Workaway – NZ Style

Sometimes, life treats you to a gem. We found one in the shape of the Hoban Family. It was with a little trepidation that we set out from Auckland to Albany where the Hobans live. Who would want travellers just to rock up at their house, having communicated only by email to check our compatibility, not knowing you from Adam? The Hoban’s, apparently.


New Zealanders are big on showing off their country and even bigger in welcoming visitors. We had been pleased and surprised in Auckland when Lou, in having her eyebrows done at a beauty parlour, had fallen into conversation with a lady and her daughter who were getting their nails done. It turned out she lived up in the direction we were going and “would love for us to camp in her garden” when we reached her area. She handed us her phone number and address and instructions to find the house. We left slightly stunned with the sheer in your face-ness of her friendliness. We have found the same basic characteristic everywhere we have gone.

Both workaway and woofing (working on an organic farm) are a big deal and established practises here. It is a great way for typically poor young backpackers to get around NZ. You live at a farm or a house and work there, earning your bed and board.  We, as a travelling family, are a bit of an oddity but the Hobans read our blog and decided they wanted to meet us.

We arrived and the first word out of our mouth was “wow”. The house is a new build that they completed two years ago. Maurice and Sarah designed it themselves to be as energy efficient and economical as possible. They equipped it with very efficient double glazing and a huge array of solar panels which feeds back to the grid and brings their electricity bill down by a large amount. Maurice reckons that they paid for their installation in 18 months. It is, typical of housing in New Zealand, a  bungalow. Lots of land space and lots of earthquakes have taught them the value of wooden framed houses close to the ground! The design at the back of the house incorporates massive floor to ceiling windows giving the kitchen and main living area fantastic views all around. Throw in a large decked area and sitting in a couple of acres plot, you have a glorious living space. 

Maurice and Sarah had been travellers themselves and having travelled from the UK to NZ, where Maurice was from to settle, they decided to be as accommodating and helpful to folk of the same ilk as they had found themselves treated by strangers on their journey.  They have three kids, Finn, Amalie and Theo who are great and didn’t seem to mind being invaded by us. Our two, of course, threw themselves in to the kids action with wild abandonment. They have been missing kids’ company and 3+2 became a very happy feral mix.


I did some little projects for them, rebuilding a door frame, clearing the garage up and putting up wire for their climbing plant frames around the back of the house which cost me a squashed finger when I cocked up and tried to swage my finger in with the wire. I felt a right prat. I also had a great time with a petrol strimmer, clearing one of the slopes too steep for a mower over a couple of days. It was so nice to do land based projects with boys toys tools! Lou did work around the house and the kids helped to walk Frodo. We would normally work in the morning and then head out to explore places suggested by Sarah. And what places, all within an hour of the house, both sides of the country. The weather had been wild and the seas at the beaches were spectacular. Lou and the girls visited a gannet colony and beach at the Muriwai Regional Park,  The pathway took you very close to the birds who were not bothered by you at all.


Amalie guided us to the less well known Lake Wainamua, an inland lake on the W coast which, due to the prevailing winds has huge black volcanic sand dunes, drifting up a valley.  It was closer to powder than sand and you couldn’t help coming away black. There we were introduced to the delight of sand dune boarding. It all went well until Hannah got on, forgot to brake and hit the bottom going way too fast, wiping out spectacularly in true cartoon cartwheel style. There were tears.


Walking down towards the beach took us past an excellent little mobile cafe. Hot chocolate and a lolly took precedence over another beach view and Lou and I were heartlessly deserted after the wallet had been fleeced.


Talking about fleecing, we finally found a decent number of sheep on one of our walks. Hannah, of course, needed a photo.


The NZ philosophy of life includes a need for being busy outside and I’d suggest is far less sedentary than the typical UK lifestyle. There are bike tracks and walks taking you to endless great views everywhere you go . There is a constant reference to sport, boating, hunting, camping, trail walks or just being out and about. And the facilities are there for you to be able to do so. There are huge national and regional parks, well run and looked after, set aside for people to disappear in to and explore.


And the playparks inside towns? Wonderful places with great toys for the kids to run riot on.


