Tag Archives: Plastik Plankton

Ua – New Caledonia

What a gem!

Ua is a small uninhabited island less than a km long and maybe 400m wide at its widest. At 22 42.30S 166 48.39E, it is about 30Nm W of Kuna in amongst the many reefs that fall S some 40Nm from the end of the main island to the drop off. Not an anchorage recommended to visitors using the small charter fleet, it leaves it free for liveaboard visitors, the occasional local family on a fishing boat and other infrequent visitors.

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We anchored in 35’ of water on sand in the crescent bay at the NW corner of the island. It is sheltered but here is a wraparound N swell that finds its way into the bay. Not too bad for us catamarans but if you weren’t close in to the island, it can be a bit rolly for the monos.

There is only one small gap in the reef to get on to the island at the N end of the beach. Take care to find the right cut in through the beach and make sure you have the engine up to half mast as it gets v shallow at low tide.

We explored the island and saw two Osprey nests, one in a tree, the other no more than four feet off the ground 100m through the scrub forest from the dinghy landing point.

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We didn’t see the birds until we explored the island. After we had turned to walk N on the E shore, we startled four juvenile Ospreys who had yet to find the courage to leave the island. They flew above us, keening and obviously not happy that we were there so we turned round and left them to settle down. We listened to them crying away throughout our stay.

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We had been communicating with Tika by Messenger for quite a while, wondering if we would get the chance to see them again. They decided that one last rendezvous was in order. We had a moment when Russell and I realised that there were islands with all too similar names and there was still 15+ miles between us! They pushed hard to get down to us, arriving just around last light to anchor behind us. It was great seeing them again. It wasn’t long before Tika Taka, their rather splendid dinghy, was down in the water and it was great watching the kids pushing her hard around the bay. Hannah was effective ballast and thoroughly enjoyed hiking out! Although the Mirror dinghy that I learnt my sailing on is on offer to the girls when we get home, I rather think it is unlikely that they will experience this kind of weather for a while!

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Tika weren’t able to stick around for long. I have to admit, yet again, at feeling jealous watching Tika depart as she accelerated from 0 to 10+kts in a few boat lengths as her main filled. She left us in 20+kts with a full main up, the wind on her beam, tearing away towards Noumea.

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We had several days of simple pleasures, snorkelling on the reefs around the island, exploring the island, having a bonfire on the beach and doing a little bit of socialising. Wet suits were definitely needed but drying out in the sun on a walk was an enjoyable après snorkel activity.

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Ua provided us with some of the best snorkelling in the Pacific. That’s a big statement but the life on the reef running N from the island was magnificent. There was more colour in the coral than I’d seen anywhere else, the mix of coral was fantastic and the fish life was superb. At 21C the water temperature felt cold but this presumably has helped protect the reef from the heavy bleaching so evident E in the mid Pacific island groups. 

Russell asked if I was able to take the Tika kids down for a dive and that I did. Jaiya (her first ever), Hannah and Kai each got a short dive along the best bit of the reef wall about 100m N from the end of the island. It was a shallow dive and we didn’t have to go any deeper than 8m. I went back and had another couple of dives. I spent the time trying not to smile at the gloriousness of life I saw. Magnificent!

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With just a few days left before we needed to be in Noumea for Skylark’s survey and the imminent arrival of Kostya, the new owner, we needed to move. We left Ua and moved the 30 odd miles to a bay just shy of Noumea for our very last night on the hook. Skylark didn’t disappoint on our last real sail as a family on board and we swept NW at 8kts on a beam reach.

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Ile Des Pins –New Caledonia

The sail down from Ouvea towards the Iles Des Pins can be a difficult one. With the sea running from the SE and the wind regularly set from there as well, it can be a long beat. PJ of Stormy Monday had suggested that rather than going straight for the island, we should run on to the main island, go inside the reef and take our time in the sheltered water exploring the rarely used anchorages on the E side of the island. It made sense so we initially headed for  about  two thirds of the way down the island. As we cleared Ouvea, we found that the wind was from a wonderfully unexpected ENE direction so we hardened up and aimed further S to take advantage of it.

The next morning found us inside the reef in flat sheltered water and we pushed motor sailed SE the last few miles to Pass de Tare and anchorage described to us as a cyclone hole. We went in and found ourselves in a wonderfully sheltered bay, completely surrounded by forest. Wolfi and Cathi were in just before us having pushed a bit harder upwind. With a good muddy bottom, we anchored in 40’.

We spent a day looking around and met a delightful Frenchman who had been given permission from the locals to convert a small patch of one of the islands into a vegetable  garden. Once a violinist in Paris, we had found his way to New Caledonia and had never left. He does some trading with the locals and enjoys his life parked up in the bay.

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We moved on early the next morning escorted out of the pass by a couple of dolphin for the short jump to Iles Des Pins. There are a couple of routes into the huge sheltered nature park and we chose to head for Bay de Gadji which is on the N of the island. With only 15miles from Bay de Tare, it didn’t take us long but we had time to catch a King Mackerel. Finally, a fish with white flaky meat!

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We arrived to find Nigel on Varaiki leading a group of Rally boats off, all ducks in a row,  towards the narrow pass to the main town on S side of the island,  Hannah was disappointed to see her friends charge off but as we pointed out, Rally fleets are normally a bit more focused on moving on and are running to a timetable, something we have always tried not to do!

