The East Pacific
The area around our anchorage called Playita de Amador is very developed and sophisticated with new hotels apartments shops and restaurants lining a causeway which was built from debris excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal. There is a marina further along the coast but it attracts superyachts and is very expensive.
Jan Eirik and Elisabeth left the boat and we settled into the routine of boat cleaning and provisioning once again. We quickly realised that the glamour of this little area is not reflected in the city itself, which is a teeming, run down, hotchpotch of a place. There is a slightly intimidating atmosphere and we certainly would not walk through many of the areas we saw when travelling to and from the supermarkets. The old town is very beautiful, but only covers about one square mile, and you suddenly realise you are in a "risky" place if you wander too far. I was very saddened to see the beautiful Kuna Indians whom I spoke of before, sleeping rough in the city, though still wearing their national costume, and reduced to selling Molas and beads to make a little money. They looked so out of place in this setting compared to the quiet beauty of the San Blas Islands.
Sadly while here Jan Eirik had a rucksack grabbed from between his feet while sitting in a park speaking on his mobile phone. He had to buy back his passport, but lost a camera and iPod.
(We have managed to obtain our Australian visas which was relatively simple to do on-line.)
Whilst here we admired a lovely boat which was anchored close by, a Formosa 50ish yacht, and were delighted to meet the owners, Will and Margaret Rudd who are from EDINBURGH. They have been sailing the world for 4 or 5 years, and pop home occasionally. The boat is beautifully fitted out and actually has a tiled shower and a bath!!
Once again the nightmare of faulty heads reared its head. We discovered heavy deposits of salt crystals which have almost occluded the pipes and valves. We have been advised to use muriatic acid, but will try Coca Cola first then vinegar. (Had to go for the acid, it worked.)
On Tuesday 7th April Janice Handley arrived at 1945hrs after a relatively trouble free trip. In spite of being very tired she looked great and brought out our much awaited Duo-Gen generator shaft. (Refer back to St.Lucia when it didn't appear.) We were a bit embarrassed to ask her to do this when we saw the size of the box which was certainly taller than Janice.
We decided to leave Panama for Galapagos on 10th April, so spent the next couple of days finalising provisioning and readying the boat for the 890 nautical mile journey. We have decide since we are only three people now instead of the original five we expected to be, to work 4 hour watches in daylight (i.e. 6am to 6pm) and 3 hours through the darkness, all watches being solo.
Panama to Galapagos
10th April. We motored round to the fuelling jetty and set off at 1230pm in a light breeze which picked up to 17 knots at 1700hrs.
Saturday 11th April. We are finding that there are strange currents and today we gained between 1.1 knots and 3 knots uplift, so at times were registering over 8 knots speed over ground. The anticyclone and rain we were expecting failed to show and we had a lovely morning sailing.
At 11am Gordon roused us all with a cry of "Whales!" We sighted a pod of long finned pilot whales numbering between 25 and 30 varying is size from 7m for the adults and about 3.8m for the calves. The adults kept a bit of distance but were still only about 20m away, however the calves came right up to us playing, leaping out of the water, and rolling over each other. They lifted right out of the water and we could see their beautiful big smiles. We stopped and watched them while they circled us for 30 minutes. It was magical.
Sunday 12th April. Easter Sunday and Janice, bless her, produced a very strange looking bag of small Easter eggs which had not really survived the 32 degree heat. But once the foil wrapping was picked out of the melted chocolate they went down very well.
At 1700hrs Gordon caught a 12" fish, so we need another 2 to make a meal. At the same time a brown booby decided to hitch a ride and landed on the spinnaker pole. At 1915hrs it fell off and perched on a solar panel instead. It eventually settled down for the night clutching onto the top of the water containers.
We have constant lightening flashing all around us every night.