Eleanor and Hannah both got to go to Amalie’s and Theo’s school for a day too. I think they were both secretly glad that they found themselves easily able to deal with the work they were set. They were pleased and surprised to learn that it is still enshrined in law that NZ kids in the summer months are allowed to come to school in bare feet! There was also the schools swimming pool to play in. You buy a family key for access and it is a great meeting place to cool down in the hot afternoon sun.  Note the inappropriate sides that no-one injures themselves on. Health and Safety morons haven’t really managed to break in to NZ society yet. Long may it last. On another civilised NZ trait – did you know it is not possible to sue over personal injury? You use a facility on your own assessment of its danger to you. You have to think of the consequences of your actions and there is little sympathy if you are a prat. Your fault if you screw up. However, the state will pick up any medical bills to fix you. Same goes for car accidents. Whoever causes the accident simply gets hammered by the courts and the state pays out a reasonable compensation. Whilst some would argue they are not perfect, laws like this would put half the current legal professions of the USA and UK out of work and might change the disastrous blame culture that seems to be prevalent in both countries. An idea to look at, I’d suggest.


All told, we spent just over a week with the wonderful Hoban family. And we loved it. They are marvellously welcoming and I think they provided us with just about the perfect reintroduction to family living on land. We said our goodbyes and left for the drive up towards Opua and the Bay of Islands where our sailing friends were about to arrive in to after finishing their long Pacific crossing to the safety of NZ waters.

We are hoping we will get the chance to see the Hobans again before we leave. There is a golf game that would be great to get to but may not be possible due to the travel plans to go to but we are hopeful we will see them in the New Year, possibly even down on the S island where they will be camping. Either way, I am hoping that we will be able to reciprocate their hospitality one day. 

For anyone thinking about trying workaway or woofing, there are sites that you can find people interested in hosting you. Expect a bit of too and fro as you nail down what each party want out of the arrangement but if you go in to it with an open mind, you will find yourself well rewarded, having the chance to meet some great people and being able to experience true local culture far better than any package holiday.

Look here at the Workaway website

For woofing in New Zealand only, look HERE or

For international woofing, look HERE instead.



New Zealand–the first few days

We arrived in Auckland tired after the long journey and a very early start in Tahiti. The girls both beat us up and were anxiously awake just before 0500, making sure that we wouldn’t have any difficulty in being on time for our plane.

As it was, they need not have worried. The queue was long and boring and whilst Dad got to stand in it, the girls and Lou went off to find out what the drumming was in the small international terminal. I got to see the local dancers walking out of the airport. Hannah got the end of their performance and of course, managed to get a photo of herself standing beside them.NZ

We got picked up by a German traveller, working for accommodation at the garage we had arranged to buy our car and home for the next three months from. Sid, the owner, met us at the garage, proved to be completely horizontal in attitude, handed us the keys and paperwork that needed to change ownership and then told us to come back once we had done so to get the money organised.  We were advised to take it to a separate garage for a $80 check out and I am glad we did. The garage picked up a couple of minor problems which I hadn’t which could have caused hassle later and Sid quickly fixed them.  The car, a 7 seat Toyota, has 250,000kkm on the clock but runs fine. Fingers crossed that lasts.

On one of our first wanders on foot to explore, we walked past the Henderson Middle School and had to get a photo!


The Henderson name is a common one here. The Henderson area is named for a Thomas Henderson, a Scottish settler who came here in the early 1840s and bought the valley of 5000 acres then added another 5000acres of scrubland to expand into shortly after. Henderson Valley had a creek, mill and then township. In time the area became known simply as Henderson, a suburb of Auckland.

Lou had booked us in to the Fat Cat Travellers Hostel, an eco farm hostel, for our first two nights to allow us to settle in and organise ourselves. It proved to be a lucky and inspired choice. Fat Cats is, pretty much, a commune of likeminded travellers, a few permanent staff but with “house angels” allowed to work for their bed and board for periods of 3 weeks at a time. The rest of the guests pay and can either stay in tents, old broken down camper vans, caravans or in the main house, depending on how much you want to pay. Dinner and breakfast is thrown in and the atmosphere is relaxed, very friendly and very laid back. Tobacco seems to be allowed but alcohol, drugs and meat are all off the menu. The food is superb.