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We parked up for the first night at  a v sheltered anchorage in about 25’ of water just on the W side of the channel outside Bay de Gadji. The next morning having recce’d the route, we moved 500m E into the far shallower Bay de Gadji in 10’ of water into the whitest sand we had seen since the Bahamas. What a place! Lou has posted on Facebook that this is her favourite anchorage of the whole trip and it is difficult to argue with her. A huge area of sheltered water with great holding, oh so white sand and for the first few days at least little wind  meaning that Skylark looked as if she was floating on air, the water so flat and clear.

The original plan was to stay for a couple of days but we just loved it here. Joined by Be and Be and Plastik Plankton we had a great time being surrounded by beauty.

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Geoff decided he needed some time away from it all and took himself off on his paddleboard. He didn’t need to go far to find peace! I rather liked his style.

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We had a period of fantastic calm and beautiful sunsets. These are my two favourites. I’m quite proud of them considering they were taken on our little compact.

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Of course, as always with Hannah involved there was a continued drive for sleepovers and after several, we managed to get rid of the whole problem by suggesting a camping exhibition to one of the islands. The suggestion was joyously taken up by the smalls and we had a great time finding wood enough for the fire, selecting the right trees for the hammocks and then agreeing who would be sleeping with who.

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The view from the campsite was pretty impressive.

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Of course the adults couldn’t simply desert the kids so we got to visit, feed and water and hang out at the camp, at least until the kids told us it was time for us to leave them on their own.

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With one girl in each hammock, there was a minimum of strife. Shelby, smart girl she is, decided to enjoy the relative peace of Be and Be without her siblings!

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After rousing the kids out early after a few days ashore, we moved around to Kuto, the village in the main bay on the S side of the island where the ferry comes in. The ladies were disappointed again by the lack of fresh product available in the shop (singular). When pushed the shopkeeper said there might be fresh coming in by ferry a few days hence but it wouldn’t last long. I find it amazing that the service from Noumea to the outer islands is so poorly operated. With a fast foot ferry operating a couple of times a day, there must be opportunity for someone to spark. At the moment the only people who get reasonable service amd access to the plentiful produce of the main island are the hotels who ship in their own.

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We operated a taxi service in and out of the dock as you aren’t allowed to tie up to the ferry dock or the passenger dock (reserved for cruise liners) and we weren’t happy leaving the boat on the beach. It worked well and we all got to run about. Hannah did a good job as Dinghy Captain.

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The bay at Kuna has Dugongs in it. We kept a good look out for them but all we saw was the very occasional glimpse of a dark shape as it rolled underwater. We even tried a engine off drift through where we though we had seen a couple but with no success. Similar to Manatee, the big difference is the tail which looks like a Whales rather than the spade the Manatee has.

We climbed N’Ga, the highest hill on the island which overlooks the bay. Hannah had to hauled up the last little bit. Hot, bothered and without Eleanor to motivate her, she was not a happy chappy Smile 

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At 262m, N’Ga isn’t that high but the views are spectacular. With a 360 visage, you can certainly see why the island has its name. Interestingly, the island was originally a penal island and was used by the French to get rid of inconvenient political prisoners for a brief period in the mid 19C. It is a lot nicer than the hell hole of Devil’s Island, made famous in the film Papillion, but it proved to be too expensive to maintain.

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We needed to move on and see a bit more before we left Skylark. There is a huge amount to explore at the S end of New Cal and we could have spent weeks exploring. We looked and discussed, asked opinions, researched online and eventually decided that the weather was settled enough to go for one of the less visited small islands W of Ile Des Pins. Be and Be headed off to pick up family coming out to see them from home. Plastik Plankton and Skylark headed towards our final stop before handing her over, the island of Ua.

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The Loyalty Islands- New Caledonia

One of the problems with New Caledonia is that there is one booking in point for sailors and that is Noumea, the capital. You may enter at other places with prior permissions but the captain is required to attend the authorities in Noumea within 24hrs of landing, always an expensive trip and not often practical. To get to Noumea by boat you need to beat down to the bottom of the main island so if you want to look at exploring the Loyalties or even the N of the main island, Noumea is the last place you want to visit.

We had joined the Island Cruising Association Rally to get around this. Based out of New Zealand, the Rally takes a little over five months to travel around Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia before returning to Opua in New Zealand.  This year was a transition year with Nigel and Amanda Richards taking over the running of the rally. I can’t say I envy them in their task of herding cats. Most crews were pretty independent but there were a few that needed to be spoon fed. Nigel and Amanda did an admirable job although their patience must have been stretched on occasion being continually at the beck and call of the fleet.

The rally organised Customs and Immigration to come to Lifou to book everyone in on Tues 19th Sep. It was a pain for a few boats who decided to arrive early as they were not allowed to leave their boat other than to swim around themselves. No visiting ashore or other yachts. Plastik Plankton had the longest wait – several days –  as they had travelled directly from the southern islands of Vanuatu and they thought they would have a slower passage. We timed it reasonably well and crossed with a 36hr sail which started fast and bouncy. We had to seriously slow ourselves down to ensure we arrived in daylight. Skylark was in the groove and reached all the way across. Whilst I allowed it, it was lovely fast sailing at times into double digits. We had to wait a day to book in but as the wind was due to into the S which would have forced us to beat, arriving when we did made sense.

