Tag Archives: Invictus

Visitors from Home–The Turnballs are in town (Pt 2)

Fiona, Emma and the kids caught the ferry back to Musket Cove, raided the hotel of their things and returned to us the following day. We had a lovely three days exploring the reefs close to the boat.

Vistors from HomeHi Fiona

It was a delight having smalls on board again, particularly those that think cleaning and tidying up is fun. Evie took a little more time to get the hang of a big pair of binos! Our thanks to the excellent Evie for all her help.

The ladies and Henry went on a snorkel with the resort at the Sandbar, the closest dive site to Musket Cove on the inside of the reef, which they said was pretty good. Fiona had had to point out to the management that advertising free activities and then trying to charge for them wasn’t on. It didn’t take her long to having them backing down!

 Hi FionaHi Fiona

Visitors from Home

Henry, Emma, Louise and I went out to explore the Sunflower Reef at the atoll pass entrance to Malolo which was excellent. In somewhat rougher conditions a couple of days later with Skylark unable to anchor, Emma and I tried a dive there on the way back in to Port Denarau which was average at best until we came upon a turtle resting on the bottom. We sat and watched each other for a couple of minutes before it effortlessly swam off. Just beautiful. Sadly, for once I hadn’t taken my Gopro so no photographic evidence.

The local paper had announced that the Nadi Rgby Club were to host a match against a team from Suva and we headed back to Nadi excitedly to watch it.   Henry and I were a little surprised and a bit annoyed to find the stadium filled with teenage marching bands, a Miss Nadi competition in full swing and a wonderfully colourful Hari Krishna group going great guns at one end of the park.

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The match had been switched to Suva so the local Bula Festival, a week long event, could be held in the grounds. We went to the fair ground to make up for it and the kids went on dangerous looking rides that UK H&S people would have fits about and ate lots of sugary mess instead.

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With the imminent arrival of Natalia and kids, we took Fiona and Emma back to the hotel they had occasionally utilised. We spent their last couple of days with us around Nadi. There was an expedition down to the sand dunes at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park where boogie boards were deployed to surf the dunes. We splashed out and got the hotel transport down to it for $180 return for all of us. It took about an hour and a half to get there and it was well worth it for the fun the kids had. Some were more successful than others in sliding down the slope. Dips in the sea were required to remove sand from the unmentionables.

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Henry had an assignment to have a photo of himself reading a book at an exotic location. We thought that sitting on the back deck of the $45m, 150’ long super yacht “Skade”, rather fitted the bill and wouldn’t be beaten by anyone else in his class!

 Visitors from Home

For our final meal with Fiona and Emma, we went had a run ashore at the Rhum Ba and rather took over the place with Be and Be, Fata Morgana, Invictus, Natalia and the kids and the Sangvind kids all joining in for a great night.  The pizza went down well as did the caffeine laced cocktails so loved by Peta and Geoff. We managed to have a good chat with Tobi about our next destination the Yasawa Islands and Vanuatu. Sadly we wouldn’t be seeing Invictus for the great kids get together planned later in the month as they would be heading to Vanuatu. 

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It had been great fun to catch up and to be able so show Fiona and Emma that our lifestyle is rather good fun.  We will miss especially the smalls of Stella (pint sized smiley trouble!) and Evie (The Skippers’s little helper/limpet) but we are looking forward to catching up with everyone, including our new friends, Emma and Evie back in the UK. Won’t be long!

Visitors from Home

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

We decided to return to the Paradise Resort at the S end of Taveuni for a day or so of being spoilt before Shena and Kinsley were to head home. After the quiet of The Laus it was nice to be able to sit by the pool, relax with a beer and just do nothing.  The kids of course were a little more energetic, playing in the pool and cliff jumping.

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The ladies worked on the tan and enjoyed trying the cocktails. Kinsley asked to go up the mast and I obliged. She took some good photos, even having time for some classy selfies!A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to NadiA return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

Having asked about getting up to the Waitavala Natural Rock Waterslide, close to Somosomo, a famous attraction of the island, we were dissuaded from using the resort transport at $100+ a head for the visit. We were also told that the lack of rain meant they weren’t worth visiting them. I’m glad we decided to ignore the advise!

We moved the boat up to Somosomo, the main town on the W side of Taveuni and anchored just to the N of the river mouth in about 25’. We used the well stocked supermarket there and found (eventually) where we could buy bread. [As an aside, this anchorage was where Belinda of Free Spirit, visiting a few days later, was followed by an adult 4-5m Tiger Shark. She was lucky. She thought the villagers shouting out to her as she took a swim to cool down were simply being friendly. There was an intake of breathe when she was approached by a couple the next morning where they explained why they had been trying to get her notice!]

The ladies dinghied ashore and caught a taxi, who for the grand total of $6 took the whole party to the start of the walk up to the naturally formed waterslide. The walk takes you past Fiji’s prison and onward up into the forest. It was great fun. The younger ones fired down with little hassle and no problems.

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The older generation (whose with hips!) had a few more problems with the bumps and Shena came down with bruises on her unmentionables to remind her of how much fun she had had!

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The trip was rounded off back in Somosomo with a great meal. Cheap and with huge portions, the Indian on the balcony (can’t remember its name) gets recommended.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

To ease Shena and Kinsley’s trip to the airport we moved up to an anchorage at Matei, a couple of km S from where they needed to go and Shena got to see in one last Fijian dawn. A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

We need not have worried about being there two hours before to book in. The airport has a hatch which is the cafe and a desk where you hand your luggage in. Check in was simple and the taxi driver we were with announced that we may as well wait somewhere better than the airport, the airport man said ok and we headed off for a last repast and tomfoolery at a cafe overlooking Matei bay, where we were anchored. A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to NadiA return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

We had great fun with Kinsley and Shena and it has been wonderful to be able to catch up with both of them. We like to thank Kinsley in particular for the advise and chats she had with Eleanor. It is wonderful to meet a young teen with no hang ups at all! All we need to do next is work out where we will next meet up. USA or the UK? Both are possible.

With the boat feeling empty again, we moved down to Viani Bay where I had arranged when we were all the way back in Nuie, for my ScubaPro regulator to be serviced by Fiji Dive Academy, the first time I’d found someone competent in the Pacific to do so. Viani Bay is a safe anchorage, wonderfully protected by Taveuni just to its E which stops the clouds and weather dead. The bay is inside a world famous dive site called Rainbow Reef, particularly known for its soft coral.  We met up with our friends Be and Be and Invictus. The anchorage is deep, rarely less than 20m and is covered with bommies. When we came to leave, all three of us had wrapped and each had to do the “dance of the bommies” in an attempt to unwrap. They both got lucky and came free. I had to dive to 20m to get the anchor point out from under an old lump of coral. It was completely jammed. If I hadn’t been able to dive and alone, we would have been in a world of hurt.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

Most of the dives are wall or drift dives as the current in the Somosomo Pass can run up to 4kts, making dive selection times important. However there is a good selection of shallower dives on the inside for learners to practise on too.

The Fiji Dive Academy is a new venture between partners Marina and Jone. Jone, originally from Taveuni went to Germany to train up as a dive instructor, where he met Marina, at that time a keen diver. After they got together, they decided to return to Fiji and set up a school with the aim of teaching and training locals. After the normal fight with officialdom they got their commercial license and set up the school in Viani Bay. Now with some basic buildings set up and the shop really taking shape, they are progressing to building living accommodation for divers to stay with them and are slowly clearing the ground, planting grasses to prettify everything. It should look fantastic once it is all finished.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

I’d also recommended the Fiji Dive Academy to Be and Be who had at least one budding diver in Shelby on board after her try outs with me in Bora Bora. As it was, by the time they arrived, we found that EVERYONE on board had decided they wanted to give it a go! Jake, still a little young got to do a bubblemaker dive with Marina. He will need to wait a couple of years before he can take his Junior Open Water. Peta did her OW and Shelby, Harry and Evie did their JOW.

One of the disadvantages of just being an Open Water (OW) diver is that you are limited to a depth of 18m. A lot of the better dives are to be found at greater depths, Rainbow Reef included. Fine if you are diving by yourself when you can ignore the PADI rules but you are limited as soon as you dive with a school who need to see your qualification card for insurance purposes.  I’d thought about doing the Advanced Open Water (AOW) course done to allow me to get trained properly to do deeper dives. Geoff decided he may as well get in on the act and we both signed up for the course. Shelby was allowed to do a zero to hero and join us too but was limited to 21m for her deep dive due to her age. I did think about letting Eleanor do it too but the age limit of 12 snookered us. It will have to wait until she is back in the UK. Geoff and I also decided to get qualified as a deep diver specialist. This lifted our dive permissions from 30 to 40m. Our qualifying dive to the Great White Wall, one of the best soft coral walls in the world at 35m+ was fantastic. Although severely damaged by Cyclone Winston a couple of years ago, it was great to see the regrowth of healthy white and yellow banks of soft coral.

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We dived for a week and the Rainbow Reef lived up to its world class reputation. Magnificant. Mixed in with the course were dives with the famous Jack, a retired dive master who will take you to the local dive sites for the princely sum of  $20 a diver. Good value if you have your own equipment. Eleanor and I did a couple of dives with the Be and Be crowd. It was great fun to see all the newly qualified smalls swimming together, all intensely interested in everything around them – some of the time. Upside down skills and winding up siblings were practised too. We visited the Cabbage Patch, an amazing coral growth and then the Fish Factory, good but of less interest than the Cabbage Patch.

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We had an evening at the dive school with all the boaties, divers and lots of locals, together enjoying a great range of food, kava and music with a big fire blazing close by. Marina and Jone have been organising one party a week and it is a nice way for everyone to come together. I hope they continue it as the school develops and builds. It was a good evening.

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We also had a round of socials on a variety of boats. Swiftsure, Blowing Bubbles and Free Spirit all hosted huge numbers on board. The standard of music was very high with Carl and his ukulele leading the way. He even managed to find time to give the kids a lesson too – very kind.

We also tried to keep up on that education thing. The kids visited the primary school, right next door to the dive school and were welcomed for the day. The school asked for any assistance we could give and we made a small donation to aid them buy equipment. If you were going to the bay, reference books and teaching material would go down well too. Harry made a name for himself by being his normal, hugely enthusiastic self and his dancing skills!

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to NadiA return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

Although I could have happily mortgaged my soul to be able to continue diving with Marina and Jone, we had to move on. With Morag and Alice coming in a little over a weeks time, we needed to start moving towards Nadi on the W side of the main island, Viti Levu.

