Tag Archives: taia

The Return of Taia – Fiji

We parted company with Taia in the Caribbean all the way back in Grenada in Oct 15. Our very first meeting had been in the Bahamas at Big Major’s Cay with the swimming pigs, when a dad with noticeably painted toenails and two kids dinghied up to say they had seen us come in but were just leaving on their way S. Bugger, we thought. First proper kids boat we had seen with smalls the same age and we hadn’t managed to even overlap our stay for a day!

We met them again a couple of weeks later after Eleanor had demanded “kids to play with” for her 9th birthday and we had run S to Elizabeth Harbour, Georgetown at the bottom of the Exumas, the great stepping off point to the Caribbean.  Taia was already there and we quickly formed a good friendship with them, even if Ernesto regularly took the mickey out of my tiny dinghy, running around it in his and offering everybody a fast, dry ride back to Skylark from Volleyball Beach, our daily hangout, rather than being swamped in ours. There were times I could have happily punched him.

We separated again. We went offshore, taking the I-65 route to the BVI; Taia took the Thorny Path via Dominica Republic, Puerto Rico and then E through USVI. But inevitably we met again. We heard them on the radio one day, hailed them and they chased across from USVI to find us at the Soggy Dollar beach. This time it was us getting ready to move on but the evening before we did, we got a visit from Ernesto to tell us that Cami and Matias had mutinied. They had told their folks that wherever Skylark was heading, they wanted to go too. And so it was. Sadly this is a period we have almost no photos from but I did find this one when we visited Salt Island together. Just look at the size of them then and now!

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After that,  the rest of the 2015 in the Caribbean was spent for the most in each other’s company. And we loved it.  We got used to the daily ritual of mate, a drinking habit they had brought with them from Argentina, their home before they emigrated to Canada and I, of the fun you had booking in with Ernesto for company, a man who just loathes officialdom!

Of course circumstances change. During hurricane season in Grenada when we were getting ready to plan our route across to Panama, they made the decision that they weren’t ready to follow us, planning to stay another year in the Caribbean. We said our farewells in Nov 15 as they left Taia on the hard and jumped back to Canada for a while to refill coffers.

Move on over 18 months and we get the call from Natalia wondering if our invitation to visit us in the Pacific still stood. Yes as a response meant tickets quickly bought and we welcomed Natalia and the kids for a fortnight.

The kids took off pretty much from where they left off and the excitement both sets showed at meeting each other again was lovely to see. The gifts of proper maple syrup and a variety of Canadian deli delights as well as a few boat parts was a wonderful ice breaker too. 

We had a bit of work to do on the boat at Port Denarau. The bimini was taken off to allow the solar panel holders to be restitched with UV thread, the sail cover had a couple of holes patched and I got a new tape sewn on the foot of the parasail. The water maker had been gradually producing poorer and poorer quality water – the membrane being shot after, I think, a little bit of contamination in FP. It is a simple job to replace a membrane but getting one sourced meant reaching out to NZ to find the Spectra dealer there as the Fijian dealer didn’t hold them. Some $600+ later, we had a new membrane. Typically, it got stuck in Customs and I decided to wait until the end of the Natalia’s visit to get it fixed rather than waste time getting it cleared.  Whilst I got the boat sorted out, the kids went to the nearby Bula Waterpark. Not a cheap activity at $180US a family day ticket but guaranteed fun. Be and Be who were still at Vuda Point awaiting parts came too.

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We headed out for Musket Cove and took Dylan and Jayden from Sangvind with us too. I’m afraid Eleanor had a bit of fun with Dylan. All I’ll say is that he is a good sport and scrubs up nicely Smile. The Return of Taia - Fiji

It was an easy two hour sail and it was good watching Natalia smile and watch the stress of “normal” life bleed off her as we crossed over from the mainland. I rather think she enjoyed being back on the water.

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We spent a few days there , exploring the island, enjoying the pool, meeting up with Sangvind for evening BBQs at the Yacht Club, just slowing down and relaxing. The kids hung out with the kids from Pesto, Sangvind and Miss Goodnight.

