Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Anne and the Shark Pack


video


Holiday over - now it's Maintenance Week!

Anne finally got a flight back to the UK after frustrating cancellations and delays in Tahiti and then in Los Angeles.  After six wonderful weeks together it's hard to be on my own again. Indeed I felt like jumping on a plane and coming back too, but the schedule is a bit tight to get to Tonga in time for the next crew change, so I had to resist the impulse.

We have sailed together from Hiva Oa, to Ua Pou, then Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas islands, and then for three days to reach the Dangerous Archipelago of the Tuamotos. What a change from volcanic islands of soaring spires to the flat land of the atolls, bounded by a narrow strip of coral and palm trees sheltering lagoons that  can be twenty miles across.

After visiting Manihi, Ahé, Apataki, Toau and Fakarava we set sail again for a few days to Tahiti and neighbouring Moorea, where the two topographies combine to some extent to give mountains encircled by a sheltered lagoon with surf crashing onto a bare reef which has no dry land or palm trees.

We have met lots of people local or transient, and many sailing couples have a lifestyle living on board and slowly exploring together over several years, with regular periods back in their home country. Perhaps we will find time to travel like that later.

Meanwhile work is going reasonably well on getting things back in order.   Thought you'd like to to hear the fun we have in this Pacific paradise!


  1. The generator has been serviced and water pipe replaced.  Needs a new water pump that the next crew will have to bring out. 
  2. Sails have gone off for minor repairs.
  3. New nav lights have been wired in by Mark
  4. Both outboard motors have been serviced as they weren't starting or running smoothly.
  5. The bow thruster failure diagnosed as two failed batteries.  Being replaced today.
  6. Our mid-Pacific mended electrical system has now had two new switches fitted.
  7. The freezer which had been only managing -5degrees C has been regassed by fridge people, and is now heated up to +27degrees C! They have to come back...... 
  8. I fixed a load of appalling electrical connections for the freezer, which explains why it turned on and off.
  9. My iPhone died completely - so cheap(ish) Android phone acquired and expensive pay as you go credit installed.  I can now contact local workmen successfully.....phew!  You can call me on +689 87278645 if you need to....doesn't cost me anything I think, but it will be expensive from Europe!!!!


Oh yes, having finally found a cafe in Carrefour which gives internet access
I have now fixed the link to Emily's blog on TinTin's page.




Monday, 22 May 2017

Tahiti

We motored out of the pass at Fakarava as the sun set and set sail for Tahiti. Winds were light to start with, so to make sure that we arrived I time meet Julien, we motor sailed the first night til the wind picked up enough to maintain my desired speed. After two nights we woke to find the slopes of the 4000' mountains of Tahiti angling steeply up to left and right into cloud ahead.

As we closed the land it took form and colour, showing deeply ravined valleys, richly covered in vegetation. To our right the land formed a low promontory called Venus Point, where Captain Cook set up his observatory to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the sun to determine the distance between the Earth and sun.

Beyond this the surf broke heavily on the outer reef, beyond which yachts were anchored on flat water. We could see lots of buildings up the lower slopes of the mountain, and much development on the shore line with large rocks ahead. I called Port Control on VHF Ch 12 and was allowed to enter the port behind a fast cat from Moorea. They then told me off for going left towards town quay rather than right to the Marina. I tried my best Polynesian politesse with " Mauru uru!" or thankyou, and then set off round the airport runway, needing a chat with port control at each end so that we could pass safely between flights landing and taking off.

We were lucky to get a place in the marina immediately, and it was a great luxury to be able to walk on and off the boat whenever required, and to have as much electricity and water as we wanted. The row of super yachts was impressive, and when we gate crashed the super yacht crew party that night we learned that Annata had the tallest mast in the world until last year, when a newer yacht took the record. We met a nice skipper, Fabien, and some hospitable crew who plied us with punch and small eats. It seemed that none of the aches were put out to charter, and all hung endlessly in port awaiting the whim of the owner. One Maltese deckhand, Luke, said that they had waited for 9 months for orders in San Diego. The owner had only been on board for three days in 14 months. They never put up the mainsail unless the owner was on board, for fear of damaging it, and in any wind over about 25 knots would have to take sail down. Every time they sailed they broke things it seemed. It
became a 9-5 job, endlessly polishing the boat, waiting for the owner to call.

Next day we explored Papeete a bit, and found it a charming town along the harbour front with a dual carriageway boulevarde shaded with mature trees. It seemed to have every kind of shop available. One evening we returned to visit the roulottes, which are food vans, twenty of which form a well organised open air food market in the evenings, with well laid out grid of dining tables under pretty lights. The range of food was impressive with a preponderance of Chinese, but also grilled meats, traditional burgers or galettes. We settled for Chinese, and I had one of the national dishes - chow mein.

Anne and I took the dinghy out to the reef, and came across a great Saturday party where boats anchored along the calm inner dege, and people partied in waist deep water on sand. Barbecues were set up, each on a singles spike driven into the ground, music pounded from big speakers, and young and old boogied in the clear aquamarine water. Surfers were paddling Cross the lagoon to the breakers. and one hitched aloft with us and we drove him out to the edge of the break.

We hired a car for a day and drove halfway round the island on the thin strip of flatland between the sea and the impressively steep mountainsides cleft with deep vertical ravines, all clothed in mature rain forest. We stopped at Vaiapu to see the water gardens. Here a sacred waterfall roars down into a pool, and here the legend of the conversion of a spirit into man is rooted. We enjoyed the gardens through which the clear waters from the falls meander in streams and pools, overhung with massive trees, giant ferns, bamboos and palm trees. We climbed a steep trail up the mountain to a viewpoint 200 metres above the plain which gave excellent views of the lagoon, and the lower island Tahiti Iti. In flips flops the muddy path and steep slippery steps were rather a challenge, but thankfully there was a new installation of thick rope handrails which stopped us skidding off the cliff. At the bottom we washed our feet below the waterfall, slightly nervous about the four foot l
ong eel that came fearlessly to investigate as soon as we entered the water. It reminded us that when we swam in the waterfall pool in Fatu Hiva there was something that slithered disconcertingly past us in the water.

The time came to say farewell to Justin, but with the nice thought that he and Siobhan will join us in Tonga soon. Julien arrived and he and Emily spent a few days in an AirB&B nearby. Finally Mark arrived laden with much needed spares - engine mounts for the generator, cooling water hose, navigation lights, deck hatch locks, and all sorts of items that I'd emailed him to get.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Arrival in Papeete

Finally arrived in Tahiti!