Booking in was a painless and well organised event and everyone (25+ boats) was done in about an hour and a half. We did have a mong moment when we were told that we weren’t allowed to bring eggs in but the nice bio security chap allowed us to bake with them so the some members of the fleet got to try a yogurt cake and lots of fairy cakes.

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Hannah was over the moon to see her motley crew of kids. It didn’t take long for her to get the kayak down and head off to meet up with the gang assembling on Kena.

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Lou went into town to get a sim card for the phone to give us internet and to get some shopping. A word of warning. There isn’t a lot for sale on the the island and there was a distinct lack of fresh produce. We also found that prices were high, much higher than even the outer isles of French Polynesia.  I helped Wally of the wonderfully named Udder Life fix his diving fins with a new strap from my Save a Dive kit. I thought it may as well be used. A reminder to myself to restock…..

As an aside, Udder Life’s original name was White Gold. As Wally is a successful milk farmer, the name makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, too many people had other ideas what White Gold stood for and after being approached one too many times to see if he could help with a couple of grams of cocaine, he changed her name!

We had a good time in the village. My first task was to go and find fresh bread. After a joyous reunion with Kathi and Wolfi, one of our very favourite couples, it didn’t take long. We followed our noses through the village to the back door of a building. The traditional bread is a huge round which is then broken/cut into segments for sale. we arrived just in time to watch it being extracted from the oven. Baguettes were cooked in another kiln and the baker smiled, showed me how to extract them and handed me the pole. I had a great time and the baker seemed happy with my work. No discount was given on the couple of loaves I bought but I did get to choose my own. I went back the next day and helped out again. Simple pleasures!

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Whilst most house plots had a modern house on it, each and everyone still had a traditional round house as well. You really have to bend to enter the small doorway. The permanent structure is a low wall that forms the base. Thick vertical poles are set in the wall to allow a wooded frame to be fitted to it to hold up the walls and roof.

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The roof is a structure of wood poles tied together overlaid with leaves. A fire is lit centrally. This dries and preserves the roof. It will last several years. The floor is covered with a thick layer of dried fronds which have a layer of matting over them. It provides a very comfortable sleeping platform. It felt like walking on a firmish sponge.

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Even if you loose the roof to a cyclone, New Caledonia being frequently hit, it does not take long to reconstruct.  The house in the photos is lived in and the local who invited us to look at his house was glad of the chance to show off his inlaid tile walkway and fireplace. Wolfi (an architect by training) got all excited at the roof design.

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Just as in Fiji, it is necessary to show respect to the local chief if you want to explore the islands. A gift of cloth is the done thing with the more modern addition of a 1000XFP note tucked in with it. Nigel collected these and did a collective presentation to the Chief he had been told was the boss. Permission was granted for the fleet to anchor in a variety of places, to fish (a big concession) and to visit some of the smaller outer isles.

Unfortunately, a few boats who fired off to explore were soon on the radio telling of aggressive locals telling them to bugger off. What transpired was the Chief could give permission to some areas but not others. A second chief was identified and placated with gifts but it seemed that there was a power struggle going on. An old chief had died, two new chiefs were fighting for precedence and we had got caught up in the middle. It was a unpleasant mess and led to a complaint to the police because of the overtly threatening behaviour of a few locals.  A bit of a shame really as it dissuaded a lot of the fleet from exploring as much as they wanted.

We enjoyed the beach, the sunsets and did a little snorkelling at the pass entrance. Alice, crew on Varaiki, and I did a little diving at one of the bommies a mile or so offshore.

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We moved up to Ouvea with an overnight sail with Plastik Plankton. We sailed in and parked ourselves off the Paradise Hotel in the SE corner of the atoll in 20’ of water. It is another beautiful atoll and we spend a few happy days just playing on the beach and hanging out with the other kid boats.

It was an easy, tranquil time and we thoroughly enjoyed it. A few of the fleet explored the atoll by car with mixed reports. Very beautiful everywhere you go but not a lot to do. I think we had the best of it simply sitting in the glorious setting we found ourselves in, exploring by foot the area around the anchorage and having fun. See what you think………..

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With time ticking we decided to head towards Iles Des Pins (the Isle of Pines) which had been identified as one the must see places in New Caledonia. After advice from PJ and Josefina on Stormy Monday, regular New Cal visitors, we headed best course to windward, SSE towards a gap in the reef surrounding the main island. We left in Plastik Plankton’s company as the sun started to set for a quiet and sheltered overnight sail.

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Visitors from Home–The Turnballs are in town (Pt 1)

We have had a fantastic time the last three weeks. After all the fun we had with Shena and Kinsley, we said hello to our next set of visitors, Morag and Alice. They arrived in Savusavu tired after very long flights but with enough life to enjoy a pizza from the restaurant at the Copra Shed. The weather remained windy so we held there, letting the guests adjust to the time, wandering the town and playing around the boat. I got to fit the parts that Morag had brought out with her including, crucially the new baton ends for my mainsail. It took a morning to refit but I was far happier being back in good sailing order.

We also managed to fit in a visit to the nearby waterfall and lunch at the Koro Sun Resort.  The kids enjoyed the kids pool, complete with water slide, while Morag and Lou retreated to the grown ups pool and relaxed in the glorious peace and quiet.