We said our goodbyes to Marina and Jone and moved with Be and Be and Invictus to Paradise Resort for one last night of fun there. We arrived to find dolphin in the anchorage and the news that two humpback had been through the anchorage the night before. Hannah and I jumped in for her very first dive.

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Her enthusiasm to get in was admirable. Once she had worked out how to clear her ears effectively, she had great fun. We sat at around 6m and watched the sea life go by. She came up with a big smile on her face and we have another one set to do her JOW before we return to the UK.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

We timed it well. The resort does a Fijian night once a week and we had arrived just in time to join in. The food is prepared traditionally in a earth oven and is fantastic. The whole affair is made a spectacle.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to NadiA return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

The locals put on a dance show with most of the dancers being the kids of the staff which leads to lots of staff participation. I got the feeling that they were enjoying it at least as much as the “guests”! To finish us off, we were invited to drink kava with the team.

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to NadiA return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

I rather think I overindulged, partly because I was asked to take the Chief’s position which meant that I got to call the start of the next round (a graceful nod in my direction and instruction on the words of command). Whilst most people got a half cup, I seemed to get loaded up. The beer chasers probably didn’t help either…….. Peta and I were amongst the last to leave and I’m afraid we carried on the motion until the small hours on Skylark. A great, fun night even if we did suffer for it the next morning.

We headed off planning to make the pass through the reef at before last light and then sail down to Nadi overnight. As soon as we cleared the shelter on the S tip of Taveuni, I knew we were in trouble. The wind grew to 25+kts and we were getting side swiped by a southerly swell. It would have been an interesting sail if we had had the main working but under genoa alone, it was just painful trying not to get knocked off course. As the wind went past 30kts, I decided discretion is the better part of valour and we aborted the run W to put into the anchorage at the Jacque Cousteau resort for a sheltered night of sleep.

The next morning after having a quick visit from Ding, we stuck our nose out again but the wind had not eased and the seas had grown. After one of the shortest discussions Lou and I have had in passage selection and for once in total agreement (S- “this is crap”, L – “yes, really crap”)  we turned tail again and headed back into the shelter of Savusavu.

It meant that we needed to reorganise Morag’s flights to move her up to us but better that than have to waste the few days we would have to wait until the weather abated enough for a safe passage.

Ah well, Savusavu is not a bad place to be. Time for a bit of restocking

A return to Paradise, diving in Viani Bay and an aborted sail to Nadi

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Far South in the Lau Islands – Fulaga

We left Taveuni in the company of Stop Work Order, a Gulfstar 60, as the weather window we had hoped for finally appeared to allow us to push S in to the Lau Islands. The wind was due to swing slowly North of East over about 36hrs then collapse back into the SE as the Trades re-established. We had about 12 days before we needed to get Shena and Kinsley back to the airport and although Fulaga was a long trip there and back, everything we had read about the island suggested that it was worth it. Set 180Nm SSE of Savusavu and well over 200Nm E of Suva, it is very isolated and has a population of about 250. It has also been described as one of the gems of Fiji.

As the wind had not yet started to turn in our favour, we chose to run NE from Paradise, using Taveuni as cover to gain another 30miles or so of Easting. Doing this killed much of the fetch and allowed us to get close to the outer islands and reef that run the length of the Laus. It was the right choice but I never like adding distance on to a trip. It took the distance we need to run from about 160Nm to over 200Nm.

We got through the mile long Somosomo Pass with a bouncy wind over tide, still running at 2kts in our favour just before the slack. Make sure that you do time it right here. The tide does run to 4+kts which would not be fun if you were pushing against it. As an aside, we crossed the 180E line as we went up the island, crossing back into the western hemisphere.

As we turned around the top of the reef jutting out of Taveuni, we started the long close haul S. Needing a course of 130mag to get us to Fulaga, we could initially push no better course than 170mag. As the first day ended and through the night the wind slowly veered N and we followed it around, managing about 155mag. The next day was a continuation of the pounding, slowly getting closer and closer to the course we required, pushing in to the 2m seas. We could see Stop Work Order most of the time and I don’t think we ever got more than 5 miles from each other. I was surprised at how well we kept with her considering her size and cutter rig. New sails work!

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Although the forecast has suggest winds of about 15kts and no more than 20kts, we had one period of three hours where the wind was a constant 30kt plus. Patrick on Stop Work Order called me on the radio to warn me of one squall of 35+kts which had hit him. I thanked him for the heads up but had to tell him that I had seen him being rounded up and took that as a signal to wrap more jib away and to scandalise the main, already with two reefs in, which I managed just before the squall got to me.

Because of the extra mileage we put in in the lee of Taveuni, our timing to hit Fulaga was out by 6hrs. We arrived to sheltered water behind a line of islands 15 miles N from our destination just as the sun disappeared. With electronic charts being inaccurate (and paper being 1:1000000 in scale) there was no way I was going anywhere near the pass entrance in darkness. We dropped the mainsail, left just enough jib out to make way and sailed at a knot towards the pass. We were still going too fast at 0300hrs so I heaved to (yes you can do it in a catamaran) and we sat comfortably and quiet 5 miles N off our destination.

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First light came and saw Stop Work Order and ourselves push down towards the pass as slack water was due to last until about 0700hrs. As long as you have light, the 50m wide pass is an easy one. What you need to do is ignore your chart plotter and use your eyes. My Navionics charts showed an entrance both sides of a small islet sitting at the entrance to the pass. Wrong. The pass was only accessible well to the right of this. Once we identified the pass we pushed in mid channel, according to my charts going over the reef, about 100m off set to the E.  Once through it showed me clear water. Wrong. More reef extending well out into the bay from the W end of the pass……..

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Easy lesson – don’t trust your charts in Fijian waters for any information other than gross approximations.

Saying that as we pushed through towards an anchorage inside the lagoon, I actually “passed through” several islands so maybe be careful even with gross approximations! Perhaps Navionics should do here as they did in the Tuamotus and put an accurate satellite picture over their data and update it. It may not have lots of depth info but I’d be happy with the knowledge that there is a lump there which I need to miss and the correct placement of the reefs. It is worryingly wrong at the moment. Open CPN and SASPlanet (an excellent Russian programme that lets you download info from a vast variety of sources) are both more accurate on the basis that you can run Google Maps through them. Both are hampered by cloud cover over parts of the lagoon.

We anchored at 19 08.039S 178 34.542W in 40’ of water and decided that we need to get in to see the Chief quickly as we didn’t want to have to wait two days until Monday to conduct the sevusevu ceremony. This is your way of showing respect to the locals and receiving permission to visit their land. Lou and Shena had had fun braking our 2kg lump of kava root in to smaller presentation packages of about 500g each. We got ourselves dressed up and headed in towards the village. The right village to go to is actually on the S side of the island which means you need to find the bay (anchor at 19 08.902S 178 33.925W on sand in 25’) with a small warehouse  by the beach then follow the track across the island to the village. I’d suggest you take bug spray as the mosquitos are vicious on the walk across. We got picked up by a smiling local at the edge of the village and taken to the Chief’s house.

Some rules for you to note.

Don’t take your time in visiting the Chief. Get in to see him as soon as you can after arriving at an atoll as you can guarantee that they will know you are there. Make sure you see the senior Chief of the atoll. There may be several villages, each with a Chief but you only need to see and present Kava root to the most senior.

You are expected to cover up and dress correctly when you see the Chief. They take the sevusevu ceremony very seriously and so must you.

Take in an offering of about 3-500g of kava. Unfortunately kava has recently become very expensive (about $100 a kg) as the USA has decided that it is a “super” health product. With far more going to export, it has significantly increased local prices. DO NOT offer powered root; it must be the whole root. When invited to sit in front of your host, place the root in front of you halfway between you and let him pick it up. If they do so, it shows that it has been accepted.

Men should wear a sula and shirt, ladies need to cover their knees and shoulders. Trousers are frowned upon and the Frenchman with us was loaned a sulu to visit the chief. I used my far more colourful sulu from FP and that was fine. You can buy a proper Fijian sulu for $15. My shirt, screaming though it looks,  is proper Fijian dress. Lovely, isn’t it!

Do not wear a hat or sunglasses in the villagers’ presence. It shows disrespect.

Whilst kids can get away with it, adults don’t carry bags on their shoulders. No idea why, it is just the rules. Hand carry any bag you require.

If you are offered kava, thank them by saying “Bula” then drink the cup in one go. Don’t sip.

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The ceremony was held in the Chief’s house, a grand old man in his 90’s, one of the few truly old people we have seen in all our time in Fiji. We shared the ceremony with a French couple, Stop Work Order and Skylark’s crews all sitting in front of him. The kava parcels were formally accepted and the Chief’s 2IC translated for us. We were asked to explain where we had come from and to introduce each of us, including the kids. We then paid a $50 contribution which goes to the village fund, currently being used to buy each house a couple of solar panels, invertor and battery pack. I have seen some cruisers complain that this is not Fijian hospitality and that we should protest the charge (ref: The Fijian Compendium from Soggy Paws). I’d suggest that whilst it is all well and good to act charitably to the “poor locals” (makes some people feel all warm and fuzzy inside…) I would far prefer for the locals to be able to be in charge of their own destiny and get things they require with hard cash. I had no problem at all in paying this small amount in to their kitty. There are no generators in the village and a single telephone set up at an open window at the school. The nearest mobile phone coverage is some 150 miles away.

I was asked if we could fix the Chief’s magnifying glass he uses for reading which had broken and I took it way to use my super strength glue to fix it.

We were taken for a quick tour of the village and the school. The school has 59 students from the four villages on the island, up to Grade 8 (about age 13-14). Grade 9 and above is conducted in Suva on the big island. The classrooms have a good homemade posters, mostly in English and the school tries to teach wholly in English. The kids are trilingual, speaking the local island dialect, Fijian and English. The school struggles with teaching materials. Books are in short supply and what there is is old, beat up and falling apart. George, the headmaster was very keen to get his hands on any teaching material we could give him. Sadly we handed on most of our old stuff  to the school in Tonga. We did give them as many David Attenborourgh and BBC educational  documentaries as the schools computer’s memory would take. If anyone could help out with a range of primary school books (they will happily photocopy anything they get to pass out to the kids), I’d be pleased to give people an address by PM. Land mail is delivered once a month when the ship comes in. There is no air service to the island. There is one TV which “sometimes” works with a sat dish and a freeview box, held communally in one of the school buildings. It wasn’t working whilst we were there. We got the Scotland-Fiji score via a phone call.

