Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Nuku Hiva - a gentle stroll around the bay

It took us some time to get ashore this morning as a tropical rainstorm came in just after a sunny breakfast. It half filled the dinghy with fresh water!

However once ashore we had a hit sunny day and, as always in a new place, we were soaking up all the new sights. The bay curves I. A full horseshoe, and we set off to walk along the sea front, from one side to the other it was Sunday so we didn't expect much to be open, but the only visible shop was in fact open and able to sell us eggs.

There was a fine archaeological site on the bay, restored as part of a Marquésan festival of culture, with great stone platforms, carved Tikis of warriors as a copy of a house.

We then gate crashed an inter island choix
Pirogue competition, with boys and girls competing in long outrigger canoes, paddling at a great pace across the bay and back, with wild chers of encouragement from their colleagues on shore.

Onwards we walked past pickup trucks drawn up in the shade of trees fringing the bay, with coolers of blue Hinano beer cans and music on the car sound system.

We had heard there was a cafe at the far end of the bay, but it was shut. However, higher up tte hill we spotted poolside umbrellas, and we arrived there drenched in sweat and mud spattered from the road to find our first sophisticated eatery with a little infinity pool overlooking the bay.

It was a very welcome stop for a lovely lunch and cold beer, enabling some wifi time and even a swim for Anne and Emily. Most relaxing !

Walking back we passed voting stations fore the presidential election with a few posters of Fillon, le Pen, Mélenchon and Macron. People thought Macron and le Pen would be the final two candidates.

Nuku Hiva - is this one of the 50 Worst Destinations in the World?

Anne has just shown us a new travel guide to browse. The Fifty Worst Destinations in the World !

It's a shock to find Nuku Hiva innit!

I'm pleased to report that our experience has been delightful so far.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Exploring Ua Pou

Jerome picked us up at 08:00, and we left Emily to go spear fishing with journalist, Alina, on their paddle boards. We collected three Tahitians from the Pension and set off towards Ho Hoi. The other passengers were a young couple who work in air traffic control, and a lady who tours the island's giving careers advice.

Jerome's Toyota 4x4 was worked hard during the day, as the concrete road would periodically turn into a rough slippery track, badly eroded by torrential rain. He explained that this was because the island was all privately owned in radial strips from mountain to sea. If the owner, or more usually entire did not agree then the government could not improve the road. He said it was a sign of intelligence of each family as we struggled through some sections, and then had easy going on the improved bits.

Down in HoHoi we met a sculptor of the unique Pierre Fleuri stone. Justin said he looked familiar, and we soon established that we had met his neighbour and cousin, Simon, working stone in the same style in Fatu Hiva. He gave us a demonstration of his technique, and we had the chance to buy some nice, small stone tikis in this unique stone. At 27,000 CFP each it was more than we felt like spending, but I gave him a London double decker bus key ring as a souvenir of a British visit.

We got down to the beach where the special stones get rolled down by the river, but failed to find one. The mozzies found me though, whilst I tried to sketch the scene! Finally we visited an archeological site, of a Marie or scared Chiefs court, getting a really good idea of how it was used, and seeing the well worn stones where adzes were sharpened and where tattooing ink was prepared. A relic of an extraordinary complex society, tuned to its environment, but overturned by foreigners bringing new ways and new diseases. The Marquesans were in danger of extinction but "saved" by foreign settlers who were encouraged to marry in, so that one can see O'Connors and many other European and Asian family names nowadays.

Back in town everyone was voting as today was the first round of the French presidential election. We got aboard and raised anchor and sail and set off the 25 miles north to Nuku Hiva, getting there at sundown.

Ua Pou-The Land of Men

Friday 21st April 2017

Above the little town of Hakahau, the island's dramatic volcanic spires point skywards, occasionally showing tempting glimpses in a dance of the seven veils with the clouds.

On the quay a group of lads cast their fishing lures out across the harbour while steady rain fell. As we ate breakfast there was a steady succession of elated yells from the quay as time after time they each pulled in six flapping silver fish the size of sardines. This went on all day as far as we could see and the shared elation was unstoppable. Into this arena paddled a girl on a stand up paddle board, with a bucket on the board and rod proceeding to catch her share.

It turned out that Alina came from a catamaran and, with her friend Julian, is doing a long term study of the people, customs and life of French Polynesia for a magazine, Geo. They do a repeat survey every five years to monitor and report on change in the region. They had lived for several years on Fakareva atoll, and were able to guide us with lots. Of local knowledge of the Tuamotus.

Ashore the village seemed sparser than others we'd found, but had a big yellow Postes & Telecoms building, a bank, an artisanal centre and a shop.

We found that the artisanal centre had a wide range of jewellery, bowls, tikis, and other items for sale from local craftspeople, at prices that mostly seemed unaffordable. However Anne and I chose some black pearl earrings as a memento. Meanwhile there was a sudden burst of music from the other end of the hall and there was Justin singing along with a long remembered Polynesian boating song whilst a Marquesan strummed the tune on a beautifully carved ukelele.

The rain had begun to fall very heavily, and we were invited to hurry across the courtyard to the cafe, where a buffet lunch was on offer, and being enjoyed by locals and visiting yachts folk alike. We soon had plates piled with rice, cooked bananas, poisson cru (raw tuna chunks in coconut milk and lime juice) in three styles, and a very tasty grilled fish and a yummy goat casserole. Outside the water level rose, drowning the road in orange muddy water.

Later when it all stopped, we waded out to find the post office shutting its doors at 2pm, so no stamps, and indeed no cash in the ATM.. We found the church, with its pulpit carved as a ship's prow, very peaceful inside with three people in silent prayer. Outside we met a goat on a car bonnet, found another general store and bought fishhook soft the type used on the pier. I also found a Chinese made rainbow coloured brolly, which should be useful here, plus a machete. The shop sold me a file to sharpen it, but the shop keeper also offered to take it home and sharpen it himself for me..so kind!

Our next mission was to track down some transport to see more of the island, and were directed to find Jerome (Que? Jerome?) ( sorry only Two Men in a Boat at present, so unfair literary joke) at a local Pension higher up the hill. En route of course we met two Swiss yacht crews; Jean-Claude and Françoise in Suditude, who had sailed from Panama down to Easter Island, Juan Fernandez, and the the Chilean fjords to visit Antarctica. The next couple, Tomas and Anya from Ribusta, had recently sailed back up from Patagonia. Very exciting to hear about that.

Here we found a terrace overlooking the bay, very welcome cold drinks and wifi. Jerome's wife turned out to be the Polynesian daughter of DouDou, the sole Frenchman on Tahuata.

Jerome eventually turned up, a compact wiry military looking man, liberally covered with superb geometric Marquesan tattoos. We arranged for him to give us a half day tour of the island and returned to the boat. Here we realised that we'd forgotten to take our rubbish into town, but a local man, Armand and his mother Yvonne, kindly told us to drop it in the back of their pick-up for disposal. Armand is a supervisor at the College Terre des Hommes, which has 200 boys boarding from all over Ua Pou. The youngest start at 6-7 years old but are driven home every weekend. For further education children go to Tahiti which is free, but costs parents the fees of host families, and occasionally to university in France when parents must pay.

We had a rolly night in the anchorage with no wind to hold us head to the swell.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Ua Pou

We set off at 5:30 am to sail to the next island, Ua Pou, some 65 miles away. The forecast showed that the wind should fill in from the east, but in the end it never got above 8knots, so we ended up motoring for 10 hours.

It was an extraordinary feeling to be out on the
Middle of the Pacific Ocean, and yet to have 4000' tall mountainous islands in view all around us, visible at least 50 miles off. Looking aft we could see Hiva Oa and Tahiata, and to our right the little island of Fatu Hulu. Ahead was Ua Pou, and out to Starboard Ua Haka. Amazingly we could also see Nuku Hiva 25 miles beyond Ia Pou. An extraordinary cruising ground, thousands of miles from anywhere!

As we closed Ua Pou it's colour and topography slowly emerged.
As we finally anchored behind a breakwater the clouds swirled a little,§ revealing two enormous black volcanic plugs disappearing and reappearing high above us.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Stations of the Cross in Hapatoni

We came to the church and were greeted by the larger pastor in his voluminous white robes attended by parishioners. It was 4pm andvtfey were gathering for Mass at 5:30. The church was peaceful and simple with all the wooden pillars beautifully dressed with palm fronds and flowered. The Virgin Mary had a wonderful
Necklace of flowers too.

We followed the Queens road until it was blocked by a rockfall. I clambered over and found a faint trail upwards, and after a long scramble we emerged in the lovely garden of an elegant white private house. I met the owner, who introduced himself as DuuDuu He is the only Frenchman on the island and has built a house to retire there. Once on the road we were soon ticking off the stations of the cross and reached the big white crucifix on the pinnacle of the Pain au Sucre. Here we had a magnificent view of Baie Hapatoni and the adjacent one, where four yachts had anchored in easier conditions.