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We took a run up to the northern reef of Malolo and got a wall dive in with Natalia. It was an pleasant dive with the wall no more than 20m with reasonable coral life.

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Eleanor went off with the Musket Cove Dive School for a couple of dives. Eric and Anne Simmons have been looking after the school whilst their friend the owner is away doing a bit of sailing. They are better known as the couple that have written an excellent free sailing guide for Vanuatu in conjunction with Vanuatu Tourism. I arrived back to pick her up and Eleanor was buzzing. I’d said that Eleanor was very good technically and had excellent buoyancy. What I hadn’t expected is for them to check this out, agree, then take her down to a depth that had my eyes bulging. She had a fantastic time and saw some great wildlife. Both Eric and Alice are expert underwater photographers and I thank them for the copies below.

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When we cruised the Lau’s, our chart plotter was off markedly against what Navionics said I should find but at least everything we saw appeared on the chart. The mapping data against GPS was up to about half a mile out in accuracy. A couple of hours after we left Musket Cove to explore the island of Moniriki, used for the filming of Tom Hanks’ film, Cast Away, I was very surprised to see breaking waves in front of me. Not just a rock, but a reef at least 750m long by 300m deep. And completely uncharted by Navionics!

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After we did a big detour to avoid it, I noted at least another three unmarked large bommies as we closed up to our destination. It was really a little off putting and I’m glad we had the sun overhead as we travelled. It is obvious why Fiji doesn’t have a charter fleet business. Whilst it is a magnificent cruising destination, unless you have accurate mapping, there is no way I’d let the occasional sailor loose in Fiji. There would be just too high a chance of something going wrong. Even the liveaboards screw up. Four boats sank in Fijian waters whilst we were there, all because of charting inaccuracies, an over reliance on electronics, a belief a chart plotter is always right and not keeping a proper lookout. Too many folk treat their plotter as gospel. We luckily learnt early that in this part of the Pacific at least, they were but an approximation of reality and always kept a good look out. Frankly I’ve been less than impressed with Navionics. If they can use Google Earth satellite photos to correct and update the charts for FP, why on Earth can’t they do it for Fiji? I accept there is a cost implication to it but I’m afraid that for a major sailing destination, they should be doing a lot better.

Moniriki does not have the easiest of anchorages and we had a few dramas, managing to wrap a prop as we failed to hold in the v steep anchorage all too close to shore. In the end it took 20 minutes diving to clear the prop and one move under engine to move us away from a reef when we drifted a bit close to it for my liking. I think Lou enjoyed dragging me through the water whilst I hung on like grim death with arms of Garth! With time wasted and dark o’clock approaching, we aborted our attempt to get ashore and headed S again to find a suitable anchorage for the night. Most of the anchorages around this part of the Mananutha group are day anchorages only and I certainly didn’t want to take the chance of dragging off the very steep and narrow coral ledge which is all that Moniriki has.

I decided to head back down to Mana, the island N of Malolo, and a known anchorage. Although the entrance through the reef is a little tight and a double dog leg, it proved well marked and easy once you were in the channel. We anchored at  in 40’ on sand just off the jetty. Good holding. The island resort welcomes sailors and the beach is lovely. We spent the afternoon there, playing in the pool, on the beach and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, ably helped along by some rather excellent cocktails. Natalia was on her holidays after all.

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We headed N the next morning as soon as there was light enough for us to get through the gap in the reef safely and went back up to Moniriki. We had breakfast on the way, enjoying the fair wind and the prospect of a blue sky day.

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As the wind had moved further in to the E, I decided that I wasn’t going to anchor on a lee shore so dropped the dinghy and let the crew go ashore. I stayed with Skylark and happily drifted in the lee of the island. I’m glad I did as I found what would seem to be the most perfect beach I have seen. On the wrong side of the island, it is obviously rarely visited due to the distance and rough country between it and the normal drop off point for visitors. It would be worth a proper explore with camping kit if you could get a settled period to anchor or get someone to drop you off for a night. Just beautiful. Oh to have the time to explore more. Maybe somewhere to plan to come back to…….

