of the island where a former Tongan Minister for Agriculture has developed a botanical garden in what had been virgin forest. It's been his life's passion, cultivating native and imported plants and trees and as he escorted us around it was obviously still a big part of his life.

Driving across the island, passing through small villages, we were once again surprised how like parts of home it looked, give or take the odd palm tree, with cows grazing in meadows.

Sone of the land was cultivated where the major crop is a root plant called cava. After harvest this is ground down into a fine powder which, when mixed with water, forms a muddy-looking, earthy-tasting hallucinogenic drink which is very popular with the locals on many Polynesian islands. In fact we have needed to buy a few kilos of the stuff to take with us to Fiji where, when visiting inhabited islands, there is an expectation that we will take some along as a gift for the chief. Paul and I ended up with more than we needed and so we've travelled around the anchorage selling the surplus, rather feeling like drug dealers!

After touring the garden the rudiments of weaving, tapa-making and coconut processing by hand were all demonstrated to us. The palms from the coconut trees are woven into baskets and screens which are used for roofing, privacy screens, table cloths, matting and, after being dried and stripped, even traditional clothing. A very versatile plant indeed, especially when you consider how they use the nut itself for coconut water, dessicated coconut and coconut milk (from squeezing the shredded coconut in the fibrous husk to extract the liquid). All of the work appears to be done by the women, including making the tapa-cloth from repeatedly banging the stripped bark of a local mulberry tree with a wooden club. After a day of hitting a 10cm wide strip of bark, a 30cm wide length of cloth is produced which is reasonably soft and is used for clothing and blankets for warmth. The women need an awful lot of patience and arm strength to produce each piece.

After a being served a local lunch (chicken curry, shredded beef in taro leaves, fish patties, karava cakes, rice etc) we were entertained by local dancers while our host and his friends got into the cava …. and appeared to get very mellow! Say no more!! It is traditional for the dancers to cover themselves in oil and the audience to stick currency to their limbs during the dance. The dancing itself is far gentler in style than that we have seen further east, more akin to the flowing movements of Hawaiian dancers in many ways. The accompanying music was also unusual and didn't sound very Polynesian to us! All in all an interesting few hours.

The awards dinner last night was a big event for the local Tongans with the deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism attending, together with the dance troupe that travels internationally representing the kingdom and a local brass band! It was also a big night for the fleet being the last time we will all get together for an WARC event as 6 boats are dropping out in Fiji for a year, and a few tears were shed by the boats concerned. More local food, punch, chatting, laughter and prize-giving followed before we headed back to Tumi tired but happy.

Yesterday, several of us went to church to enjoy the wonderful singing during the service. The choirs' voices made the hairs stand up on your neck. We left about half way through the service as we were taking up seats from local people and they were reduced to sitting or standing outside which didn't feel right. Many of us then went on a hike to the highest point on the island, involving a final climb of 189 steps to reach the pinnacle.

Last night one of our toilets blocked and refused to function. Repairing toilets is not a job we relish but we got stuck in and pulled out the waste pipe (not an easy task). It turned out to be completely choked with scale, no wonder it wouldn't work. An hour later we had broken out all the scale and flushed the pipe through. Reassembling the system went reasonably easy without the solid core preventing any flexibility in the pipe, and now we just have to rebuild the cupboards that hide access to the pipe.

Today is a provisioning, refuelling, and clearance day. Once that is done we will move to an anchorage nearby for the night so that we are ready to leave Tonga for Fiji in the morning - approximately 2 days sail.

We have made a decision about our future plans this week and have decided to remain with the rally and sail directly to Mackay this year rather than drop out in Fiji and slow things down. It will be nice to continue in company and have a few months cruising Queensland before flying home in early November. Lots of land-based adventures await including our first one in NZ for the first few months of next year and then back in Australia in the Spring.

14 Jun 2019

14/6/2019: Vakaeitu Island, Vava'u Group, Tonga

Tonga is the Pacific's last remaining monarchy and is culturally very strong - Tongan society is hierarchical (royalty, nobility and commoners), is devoid of materialism and 'borrowing’ is a way of life! Even school uniforms feature a sarong for boys, as did the uniform for the clearance officials on Monday. It was under Britain's protection until 1970 when full sovereignty was re-established and it joined the Commonwealth of Nations. It isn't a wealthy country at all, with little tourism infrastructure, and largely survives on international aid (primarily from Australia and NZ but also China) and remittances sent from Tongans living overseas.

The Tongans themselves are extremely religious with many churches of various Christian denominations. We were chatting with two young Californian girls, both dressed in long floral dresses with braided hair, a few days ago who are here as Mormon missionaries for a year. They told us that over 99% of the population are Christian, and that great energy and creativity is put into decorating graves. As in Niue, Sunday is truly a day of rest: it is actually illegal to work on a Sunday. No flights arrive, no shops are open and sports are prohibited. A few tourism businesses do operate but generally the island grinds to a halt while the nation attends church, feasts and rests. Attending a church service has been recommended to us for an amazing cultural experience where the singing is unbelievable. We'll try to go to one on Sunday, and Paul would like to attend a rugby match too.