Back on board Emily arced breadfruit curry and avocado lasagne. Breadfruit was a bit like chunks of potato but a little more floury lie gnocchi perhaps. Very good and very filling.

Exploring Tahuata Island

After our expedition ashore at Motopu bay we set off round to Hanamoenoa bay, reputed to be on of the top three in the world by sailing writer Eric Hiscox. (Sorry if I have repeated myself!). Here we found six yachts already anchored, and there were nine by nightfall. However we were the only ones to brave the surf and head for the great strip of golden sand. We picked our waves carefully and landed OK. The. Beach backed by palm trees was certainly spectacular with the mountains Reston up behind. We didn't venture into the hamlet as there were Privé signs up

The following morning after a Tilly night we snorkelled round the cliffs and then scrubbed the waterline to give a clean look to TinTin. Other yachts soon followed suit!

I had time for a sketch before lunch and then we set off in sudden rainstorms to the bay Hataponi.

Here we had a really difficult anchorage on steeply sloping bottom, so that we dropped anchor in 20 metres of water, but were soon in 8m of water just outside the surf line which was then crashing onto big boulders. Once secure we went shorewards via a little harbour and met a man on horseback with a wooden saddle.

The waterfront had a promenade built many years ago for Queen? It is a massive stone causeway along the seafront reminiscent of that but by Qu'en Victoria on the Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Election?! What election?!

I hear that Britain has been thrown into a General Election. Presumably so that Teresa May can win enough seats to drive Brexit legislation through unopposed. Can anyone enlighten us as to dates?

Also the Marquésans are nervous that Trump will bomb North Korea and whether World War Three is about to start. Glued to French news TV in the Maké Maké Snack Bar.

We feel very far away from it all.

Today we went ashore by dinghy and paddle board in Motopu Bay on Tahuata island. It was very hot and as we walked round from the little harbour to the village we spotted a white kingfisher with a black stripe through the eye and beautiful electric blue wing coverts.

The village bungalows are arranged up a long street heading back to the hills. A church offered a lovely cool white interior with many rows of dark wood pews. There was a wonderfully carved dark tree bole with dolphins, fish, and a fish great turtle supporting the lectern.

We walked up through the village passing simple wooden crosses at the roadside. By the time the paved road ran out above the village we had reached the seventh station of the cross. On the dirt track we reached the eighth just as the heavens opened and cool rain drenched us. We turned back downhill and once in the still sunny village we were invited to take all sorts of fruit with us. A huge sack of pamplemousses and breadfruit loads of lines and pommes citaline, which are a citrus tasting m'angoisse fruit which sweetens up when orange.

After lunch we motored off round the north of the island to Baie Hanamoena, rated by poly guide author, Eric Hiscox, as in his top three anchorages in the world. Sure enough everyone else has the same pilot book and by the end of the day here were nine yachts anchored off the beach

As soon as we arrived Emily paddled off towards the breaking surf followed by Anne swimming and me rowing. By judging the wav sets we all got ashore safely for a walk along thé steeply shelving golden sands fringed by coconut groves. Clearly the locals feel a bit beset by visitors here as there was a Propriété Privé sign deterring a wander through the grove.

Back
K on board Justin dangles a line over the side and immediately landed a large fish. Not knowing what it was we sent it back uneaten.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Tahuata island

This morning kicked off with breakfast of giant grapefruit, or pamplemousse, which is very refreshing and delicious- not too acid or sweet.

Around the harbour dinghies were puttering around, going ashore for provisions or to other boats. Emily had arranged to have our laundry done by Sandra, who runs the Semaphore lookout cafe and wifi spot. Before she arrived I rowed over to Neptunus III to give Erwin and Karena PDF copy of the NOAA tide tables for Polynesia on an SD card. Then ashore with Emily to get the laundry. Whilst waiting I noticed a truck delivering crate after crate of beer which was stacked at the water's edge. I assumed it was for a trip boat, but no.....it was collected by Carl from Alabama, and took two trips in his dinghy! Photo to follow. Carl is sailing his lovely green yawl solo to New Zealand. En route from Galapagos his self steering and autopilot failed, so he had to hand steer the whole way, catching sleep when he could for 20 days!

With laundry aboard (£35 for two Liddle bags full) we upped our three anchors and headed out to sea to explore Tahuata island. The wind was uncharacteristically from the NW, rendering three of the northern anchorages untenable today, so after a brisk sail we returned to a sheltered bay and anchored in time for sunset.

Supper was huge avocados from Therese in Puemau, followed by Justin's excellent pasta dish, and topped off with ripe paw paw and lime.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sacred sites and Tikis

We left Therese loaded with fruit and drive on to the ancient archaeological site that she owns. Here we. Found great platforms of boulders built into dry stone. Walls atop which carved stone figures or Tikis were holding vigil, under steeply pitched palm thatched shelters with carved wooden poles. This was a marae where the chiefs and warriors would live and hold sacred ceremonies, including yr sacrifice and eating of their captives. I sat and sketched for a while whilst the mosquitoes did their best to suck my blood dry.

Then back home across the winding cliff top trail, but this time enlivened by music from my iPad to ease the trip for the poor passengers

Sunday 16th April 2017
We got Mark safely to the airport at 11:00 fire his 13:20 flight. The cafe serves burgers and chips so he will be alright. We left him to it and dropped back down the road to find the Smiling Tiki. There was a hand drawn sketch map tacked to a mango teee at the roadside and we followed the directions as best we vous down a slippery muddy track Around us the forest trees showed a great variety of shapes and textures. Eventually after a false start we found a little footpath through a banana grove that led us to a marae and beyond the stone terrace we found the Tiki, lit by a shaft of sunlight and leaning a bit. The facial features were clear with large spectacles and a smile. Tiny five fingered hands lurch the belly. He stands only. 3' tall but definitely has mama, or presence.

After lunch we left emily in peace and drove for 7kms on a good road to Taa'oa where we found Sunday afternoon at he beach in full swing with two pétanque courts in action, children in the surf, and families picnicking. There were several outrigger canoes on the shore which I set about sketching.

Exploring Hiva Oa

It was a joy to be at the wheel of a big 4x4 pickup, and we set off to explore the island, heading north towards the airport on one of the two roads out of town. It was cloudy and threatening rain. The road past the airport took us along the plateau between confiera smelling delicious in the damp cool air. We reached a roundabout, with Give Way and Keep Right signs, but no signposts to anywhere. Using a faint map in a Kindle version of the Lonely Planet Guide we took the first exit and a hundred yards later were on unpaved road, rattling and bouncing along. The track took is high up to cross the pine of the island, where the clouds cleared enough for some spectacular views.


The we descended northwards some times finding a shot section of concrete road which was much appreciated as a break from the jolting. The slopes of the mountains are thickly forested with banana trees and mangoes appearing occasionally near someone's home the terrain is steep and heavily eroded into precipitous ravines, so often the road descends the spine if a ridge with land dropping steeply away either side. Then a series of hairpins twist down the steepest ridges with vertiginous drops and no safety barrier.s. The rain makes the road very muddy in places, or erodes it away in gullies demanding a lot of concentration to keep the car safely on track.

Eventually we dropped to sea level on the northern coast and passed little hamlets with well tended gardens and bungalows. After climbing a few more ridges and dropping through more valleys we reached Puemau. Where we Aled directions to the archaeological site of Iipona. Payment of 300 cup per person is made to Thres at the snack bar and here we paused to have a drink and admire her herb garden. She enjoyed our interest and invited us to come to her house to pick fruit and be introduced to her eels! Truly! The track to her house dips through a stream, and here she cracked an egg to call the eels. Immediately theee was a disconcerting writing of snuous forms up the splashing Stream and eels as thick as your arm were competing to get the eggs. Therese then kindly loaded us with fruit from the heavily laden tees in her garden, using a net on a long pole to pull down avocados, giant pamplemousse, ramburans, lines and another citrus like fruit called Vii

Mark flies out to The Wedding

Mark going for a morning row in Hiva Oa before flying out from Jacques Brel airport to Nuku Hiva, and a 40 hour flight back to the UK.

HAVE A GREAT WEDDING!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Car Hire - Marquesan style

I rang the car hire number at 07:00 as directed by George to catch the man before Good Friday Mass, but they couldn't provide one. So I called Georges at the Relais Moehau who gave me a number for taxi lady, Freda, who agreed to collect me at 08:30. Mark and I went to the gendarmerie but discovered that I needed ALL the crew plus Anne. So we arranged to return at 15:00.