This morning’s breakfast was pancakes,bread, porridge and a huge fruit salad. Dinner had more greenery in it than I have seen in months. A big plate load of veggie burger with humus topping on a green salad and bun with an avocado side salad and chips. Just glorious. Even though Lou and I had already been out to satisfy the craving for battered fish and chips, we stayed and had a second dinner, surprising ourselves both loving it and being able to finish it all. Vegan food can be, as I was warned, fantastic if there is someone with imagination doing the cooking.

It is amusing to have to introduce yourself after the communal dinner each night,  sitting where ever you could on a cushion on the floor, accepting a small task in cleaning up the house, drawn pot luck from a bag that went around.   Hannah got the task to “Kiss the Chef” which was enthusiastically completed with free hugs thrown in for pretty much everyone else. Both are loving mixing in with all the big people and made their name one morning by being caught moping the kitchen floor!


Most of the guests are in their late teens and early twenties so Lou and I supply both the oldest faces here and with the girls, the youngest. But everyone wants to chat and I think we will end up coming back here at some point as we move around. It has been amusing as well seeing the looks of amazement when we tell them of our travels. I was even asked by one group for a look at the photos we have taken and a run down of what we had done. I don’t think many of the expect old farts to be doing what they see themselves doing!

The grounds of the house are large and have veg and fruit gardens and lots of space set aside for sitting around with several bonfire pits. There is an outside “fire bath”, the bath being an old cast iron one with a wood fire lit underneath. Not what I was expecting to do within a couple of days of arriving in cold NZ!


There are lots of interesting workshops being done as well. Tonight’s activities was a brief on their Patagonia Earthship project, a Fat Cat eco built house devoted to communal living and helping the locals with renewable energy ideas and organic farming. Yoga and a variety of other spiritual stuff (more Gaia than Christian) figures daily.

Fat Cat was a great place to base ourselves from to explore Auckland. Auckland Museum had been recommended to us and on the basis that the girls really hadn’t done school for a while we decided a day of cultural education would stand all of us in good stead. The museum tells the story of Maori civilisation, has a large section on why living on the rim of fire (which Auckland does) is potentially not a good thing and covers the coming of the white settlers too. It has the NZ Cenotaph outside, a memorial wall inside for the Auckland fallen and an excellent run down of a “colonies” war effort in both WWI and II. We lucked out and were present for the presentation of awards from France to some old and bold for some joint activity a long time ago, listening to an excellent rendition of The Last Post.


We were surprised at the number of Henderson names we saw on the Memorial wall. In the UK we would regularly expect to see the names of Davies, Jones and Macs being differentiated by the addition of their last two or three numbers. Here it was Hendersons.

We have decided that the van we have bought is just not going to work out as a sleep-in-van mode – it just isn’t big enough. Whilst we could copy the kids here and simply pack in, (there are four in a similar van but we think they are having “fun”) we have decided that sleeping in the van will be last resort and we will go back to what we know and live in a tent. The weather is mixed in New Zealand so I dare say we will have periods swearing at the rain and each other hiding in the van but hopefully, not too regularly.

We lucked out with the tent. Priced at $599, it was marked down as it was last years colours to $199 to clear. The lady at the till said the box looked a bit beat up (I’d already check the contents – mint) so gave us 50% off. We paid a grand total of $98 for it. Lou, ever the hunter of a bargain was beside herself! Warehouse, a big discount store was a goldmine. Cheap with with nearly everything we needed, we have visited several stores as well as a host of charity shops and outlet malls. The kids now look as if they fit in to the Fat Cat house lifestyle perfectly but we also have great boots for them to tramp around in whilst in country.

The one thing that has amazed us is the amount of Chinese and Asian people and businesses around the Henderson area. If there is a fish and chip shop, it is most likely to be part of a Chinese restaurant. A lot of businesses use both English and Chinese characters on their signs. Prices are very reasonable, not just against UK prices but European as well. Most items are shipped in from China and NZ is a lot closer than we are in the UK! The NZ Prime Minister is causing a little friction in the press as he has announced that NZ will be granting permanent visas for another 30000 Chinese this year.