Monday 13th April. While I was on watch this morning, at sunrise, the brown booby gave himself a shake, spent 10 minutes or so on feather arranging and flew off presumably in search of breakfast. After half an hour or so he returned, grabbed onto the guardrail and with comic slowness began sliding along it as the boat surged forward. His huge webbed feet were just too big to grip on properly. So back to the water containers where he sat for most of the day before taking off once and for all as the evening approached. In return for the lift he left a huge amount of guano and no thank you note. We called him "Feathers McGraw" after the Nic Park character.
The wind has died and we are now motoring and at 2300hrs the rain really started to fall.
Wednesday 15th April. The wind eventually picked up again to southerly 11 - 12 knots so we put sails up and headed directly for Galapagos. Lovely to get the engine off.
A boat named "Pegasus" which is Dutch owned appeared behind us (first boat we had seen since leaving Panama) and asked if we could take some photos of them as they passed, so we obliged. At one point they veered off to reel in a large tuna they had just caught. Still no fish for us! Janice and I are keen to try out all our fish recipes but so far nae chance.
Thursday 16th April. Wind died tonight, but we put on the music and enjoyed a lovely Thai curry with a glass of wine on deck under a starlight sky. Doesn't get much better than this.
Friday 17th April. I have been threatened by all kinds of ritual humiliation by skipper and Janice since I am the only one not to have crossed the equator, but we did so at 2.26am on my watch so I got away very lightly. Everyone got up and we counted down to 0.00 degrees. Janice and Gordon had a wee dram and I had a small glass of wine to mark the occasion. Later at 12.20pm on that day we crossed 90 degrees west a quarter the way round the world. At 1640 hrs we dropped anchor in Academy bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
The crossing had been delightful and Janice a joy to have aboard. We had great fun along the way. She is a very good cook and first-rate crewmember. Highly recommended!
The first surprise on getting here is how highly populated this island is. Approximately 20,000 people call Santa Cruz home, many of them illegal immigrants from Ecuador. There are still uninhabited and wild islands but they are highly protected.
On our first foray ashore we were quite stunned to find bars, restaurants, hotels etc and even a "department store".
Janice went off with a woman called Freda who she had arranged to spend a week with before coming out to join us. Freda works at the Charles Darwin Research Centre and has lived on the island for four years, so had good advice to give.
"Mikado" our 'ozzie' friends appeared in the bay, having taken 24 hours longer than us to do the crossing, and "Hilde" later again. Needless to say we had many lovely interludes with them.
The anchorage here is pretty exposed and rolly which makes the business of getting on and off the water taxis very interesting. There is no dinghy dock so the only way to go ashore is by hailing these little power boats who will come to your boat and bounce wildly beside you while you try to leap from yacht to taxi. All this fun for the princely sum of $1.
On Monday 20th April Gordon went into town to await Willie Kinghorn's arrival, having first texted him to arrange a meeting place. However as I sat below deck I suddenly heard a voice call out from the deck. Willie was onboard and no Gordon and no luggage. It transpires that although he was here his luggage was not and his mobile phone does not work here. This led to several days searching on our agent part to try and trace it. Willie had not had a great journey all in all, but it was good to see him. My heart sank though when I realised I was going to do the same journey in a few days time to go back to the UK. It sounded like a hard route.
We spent a great few days getting to know the place and people. We hired a small boat to go out and see the blue footed boobies, sea lions and other wild life and walked across the isthmus to where the marine iguanas basked in droves on the black volcanic rock. Apparently they stay out at sea for many hours before coming ashore to raise their body temperature by sunbathing. Being black themselves they are well camouflaged and often almost trod upon before spitting at you and scuttling off.
The soil is deep red volcanic and fine but as we walked across this weird landscape the heat coming up from the ground was as intense as that from the scorching sun. Stupidly I stuck my finger in a pile of earth to "gauge" the temperature. Yes very hot!
Of course we had to go and see "Lonesome George" at the Darwin Centre. He is an 80+ years old giant tortoise and the last of his species. They have tried to mate him with several females of other species but the first time he got amorous with a large rock, second time he went for the wrong end and third time lucky! But eggs were infertile. He lies massive under his shaded pen looking as lonesome as a lonely thing. He is on a diet because he got so big they feared for his ticker. Poor old George).
