Transit to Tonga

Lets go on a little journey shall we, it’s a relatively short trip, 7-8 days from Bora Bora to Tonga, approximately 1280 NM, (see, I must be progressing if I can call a 7-8 day trip short!!!) For demonstration purposes you’ll need some equipment- a swimming pool and a drink shaker or a bathtub and cork will suffice for a smaller scale exercise. Now throw that shaker or cork into the water and make sure you have a way of really stirring up the surface. Maybe a flat hand slapped repeatedly around the bathtub, (but never directly on the cork) could work. If you choose the pool option, you might like to do a running ‘bomb’ into the water, shouting TAKE THAT SUCKERS! as you land near but not quite on the cylinder! Ahhh yes, sailing, what a joy! Apparently it’s these moments that really make you appreciate the good days… OK so perhaps I’ve embellished slightly, but so describes my take on the first 4 days of the trip to Tonga. Day two the recurrent meltdown occurred. I lost my footing and slid backwards into the door of the head imprinting the handle on my right butt cheek for the duration of the journey. Later, I was trying to grab a snack and everything fell out of the snack cupboard onto my head, and I quote, “Just so everyone knows, I HATE THIS!!! Only 5 more days you say, that’s 5 days too long!!!”, but I got it over with early this time and seemed to move forward from there! Our autopilot decided it had had enough by the end of day 3 and we were looking at hand steering for the next 600+ miles, (a mere trifle if you’re a Volvo Ocean racer but NEWSFLASH that’s not us!!!!)

I kept singing the Gilligans Island theme song, “Just sit right back and I’ll tell you a tale…”- over and over again… while I was steering…just in my head of course.

We decided to stop at an atoll in the Cook Island chain, known as Palmerston. It was close, we needed a break and it’s further proof that there is ALWAYS a positive to every situation.

Our plan was to fix what needed fixing, (if possible) then continue on to Tonga. We were anchored outside the reef, which was bizarre but calm and we were all just happy to be stopped and relatively still. It poured all evening and we’d been told that if the wind changed and blew from the north we’d have to move on or risk being pushed onto the reef-wow, what options! The wind didn’t change, we stayed on the mooring and the next day Mike worked, seemingly successfully, on the autopilot. I cooked up a storm and we dried out from what had been our wettest passage to date. After some discussion and an invitation to visit the island, we decided it was crazy not to take the opportunity, (I mean how often are we going to sail to Palmerston…) so we organized to clear in the next day and take a tour.

Our visit just happened to coincide with the second cruise ship visit in two weeks, which was only the third visit in two years! As a result we were treated to a very big day for the 38 strong population of this tiny little haven.

Edward, our host and the local policeman, had invited us to lunch at his home but the cruise ship was delayed, delaying the entire day. We ended up staying for dinner instead. It’s not like we had much else going on and it was wonderful to just hang out all day. Our two had a blast with the local kids, after that initial shy awkward beginning that always seems to precede ‘the best day ever’!!!! Lilly was quite keen to contribute to the blog this post so here is her spin on things.

FROM THE 10/10/17 TO THE 23/10/17

CROSSED INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

2 DAYS IN PALMERSTON 8 DAYS AT SEA

 Hello everybody, Lilly speaking.

 Did you think I was going to let Mum take over the blog?

N-O.

Right, talking too much, back to our adventure

We left Bora Bora on the 10th. It was really bad weather,

“I can’t do it”, said Mum on the second day.

Our autopilot failed so being in radio range we contacted

Palmerston Island to see if we could pick up a mooring.

Thankfully they said yes (that was the best news I’d had in days).

Over the radio we where informed that Edward would be our host. He and his son John came and picked us up in their boat, negotiating the reef expertly! We enjoyed 2 amazing feasts with his family. We had delicious chicken, taro, parrotfish, breadfruit, white rice and the freshest, coldest, sweetest coconuts so far!

We also met BOOGIE and FLUFFY their pet Boobies. Every family has a pet Boobie but Boobie is also something they eat- so to avoid mix-ups between families, each pet has a special coloured string tied around its ankle to help stop it becoming dinner!

We played with the local kids all day and had so much fun. I played with Joy who was 9 and another girl aged 7 and Seb had a lot of fun with Tomatoa, Robert, James and Henry. The next day we had another tour of the Island with Matt. It doesn’t take that long to get around. We found two HUGE spotted cowrie shells but they were Edwards and they smelt about as bad as something can smell- the poor creatures were on their way out!

We also saw the local school, which at the moment only has 14 students. It was a lovely building and if the kids hadn’t been on school holidays, I would have loved to visit during their school day.

We left Palmerston, for Tonga on Tuesday afternoon- a better passage than the previous 4 days.

3 days of no wind and 1 day of BANG, CRASH and SMASH.

Anyway I’m glad to be stable again.

We’re all a bit ocean lagged because we crossed the international dateline, missing Sunday altogether. When we arrived we saw LAURATA, our friends boat. It was a very pleasant surprise because we thought they’d have already left these islands by the time we arrived. We rafted up to the dock and saw Davin, Kerry and John. We met a Spanish boat and explored the open-air markets (everything was very colourful). Bear,(our other friends) arrived to our amazement,so we ordered pizza that night and shared a meal together.  

BYE FOR NOW LILLY.

 So there you go. The people of Palmerston were incredibly generous and welcoming. The island has an interesting history, originally being ‘discovered’ and named by Captain Cook in 1774. Prior to 1863, the island was uninhabited until an Englishman named William Marsters, arrived on the island and made it his home. With the help of his 3 wives- Tepou, Tenioi and Matavia, he planted palms, harvested copra and produced 21 children, whose descendents all inhabit the island today. Palmerston atoll is divided up into these 3 separate families, one group living near ‘town’, Edward’s in the ‘bush’ and the third making up another section of the atoll. We gave Edwards family a few items of clothing the kids had grown out of and a few supplies such as rope and globes that they could use far more than we could. Very small offerings for such hospitality! As far as authentic experiences go, this was, without a doubt, a very special and unique experience for us all.