The big news in New Zealand this first week has been the 7.8 earthquake in the S island and the damage it has done. Thankfully there have been only a couple of deaths but the damage to property has been extensive. There have been over a hundred aftershocks and what is most worrying is the scientists are predicting a 85% change of an even bigger ‘quake in the next 30days. We will be factoring this in to our travel plans as one of our options to be in South island for Xmas now looks a little suspect.

Auckland is a great town. Very much of the low rise and spread out variety, as a city it covers a huge area. Sized at about 1.5million, it also has about a third of the entire population of NZ living in it. It’s old docks are being developed with new housing and bijou bars and restaurants. I had a lovely time looking at a variety of racing yachts, from the extreme single handed Pogos through Open 50s to old America cup boats. There was a good selection of super yachts to dream about as well.


We moved out of Fat Cats and moved up towards the N end of the city where there was a campsite called Remuera Lodge. It wasn’t that swish, had  lot of permanent campers but we got the chance to put the tent up for the first time and we met some good people. We didn’t get the chance to cook as Lou, eagle eyed as always, spotted an Indian restaurant, 300m from the front gate. One check of Trip Advisor later and I was informed that we would be eating out. Lou got her first decent curry since she left the UK!


We took the chance to climb Mt Eden, the highest of 48 volcanoes that Auckland sits on! The views it gave over the city were wonderful. Note the number of other volcano heads present in the family snap with Auckland in the background! The big one in the bay appeared about 600 years ago. Bit scary knowing that many of these are classed as active. The museum has a great room and presentation showing what even a minor eruption would mean to Auckland. Wipe out……..


We have now tested out the tent, staying in a campsite in the middle of Auckland and have come through unscathed although a little damp. We will be heading out to our first adventure, a stay with our workaway family, The Hobans.


Apataki – Skylark on the Hard

We chose to leave Skylark at Apataki on the suggestion of our friends John and Trish on Lumiel who had heard that the yard was friendly and well run, if a little basic. They lifted out in August and Lumiel will be parked there until their return next year. Being well to the N of the Society Islands, Apataki is out of the Cyclone belt, a massively important consideration if you are intending to leave your boat in storage over the summer period. Our options in this part of the world are limited as many yards don’t store catamarans leaving Hiva Oa, Apataki and Tahiti the only places you can haul out and store in French Polynesia. Our preferred site of Raiatea don’t do cats, Hiva Oa is way too East for us to think about and Tahiti is way too expensive and it can get hit by weather. Whilst I trust John of Mary Ann II’s analysis of the very small likelihood of a cyclone within the Societies the year after an El Nino event (see article written by him and published on Noonsite), the added advantage of Apataki being cheaper by half than the big Tahiti yards was another key factor.

The SW pass at Apataki has a little dog leg at its end which turns straight in to the prevailing E-SE wind. The good books say only go in at slack and expect falls on an incoming tide on the inside of the bay. We arrived just before slack and punched through about two knots outgoing current with no drama at all. It got  bit bouncy on the inside of the pass as a 9 mile fetch with the Trades blowing had set up a nasty Solent like chop, typically coming from exactly the bearing we wanted to go. We pulled the jib back out and motor sailed, tacking back and forth with just enough angle to avoid slamming.


We arrived at the yard late afternoon and anchored in 25’. We were pleased to see Sanuk, who we first met at Isabella in the Galapagos, then again in Hiva Oa and Cheeky Monkey, last seen in the Marquesas. It was good to catch up and talk shutting down techniques. Whilst we did that, the girls played and petted the “tame” 6ft Nurse Shark that lives by the yard. The yard also has three dogs. H says her favourite is a small puppy called Viron.


We started to clean and strip Skylark of the external deck paraphernalia and sails. The mainsail and foresail are to be sent to Tahiti for some TLC but we are also looking at renewing them for our last year and we are waiting a quote from Lee Sails. However, the rest of Skylark is in good condition with just a few bits and pieces needed before we start again next year.  We do have a few knocks that could do with the touch of an expert in gelcoat repair but I don’t think we will find anyone like that until we hit the Societies next year. Our shopping list, considering how far we have come, is a surprisingly short list. Most we will get in NZ; some in Tahiti to be sent up by ship.