The Vava'u Group of islands comprises myriad small rocky islets covered in vegetation and palm trees. Protected from the ocean by reefs, it makes for a lovely cruising ground and is apparently world famous, although we have never heard that it is before. As with Niue the water is very deep and shelves steeply and quickly near the shore making finding a spot of anchor quite challenging. On Wednesday/Thursday nights we anchored off a small island called Vakaeitu, remote and beautiful and all we could hear was the waves lapping against the overhanging rocks and sounds of the jungle … crickets, the occasional roosting bird etc. Very tropical indeed.

Sadly Tonga has been more of a tropical rain forest than anything else with yet another day of pouring rain yesterday … we awoke to 20cm of water in the dinghy yesterday morning and it continued to rain most of the day and night as well. No water shortages here! Even this morning is overcast and showers but there are bright patches around so hopefully it will clear up.

Last night we were invited to the birthday celebrations on one of the other boats … a fun and informal affair where we all took a dish and alcohol and shared it with all the other guests. Despite the rain we had a great night and finally made it back to Tumi at 1am this morning!

10 Jun 2019

10/6/2019: Niefau, Vava'u Group, Tonga

We left Niue on Friday evening at 6pm for our 36 hour sail to Tonga after a very enjoyable lunch with two other boats. The anchorage at Alofi was becoming very rolly with the shift in wind direction and so we were glad to be on our way.

We had a good passage with winds all the way that enabled us to sail, all apart from three hours when the breeze switched to being from behind us in the night, and that would have needed us to deploy the whisker pole. Needless to say, we would need daylight to achieve this under our present circumstances, so we put the engine on until we had a decent enough wind angle to sail again.

We arrived in Tonga at 11:00 am on Monday. Yes, those mathematicians among you might say that is a day longer than 36 hours. Well, we crossed the date line and lost Sunday altogether! We are now GMT+13 which with BST in place puts us 12 hours ahead of the UK whereas in Niue we were 12 hours behind .... true time travelling! All the clearance forms I had completed in advance were one day out, but the officials didn't seem to mind, they just had wry smiles on their faces. Interestingly, two of the officials were wearing sarongs, obviously part of their culture. Anyway, they cleared us in and we are at anchor in the bay which is swarming with jellyfish. I'm not going swimming today!

The temperatures are dropping as we move farther west and on the overnight passages we have resorted to wearing jackets on watch. Of course, it's winter in the southern hemisphere and as the sun moves ever northwards it is getting steadily cooler. Our wardrobes simply aren't geared for cool weather!

We've got a week in Tonga and plan on exploring some of the many small islands making up the Vava'u (pronounced Va..Va..Ooh) group, one of several groups of small islands united as the Kingdom of Tonga. The Vava'u Group is believed to have been settled for around 2000 years and was first visited by Europeans in 1781 when it was claimed for Spain. Captain Cook missed it when he was sailing past ten years earlier, being told by islanders in the neighbouring Ha'apai Group that there were no islands further north!

Tonga is a an important breeding ground for humpback whales which are often dubbed 'singing whales’. On the final night of the passage here I thought I could hear something, rather like in  the movie Finding Nemo when Dory is talking to the whale that has swallowed them. Maybe a passing whale was courting Tumi! Luckily for us he didn't do more than sing to her!!

4/6/2019: Alofi, Niue

Niue, the largest uplifted coral atoll in the world is also the smallest country! And it's stunningly beautiful … surrounded by a reef pavement, limestone cliffs stand about 20 metres high on top of which is the central island plateau. Verdant foliage and palm trees cover the island where only 1500 Niueans now live, most having left for NZ since being granted residency some years ago. Now under NZ governance, the Commissioner has an idyllic location to manage. 400 of the residents are employed by the Government, although it's fair to say not on road maintenance! The island's road network is littered with potholes.

As you drive around the island there are a lot of abandoned properties, some dating back to the time when Niue became annexed to NZ, others to the last devastating cyclone in 2004 after which the population dropped from 5000 to it's current level and it took the island's vegetation 5 years to recover. It's actually quite sad to see so many empty and decaying houses … the Government tried to pass a bill allowing them to demolish the homes but Niueans living in NZ mounted a successful defence and so the properties remain. There are also graves everywhere on the island: the tradition is to bury family members on/near the family home as opposed to in a graveyard. Everywhere is well tended and almost like driving through a landscaped theme park.