Walking down the street to find our taxi I asked a lady coming from the Mairie where I could find car hire. She introduced me to her driver, Pive, who was naked to the waist and had a necklace of gigantic boars fangs endangering his jugular. He called across the street to a passing car and introduced me to Florence, a charming young woman with a frangipani flower behind her left ear (not available!)

We negotiated a price for three days and within ten minutes she had returned with a contract, taken the cash, and left me her Mitsubishi 4x4 pickup. Brilliant!!!

So now I am master of a growling, rattling vehicle which has safely negotiated the hairpins up to the plateau to the airport, where I am now waiting for Anne's plane to arrive. There are two dark wood check-in counters, a single pitch of corrugated roof covering a tiled floor, a little cafe and a few benches. Very accessible! The cafe seems to be doing good trade in burgers and chips.

It feels great to be able to drive, especially after our hot sweaty walk into town from the port last night.

Hiva Oa

We arrived in the little harbour at Hiva Oa and a couple up on the lookout on the point waved excitedly at us, and I guessed they were Martin & Ella from Acapella who we had encountered mid-Pacific. On the way in we recognised the names of several other yachts from the Puddle Jump Net roll call. I left Mark to manoeuvre for anchoring but it proved difficult to get a good hold. I rowed a stern anchor out several times, and in the end spent a happy time going from yacht to yacht meeting people while Mark had a hard time finding a safe place amongst the tangle of boats and stern lines. Eventually we settled, and as darkness fell determined to walk the mile into town to find supper. It was a dark hot humid road but eventually the Relais Mae Mau glowed out of the dark and fed us huge pizzas, cold beer and wifi. The proprietor then kindly dropped us back to the boat and furnished a car hire number to ring.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Fatu Hiva exploration

The dramatic gorge and priapic pillars of the Baie des Verges ( sorry......Vierges :-)

We scrambled high up the valley behind to a 200' high cascade where we swam.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Anchored in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva

Having joined Justin on watch early I was thrilled to spot land at 05:40 while we were still 27 miles away. Given the distance there was a huge bulk of land standing high above the itch a most promise vertical cliff.

We reached the southern tip by about 10:00 and with Emily at the helm, came in to the Baie des Vierges, lining up a prominent pillar of rock with a pale patch of the mountain behind..at least we would, have done if we could irk out which pale patch to use!

There were ten yachts at anchor already and as we motored slowly in, the depths were still far too great for us to anchor. However it shelved steep,y and we chose a spot inside all the others, and closer to the beach, dropping the hook in 8 metres.

The bay is without doubt the most stunning I have ever seen. Huge rock pillars tower and everywhere one sees faces and outlines of great trolls and Easter Island Aku Aku in the rocks. There is a great vertical gorge flanked by pillars beyond which the mountains rise vertically in shades of green into swirling cloud more than 3,000 feet high.

A river rushes into the bay splitting the great stony strand and sitting with her feet in the water there was a mother in a green pareo wrap with her toddler splashing the the stream. To the left there was a flat space with afoot all pitch, and two white goals glowing against the rich gree foliage. To the rights crane was moving great concrete blocks to make the little harbour more secure against storms.

We went ashore I the dinghy and wandered up the street between wonderful flooring shrubs and trees, and low bungalows set on little legs in case of floods. Every house seems to have an aluminium boat in the yard. We learned that people go fishing for tuna and bring in 200kg monsters,

The road wound gently up between. The rock pillars and we spoke to a few people on the way, all keen for us to trade for their fruit. We spotted men collecting honey fm beehives, the beekeeper in a full besuited with smoker, but his two tattooed assistants standing unconcerned in nothing but swimming trunks as they took the combs and put them into a bin. They wave us down and gave us a comb to eat then and there, with the bees buzzing around us.

People asked if we were walking to the cascade. We weren't, but when they said it, then suddenly we were! Simple enough at first but then some rock hopping across the river, then lots of mud, which doesn't work in flip flops - so bare feet for Emily and me. Then the trail
became more meant with stone steps and little stone cairns, and wound up steeply through rain forest. At one point it ducked under an overhanging cliff and the path had fallen away into the river below. The others had managed it. But with tired legs and a large heavy bag over my found it hard, and with bare feet slipping in soft mud had to squat and sit on a rock, holding onto a projection I the cliff. As I swung through to the other side, my handhold gave way and I was covered with earth, but I didn't go down into the gorge below thankfully. Now it began to rain hard, so I stuffed my shirt into my waterproof bag and let the rain wash mud off me. We soon came to a most spectacular waterfall thundering 200 feet into a pool, and were soon swimming happily in spray and rain.

Back down in the village Emily and I met the lady selling honey (3000 CFA Pacific for a wine bottle full is about €25). She gave us 4 large pamplemousse as a present and we said we'd come back once we'd found some money. Then we met a man who needed rivets to repair his aluminium boat, but mine were sadly all too short to be useful.. He took us to see his carvings which were very fine. If we had been able to exchange .22 bullets we could have bought lots of things. Justin had told us that on his last trip he'd bought .22 ammunition to trade with, when they went through Panama. This confirmed that completely. We met another sailor lugging a big bag up the street full of stuff he was going to trade.

At the little store, Therese the shopkeeper was friendly, but wouldn't take euros. However she suggested that we might like to have a local meal, and that Katy from the school served meals to visiting yachts. Sure enough we soon met Katy coming fro the school, with a frangipani flower behind her ear, and a reasonable number of teeth in her smile. In a few minutes we had agreed to have supper at €15/ head the following night. Turns out that most of the yachts were doing the same tonight. We'll have to see whether any others want to join us tomorrow,

Back on board the sunset blazed straight into the bay illuminating the rock pillars with fire . We sat in the dark rocking gently to the swell, with the waves breaking soothingly on the rocks either side and ten anchor lights swaying in a little mobile constellation.

Fatu Hiva arrival

Land Ho!

Itching to make landfall I came on deck an hour early this morning at 5am to join Justin on watch. A glance at the chart plotter confirmed that we were still on a course south of the Marquesas. So we gives the mainsail over and set our course to 310 degrees and headed north towards Fatu Hiva which was 39 miles off.

The moon, almost full was setting rich and golden in the west while the dawn was doing pinks, oranges and deep carminés in the east. It was cloudy ahead, and I didn't expect to catch sight of land for another ten miles or so, but there to my surprise was the massive outline of a huge cliff rising into the cloudbase and over the the east the long outline of a volcanic slope. It was Fatu Hiva!

As the sun rose I could see shadowy indentations of steep gulleys in the island. Approaching land is a slow process of unveiling. At first an outline, then a little broad detail. Slowly colour begins to show in the blue form; a hint of green or brown. Then as the distance lessens, the unknown place begins slowly to become real, until the moment when one sets foot on the new land, feel the solid ground and texture of the beach, smell the vegetation damp and steamy, with a whiff of woodsmoke and roasting goat and the place becomes alive in one's mind, and will for evermore be a living memory.

Land Ho!

Itching to make landfall I came on deck an hour early this morning at 5am to join Justin on watch. A glance at the chart plotter confirmed that we were still on a course south of the Marquesas. So we gives the mainsail over and set our course to 310 degrees and headed north towards Fatu Hiva which was 39 miles off.

The moon, almost full was setting rich and golden in the west while the dawn was doing pinks, oranges and deep carminés in the east. It was cloudy ahead, and I didn't expect to catch sight of land for another ten miles or so, but there to my surprise was the massive outline of a huge cliff rising into the cloudbase and over the the east the long outline of a volcanic slope. It was Fatu Hiva!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Not far to Fatu Hiva

With only 220 miles to go, we are all itching to see this new land. Every time the wind drops the boat slows and I can feel a bit of frustration, and when it picks up and we begin to fly down the waves in a roar of foam our hearts are gladdened.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Spinnaker up !

Woke this morning relieved that the generator current leakage had stopped. Pissiblt due to a silent prayer to Saint Anthony from my position in the bilges yesterday. Otherwise the cause and solution are an unnerving mystery!

It was my laundry day today, but skies are heavily clouded so no bright sunshine to bleach my stuff. Laundry is done in a bucket or two on the aft deck. Must get that washing machine fixed!

As the wind eased away to 13 knots the sails all slat horribly. In any case with all sails poles out we don't have quite enough flexibility to point directly to ourlé destination.

So this morning we raised the ParaSailor, leaving only a tiny bit of mainsail, and immediately the boat went quiet and drew steadily away on a direct course towards the most southerly of the Marquesas islands. Fatu Hiva is less visited y yachts because there is no port of entry, but we like a number of other boats on the Pacific Puddle Jump Radio Net, plan to drop in before sailing on to Hiva Oa. Fatu Hiva is rated by Eric Hiscock as one of his top three most beautiful anchorages.