The watermaker got one last blast to provide us with a big fresh water load to clean the boat with and then was pickled, an easy process when clutching the instruction manual in one hand. We have noticed a little bio contamination in the water quality of late and we will return with an acid and alkali wash which we will do on recommissioning next Spring. It may damage the membrane with the quality of water not to be quite as it was before but it will kill anything left after pickling. We will do a little bleaching of the tanks on our arrival back as well.

Engines and generator had their oil and filters changed as did the fuel lines. Fuel tanks (diesel and petrol) got biocide treatment. I’ll need to remember to change out the impellors on all engines before we kick off next Spring.

The day of lifting out arrived. It was a near calm with an offshore breeze. We couldn’t have wished for better weather. ApatakiApataki

The lift went well and Skylark came out looking pretty clean but primer shining through in several places. The jet clean was excellent. The worker who did it was a dedicated soul who ripped in and saved me a huge amount of effort by stripping away a lot of paint that was left on the bottom. We will probably stick with ABC3, the paint we got last year and Lou and I have already decided to paint her ourselves. It is a bit more expensive than the paint the yard sells but Tony, the youngest member of the family that runs the yard, likes it better than the stuff they are contracted to use. ApatakiApataki

Dinghy – scrubbed, cleaned and dropped to sit under Skylark on tyres to protect her from the sun. Tied off at four points to ensure she doesn’t try to take off if there is any wind. Engine – 18HP  – washed, oil changed, greased and internals wiped down.

Skylark has been scrubbed within an inch of her life with vinegar to minimise mould and bleached. All the external holes have been plugged up as we have heard that infestations of ants are common here.  The water line was well scrubbed by the girls (a very wet affair) and is now gleaming. All the scuff marks have all been polished out, using the excellent 3M marine restorer and wax product I have.  We wrapped anything delicate (EPIRB, hand mikes etc) in towels and placed them down in the hulls, out of the cabin area. Our last action was to put tin foil over all the windows to minimise the sun getting into the boat. Neil, an Aussie who has left his boat in the yard three years running recommended  this as the yard in summer can get to roasting point and this reflects away a lot of heat.


It unexpectedly rained the night before we left  which left us with a clean boat but with wet canvas that we didn’t want to put away. We have to give a huge thank you to Sanuk and Mary Ann II who put away our bimini and screens once they had dried off and covered off a couple of items that we forgot about before we left.  Mary Ann II also very kindly finished off a few tasks that we had not managed to complete and that only occured to us once we were sat on the plane to Tahiti! It was massively appreciated.

After a presentation of flower necklaces, we had a dry but bouncy ride across the lagoon to the airport for our flight to Tahiti. As we were a little early, we were taken to Tony’s family house in the village for coffee and a shower. They really have looked after us very well.  Our plane was a small one with 12 seats and it was great to be able to see into the cockpit as there wasn’t room for a separating door. Belts were worn throughout the flight and just as well. We hit one bit of turbulence that Eleanor likened to the Tower of Terror she remembers from Euro Disney. A big lurch!


One note on your luggage allowance if you are leaving your boat in FP. If you are joining an international flight out of French Polynesia (and you will need to show them proof you are – a copy of your e-ticket is fine), your allowance is 23kg hold and 5kg carry on. Interestingly enough they measured the total weight of all our bags to ensure our family weight was less than the 92kg allowed. If you don’t show proof, then your allowance is limited to 10kg and 5kg respectively.

Our 2016 itinerary has seen us visit visited Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands) and in French Polynesia, the Marquesas and Tuamotus island groups. We have added just over 6600 miles to the log, had to say our goodbyes to some old friends but have met and made some great new ones too. It has been a wonderful year and even taking in a few lonesome moments when we have felt very far from friends and family, we have all loved it.

We now look forward to life on dry land for a little while. New Zealand is exciting us and our list of to dos is growing every day. The one thing we are wary about is the temperature that we will have to deal with. I haven’t been in less than 75F since I left the UK over two years ago. I haven’t been in less than 80F since we left the Marquesas. The last few weeks have been 90+F!