The wind started to swing around to the north and we got uncomfortably close to the reef, (“Wow, it’s so clear, you can see the bottom now”, “Ahhh that’s because we’re now in significantly shallower water”, “Oh”.

The decision was made to leave. We bid our hosts goodbye and set off towards Tonga. The autopilot started to misbehave again, 30 minutes into the trip, but Mike was straight on it and had it sorted before you could say…”I’m outta here, I’ll take my chances in the sea!!!!”

…and here we are in very wet and windy Tonga! We’ve caught up with some friends, and had some lovely excursions, along with meeting some wonderful new people- sounds like info for the next post. Now, we’re waiting for a weather window to New Zealand- OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!

To market, to market, so best I wrap it up there, for now.

Until next time, this is Slice of Life, dodging the rain, occasionally going out for pizza and of course, Standing by!

DSCF2674
“Well I’d be an Eagle”, “Yes but Boobies are very cool too”, “I’d still be an Eagle!”

 

 

Huahini and Taha’a

After focusing on the joy of being alive in my last post I was somewhat remiss in describing the activities we’ve been up to for the last several weeks. Internet being what it is and my computer battery lasting between 5-10 minutes without external power meant I was lucky to get the post out at all. As a result photos were included without details or explanation, (‘oh goodness I’ve got 8% battery life, I just have to press POST!!!). Our new anchor didn’t even feature picture wise, surprising, based on my lavish praise but I was a bit all over the place you might say. No matter, here are a few details of what’s been keeping us busy of late.

We spent some time in Bora Bora after saying goodbye to our friends off Sapphire and Zimovia. We almost bypassed this island in the group but felt it would be wrong to be in French Polynesia and not at least see it. It has such a reputation! We didn’t spend much time on land at all, only going in to town to provision for the trip to Tonga and the local yacht club for a drink. The surrounding waters are particularly clear and we had some fantastic snorkeling. Huge numbers of fish, clearly accustomed to mask clad, bread holding, ‘swimming things’ aka people, almost swarmed us on entering their world- kind of weird but also very cool to see such variety. I can absolutely see why Finding Nemo was made-they all have such personalities! The hues of blue did not disappoint but the amount of visible tourist dwellings was slightly overwhelming. Over water bungalows abound on almost every point and along every stretch of coastline. All very well for me to say in our privileged position of having our own boat!

Rewinding just a little, most of the pictures in last post were of our adventures with the mighty Sapphire. We first met this family in the Marquesas, way back in July, (trust me it feels like a lifetime ago). We didn’t share a lot- a day with PauI and Clair, (the kids onboard) and a family game of ‘rounders’ in the park. We kept in touch hoping to meet somewhere further down the track, which we did and really made the most of our time together. We’re all very different people but something clicked and we ended up spending the entire time in Huahini with them, then again in Taha’a and Raiatea.

Our families shared two organized tours, the first on Huahini. This trip included a visit to a beautiful Marae, a small vanilla farm, (where we ate coconut/vanilla ice-cream- always good!), a local artists studio, a small pearl farm, the Sacred Blue-Eyed eel site and a stop at a distillery where Christian, (the proprietor) was very generous with his tasting samples.

We wandered through palm groves, did a lot of towing on paddleboards, snorkeled, played games, shared many meals and the kids practiced and put on a show one evening. We parted ways for a week while they went to Bora Bora and we explored Raiatea, meeting again in Taha’a.

The tour we did here deserves a special mention. Over 30 years ago a French couple sailed into Baie Hurapiti and never left. Noa, their son, has taken over the Ethno Botanical Excursion that his parents started and was excellent. We moored outside their property and spent the afternoon learning about the native plants and their practical uses- ho hum you might say, but it was fascinating. We toured the island and he gave us a detailed demonstration of how vanilla plants are fertilized by hand, the time it takes beans to mature and an understanding of why vanilla costs what it does! He was knowledgeable, personable and kept us all very interested despite the inclement weather- (very wet). I’ve included his details below in case anyone reading this finds themselves in Taha’a, and wants a great outing.

Noé Plantier

Vanilla Tours

Hurepiti Bay Tahaa

VHF9

87358639

noe.plantier@gmail.com

Part of our time in Raiatea was also shared with a boat called Zimovia. A wonderful family of 5 from Alaska-hmmm I wonder why they’re cruising around French Polynesia!!! These guys had the ‘fun’ aspect of cruising absolutely down pat. Easily accessible paddle boards and kayaks, a biscuit, 20 horse power engine on the dinghy and something called a Happy Cat- an inflatable catamaran that the kids had a blast on. They were incredibly generous with their ‘toys’ and it was a sad day to say goodbye to them and Sapphire. Goodbye, however was necessary as it always is and we look forward to seeing both these families again…somewhere, sometime!

So where are we now??? For the last week, Tonga has been our ‘home’. We arrived Monday, losing a day, as we crossed the international dateline- quite hard to explain to the kids- “So where did the day go, how do you lose a day” etc etc. There’s plenty to tell regarding the journey here but I’ll save that for next post.

Wishing everyone health and happiness

Till next time, Slice of Life standing by!

Getting on the grateful bandwagon…

We’ve got a new anchor- not something everyone can brag about and not something I thought I’d ever be excited about… Who knew how much joy and peace of mind a big lump of metal could bring to a cruising family of 4!