The Galapagos crabs are large red fearsome things with bright yellow patterns under their bellies. There are seething masses of them on the shore line.
The night before I left for home and the boys left for the big Pacific crossing, we met up with our sailing family in a restaurant beside the bay. Present were "Ohana", "Mikado", "Blues", "Hilde" and "White Hawk". We had a beautiful meal , good wine and excellent company under another stunning Pacific starlit sky.
Next morning Friday 24th April I got up and finished packing, went ashore to meet Janice, and she and I, in the company of Freda, set off for the airport.
Our journey was from Galapagos to Quito, Quito to Amsterdam, Amsterdam home. We spent a night in Quito in a lovely hotel and having promised Janice Champagne, we bathed -( yesa bath!)and I phone room service to order some Champagne. "Sorry madam, but because of the elections no alcohol may be served or sold for the next 5 days." Can you believe it! Its probably just as well since we had a long journey next day.
We arrived back in Edinburgh early on 26th April to be met by Janice's boyfriend. Gosh its cold!
I will hand over to Gordon now for his account of the journey from Galapagos to the Marquesas.
Galapagos to Marquesas
Willie and I left Galapagos on Friday 24th April at 1720hrs after seeing Anne off to the airport and then waiting to receive fresh water and Willie's lost luggage. When I left Las Palmas to cross the Atlantic with 213 other boats it was busy, noisy and dramatic and I was excited and apprehensive. This departure was quite the opposite, a very quiet and undramatic affair which I was looking forward to although much further in distance ..
The start was slow, having to motor in still airs, so still that we could see the stars reflected in the sea. On Saturday night the wind picked up and was to stay with us for most of the voyage in one way or another. We had some rain with squalls up to 30 knots interspersed with quiet periods of 7 knot winds. Mostly we ran with twin headsails, both poled out, but sometimes with main and genoa. The wind was not as constant as it should be at this time of year so we had to change sails often to get the most out of the wind. The first time we changed from twin headsails to asymmetric, we lost a knot, then realised we had the sail the wrong way round, corrected it and lost another knot. The next day went back to twin headsails and read a book.
Flying fish, which we see all the time, and small squid are often found on the deck in the morning and we tried using them as bait but without much success. On the fourth day we caught our first fish, a Wahoo about 18" long. We cooked it for dinner in tinfoil with lemon. Very tasty!
On the ninth day we caught a dolphin fish of about 3 lb and later the same day a second one which we cooked on the BBQ. This is quite tricky on a moving boat. You are just waiting for the smoking fish to go overboard or you to get burned on the hot BBQ from some particularly violent movement due to a particularly large wave. But all was ok.
On the eleventh day Willie caught a four foot Wahoo but threw it back because the fridge was full. Then later lost the lure with a much bigger fish. So we set up a 'big fish' kit using heavy twine, our davit as the rod and a spinnaker winch as spool. Got two bites but nothing hauled in. Again the next day two bites but nothing, and the day after lost the lure again!
The night skies are a riot of stars all the 'wrong way up' from a northern hemisphere point of view. You can also see shooting stars very clearly, some lasting a fraction of a second and others longer and brighter. Most going from east to west. We could also see satellites moving across the sky. These are completely different from aircraft. One particular satellite looked like a bright planet but moved quickly across the sky and returned every 45 minutes or so over the same route in the sky.
We passed halfway on the twelfth day and celebrated with a beer.
As chief toilet roll monitor I have calculated how much we use, but what is surprising is how much the female of our species use. From Panama to Galapagos we were 2 females and one male and used 6 rolls in 7 days. From Galapagos to Marquesas we are 2 males and in 16 days used 3 rolls.
