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.