Well someone knew, and apparently this is the ‘ducks nuts’ when it comes to pointy things that hang off the bow. It’s known as a Rocna and you’ll see a sparkle (or a green glint), in the eye of fellow cruisers when they see one of these babies adorning your front end. It’s slightly bigger than we need but there wasn’t much of a choice size wise. So far, its arrival has improved sleep patterns and overall confidence in our ability to stay in one place once it’s dropped onto the ocean floor. I’m looking at the chart plotter and we are getting regular gusts of over 30knots and have been for days and days! The ‘Maramu’ is making its presence known and despite a fair bit of sway we seem to be dug in nicely despite this crazy weather! All joking aside, there is a story to the acquisition of ‘The Rocna’ and it’s a slightly sobering one.

We’re anchored off the island of Raiatea after already circumnavigating it the week before last. We were on Taha’a but the weather made anywhere we stayed unpleasant so we moved over here again. Tucking into a Bay would normally be the go with strong winds, but the angle and strength of the wind mean the bays act like a HUGE funnel. The wind roars down the valley and the rain hovers over the higher mountains making it a little different to the brochure! It’s still warm, (for the most part) and there are no boats being tipped upside down, blown onto reefs or up onto shore…yet. So really, things are just fine.

Spare a thought for just a moment for the people of the Caribbean Islands whose homes and lives have been absolutely devastated by conditions, ohhh, just a bit stronger than what we are experiencing! We aren’t privy to much news and to be honest I’ve not seen a single picture of the carnage but the brief BBC alerts that ‘bing’ onto our phones, (when we have mobile coverage), tell you enough. So many of the places we visited, (and the ones we missed) have been destroyed. For our friends still in the Caribbean, this reality is so much closer to home. One family we met fell in love with Dominica, (difficult not to do) and they’re hoping to return and give something back to the community that welcomed them so generously several months ago. While we were there we met Cobra who took us on a tour of the Indian River, (see earlier post). He’d rebuilt “Calypsos hut”(from the Pirates of the Caribbean) 14 times, I think he said- Lilly’s comment when she heard about Hurricane Maria- “well I guess Cobra will be rebuilding Calypso’s Hut for the 15th time!” A simple statement but it also reflects what happens- The human spirit endures and people get on with rebuilding their lives… over and over and over again!

So how did we come to have a new and very large anchor on board? Well, after dragging down Cooks Bay, (Moorea) twice one evening Mike decided that his casual research into a new anchor needed to move to the next level. Some cruising friends were in Tahiti and willing to pick up a new one for us but nothing had been decided definitively, (how strange for us…). After talking to a couple in Fare, Huahini, we gained the knowledge that there might be a second hand one for sale, ‘just across the bay’. Mike and Glen, (our friend off Sapphire), zoomed across the bay in the dinghy, to return shortly afterwards, sitting slightly lower in the water with the addition of the 40kg Rocna! We got it for a very good price and it fit beautifully on the stemhead fitting, (ahh these sailing terms just roll off my tongue nowadays!) Of course Mike had measured it all up previously but we’d been looking at a 25-30kg one. Now we’ve got the big Kahuna! Sadly our very good fortune is due to the very unfortunate circumstances of a family’s dream being dashed to pieces on a surrounding reef. Several months earlier a catamaran with a family of 5, hit the reef in the middle of the night ending their cruising adventure prematurely. Thankfully they were all rescued and I believe they are back in the US or on their way back. With the help of a local, they have been selling off what salvageable items they could. ‘One mans trash is another mans treasure’ and we definitely feel like we struck gold with this find. It seems a little awry but it would be nice to let the family know just how special their old anchor has become to us!

This post seems to be about being grateful for what we have- that or at least enjoying the here and now, because things can change in a heartbeat. This point could not have been demonstrated more clearly than on this past Saturday afternoon. Two families and Team SOL,(what we go by these days) decided to get out and go for a walk. There hasn’t been a lot of walking lately so it was a welcome change, (for the adults particularly). We haven’t had a lot of luck with walking trails of late, often being diverted by locals, told we need a guide or paths being incorrectly and apparently illegally labeled as ‘propriété prive’. We did eventually find a pathway up a little hill, looked at the view and decided to head back after severe lack of enthusiasm by the younger members of the group. One of the other mums and I decided to go a little further on the way back and check out a nearby grocery store. As a result we were a few 100m in front of the rest of the group. We were chatting, as you do. A little earlier a car had come towards us at break neck speed, super lowered and loaded with people. It gave us all a bit of a fright and we were making sure we were well off the road. We were walking towards oncoming traffic. The road was veering slightly to the left when out of nowhere and I mean nowhere, there was the horrific screech of brakes and skidding tyres. I don’t remember a lot of details immediately after that suffice to say that I turned to my right, (behind me) and saw a car flying towards Alison and myself. It all happened in an eye blink but that car was definitely in slow motion! I don’t know if we screamed or shouted, all I remember is seeing it hurtling into the bushes beside us and then being on the ground. Things sped up after that. Alison had been beside me closest to the road and was lying awkwardly on the ground. The driver stumbled out of the bushes and was apologizing to us. I was trying to work out where and how badly Alison was hurt. There’s a fair bit that went on from there and unfortunately the kids all saw the aftermath. The ambulance was called and arrived just before the Gendarmerie. I walked away with some scrapes and bruises, (and big fat tears) but Alison sustained more serious injuries. She was discharged from the hospital the same night, no broken bones and no head injury but both her knees are quite badly injured- how badly remains to be seen, but as she’s the Captain of her boat, and they’ve just had guests fly in for 10 days, it’s less than ideal to say the very least- BUT! Clichéd as it may be- it could have been so much worse!