Therefore 2x=3/16 and 1x+2y=6/7 where x=men and y=women,
Then x=3/32, and 3/32 + 2y=6/7 then 2y=6/7 - 3/32 so y= ½(6/7 -3/32) so x=0.093, y=0.38 Therefore y/x=0.38/0.093=4.07
So women use 4.07 times the number of toilet rolls than men!! Willie's comment "..and they're still full of sh*t!"
We are now running short of lures so on the 19th day made a lure with a surgical rubber glove to look like a squid and caught a skipjack tuna on the 20th day. We also sighted another yacht that day the first vessel we had seen for two and a half weeks! It was a Dutch family, "Suworrow Blue", who had left Galapagos 25 days earlier. It rained heavily, that day, for half an hour and I went out with soap and shampoo and had a shower, whether I needed it or not.
A day passes quickly into a week then into two weeks then three. One seems to change to a different time mode, where time does not matter, urgency is not in your vocabulary, you have all the time in the world, until it comes to an end and you arrive at your destination.
On day 23, Sunday 17th May, we arrived at the island of Hiva Oa. We could smell the island as we approached in the dark, a hot lush vegetation smell with a hint of perfume! Very inviting. Very like the smell in a hot house full of aromatic flowers. We turned into the bay surrounded by high mountains and green green trees, completely the opposite of what we had left in the Galapagos.
We had covered 2,930 miles in 23 days (7 days quicker than planned), travelled through four time zones, used 200 litres of water and 80 litres of diesel. The two of us worked very well together, Willie being a very good cook helps, and we were stillgood mates at the end of the trip
On Monday we walked into Atuona to check in with the gendarme but found it shut and was told to come back at 2pm. Atuona is a small coastal town of mostly single storey houses and a few shops but with a dramatic backdrop of high mountains and jungle. We walked around then ended up in the only bar "Make Make", which is Chinese owned. Other yachties began to drift in, also waiting for the gendarme to open, so we all exchanged Pacific crossing stories over lunch and had a good time. "Mikado", "Son of Sun", "Arielle", "Wind River" and "Blaze II" were all there. Surprisingly Kerry, a Dundonian, on "Son of Sun" knew Willie's brother-in-law! It's a small world.
Bill, a single hander from north Wales, took 92 days from Panama, had a broken tiller, no auto pilot, a broken engine (he had to be towed into the anchorage) and his 70th birthday all en-route. What a trooper!
It was at this bar that I got the telephone number of the local tattoo artist, Santos.
We were woken at 6am on Tuesday morning with the bow anchor dragging. In this bay all boats set a bow and stern anchor to stop swinging from the large swell. We lifted the bow anchor, reset it but also added another stern anchor. During the crossing it was surprising how much growth grew on the hull and not just at water level but much higher so we cleaned it off that morning. That afternoon saw Willie off to the airport and he got home on Friday !
On Wednesday I phoned up Santos who came down to the anchorage and showed me his book of tattoo designs. My decision was now made to have a tattoo but which one. I had drawn a picture of a flying fish for him to do but I also wanted another local design. In the end I chose a turtle, a traditional design used by sailors who cross the equator, with the face of the god Tiki inset but done in the typical Polynesian style. We went back to his "studio" a lean-to against his house with chickens running around and jungle on two sides. He used the sharp end of a palm leaf stem! It took 2 hours for the turtle and 45 minutes for the fish but no inflammation, no scabbing and very fine work.
Anne was not due till Sunday because we had arrived 7 days earlier than planned so I busied myself provisioning and cleaning the boat for the rest of the week.
I will return you to Anne's account.
Home and Back Again
My time back in Blighty was frantic but great. I did not have time to see everyone I would have liked but so good to catch up with Rachel and Chris. Managed to squeeze in a few friends to whom many thanks for excellent company and had a busy but wonderful week in Abruzzo, with my sister Helen, checking up on the Italian house, which involved many meetings with architects, designers etc etc. These were usually conducted over long, slow Italian lunches, so nae pain.
Also managed to meet our New Zealand neighbours in Ari, Ken and Lisa. See you soon guys.