Auckland today was 65F.


The girls have the advantage of woolly hats, sent to us oh so long ago by the lovely Elspeth Logan.   Hannah’s hat was the first thing on her packing list. Expect to see it in a few photos over the coming months as we get used to the temperature down in the 40S latitudes.

Skylark will be back in the water at the end of February. In the meantime, watch out for posts on our New Zealand travels.

Next year’s agenda – The Society Island, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. Oh yes!


Halloween, a windy farewell to Fakarava and a brief visit to Toau


After all the fun at the S end of Fakarava, the weather gods decided to spoil things by bringing in the first foul weather of our time in the Pacific. A big low came up out of Southern Ocean and whilst the islands to the S of Tahiti got the majority of the rubbish, we had two and a half days of nastiness too.

The day before it hit, we left Pokokora Yacht club at 0700hrs and ran N the 8 miles to Rotoava, chased hard by two boats who obviously had been thinking about the free buoys at the village too. Not that any of us would admit to any feeling of competiveness in the constant trimming and the occasional suggestion of taking shortcuts across questionable depths as we charged up. We got the last one, much to the disgust of the next boat in, 10 minutes behind us. I will admit to feeling a little smug as we tied on to a well cared for 30 ton buoy, knowing we would be fine on it and not having to worry about wrapping chain around a bombie as the wind twirled around as the Low passed through.


I can’t say it was tremendously comfortable aboard and Lou and the kids generally got ashore to spend time at Fakarava Yacht Services or the Pink Slushy Bar, trying to avoid moving during the frequent periods of torrential rain. However, when the wind went into the S and we had a 30mile fetch, I was very glad not to be one of the boats that had chosen to anchor in the NE corner. We spoke to a few of them and all required an anchor watch as they got severely bounced around, the seas breaking on the reef 100m behind them. Mary Ann II’s dinghy became awash, losing its oars in the process. John and I dived to recover them in 40’ of water. I was a little disappointed about our lack of bottom time as we landed directly on top of them. My dive computer registered a dive time of three minutes.

Once the wind went back to the E, we had a wonderful calm. It took two days for the weather to right itself and reestablish the easterly trades.


In the calm, we cut hair and kept the fish under our keel well fed. Lou hasn’t bought a mirror so I’m still getting away with my rough clippering – Vidal I am not……. We discovered a craft fair that the locals had set up for themselves and we had a great time learning how to weave coconut leaves and make flower headdresses. Lou came away with a small black pearl necklace at a somewhat better price than you would find in the shops. Halvard bought out the entire stand of necklaces for men and then we had a go at making our own from oyster shells, the dremel and a saw. We shaped out a hammerhead shark and a more typical hook type affair that Polynesians would then decorate with a tiki and a single pearl. More practise required but both turned out pretty well.


We took the chance of some last minute shopping and then, joy of joys! Another kid’s boat appeared in time for Halloween which was to be our last night at Fakarava. El Nido with Olivia, David and the girls Kali and Gaya, are a Belgium boat who have been out only 7 months. They decided early to concentrate their time in the Pacific. Since leaving Europe the first place they have really slowed down being French Polynesia. They will sell and return home in 2018, intending to sail no further than Australia – much like ourselves.

The kids had a fantastic time, all dressed up and the locals thought it was great that the we had got involved. This was the first time Fakarava had celebrated Halloween and boy, did they go to town. The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven with the quantity of sweets the wonderfully friendly islanders handed out! The parade started by the school and travelled the length of the village. Hannah and Eleanor were filled up with yet more sweets by Halvard and Ann-Helen on our way home. We will be dealing with sugar rushes for days.