Fakarava & South Sea Tales

The atoll of Fakarava offered us a lovely place to it and enjoy the view at La Paillote, which served Breton galettes and Breton cidre on the Sandy shore of the lagoon. Their little dock made it easy to come ashore in the dinghy and wifi meant that we could catch up on communications.
We. Also dropped in at a little art atelier, where the bearded man in nothing but colourful Hawaiian surf shorts showed us his creations of driftwood and shells. His paints glowed on the shel backlit by the sunshine with the blue of the lagoon bright through the split cane sunshades. Nearby Stephanie at Fakarava Yacht Services took in our laundry and rented us bikes for the morning. We cycled out 12km to the end of the atoll by the pass into the lagoon and had a look at the old lighthouse built like a skinny Mayan temple out of coral blocks and concrete.

It's great to be able to read books that relate to the places I am in. Fakarava features in several of Jack London's gripping South Sea short stories, of which I've downloaded 138 onto the Kindle free of charge! He had a huge amount of experience in South Seas trading, the great Klondike Gild Rush, and writes very vividly of the challenges of life in those times. I first came across him in a book of biographies of sea faring authors. His best known book is The Call of The Wild. By chance I then found his name branding an antique Hawaiian surf board in a Galician sea side house where Anne and I stayed with my sister Sarah and Antony in 2016

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Anne's journal of Polynesia :part 2 : the Tuamotus

Of these 70 or so atolls , about half are inhabited : some only with 100 or less residents : these are connected to the bigger world with an airstrip with a weekly flight ( even if only big enough for a ten seater ) and the weekly freighter which moors on the wharf usually near the pass. Tahiti is 100 or so miles away .....2 days sail for us tomorrow. The whole archipelago stretches 1,000 NW to SE.

Each community lives for pearl fishing or copra ( for coconut oil). Tourism had not reached the four islands we have so far visited Manihi, Ahé, Apataki, and Tao, but even this one Fakarava, being the second largest, has only a little more in terms of services: most people come here to dive. We've found a lovely waterside cafe , four bikes to hire to cycle around a good part of the atoll 25 k . Every island "capital" has at least one church : sometimes 3 ( the villages are empty during services, with a really strong delivery through the open windows of hymns and music with drums and guitars ) They are simple but beautiful, and well kept in every case. Every village has shop with a very limited range of anything , and is only is "full" a couple of hours after the boat/ freighter delivery ! There is tremendous activity as these delivery vessels come in once a week : everyone joins in .

Each atoll has one or sometimes 2 "passes" which empty the water to and from the inside lagoon according to the various states of the tide . Because of the speed of the race , it is very tricky to navigate , but after the first, Paul's got increasingly confident though it can be very hairy. The passes are where fish of all sizes congregate and sharks, all for general feeding . Emily has dived in these doing "drift dives " that take you gently through the gorges and currents of the pass. Once inside the pass it is all eyes for coral, as very few channels are marked : again amazing navigation and guts from Paul and Justin jointly to find us the most idyllic anchorages with no one else in sight just off coral reefs for snorkelling . Entering these waters is really only possible in full sunlight otherwise you can't see the changes in colour to alert you to a collision with coral .The quality of the coral has varied in each atoll , but the abundance, range, size, behaviour, and colour of fish is astonishing . In some places the coral seems almost dead , in others live and vibrant. We can only assume a dramatic change of some kind , or that the parrotfish are succeeding in their work of munching it and turning it into a film of sand over everything . You can hear them munching under water , but I guess they can't cull them . They are the loveliest rainbow fish .

Some atolls are so huge, and like a big lake you can't see the other side or the ends : our smaller ones have even so been at least 5 miles radius . As well as the passes , the sea swells in over the coral bank in places along the edge creating a ring of little islands called "Motos". Some of the shacks on the Motos look like Robinson Crusoe's makeshift shelter , others seem more substantial . This applies to the range of houses in every village : some are barely more than sheds and some are well tended buildings and plots . The government (French) supplies everyone initially with materials , but each household has to fund the construction costs and presumably the maintenance thereafter : which explains the variation.
Each main community also has a central building like a "Bastide" built strikingly and strongly on concrete stilts , where everyone shelters for the duration of storms . The last devastating cyclone hit in 1983 , but there have been numerous other storms since .

Tourism has definitely not reached the smaller reefs / islands .Few people are indifferent , most often offer a cheery hello , and sometimes long conversations will ensue . This is how we find out the most , chatting to fisherman on the jetty thus leading us to our pearl farm visit . You can do these on a "tour " in the larger Islands.

There are no harbour dues, no landing fees, but when we've moored against a wharf , eventually a good many people rock up to chat ( for hours ) ! Always a good source of local information and gossip , using the ubiquitous tricycle as a platform for conversation. These wonderful vehicles ( imported from China and universal here ) provide a seat to chill on and chat , and with baskets on the back to carry produce , a friend , children , dog or simply as a way of getting around the limited lanes and streets of their community.

Many unpushy dogs lounge around , most clearly attached to someone (sacks of dog food available in the shop) . When at Apataki there were several waiting for their owners working at the pearl fisheries just off shore . Cat's not widespread ( we've seen 3 ) and chicken which are wild and endemic everywhere in polynesia . No rats though one hears horror stories of them getting into boats via the mooring ropes . Justin found one nibbling his toe in his bunk 42 years ago on Ahé , so we were not unconcerned especially there, and I've seen the harbour banks at Gosport teaming with them !

Not a lot of bird life , since the trees and vegetation is limited except in bigger Motos ( mostly just coconut palms ) occasional heard beautiful song across the water , diving birds , boobies and noddies. The life here us UNDER the water !

Our pearl fisherman Oro took us to his farm which is a shack on stilts in the middle. of the lagoon . They are all like this except some big enterprises. He showed us each process from start to finish : from seeding and grafting through the four years of an oyster's life : the thrill of extracting a pearl and re seeding the oyster. The pearl culture industry developed in the 1960's , and it was like the gold rush , with some farmers making a huge profit in a very short time . Oro's father earnt 25 times what he earns now , but it is still a good living despite the market dropping out in the 80's. Some employ scores of people , he has 5 . The concession for his plot is not cheap : he has 38 hectares . He explained that the problem was that although the "industry " is regulated , it is chaotic and like any commodity vulnerable to the whims of the international market .

Emily and I have just swum off an idyllic beach : white sand and every shade of blue and Palm fringed : still mindful of the pesky "Nonos"*.We have been reading the pilot guides and advice about sailing the Australian seas: we have all unanimously decided that there can be no greater hostile environment in the world in or out of the water , compared to here where there is nothing unpleasant except for the invisible sandfly* and he is bad enough, but no death ensues.

Tomorrow we sail towards Tahiti and the capital Papeete which promises to be very different as the city capital of Polynesia, but apparently the island itself and those associated in the Society Islands are stunning with the mixture of volcanic peaks surrounded by reefs : the best of both such different worlds put together . However we are braced for the difference between our voyage of exploration in deserted places to meeting a higher density of other boats and more developed communities . This will be the first the sailors have seen since February in Panama. One of Emily's dive group said he saw Obama last week on Moorea who is there writing his memoires, so it's back to "civilisation "!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Generator repair

The generator makes 240volts AC, which recharges the battery and runs things like microwave and washing machine. Most importantly it runs the desalination unit which makes fresh water for us to drink, cook and wash with. One litre of diesel makes 90 litres of water so it is very efficient.