With 288 miles to go at lunchtime on the 9th, I'm beginning to plot arrival times and a more detailed itinerary. Justin has just produced an excellent lunch with beautiful bread, Waldorf salad and a pimiento salsa to compliment last night's macaroni cheese fired to a pleasing crisp.

Heading notth again

After a long run taking us slowly further south we gunned and started MW towards our goal. The wind dropped and we slatted around horribly at 4 knots, the swell lurching the boat so that the sails were cracking like whips. Luckily Emily whistled and the wind filled in a bit. Until we were pulling steadily again.

Meanwhile I spent from breakfast till supper trying to find out why the generator was causing a current leak, sat in the hole under Emily's bed testing wires, unscrewing things and generally getting nowhere. I refilled the radiator and found a collapsed engine mount mount. Suddenly the latter seemed s possible cause if the motor was no longer insulated from the hull. Mark cut wedges to drive underneath, but in the end that wasn't possible. I
We put Emily's cabin back together despondently and went for supper. However I started the generator again, and lo and behold the lights went green. Problem gone - if not solved!

We advanced our clocks by an hour to keep dawn and sunset at 6. So we are now 9 hours behind GMT, and 10 behind British Summer Time

Position at midnight. 11 33.25S. 132 36'W
Speed 7 .5knots COG 300 Log 14308
Wind 21 knots 102deg.
Current 185 degrees 1.2 knots

Friday, 7 April 2017

Stressful day!

Tonight Emily produced great tuna burgers for supper with chips, dampened only by a rainstorm. I

Then to add spice to the night we discovered an electrical problem. The meter is showing strong current
leakage, similar to that we had before Madeira. A quick check on the original cause shows that the aft deck locker is bone dry. The only thing different about today was slamming to windward looking for a possible liferaft. Maybe something has been dislodged and made an improper contact.

We had an anxious hour searching under floorboards and in bilges until we found the source of the problem. I isolated the engine, but that made no difference, and then recalling that Mark had found water in the generator drip tray, isolated the generator. To our huge relief, the current leakage ceased immediately. Now we wait for dawn to investigate the genset - maybe a water pipe has split and it's shorting the battery.

Thats two huge anxieties and corresponding reliefs today. A. No corpse to identify in the floating "lifejacket" and B. Found the mystery current leak

Meanwhile we have only 590 miles to run. If the wind held ed be there in almost threee days.

Search & Rescue operation 2

I came in watch at 06:00 to find a good wind and making 8-9 knots with all sail set. Dawn broke at 06:30 but with lots of cloud it was still quite gloomy, with big rainstorms astern blotting out the light.

I had just tried calling Jerry the Rigger in Gosport to get help with some much needed rivets, when I caught sight of something yellow and orange on a wave crest a few hundred yards to starboard. By the time I'd found the binoculars it was disappearing astern rapidly and just occasionally on a wave crest. It looked like a life jacket and head in an anorak hood. Or maybe a delayed Liferaft

I pressed the Man Overboard button for the second time in the last few days, and roused Mark from sleep to furl the staysail and Genoa. I headed back up wind up nder engine and was back roughly where I'd put the MOB waypoint in 8 minutes. (See screen in photo). We then started a search pattern up wind towards where I'd last seen the object. At this point Emily was roused by the slamming into big waves and came on deck in time for a tropical downpour, with stinging rain in the 35knot squall.

We searched for an hour before Emily finally spotted our target, which had drifted 3/4 mile down wind and current. We. Must have passed it unseen at least once before.

To my huge relief it was not a corpse Ina life jacket but a cluster of yellow floats that looked like a life jacket and a larger orange one that I'd mistaken for a head. Below it dragged a great clump of thick green fishing net.

I was hugely relieved to find it at last and concerned that it had taken an hour. If we hadn't found it at that point I was prepared to continue at least an hour more, as I was horribly convinced that it was a person, or their remains.

It was a saluter lesson that one Dan be lost Overboard horribly easily. Thankfully our life jackets have avradio that alerts the boat if one falls in and should transmit a position which willl appear on the chart plotter screen.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Wind comes .. and goes

Having powered along at 8-9 knots last night we are now staring the next night with the wi d dying away and only making 5 knots. It was forecast, bit nonetheless its frustrating.

During the day we were preoccupied with the Galapagos petrel that had arrived on the deck. It slowly dried out nd preened it sel. Sadly it took off before it had really finished preening and landed in the water fluttering hard to stay aloft but with out well oiled feathers it couldn't float. We watched it dwindle astern still trying to fly, feeling sorry that we hadn't stopped it leaving.

The Puddle Jump radio net at 01:00 UTC gave us a useful
Insight I to conditions experienced by other boats ahead of us, and this light wind seems to be our fate We sailed a more southerly route all day to try to find the better breeze, so we've done what we can. Now at 20:00 on Thursday 6th we are at 11 50.71S and126 21.41W with 750 miles to go and 5 days to run. I anticipate arriving on the 12th April.

I was cooking today and produced a Tin Tin variant of Cornish pasties; Tin Miners Tuna Potatoes and onions dived small with some capers and olives for zing, topped with chunks of fresh tuna seasoned with salt, pepper and dill, wrapped in a circle of pastry and baked for 35 minutes. The tuna have a good meaty element to the pasty and want particularly fishy. Baked beans were an elegant accompanying dish. Custard and tinned. Raspberries for pudding.

Strong Winds and a Storm Petrel

Last night we picked up much more wind as we headed more southwest- right on plan. Big black clouds astern at midnight and gusting 35knots so I rolled a reef into the Genoa before handing over to Emily at midnight.

When I rose for breakfast it was still in the thirties with more dark clouds astern so we headed up to wind and dropped the mainsail. It needed care because there's a little bit of material worn through on the luff which could snag and rip as it comes down.

Once back on course with Genoa only we still made 7.5 knots, but not the 8-9knots we'd done earlier.

Whilst eating breakfast I spotted a bedraggled bird on the fore deck amongst all the tiny flying fish. Mark collected it and wrapped it in an old tea towel to warm and dry it. It looks like a Galapagos storm petrel with dark body and white rump, but if there's a black stripe on the white rump
It would be a Leach's storm petrel. Difficult to tell when it's in such a mess.

It seems very vulnerable with all feathers wet and needing preening. Wings rather swallow like and very long. The beak is a typical tube-nose with tubular nostril above.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Shipwrecked Sailors Raft?

A shout from Emily on the foredeck brought us running to see a black raft about 8'square drift past low in the water. I pressed the Man Overboard alarm to mark its location and as the piercing alarm started it's regular and unstoppable noise, we rolled in Genoa and staysail, started the engine and motored back upwind for quarter of a mile to check the raft for signs of life.

As we approached we could see that it trailed a thick rope with a floating light on the end. It must be an oceanographic drifter collecting information about currents, salinity, temperatures and even wave height. I will send this photo to an oceanographer contact to see if it can be identified.

I finally found out how to cancel the alarm noise, and we reshape our course, heading slightly south to follow the latest wind predictions.

I then put out an All Ships alert by VHF to advise of the floating hazard to navigation. The yacht Acapella five miles astern of us, seems to have switched off their radio so I hope they don't hit the raft. It looks rather solid. We came very close to colliding with it.

Testing the Log

Thanks to information from George Taylor, Mark decided to make a log to test the accuracy of our speed instruments and hence whether the adverse current is real or not.

We could manage 35 metres of line, with a half filled water container instead of a weighted log of wood. Traditionally the log line ran out until a sand timer finished at which point the number of knots that had unreeled were read off. A knot was placed every 8 fathoms, and I calculate that the sand timer must have run for 30 seconds. There are 1000 fathoms in a nautical mile, which is amazingly convenient if you consider that a fathom is 6 feet, or basically the length of rope a man stretches between two outstretched hands. A nautical mile is defined as one second of arc on the north-south latitude scale defined as the circumference of the globe divided into 360 degrees and hence 60 times more into minutes of arc. So how does the span of a man's outstretched arms happen to fit exactly(ish) into a minute of arc, or did someone decide to divide the compass into 360 degrees for some related reason?

Suffice it say that on 5 tests at 5knots and 5 tests at 7 knots the speed measurement was consistent(ish) with the instruments.

Equally at different speeds the current direction and speed remained a consiste 0.7 knot heading 220 degrees across our path

Sail Ho!

Having said that we were getting fed up with nothing happening we at last had two tuna strikes yesterday and brought in a good one which will feed us for about 3 days.

I came on watch at midnight to relieve Justin. The moon was close to setting and the sky had a long ominous cloud with a slight tinkle of water reaching the deck. I ran the radar to check on rain squalls, but found nothing except a signal that looked like two ships twenty miles due south. I scanned the horizon to look for lights, albeit they were really too far to be seen and was rewarded with a steady light on the horizon. At that range it was probably the bright light of a fishing vessel, but I couldn't see the second one.