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The mob had a fantastic time on the other side of the island, for the most part without any tourists intruding as we had arrived early in the morning, well before any of the tours rock up.

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We continued N towards the island of Yawa and went in to the southerly bay. It can get rolly (say the guides) but it was lovely and flat as we hugged the E side of the bay

We anchored in 50’ of sand off the village of Naboro at Yawasewa. We wanted to explore the S end of the island and climb the hill so we headed in to see the local chief and do sevusevu. We were welcomed and had a interesting time in the village. The chief took us up to see some of the work of the ladies in the village and he and I chewed the fat with him sitting outside whilst the ladies and Matius looked over the wares. Everyone got a necklace, with sharks teeth being the preferred option.

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Climbing the hill we wandered past the village school that was on its break and had a quick chat with the kids there.

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After a night and a day, we moved around the corner to the Oyster Bay Resort on the NW corner of Yawa. There is a posh side and a backpackers side separated by security and a big fence which you walk past if you use the beach. A bit pointless really. As boaties, we were allowed on the posh side. We had a nice walk and met the quite excellent dive school at the Resort who were perfectly happy to fill my bottles and did so twice in the course of a day as Cami, Eleanor and I had some fun just offshore at one of the small reefs.

I’d had instructions from Ernesto to make sure I took Cami down diving and we managed to get a couple in, the first at at Oyster to about 12m where we found a mini cabbage patch in the making and then a second dive at Navadra where we had a good wall dive along the inside of the W wall of the islet.

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We travelled S again, back to the island of Navadra where a kids boat meet up had been organised. In the end there were 22 kids, 16 adults and 7 boats that turned up, an excellent turn out. Our thanks to Greer of Tika for all the organisation, over a month in the making. In the bay were some regulars, Tika, Pesto, Skylark, Lil’ Explorers, Sangvind as well as Enough, last seen in NZ and Outer Rim who Lou had been in contact with since they had come through the Panama Canal but had never met before.

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Sadly, we had but a day before we had to return to Nadi to allow Natalia and the kids to return home but what a 24hrs! It was quickly determined that the kids would be sleeping ashore and then the whirl around the boats saying hello and having fun started. We did give them a little help setting up the campsite and we had a fire and BBQ for them on the beach, near the campsite. We needed to extinguish a few fires as the older pyromaniacs got a bit fire happy but there was no damage and it was all fun.

My thanks to Greer for letting me use some great photos. Next time around the shopping list will include a drone. Brilliant shots!

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This one Greer took of Jayden of Sangvind watching the dolphins must be up there as one of the best photos I’ve seen with a boat kid. This is the kind of life experience we boat parents all dream of giving our kids, beautifully captured.

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After corralling the kids just after first light (they had been up for hours) and dragging them off the island, we had a bumpy ride back down to Nadi where we had arranged for the engineer from Baobab Marine to replace the membrane on the watermaker.  Natalia and the kids last day with us was spent at the Hilton for an afternoon beside the pool and a last classy meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. We said our goodbyes at the marina and their departure was delayed slightly for some big hugs and a few tears.

It was lovely to have Natalia and the kids on board. Our friendship was renewed and strengthened in the short time they were with us. The time flew past.  It looks as if we will be doing a fair bit of international travel after we return to the UK. We have reciprocal standing invitations to visit Canada and the USA now. Shena, Natalia – we will need to do some planning! What is there to do halfway between North Carolina and Toronto…. or somewhere else? We need diving and a boat…….

The Return of Taia - Fiji

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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A Word on Watches

With only two of us able to stand watch, the long haul passages we did in the Caribbean proved tiring for us. We tried 2 hr and 3hr watches – just as we had on Army boats in days gone by and it worked reasonably well for short island hop passages. We were both used to it and doing stag is just doing stag after all! However, in all the longer passages we did, we quickly got tired. And I mean very tired. Need to sleep for a day to recover tired.