We visited our host family for our stay in the atoll. This visit entailed simple introductions, a cup of lemon tea and some pancakes. Kid’s boats aren’t common (less than 1 in 10, said our host) so having so many kids suddenly rock up caused great interest and our hosts’ house had a revolving crowd of village smalls all coming to see our kids.

Our hosts, Tai, Suka, Wattie and Koro were all names we had read about in the Compendium. Tai, staff at Musket Cove for 15yrs was the man that had the Chief introduce the $50 fee for staying in the atoll. Articulate, bright and friendly he was an excellent host. Wattie and Koro are cousins but seem to hang out with each other.  Koro has a good understanding of English but seemed shy to use it.

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We dinghied around back around to the village the next day having been invited to lunch after church. The church service lasted two hours and the Minister was more of a fire and brimstone type than the happy cheerful soul that led the service in Tahaa, still the best service we have been to. We were asked during the service to stand up and give the congregation a quick run down of ourselves and I took the opportunity to thank them all for their hospitality and friendship. The Minister came to apologise after the service in excellent English for conducting it in Fijian. We told him we were glad he didn’t as it would have removed a lot of the charm of the occasion! Those from our party that partook in Communion said he did their blessing in English.

As always in the Pacific the singing was loud and enthusiastic. The only musical accompaniment was a metal triangle vigourously banged. The kids’ choir was excellent and I’ve included one of their renditions. I’d think most churches in the UK would be happy with the volume and the harmony! Click the link.

Kids Choir of Muanaicake, Falaga, Lau Island, singing in church

We went for a wander around the village after church to wait for the call for lunch. Sala, the headmaster’s daughter showed us around.

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Lunch was a glorious offering of homemade food. There were noodles, half a dozen different fish dishes, a turtle curry, cassava in a couple of forms, roti, bread fruit, a sweet bread for pudding and all in huge quantities. We as the guests ate first and as we proclaimed ourselves to be full, the plates were handed down the table and our hosts got stuck in. I think we all felt that the turtle curry was the piece de resistance but it was all terrific. We also enjoyed fresh coconut milk using a cut papaya stem as the straw.

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After inviting the family back to see us on Tuesday evening on board Skylark we headed back to the boat. We moved Skylark to another island no more than 500m from where we were to 19 08.008S 178 34.339W on sand in 24’ of water. Occupied until just recently, the small hut is still in good condition and the coconut grove is in a fair condition. The island has large beaches exposed at low tide and  we had a good explore . We stayed on the island all day exploring the shallow bays and finding a good selection of hard corals,  chitons, starfish and small fish.

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It was too good a chance for the kids to go in to school and having been invited by George, the headmaster, the younger ones headed in. Hannah was a bit surprised at how long schools went on for (0830-1500 – boy, is she in for a shock when we get home). Eleanor found herself well beyond anything they were teaching. Kinsley helped with the kindergarten kids.

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After heading back to the boats to feed children and being joined by Invictus, we decided that the island was a perfect place to have a bonfire. It was a great night.

With limited time left to explore we decided to move to the SE corner of the atoll.  With the watermaker playing silly buggers, Invictus was kind enough to fill us up with water before we moved. You are always grateful to have a friend with a watermaker making nearly 10x the amount of water we can with our little one! It took less than an hour to make and transfer around 300l. Our thanks to Tobi and Nicole and and wish them a safe passage across to Maola Island. We should catch up with them in a couple of weeks at Musket Cove.

The passage through the atoll is one you need to be careful of but the scenery is fantastic. The lagoon is full of small James Bond type ancient coral formations which you can generally pass quite close to.

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As with all atolls, there are bommies and sandbanks around and you need eyes at the front of the boat. We went one better and stuck Eleanor up the mast so she could get a decent view forward and to warn us if we were getting near to trouble. She had fun with the camera too.

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The ladies on board, supplemented by Ciara from Stop Work Order, decided to have a pouting competition. You can decide the winner. Hannah didn’t get it and just looks cute!

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We anchored @ 19 08.396S 178 32.528W in 12’ of water, disturbing a turtle as we dropped the hook. There was a certain amount of toing and froing between boats and it ended up with Hannah having a sleepover with Truly on Stop Work Order and the Eleanor and Kinsley sleeping on our trampoline. We hosted Patrick and Corise for sundowners to give them a break from the noise of six kids before we split them back to their respective yachts!

We had a rendition of “We are the Champions” over Ch16 which was the victory call of T-Be, a NZ Bahia 46 who had got the news that NZ had won the America’s Cup. Great news and a invitation to all was extended for a pot luck supper and sundowners on their boat in the evening. It was a fun evening and we met another set of Hendersons from NZ who very conveniently were able to give us details of where they had bought and imported a new membrane for their Spectra water maker, sadly something we now need to do as well. It has saved us a lot of wasted time researching.

The kids went off with Stop Work Order to visit the small village at the end of the atoll whilst we moved the boat around to the bay at 19 08.902S 178 33.925W on sand in 25’ of water to allow us short taxi rides for Tai and family’s visit out to us. The men were keen to get stuck into the kava, the kids into the cake, sweets and juice and the ladies a mix of both. We weren’t quite expecting the number that arrived but it was great to be able to host the family back after all their hospitality. Great people.

The kava flowed and everyone, including our girls, got a taste. Hannah left hurriedly but showed enough decorum not to retch until she was out of sight of the locals!

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They stayed for a couple of hours and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We talked about the possibility of the island becoming a booking in port, something that would greatly increase the number of visitors the island would get and the impact on the island. Even after 5 years of being open to cruisers again, the local view is mixed in whether this would be welcome or not.

After they had sung a farewell song to us, we ran them home with storage containers, toys, books and what dry stores we could spare.

We moved back up to the SE anchorage at last light using our previous track and a big torch to ensure we got in safe.

Our last day was spent in and around the anchorage, kids playing with Stop Work Order and the grown ups getting the boat ready. I made one last visit to the village to take some printed photos of our time in the village to Tai and to visit the school and download some documentaries.

The people of Fulaga have been the most welcoming of anyone we have met in during our travels. Still early in the season, they have had few boats as of yet (they average about 75 a season) and perhaps was just that they aren’t touristed out yet. But I  rather think what we experienced was their simple and honest hospitality. They don’t have much but all they had was offered freely. Life is hard for the islanders and those that stay are proud of the old lifestyle. However, it hasn’t stopped the majority of adults of a working age moving away from the island for an easier more modern life. All children leave for their secondary education in Savu and many families simply up and go for this period too, not to be seen again until their 40s or in Tai’s case, once he retired at 55. It is a sad fact that the old ways are no longer attractive enough for the young to hold them to the island. There needs to be more opportunity for money making ventures to entice some at least to stay. Otherwise, the island population will continue to see a slow decrease. There are already too many unoccupied houses in the village.  Exposure to modern conveniences has happened, Pandora’s box has been opened and there is no shutting it now.

We left Fulaga on a falling tide with just a few standing waves at the pass for the 130Nm trip up to Vanua Balavu, part of the Explorer Isles.

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Opua, NZ – Meeting the fleet

When you are travelling south towards New Zealand from the Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga, most people will head for Opua. It is the northern booking in port for yachts in New Zealand, where Customs and Immigration are based and it is within the famous Bay of Islands, a gloriously sheltered area with a huge number of anchorages to hide in, no matter what the weather. The traditional route takes you past Minerva reef, one of the most desolate anchorages in the world and then S, potentially through an area of nasty seas to the shelter of NZ. Another route, used by Tika, is to go via Norfolk Island, newly administrated by Australia with a population of 60. It isn’t a popular route as it adds on a couple of days sailing and takes you in to Australian territories but it does have the huge advantage of allowing you to go around the main weather patterns, giving you a beam reach at worst back into NZ waters. Opua

We had been monitoring the transits of Jade, Starcharger, Quatsino II,  ZigZag and Tika as they made their way down past the Minerva reef and wanted to meet them at Opua where there was a small festival for the arriving fleet. There was also a calling notice out for the Ocean Cruising Club, who were organising an arrival party at Nina Kiff’s house, the local Port Officer.

The drive up took about three and a half hours, through stretches of beautiful countryside. You got the impression that the land around the road had been tamed but the hills overlooking the road were wild and covered with thick vegetation. And so green. As soon as you are way from Auckland the roads become single lane A roads with the occasional overtaking lane on steep hills. The speed limits are closely adhered to and we have heard that this trend is reinforced by a zero tolerance Police attitude and numerous unidentified van and cars with speed cameras ready to snap the unwary. Saying that, with the state of our van, keeping below the speed limit is not a problem. The roads are steep and full of bends. I am finding that I am keeping our lumbering heap well below the limit to be safe. She doesn’t corner well with the weight we have on board.

We arrived at Opua and immediately ran into Irene and Georg off ZigZag, newly arrived and looking very tired. The sail down had been reasonable but windy towards the end and for the first time in a long time, there had been a head wind and sea for periods of the trip. They soon decided to fire off to bed. We had been invited to stay with Gill and Alasdair on Starcharger with the kids to sleep next door with Lorna and George on Quatsino II. Typically the kids saw small friends for the first time in months, screamed with joy and just disappeared.

We headed up to the OCC gathering at Nina’s house. It was great to meet some truly dedicated sailors and were privileged to be at the prize giving of the 2015 Rose Award a prize presented for the most audacious short handed voyage of the year. Suzanne and Comrey of Whateke travelled 1200 miles upwind on the Patagonian coast, starting at the Beagle Channel, a trip which proves them to be as hard as nails and a bit nuts!  It was great to meet them and hear their story. Amazing. Lou also met a wonderful lady called Rose. Lou is hopeful that when she is in her eighties and still sailing, she is as positive, bouncy and fun loving. I’m not sure how many times sailing round the world this group represents but I suspect that it is more than you can count on a set of hands. Inspirational.

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For the next few days, we enjoyed the marvellous hospitality of Starcharger, Quatsino and a variety of guests. One could suggest that we partied a  little hard but it was great fun. We learnt that Gill plays the sax well, Paul can be understood when he sings (magnificently, by the way) and Lorna should not be left in charge of a didgeridoo. We had fun and the kids had a great time catching up with the Jade and Tika kids and meeting new ones from Enough and Carpe Dium, names we had heard on the net but never met. They joined in with the local sailing club. $3 a head for 3hours sailing on the club Optis, Splash or 420s. The kids loved it and of course got pretty wet. The difference is the water temperature here meant they came out blue!