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Although the wind has been from the right direction, it has been unseasonably strong say the locals and I’ll concur. We waited another two days for the wind to drop to below 20kts and then headed to where we should have met them, Nadi on Viti Levu, the main island of the Fiji Isles. The route took us through the pass we had run scared off in the heavy weather and then around the corner to the enormous Bua Bay arriving just before last light. Alice, Bless her, quickly decided that I needed all the help that I could get on the helm and became my little shadow for much of our travelling time. We anchored in 25’ of water just off the extensive reef that surrounds the bay protecting the mangroves.

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The next morning was beautifully still and crystal clear, a rare event here in the Pacific. The ladies took themselves off to do some snorkelling and explored the nearby reef by kayak. I wouldn’t say the bay has much to offer in the way of life. The reef is pretty dead but there were fish enough to enthral Alice. She had no problems throwing herself in and was happy paddling around in the deeper water. Visitors from HomeVisitors from Home

We did try landing at the one beach we could see at the entrance to the bay but we were beaten back by shallow reef and no way to land the dinghy. We snorkelled off it instead which proved to be much better with far more life than further in the bay. Initially we thought her shrieks that we could hear through her snorkel were of terror but we quickly realised that she was yelling, ‘Fishies, fishies!’ at the top of her voice.

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On the basis that we weren’t going to be sailing anywhere until the wind returned when the trades re-established themselves, we got the rubber ring out and Alice became proficient in hanging on for dear life.

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The Bligh Bight is a wind funnel, with wind being squeezed through the gap between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. When there was 25-30kts as we crossed back from Paradise, there was 40+ howling through the Bight. With only 50 miles to cross to the lee of Vitua Levu, we left Bua Bay just before last light and headed out with not a lot of wind around.

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This suited us perfectly and we had a easy sail with a gradually more and more sheltered approach to the Yavena Passage, our entrance to the channel inside the reef to Nadi. We waited for an hour drifting before switching the engine on and motoring the last 15 miles to the anchorage at the entrance of Port Denerau. There we saw old friends, Plastik Plankton, last seen in French Polynesia at the start of the season in Raiatea. We met Fiona, Henry and Stella, who had been busy exploring the delights of Port Denarau shopping mall and Henry was fully decked out in a Nadi rugby t shirt and sulu. We met at the wonderfully named Rhum Ba in Port Denarau Marina before going authentically Fijian at the Hard Rock Cafe for Burgers.  The manly looking cocktails were excellent!  There was great enthusiasm for the parcels that arrived with them too. All gratefully received!

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The ladies spent the Sunday doing holiday shopping in Nadi, collecting the necessary tat to take home. The next day was far more fun. Fiji still has many active volcanoes and hot vents and one such vent comes up at Subeto Springs which is famous for the mud baths these power.  Everyone had a great time wallowing around like proverbial and then the women splashed out on a massage each too. Worth every penny, I was told. Lou got a hard time for mincing around the mud. Her excuse? That she had finally got her new bikinis and didn’t want to spoil them. You may notice the difference in appearance in the photos!

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With Morag just days to do, we headed offshore with everyone onboard to visit Musket Cove, a famous resort started on the island of Malolo about 10 miles offshore from Nadi. The island started with three owners back in the 1960s. One developed the Plantation Resort, one the Musket Cove Resort and the last sold out. His land is now an organic farm which supplies some of the products required on the island. We found Plantation somewhat unfriendly but perhaps it was just the muppet the kids ran into who tried to fleece them for cash. The rest of the staff seemed fine but they were let down by the bloke we ran in to twice who was just a prat. Ah well. We went back to Musket and spent our money there instead. Their loss.

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Musket Cove on the other hand, was marvellous. With its own dedicated mooring field and small marina, boaties are very definitely are part of their business plan. You also have the advantage of joining the Musket Cove Yacht Club ( a one off payment of $10) which gained you a nice card and saved a fortune in the ferry price back to the mainland as we found when Emma and Fiona headed back the first night.  It is a great deal.Visitors from Home

The facilities at Musket are very good with a couple of restaurants, a large salt water pool, a health centre (massage and alike which Fiona enjoyed) nearly free activities for card holders and an excellent Musket Cove Yacht Club Bar down by the marina with its own BBQ cookers available to use for the grand price of $2.  Cutlery and crockery are provided by the bar so we didn’t even need to wash up!

As their time with us ran out, Morag and Alice got the ferry back to the mainland with Fiona, Emma, Stella and Evie so that they could have a farewell dinner. We swapped Henry for Hannah for the night and said some tearful goodbyes. It was lovely having them both on board and we are all looking forward to seeing them again at the end of the year.

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Maupiti – Island of Mantas

We had a lovely sail across to Maupiti. Blue sky, favourable and light winds meant a pleasant day sail.

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With our new sails up, we dondered along, just about keeping station with Be and Be. As the broad reach became a run, we ditched the white sail and flew the parasail. Maupiti

Such an easy sail once it is up. We caught up with Be and Be, had some very close sailing in company and got some great photos of the boat and her crew.

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She returned the favour!

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The entrance pass to Maupiti on the SE corner of the reef is very cheeky and the boat actually surfed on one wave just as we went past the edge of the reef. Not a pass for the fainthearted. The guide books tell of big surf and of boats getting stuck here for weeks at a time with unpassable seas breaking across the less than 75m wide entrance. It is obvious to see why. Even on a quiet day there was a 3m surf only 20m either side of us. God knows what it would be like when the weather kicks up. For us, we know that there is strong SE winds coming in on Tuesday afternoon which we intend to use to spring W. We will be making sure we leave before that affects the pass.