The last few days have been full of reflection and I’m working on erasing that particular ‘video’ from my mind which seems to be on reply right now. There’s just no room in my mind for all the ‘what ifs! There are some new bruises emerging making me even more unsure of what actually happened after that god awful sound!

Message from the Universe? Wake Up Call? Wrong place, wrong time, just bloody lucky? Probably a combination of the lot! I’m not sure right now how to think about it, but I do know I’m incredibly fortunate, (in more ways than one) to be sitting here typing this, contemplating our next passage to Tonga!

So what am I trying to say exactly? Seize the day! Enjoy the moment! Live your life! There’s risk in everything we do. You never know what can happen!!!

I just think it’s interesting that this should be the general theme of my post and that I started writing it before any of the events of Saturday, (cue Twilight Zone music now). I was going to talk about the continued joys, (ARGHHHHHHH!!!!) of homeschooling, of dealing with small spaces and large attitudes, of starting to consider, (ok worrying about) what comes next, mixed in with having to pinch myself daily re where we are and what we’re doing…some of the realities of this lifestyle.

It seems the Universe felt I needed a stronger reminder!

For now, when things get a little challenging, rather than locking myself in the head, I’ll quietly excuse myself, wander up to the bow, look lovingly at ‘The Rocna’ and reflect on just how truly lucky I am!!!!

Time in Tahiti

I’m on a mission. We’ve anchored quite close to shore near the town of Fare on Huahini and stupidly forgot to put the Mozzie screens in. There was a stiff breeze when we went to bed but alas no longer. I was woken an hour ago by the familiar buzzing of these vermin and am now up, composing this extremely overdue blog post and eradicating mosquitos in the same moment! I’m using myself as bait should there be any others lurking in the shadows. I’ve killed more than we’ve ever had on the boat before and poor Seb has been the target…until now. Every ten minutes or so I patrol the boat, torch in hand to check the walls and cabins. I know I’m winning, (I know I sound like a crazy lady too but you do what you have to do!) Needless to say, the screens are in, repellant has been applied to my slumbering family and I’ve slapped, squashed and sprayed until I’m reasonably confident these blighters are no more (any sneaky stragglers will not be here for much longer!!!!)

The last few weeks have been incredibly full, although the pace has changed somewhat. The time constraints we’ve previously had, (that is the need to get somewhere ‘secure’ while Mike is away working) are no longer dictating where we need to be or for how long. The flipside is, he’s returned from his last lot of work for the foreseeable future so at some point, other constraints will start to kick in. I am happy to say that the J-class boat he sails on, Lionheart, had a very successful season, winning both the Bermuda event in July and the ‘World Championship’event in Newport Rhode Island. Six J-class boats lined up together- the pictures below, demonstrating what a spectacle that was!

So here we are in Huahini…

I literally feel like I’ve fallen into the blue and green palette of my Derwent Pencil set. The surrounding waters are every conceivable hue of blue while the islands bordered by these hues are fertile and lush in various shades of green. It is beautiful beyond belief, a phrase I keep repeating, but I am constantly in awe of what Mother Nature’s got going on in this part of the world!

Our first stop out of Tahiti was the island of Moorea, just 12NM away from the ‘big smoke’- my kind of passage! We arrived in Cooks Bay and spent a few days there, hiking up hills and enjoying the company of our friends on Bear, Laurata. and Starlet. We moved around to Opunohu Bay opting to anchor between the beach and the reef rather than deep in the bay like we’d done in Cooks. All the children got on board Starlet- a 46 foot Nordhaven- translation- a bloody nice powerboat, and had a blast! Age range of the kids- 8 to 20 years old!!!! We had a BBQ on the beach the next day to celebrate ‘Labour Day’ and despite some crazy weather, had a wonderful time.

The following morning the water was so clear I could see every link in our anchor chain until it hit the bottom and ran away from the boat. There were stingrays clearly visible underneath us, the ripple free surface acting like a huge magnifying glass.

The sun was just starting to illuminate some of the higher peaks of the surrounding mountains. It hadn’t hit us yet so the decks were still dewy from the cooler evening. The moon was putting itself to bed to the west and remained a beautiful big ball in the sky. Everyone else was slumbering peacefully, all cuddled into their polar fleece blankets thanks to the crisp morning.

I was up early and heading out for a walk- have I mentioned that I like to walk?

Well, the day was shaping up to be an absolute pearler and it didn’t disappoint.

Very shortly after returning to the boat, a largish group of us headed to an area where stingrays and sharks are fed. We took Slice of Life with us as far as we could safely navigate in the reef, completing the journey in the dinghy. The plan was to beat the hoards that also visit this spot and while there were a few smaller boats in the area, we managed to achieve this. As soon as we arrived a very large stingray swam past the boat followed by a few Black Tip Reef Sharks. So of course out we got and swam with them. It’s almost funny to read those words based on the fear of both of these creatures I’ve had for years but there you go, progress is being made. When I looked around at one point I think I was surrounded by 6 sharks and several stingrays. It was amazing. I could go on and on but I think the pictures will tell that story better than I can. Once the boat loads started arriving, we were off!

That same day we saw turtles, Spotted Eagle Rays and wait for it… Whales. Finally, there they were breaching just off the reef, still some way away but we could actually see them. After over a year on the boat and many many miles, we can finally say that yes, we’ve seen whales! We spent the rest of the afternoon with a wonderful array of people on the boat moving back to our original anchorage later in the day.

Moorea would definitely rate as one of my favourite places so far.

We left for Huahini the next evening where we still are and were we’ve had the absolute pleasure of spending most of our time with a family from the US on a boat called Sapphire. Our adventures here deserve their own post so I won’t say much more about that for now.