It was fun.

With the crews of Invictus, Mobi, ZigZag, and two French boats, all with small children, we visited the Otama Vineyard for some wine tasting and to meet St Nickolas. Very much a Germanic tradition, St Nickolas appears on 6th December. He appeared a little early but the kids loved the small goody bags he dropped in to give them. I understand St Nickolas enjoyed the visit too…….Opua Opua

We must say we have been lucky in meeting people. Malcolm and Helen Shaft are OCC members of long standing who settled in NZ after many years sailing. At the OCC party, Malcolm offered us a small flat that had been used by his mother who recently passed on. He followed this up with an email a couple of days later to remind us of the offer and to say it hadn’t been the drink talking. With Starcharger planning to move South a week later, we decided to lighten their burden (and to save our livers) by taking Malcolm up on his offer. However, before we left we had some more cracking nights, taking it in turns around Quatsino II, Starcharger and ZigZag. The kids had a variety of sleepovers but had almost as much fun on Quatsino. I think George found it novel having smalls on board, happy to come in in the morning for a chat (one way traffic at a million miles an hour in Eleanor’s case). Certainly, I found him looking a bit stunned after one of these sessions!

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The daytime activities were varied too. We had a great time at the Paihia Xmas parade. Lots of fun, some great costumes and the smalls got lots of sweeties. The free ice-cream at the “Taste of Switzerland” on its opening was good too. I’m not sure how long it will last in the partisan setting of NZ considering the shop opposite is selling NZ’s best ice cream at half the price….. And of course we had to try the fish and chips. Noah bullied his way in to being fed by Gill and Alasdair. Note the fact that the tomato sauce is being held for him. He intonated that this was to happen very loudly.

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A short ferry ride away from Paihia is Russell, the original capital of NZ. Known as the Hellhole of the Pacific in the early 19C, a den of iniquity and houses of ill repute abound, it has transitioned into a quaint tourist town of shore side tearooms and shops selling tourist trinkets. The oldest pub in NZ, The Duke of Marlborough it still alive, well and serving excellent beverages. The pier, rebuilt and extended these days is a magnificent structure.

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Our sincere thanks to Alasdair, Gill, Lorna and George for giving us berths for the time we stayed with them. It was hugely appreciated and great fun!

We moved up to Malcolm and Helen’s house and unpacked the car into the Granny flat and garage. Hot water, a double bed and a TV! What more could we want!

Crossing the Pacific–Part II

Day 14 – Mon 23 May   05 20.310S  116 37.725W  141miles

We had a good run overnight but the wind diminished in the morning to a frustrating 9kts and went back into the ESE then later, ENE. Think I might just ignore forecasts from now on. We waited for it to settle down then threw the parasail up which has pulled us along nicely all day. We decided on the basis we hadn’t seen the wind go beyond 13kts true, to keep the parasail up for the night. We will sleep in the cockpit in case we need to get it down quickly. A great day’s sail on a wonderfully pacific sea.

We are starting to see some growth on the hull – not that we are stopping to clean it. We made use of a trick that I had heard of which is to drag a line along side the hull and just leave it to rub the hull around the waterline. It seemed to work although the line needs to be in the water for a couple of hours per hull.

It is no surprise when there is little to do on a long passage that meals become hugely important events. It was the same on my Atlantic trip I did where we lucked out with a Navy Lt Comd called Tim who was a brilliant amateur chef. After he took over the galley, life was very pleasant. We aren’t doing badly either with some great food coming out of our galley and, with some good planning by Lou, we still have plenty of fresh fruit and a small supply of veg left.

Eleanor made the dough for our bread this morning. We are making dough every second day and then mixing and matching what we make with it.

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Lou has got a great inventory of bread types. Plain loaf, rolls, rosemary, flat, nan, coriander, pita, the list goes on and gives us a great variety to enjoy. There is nothing better than the smell of newly made bread wafting around the cabin. Today was a simple loaf. Added to that, she dug out a frozen pack of bacon so lunch was a magnificent bacon and egg butty. It’s the simple things in life!   This evening’s offering was a rather good curry.

We transferred 25 gal of diesel in jerry cans to the tank today. We have been using the generator a couple of hours a day and the tank had just reached half full. Most of that diesel usage was from running the engines during the first couple of days when we needed to motorsail down to the trades – certainly the generator doesn’t take much. In this heat, I prefer to have as much fuel as I can in the tank to prevent any condensation that may occur.

I saw a falling star tonight. Not a shooting star, a proper falling star. I thought it was a flare at first. It burnt out just to the N of us. Quite beautiful.

Day 15 – Tue 24 May    05 52.856S  118 53.656W  127miles

Our first sail with the parasail up overnight went well. The wind ranged from 6 to 10kts from the ENE and it dragged us along beautifully at a 6kt average. It makes such a difference to the daily total if you can press on overnight. The daytime wind was no better. A light wind of 10-13kts from the ENE again. Thank you, Mr Parasail. If we didn’t have you, we would be having a tedious day of rolling. As it is, 5s and 6s is reasonable.

Dawn is getting later and later again. Nearly time for another time zone. I hope tomorrow to move to –8UTC. Then there will be just one more to go before we hit the Marquesas who are on –9.5UTC.

When we are sailing we always have the scale to include the boat and the destination. There is something very satisfying being able to go down a scale and watch your destination get bigger on the screen. Today we were able to go from the 1200miles to the 600mile scale. Still a long, long way to go but it brought a smile to my face.

I had a nice chat with Vaguebond this morning. Ivan was saying that he has been running under twin headsails for the last six days. He hasn’t had to touch them once! Nice way to sail. We have been running on a converging course for some days now and are about 40 miles NNW of him.

The girls did a bit of a clean up this morning. H found her missing sunglasses (what started the whole cleaning thing off), E brushed so much hair off the floor (is it true that girls moult? I have compelling proof…..) and their side of the boat now smells of lemon all purpose cleaner.

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Hannah, a touch distracted, found lots of postcards that we hadn’t got around to writing. Sounds like a something to do this afternoon!

 

Day 16 – Wed 25 May 06 07.748S  120.47.476W      131miles           TIME ZONE CHANGE to -8UTC

We had to change down to the jib just after midnight this morning as a huge black lump of nastiness rolled across us. It lasted a while so we decided to wait for first light to throw the parasail back up. As soon as we did the wind came back in beautifully and went back into the SE giving us a fantastic broad reach with full plain sail. A bit bouncy and bangy but fun as well. The wind dropped in the evening to 10kts, enough to make sure we are still moving at a respectable pace.

We should have really changed time zones yesterday but we waited for the 120W line. Only one more to go now.

Activities today? A chocolate cake (slightly over done), a loaf (perfect) and a bag of laundry using the the ammonia technique which seems to work so well.

Boat maintenance?  I had to reset the solar controllers. I have three different controllers. Two of them automatically condition the batteries once a month and the Blue Solar controller for the main panels doesn’t like it. I’m sure there is a more elegant solution but at the moment I resort to disconnecting it at the batteries to reboot it. Seems to work. Whilst I was in with the batteries I checked water levels and refilled with a surprising amount of distilled water  – over a litre between the four batteries. I’ll need more from Hiva Oa as I have only 500ml left. As I filled the batteries at Santa Cruz just a month ago, I think I’d better keep a closer eye on them. One cell was dangerously close to exposure. I may need to up the regularity of the checks.

We had luck fishing today. We caught a small 3kg Mahi followed 15 minutes later by this beast. Good eating for us for a few days!

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Finally, Happy birthday to my best mate John! Hannah sang Happy Birthday, we ate cake and reminisced on a memorable day we had with John and Sharlene a while ago, walking down to the pub via the duck pond and then playing bananagrams in the evening. We need a repeat performance when we get home.

Day 17 – Thu 26 May   06 45.762S  122 52.136W    118 miles

The wind backed at midnight to ENE, leaving us with options of dropping the main or running a lot further S than we wanted. We ended up under jib until first light at which point the wind moved back to the SE, the main went back up and we started moving at more than 4kts again. I wish the wind would just stay in one place. The consequence of this fluking around is a small side swell that forms on the main long swell which then gives you a couple of hours of washing machine before it all calms down again. It is a right pain and meant a slow morning.

The wind was kind enough to come round far enough E to get the parasail back up. The difference in pace is a knot and a half. I think we will try and run it tonight as well, keeping a close eye out for squalls. The moon will be up at about 2200 local so we will have a couple of hours of dark before it gets light enough to see any rubbish coming in at us.

I had to clean the log again. I always find it a little worrying pulling the log and watching, just for that split second before you get the dummy in, the ocean flowing in to the boat through that hole in the hull! There was a little growth on it, quickly cleaned. It is still working flakily so there may be an electrical problem too.

No one was in a particularly good mood today. Little happened other than arguments.

Dinner tonight was some of the Mahi we caught yesterday.

Too much cloud and little wind meant long runs on the generator today.

Day 18 – Fri 27 May  07 12.104S  124 57.522W   129 miles

What a quiet night! The wind dropped and dropped to the point that the parasail was collapsing – a whole 4kts of wind – but  came back enough that in the flat sea we had, we made some good mileage. First light saw us with 10kts from the ENE.

Lou and I are tired and we both need to get our mojo back. E and H stood watch for a couple of hours each whilst we tried to catch up on some sleep. They did well.

I repaired one of the fishing rods. After an unfortunate incident involving a winch, a jib sheet, the tip and Eleanor, the last 4” of the rod was broken. It was a simple job to grind down the end of the rod. Not quite so easy was to clean out the old tip but judicious use of the blow torch and brute violence stood me in good stead! I had a go at cleaning up the rarely used kid’s rods and reels. Perhaps we should have paid more than $20 for them as the reels,  “precision engineered” (says so on the label so must be true) Chinese rubbish were rusted solid.

We have had the parasail up all day. We have decided to start worrying about the strength of the wind when the wind generator starts turning again. Light air sailing………

Comms seem to have gone for a burton. Manahi is supposed to be the closest and strongest station for Airmail that I can use but it just isn’t working. The only thing I have had from it was a message to email the guy who runs it and use his services whilst I’m there. Not very happy. It means I am trying to hit San Diego to get my email, which is taking time. I reckon I have had a lot more than my 30min a month this month. Think Quatra may have had finger problems. I got their posn email eight times today saying they were under a 1000 to go to Gambier but had no wind. At least we are moving.