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We pushed through 3-4knots in the narrow channel and anchored at 16 28.339S 152 15.024W in about 10m of water. As soon as we dropped we had two big Mantas go past us! Thank you, Cathi and Wolfi, for the steer to this place. Just to our E there is a protected area marked by four buoys prohibiting anchoring. The area is known to be a favourite of Manta Rays and the main reason people visit this island. The Manta use it as a cleaning station. We watched with some amusement as a charter boat actually tried to pick one of the buoys up before realising their error!

It was good to watch a near perfect sunset with a clear sky and unimpeded view of the horizon.

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The next morning Be and Be was asked to move as although their anchor was outside the protected zone, she had swung into it when the wind changed from an E to a N overnight. A local dive boat went back and forward then threw down an anchor. We jumped in to the dinghy and then set ourselves to drift down towards the dive boat. We were rewarded with five Manta, the largest of which was about 4m across. Although the visibility of the water wasn’t great, watching these gloriously languid beasts was a fantastic experience. They spent their time circling a couple of the bombies.

We spent the afternoon getting ourselves ready for the crossing, allowing the kids time with each other. We gave the watermaker a long run and did some tidying away of the toys that we had out during our Bora Bora fun time and the cabin became a little less full of girls’ bits and pieces.

The next day Eleanor and I decided to dive where we had snorkelled before. The rest of the crowd watched above us as three Manta came to the cleaning station and hovered overhead and within touching distance of us for about half and hour. They were amazing. Two smaller 3m wide ones were with us throughout and we were joined by a 4+m one for a few minutes too. Eleanor’s eyes were glowing as we watched them circle us. The advantage of being down on the bottom was we were able watch them open their gills to allow the smaller fish in to clean them. It was amusing to watch the Manta twitch as a cleaner took a nibble of something it shouldn’t have!

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With the weather just a day away, we moved up to the village and anchored in 15’ of water at 16 26.911S 152 14.757W straight off the church, by far the largest building here.

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Geoff and I had a last chat about the weather, deciding to push off early the next morning to make sure we are out of the pass before the SE swell arrives. An USA boat, Flying Cloud, a name I knew from the Poly Mag Net was also waiting for the weather and agreed with our assessment of it. Typically island like, the post office was closed for Labour Day (they do like their holidays here) and therefore the internet had been switched off too.

Our last night was spent quietly by ourselves. I was up early on our last morning to get bread. You will find the boulangerie at the main jetty under the huge edifice at the S end of the island. It was a pleasant 15min walk from the dinghy dock at the post office through the village.

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I was served by a long silver haired French émigré with a big smile and a dead, well chewed half rollup hanging out of his mouth. But the bread smelt wonderful!  I walked back just in time to catch dawn, our last in French Polynesia, at the dinghy dock.

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After an early breakfast, we visited the magasin, dropping off our last empty crate of Tahitian beer and came away with some bits and pieces, mainly crisps, chocolate and snacks for hosting, trying to use up the last of the XFP we had on board. We tried one last time to get a call to Delorme but the internet was just too slow. By about 0830hrs the wind had veered, earlier than we had expected, and was coming out of the S. We rushed back to the boat, pulled up hurriedly and headed for the pass.

The pass was already interesting. Although the SE wind was no more than 15kts, we were faced with a line of close packed 5m standing waves and surf across the pass entrance. WTF?!

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Thankfully there is always an outgoing current here so whilst we got shaken up a little we were soon able to turn out of the race, close to the surf line on the S edge of the island. With the main already up, we pulled foresail out and got sailing. Be and Be followed us out and got a bit more bounced about as the waves strengthened, just 10 minutes behind us . We spoke later to Flying Cloud who had decided to leave a couple of hours after us and they got hammered. As he put it, their 44’ heavy long keeled boat was stood on its end twice by huge standing waves and they got very worried. It was by a long way the worst pass they had ever been through. The wind was only just getting up to 20kts. We saw 30kts on the clock within a few hours of leaving. We decided that no-one would be getting out or in behind him, not for days.

With the new sails looking good, big seas running and half a gale of wind behind us, we took off W.

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Raiatea and Tahaa

Oh my. Kids. Lots of them. Hysteria, mania and joy!

We arrived at Raiatea having had a easy sail across the 15miles from Huahine. We were joined at the entrance pass by two canoeists who wanted to slipstream us to ease their passage and do some training. Both were superbly fit but the older man by far the more efficient and skilled paddler. His paddle stroke was effortless and other than his metronomic arm movement, he was motionless. They kept up with us for about 3 miles whilst we were doing 6kts. Very impressive.  The younger guy asked us if we would speed up and he lasted another half a mile at 7kts, sweating bullets but finishing with a shout, a big grin and a wave. We clapped and cheered him to his great pleasure as he turned away into a village dock.

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We motored around to the NW corner of the island to the Raiatea Carenage. This has a few mooring balls of it which neither the yard or Carenage seem particularly interested in managing and picked up just off the entrance to the yard. Be and Be and Sangvind were both there waiting for us and the first dinghy with Dylan and Jayden from Sangvind arrived before we even finished tying up. Eleanor was immediately in difficulty. The mooring was a  short one and we had failed to lift it high enough to get a line through, resulting in her jumping in in just a pair of pale pants and a t-shirt to do so, whilst rescuing the boat hook at the same time. Two boys arriving in a dinghy was almost too much for her but she managed to save her dignity by hightailing it through the hulls to get decent. The boys couldn’t see the problem with her just jumping in to the dinghy!