While home I managed to catch one of Rachel's performances at the Traverse Theatre. She was superb, but has decided to go back to nursing. A loss to the stage but good for the NHS.
Chris has landed the sound contract for a major feature film a follow up to the cult oldie "The Wicker Man" called "Soldiers for Christ". Watch this space.
Thanks also Heather for looking after the house so well.
So after 4 very fast weeks time to return to the Big Adventure.
Travel: Edinburgh to Charles de Gaulle to LA to Tahiti to Atuona on Hiva Oa. All together 40 hors and no sleep - yuck.
Gordon was waiting for me at the tiny landing strip in Hiva Oa and the temperature was 32 deg at 9am. Back to the old routine.
The boat was sitting pretty anchored in a stunning little bay and I spent several days settling down and getting over my jetlag. I also had to recover from the shock of seeing Gordon's tattoos! Yes he's done it. The "boat bum" look is now complete. Actually I like them. What can I say, he has definitely gone native.
The Marquesas (French speaking) are very different from what I had left in Galapagos. Apparently the French pay subsidies to these islands, most of it guilt money for exploding atomic bombs in the remoter islands! The Polynesian people were never big on wealth accumulation, preferring to fish and weave flowers into their hair, but they have no incentive to work when child allowance alone is worth a large wage. They are the most gentle, beautiful people imaginable. The colour of wild flowers almost hurts the eye and they match it with their clothing. This is where Gaugin lived, painted and died and there is a museum where you can see his house.
We had a great night with Andy and Jane from "Drimea" where we shared the cooking and had a laugh, thanks chaps.
Also met two Americans, Mike and Mary on a cat "Carpe Vita". Mike managed to shred his leg in a slip off the dinghy at the landing stage. Nasty. (Since heard he is healing well though.)
After several days we moved on to Fatu Hiva, a neighbouring island. Here the anchorage was breathtaking, being surrounded by huge rocks which are shaped like Tikki or Gods. We don't know for sure if formations are natural or carved, but they stare over the island, backs to the sea, protecting the islanders. It is here that Thor Heyerdahl lived for a year and was inspired to undertake the Kon-Tiki expedition. It is easy to see why.
We tried to buy some produce here but the people prefer to trade for alcohol, rope, perfume, make-up, music tapes etc. They don't need money. Very often they just give you stuff eg bananas, mangoes, lemons, pamplemousses etc since they fall off the trees and rot if not lifted.
A family came by in their canoe and invited us to a "feast" at their home. They cooked "pig", chicken and the raw fish in lemon juice and coconut milk, which is a local speciality. The fish cooks in the acidity of the lemons. Wonderful. They did not eat with the yachties but watched with great pleasure as everything was devoured.
When we arrived here in Fatu Hiva our dear friends from "Atlantia", Will and Margaret, were anchored, so needless to say a sundowner or two had to be partaken of.
Also our Dutch friends from "Pegasus" arrived and we had a jolly night or two with them. They are two young guys, Florian and AJ, who are making a film about the state of the oceans and the wild life. They have a great attitude and what we saw or their filming so far will make great telly. They are the Jamie Olivers of the sailing world. Full of energy and fun and only in their late 20's. National Geographic have shown an interest in their work. So again, keep a look out.
By the way it's not all sunshine out here. Since I got back from the UK we have had a lot of rain. The bays are surrounded by volcanic peaks which create their own clouds, inevitably leading to sharp sudden rainfall and cloudy skies. Quite a relief at times, but after 3 weeks, enough, so we are moving on to a coral atoll some 5 days sailing away.
Fatu Hiva to Ahé
Saturday 6th June: Having provisioned as well as we could when there is no fresh meat/chicken/eggs/veg to buy and anything in a tin costs at least £4, we set off for a 5 day sail to the coral atoll of Ahé in the Tuamotu Islands.
The sunrises and sunsets were stunning and the ocean showed its many faces from big and ugly to satin smooth. The night skies have been much described, but on watch, with nothing to hear but the splash of the occasional wave against the boat and the moon not yet risen, one feels very small staring up into the infinite pierced velvet of the star filled heavens.