As the watch progressed I lost the radar signal, but we seemed to be slowly overtaking the light. Finally I found the radar blip again at 5 miles just when I handed over to Emily.

I set my alarm for 05:20 as we had decided to try to catch the booby perched on the dinghy and take off the frayed blue line caught on his left foot. Just we were about to bag him, his head came from under his wing and two beady eyes looked straight at Emily down his long sharp beak. Then he was off into the first light of dawn.

It was at that point that we saw that the fishing boat was actually a yacht, now less than 2 miles away and slightly astern. They had only a jib up. No AIS signal and no response to radio. I assumed hey were single handed and asleep.

Later they woke up, turned on equipment and were surprised to see us just ahead with three sails set. They called and we found it was a 46' boat called Acapella which left Las Perlas on the 15th March and didn't pass through Galapagos. They are in contact with fifteen other yachts in the Puddle Jump radio net.

We spent the morning making a ships lig as suggested by George and measuring our speed to test the accuracy of our equipment. The conclusion is that the adverse current we are measuring is probably true. Most perplexing!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fish at last

Days have passed without catching anything, and we were getting despondent, so today we tried trailing an old fork and an old spoon fitted up as spinners. A lovely blue day again, although wind has eased down to 15 knots and we are slower.

Mark is on cook duty today, and produced wonderful apple fritters for tea. After that Justin changed fishing lures back to the lurid squid. As the sun set and Mark was about to fish up supper, both lines got a bite The one on the watamu yoyo line got off, but Justin reeled in the other eventually after we had reduced sail to slow down. It was a good sized tuna, the biggest yet, about three feet long and very heavy. I subdued it with a squirt of rum in the gills and Emily has filleted our prize. Supper delayed a bit, but all very happy.

Otherwise this ocean feels very large and empty. No planes or satellites visible at night, although as the moon waxes brighter each night we see fewer stars. No sails, fishing boats or whales by day. The flying fish are a welcome frisson, as are occasional birds. Tonight a young booby circled us as darkness fell and finally landed on our dinghy for the night. Emily gave it some tuna, which studied and dint immediately eat. Probably never tasted tuna before.

We have nearly 1000 miles to go, so two thirds of the way done.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sketching the crew

A lazy day with all sail poled out rolling downwind. Blue skies, deep blue seas, long swell, fluffy white clouds, cool breeze, warm sunshine. It feels like a very temperate climate.

So we are fishing (no luck so far), reading, standing our three hour watches, enjoying Emily's cooking day and, in my case, trying to do a series of crew sketches. Here's my first and second attempts.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Goosewinged westwards

We set our sails with Genoa poles out and goosewinged with the staysail and main. Hiva Oa is 1400 miles directly downwind and at this pace arrival on 12th April is possible.

Yesterday I felt exhausted and cold, and after lunch retired to bed shivering and covered myself with the duvet to warm up. Heatstroke maybe? I was relieved of my 21-24:00 watch and allowed to sleep all night, waking this morning with a renewed joie de vivre.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thirteen thousand Tin Tin miles

Today we reached 13,000 miles sailed since we took on Tin Tin. Nearly ten thousand since leaving Gosport and a quarter more of that round Britain. At least 25,000 miles to get home!

Gigantic Sea Creature!

Update ! The huge fish-shaped sea monster passed close astern on radar. (See photo)

I wondered if it was a blue whale, or a whale shark or probably a species as yet unknown.....but st over two miles long?!

Then I remembered French reports of these unbelievably large fish seen at the beginning of April.

They call them Poissons d'Avril

In English this translates as

......


April Fool !

Massive Deep Sea Monster

It's 30 minutes into April and I am concerned to find that Tin Tin is being shadowed by a huge fish-shaped creature which shows up on the radar. (See picture)

Any idea what it might be!?!?

Answers before midday Pacific time (GMT-7) on the back of an email to Paul@myiridium.net please! That's assuming we haven't been devoured by the largest whale evver recorded. !

Midnight 31 March. 09 46.17'S 110 03.29'W

Back on watch at midnight, taking over from Justin, who I find dressed in foul weather gear in anticipation of rainstorms - all so far missed. Wind is back up at 27-28 knots ESE and we are making good speed with a max of 9.9 tonight. Keep this up and we'll be there in 8 days!

It's been an uneventful day, no fishing, no visitations from the deep, and few birds.

One fix today when graunching noises came from the boom and we found the boom bang working loose at the foot of the mast. Fortunately I have the equipment to replace missing rivets quickly.

I'd made contact with St Mawes Sailing Club to update the yearbook and had a nice response from Michael Garside who had sailed the same route in 1980-82. We are following a well worn wake,of corse, but no less a challenge for all that.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Emily on watch for whales

Moonless nights

Coming on watch at 3am today and it's very dark. Cloud obscuring much of the starlight. There was a Moon in the early evening lighting a silver path westwards. The red glow of the compass and the figures on the chart plotter seem to be all there is. One has to cover them up to let ones eyes adjust to the night and the starlight take over. I like to stand on the seat looking out over the roof of the Bimini sunshade with all the boat lights excluded, looking at the stars and keeping watch for the lights of a fishing vessel Rare event!

Our course taking us south towards latitude 10degrees S is soon to curve eastwards towards the Marquesas. Then this comfortable wind angle will cease and we will be on a dead run, prone to rolling in the swell much more. An alternative is to hold on further and then tack back up but that increases distance run of course.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Emily at the helm

Sunset Pacific

Sunset

Just finished a wonderful sunset supper of dorado in lime and chilli en papillote with chilli and ginger
noodles thanks to Emily. The sky is clear to the west and the sun is setting on cue at 6pm. Bananas from the, now yellow, stalk hanging in the dinghy have been picked for pudding.

I'm feeling very satisfied with today's problem solving. After the total power failure we successfully devised and implemented a solution. Then after another hour investigating the freezer I found and fixed various bad connections and hard wired the cooling pump to get round a bad relay. To our joy it is now below zero and appears to be continuing to cool nicely. Had we fixed it before it could have been full of ice-cream!

Meanwhile thanks for some enjoyable emails today. We must be on the remotest part of the planet here and yet somehow these friendly words get to us via satellite.

Plotting our position

Justin plotting our position to determine our daily run. Yesterday we managed 185nm. Today we are at 08 30'S 105 16'W at 10.00 am (17:00 GMT) and have run 183nm. Very consistent.

TinTin goes dark!

The power has been rather intermittent in the last day since hot wiring the freezer. Last night the nav equipment kept cutting out and finally all power in the boat failed at 05:00 when Justin was on watch. He hand steered to the compass illuminated by head torch.

Investigation showed that the main battery isolator switch, which I'd identified as being faulty earlier, no longer transmitted power through it.

Once dawn had broken. Mark and I bypassed the switch using two old battery terminals which I'd bolted together to provide enough terminals to carry all the wires. The negative side of the switch still functions so has been left connected.

Geronimo! Power restored and we have our fifth crew member, George, back at the helm. Now I hope that Anne can bring out a spare switch in her hand baggage in two weeks time.

Meanwhile we put our clocks back an hour last night to bring dawn and dusk back to six o'clock. Every fifteen degrees west we will do it again.

The crew have voted for stricter recycling so tin cans no longer go over the side- only paper and food waste. I'm clearly a dinosaur :-)

It's proving to be great to have so many email correspondents- thank you! Paul@myiridium.net

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dorado for supper

The wind has been excellent for two days now and we are making 8-10 knots The South Equatorial Current which is meant to speed us along has been against us, but today finally turned in our favour. If we kept up this pace we'd be in Hiva Oa in 7-10 days or so, but I fear that there are large windless areas ahead.
Mark and i tried to Hotwire the freezer today, thanks to an emailed idea from George Taylor, Although the voltage is better at the compressor it hasn't improved the cooling yet. Frustrating!

Justin reeled in another, much bigger dorado today, which I despatched with a winch handle and filleted on the aft deck. I'm going to revert to anaesthetising fish with a squirt of rum as I've had to wash my shirt and shorts which were covered in blood spatters. However it is a lovely fish to eat and I served it for supper baked with lemon and silk in a bag. Along with paprika potato wedges and canned peas. Our stalk of bananas is suddenly ripening and they are lovely short sweet ones. Perfect for breakfast and pudding. The challenge is to eat fresh stuff fast enough before it goes off and slowly enough to lady as long as possible.

I'm writing this on watch at 9pm roaring along in the pitch black. Out to my left the Milky Way is bright with the Southern Cross prominent. Perhaps the clouds are clearing. Last night Emily called me from my bunk at 01:40 as we were on collision course with a fishing vessel. First boat we've Sen for days! We alters course to port and passed within half a mile. Don't know if they saw us as they powered along at 14knots towards Costa Rica.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Trade Winds at last!