Be and Be are an Aus boat with a family of six (Peta and Geoff with Shelby, Evie, Harry and Jake – 13, 11, 9 and 8 respectively). They are taking a year out to sail their newly bought boat back from Tahiti to the Gold Coast. Sangvind (Sylvia and Frans with Dylan, 12 and Jayden, 9) have been travelling for a while. Although they stopped in the UK for a couple of years, they have been sailing a long time with Frans and Sylvia already having spent nine years in the W Pacific, buying their first boat in NZ and travelling for 18 years in total. The current trip is partly financed by Frans’s part in the film “In the Heart of the Sea” in which he had a major part and his own death scene. His kids are particularly proud of this fact!

We had two great days there. The eight kids ran feral across all three boats and moved between them by swimming and canoeing as the feeling took them. Meals were made after counting the heads you had on the boat at that moment in time. It was great fun.

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Frans organised some wakeboarding and we used the ring from Mary Ann II properly for the first time.

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There were a variety of sleepovers including the big kids sleeping on our trampoline – at least until 0430hrs when the rain came – and the move on the third day with the parent’s decision that everyone should have a quiet night on their own boat was greeted with a surprising enthusiasm by the exhausted kids coming down from hyperland!

I managed to get the Carenage to find me an electrician who understood aircon. Our aircon had gone west on us in the Marquesas last year and with our need to run the aircon to load the generator to a point of reasonable efficiency, I wanted it fixed. This is important as at the moment with little wind and not much sun, I am having to run the generator a lot more than I normally do and it can be damaged by under loading it, with a carbonisation of the exhaust system being the biggest issue. At 6kW, our genset needs a lot of loading. It really is too big for us.

I had thought that the aircon water pump had failed. It turned out that a corroded control panel was the issue and the system was simply not getting correct commands so was starting without the pump switching on. The second aircon unit (yes – thanks to the last owner who liked his home comforts, I have two) which supplies the the rest of the boat, has a wiring problem. All the parts work but we need to run new cabling to the pump.  Two hours work and we had the saloon system working and the cabin system diagnosed.  The joy of a cold saloon! Our thanks to Joseph who did the work.

With some variable weather coming in from the NW, we decided to move the 6 miles up to the second island sharing the reef with Raiatea, the island of Tahaa. It is a lot smaller than Raiatea, the anchorages are generally very deep, 30m+, and it has one of the few acknowledged hurricane holes in FP at the top end of Haamene Bay. We took a mooring in 45m off the Hibiscus Restaurant, halfway up on the N side of the bay. Conveniently close to a shop, surrounded by mountains of greenery, it is a magnificent spot. On our evening there with all eight of the kids on Be and Be watching a film, the grown ups had a beer at the Hibiscus, just getting back to the boats before a torrential downpour.

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Easter weekend didn’t start well. The shop didn’t keep our ordered bread so Hannah and I whizzed up the two miles to the village at the top of the bay in the hope of getting some at the supermarket there. We got lucky in both bread and entertainment. We came off the dock, walking past the sports hall and had to stop to listen to magnificent Polynesian voices singing lustily, harmonising without instrument accompaniment. It was their Good Friday service and it was glorious noise. We decided it would be good for the kids to see an Easter Service so we planned to dress up and go back in on Sunday.

We snorkelled Pass Toahota, the pass on the E side of Tahaa. The N side of the pass wasn’t up to much. Some old fish traps and a steep wall to the too deep floor meant we quickly decided to move. Be and Be’s dinghy became the workhorse!

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The S side proved to be much better and we had a pleasant hour slowly meandering out over reasonable coral and good if small fish in water up to 8m. Frans looked enviously at some local kids surfing at the edge of the pass in the 2m swell. We found a good clump of anemone with a family of Clown fish in it which required us to dive down to it for a good look.

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Back by the yachts, Eleanor did well at wakeboarding getting up without problem first on a surf board and then on a proper wakeboard.

Eleanor had fun taking photos of some of the other kids. These ones, I think, came out the best.

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Easter Sunday came and there was a sigh of relief from certain grown ups that the service was to be held at 1000hrs rather than the more normal 0800hrs. We dinghied up to Haamene village, all tarted up, to be welcomed with open arms by an elder and, we found out later, the young minister and put in the front row. We had been hoping to hide at the back! The local kids sang beautifully and then all headed out for a egg hunt.

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The service was great, good humoured and with lots of laughter, with a mix of small groups of locals singing accompanied with ukuleles and then the whole congregation, with some of the men acting as bass boom boxes (best way I can describe it),  coming together to deafen us with fantastic harmonies.  I took some voice recordings although sadly the Ipod doesn’t do the bass justice at all.  I’ve been failing to work out a way to imbed them to the blog. Can anyone help?

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We motor sailed in no wind around the N end of Tahaa to what is known as the Coral Garden, the channel between two motu on the westernmost point of the reef opposite Tapuamau Bay.  The anchorage at 16 36.737S 151 227.337W in 5m of water provides a glorious view of Bora Bora at sunset.

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The anchorage is not a reliable one and certainly I wouldn’t want to be at it in any kind of wind. It is a lightly sanded bottom over old coral, covered in bombies, providing poor holding. In the moderate 10kts we had it was fine; with more it would be a very nervous affair. We had one last sleep over with the smalls deciding to sleep on the trampoline. According to them they hardly got “any sleep” but having checked them every couple of hours all I heard were little snores!