Recently we have been finding the bilges full of water almost up to the floor boards. Dipping a finger in confirmed it was salty sea water. Eventually we found the leak was in the generator. The yellow and black pipe carrying seawater to cool the engine had gone soft and had split the picture shows it squirting vigorously. Yesterday I taped it up as a temporary measure until we got to Papeete, but then the engine overheated and cut out. Today we set about fixing this and cutout the soggy bit of tube and re routed it so that it would still fit. When I cut the tube you could see that it had collapsed and almost blocked the cooling water flow. Justin did a great job in a confined space refitting the pipe and now it's working well again. B

But before all that took place we hired bikes and rode about 12km along coral trails along the thin atoll to the pass where we sailed through. On the way we passed the airport with its runway sandwiched between the sea and the lagoon. An old lighthouse but of coral blocks has been replaced by a red and white tower with solar powered lights.

This evening Justin treated us to a lovely fish supper at a little place with a terrace over the lagoon. We were the only guests served by a family team including a RéRé, a large man dressed S a woman.
Beneath us reef sharks, 4-5feetling swirled like extra in a Bond movie, but were then chased away by a dog which leapt into the water.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Sharing Toau atoll.

We slipped into Toau atoll to total mirror calm yesterday afternoon . But as we came down the coast we were shocked to find four yachts already in residence. We chose another area miles away and anchored in blissful isolation but within 30 minutes two more boats arrived and anchored near us. Then this morning we found a small cruise ship anchored in the pass. Clearly we are approaching tourist land, and will look back with nostalgia on these special places that we had to ourselves

Friday, 12 May 2017

Signs of change

We moored alongside a concrete wharf in the southern village on Apataki. Strolling around in the evening, we came across a dozen children playing noisily in the light blue waters of the shallow harbour, with one or two fishing skiffs moored bow to the low concrete waterside. The small boat harbour lies in a shallow side lagoon off the main pass, with a couple of pearl industry shacks on stilts on the edge of the deep water. As we approached one or two of the boys began throwing big black Sea cucumbers at us, like huge slugs or outsized rotten bananas. It felt really unwelcoming and threatening even though they were only 8-10 year olds. It was the first sign of foreigners being unwelcome. We've seen a few children who are amazed at our beards (Justin and I that is). The adults here seemed much less interested in us that in Ahé or Manihi too. People are polite though. I set out last night looking for a recycling bin for all our tins. Every house has net receptacles on the roadside made from pearl fishing materials for plastics, glass and tins, o,us bags of green waste, and things like old scrap metal or wood are piled separately for collection. No public bins existed so I asked at a house and they let me use their bins.

Today, Friday 12th May dawned calm and after a six o'clock breakfast we set sail out through the pass, narrowly escaping contact with coral thanks to the pearl fishermen who yelled at us just before I went out a dangerous way between coral heads. We motor sailed into a light headwind for 40 miles to reach the atoll of Toau, where we anchored in mirror calm conditions off white coral and coconuts. Looking across the lagoon was like a vast infinity pool on the edge of the world, glassy surface for miles, with one or two tiny islands at the far side, but most impressive was the view of the six foot swell rearing up and curling in great white breakers to crash on the coral, yet with impossibly still water right up to the inner edge.

Mysteries abound and today's surprises were the failure of our depth metre and the speed and distance log. Dismantled again, but no apparent problems I could fix. Then wondering if they had got submerged in the bilges I lifted a floor board to find water almost up to the top!. Where is it coming from? Are we sinking? Last time I looked was 8 days ago, so we will have to check daily. Once the water had been pumped out the depth meter started working again, but the log/ speed is a mystery!

The second surprise was when we refilled the diesel tanks from our deck-borne fuel cans. For over 50 hours of motoring and 50 hours of motoring at high speed we only needed 280 litres, so that our fuel consumption seems like only 60% of the published figures, giving 3.1 instead of 5 litres per hour for the engine and just 1 litre per hour for the genset instead of 1.9 published.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Apataki

Tin Tin tied up to the pearl farm wharf with dogs keeping the rats off :-) or waiting for their owners to return from work across the water

Lovely flower gardens and tin shacks, little winding sandy lanes, views through palm trees to blue lagoons ( through rain!)

Ahé alongside

Tin Tin moored at the wharf in Ahé. The first time alongside since Shelter Bay, Panama.

Locals chatting on trikes, having spent lots of time alongside TinTin chatting to us.

Stuck in port-Wind on the nose

Yesterday we were anchored in the north of Apataki atoll in clear blue water 60' deep, and after doing maintenance went snorkelling in on nearby coral heads. Turns out to be the best we've had so far. At last the coral seems alive and well with a huge variety of fish. Elsewhere it's been mostly dead. I even saw a reef shark and swam vigorously after it filming with the GoPro.

There are constant repair challenges on TinTin. Making do with the assortment of kit on board can feel quite like Scrapyard Challenge or Apollo Thirteen. Latest is that the anode on the prop has almost disintegrated since installation mid Feb in Panama. The last one was barely corroded when we changed it in Feb, having been installed in Sept. Luckily Justin spotted it was loose, and then discovered it had lost a bolt. Amazingly I found a substitute with same thread, but longer shank, but a couple of nuts allowed us to tighten it. Justin was very courageous at diving down and removing the old one and fitting the new one. We hung a bucket over the prop to catch any bits that fell off. I tried doing it, but felt claustrophobic pressed up under the hull, with my mask askew and filling with water.

More frustratingly the speed/ log goes off unexpectedly so we don't know how fast or far we travel. Dismantled that, but no sign of a problem. However not solved. When dead I need to tap it hard with three fingers on top and it reboots. Most frustrating!

Then the aft heads won't pump to the holding tank but go direct to sea, which is inappropriate in harbours. Disassembled entire toilet, found all pipes and valves thickly crusted with calcium deposits. Valve handle had been forced and cheesed off so it didn't turn the valve. Cleaned it all down one lovely hot sunny day while the girls sunbathed, and it now works again!

We have been having northeasterly winds till last night, when it's gone southeast and right on the nose to our next destinations - Fakarava atoll. Pouring with rain and blowing hard with a 2 metre swell breaking in great white spray over the coral reef, so unusually we are sat in port, tied up to a pearl farm wharf. Opposite us are twenty people working hard in an open building on stilts in the lagoon, hauling up strings of young oysters, cleaning them, drilling holes in the shells, restringing them and hanging them in fresh net bags to go back for fattening up before grafting black pearl material to generate oysters.

Anyway the challenges remain, but I only have to look outside to see that I am in the most fantastic place. In fact we have to keep reminding each other not to take it for granted!