While I am waxing lyrical I will tell you a tale. This happened on day two of the crossing.
The Terrible Tale Of The Tuna That Took Us To Task.
(Not to be read by small children, vegetarians or people of a nervous disposition.)
Provisions were low. In fact apart from some eggs and a little cheese, we had no fresh protein of any kind on board.
Our attempts at foraging on the Polynesian Islands yielded only bananas, onions and a few potatoes, since the natives refuse to sell what they have preferring to barter for rum, perfumes or rope, none of which we had or could offer to trade.
Desperate times indeed, dear reader, since our palates were jaded with my efforts to disguise corned beef and other tinned fare, so when skipper utters the words "Will I catch a fish" I tried to disguise my scepticism, based on his previous record in this department, and cheerily quipped "Yes, lets!"
I watched with incredulity as a lure the size of a small torpedo was attached to a wire and this knotted onto line designed for up to 260 lb load. Incidentally the lure looked most fetching wearing a surgical glove to disguise itself as a squid, apparently the snack of choice for many fish.
It was decided to cast the line off the centre stern and to wind it around an aft winch to assist reeling in. Now at this point I really was having a problem, since skipper's history with fishing has, to date, been inauspicious.
But what is this? No sooner is the line out then a twitching and tensing is noted. A few cautious pulls and by golly - yes, we have a catch!
Immediately the job of bringing in the 50 metres of line begins and as skipper draws the line in, I wind it onto a spool. The amount of energy being spent on this indicated that this was no tiddler, but as yet nothing to see above the waves. Then at last a cry of "It's a whopper!"
I looked over the back and my heart sank. Moby Dick? Jonah's whale? The shark from "Jaws"? Nay nay I say, all paled to meagre minnows compared to what I saw, for breaking above the water was a gaping mouth the size of the Mersey tunnel, edged in dozens of needle like teeth. The beast was huge - and I realised there was no going back. It had to be landed and dealt with. By us, in a small(ish) boat which was moving at 6 knots and being rocked violently by large Pacific waves.
Now there have been many times on this epic voyage when I have thought " What am I doing here?" and this was one of them.
The creature was clearly a Yellow Finned Tuna, (it was a Tuna and it had Yellow Fins) but there was nothing "yellow" about its behaviour. It fixed me with a malevolent stare from one of its huge saucer like eyes (the other one was on the other side of its head, or it would have fixed me with two) and the stare said "See you in Hell lady." I was armed with a bottle of spray alcohol, which any fisherman will tell you is the kindest and quickest way to deal with a fish, spraying it into its gills and immediately rendering it unconscious. However I had about 100ml of the stuff and I could see my friend was at least a two bottles of Smirnoff a day kind of fish.
The battle between man and fish was only just beginning however, as the Tuna twisted and turned, bucked and splashed, putting a huge strain on the line, which we had wrapped around a fixed table to stabilise it.
At this point I glanced at skipper and realised I had previously cast one too many aspersions on the size of his catch, for his look matched that of the fish. He had a gleam in his eye which spoke of more primitive times and I knew this Tuna had possibly met its match.
"Give me the hook." he yelled as the beast continued its struggle and with a deft movement skipper skewered the fish through the gill. I confess my many years in nursing including operating theatres did not prepare me for the ensuing gore. I will spare you most of the details but cannot tell the tale without some.
The sea turned red as we left a crimson wake behind us and I felt I felt this went on interminably as the giant continued to struggle. By now I was yelling "Die, oh please die." But it would not.
Skipper was tiring by now, but still the fish battled and we knew we had to finish it as quickly as humanly possible, so he heaved the grapple hook up out of the water, dangling the fish, still thrashing wildly, while I sprayed it with as much alcohol as possible. I was still pleading with it "go towards the light" or "leave this mortal coil" and other euphemisms.