Lots of emails from people we know telling us about the Marquesas. We can’t wait! Sadly I think we will miss Quatsino, already looking for a weather window to the “Tomatoes” (Lorna’s description!) and Free Spirit is well on their way to Tahiti already to get David back on a plane to Australia. I hope we catch up with both of them down the road.

Of note, my beard came off today. I had intended to keep it until we reached land but I was bored of the scratching. Although the girls find it funny, the three tone colouring (ginger, grey and white) is an odd look.  I don’t think it suits me…….

Day 19 – Sat 28 May  07 30.532S  127 03.225W  118 miles

The wind stayed light for the night and we pushed with 5 and 6s. It strengthened in the morning to the point we really should have brought the parasail down but doing 9 and 10s was too much fun and in the gusts I bore away and ran to lessen the effect.  The wind strengthened to 20kts in the afternoon and the parasail had to come down. We had a nasty side slop mixed with the main swell of 10’. We sailed with white sail initially but the angle was terrible and we had to go down to jib only. 

I’m pretty sure we are losing at least half a knot with the growth we have on the hull. I have cleaned what I can off with rope and a scrapper lashed on to a pole but we are pretty gungy. Much as we had when we arrived in at the Galapagos, we have a brown scum line at the water – almost a spattering. I have no idea what it is. Whether man made or otherwise, it looks a mess.

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We also got the wind generator working again for the first time in three days. Hopefully we can save a bit of time on the genset today.

Vaguebond told us to watch out for Chinese fishing boats, one of which he had had to dodge last night. We saw one of them that was going N. It wouldn’t talk to us which was a little disappointing as it is the first boat we have seen in over a week.  It went by a mile behind us.

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A quiet day otherwise. The girls watched something called “Glee” and much reading was done. Less than 700miles to go!

Day 20 – Sun 29 May    07 46.753S  128 55.377W  134 miles

There is, we found during the night, something called the wrong kind of wind. A crap mixed sea, lots of side slapping just killing our speed, an apparent of 15-18kts, jib only (just too much for the parasail) and 3 to 4kts of boat speed. Lou and I were near in tears trying to get something to work. Lou’s watch was shocking. 10miles in 3 hours. It has to have been the most frustrating 12hrs we have had.

By 0800L, the wind had calmed enough for H and I to throw up the parasail. It was cheeky sailing with gusts regularly getting up to beyond the theoretical maximum of the sail but we rode it out and the wind steadied as the morning went on. The rest of the day we fired along with 6s and 7s. We had expected to do less than 120 after the dreadful start to the day. 134 was a very pleasant surprise.

By the looks of the weather forecast, we need to keep firing on too. There seems to be a hole developing behind us which will make its way as far W as 132W in about 36hrs. We need to be on the other side of that line to make sure we have wind for the final leg into Hiva Oa. If we keep the wind for the next 24hrs, we should do it.

We finished the eggs today. Lou used them up for one last fahata with a side dish of cabbage and butter. Dinner was interrupted by the arrival of a big pod of dolphin, only the second pod we have seen in the crossing. We enjoyed their aerial display.

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One thing that H has reinstigated recently and that we are all loving, is the evening bedtime reading of a story. Although both girls read prolifically, it is great that H wants to roll back the clock and be “little” again for a while. Note the luci lantern, still in our opinion one of the best inventions ever,  tied off on the spinnaker sheet.

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We ended the day playing dodgems with another three enormous fishing boats. None wished to speak to us. 

Day 21 – Mon 30 May 08 08.832S  131 11.131W  138 miles

What a lovely day. Or at least up to 1400hrs. We had been firing along at 6-8s with 15kts true from the ENE. The wind started to drop to sub 10kts true, then we had a squall, a touch of rain (a few spots rather than anything really wet!) and then back to 12kts true. Perhaps the weather gods are being unkind and the hole is forming early. We put the parasail back up and ran along at about 5-6kts. We have our fingers crossed that the wind lasts. To help us along, the sea is now running straight for the islands so is giving us a bit of a shunt too.

Eleanor made dough this morning so we had a cob loaf for lunch.

Minecraft mania has started again on the boat. After a couple of months of never ending discussion which died in Grenada, we seem to be back into the game with a vengeance. The girls are reciting  data out of the Minecraft hand books and are building each other huge skyscrapers. It is keeping them occupied. Dad, of course, has joined in. He is in full combat mode rather than creative, has a big sword and is loving the mindless violence!

We had more luck with the rod this evening. A cracking black fin tuna, about 30lbs. We really need to get some scales to measure properly. We cut steaks off it. Once we had bagged it, we had enough meat for 8 meals for 4 people. On the basis we have had a bit more luck than they, we have promised Vaguebond some of the spoil.

 

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The wind has dropped this evening. The sky was initially overcast but thankfully has gone clear. With the moon rising after 0100, it means a dark night which is a little worrisome as we intend to fly the parasail right through. We are hoping for a steady breeze to get us over the 133W line by the morning.

Day 22 – Tue 31 May

The wind died and died as the night went on to the point that the parasail was struggling to stay filled. We moseyed along doing 3-4kts. Frankly I gave up worrying and enjoyed watching the amazing dark sky above us. The Magellan clouds were so clear.

First light saw us joined by a small pod of dolphin. A great way to start the day. Dawn came a few minutes later – 0700hrs today. The sun was just able to peek out under the cloud that was rolling in behind us. This gave us squalls and rubbish for much of the morning.

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Lou spoilt us for breakfast today, leaving us out some bacon with instructions to “use it all”. Happily, dear, happily.

Come morning the wind strengthened to 12kts from the E but we sailed into the hole at 1500hrs. The stb engine is on and we will run until the wind appears to be favourable again. It is about 40 miles to the 134W line. I’m hoping that the wind will fill in by then. If not, we will run further W until we do pick up the breeze. We have decided not to wait and allow nature it take its course. We want to be there now.

We had a real bouncing downpour today, our first prolonged rain since Panama. I had a great time cleaning the decks and then there was plenty rain left to allow us to each stand outside, strip off and have a free, warm shower. Lovely!

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With the time of arrival down to less than 100hrs, the GPS has started to give us an estimated arrival time. About 70hrs at current speed. Fingers crossed…….

We are missing Ferne’s of Jade birthday. She turns 9 today. Hannah has already made her a present and in way of an apology for not getting to FP in time, she got to send Fern an email wishing her the best of the day.

We had enough light left for a bit of tomfoolery as well. Does everyone know Hannah has very, very tickly feet?

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Day 23 – Wed 1 Jun  09 02.640S  143 43.350W   95 miles 

I was thinking of doing one more time zone change to ready us for the –9.5 UTC setting on the Marquesas but as it means the morning radio traffic with Vaguebond then falls into the period we are using for the generator (and more importantly, my non-comms using wife’s watch!), we have decided just to stay at –8 UTC until our arrival.

We finally hit wind again at 0830hrs this morning at 134 28W, a bit further W than expected. Only 7kts but enough for us to get the parasail up and the engines off. Blessed peace! We haven’t seen anymore than the occasional sniff of 10kts, the av being 8 all day and we are running at 4kts. Not a fast day but we are moving.

We are now close enough for lots of questions on when we will see land. Unfortunately it looks like another couple of days before we reach land now unless our speed picks up markedly.

Tonight’s fare was a chicken pasta bake. Eleanor did us proud earlier with a no bake chocolate cookie mix which was so good, it didn’t last long.

We heard this morning that the main issue of no email we have been having, that of not being able to hit Mahini, is because Mahani isn’t working. They are waiting for new parts. Apparently there is the intention of putting a new station in on Hiva Oa as well, but this is some months off. Perhaps next time round…… We did talk to Vaguebond and Plastik Plankton (the couple that helped us through the Panama Canal) tonight. PP is waiting for us at Hiva Oa. We are really looking forward to catching up with Wolfgang and Kathi, two really nice people.

It looks like a clear night tonight. There is a little high cloud but the sky is already wonderfully clear. Stargazing is on the agenda tonight.

Day 24 – Thu 2 Jun     09 20.334S  136 11.448W  88 miles

I wish I could adequately describe the night sky here. I fell in love with offshore sailing many years ago when I helped my father take a boat from the N of England up the North Sea, through the Caledonian Canal and back down towards Oban. Being the youngster on board I had a night to myself, motoring 50 miles offshore on a mirrored sea, in what was probably my first proper dark sky, being amazed at the brightness of the heavens. The sky here is equally as awe inspiring with the Milky Way blazing overhead. We have Jupiter, Saturn and Mars up with us too and I can see moons on the first two.  No pictures are possible whilst we are at sea as our camera is not up to it but I will try to take some long exposure pictures once we reach the stability of land.

The night’s passage was very slow with a 5-9kt wind blowing us along at 3-4kts. There is no sea to bother us. We had a beautiful sunrise with the E sky ablaze but little wind to go with it.

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For our morning’s entertainment, the girls and I played Mah-Jongg. Hannah came out on top by some way.  Kirsty will be pleased to know Hannah logged all the hands in her notebook for further analysis.

We trogged along during the day with the mileage slowly falling to less than 150miles. Far too slowly for Lou whose morale is shot. I think she needs gin…..

We gave up with sail at 1455hrs and switched the engine on. With 2kts true, we couldn’t fly the parasail. The wind didn’t make another appearance and we gave up even trying to motor sail. We headed towards Hiva Oa on a bearing of 248.

Vaguebond is 60miles out and should arrive tomorrow morning. We will be a day behind them as we will need to slow and will arrive Saturday morning now.

We had a memorable event tonight. Our log reached 10000 miles which means we have now travelled 8400miles since the start of our journey.

 

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Day 25 – Fri 3 Jun 09 40.532S 137 51.632W 103 miles

The wind failed us again, blowing at 3-5kts overnight. Just tedious. I really hate motoring but with about a 100miles to go, I will be divorced if I suggest taking another a couple of days to drift in.

However, at 0615hrs the wind finally kicked back in with a steady 10kts out of the E. Parasail went back up and the engine went off. Strangely the girls both woke because of the sudden lack of noise so I was joined by them for sunrise.

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Hannah has decided that she needs to get her tan back. It has flaked off in a rather amusing piebald way which she is not happy about. Her morning activity included lazing on the foredeck.