BLACK PEARL, THE DECLINING JEWEL OF THE TUAMOTUS

Black Tahitian pearls were once the black gold of the Tuamotus. Though farming officially began in the 1960s, the industry didn't have the technology to make it viable till the 1980s. For the next decade and a half, the world market price for these 'rare' pearls was so high that many farmers became ridiculously rich ridiculously fast. By the year 2000, so many farmers had begun mass-producing that the market became saturated and prices began to drop. With very little centralisation or government organisation, the future of pearling now looks bleak. The Tahitian pearls that are 'farmed' are cultured; a cultured pearl is created by an operation called a graft. This culturing process takes approximately four years from the time the first oyster spawn are collected to the harvest of those oysters' first pearls.

For more information on pearl grafting, go to www.pearl-guide.com/tahitian-pearl-farming.shtml.

Lonely Planet Guide

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Ahé's Old Sea Dogs!

Old Sea Dogs....
We arrived off the pass into Ahé at 15:00 as planned, and Justin helmed us into the lagoon. It felt wide and clear, and as it was,high water there was only a knot of current against us. The channel to the village crosses the lagoon for 5.5 miles and there are red and green beacons on the main coral heads making for an easy passage. The pilot book suggests anchoring off the village in 12 fathoms (24 meters) which is a bit beyond the scope of your chain, and so when e saw a Swedish yacht, Tina Princess, moored alongside we took the other side of the wharf. We were soon tied up and welcomed by an old man in a red T-shirt called Eric, who cycled over for a chat. No sign of a harbour master.

Ashore we wandered the concrete streets and found everything seemed less well cared for than in Manihi. There are apparently three shops, one of which is a snack bar. Everything seemed very deserted on Sunday night, but we came across a group of men sat by a field who each held a bundle of spears with sharpened steel points. They were out for a practice session before the inter-island competition of coconut spearing. The coconut sits atop a thirty foot pole, and the teams aim to stick spears into it. I was invited to cast a spear but the length of my throw was pathetic, and they told me I was too old! As we watched the three men launched their spears, rather like billiards cues, toward the lone coconut, behind which the moon had risen brightly. One man got two in, and the others one each.

Back at the quayside people gathered to chat, sat astride their tricycles. Wilson, an effeminately dressed ReRe, was most chatty and as Emily got supper easy to eat on deck, we became uncomfortable with the prospect of eating in company, but like all polite people they said goodnight and Bon appetit when we sat down to eat.

The next day we found the shop open, and terribly sparsely stocked, except for pumpkins and potatoes which we bought. Bread only comes occasionally from the bakery in Manihi on the inter atoll supply boat, Dory.

Justin and I took the rubbish and recycling to the public repository, and then walking back to the boat we spotted an old man in a pink thirst and camouflage sun hat hobbling across to intercept us. It turned out that this bearded, toothless old man was an American called Bill, who lived here with his adopted daughter and son in law. He had come by boat and reckoned he'd been here the years. Then it transpired that he'd met his wife in Manihi in 1975 and had been in Ahé for the Bastille Day feast that Justin had attended, when the visiting yachtsmen had been guests of honour. Bill had then sailed off with his new wife in his 32 foot yacht, Gallant, to Hawaii for 8 years where they'd lived working in boat yards and fisheries. Now back in Ahé cared for by family he was very impressed with French healthcare, which sent a special plane to take him to Papeete when he broke his leg in September. Not something he would experience in America as a poor uninsured citizen.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Pearls!

We were collected in a big fast workboat by the mayor's son, Oro, and his mate Norbay and sped across the lagoon to a collection of sheds on stilts in the middle. Here we were shown the skilful process of farming pearls. They hauled cages out of the deep clear and Norbay pulled out a rope of old looking oyster shells, cut them off , and then opened them a crack and nested half a plastic clothes peg to keep them open. The tray of prepared shells was passed to Oro, who chose one with the right colour mother of pearl , and opened it. From this he cut a thin strip of the lip which secretes the pearl. This was carefully cleaned and then chopped into 2mm wide squares.

I had always thought that pearl farmers popped a grain of sand into the oysters and then had to wait many years for a pearl. However, Oro showed us the technique learnt from his father, who in turn had learnt from the Japanese. He mounted a shell in a clamp at his work desk, inserted metal foreclosure which prised it open. He then took one of an array fine tools reminiscent of dentistry and fished inside the oyster, pulling out a perfect blue black pearl, balanced on a little ring at the end of his probe. He then selected a ball made of shell, which was larger than the pearl, and with great care inserted it back into a special sac in the oyster. Each oyster is used to make 4 pearls in successive years. The shell for the spheres comes from Mississippi and is sent to Japan to be manufactured. The balls are treated with antiseptic to avoid infecting the oyster. The first seeding of the oyster is critical, as a small shell sphere is placed in contact with the small 2mm square of tissue harvested from the donor oyster. It must be carefully done so that the host grows pearl of the right colour and surrounds the ball of shell perfectly. If an oyster produces a nice spherical first pearl it is reseeded with a larger shell ball, but there is no need to add the piece of tissue that is used to seed it the first time, as it will now continue to produce the same colour pearl each time. Poor placement results in misshapen pearls, or in rejection of the ball. If the oyster produces an irregular shaped pearl it is not used again. Oro said that 50% success rate was the minimum he could accept. He had hired 4 Chinese workers last year but although they had worked fast, their success rate was terribly low, but he didn't find that out till a year later. He said he would hire locals next time.

His friend Norbay had worked there for six years, but had now set up on his own as an eleveur. He put strings of fuzzy material in the lagoon to which oyster seeds would attach. Once he had grown them to a reasonable size, Oro would buy 20,000 a month at 50 cents each. During the season he and his seeding team would work for three months seeding 500 oysters a day each. He reckoned he had 300,000 oysters on the buoyed lines radiating from his work island. However it is hard to get started as he must pay the government to lease his 38 hectare concession,many then it takes four years before any return can be had. He remembers that his father eclipsed 16million Pacific Francs (CFP) for 700 pearls taken to Tahiti for sale. His last harvest was 10,000 pearls, but they only sold for 9 million CFP. Sales happen every three months in Papeete, where Chinese and Japanese buyers come, look over the pearls I offer and make sealed bids to each vendor. As well as dropping prices, there have been years when the oysters died from pollution resulting from over-exploitation of the lagoon.

As a finale he cleaned off a number of rejected oysters and cut out the muscle, laid them in a shell and squeezed lime juice over them. Crunchy and delicious!

He sped us back to his home and invited us in. The big screen TV came on for the soccer World Cup final between Brazil and Tahiti, and Norbay was excitedly cheering on his nephew at No. 8 and his mate, Jo, the goal keeper. Sadly Jo let in 6 goals, and Tahiti scored zero. Nonetheless it was a victory to be in the final. What was new to me was that it was the beach soccer final! A good one to add to the Olympics!