In order to hire a car on the island, we had to obtain a Niue driving licence, a painless task, fill in a form, pay over NZ$22.50, have your photo taken, and voila, two minutes later, you have a new, and very pretty driving licence, valid for a year. It's a good job really, we found out that Debra's driving licence expires in October this year, so at least she is covered now until we get back to the UK and she gets a renewal.

As with the other islands we have visited, the locals have made a big effort to make the rally very welcome. Niue has its own yacht club, despite no-one having a boat, and the management committee go to great lengths to make sure visiting yachties have an enjoyable stay, from co-ordinating social events to arranging car hire and tours to running us to supermarkets and the fuel station.

Getting ashore has been something of a trial. There are no floating pontoons for us to tie up to, the jetty is built on the reef, and the swells that push constantly at the walls are such that it would shred any boats tied up against the jetty wall. Instead, we have to lift our dinghies out of the water using a crane, swing the dinghy in board and place it onto a trolley, wheel the trolley to a dinghy parking spot and deposit the dinghy on the ground. Getting it back in the water is just as interesting. We have to lift the dinghy sufficient to push the trolley underneath it, wheel the trolley back underneath the crane hoist, lift it off the trolley, swing it out over the water and lower it. Then the skipper has to somehow climb in, set the motor running, unhitch the sling and collect passengers and baggage whilst holding the dinghy steady in the swell that threatens to leave you high and dry on the steps. Incidentally, on one of these expeditions, as I was getting control of the dinghy, there was a big sea snake on the bottom step, about a metre away from me. As the swell picked the dinghy up, the wash also rose up, flooded the steps, and the snake swam away. Yesterday, one of the trolley wheels came off, so we had to physically lift and carry the dinghy to it's parking place and back again. It's a good job there are several sailors around to lend a hand!

The World ARC itinerary only allows for a 72 hour stopover at this magical place but having skipped Suwarrow we have been lucky enough to spend longer here giving us a chance to explore the island and get a feel for the place. Geomorphlogically it is fascinating: the rugged coastline is indented with magnificent caves and chasms, accessible from trails through the tropical jungle. Giant stalactites and stalagmites fill the caves while crytsal-clear pools litter the reef pavement making for myriad snorkelling opportunities. The water and air temperature is noticeably cooler than French Polynesia (I even grabbed a fleece blanket last night!!) but it is still very pleasant. The only downside to the snorkelling here, to my mind at least, is the preponderance of sea snakes …. I don't like snakes of any variety!

We have been snorkelling in the Limo pools, a coastal pool where we experienced the turbulence caused when fresh water mixes with the sea water. At first I thought my face mask was steaming up as I  couldn't see anything clearly, so I took off the mask and cleared it, put it back on again, and still couldn't see anything clearly. I repeated the process, and the same thing happened, but then I moved out of the mixture, and all became clear again. It was a weird phenomenon to say the least!

From welcome receptions, local dancers and island tours we've been lucky enough to get a flavour of this unique place. Definitely somewhere to return to one day and a highlight of the trip.

7 Jun 2019

1/6/2019: Alofi, Nuie

Saturday 1st June: Land Ahoy!

Yes after another night of motoring we can see Niue on the horizon, 24 miles away. From this distance it looks flatter than I expected. Paul us still sleeping, catching up on missed sleep from 7 nights at sea, and I am on watch, multi-tasking (yes, I can!) with doing boat jobs so we will arrive with a clean and tidy boat, and full water tanks.

Paul caught a blackfin tuna yesterday afternoon which we enjoyed for dinner last night … he's still after the elusive Mahi Mahi but it's looking less and less likely! I just checked on the chart plotter and we have 2118 nautical miles to fish before we arrive in Australia so we may still be in luck!

Next update will be from Niue!

Friday 31st May: Pacific Ocean

We're down to less than thirty hours (185 miles) to go now and have been motoring for the last day and a half, give or take 4 hours when the wind returned and we were able to sail for a short while and turn the engine off. As suspected though, sailing resulted in us falling even further behind the two other boats, around 35 miles now!

Yesterday morning we decided to deploy the Parasailor. There wasn't very much wind but we felt we should give it a go for a number of reasons: it would enable us to turn the engine off; we would be able to see the quality of the repair made in Papeete; it would put to bed the bad memories of the last time we flew it when it ripped. So up it went, easily in the light airs, and we made slow but steady progress for a few hours until the wind dropped even further, insufficient to fill the sail. It still looks very impressive when it's full, and the repair looks good too!

Twice a day, every day so far we have our own small radio net with the other two boats. We are now out of VHF radio range and so are using SSB communications but it is good to touch base. We haven't seen another vessel for over 5 days, it's such a big and empty ocean, and it's rather comforting to know that there are two other boats not that far away!

After the first few days of high winds and big seas the Pacific is now as benign as you could imagine, with barely a ripple on the surface and an all but unoticeable swell. If the amount of wind we had for three and a half days could have been averaged out over the seven days needed for the entire passage we would have had near perfect sailing conditions. For some reason it never seems to work out that way!!