 

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Finally – 1455 LAND HO! We could just see the end of the Hiva Oa rising out of the sea. There was a fair amount of excitement and jumping around. 

By mid afternoon, we had but 60 miles left to run and plenty of time to get there for first light tomorrow. The parasail came down and up went the jib.

Our last evening meal was a doozy. A corned beef pie with fresh potatoes and beans on the side. If there isn’t any wind tonight, I’m sure the Henderson side of the family can supplement!

We decided that the last of the grapefruit, never our favourites, should be sacrificed to thank Neptune for a safe crossing. Ever hopeful, Hannah took it as an opportunity to model new boobs but we did get some throwing practise in too!

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We talked to Kathi from Plastik Plankton and Jean from Out of the Bag this evening. PP will be waiting for us tomorrow morning and gave us an idea of the anchorage we are heading for including a good spot we should be able to take, single anchor only. Seems that the anchorage is quiet at the moment with few boats in.

Day 26 – Sat 4 Jun    Time Zone change to –9.5UTC – Marquesas time

By midnight, we had a whole 20 miles left to run as we slowly made our way along the S side of the island, about 5miles off, under jib. There are no lights on shore at all and with no moon left, it is very dark tonight and the only reason I can make out the island is by realising I can’t see stars to the horizon to my N

The girls are sleeping upstairs tonight. Although we could see the islands of Hiva Oa and Mohotani as the sun set behind them last night, they were still a great distance off. They both wanted to make sure they are up to see land “properly” at first light.  Which they did!

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The weather for our arrival was not auspicious but gave us one last chance to wash the salt off Skylark.

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We had one worrying incident as we came in. As we were positioning ourselves to anchor, the Stb engine gear cable ( the one that froze on us just as we left Galapagos – then freed itself) snapped with the engine in forward and I was unable to change it. I had to kill it which left us with limited manoeuvrability. Some very quick dropping of dinghy allowed us to throw a stern anchor out on our rode line, stopping us from piling in to another boat.

The anchorage is everything I dreamed off. A spectacular view with being overlooked by an enormous hill. The island is so lush after the dry, drought ridden Caribbean and Galapagos islands. Can’t wait to start exploring.

Skylark, arriving!

 

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Summary

Departed   00 57.933S  090 57.700W   Isabela, Galapagos on 10 May 16

Arrived       09 48.167S  139 01.866W   Hiva Oa, Marquesas on 4 Jun 16

 

Total Distance by log: 2985 miles

Total time: 24days 21hrs

Av speed: 5kts

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Crossing the Pacific–Part I

When we first looked at crossing the Pacific, many years ago, it was a romantic dream. Now we are at the point of leaving, it has suddenly becomes a huge and slightly worrying distance. 

We think we have got everything ready.

Boat  – prepared as much as we can. Sails ok. Rigging checked and we have balanced the boat. Bottom cleaned. Steering gear ok. Through hulls checked. Winches done. Lines checked.  Rudders  have some play but we can’t replace the bearings accurately until we get pulled out. Opinion of two other skippers I trust is that they should last no problems to the Marquesas. They will need to be watched.

Power – Generator and boat engines both serviced. Solar cleaned and wiring checked. Good output for all. Wind generator doing as it has done the last 3 weeks, sitting idol. Looking forward to getting into some wind

Fuel – diesel full. Gas bottles refilled.

Water  – filled up and water maker ok.

Food – Enough tinned and dry for months. Fresh being loaded today. Far too many bananas for my mind but on the positive, I think we even found a couple of cauliflower.

Charts – E and paper checked and ready. We will switch chips to the central Pacific one as we leave Isabela.

Electronic gadgets – EPIRB, HF Radio, computer, Pactor4, spare GPS,  even the damn inReach seems to be behaving…..

Grab bag and safety stuff – nearly all checked and packed.

Forecast – There is wind at 02 30S says the forecasts with 10-15knts from the SE. That would be perfect. A bit of slow stuff before we reach there though.

Think we are ready. Tomorrow is our last day in the Galapagos. We are going exploring on bikes and the kids will play with their friends for the last time in a while. On Tuesday, we take a deep breathe and go for it.

Day 1 – Tue 10 May  Posn at 1200 local  00 59.231S  090 59.590W   Distance travelled in day: 74 miles

We had a busy final morning. Stewart cleaned the hull of weed and lots of tiny crabs. Lou got the boat tidy, hiding away the 60 eggs she got yesterday, doing one last wash and cleaning the shoes of Galapagos dirt. We headed across to Quatra for a farewell coffee. Next time we see them will be Raitea in about a years time. Lovely people and great kids. I think that both girls will miss Arsene hugely. Hannah will also miss having “big brother”, Axel to look up to.  And then we did exactly the same with Jane and Alex on Starcharger. We lifted the hook at 1115hrs and were honked out of the bay by Starcharger and Sanuk. The girls answered with the conch horn. Alistair and Gill managed an impressive shout out from the Volcano on the handheld as they watched us leave.

We have had about 5-8kts of SE wind for the rest of the day but have motor sailed throughout @ 230 to try and get down to the trades as quickly as possible. There seems to be a knot of current helping us. Long may it last.

We have seen some spectacular wildlife too. First of all, we nearly ran over a Manta Ray. Eleanor thought it was about 15’ across. Another two wandered past the boat, fins just breaking the flat water we had. We then saw one jumping twice and we could hear the splash at several hundred metres. Within an hour we spotted a huge dorsal fin and tail of a Whale Shark. It meandered away from us as we tried to work out how big it was. We decided sodding huge was an adequate description. We definitely lucked out seeing both of these. It was a great way to leave Isabela.

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As the light failed, we had a perfect cloudless sunset (sadly still no green flash) and our last sight of land for the next 3000 miles.

One issue today. The starboard engine control seems to have partly frozen. The engine won’t go into neutral unless clicked into by hand in the engine room. Hopefully just a lubrication issue.

Day 2 – Wed 11 May   02 26.742S  092 44.125W  127 miles

Over night we had a fog and very heavy dew. The free fresh water allowed us to get a lot of dirt off the boat but it felt clammy and cold. The girls did a good job killing the annoying flies left on the boat before, shock, horror, volunteering to do some school “because that’s what Tika does” – without argument. Thank you, Rusty and Greer!

Our first full day at sea and with it came the disappointment of a lack of wind. We have been running one engine for most of the day to try and keep us moving S in to the Trades. We thought we had reached them as the wind jumped beyond the 10 mark for 30 mins but it quickly fell away. Hopefully things will pick up tomorrow.

The only items of interest today are a Red Footed Boobie (to be known as “Breena” says H) that has come to stay awhile and a 150’+ fishing? boat of a design I’ve never seen before, sporting a very high spotting mast and crows nest and what looked like a couple of big chase boats on her back deck at an angle of 45. Strange looking thing. A whaling vessel?l

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We managed to talk briefly to Tika and Jade this morning on the HF. Hopefully we will get a better chat with them tomorrow as we plan to move the timing later to get better atmospherics. We heard Free Spirit on the evening Magellan net. Most of the boats this evening seem to be moving along the equator using the current and will head SW to the Marquesas beyond 125W. A different approach to ours but then most are coming straight from Panama.

Dinner tonight is a fantastic smelling Pasta Bake. May as well make best use of the fresh whilst we have it!

Day 3 – Thu 12 May  03 23.571S  094 25.004W 111 miles

We hit the trades at about 0700local. At first light we had put up the parasail and we watched the wind gradually strengthen to a lovely 13-15kts from the ESE. The only disappointment is we seem to have lost the 1kt current that has been helping us up until now so we are making only 6kts @ 245. Eleanor has been working at her Competent Crew book and Hannah stood a proper watch (with Dad not so far away). Message received from Quatra to say their missing delivery boat, Seyla had finally turned up at Santa Cruz. Typically, I sent the message out trying to find her on the last message sent before I received theirs…… Cancel sent.

We caught our first fish – a very small black fin tuna that we threw back. We are hoping for something that would actually feed all of us.

We changed down from parasail to plain sail for the night.

Day 4 – Fri 13 May  03 50.744S  095 32.794W 72 miles

Where has the wind gone? It dropped to near zero through the night. Thankfully the sea went slack too but we had a couple of hours of unpleasant hours in a lazy sea slopping around before it did. We dropped the main at 0200local to prevent damage (and noise) and tied the jib out. The morning finds us with a F1 from the NE. Our saving grace is a 1.25kt current taking us W.

By 0900 local we had the Parasail up. It takes 4kts to set and we struggled to find even this throughout the morning. By early afternoon we had had enough of 1kt an hour so put the motor on to run SW. We continued to run SW to get into the 04S. GRIBs say there is wind there. Fingers crossed.

The light wind stayed with us right through the day. Picked up for a while in the evening but a poor day all told. 72miles only

Looks like our Boobie has finally left us this morning. Time to clean the deck……

 

Day 5 – Sat 14 May  04 13.097S  097 20.898W 140 miles

We had to drop the main as no wind and mixed seas were causing a lot of banging. Finally a Wave (the Pacific equivalent of a front but not associated with a clearly defined weather system) went through in the small hours, giving us some rain, a few mild squalls and an even more mixed sea.

The wind filled back in about 0630local back to 15kts and we have set course @260 with Main 1 reef (due to the crap seas – less banging and chance of damage) and Jib. We are hoping that the sea settles into something more regular and with a Pacific length. Flying along at 7-8kts.  I’m hoping this is us properly into the Trades now.

Brownies were baked by E. Lou did a fine bread.

We lost two lures today. Our line to the excellent cedar plug of previous great success, fizzed out and then the line broke with enough pressure that it pinged the line back on to the bimini roof. The replacement lasted the first bite and disappeared as well. Not very happy. We need to make sure we can slow the boat quicker. 

We are starting to see more deep water birds. Storm petrols, fulmar type and lots of large terns.

We heard that Lumiel reached Hiva Oa a couple of days ago. A quick passage!

 

Day 6 – Sun 15 May 04 27.307S 099 49.184W  130 miles

A good steady day with reasonable wind all day and 130miles over the day. The parasail went up early and we had a good run until early afternoon when the apparent jumped to close to 15kts – the max the sail can take. We took it down and replaced with plain sail and satisfactorily went along at 6+kts. The wind died as the evening progressed but we stayed with plain sail through the night.

INSERT DOLPHIN VIDEO HERE  – needs to be done from Youtube account whilst online.