Day 5- Tues. 28 March 17 21:00

At last. We have found the Trade Winds and all day have Ben getting used to driving along heeled over. Emily caught a dorado today and Justin served up a Mediterranean fish stew for supper.

Otherwise not much to report apart from silver shoals of flying fish bursting from the waves as we approach No whales today and very few birds. We seem to have lost the lovely Galapagos petrel which swooped swallow-like across the sea.

We altered course to 250M. Heading for our next waypoint 985 miles ahead. Tonight we are making 8.5-10.5 knots through the darkness, and I'm just watching the wind in case it rises much above 25-27knots at which point I will reef.

If we maintain good speed for the next week then even if we hit windless areas again we should still be able to make our deadline by motoring. Just !

a few photos

Marks Birthday breakfast and ukulele piñata.
Rainstorm in the Doldrums.
Becalmed sunset

Day 5 - 27 March 2017.

The trade winds looked as though they had arrived this morning, but later on we entered a zone peppered with rain storms like giant mushrooms and the breeze came and went. Forecasts show its only a day ahead now.

Mark spotted short finned pilot whales today and I managed to get some reasonable photos. Then Emily spotted something jumping, which Justin confirmed was a big black and white manta ray.

Otherwise I spent time trying to diagnose the freezer, and after much testing found that the main isolator switch between batteries and all the equipment must be corroded, because it had 12.7volts coming in from the batteries, but only 12.5 volts going out! Felt a bit seasick after two hours of that, but recovered after a snooze on deck. Tomorrow I will consider swapping the isolator switch with the new one we installed for the engine.

Mark on cook duty tonight produced a delicious spaghetti dish with breaded chicken goujons, topped off with rice pudding. However our new cooking rota needs to be revised, because not all are happy with cooking overlapping with their 18:00-21:00 watch.

Meanwhile despite our best efforts it's another day without catching a fish!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Day 4

I came on watch at 06:00 this morning and baked bread, which turned out well. The smell of fresh bread is very pleasing to the soul!

Not enough wind to sail again to day, and we motor steadily SE across an oily swell from the south, crossed by shorter wavelength waves from the Southeast. Surprisingly we saw several large loggerhead turtles close by. Fishing success - zero!

Justin and I refilled the diesel tanks from our jerrycans using 78 litres after 42 hours motoring. That is 1.9 litres per hour, which gives us about 1500 miles range. I hope we don't need to use all that! The weather forecast indicates that there is wind about 400 miles ahead, but that it is moving away from us. With luck we will find the trade winds on Tuesday 29th.

Emily produced a tour de force for supper with falafel, couscous, chickpea and tomato salsa, homemade hommous, and a richly coloured beetroot and cabbage pickle with a hint of chilli.

I had another go at the freezer and, poking around with the multimeter, I discovered a connection that was very loose. The filters were also very clogged with marine growth. After fixing these the freezer started working in an encouraging way, but now that I am back on watch at at four a.m. It has given up again.

However the good news is that there is enough wind to sail, and it's wonderful to have the engine off at last. The night is dark without a moon, and the Milky Way is a bright swirl of light across the sky, with the Southern Cross prominent on the chest of the Centaur and the Plough almost dipping into the sea to the north. Our phosphorescent wake is as bright as the Milky Way.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Day 3 - 25th March 2017. Happy Birthday William!

Emily was on watch last night when the wind finally picked up enough to sail and the motor went off. In my berth the sudden quiet made me feel very happy, and the chuckle of water lapping along next to me sent me back to sleep.

Next morning we were sailing nicely at 7 to 8 knots heading SW, but with dramatic blue-black tropical rainstorms ahead. As we got closer the northerly wind went south, and so we were struggling to sail in the direction we wanted. Our track showed us being forced ever away from our course northwards or then again south and east. We eventually rolled the Genoa and motored SE at 5 knots, hoping to get out of these doldrums by Tuesday 28th.

During the day we had two new visitors. First I spotted a fin in the water, which is the first shark we have seen whilst sailing. Later I called Mark to try to get a photo of a new bird, which had the head colours of a Pomerine Skua, which migrates through this region from Antarctic to Arctic and back!

We are running out of topics of conversation, and ended up having a long involved and ultimately circular argument about how best to implement the cooking rota. Final outcome was that the person on watch from 18:00-21:00 prepares lunch when they come off watch at noon, and cook supper to be served at 18:00 before the sun sets.

Tonight I cooked, using half our remaining fresh chicken, still cool in the failing freezer, served hot pimiento chicken served with savoury sliced pommes dauphinoise. We ate at table in the cockpit while the sun set flaming through archways of gold, reflected in a glittering gold sea. For pudding i produced a hot banana, apple and oat cake. Having washed up, and cleared away for the night I am now back on watch till nine pm. It's easy to think we are alone out here, but yesterday I was surprised to see the bright lights of a fishing vessel 3 miles away almost 500 miles from Ecuador.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Peaceful Pacific & Mark's Birthday party

I'm on night watch from 9pm till midnight tonight, and catching up with a brief blog posting.

We have been motoring no stop since we left Santa Cruz yesterday at 14:00, keeping the revs below 1200 rpm maximise fuel efficiency. As night fell we were passing between the islands of Isabella to starboard and Floreana to port, with the current adding 1.5 knots to our speed. We have had all sail set to try to catch the very slight breeze, an d eventually today it was reaching 10 knots and the sails stopped slatting.

Mark had a birthday breakfast with balloons, thanks to Emily, and got rather a lot of chocolate presents! Emily also produced a couple of surprises at teatime - a delicious freshly baked chocolate cake and a piñata shaped lie a ukelele! With that, and a salsa Cd from me we had quite a party !

Our slow day across the gently rolling swell was enlivened by occasional bird visitors: boibies, black headed laughing gulls, a skua, a tropic bird. We also had leaping manta rays, sea lions and some dolphins that seemed to get higher above the horizon than seems physically possible. I thought that 120 miles from land was quite surprising for the sealions.

We refilled the main diesel tanks with 58litres from our deck jerrycans, and I was reassured to fund that we are indeed using about 1 litre per hour at low revs. Giving a range of about 3000 miles at this slow 5 knot pace which would take us to the Marquesas in about 24 days if the wind refused to blow.

At sunset Justin produced an excellent Thai chicken dish with noodles, followed by fresh pineapple, and then once darkness had fallen Mark constructed a fire ship from the remains of the cardboard piñata and other packaging, and set his flaming creation off astern where it rose and fell over the swell burning with a cheerful light for a long time. Most satisfying!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sharks!

We took a diving trip to the north of Santa Cruz yesterday, and Justin and I snorkelled while Emily dived with SCUBA. She had a fantastic encounter with 15 hammerheads and white tip sharks. Justin and I felt rather left out but did see a couple of small white tips far below us, so that box is now ticked!

Driving back through torrential rain with the roads cut across by brown floods we also saw that the beware of tortoises signs were accurate as several large ones were lumbering around at the roadside.

I had an appointment with our agent Ricardo Arenas, who had produced our "zarpe" allowing us to exit for the Marquesas. It has been a frustrating experience on Galapagos and I explained the urgent need for better agent support to avoid wasted days whilst visiting.

Then this morning we went to get our passports stamped by immigration and I decided to buy more Jerry cans of diesel as the wind is forecast to be so light for the next weeks. Then we ran into problems as I can't buy diesel without a permit which will take another day. Ricardo proposes to help, so we will see whether that is possible before we set sail.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Mayday!

En route to Santa Cruz last night we received an AIS Mayday message as dawn broke over little SantaFe island I contacted a small local cruise boat who came out to search, although they had not received it. It kept being repeated and finally the position was that of a boat at anchor in a bay. The cruise boat went to investigate, but after about two hours we reckon it was an error in their AIS system (or ours perhaps). The Santa Fe gremlins also stopped our speed working, then our GPS. There's a strong magnetic anomaly there. Mystery!

In Santa Cruz we completed formalities all over again and then went off to visit the Darwin Research Centre a mile or so out of town. Excellent trails through cactus forest and then lots and lots of giant tortoises plus hundreds of babies. Most impressive breeding programme. We found the Van Straelen Centre which looked as though it was being refurbished. Unlike Darwin there was no information about cousin in law Raymond"s Great Great Uncle which was puzzling.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Pictures through Panama to Las Perlas islands

Tin Tin's new blue antifouling before the Panama Canal
Through the Canal

The Las Perlas Islands ahead

Emily's Birthday breakfast on board

The Birthday Girl

We left a log with our signature on it in Las Perlas Islands


Friday, 17 March 2017

Some Galapagos pictures at last

It's been difficult to put photos in my log whilst at sea, but here are a few snaps from the Galapagos

Sealions all over the boats in San Cristobal harbour, and on TinTin's stern and Emily's paddle board!