I’ve hardly talked about Tahiti, despite being there for just over three weeks and it being the intended subject of this post. There is so much I want to share with anyone that reads this blog, not just the big experiences but some of the smaller details too. I tend to go on a bit so I’ll just mention some of the highlights of our time there.

We hired a car with our Danish friends and visited Teahupo the site of the Billabong Pro Surf tournament, stopping at some beautiful sites on our way back.

The kids and I had a few Ukelele lessons with a beautiful man named Gene. We learned a few tunes and had a lot of fun.

Lilly and I also went to a Tahitian dance class together. Turns out, our teacher is one of the best dancers in Tahiti and that month was gracing the cover of a magazine found in many shops- shame her skills weren’t transferred by osmosis! Still we had a blast and it was quite the workout! You have no idea what some people’s hips can do!!!!!

The museum of Street Art was a fantastic place to visit and had some very interesting installations… for want of a better word.

I hired a car and we toured the island, visiting The Belvedere on Tahiti Iti, (the little island). This was a magnificent view-point looking back over the large island and we could have been anywhere- England, France, the Southern Highlands of Australia. There were horses and cows and it was so not tropical- except you were looking down on a reef-fringed island. We visited Botanical Gardens and Water Gardens and beaches.

Staying in the marina was a nice change. The kids could get off the boat whenever they liked- except during school time- when they would have really liked! There was always a ‘kid boat’ or two in the Marina for our entire stay there, making it fun and giving the kids a good break from me and visa versa!

I picked up some bug again which was pretty boring but a wonderful family on a boat called Bear- (Yvette the Mum just happens to be an Emergency Room doctor) sorted me out. I lost my voice for over a week- a definite highlight for the kids! I loved Tahiti- once you get out of Papeete, it’s a beautiful place and besides having access to a ‘biggish’ city is fun every now and then.

It’s grey and dreary this morning but no complaints. It makes a nice change. As usual I’ve written this over quite a few days- the mozzie episode long behind us- thankfully! It’s breaky time on Slice of Life so I’ll leave it there for now.

Sending everyone much love, thanks for reading and bye for now,

From paradise, this is SOL standing by!

Time in the Tuamotos

I sat down to write a post and got distracted writing out French and Tahitian phrases…almost three weeks ago! It’s all good until someone actually answers you…hmmm what do I do now? I look at it as a lead in, make an effort, try my best- they’ll work out pretty quickly it’s easier to speak to me in English, (or not at all) than to hear their language murdered on my lips. Despite some decent time in France over the last 12 years I always feel muzzled. Can’t… quite… get…past…bon jour, merci and un croissant aux Amande si vous plait. Someone else has always done the talking, but as I’m solo here, the time has come!

Here, is Tahiti and Mike’s already been away well over a week. Time seems to have taken on a new rhythm and is flying by at an alarming rate.

Our time in Fakarava was beyond brief. I’m still reeling, (in a good way) from our experience there. I think Mike and I would both agree that this was the Pacific we’ve been dreaming of, (at least the one he’s been dreaming of and trying to convince me exists!)

The transition to being four hasn’t been without its moments, (Muz, if you’re reading this you’d be forgiven for thinking I was trying to sabotage our fine vessel). Literally the day Murray left I somehow managed to slightly bend the furling gear bringing up the anchor. Never happened before, could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. I got the “Creasy” award, a trophy so named after a disastrous crew member on a friends boat kept breaking things. Next came the mother of all overrides bringing the dinghy up onto the davits. I’ve done this job quite a lot, I’d checked I had the correct number of wraps around the winch, yet somehow the rope got caught around itself increasing the pressure to the point of bending the gear out of shape and distorting the top part of the winch. If none of this makes sense the simple terms are, ‘oh dear, not good, you’ve got to be kidding and various expletives by both adults under their breath. There’s a scary calmness to my husband during these moments. Sometimes I wish he’d just yell at me so I could yell back but I know that this doesn’t really get you anywhere in the long run, suffice to say it releases a bit of pent up frustration. There’s always a risk you’ll say something you don’t mean and always a risk you’ll say something you do!

Hey ho, there’s always something going on!

We left the Marquesas late in the afternoon, escorted out into the open ocean by a pod of dolphins. They stayed with us for ages, starting with 11, swapping the lead, pealing off and returning until gradually there were 9, 7,5, 3, then a lone friend who stayed a while longer.

The trip took three days, which should have been a chinch after the 16 days it took us to cross the Pacific but I disliked it for the most part and that’s all I got to say about that!        “tell me what’s on your mind”

“What am I thinking? I’m thinking I don’t want to sail from NZ to Australia!”

“Oh”

“Are there airports on the Tuamotos?”

“Well, yes”

“Good!”

Hmmmm, but then we arrived, making our way through the North pass entrance before continuing down to the town of Rotoava. You have to time your entrance into an atoll with an incoming or slack tide. The force of the water flowing between the open sea and the lagoon within the reef can be so strong that it can seriously create a problem if you’re trying to sail against it. Think reef either side, nasty waves and significant force pushing you backwards or sideways or any way but the direction you’re heading. Our passage inside was uneventful, (apart from the internal celebration of arriving) and we anchored off the main town in perfectly calm, flat ‘gin’ clear aquamarine water!

We hired bikes and cruised along the single wide white road that extends the length of the township. It’s been a while since we were on bikes! Within 30 metres you can make your way down a coral lined pathway and be standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean-wild and windswept, the vastness never more apparent. As you make your way back to the road it’s hard not to be overcome by the view of the lagoon through the palm trees. All my favourite blue hues blended into one spectacular vision.

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finding a little clam!