We were joined by a huge pod of dolphin that were a lot more energetic than the norm. They were having a great time!

We caught another Black fin Tuna today. Eleanor did the honours of gutting and filleting it. She is getting pretty good at this already. We are all hoping for a decent sized fish at some point. This one was no more than three kilos.

Lou is now trying to get through the eggs. Two bad eggs stank the boat out today. They were from an earlier buy but we are concerned that we may need to start getting through the remaining 60 a bit quicker than we are! Need to do some turning.

Had to change a gas bottle today. On the basis we had changed it a week before, the last one must have leaked badly. It should have lasted 6 weeks. Need to monitor the next one.

We seem to be averaging just over 5kts as we go along. I had hoped for a bit better. We moved waypoints today and our next, some 500 miles off only takes us another degree S. I’m slightly concerned that we have lost the advantage of the current again. The latitude we are is supposed to be where the best of it is. I’ll ask on the net tomorrow where others found it strongest. I’ve done the same with Taranga by email.

 

Day 7 – Mon 16 May  04 35.458S  101 48.699W   138 miles

The wind has steadied but the sea remains a mixed pain which is both slapping us and slowing us down. We ended up with the wind a little too S for the parasail so we stayed with plain sail all day. 6s and 7s for the afternoon and evening. Nice to be in the third digit of Longitude finally.

It is amazing how little change there is in the wind, either by bearing or strength, here. A big change is 5 degrees and that lasts normally for no more than an hour before it goes back to a ESE, around 110degrees. Long may the Trades last!

Little to report for on board activities today. Lots of reading done.

We had the tuna tonight seared and served with “special” rice – lovely.

We got mention of squalls at the 104W line by Out of the Bag, a boat in front of us. Something to look out for tomorrow.

 

Day 8 – Tue 17 May   04 55.570S  104 15.262W  139 miles

A day of squalls indeed. Sails up, down, changed side, washing machine rubbish. Not much fun at all. We had gusts to 30kts but most squalls topped out in the high twenties. We have been running @ 250-255 for most of the day. We really need a bit more W rather than WSW but with the number of squalls coming through we can’t trust the parasail up and as always, our downhill ability is poor, losing the jib if the main is up after the wind app goes more than 135.

I sometimes get jealous of other yachts we are out here with. Out of the Bag, with Bill and Jean, an Aus couple we met in Galapagos did 225miles yesterday. Very envious. Saying that, we have caught and past a monohull, Vanguard,  up near the Equator we have been speaking to on the net for the last week. We aren’t doing too badly.

The discussion goes on about what the fastest route. A NZ weather forecaster, the Pacific equivalent to Chris Parker in the Caribbean is suggesting staying around the 5S line until 130W then heading straight for the last few hundred miles. Seems that is where the current ends. The difficult thing is that the angle to travel due W is not a good one with the seas as they are which is why we have been very slowly moving S. We may, however, just have to grin and bear it for the sake of the current. On the basis we are covering just over two degrees a day, that is another 12-13 days before we head S.

On the upside, we got some decent rain with the squalls too. The decks are cleaned of the squid stains and the crusty salt bits that were starting to show on the solar panels have all gone.

I think this is the first day where Lou and I have felt properly tired. There is no reluctance to head straight to bed after a watch. E is being a great help and is standing in for the odd hour here and there. It makes a difference.

 

Day 9 – Wed 18 May. TIMEWARP to –7UTC.    05 05.643S  106 28.372W  121miles

The hour before dawn is turning into the hour to watch. For the last few days, the wind increases for about 45 mins dramatically, then backs into the S  before dropping away to less than 10kts for an hour or so.  Today we had a sustained period of 28+ kts(F7). We had run through the night with 2 reefs in, still averaging 6s, which meant all we needed to do was tuck away lots of jib. Still, bursts of 10+kts with the boat as heavy as she is at the moment meant there was some serious force on the sails. For us the weather is a bit cheeky; for Out of the Bag with another 5’ of length and built for speed rather than comfort, they did a 240mile day. Sigh………

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It does mean we are getting some beautiful sunsets and dawns. These are our last two. Red sky at night and all that doesn’t seem quite to be accurate!

After getting chucked down the stairs (lovely bruise on my backside and hip too), I got bored with the cross sea rubbish and the banging of the main so dumped it and ran under jib only with a far kinder tail sea, pulling in and out as the squalls came through. We have moved a little further N to try and stay in the best of the current. Tony on Tactical Direction, another boat on the morning net, got a full load down from his mate in Aus which says it is running strongest between 03-05S at the moment although there is positive current all the way down to about 09S. Happy days. Next update on Sunday.

The wind for the rest of the day has been around 12kts true. We had a couple of squalls miss us . With us going back in time and the moon waxing, we are starting to get a good moonlight for the night. A lot nicer than the black out we had over the first week.

We reached the 1000mile point today. It means Lou can now claim full membership rights to the Ocean Cruising Club and we are wondering if we should do the same for the kids. Is there a family membership available?

Another fish today. We seem to be doing well with small tuna. Enough for a meal but not enough for the freezer. May have to try another lure.

First cry of “are we nearly there yet?” today.

Day 10 – Thu 19 May   04 51.970S  108 20.767W  121miles

A comfortable night’s sail av 5kts with about 8kts over the deck. The current is definitely helping although another 5kts of wind would be helpful too. 

We are having a bit of a set to over when to switch the generator on. We haven’t seen a huge amount of sun the last few days and the autohelm has been working hard. Even though Lou hand steered the last hour of her watch, at first light the batteries were at 12.1V, a lot lower than we want them. Looks like we need to set a cut off point and start up accordingly.

Task for today was to replace the topping lift which I had hoped would last a little longer. I partly replaced the line whilst we crossed from Panama but another part of the line shredded yesterday. We stitched the old and new lines together, pulled it through and up the mast – no problem.   Our topping lift is now a pretty blue. Our thanks to Invictus for bringing us the line out from Panama.

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Eleanor learnt a new trick this morning – how to do whipping. A marvellous morning was had, whipping everything! Watch out for lots of red at the end of all our ropes. Note for me – buy more No 4 whipping line – we are nearly out. 

We have had a tedious day of too much wind, then nil, then just about enough and so around the loop again. And lots of very light showers. The parasail was up and down three times before we had enough and stuck to the jib.

Lou did an excellent tuna and noodles supper – v good.

 

Day 11 – Fri 20 May  04 49.489S  110 18.088W  115 miles

More showers and squalls overnight. Lots of cloud and few stars. It is safe running under jib only at night but it isn’t the fastest of passages.

Hey ho. I love my pactor4 modem. It really does do what it says on the tin. The email service is excellent – I wish Gmail was as quick and simple – and I am hitting Panama, now about 2000 miles away with ease getting about 3-5000bit per sec connection rate. I’m still needing to minimise what I send out as I only get 30 mins connection a month but it means my weather is always up to date (Airmail 3.5 has a great GRIB request format).

Eleanor did some baking and produced some excellent muffins today. Lou bribed the girls with the promise of M&Ms. It is amazing how spotless a bedroom can get when there is a proper incentive!

For the first time in days, a clear day sky equals good solar output, giving the batteries a good shunt. I’m hoping we have seen the last of the cloud for a while.

I tried to get one of the ends of the main traveller today to check the rod size that my great friend, John McMenamin is getting me from Z-Spar back in the UK. It ended in abject failure with one of the screw heads pinging off, leaving the body of a screw still through the deck and end piece and another screw refusing to turn at all, costing me a screwdriver which, with a bit of swearing was thrown with some feeling into the deep blue Pacific………. There isn’t enough broken screw to fix said end back to the deck. Unable to shift it either by drilling it out (dangerous trying to drill out a steel screw held in an aluminium body as I found out) or a hammer, I’ve had to just put everything back together. Not sure what to do now….. Better drill and a bigger screwdriver I suppose…… It will need to wait to the Marquesas.

It was pretty rocky today. Jib only as I worked on the traveller then whilst we had mainly a 15kt ESE breeze it fluked up past 20 all too regularly for the parasail.  We seem to be in a counter current at the moment and it feels as if Skylark is dragging an anchor we are going so slowly. We should be doing 5-6kts; we are seeing 3-4kts. Just tedious. Started to move a little further S with the main back up to see if we can push on a little.

 

Day 12 – Sat 21 May 04 47.811S 112 03.513W  118miles

We saw our first sign of human life for a while today. A big ship on route to Panama  screamed past us at a range of about 5 miles. They will be there in 3 days said the radio op! I wouldn’t mind that kind of pace at the moment.

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Moving S, we hit a westbound current again at 04 47S. Skylark suddenly felt as if she was moving properly.

The rest of the day passed very uneventfully. We watched some crap films. I had forgotten how bad  David Bowie’s Labyrinth was but the girls seemed to like it. Hot Fuzz was deemed completely inappropriate for the girls but I caught H watching it, nervously giggling like a mad thing, more at the bad language rather than the story line.

Other than that? Not much today……

 

Day 13 – Sun 22 May      05 01.362S 114 23.476W  142 miles

Way to go! We have made the half way point with a good mileage too. “All downhill from here, dear” says I …… the Taia and So What crews might see the humour of that comment and guess the response I got…..  Smile 

Again not exactly a busy day other than the daily maintenance check of the rigging and sails.  We do need to fix the sail cover and one of the sail cover pole stiffener fittings. We will be looking to borrow a sailrite machine when we get to FP. It is too much for our wee Singer.

The sails haven’t needed to be touched all day with a lovely honest and constant breeze which has set in from the SE.  Up to now, we have had ESE wind which fluke around for an hour or so at first light. Says the forecast and in Vaguebond’s opinion as well, we should have this for about four days.  I’ve also decided it is time to start heading on the rhumb line rather than try and use the strongest current. After losing a lot of mileage to a duff current prediction, I’m more in favour now of making sure the boat sails at a decent angle to get good boat speed, rather than the run with current we have been using for the last ten days.

With the wind in the SE, we can now sail on a beam reach on the rhomb line, which is perfect for Skylark. All plain sail set.

I have to admit to loving my HF set. We have an Icom 802 and the 140 auto tuner which, paired with a rope antenna and the KISS ground plane, is working beautifully. Saying that, the propagation on the morning net is getting difficult as we move further W and we decided that we would move it back to 0100UTC tomorrow to hopefully get a better signal. We are still managing to talk to Out of the Bag, some 1400miles in front of us but it should be easier from tomorrow.   I’m still trying to get Lou to use the set. She isn’t keen. It must be some hangover from R Sig days!