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The bigger kids stayed on Sangvind. They appeared just after sunrise, asking for the kayak to go for an explore around the motu. The smalls, up a little later, played around the boat and Jayden proved you can row a rubber ring.

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The Coral Garden is a major tourist attraction and by the time we hit it at 0930hrs, there were several fast boats already there with their loads from the mainland hotels. We were surprised at how quick the initial current was, maybe 4-5kts but it slowed as you progressed through the reef. It was good to see the number of fish we did, all small and some colours on the coral. Much of what we have seen in the Societies has been bleached and the Garden seems to have been less effected. We enjoyed it so much we went through twice.

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We picked up after untangling ourselves from a coral head and drove back S to meet up with our friends of Quatra, last seen in the Galapagos last year. We started to move just in time as the wave bringing the strong SE wind we were expecting turned up. We had 35+kts apparent on our bow for most of the 8miles we had to run, making it unpleasantly choppy, wet and a slow trip back to Raiatea. We took an extra hour to get in and Quatra had been and gone. We made up for it by coming across Kathi and Wolfgang on Plastik Plankton, our friends who had helped us through the Panama Canal, parked 100m outside us and then having an excellent evening with Sangvind.

We met up with Audrey and Adrien the next morning and Lou disappeared off to do a huge shop with the luxury of a car to bring the shopping back in. Adrien and I chewed the fat over coffee on Skylark. They have settled in to life back on land but not without some heartache. The kids are loving school and are doing very well, Arsene having been moved up a class to bring him in line with the level he achieved on the boat. The adults have found the transition after four years on a boat more stressful. Of course, having professions which can be done anywhere (Adrien is a software engineer, building websites amongst other things, Audrey manages their property back in France) has meant that they simply require decent internet for work but Adrien is very keen to move away from IT and start a business on the island where he wouldn’t have to work to other people’s unreasonable and stressful deadlines again. It is obvious that for both of them not having a boat has been emotional.

Raiatea has good schools, all the amenities you need for a simple lifestyle and is less busy and a lot more friendly than Tahiti. There are fewer problems here with the “racism” that exists between Polynesians and French émigrés on the big island, something we recognised back in the Marquesas as well. They are building a house near the main town, up on a hillside with a great view E towards Huahine and plan to stay on the island for at least five years, at least until Arsene leaves school. Life is busy and good.  We had a couple of great days with them as Audrey directed that the kids would do well to go in to school for a day so the girls were kidnapped for a sleepover before that.

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I got to use their “proper” internet and catch up with the blog, with posts from as far back as the top of the N island in New Zealand. In my defence, they were all ready to go but the internet we have had has not been good enough to post up the large number of photos I always embed. We had two great evenings with them, dinner being superb both times. We will definitely be staying in touch. They are a great family and it would be very good to see them again down the road. Both boys are extremely musical and I want to hear just how good a pianist Arsene becomes (zero to Chopin and The Entertainer in less than a year) and I’d watch out for Axel’s name in a band coming to you soon.

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Of course,  living on a boat never comes easy. In the last couple of days we had two major malfunctions. The first was a starter battery for the generator that died on us. We came back in an evening to find the house bank low, went to start the genset and clunk. A very depressing sound. On investigation the genset battery was a whole 10.2V. We tried to recover it but had no luck. It is more than seven years old so I suppose it was due for replacement but the timing? Infuriating. $230 later we had a new one (which would have cost $90 max in the USA but hey) and I am hoping that the issue is fixed. However, I have this sneaking feeling that all is not well with the port engine alternator too…….

The other problem was the Delorme tracking device we had, decided that the day before we planned to leave was just a perfect time to go tits up on us. Unrepairable and no replacement for 3000miles, it may be a while before we get a replacement. Sorry, Dad and Joyce, but you may need to be nervous and wait for our emails to show we have arrived anywhere for a while at least.

My thanks to Audrey and Adrien for driving us around the last morning to get, battery, petrol and for taking us to the Med Centre in town. It turns out that Elephantitis, carried and passed on by a worm,  is still endemic within French Polynesia. Although the once a year pills to kill the worms have been free for years and all the kids get dosed automatically, it turns out that they are also wonderful at giving fighting cocks, still a popular sport here, a supercharge. This meant that some locals stashed theirs for the alternate use. These days they are handed out and you are supposed to take them in front of the nurse. We were handed ours and told to take them before bedtime as they make you sleepy. Obviously she didn’t think we were in to cock fighting…..

On our last morning, the kids went into school with Arsene and were taught English! Eleanor told us that the kids listened to the teacher talk in English but few would speak it.

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With the wind in our favour and lighter than it had been in days, we picked up and headed for the pass.

We said our goodbyes to Sangvind, who are heading for Tonga. We have had a great time with them and I know that the kids will miss their partners in crime, Eleanor especially. However, we should be meeting up with them there so that is only about a month to six weeks away.  Plastik Plankton are heading off too and are going in the direction of the Cook Islands but may go straight through to Tonga if the weather looks good. It is difficult this early in the season to guarantee decent trades and safe stops in the Cooks and Nuie and they are keen to get W without incident or hold up. Again, they will be in Fiji whilst we are there and we should catch up with them there.

We left Raiatea by Pass de Rautoanui and jumped the 25 miles across to Bora Bora to meet back up with Be and Be.