We caught a fish yesterday, a greeny yellow jack we believe (judging by it's markings) but we couldn't positively identify it as such and so threw it back. It wasn't a bad size and if it was indeed a jack then it would have made for good eating but it's better to be safe than sorry. Today's endeavours netted a black fin tuna. Dinner sorted for this evening!

We're under a bit of time pressure now to arrive in Niue before customs and immigration close at 15.00 on Saturday. If we don't make it then it's not the end of the world but would mean us remaining on board until they re-open on Monday morning. We've increased the engine revs to try and meet the deadline …..

Wednesday 29th May: At sea!

It's day 5 of our passage from Bora Bora to Niue and to date the weather has been as forecast or thereabouts. The length of time we needed to motor initially was longer than we hoped, just over 24 hours, bit since then we have been able to sail on a beam reach and make reasonable time. That said, the other two boats in our mini-fleet have pulled away from us and they are now around 20 miles ahead. It's always difficult for boats of different length, sail configuration and hull style to match speed as we have undoubtedly proven this time! To be fair we have kept pace with them in daylight hours but we reef the sails down more heavily than they do at night and so only half a knot difference in boat speed results in 6 nautical miles difference overnight. Times 4 nights then the difference in distance is about right.

We knew setting off that we were skirting the edge of a big weather system to the south and it has generated winds in the high twenties, gusting into the thirties and heavy rain on occasions. With the high winds come bigger seas and so it hasn't been the easiest of sails, especially when it comes to trying to get some sleep! Throw in a couple of days of queasiness for me, then it's not been a favourite passage I have to say but we were warned by the organisers that this is usually the worst passage crossing the Pacific … something to do with the start of winter storms further south in the southern hemisphere which influence conditions where we are right now. They never mentioned that before we set off in January!!

We've also had a couple of issues with equipment on board, namely the whisker pole which we use to hold out the jib (front sail) when the wind moves to come from behind. We deployed it as usual on day 3 but when the wind moved we needed to change it to the other side of the boat. In making this change the claw on the end of the pole that attaches to a ring on the mast snapped off, allowing the pole to swing wildly on the deck. We both went forwards to capture it and we're able to lie it on the deck alongside the guard rail to which we fastened it for safekeeping. Fortunately this happened in daylight, so much easier than if it had been at night.

Overnight we chatted about how we could jury-rig the pole using dyneema soft shackles and so yesterday we effected the temporary repair. It involved Paul having to go up the mast to retrieve an errant line - not the easiest of tasks in rolling seas but he managed it without incident thank goodness. We didn't need to deploy the pole that day as the wind had moved back to around 100 degrees off and so we could sail well without it.

Today the winds have eased, and with them the sea state, and the sun has put in an appearance. The winds also backed to the east once again bringing them from directly behind us so it was time to deploy the whisker pole to hold out the jib to catch as much wind as possible. The new jury-rigged arrangement involved us both going forward onto the moving deck but we managed to get the pole in place and return to the cockpit.

And then disaster struck twice. Firstly the jib sheet snapped, allowing the jib with the pole still attached to flail around. Paul hurried forward while I wound away the jib, pole still attached, and we started the process of replacing the jib sheet. As when the portside jib sheet snapped during the heavy weather sailing from Santa Marta to the San Blas islands back in January, we had to use mousing rods to feed the replacement job sheet under the deck mouldings but in no time we had it fixed and the jib poled out once more.

And then the second disaster to hit us today: , when we needed to move the pole again an hour later the claw on the other end of the pole snapped! We're not exactly sure why, maybe the wild swinging when the jib sheet snapped caused it, but Paul suspects it's because the mast fitting is now bent and the claw isn't able to move along/around it smoothly. So once again we lashed the pole to the deck and had had to revert to sailing without the benefit of a poled-out jib.

Sadly for us the angle the wind is coming from meant the jib was just flogging and so we had to wind it away and are now making way with just the mainsail up. It's slow old progress but we'll persevere overnight (falling even further behind the others!) and see what tomorrow brings. If the winds remain light and from behind us we may well deploy the newly repaired parasailor but are somewhat wary of Paul's shoulder should it need to be snuffed quickly in high winds. Alternatively we can try to jury-rig something on the other end of the pole and try to pole out the jib once again. Our third and last option would be to motor the rest of the way (about 350 miles) but we'd prefer not unless the other two options are no go, and/or the wind drops altogether.

One thing this particular passage is doing is make us question how much longer we want to continue with our ocean-going sailing adventures. It's hard work and things do seem to go wrong all the time, which is very wearing but not surprising given the harsh environment and stresses and strains yachts are put under. No decision as yet but we may decide to continue straight on to Australia with the rally rather than dropping out in Fiji and slowing the whole pace down. We'll see when we get there ….