Oro brought out pearls and jewellery made by his sister, and we pored over them looking for a beautiful memento. A string of black pearls was about £350, and a bracelet £50. Unfortunately we were low on cash, but everyone came away as a satisfied customer!

Meanwhile my planned exit for Ahé was getting short on time, and so after giving us a fresh coconut to drink, and showing us the sack of coconut crabs that he was sending by plane to his mum in Tahiti, he dropped us back to the boat. We were away quickly and motoring flat out managed to force our way out past the incoming flood tide by 12:30 and set sail the 29 miles to Ahé, last visited by Justin 42 years ago. Once in the lagoon we will have to traverse 5 miles of coral heads to reach the village, or if the light fails us try to anchor just inside the lagoon.

Manihi atoll

Our first day in Manihi was bright and sunny with little fluffy trade wind clouds. The shore nearby was white coral emerging from a rainbow of blues starting deep sapphire near Tin Tin and becoming ever brighter and more dazzlingly aquamarine by the beach. Whilst we had breakfast we could see two white fins with black tips splashing around in the shallows - three foot long black tip reef sharks hunting. Emily was out on her paddle board and got a close view of them.

We set off with the dinghy to snorkel around the coral heads and saw fascinating clams with deeply wavy shell opening and iridescent blue and emerald green lips which retracted as soon as they sensed one's presence. The coral looked mostly dead, but there were some brain corals and a few others. There were Angel fish, zebra fish and various others. After lunch we went on foot to explore the motu (island forming part of the atoll ring) and walked happily under shady trees, spotting large holes made by coconut and land crabs. Wrecked pontoons, pearl fishing equipment and debris from an old shack spoke of recent cyclones, the other of which was 3 months ago.

We were soon across the thin wooded strip and facing the ocean, where the swell broke lightly on the reef. We walked out across a wide shallow area, disturbing a small reef shark. Emily later saw an octopus and more reef sharks. On the shore the coral debris is banked up by the waves, and amongst the grey bits of coral are old shells, one or two of which were worth collecting. Back on the coral beach we saw dozens of hermit crabs all dressed in different shells scrabbling around on the water's edge.

Later that afternoon we took the dinghy a mile back to the village, and walked down a long sandy lane bordered by rather elegant and nicely maintained bungalows. Some on the lagoon side had docks for their boats. Everything seemed very lush and green, and we saw rather inviting gardens with deep shade. The village had three little shops, one of which also opened as a snack bar/ restaurant at 6pm. We found the first store very well stocked with carrots, apples, pears and grapes as the supply boat had just come in. We loaded up and left our bags there for later while we explored.

The village has a nicely presented harbour, dredged of coral to look like a bright blue swimming pool, with smart low dock walls on three sides, and fast open boats moored bows to. Children were swimming in the dock happily, with a little one year old being looked after by his five year old sister while the mothers sat in the shade of a tree.

Once we got round to the pass, we could see the strength of the tide, and watched local boats with big 200 HP engines forcing their way into the lagoon against the outflow. A Commune de Manihi launch was ferrying from the wharf across the pass to the side which connected with the hotel and airport. A little square with seats under a big tree allowed people sit outside the little store and watch the boat traffic. Further on was the pink painted church that had stood out as we entered the previous day. It is dedicated to Saint Jerome, and marked 2013, so may have been rebuilt after a cyclone. The priest was meditating in the front row of the stalls, while we popped our heads in to admire lamp shades made of shells

It was getting towards sunset, and lots of people were gathered outside houses and on the dock drinking big bottles of Henana Tahitian beer. We joined in the Friday evening spirit and beers in hand chatted to a group of fishermen on the dock. Tomorrow, Saturday, was the final Election Day for the French President so there was some talk about Macron and Le Pen, but nobody seemed to know what they stood for. We were invited by a man, one of whose ancestors was an English lady called Leighton, to visit his son's pearl farm on Sunday, and readily agreed. His wife is the mayor.

Saturday was then spent doing maintenance - Anne and Emily festooned the boat with washing, whilst Justin tackled navigation lights, cupboard door locks and dismantled the electric winch for greasing. I dismantled the aft toilet to discover why it was pumping into the sea when one didn't want it to. It was a longer job than I'd thought, but I found that the critical valve was jammed, so I hope it will now function OK. I then dismantled the instrument panel to see why that wasn't working and it was then 2pm and time for lunch. We made a foray ashore and I installed myself in the shade for a happy hour sketching and painting the sweep of the shore round the lagoon, fringed with coconut palms.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Atolls at last!

Relaxing on deck now that the sun is out again, anchored inside Manihi atoll. Nearby a shack on m a tiny reef island is home to a long haired hermit Robinson Crusoe we were told.

Atolls!

We set off from Nuku Hiva and, having left the dramatic spires and cliffs behind in the night, we had two days of glorious Trade wind sailing with lines of fluffy white clouds, sunshine and blue water, and an 18 knot breeze that bowled us along smoothly at 6.5 knots. However on the last night big black clouds came up and gave us 40 knot squalls and torrential rain. This continued for a whole dark day until just as we arrived at the first atoll a few patches of light blue appeared and lightened our mood.

Deciding where to go is an interesting test of navigation, juggling distances, times, winds and tides. We have three pilot books on board covering the area and they give differing amounts of detail and advice for entering atolls. I had read through all these and shortlisted the places that seemed most suitable. An atoll is an extraordinary ring of coral protecting a central deep lagoon from the pounding of the Pacific surf. Much of the coral ring is covered with coconut palms and other trees, but in between there are breaks where the sea washes through over the coral. The constant pouring of surf over the windward end of the atoll forces water out of the other end where there is usually a pass that can be navigated into the calm of the lagoon. However I found it tricky to know how best to plan this approach.

I'd settled on Fakarava as a first stop as it has a wide easy pass, but one still has to aim to make the transit at slack water because otherwise it's a roaring river flowing in or out and one cannot necessarily keep control. So when is slack water? Various books offer various suggestions, such as one and a half hours after low water, or at the time of the moon's meridian passage. All agree that it actually depends entirely on how big the surf is, pushing water over the reef. The next factor to consider is to arrive with the sun high, so that one can spot the coral heads underwater which are a hazard to navigation, so an evening arrival isn't safe.

Having found the tide times for various atolls and looked at distances and times of arrival I changed our plan and with 24 hours to go we headed to the nearer more northerly atolls of Manihi and Ahé, aiming to arrive at midday. Sure enough, with a bit of motoring when the wind went light, we were there on time, and I was faced with my first entry into an atoll. High tide was at 13.20, so the tide was still flooding in for an hour or two, but as we arrived the pass looked calm past the jetty and little pink church. Beyond I could see white water breaking in rapids as it rushed in through a narrow gap between the coral reefs, but it didn't seem too much to handle.