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What a beautiful place! With little wind we motor sailed around to the N side of Moorea and went in to Cooks Bay and anchored well up the bay at 17 30.271S 149 49.224W in 40’ of water. Ironically the good Capt Cook didn’t actually use this anchorage but I think he would be pleased as it is beautiful.

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We only stayed for a night as whilst the anchorage was deep and safe with a good mud base, the bay was brown with the run off following some heavy rain. We left Phylis and headed around to the far prettier anchorage behind the reef at Opunohu Bay, two miles W of Cooks Bay.

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And what an anchorage! We joined about a dozen other yachts anchored in 12’ on white sand 100m behind the reef at 17 28.976S 149 48.737W. We finally got to meet Avatar and Jacaranda, names I’d been hearing on the SSB net for more than a year. And within a day or so, we met up again with Emma Louise and then Reao as they arrived in as well.   Moorea is a popular stop and not just for the cruiser fleet. We had a succession of superyachts and cruise liners in. I think that Wind Spirit is the prettiest of them. It does have sails and will even occasionally run them out.

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We had some more rain. Lots of it. With torrential rain we had the advantage of free showers and the waterfalls on the cliffs above us sprang into life and looked great for a day or so. As the anchorage at Opunohu Bay is right at the edge of the reef we weren’t bothered by run off and we kept our clean white sand surround throughout. MooreaMoorea

With the wild weather came glorious sunsets. My thanks to Sheryl on Emma Louise for one of the best we have ever had taken of Skylark. I’m pretty sure she is taking a picture of me taking a picture of the paddler!

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The kids played with a new toy – a big drag ring that Mary Ann II passed on to us after it failed to help Julia in her search for an easy way to get in to the dinghy. It is greatly appreciated and is being well used and abused.

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And then, joy! A kids boat! Lou had put where we were up on the Kids4sail Facebook page and a CA boat, Stop Work Order, had followed through and came to meet up. The whole family was a delight. Truly and Hannah hit it off and Eleanor and Cameron hung out too. I think big sister, Ciara, enjoyed a bit of peace from the smalls too but did come across for the sleepover we had when Pat and Corise headed ashore to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. One morning, Truly came to do school with us. Most afternoons were spent exploring the local area and throwing themselves in off one of the boats.

Eleanor and I had gone to ask Top Dive about diving with them and for refilling our bottles. $85 a single dive and $30 for a refill is the highest we have encountered anywhere, Pacific or Caribbean. We left in the huff. However, we found out that Pat and Corice dive and in Cameron, we found another junior diver. We managed to get one dive in on the outside of the reef and Pat was kind enough to refill our bottles. The dive sight we choose was 400m to the E of the Opunohu Bay entrance (look for a string of white buoys placed out by the dive boats). We dropped in with a fair amount of surge and enjoyed rolling over the banks of coral running out as spines from the reef. We were a little surprised by a big Silvertip coming to have a look at us. 10’ of shark which the book says is in the “dangerous” category always looks big close up!

We also did some snorkelling. When the missionaries got their teeth into the locals, tiki, the revered carved in stone representations of their ancestors overnight became “heathen idols”. Rather than just destroy them, some of the locals rebelled and moved three huge tiki out to the edge of the reef where they remain. In just ten feet of water, they are in great condition. Find them at  a white ball near 17 29.224S 149 52.735W. Swim N towards the reef. They are within 30m.

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Just 400m W of the Intercontinental Hotel is a sandbank on the edge of the inside channel where rays and sharks have become used to tourists feeding them at 0830hrs each morning. It was a long dinghy ride around but so worth it. We had lots of over friendly Stingrays mobbing us and the Black Tip Reef sharks cruised around us without ever getting too close. It was marvellous. Whilst we didn’t have the chunks of fresh tuna that Plastik Plankton suggested were favourites, the tinned stuff we had seemed to go down pretty well too. Word of advice  – if you don’t want to be jumped by Stingrays stay horizontal in the water. As soon as you go upright, they crawl all over you!

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We had one major expedition towards the Belvedere view point, a high point between Cooks and Opunohu bays. We didn’t quite make it but got some great views on the way and courtesy of the café at the Agricultural Research Station, some of the best vanilla ice-cream ever. A mistake in route selection on the way down turned out to be a fortunate one as we found a river with good pools to jump in to to cool off.

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I stayed behind to help Craig and Steve track down the problem with Craig’s engine which had suddenly just decided to stop working. It took several hours to track down a split pipe, very slowly leaking  in a difficult to see spot, letting air into the system. Once we found the leak it was quickly fixed. We celebrated with a spot of lunch at the nearby Hilton.

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We said our goodbyes as we choose to move before a new system bringing wind from N arrived, exactly where we wouldn’t want it from for the overnight passage up to Huahine. There were tears when we said goodbye to Stop Work Order as they are heading back to Tahiti to pick up some parts but we hope that our routes will intertwine again sooner rather than later.

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Moorea is spectacular. If I was to describe the views in the bay then I’d say think Fatu Hiva and the Bay of Virgins and think BIGGER! We enjoyed being back on a white sand anchorage after the deep Rangiroa and the not so clean Tahiti. It is just a joy walking off the back of the boat into warm clear water. And a pleasure to be back into a cruising community again – we have missed it. We are looking forward to being around a lot more boats this year as we travel continue our travels W.

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