We ordered baguettes and Pain au Chocolate for the next morning and enjoyed a salted caramel crepe and coffee in the only open café we could find. A local man cleaned some enormous Mahi-Mahi on the little dinghy wharf and the sharks moved in to enjoy the spoils.

A few days later we used the incoming tide to our advantage, doing something called a Drift dive, or in our case a drift snorkel. It has to be one of the most amazing experiences so far and so far there have been a few. You basically take your dinghy to the entrance of a pass, attaching it to yourself with a rope, everyone jumps out equipped with snorkeling gear and you simply let the current carry you through- like a piece of flotsam with eyes! It’s effortless for the most part and you get to be a spectator of the underwater world for the time it takes you to move through. The depth in the middle is significant, maybe 20 metres but you can see all the way to the bottom. Sharks line the sea floor, while either side the coral reef houses an incredible array of sea life all going about their daily business completely oblivious to the strange, mask clad bits of ‘rubbish’ floating by. You get to the end of the pass, eyes wide, wonder coursing through your body and the only words are, ‘again, please let me do that again’, If you time it right you can probably do it 2 or 3 times, we didn’t, so once had to suffice. I was glad the dinghy was close by when a curious black tip reef shark started heading our way to investigate. Seb and Lilly were either side of me and they both grabbed my hands saying, “it’s ok Mum, we’ll just make ourselves look bigger”. It swam away and my breathing returned to normal, yet again amazed by my kids and the way they see the world.

We sailed across to a bay called Hirifa where the sand is pink, sharks and rays swim in the shallows and the kids had a blast playing on the beach with new and old friends.

I was hit by a realization that’s been lurking for some time as we sailed away from the atoll. Here are people, living on a spit of sand literally in the middle of nowhere. They seem happy, (you’d have to live amongst them for some time to really know). They have to get in a boat and travel 30 miles to get supplies, which generally come once a week. They still seem happy. They don’t have it all and nor do they seem to be trying to have it all. It seems that trying to have it all is what makes us unhappy. It’s an interesting realization and it needs to be demonstrated to really sink in. The irony is the amount of time, effort and money it takes to ‘learn’ that lesson for people who have grown up in a world where having ‘everything’ is the norm. Easy for me to say now, I wonder if I’ll remember that when we’re land-lubbers again…

There’s lots more to write but I’ll leave it there for now. It’s almost breaky time and I can hear the soft snores of Seb coming from the cabin behind me. If I’m not mistaken, Lilly will already be reading and will have been doing so for some time.

Sending love to everyone as always,

Slice of Life standing by.

Meanderings in the Marquesas

Ahhh yes, where I left off- the front head making ‘the noise’.

Turns out it was a false alarm much to everyone’s relief, especially Mikes- the chief repair-man and me, the last user!

We are now in the Tuamotos, well one of the Tuamotos, an atoll called Fakarava. Bet you can guess who LOVES saying that name over and over and over again…

I’m not sure I can describe the beauty of this place but I’ll pull out the mini thesaurus and have a crack…next post.

I need to back track to the Marquesas- a place about as geographically and visually contrasting to where we are now. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to cover these vertical land masses that literally and most welcomingly spring out of the Pacific ‘all of a sudden.’

As previously mentioned we landed in Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, also known as the Baie de Vierges or Bay of Virgens. Legend has it that the original French name was the Baie de Verges meaning the Bay of Phally or Penis, based on and I’m guessing, the numerous and large upward rock protrusions that border this area- it’s amazing how often people name places after themselves on ‘discovery’ of a new place! Apparently this offended the subsequent missionaries so they added an i changing it from Penis Bay to Virgin Bay- quite amusing really, in a Monty Pythonesque kind of way.

It was stunning and we would have loved to stay but we headed over to Hiva Oa where we had to check in, or so we thought. Turns out we arrived a day before Bastille Day, so everything was closed, then it was the weekend and check in happened a little later, on a different Island.

All turned out well as we were reunited with our friend Marco, a Brazilian who is on his 2nd solo circumnavigation. We originally met him in Portobello, Panama and spent quite a bit of time with him in the Galapagos. We also met a fantastic Greek couple, Jorgos and Karina, (who we’d crossed paths with in Galapagos but never actually met) and spent Bastille Day with them in Atuona. We watched the local dance groups and enjoyed a wonderful local lunch then wandered up the hill to the cemetery where the residents really can rest in peace. Frangipani trees are scattered throughout and the view is nothing short of spectacular- only rivaled by the cemetery between Clovelly and Bronte in Sydney’s Eastern Beaches- well that I know of, it’s not like I spend a lot of time in these places.

Paul Gauguin (the Painter) is buried here.

A day or so later we left for the island of Tahuata and enjoyed an amazing breakfast with Stephen who lives in the bay where we anchored. He made us coconut milk coffees and attending boats all took something to share. That same evening we got together again for dinner however this time we were significantly greater in number and nations. There were 26 people in attendance comprising of 6 Americans, 1 Brazilian, 5 French, 3 Australians, 2 Spanish, 1 Polish, 1 Israeli, 4 Portuguese, 1 Polynesian and 2 Greeks! One of the Americans was half Brazilian and his wife was half French, our kids were the Spaniards and we could throw in a Brit too if we were looking at passports!

I took my Triple Chocolate Brownies, which went down very well and very quickly I might add! Kids toasted marshmallows, the boys played with sticks and fire, Seb burnt his hand on a stick, you know how it goes!

We moved to a bay a few miles along the next day and walked up a big hill with a breathtaking view of the anchorage. Hibiscus, Frangipani and Gardenias lined the road we walked along, the later two scenting the air so sweetly I wished I could have bottled it, saving some for later, (and for my clothes locker!)