Looks like Emily has already started her yoga teaching!

The most comfortable sea-lion yet!

Mark meets his first iguana

Windless prospect ahead

The weather forecast  for our next leg is looking alarmingly windless.   This is the forecast for the 29th March, when we will have been at sea for 5 days, following the southerly route option I expect.  But what is surprising is that the SE Trade winds have not set in round the Marquesas, so I will have to sail well south of them to get wind, and that could take longer. Given that I have to get Mark to the wedding on time, and that Im meeting Anne in the Marquesas, this makes for a rather nerve-wracking three thousand miles!  

We have just refilled with 230litres of Diesel after our very careful 3 days of economical motoring down from Panama. That's more than half our supply, so something is wrong with the Volvo fuel usage specifications, and our range is much less than i had hoped.  Conclusion: we need the wind!

Iguanas & Sea-lions

The fumigation man arrived at 08:00 and we were banned from the boat for three hours. We set off ashore and found the post office for Emily's Colombian postcards. and then got talking to a French couple, Patrick and Clarisse from Paris, who seemed glad to escape the Americans on the cruise ship and speak French for a while.

Needing to stretch our legs, we then walked out of the village to a beach about an hour away. It was a long road but bounded by interesting plants, with plenty of birds including the smooth-billed ani, and we passed a large mining operation digging out volcanic material. A truck with bales of cardboard waste passed us, but instead of chucking it all in the pit as I'd expected, they turned down the airport track. Perhaps it's flown out!

At the end of a very long straight road we arrived at the coast, bounded by great heaps of black boulders, with the swell breaking on them. Here we began to meet great black iguanas perched on the pitch black volcanic rocks, or on the sandy white path, like black holes absorbing all the purple edged shimmering radiation from a superheated sun. A couple of feet long with a spiny crest and pugnacious face they look quite daunting but sat still long enough for a few quick portraits.

Down on the little sandy beach were sea lions, and Emily swam out to meet large turtles which she videoed. I was trying to sketch when it started to rain lightly so I contented myself watching a marine iguana take to the water.

Then the rain turned tropical and we had a long hour walking in torrents of water back to the port with the roads ankle deep in rivers.

I was expecting a refrigeration engineer at midday so we got back aboard just as the sun came out. Lunch, snooze, tea - no engineer. Mark and Justin swam to shore and back, Emily paddled out to visit a super yacht. (in a charming frock), and I poked around with a multimeter trying to understand the dodgy freezer.

Darkness fell and Emily produced tempura prawns (defrosted for some time) and then a dauphinoise and green beans (also defrosted for some time). Sadly the beans seemed a bit fermented, so those of us who'd enjoyed the prawns awaited any consequences uneasily. (All OK this morning)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Galapagos at last

I was on watch as dawn arrived in a riot of red astern, and there Ahead was San Cristobal, looking low and lumpily volcanic under spectacular clouds lit with the morning firework show.

Then suddenly there was sea life all around with dolphins leaping, Great black manta rays leaping out of the sea or grazing with their black and white wing tips waving like a pair of sharks fins. Later came masses of great turtles, loggerheads probably, and the calm sea was dotted with great dark floating humps, which would wake up to our approach, raise heads onalarm and then dive through clear water ahead of us, easily seen from the bows. Masses of birds swirled around us as we entered Stephens Bay and passed close to a great rock outcrop stained white with the guano of millions of frigate birds and blue faced boobies.

Finally we dropped anchor in Wreck Bay at 11:30. Our agent finally arrived at 15:30 and collected the paperwork. An hour later she returned with Customs, immigration, sanitation, ecologist (with flippers and snorkel), and another naval person in spotless white uniform. After the team had dealt with form filling, signing, stamping with TinTins stamp, diving to check the bottom, inspecting foodstuffs, photographing engine and cabin contents the agent then set about getting me to pay everyone's fees which came to $1420. That included an extra hundred because our fumigation certificate (valid 3 months) was deemed only valid for 1 month because they hadn't used smoke. We also had to dispose of a mango, but I was allowed to eat it, as long as it was done immediately. In addition some of this may have to be repeated for each port we visit in the islands. Now we are allowed ashore - a beer is needed by the captain methinks!

However we found that a sea lion had already taken up residence on our swimming platform and had to be poked off with a broomstick. We then hoist the dinghy to block stern access and caught a water taxi ashore. On the way we passed moored dinghies and fishing boats covered with dozens of sea lions. It's going to be a challenge keeping them off!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Crossing the Line

A day more glassy than before, and I have the strange sense of being on a very long train journey with the carriages rolling at their slowest speed across an endless wasteland of features land covered with snow. The sun rises and adds a rich colour for a while and then gets very hot, and we are grateful for the shade of the Bimini.

At 14:00 Mark suggested that we speed up and get to the Equator before dark. It was 35 miles ahead on our course, so instead I turned due south where it was only 20 miles away, and sped up to 7 knots (using 5 litres an hour vs 1 l/h of diesel), and we got there at 17:00

Then King Neptune (JPS) emerged with Queen Nefertiti (JB) and held court for the two crew who were crossing the line at sea for the first time. First came the indictment of crimes to which the crew must answer. Emily bore up well under the test, and freely admitted guilty as charged for Magic a) walking on water (paddle board) b) strange contortions of the limbs (yoga) and c) using magical ingredients when cooking (quinoa, miso, pomegranate molasses)

Mark then faced charges of Miscalculation a) supporting a yellow football team (the Canaries) b) always leaving his greens c) stating that 2 biscuits are really only 1 biscuit

The candidates were then allowed to compete for King Neptune's favour by eating three Communion Crackers (Jacobs Cream), the first being able to say "Aye Aye Sir" being awarded a special prize. In this case Mark, as the winner, was awarded a fork and an open tin of spinach to eat. It didn't go down well, or at all actually.

Then it came to the Anointing of the Chosen Ones, and Queen Nefertiti supplied a wonderful jug of Nefertiti's 'Normous Noodles mixed with old watermelon which was liberally applied to the novices. They were then hosed down with the deck-wash seawater pump and allowed to dive into the South Pacific (or in Emily's case to paddle board round Tin Tin.) followed shortly afterwards by the Royal Couple. Fortunately the trail of 'Normous Noodles in the water didn't bring a flurry of fins, and all survived happily.

Justin whipped up a brilliant Spaghetti Bolognese with the last of the thawed fridge contents, and Emily produced a jug of delicious Virgin Pina Colada to toast the occasion.

We motored gently westward along the Equator while we supped, and suddenly I saw a yacht ahead silhouetted against the red of the sunset. A quick call on the radio from "King Neptune" to "Yacht on the Equator" got a response, and I welcomed them to the South Pacific. We were speaking with yacht Telebus from Denmark which is heading the same way.

Now we are motoring on course again and aiming to be in Wreck Bay tomorrow morning to start our next phase of exploration.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Doldrums

Monday 13th March 01 51.2' N 86 74.6'W.
We finally had to give up sailing yesterday evening as the wind died away and we slowed down from a useful 5.5 knots to about 2 or 3. So the motor is on, trundling at the lowest speed possible to conserve precious fuel, and yet to achieve 5+ knots to get us there by midday on the 15th. I have a week planned in Galapagos, and aim to leave on the 22nd of the wind doesn't pick up as we could easily have to motor a couple of hundred miles south to find the SE Trades.

This morning the blue ocean stretches as far as the ease can see under a cloudless blue sky. The water is lightly rippled by a teasing breeze of 4-6 knots, which would ultimately get us to our destination if we allowed it to, but at no more than 2 knots it would take a 5 days rather than 2 more. Slow swells roll up from the south resting an ever mobile landscape.man occasional flash of white at the periphery of vision makes me think that there a dolphin or some other creature to enliven our day, but usually it is a little ripple that has a aspired to be a wave and collapsed in a tiny splash of foam.

Life on board is relaxed, Mark and Justin sitting below reading. Emily has just surprised me by doing my washing - a task I had planned yesterday, but which got postponed through sloth- which is now hung out windward providing welcome shade in the cockpit as the sun rises.

Our freezer has been behaving very oddly for a few weeks, and has now stopped working. So we are having to eat our way through defrosted chicken, mince, vegetables and ice cream. Most disappointing. I made a good crusty meat pie for supper yesterday served with potatoes (4 mins in Rosalind's pressure cooker) and finished off with pudding if melted chocolate ice-cream and tinned apricots.