With centre plate up we passed serenely towards the channel, waved at by several fishing boats in what seemed like a welcome rather than a warning. At the wharf people sat under an old tree and watched us go through. Ahead the white water reminded me of shooting rapids in a canoe. Aim for the V in the waves to stay in the deepest water. We shot through into the lagoon, and as I watched the depth meter it dropped to 2.5 meters - a close thing if the keel was down.

Immediately after the inner reef I swung hard right and then we were in deep water with 20 miles of lagoon stretching into the distance. Channel markers along the edge made it easy to miss the main coral heads and we were soon anchored a mile from the village in deep blue water just off a white coral beach lined with tall Palm tress. Perfect! We had arrived in Manihi atoll, and were the only yacht in the lagoon.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Farewell to Nuku Hiva

On Sunday morning we met at Yvonne's to see the village museum. Alfonse is the curator, and led us past an immaculate ex-secondary school to a brightly painted ex-primary school. ( with a concrete road the children all go to school 45 minutes away in Taiohae.)

Inside was a very high quality exhibition of historical artefacts, stone adzes, pestles and mortars, sharpening stones, shell fish hooks, carved stone Tikis and most amazing of all a 500 tonne boulder shaped like a turtle, carved with superb petroglyphs including men, turtles and great mahi-mahi dorado fish.

Alfonse had for years been involved with archaeological research in the valleys and, in one extraordinary project, they had taken a detailed cast of the two boulders with the most spectacular petroglyphs and the cast was now in the museum. It explained an odd structure I'd spotted stored in a shed which might have been a mould for a boat, if it hadn't been such an odd shape. K

There were displays of tattoos and the instruments used for the job. A photo of a regal lady in long black dress was the queen of the Marquesas, and she was recognisably the great grandmother of our hostess Yvonne. Altogether a fascinating place. Yvonne calls it the Salle Patrimoinale (Heritage Room) rather than a museum, as otherwise it would be run from Tahiti!

We returned to the restaura and were much feted with garlands of seeds round our nebula, and sacks of pamplemousses, bananas and mangoes given by the musicians. They even drove us to the dock to wave farewell. We left a coule of hours later, happy to have shared time with new friends, sad to be leaving and full of wonder at the extraordinary islands we have visited.
As we sailed along the coast, the dramatic scenery redoubled its power over us with cliffs disappearing vertically into cloud 2000 feet up, whilst jagged volcanic teeth gleamed green and black in the sunshine against the dark gloom of the heights behind.

Music with new friends

Anne and Emily discovered that their riding guide, Alex, was a musician and mentioned that we had ukeleles on board. In no time a gig was organised for that evening and when we got to Yvonne's restaurant at 6pm there was a great sound coming into the evening air.

We met Alex, his uncle Henri, and wise old man, Alfonse playing a big drum, guitar, and 8 string ukelele whilst singing some lovely local and French songs. The table was already piled with beers to which we added more, and Justin and I produced the two ukeleles from TinTin, called kamakas, which were duly played, but not much by me as I'm still a clumsy fingered beginner. However I was pleased to be able to join in with many of the French lyrics which were easy to pick up, including a different version of "She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes!"

Best of all was to hear Polynesian songs, including some that Justin remembers well from his youth here. We were still singing "Oahe ite vaca" - paddle your canoe- as we sloshed back through the mud and streams to the quay later that night. Mid concert we broke for supper while the group played on, and afterwards I had a " doh, fa, sol " chord lesson from the experts. Justin meanwhile was strumming away like a pro.

It was very special to have shared an evening with Alex, Henri and Alfonse, and Yvonne said it was a rare treat to have people playing for fun. Normally they play when the Aranui supply ship arriveda and 130 passengers come by taxi for supper and entertainment.

Ancient trails

Anne and Emily were met on the dock by Alex with three horses with wooden saddles and rope reins and girths. They set off up the steep climb over the pass to the next village in Anaho Bay. Justin and I made the same trek on foot. The concrete road out of the village ended and an ancient trail led up hill it was lined with rounded stones and had been carefully paved in stone too, with diagonal culverts designed to divert the rain into the adjacent stream. The route was disintegrating as it led up through the massive remains of old paepaes on which houses were built. Eventually the old track had erode so much that little was left of its structure and we were slipping and sliding up a muddy rivulet.

Eventually we reached the saddle and had a spectacular view down into Anaho. I sat on a rock and sketched while the breeze cooled me down. Justin however set off down the zigzag path down the precipitous hillside and found Anne and Emily enjoying galops along the broad arc of sandy beach.

I eventually made my way down, meeting Justin struggling back up. I also met Raymond, carrying a guitar in a gunny sack, walking over the hill in search of a guitar string.

Down on the beach, the tide had ebbed showing the coral which looked very dead. It's rare in the Marquesas.

Robert Louis Stevenson had spent HAPPY times here with his family relaxing under the fringe of palm trees, and enjoying the hospitality of the community. There is a little church and a school both seemingly deserted.

I set off up the hill again, and hearing the horses behind me managed to reach the crest before them.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

ANNE'S Journal of Polynesia: part 1 : the Marquesas.