We had many other special moments during our time in these islands. After another brief stop in Hiva Oa, (where we were welcomed onto the private property of a family and given a tour by the girls, guava jam and bread, papaya, bananas and some big smiles) we headed to Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva. This was a ‘possibility’ for hanging out during Mike’s next stint of work in August but wasn’t really suitable, (our anchor dragged and it was quite rolly, not wonderful on my own with the kids for 2+ weeks). Here we were reunited with Freya, the Danish boat, (and family) we hung out with in the Galapagos. The kids were so excited to see their 3 children again. We shared a lovely impromptu meal with them on our boat one evening and then a great lunch the next day before they headed off to another bay.

It was also here that we said goodbye to Murray. Yes Murray the Magnificent, Magic Murray, Murray the Moderator, (as I have now come to call him) had served his 4 month sentence and was finally released on good behaviour! There are no words to describe just how helpful Murray has been to this endeavour of ours, although I tried to find some, amusing myself on the passage by composing an ode to him. For anyone that knows Murray personally I hope this makes you smile. For those of you who don’t, he really is a stellar individual! A true gentleman, kind, considerate and as dry as they come!

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ODE TO MURRAY

The One the Only Murray Spence

No man of greater Countenance

Could willingly join the Slice of Life

With Mike, his kids and reluctant wife!

 

You joined the SOL way back in March

And now it’s over 4 months past

You’ve helped us all beyond belief

T’was from ourselves we craved relief

 

You’ve lived with me, you’ve lived with Lilly

Our hormones making us awfully silly

You’ve lived with Mike, Mr Do-it-this-way

You’ve lived with Seb, who just wants to play

 

To play, to wrestle and play some more

He seems to like it on the floor

“That’s two” you cry, he shouts “again.

Now wind me up if you think you can!”

 

“Your manners Sebastian, say please” we cry

and then we give a longish sigh,

Thank goodness Murray’s here to play

And get us through another day!

 

Yes Spence Moo-ray as you’ve been known

You came aboard our floating home

You gave us things worth more than GOLD

You filled our Kindles, till they bulged!

 

You gave us music, you gave us film,

Murray’s Movie Monday was just the thing

Wallace and Grommet and Mr Bean

And Johnny English have all been seen.

 

A Courageous Captain was amongst the viewing

I didn’t see that one, I was probably spewing!

The Life Aquatic left questions asked

“Do you really think there are Jaguar Sharks?”

 

You sat with Lilly and made boat cards

Then taught her knots that are quite hard

You don’t do games, but that’s OK

You do the dishes EVERY day

 

You’ve spliced, you’ve patched, you’ve fixed some things

And even bought the fishes in

Your photos leave us all agape

Leave only footprints and photos take

 

You wake a lot at Sparrows Fart

Enjoying your coffee before we start

Your cool and calm and quiet manner

The perfect antidote to all the chatter

 

A bee down your throat

A bug in your tum

Both left you feeling slightly glum

But only slightly glum I say

You did your watches all the same!

 

With heartfelt thanks for all you’ve done

We hope you too have had some fun

It’s hard to do the family thing

But somehow you’ve just fit right in

 

You’ll miss us Muzz we know you will

But not as much as we’ll miss you!

May your thongs stay strong, camera bag endure

May they share your many future tours

 

In life the certainties are few

But I see steak in your menu

A tart Framboise, choc cream of ice

And anything but more white rice!!!!!!

 

I guess you had to be there but it was fun to write and it will provide us with some memories. Oh just FYI, if you are not Australian, thongs are actually footwear known as flip flops, jandles or chanclas in other parts of the world. Murrays were sturdy, tried and tested and took him and will take him, everywhere!

I know this one is getting really long but I just have to mention Hakatea or Daniels Bay where we met Paul. His family have lived here for generations. A bigger smile I’ve not seen for some time. There are 2 forks to the bay and you anchor in the more protected of the two, then dinghy across to the other and up a river to get to the property. It’s stunning but alive with ‘noseeums’ or ‘nonos’ as they are known locally. Nasty, vicious sandflies, that you never see but whose presence can be felt and seen for days, even weeks afterwards! Here we joined the Danes on a walk to an impressive waterfall and sadly met with the Nonos!!! Argh!

We did share another pretty special meal organized by Paul, then bid Freya au revoir as they headed to the Tuamotos and we headed off to Anaho Bay on the other side of Nuku Hiva. This was the calmest anchorage we had during our whole stay in the Marquesas and was again, visually stunning. We did another fantastic walk across the hill to a very special little village, then moved on to Ua Pou where we had a funny encounter trying to obtain provisions in the form of fruit. There’s so much of it in peoples gardens, it doesn’t seem to be sold in stores. Anyway we obtained some bananas from a couple whose niece we’d asked in the town. Turns out Keith is a fair dinkum Aussie married to Margarete, a Marquesan, who’d lived South of Brisbane for 20 years! Funny old place this world sometimes.

It’s on that note that I’ll leave it- hopefully you’ve not lost interest yet. Today was the first real chance I’ve had to use the internet properly. I’m not complaining about the internet, it’s actually quite nice not having it on tap BUT I will say I was able to collect some Whatsapp messages that I haven’t been able to get for weeks and some emails. It’s really hard to get any time to reply,(I know that must sound ludicrous to most) but please don’t think we’ve forgotten any of our friends. Your messages mean so much to us. We love hearing about what people are up to. Even if you think it’s same old same old, it’s news to us.

Fingers crossed this gets sent out in the morning,

Slice of Life off to bed.

Ticking off the miles

Well, the world is still round and we haven’t fallen off the edge of it…yet. In fact we’ve just done our second longest ocean passage to date, crossing the mighty Pacific in 16 days and about 3 hours- do you think I was counting…ha ha ha, maybe just a little.