I have been reading a Guide to the Galapagos which I found in the marina book exchange in Cartagena some weeks ago. The author Pierre Constant is a geologist and naturalist, but his account of the social history was the bit I found gripping! For example, in 1929 a strange German doctor, Friedrich Rittmer, and his assistant, Dore Strauch, asked to be dropped off on the deserted island of Floreana. There they set about making a home and creating a cosmogony can orchard so they could, live there according to their vegetarian and other philosophical ideas. The regular papers written by the doctor about his ideas and their experiences stimulated a lot of interest in Europe and the "Robinson Crusoes" of Floreana became much visited by luxury yachts. Then in 1932 the Wittmers, a German farming family, arrived with their poliomyelitic son, and joined in. Finally a Baroness von something arrived with her two lovers, Lionel and Philipson, and announced that she was going to build a millionaires' hotel. The resulting shack of wood and corrugated iron, "The Hacienda Paraiso" was all she managed, but she then announced herself as the Empress of Floreana and tried to rule the other inhabitants with gun and whip! Then she and Philipson vanished without trace and Lionel, who had probably conspired with the others to murder them, escaped the island in a small boat with a Norwegian sailor, but was wrecked on another island where they died of thirst and were found mummified on the beach. Next the doctor died, reputedly from a poisoned chicken given by his lover, although they were strict vegetarians. She returned to Germany and wrote a book called "Satan came to Eden" about the events, before she fell to the curse of Dr. Rittmer. However, Margaret Wittmer from the farming family continued to live there with her children, wrote a bestselling book, "Floreana Poste Restante" and died aged 96 in the year 2000, never revealing the full truth of the strange events. I must try to get those stories on my Kindle!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Riding a tongue of wind

Saturday 11th March 2017
An uneventful day with a scattering of flying fish at dawn when Emily came on watch, and then no sign of sea life all day. The forecast is for a tongue of wind pushing over the peaks of Darien from the Caribbean towards the Galapagos. We've had two good days speeding along our course, with the current generally giving us a boost in the right direction.

However when I cam on watch at midnight, to see in the first three hours of Sunday, it was clear that our tongue was giving out. The heady days of 8 knots have gone for now, and we are creeping down towards 5.5 knots beyond which I will have to consider motoring. The forecasts, if right, indicate a complete lack of wind for our last two days, so the "iron donkey" will be used. There's a dated phrase, very much in keeping with the sea stories that I've been reading. I downloaded The Sea Story MegaPack onto the Kindle before departing and have been gripped by great adventures from the age when sail was being challenged by steam. Whatever the adventure, the writing of its time gives an insight into the lives of people who depended on the sea, whether as fishermen in Newfoundland or merchant seamen, whalers or sealing vessels. Hard lives and gripping stories, and for the last day I have barely stopped reading except to stand watch and eat. It makes our own journey seem luxu
rious, and yet at the same time we share the same exposure to calms, storms, currents, rocks and sea creatures.

Emily kindly did my supper duty tonight as I was feeling a bit seasick from too much reading! For lunch I'd made Lake Soup in the pressure cooker that Rosalind gave us, but thanks to Emily supper was superb, with Justin's fresh caught tuna marinaded in ginger, coated in black and white sesame seeds and seared in the pan. Served atop noodles with a mango, onion, red pepper and chill salsa it tasted great! Pudding was peaches and melted vanilla ice cream.

Our freezer has been driving me mad with its intermittent operation, and having spent the last few days holding a very respectable minus twelve, it has now stopped working unless the generator is running. Careful monitoring hour after hour show that voltage is not the issue, so I am baffled. Now we need to eat up the mince, chicken and ice cream that we bought I. Panama.

The last hour of the day was a sudden flurry of activity. A ship, the Dole Atlantic, steaming up from Ecuador to Costa Rica came within half a mile of our stern, and ten miles before that I spoke to the man on watch to confirm that they could see us on AIS. After days without contact, it was reassuring to see the ship going about its business, but a reminder that we are very alone out here. The other yacht that we saw astern on Friday has vanished, and we guess that we've left her 15-20 miles behind when the wind picked up..

After supper, in the dying pink of the day, the sea was suddenly leaping with dark dolphin shapes as forty or so came speeding to us from every direction in a great cavorting mob. They were almost 6 ft long and had a pale speckled band from their eyes down to the belly and then curving up over the tail. A great excitement as we crowded to the bows together to watch the games played beneath our forefoot!

Now that we are out of phone range and WhatsApp doesn't work I rather miss the contact with everyone. It would be great to get email from you at paul@myiridium.net. This satellite system works well for text emails, but please don't include large attachments like photos otherwise it can take many hours to download.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Out into the great Pacific!

We set sail on Thursday from Las Perlas across the gulf of Panama on a direct route towards the Galapagos. Not much breeze initially but it strengthened nicely, and with the tide we made 8-9 knots in the right direction, passing the islands of Pedro Gonzales and privately owned San Jose. There we spotted humpback whales a mile or so away, with their characteristic tail lift and flash of white underside.

About midnight I was on watch and we were passing the cape on the west side of the gulf, and heading across the traffic separation lanes into open ocean. The wind held and so did the currents so that in bright moonlight and flat calm sea we were gliding along at a surprising speed.

Whe I came on wth again at 06:00 to relieve Justin I was lucky to spot a pod of 5-6 whales curving through the water a hundred yards away, silhouetted beautifully against the shiny calm pink water of dawn. They had blunt squareish heads and modest rounded dorsal fins, and may have been pilot whales or false killer whales.

During the day the wind slowly eased away, and we poled out the Genoa as the breeze backed more and more dead astern. We had several encounters with high leaping dolphins, who didn't seem interested in TinTin, but were intent on hunting. Why they leap so far out of the water is a mystery.

We also had a meeting with a small pod of big pilot whales with very characteristic rounded hooked dorsal fins and square heads. Emily and Justin also spotted a turtle as big as a car wheel. Bird life is different and sparse as the murky green fish-rich waters give way to clear deep sea blue. We have seen individual white gannet-like boobys, brown skuas, a low wave-hugging shearwater and a tiny fluttery black petrel.

The wind died away and I started the engine so that we would arrive in Galapagos around the 15/16th to give us enough time before we have to leave for the Marquesas on 22/24th.

About this time I jettisoned the "chocolate butterflies" over the side from the full paper bins in the heads, and made holes in all the tins and lobbed them over to sink in very deep water. It was then that, looking astern as the tins sank in our wake that I spied a sail following us a mile behind. She must have motored up behind us while we were struggling to make headway in the failing breeze, but now we were staying ahead of her. She didn't show up on our AIS, so we had no details of name, radio call sign or speed. The frisson of an unknown vessel astern, and the need to out sail her came over us all, and we half imagined she flew a black Jolly Roger, as we trimmed sail and kept watch to see if she closed us. As night fell and the sea silvered with bright moonlight, we seemed to hold our lead, but my radio calls went unanswered. With five days sailing ahead it will be interesting to know whether we will learn more about our shadow

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Birthday celebration!

Wednesday 8th March 2017. Isla Casaya, Las Perlas.

I was up at 06:00 to make bread for Emily's birthday breakfast, and laid a pretty breakfast table with a clean cloth and twenty or so pink scallop shells, that I'd found on the beach at Mogo Mogo. With cards and little parcels it was a lovely celebration!

We spent a happy morning ashore on Scorpion Beach exploring the rocky headland. The islands are made up off great sheets of sedimentary rock, and in some layers we saw what looked like tree branches. In some higher layers were honeycomb structures and circular mounds that reminded me of stromatolites (ancient bacterial colonies). There are trees growing in clefts in the rock that seem quite happy as the tide comes in several feet up their trunks, and it's a lovely sight as clear water, lit with sunlight washes in under the shady foliage. Justin spotted an iguana (or was it a baby croc) that dashed across the beach into the sea.

Later we stencilled TINTIN onto a plank and stuck it up in a tree, and also stencilled onto the balsa log and outrigger boat. Emily paddled off round the headland into the next bay and was startled to be trailed by a drone. She later met the owners, Tony & Shannon aboard their cat Sweetie and they kindly gave us some of the aerial photos, and a bottle of Shannon's home brew beer. They are about to head north through the canal en route for the Mediterranean.

We surprised Emily I return to the boat with a blue birthday cake. It had originally said Felis Cumpleanos Emily, but it had an accident in the dinghy and the icing stuck to the box. Nonetheless it was enjoyed!

We set out to explore another bay, but it was slow going amongst the reefs, and anchorages were not easily found. Eventually we managed to get the anchor to hold off little Isla Bayona. But felt quite exposed to a fresh wind and waves, and I passed a restless night.

However Thursday morning dawns and all is well. Today e set off for the 850 miles tooth Galapagos. The forecast is for a tongue of wind pushing over from a windy Caribbean to take us about halfway and then we will be in the doldrums.