I am having the most wonderful time sailing with Paul Emily and Justin on Tin Tin.
As I got off the plane, the tropical heat and smells hit me . I didn't know what to expect ... And am discovering the most deserted tropical volcanic islands: wild, covered in rich tropical vegetation , forests, banana and coconut groves. When the first settlers came through the gradual migration from south east Asia centuries ago there was nothing edible , so every plant since had to be introduced : predominantly fruit to the Marquesas and vegetables to the Society Islands ... All of which are now prolific with scores of different varieties of each.
The people are quite amazingly welcoming and plying us generously with fruit from their laden gardens and patches with expectation of nothing in return . They are without exception completely open and delighted to stop us , share and chat . Emily and I have enjoyed two different rides on ponies that abound in the Islands. At one time they were the only means of transport , or on foot , climbing over great passes to link communities . Through this and other hikes and two hire jeeps ( over very rough tracks ) and of course anchoring off bays with tiny communities , we have really explored and learnt a lot leaving a sense of enormous respect for a life still living very much on the edge.
All other produce is eagerly awaited from the monthly visits of the cargo ship Aranui who circulates around all the Polynesian archipelagos from Papeete bringing everything else they need. The "shops" on delivery days are emptied almost immediately of any other fresh " produce "!
I can't quite believe that Paul has sailed all this way from England , and whilst meeting local people it is also astonishing to meet other boats of all nationalities who have amazing stories to tell ... The Marquesas islands are the first landfall in the long passage across the Pacific . Tin Tin has definitely the shortest voyage at sea from leaving "home", whilst many have been at sea for a few years or many more ..... Taking in different passages , different continents and different experiences .
What is amazing is the resourcefulness of every crew . As one pilot guide commented "almost any boat will do " and that is the case : every shape and size , and condition. There are few, if any, boatyards except at the capital Papeete in Tahiti . Crews ( from all nationalities ) are all congenial and happy to share experience , advice , knowledge and lend or give spare parts, no less in Tin Tin who are skilful and ingenious in their problem solving and fixing .
Being a fair weather sailor the conditions are bliss . Wherever we are anchored there seems to be a light breeze , and almost every day and night there is intermittent and torrential rain ( it is the end of the wet season ) ., hence the islands' lushness! If one embraces these , they are a lovely shower to cool by . Walking in the forests or hills though is hot and sweaty and mostly muddy , and everywhere you are beset by mosies. Nonetheless always rewarded by a richness of plant life and views of commanding peaks and hidden bays. Birds are becoming more populous seemingly as we head northwards. Each island has a small group of indigenous species and a few common ( esp sea birds) . There are no mammals or harmful reptiles or insects except for one little pesky "No No". which are viscous invisible sand flies on the beach . I am afraid I have resorted to deet as the only sure way of avoiding attack. Others have resorted to large consumption of marmite ( Brewers yeast which I had forgotten does the trick too )
My only other regret was relying on the lonely planet guide of Polynesia to kindle . It is so hard to navigate a guide which isn't a BOOK!
The history if the lands is extraordinary : 130 islands ( of which 76 are inhabited with in some cases just one family . The population ( virtually an untouched civilisation ) was gradually decimated from around 18,000 in 1842 to 2096 in 1926 ( ie only in one century ) through disease brought by traders , missionaries, and settlers. It is extraordinary to realise that these people ( to us similar to pre Romans 2, 000 years ago ) existed in their purest form so recently in the world's history . There are many many Archeological sites, standing testimony of such a recent "ancient" past . Herman Melville's " Typee " is a great story to evoking life in indigenous people as the first settlers found them ( which has been compulsory reading for all of us !) The islands changed hands between the Spanish , Americans , and finally Annexed now to France ( since 1842) who has the usual maternalistic view of an existing colony.
Now there is a population of 280,000 in total, most who live on Tahiti especially the young , many hoping to make their fortune in the bigger metropolis, thus leaving only 8,000 in the marquesas and 13,000 in the Tuamotus. The former are still remote and wild , the latter becoming more popular through tourism the clearest and healthiest reefs left in the world, with the idealised coral atolls , palm fringed beaches and 400 species of fish , almost all to be seen by diving or snorkelling. We are heading there in the next three hundred miles down wind over the next few days . After a week or so dodging reefs, we will head for the Society Islands (Tahiti and its neighbours ) though there are other archipelagos , and from here to Australia and New Zealand and Indonesia there are thousands of island groups .........

Saturday, 29 April 2017

ANNE'S Journal of Polynesia: part 1 : the Marquesas.

I am having the most wonderful time sailing with Paul Emily and Justin on Tin Tin.

As I got off the plane, the tropical heat and smells hit me . I didn't know what to expect ... And am discovering the most deserted tropical volcanic islands: wild, covered in rich tropical vegetation , forests, banana and coconut groves. When the first settlers came through the gradual migration from south east Asia centuries ago there was nothing edible , so every plant since had to be introduced : predominantly fruit to the Marquesas and vegetables to the Society Islands ... All of which are now prolific with scores of different varieties of each.

The people are quite amazingly welcoming and plying us generously with fruit from their laden gardens and patches with expectation of nothing in return . They are without exception completely open and delighted to stop us , share and chat . Emily and I have enjoyed two different rides on ponies that abound in the Islands. At one time they were the only means of transport , or on foot , climbing over great passes to link communities . Through this and other hikes and two hire jeeps ( over very rough tracks ) and of course anchoring off bays with tiny communities , we have really explored and learnt a lot leaving a sense of enormous respect for a life still living very much on the edge.

All other produce is eagerly awaited from the monthly visits of the cargo ship Aranui who circulates around all the Polynesian archipelagos from Papeete bringing everything else they need. The "shops" on delivery days are emptied almost immediately of any other fresh " produce "!

I can't quite believe that Paul has sailed all this way from England , and whilst meeting local people it is also astonishing to meet other boats of all nationalities who have amazing stories to tell ... The Marquesas islands are the first landfall in the long passage across the Pacific . Tin Tin has definitely the shortest voyage at sea from leaving "home", whilst many have been at sea for a few years or many more ..... Taking in different passages , different continents and different experiences .

What is amazing is the resourcefulness of every crew . As one pilot guide commented "almost any boat will do " and that is the case : every shape and size , and condition. There are few, if any, boatyards except at the capital Papeete in Tahiti . Crews ( from all nationalities ) are all congenial and happy to share experience , advice , knowledge and lend or give spare parts, no less in Tin Tin who are skilful and ingenious in their problem solving and fixing .
Being a fair weather sailor the conditions are bliss . Wherever we are anchored there seems to be a light breeze , and almost every day and night there is intermittent and torrential rain ( it is the end of the wet season ) ., hence the islands' lushness! If one embraces these , they are a lovely shower to cool by . Walking in the forests or hills though is hot and sweaty and mostly muddy , and everywhere you are beset by mosies. Nonetheless always rewarded by a richness of plant life and views of commanding peaks and hidden bays. Birds are becoming more populous seemingly as we head northwards. Each island has a small group of indigenous species and a few common ( esp sea birds) . There are no mammals or harmful reptiles or insects except for one little pesky "No No". which are viscous invisible sand flies on the beach . I am afraid I have resorted to deet as the only sure way of avoiding attack. Others have resorted to large consumption of marmite ( Brewers yeast which I h
ad forgotten does the trick too )

My only other regret was relying on the lonely planet guide of Polynesia to kindle . It is so hard to navigate a guide which isn't a BOOK!

The history if the lands is extraordinary : 130 islands ( of which 76 are inhabited with in some cases just one family . The population ( virtually an untouched civilisation ) was gradually decimated from around 18,000 in 1842 to 2096 in 1926 ( ie only in one century ) through disease brought by traders , missionaries, and settlers. It is extraordinary to realise that these people ( to us similar to pre Romans 2, 000 years ago ) existed in their purest form so recently in the world's history . There are many many Archeological sites, standing testimony of such a recent "ancient" past . Herman Melville's " Typee " is a great story to evoking life in indigenous people as the first settlers found them ( which has been compulsory reading for all of us !) The islands changed hands between the Spanish , Americans , and finally Annexed now to France ( since 1842) who has the usual maternalistic view of an existing colony.
Now there is a population of 280,000 in total, most who live on Tahiti especially the young , many hoping to make their fortune in the bigger metropolis, thus leaving only 8,000 in the marquesas and 13,000 in the Tuamotus. The former are still remote and wild , the latter becoming more popular through tourism the clearest and healthiest reefs left in the world, with the idealised coral atolls , palm fringed beaches and 400 species of fish , almost all to be seen by diving or snorkelling. We are heading there in the next three hundred miles down wind over the next few days . After a week or so dodging reefs, we will head for the Society Islands (Tahiti and its neighbours ) though there are other archipelagos , and from here to Australia and New Zealand and Indonesia there are thousands of island groups .........