We left on 2 Nov to Toau, in the company of El Nido. It was a quick sail and I enjoyed the view of a new Outremer 45 not going past me quite as quickly as I thought it might! Halloween

We had a day at the SE pass which proved to be a very easy entrance about an hour after low slack. Wide and with plenty of water underneath us, we sailed in, sticking to the S side of the pass and anchored at 15 55.973S 145 53.188W in 20’ of water. David, Olivia and I returned to the pass and dived on the edge of the wall, looking down the 2000’ drop-off. We saw some huge tuna, schools of snapper, good reef fish and the odd Grey Shark. The outside wall and sides of the pass had good coral but the centre stretch of the pass was all dead which suggests that it has been swept clear in the past. We tried to drift through and turn S towards the boats but the bottom current had a strong surge which pushed us N. We came up, tired of the effort required just to keep us on the side of the channel and found even with 1+kt current that we had only managed to reach half way through the pass. Sadly my dive computer went wrong too and ceased working at 20m down. I wasn’t happy. I finished the dive latched on to Olivia like a puppy dog. Although I have changed the battery, it seems that the original battery leaked and has damaged the internal components. I tried it against another two wrist  computers and it lasted just 15 mins and was under reading depth by about 20%.  I’ll be writing to the manufacturer.

El Nido’s recovery to us was short lived as Gaya, their 5yr old, found out to the cost of the nail on her big toe and a lot of blood that the anchor locker is not a place to play hide and seek…….. She was very brave but a bit lucky that that was the extent of the injury. Hannah was mortified. Thankfully, cuddles from Mum and the odd sweet or two from the Halloween collection seemed to help matters and after a calming period, we went back to El Nido for a very pleasant evening.


The next morning, with no time to waste, we moved on up to Anse Amyot, a false pass at the N end of Toau. As we left the SE pass, supposedly at the end of the outgoing tide but probably a little early, the standing waves were the worst we have seen. Breaking and up to 8’ in height, it was very unpleasant and it was obvious why some of the guide books don’t recommend a visit to the inside of this atoll. Thankfully we were able to keep close in to the S edge of the pass, right by the reef, avoiding the really nasty stuff but we had to go 1.5miles offshore to get around the race to head N. Our view is that the slack periods in the pass we observed were fine for transit. As always, you just need to time it correctly.  The photo below hopefully gives you a feel of the foulness we managed to claw past.


We raced up the E side of the atoll under parasail with El Nido following up behind us and the 20 mile trip took just over 3hrs. It was a lovely, easy, lazy ride and we needed to touch the Parasail’s sheets once only. Touching 9kts at times, even the speed machine El Nido with her asymmetric flying, gybing back and forth, couldn’t beat us in. I just love that sail! 


We picked up one of the moorings, right by the reef and arranged for us to have dinner ashore with Gaston and Valentine, the owners of the pension and the buoys, the next night. Mary Ann II arrived the next morning, quickly followed by Wilhelm who, on finding the doctor would not be at Fakarava for another month to fill any more steroid prescriptions for Halvard’s duff knee, saw no point in staying there. It took 15 minutes of chat between us to arrange one last dive with them, John and El Nido on the wall a mile W of Anse Amyot. It was a good dive but what are called caves in the Toamotus Compendium proved to be interesting depressions instead and my torch was not required. We saw lots of Moray Eels and a few enormous tuna floating in and out of our view, a little off the wall.

After seven months of constant cruisers, Valentine wasn’t keen to set up one of her famous banquets but Gaston provided fish and a BBQ pit, we provided the rest and we had an excellent night. We choose not to eat the Jack and the Parrot fish although Gaston said both would be fine and proved it by munching through both of them. We stuck to the Red Big Eyes which were good too

P1050641  Toau

The girls found a huge bowl of misshapen black pearls from the days Gaston ran a pearl farm and Valentina gave each of the kids three from the bowl the girls are holding up! The kids’ night was rounded off by way of a funeral that was held for the poor departed soul of a Hermit crab that had been stood on. It was buried with full honours.


The next night we had one last BBQ on the beach with Halvard cooking an enormous lump of beef that they had picked up at Fakarava. Everybody had some and there was still slices left over. With the crews of El Nido, Mary Ann II, Wilhelm and another UK boat that arrived that evening, Asolare with Peter (78 yrs young) and Charon on board, it was a lovely way to sign off our travels in French Polynesia for this year. The goodbyes were long but cheerful on our last morning and we hope to see Wilhelm, who also will haul out at Apataki, just before we go. Halloween

We headed towards our final destination, Apataki, on 5 Nov. It seemed strange to think that it will be our last sail of the year. We decided to make it a good one.

Up went the Parasail!