This trip is harder to write about for some reason. We’re still getting our bearings on land and have been on the go quite a bit since we first made landfall. I think there’s always a bit of lag time after a journey. I write a few notes along the way but reading and writing in general are still an issue for me on passage so a bit of time is needed to piece together what’s gone on.

I’m happy to say there were no major disasters on this trip, which is always to do with Mike’s meticulous preparation, Murray’s constant support and some luck.

The head ‘broke’ again and had to be repaired twice in succession, poor Seb using it both times before it malfunctioned. I say poor as he’d had a stomach bug along with seasickness and hadn’t been to the loo for 4 or 5 days. When he did finally go, he was met with that awful ‘noise’ that indicates something isn’t quite right- poor little thing, white as a ghost, a stricken look on his face and those fateful words, “Daaad, there’s something wrong with the toilet” Constipation seems to happen to some of us spontaneously during a crossing and I reckon it’s helped along by the ‘fear’ of that infernal noise!

No skullduggery this time, no stray bits of dental floss mysteriously finding their way into the toilet- no, this time it was a good old case of cal or scale buildup that seems to affect most boat heads and a blockage was cleared… on the second go!

There was illness and for once it wasn’t mine- I wouldn’t wish anyone else to be ill in my place but unfortunately Murray and then Seb seemed to suffer some kind of intestinal complaint. Bad stomach pains and all that goes with those kinds of things was experienced. I’d had a discussion with a doctor before our passage and was absolutely paranoid about Seb having appendicitis or bacterial dysentery or some other horrible thing. I had the medical books out and the information sheets for all the antibiotics we have on the boat, along with the box of sterile rubber gloves… lets just say it wasn’t great. They both bounced back brilliantly and the upshot was, with them eating nothing for a few days and me very little, our provisions lasted that little bit longer!

Our stove fell off its hinges, well one hinge, one morning giving me a hell of a fright. The gimble pin had simply worn through over time. Luckily there was just an empty frying pan sitting on top rather than a huge pot of boiling water like usual. The gimble is what allows the oven and stovetop to move or swing with the movement of the boat, keeping the surface even and flat even if the boat is heeling over. The M and M’s got to work and had it sorted the next day.

Long passages and routine go hand in hand and after the initial acclimatization period, (generally 3 days) you all fall into your daily, (and nightly) pattern. Of course things like illness or breakdowns modify that pattern but generally once established, things run relatively smoothly. Every boat organises their watch system differently, but while Murray’s been with us we’ve worked to our strengths. Mike and Murray sharing the night watches, alternating each night between 20.00-23.00, 23.00-2.00 and 2.00-5.00, then every morning, (well almost every morning this trip), I was on from 5.00 till 8.00 or 9.00am. I felt very lucky to do this shift- I like the morning time, (our wedding guests know this!). I experienced star studded skies extending from horizon to horizon, a full moon for several nights running that made it feel like daytime and of course the transition from nighttime to dawn. Sunrises were spectacular and for me the start of each day meant we were that bit closer to terra firma! It was fun to put our previous days mileage into the chart plotter each morning. Our record was 202NM in 24 hours.

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Kamikaze squid replaced the flying fish for a few days, Seb and Murray counting 18 one morning.

Lilly read like a demon and learnt some fantastic knots including a Turks hat and a Monkey Fist.

Sailing wise our conditions were reasonably good. We had wind the entire way and used its power to take us across that vast expanse of water for the entire passage. We never used the motor at all. 14-15 knot winds are a bit like how Goldilocks felt about Baby Bears porridge, chair and bed- not too strong, not too light but just right! We certainly had stronger winds but nothing too crazy ever. A few squalls passed through, but again, they were minimal. There was no tacking or gybing except once to make our entrance into Fatu Hiva. Champagne sailing was a term used a few times…

This passage was probably the best to date. I didn’t actually vomit once, which has to be a record but I felt slightly nauseas and light headed the entire time. I really tried to enjoy things more, listening to music, practicing breathing exercises when I felt sick and doing meal prep up on deck, however I have to be honest and say it’s just not my thing. The boat movement frustrates and irritates me. I feel discombobulated and spend a lot of time looking at birds enviously. We’re over a year into this now and the boat movement still really gets on my nerves. As I rapidly approach my exactly mid 40’s, I realize the futility of wishing away periods of time, but there we were, crossing the Pacific and that’s exactly what I found myself doing. “Please let it be over, please let this part of the journey be over”… and then it was!

We sailed into Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, the Southern most island of the Marquesas archipelago on Thursday July 13th after the most unpleasant night we’d had the entire trip. We’d shortened sail and dropped the main, slowing us down and rolled the last 60 miles or so to make landfall in the daylight- necessary but torturous. Fatu Hiva literally rose out of the darkness and never a more welcome sight there was, well except for Martinique, Panama and The Galapagos I guess!

Hanavave, is spectacular and Lilly and I set about making crepes as a celebration for arriving- simple pleasures become a really big deal after a passage. There was a slight miscommunication between Mike and I, which I think was driven by updated weather information but it meant only staying in the bay for 2 hours before upping anchor and sailing another 5 hours to Hiva Oa- I was nearly crying into my crepes let me tell you. As always, there’s a positive side and leaving when we did meant bumping into an old friend, meeting new friends and a very special few days.

More on that later- It’s now 2 weeks since we arrived, all of the above has been and gone, including dear Murray. I’ll leave it here for now and hopefully be able to post this tomorrow- (fingers crossed for working internet) We are about to leave for the Tuamotos, about 3 days away- yes, only 3 days- yippee, another crossing…

For now, Slice of Life provisioning and standing by!

Oh and the front head just made that noise…