Friday, 28 April 2017

Robert Louis Stevenson's favourite bay

We had rain, rain, rain all night, but thankfully it cleared by breakfast and we had a great bash to windward up the most spectacular coast. Great spires of rock framed by impossibly high cliffs disappearing into cloud, dark rock spines jutting out to sea, sometimes lightly coated with green icing sugar vegetation, and sometimes bare, dark chocolate.

As we left the drama of Taipivai Bay, a huge tuna jumped clear out of the water ahead, and shortly afterwards a school of dolphins curved past, without bothering to investigate us.

The wind was blowing 28-33knots from the ENE so we were close hauled with double reefed Genoa, tacking out south east before we could talk to clear the northern headland. Once past the point we eased sail, and picked up speed. A pod of very large dolphins joined us, enthusiastically leaping clear of the waves to view us.

We finally turned into Hahahei bay, guarded on the left by what seems to be a giant trolls head with helmet spikes of black rock. At the far end of the bay a Giants castle of spikes loomed high above a little waterfront village. The sun came out and the sky was blue and the boatt was draped in washing, most of which has had innumerable rinse cycles in rain storms. We went ashore in the dinghy to a little pier where we manage to lap ashore between the surge of the swells. Everyone except me wore long trousers and long-sleeved shirts because the sailing directions say that it is teeming with mosquitos and NoNos. Last week Emily's Nono bites were a shocking revelation of what invisible insects can do!

The village was very charming set along the waterfront, with a little shop, a yellow post office and Yvonne's Restaurant. The latter is reputed to be the best in the island, so we booked a table. Determined to find the local archaeological site, Justin and Anne set off up the road out of the village and we eventually found what we wanted. It was a very large Marie, or sacred ceremonial site, with a large flat area of grass bounded on the long sides by terraces of stone for spectators. At the far end a stone plinth was where human sacrifices were displayed, and beyond that a higher platform was where the chief and dignitaries would be housed. It was very extensive, having been built in 1250 AD, remaining in use till the 1800s. It was rediscovered in 1957 and rehabilitated in 1987.

Back in the village as the sun set, we enjoyed supper with Yvonne, an elegant elder lady who had set up her restaurant in 1978. She had us four and two others tonight and served very good fish dishes with breadfruit and other vegetables

Our return to TinTin was along the track to the port, which was lit periodically with street lamps. Nonetheless the walk involves wading across a river and sloshing through thick mud. At the dock a man was fishing and his wife was gutting the substantial catch.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The famous valley of Typee

Herman Melville, of Moby Dick fame, spent time in Nuku Hiva having jumped ship and been kept prisoner by a tribe. His book, Typee, is an exciting novel based on his adventures here, and as is set in the next valley along from Taiohae in in Taipivai Bay. We've all read his story and as soon as our anchor problem was solved we set sail in that direction. The bay is divided into three inlets by high rocky ridges. As we doused sail, a black cloud rolled down and the sea hissed white with torrential rain. We dropped anchor in 5 metres in the muddy flood of coconuts and tree debris washing down fro the valley. In a strange way it could have been a Scottish loch, with the high ridges swirling with mist, and dropping steeply to the water. So chilled did we feel that we used Rosalind's pressure cooker to brew up a nice hot "Lake Soup" for lunch.
We clambered ashore on a rocky breakwater and waded through muddy tracks to the road, seeing lots of land crabs along the way. A "drift", still above water, crossed the raging brown river to the village where we inspected the church and chatted to various passers-by. The church was a huge open space under a high roof with no pillars. The side walls are waist high giving ventilation and some light. The pulpit was a large tree bole nicely carved.

Up the street we found a little shop and bought tubs of local ice-cream including a dark purple one called Taro, which is a yam-like tuber. Very nice. On our way we met Royand daughter Lisa from yacht Mabroukha exploring in a hire car. The rain set in hard again and the road became a river, everyone getting drenched except for me with my handy brolly. We waded across a field to inspect a large ceremoni Marae, nicely recreated with thatched ceremonial houses in stone platforms, surrounded by carved Tikis.

Land Crabs & Tikis

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Anchor's aweigh!

A day of unceasing torrential rain! Lots of hanging around - all getting rather tedious........BUT when Thierry the diver turned up he did a great job and unwound the chain from the old ship's anchor and we were able to move the boat to a safer spot. It was amazing to see him disappear into the thick brown murky river flow, full of floating debris, and then to see a circle of clear water where his bubbles brought the underlying seawater to the surface. Of course the freshwater is less dense and formed a 1 meter thick layer on top of the bay.

Then Kevin from Yacht Services kindly cane out to look over the freezer, stuck a bit of gas in it and concluded that the wiring installed was insufficient for the length of run involved leading to a voltage drop. Something for later. We started on an oil change for the generator, but then found bilges full of seawater so had to pump that out and worry about where it came from.

Anne and Emily did a great job ashore taking all our Jerry cans to refill. We had emptied all 200 litres into the tanks and calculated that we'd need to put another 200 in as we should have been nearly empty. Astonishingly there was only room for another 20 litres so our fuel consumption seems much lower than I'd thought.

Finally we are able to set off again tomorrow to explore a bit more of these islands before heading off to the atolls.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Imprisoned in Nuku Hiva!

I'm sad to say that we cannot leave this lovely island Was it anything to do with the picture that I put up showing Nuku Hiva as one of the 50 worst places to visit?!

This morning, once the torrential rain had cleared, and we'd emptied the dinghy, we went ashore for fresh vegetables before heading off to another bay. I headed to the post office for stamps and to post my Custom declaration and to Papeete. One has to take a number and wait on benches, which I did serenely for the best part of an hour. It being French, people kiss each other on both cheeks as a greeting. I got included at the end of the line, when Sabine, the equestrian lady came in, as she had given me a lift to the plateau yesterday when Anne and Emily went riding. That was a good expedition because Justin and I were almost 3000' above sea level and had a delightful walk back down the road amongst ancient acacia forest wreathed in mists. At the lip of the cliff we had extraordinary views of the bay far below and then set off down the hairpin bends to the port. On the way I sat to sketch, sheltering under my new Chinese rainbow umbrella from roasting sun and then the rain.

So beck to our unfortunate detention on the island. As we raised anchor to leave there was an awful clunk as the chain locked solid around something. We tried circling it, pulling pushing - everything! But we are stuck fast with 45 of our 65 metres of chain out in 11-12 metres of frothy cappuccino river spate.

Luckily Nuku Hiva has a yacht services company and by the end of the day it looked as though they had found at least one diver who could try to get us free tomorrow morning! Whilst I spent the day on that and other issues the rest of the crew went off to explore.

I was pleased to find that Kevin of Nuku Hiva Yacht Srvicezisvslao able to deal with freezes, so tomorrow we will tackle that issue as well

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.