We have only twice had crew. Once just for a night, Lou from BVI to St Maarten and then Vicky for a week, from Jamaica down to Panama. The difference to Lou and I having someone else we could trust to stand watch was huge. 2 hrs on, 4 off. You suddenly have the chance to catch up on sleep, to be able to do something other than sleep when you come of watch. Maybe even actually enjoy the sail!

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Back down to no crew as we couldn’t find anyone suitable, when we were contemplating the Panama to Galapagos passage, Lou and I decided to try something a little different. Lou and I have very different sleep patterns. Lou is a night owl and hates the morning. I on the other hand, far prefer an early night (she says its my age showing……cow) and am perfectly happy getting up at the crack of dawn. To that end we set up a modified watch system that allowed both of us to get what our bodies say they like.

Our watch for the pair of us is as follows

0001 – 0300  Stewart

0300 – 0600  Louise

0600 – 1100 Stewart (breakfast and kids morning routine)

1100 – 1500 Louise (lunch)

1500 – 1900  Awake period. A mix of adults and kids. E and H will stand for periods up to an hour each (weather and sail plan dependant). Lou will doze. Dinner before last light.

1900 – 2359 Louise

 

A note on the kids. As the kids have got older, we have asked the kids to stand more time on watch. Initially it was 30 mins just sitting beside one of us. As time has gone on, they have learnt how to use the autohelm, how to steer and critically to shout when they are unsure about something. It is Eleanor on the helm when we reef these days – she has an excellent understanding of Go, No Go (thanks, Ernesto!) and where to point and balance the boat whilst we raise or lower the mainsail. These days they will stand an hour each at a time. Even if the hat seems a little big on them, both have been a great help. The hour here or there that they do just takes a bit of pressure of Lou and I.

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We have used this system successfully for the Galapagos and now the Pacific crossing. It isn’t perfect. If the weather is difficult, then we do both get tired and need to doze during the Awake period but it seems to work far better than what we have used before.

We will have crew with us for some of our time in FP. Mia from Taranga will join us for a month or so and we are looking forward to some more sleep as we island hop. However, as we move W and just the family on board again, we will come back to this system.

We are happy with it.

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.

St Kitts and Nevis (and a surprising UTR’s moment)

This point on our travels marks the change from upwind sailing to being able to get for much of the time a wind on the beam, making life far more pleasant on board.  Although we still have to get out to Guadalupe via Monserrat, there should be enough S in our course to hopefully give us a close reach rather than the tight on the wind thump we have sadly been used to.

Although we thought about going across to St Eustatius, we decided that putting a couple of days into the timetable when we knew we were cutting things fine to get down in reasonable order to St Lucia to pick up the Thomas’s (our next boatload of friends visiting from the UK), might cause us dramas later on down on our travels.

The sail down to St Kitts from St Barths on a course of about 190 Magnetic  was wonderful. Not being thumped by the waves meant that we left a little too much sail up but rather than lumping along at 5knts, we touched double digits at times. Exhilarating, fun and we even saw a slightly smug smile on Lou’s face as we went past a 60ft ketch going the same way as us.

We screamed down to the gap between the N end of St Kitts and St Eustatius before we got into the wind shadow of St Kitts. We had a slow sail down the side of the island to Basseterre, the capital. The island had far more obvious organised agriculture than anywhere else we had seen so far with large numbers of old chimneys sticking up. These we found out, marked different sugar plantations processing plants, dating back to the 1700s, the plantations covering a large proportion of the island for a long, long time.

We parked up, the only yacht in a very rolly bay, to allow us to book in. After wandering around to find the immigration office (tucked away at the awful cruise ship terminal with its obligatory “genuine” island product shops), we had a quick stop in town, finding a very good museum covering the history of the island. School done we headed back to the boat and were pleasantly surprised to get a call from our friends on Almost There.

We found ourselves parked up beside them in a partly built marina in the Great Salt Pond at the S end of the island, part of a huge complex being built there. It was obvious yachties were not the normal clientele. Used to having only superyachts, they let Almost There in on the basis that Robert gave them his @ Youngblood aviation.com address (yes, he did own his own sizable airport…). I think they were hopeful he might buy one of the lots! We got to tie up on the basis of being his special friends. Saying that, they didn’t bother giving me the glossy brochure he received once they had seen Skylark. Not quite superyacht status…….