I decided it was time for a haircut again. I like my short hair. Easier to maintain too. The girls took great delight in taking turns in clippering it off and Lou did the tidying up. My beard, which will remain on until we get to the Marquesas, is now longer than my hair.

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Lou made a chicken pasty which went down extremely well.  Note E’s sneaky hand coming in to nick a carrot!

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Pacific Crossing – Lessons Learnt

Final Thoughts and Lessons Learnt.

Our crossing was perhaps not as fast as we had hoped but we sailed conservatively and comfortably. We were hampered by several disappointing days with little wind and low mileage. However, when you are sailing with kids, if you can get there safely, still speaking to the wife and with nothing broken, I’d suggest that you can claim a successful crossing!

Here are a few things I would do differently next time and some comments on aspects that did go well too.

1. Repairs and spares. I wish I had stuck to it and replaced the rudder bearings in the Galapagos. It would have been very difficult to do, particularly to get the placement exactly right but it would have allowed me to get a good nights sleep. Listening to the rudders go bump, bump as they just moved enough to do so made me a worried man for a lot of the crossing. I dislike mechanical noise when I know it should not be there. I deliberately underpowered the boat on reaches to minimise the stress to the rudders. Hauling out, is amazingly, going to be less impractical in the Marquesas as I suspected with the opening of the new yard at Atuona (May 16). Even though the advice I got from two very competent engineers was the bearings were within safe limits and would easily get me to the Marquesas,  which they did, I should have just sucked it up and got it done. Lesson learnt for simple peace of mind.

In regard to spares, don’t expect to find any decent chandleries beyond the Eastern Caribbean. Jamaica had a single store, Cuba  – none, Panama pretended to have one but was very poorly stocked and foully expensive and even Puerto Rico was poor, being more in tune with stink boat types than sail. The cost to ship equipment in to any of these countries (other than to PR) is high in both import duties and time.

Make sure you plan well ahead and don’t stint. I nave been amazed at how difficult it is to find spare oil and fuel filters, impellors and anything engine or generator related since I left St Maarten. Stock up there or have it shipped in at PR and think long term again, which for us means two years. I am carrying spares enough for four impellor changes on each engine and eight for fuel and oil.

You can get through them very quickly. As an example of ill luck, Starcharger, who carried the same quantity of spares, had a problem with a squid up their water outflow pipe, resulting in huge backpressure along the lines. It took them three blown impellors just to find the problem. They ended up stuck in Galapagos waiting for more spares and had to give up their dream of Easter Isle and Pitcairn as they ran out of time.   Occasionally shit happens and you need to be in a position with enough spares to deal with it.

Silly things like spare zincs. Trust me – you won’t find the size or shape you need easily. Carry a spare!

One item I should have added to the spares cabinet was adequate spare rope. I even talked about sharing a 500m drum of 10mm with Almost There which we would have had as a bulk buy for $800 total and would have given me the flexibility to replace halyards as required. We decided not to bother after they made their decision to head back to the USA. So short sighted. As it was, Invictus brought me a 100m of poorer quality line from Panama, the best they could find, after my topping lift broke on me, for $900. Ouch. Note that we have been told that decent rope is a premium in FP and is an excellent item to trade.

2. Sails.  Down hill sailing is the name of the game for this crossing but there has been less light air sailing than I supposed there to be. We had the parasail which was excellent in lighter airs but for much of the time in the first half of the passage, we had too much wind apparent to fly it and ended up with jib only as I dislike trying to goosewing if it is too gusty. We learnt our lesson on that during our passage from Puerto Rico to Cuba – it cost us three new baton points and six weeks wait for parts from France after we got caught by a wind shift. Saying that, whilst Quatsino got caught with 40kts at one point, we never saw more than a single gust of 30kts, sustained, 25kts. As I have used before on monohulls, a small, heavy weight  spinnaker rated to 30kts would have been a godsend to run with from 15-25kts. I’d also add a deep cut asymmetric or code zero if I could, to give me more options on reaching.

Talking to the monohull sailors, although there is a little roll, twin headsail works very well and if you have roller reefing, so easy to sail. Just sit back and do as Vagabond did. They didn’t do anything with their sails other to put a couple of turns in during squalls for three weeks!

3. Crew. If you can, take a crew. We tried and failed to get interest enough from someone at home to join us. Not really surprising, I suppose. Go to the other side of the world, take six to eight weeks off from your job to enjoy sitting on passage seeing very little! Our friends are not at the age where that is easy. We then talked to a few people, one of which sounded like a goer who let us down at the end when he was offered a slot on a super yacht. It was too late to find someone else by that point, other than one wee cocky thing who was determined to be paid for the crossing. I hear she is still waiting for a boat in Panama……..

Although Lou and I’s watch system worked very well for us (see our separate post on this), having a third or fourth person on board would take so much pressure off. Simple things like sailing with the parasail at night becomes easy rather than worrying that you need to sleep up top in case a squall comes through and you need to get it down quickly. The proper watch system becomes possible.

4. Power. I’m glad I serviced the generator before we left and it that it worked flawlessly. I had in my mind endless blue sky, lots of solar  power from my 500W of panel and some wind whilst running downwind. What we got was an awful lot of cloud, wind enough to turn the wind generator but rarely to get good power out of it and the need to run the diesel generator up to three hours a day. Our electronic/hydraulic autohelm sucks power when you are running, as it has to work very hard. Unless you have crew enough for long periods of hand steering, make sure you have a reliable backup power source.

5. Gas. Make sure you have enough. I changed to a new 20lb bottle a week before we left. It would normally last for five weeks. I had to change it after just over three weeks. Food becomes the centre point of a lot of your activities. We have baked cakes, pancakes, bread, scones, brownies, pasta dishes, every evening meal is a hot meal and of course, every watch has to start with at least one cup of coffee. You will go through more than you expect. Plan for a 50% increase to your normal usage.

If you can, take a European adaptor to allow you to change from US to Euro fittings. I did have an adaptor, brought out by my Father as far back as BVI last year, but I gave it up to friends in Panama who broke theirs just before their Pacific crossing and couldn’t find a replacement. I have survived with inverted bottles and  (see the Hauling Out blog for details) plan to last until Tahiti where I will be able to refill my US ones again.

6. Food stocks. It really isn’t that difficult to stock up with a good supply before you leave but you have to think long term, as in months in advance for supplies of your exotics. You have to make sure you do your last stocking in Panama which has good USA type supermarkets, if not before. The Galapagos is not the place to think of loading up. There is so little choice.  We have probably overstocked, what with the enormous store of dried stuff that Almost There generously gave us when they went back to the USA, supplementing our own squirreled supplies. But we won’t be forking out for FP priced goods for the next year. Bear in mind that we started stocking up in the E Caribbean in November. For example, canned pates and jams were bought in Martinique, marmalade in St Maarten, we still over a dozen bottles of HP brown sauce (my favourite) tucked away, picked up in Antigua and we used and abused the US food stores in Puerto Rico for canned goods at Christmas.

You can get good fruit and veg at reasonable prices in the Galapagos. Lou packed carefully, used the “green bags” for veg, changing the paper in them regularly to remove moisture and avoid rotting. We even managed to have a few carrots, onions, cabbage and potatoes left when we reached the FP and we ate well throughout.

On the fruit front, apples, carefully stored and oranges, both lasted very well.  Bananas did not – a few days only – but plantain did and we were still frying them, making them into chips with spicy seasoning, after a couple of weeks.

Eggs, bought just before we left Isabela, lasted about three weeks. We were rotating them daily and all were unrefrigerated. Two eggs only went bad on us out of the seven dozen we started with.

8. Comms. Our HF voice comms worked well throughout the passage and it was great to be able to talk on a net with anything up to another 8 boats (up to 1500miles away) for daily chats, position reports, weather updates, tall tales about your fishing prowess and generally keeping an eye out for each other. You can’t do that by Sat phone. Vagabond, who were within a 100miles of us for most of the passage, have become friends. E-mail worked well up to about 2/3 across the passage but then became problematic through no fault of our own.

Manahi is the Airmail station closest to us in FP and it has been constantly down. It meant that the only email back link that we could establish was either via Honolulu or Niue, both some 2400 miles away. We could hit both but with a weak signal, it took time to upload or download anything. You only get 30mins a month airway time and I have used it all up.

I think that I would look at the Iridium Go package again. Satcom is expensive but it would have been far easier to get GRIBS and mail, with 24hr coverage rather than the typical HF three or four hour decent propagation window. Saying that, my Pactor-4 and Icom HF set have worked great and we have had no real issues, other than airmail linkage, to worry about. There is no way I would give up my HF set though.

NB. We have since found out that the Mahani server has broken down and is waiting for new parts to be able to broadcast again. It explains a lot.

7. On Fishing.  We had a pretty good time with the rod and line on this passage. Not in comparison to Jade or Taranga– wow, did they score big using multiple lines –  but good enough against most of the rest. We fished daylight hours only for about half the days we were out and with one line only. We stopped fishing five days out having filled the freezer.

In the end, if we had heavier line and a better reel, I think we would have caught more. Note, the line I was using had a 60lb breaking strain so sizable!

The final score was

Skylark – Six. Two Mahi and four Black Fin Tuna – one thrown back. Total weight of fish about 70-80lbs.

Fish – Four lures, (a cedar plug, two squid type things and a heavier deep fish type) all with line broken by weight of fish.

For the remainder of the trip, I may look for a better reel and a heavy drag line just to tie off to the back of the boat to give us a second chance. We will see what the reel prices are like in FP but it might have to be a New Zealand purchase at Christmas.

8. Kids.  Our kids, just as most boat kids are, are pretty good at dealing with their own entertainment and were amazingly resilient. They read huge amounts – Eleanor read the entire Harry Potter series in just over a week – and arts and craft gets a good seeing to as well. Endless pictures, cards and bracelets for friends etc etc.

We did do some school too but this was sporadic rather than scheduled.

We have also had them help with boat stuff too. Cleaning their rooms daily (God knows HOW they make so much mess), washing dishes, setting the table for meals, baking and cooking and then helping with watches as well, making sure they feel part of the sailing experience.  They have both got a lot more confident on watch to the point I know I can just let them get on with it without Lou or I looking over their shoulders. Eleanor is developing into a good cook!

In short, keep them busy and don’t be surprised when the step up to the plate and do well.