Whilst the facilities at the marina were minimal, the clubhouse that we got free use of was pretty special. At only $400k membership fee, it is probably out of our price range when we finish sailing but we thoroughly enjoyed it whilst we were there. I think that the staff rather enjoyed the kids being around as well.  As the club was pretty quiet, they may have just been a bit bored but it meant the kids and ladies got looked after royally.

Almost There had hired a car but we upgraded it to a van to allow us all to tour the island. The three things we really fancied seeing were a zip line course, the Botanic Gardens  and the fort that looked so impressive as we had sailed down the coast to Basseterre.   Sadly the zip line course, much to the kids disappointment, was closed and it was the wrong time of year to see the Botanics (wet season the best time). However from the zip line camp, we followed the road up the hill on a pretty rough track (hire care= someone else’s problem….) getting some great views looking N up the coast before being attacked by a couple of dogs guarding a small field of cannabis plants. After going a bit higher, we turned round when we thought that we would pull out the suspension.

Fort George (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brimstone_Hill_Fortress_National_Park )  was a bit special and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Having had several years at Fort George just outside Inverness, I was surprised at the amount of similarities I could see in the design. I was even more surprised to find the Royal Scots (the Royal Regiment) crest up in the military part of the small museum that the Fort had.   It turns out that the Regiment formed the infantry contingent of the Fort’s population when the French invaded the island in 1792 and having fought the French to a standstill although hugely outnumbered, were allowed to march out bearing arms. The island still marks the occasion as the most significant battle the island saw. Up the Royals!

We went right round the island, stopping for some great and cheap food at the street cafés which are common here. We also stopped on a farm track and cut a few sugar cane. Cue sounds of crunching and quiet children!

After being joined briefly by Taia who had caught up with us from St Barths, we decided to move on quickly to Nevis.   Nevis is very different to St Kitts. Whilst St Kitts has embraced the arrival of the big cruise ships, Nevis voted against their arrival. The island is far quieter and is reliant on one big Four Seasons hotel for a large part of its islands tourist income and island employment. It employs up to 2000 staff during the high season, a sixth of the island’s total population and maintains, by agreement with the island a minimum staff of 800 during the off season.

The island is volcanic. We had heard about the hot spring baths in the main town of Charlestown and we went up mob handed to try them. After we minced around (lots of expressions of “damn, it’s hot) we were shown by a local how you should get in which is to man up, get in quick then not move! Once you were in, it did feel good. In the end, even the kids managed a dip.

We went on to the Nelson Museum, just up the hill from the Baths. Lord Nelson’s wife, Fanny (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Nelson )was from Nevis. They met whilst he was stationed in the Caribbean early in his career and the island commemorates this by having a good exhibition on him. It is worth a look.

Almost There, having climbed the volcano at St Eustatius, was keen to try the same thing at Nevis. We got a bus around to what we suspected was a starting point and walked up a reasonably well defined path towards the major water source coming off the mountain. Further on, it got a bit cheeky and as we got up the hill, the vegetation turned into proper jungle. Spectacular, sweaty and quite hard going for the really smalls, Hannah and Matias, who both scrambled very well. In the end, we stopped just under the river source about 2/3 up the mountain, had a bit of fun roping down into the river bed with the rope Robert had carried up and padded in some rather nice and cooling pools.  We invaded a very nice resort on our way down and illicitly used their pool to cool of in. A nice way to finish a good walk.

Back in Charlestown, we found another museum, a tiny affair devoted to sports (read cricket) personalities of the island. We had great fun taking Ernesto and Natalia in and trying to educate them in the rules of cricket. I fear we failed to impress them!

After another day anchored off Charlestown and a last dip at the baths, we decided that we needed to see an active volcano, that of Monserrat the next island down and so planned the move on. Whilst St Kitts had been impressive for Fort George, I’d have to say that I enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness of the Nevis locals more. I’d have loved to have been able to spend more time here.   Next time…….