Just as it seemed it had heard and heeded me, oh the horror! The grapple hook - (read no further if you fit any of the headings categories.) - suddenly shifted and pierced through the brain.
The ensuing spasms resulted in the boat, the sea and us being utterly coated in various fishy tissue and fluid types best left to the imagination.
When at last this Rasputin of a fish (for surely it could not be any harder to kill than he reputedly was) finally became still. Skipper with the last of the energy remaining in his arms, hauled it on board.
I held it on deck on the hook, since the motion of the ocean was doing its best to reclaim our catch, and skipper stood up and turned.
The nightmare of the fish was as nothing compared with the sight which now stood before me. Like the mad soldier in "Apocalypse Now" he was splattered in blood and gore with only his eyes and teeth highlighted. He wore an expression of insane triumph as the fishy stuff dripped off him and I thought "Where did my Gordon go?"
His next words were chilling. He smiled slowly and said in a hoarse voice "Get the camera!!!……."
I insisted he swilled down himself and the boat least your sensibilities be too offended. Once recorded the tail and massive head were quickly dismembered and offered back to Neptune as thanks.
That night as I lay on my bunk I heard a terrible rattling and crashing coming from the fridge box. I knew as I opened the lid what I would see, every plastic box containing the butchered creature was leaping and shuddering, as had the whole beast. It still lived! And it wanted revenge.
Actually no - that bit was a dream. But it scared the wits out of me and I awoke trembling. Our punishment is much more subtle, we now have approximately 30 tuna meals to eat.
I caught a fish today. It weighed 40 pounds.
Back to Anne's account.
On 10th June we arrived at Ahé. We worked our way through a very small gap in the ring that forms this 6 mile round atoll. The waves in the pass were huge and short, but once through, flat calm and amazingly still.
We had to dodge many bits of coral (bommies) and pearl divers markers and no chart can substitute here for a good pair of eyes standing high on the bow. We were aiming for a lagoon within the lagoon at the far side from the entrance pass, and although doing ok were glad to hear "White Hawk" on the radio. They were already anchored and talked us in. Cheers m' dears.
No clouds here. In fact the highest point in the whole ring of islands is the tallest palm tree.
This group of Polynesian Islands are known as the Tuamotu Islands and are so remote it's hard for us to imagine. A large supply boat comes in occasionally and judging by the high tech baby buggies and chic line in Bermuda shorts all the men wear, catalogues are big. We saw the boat coming in, and small powerboats appeared from all points around the atoll. The buzz on the jetty was high as everyone collected a parcel of some description, including two mattresses on one small boat.
True to form, no bread, potatoes, onions, veggies of any sort, chicken, meat or eggs are available to buy, since everything is produced for local needs. Bread making is no problem on the boat, but my flour supplies are low.
Thank goodness for the tuna, which I am cooking in many ways and sharing when I can with other boats. Apart from that it's a case of inventing with tins, most of which were bought in St.Lucia or Panama. Long gone are the days of "which restaurant will we eat in tonight?" But we all share what we can and have fun doing so.
The locals are always trying to trade black pearls for alcohol but the pearls are poor quality and since there is no "offy" for several hundred miles, no one is giving away alcohol! "White Hawk" out of beer - us out of everything except beer. You can see how it works.
The wind while we were here turned around a full circle, so the anchor became horribly wrapped around some coral bommies. However all onboard "White Hawk" are divers so Paul (skipper) went down and freed us. Beers all round.
Ahé to Tahiti
On Monday 15th June we upped anchor after a bread making morning and headed off for a three-night passage to Tahiti. After the first night the wind died completely and we had a sea which reflected the sunrise in candy stripes of pink, turquoise, pale green and blue.
After a full day of drifting about we decided to put the engine on and make a push for Tahiti. Apart from anything else, we know they have marinas there, the first since Colon in Panama on the Atlantic side.
Arrived in Papeete on Wednesday 17th June. Oh deep joy! We are plugged in and have a water supply. This means that Gordon can't say to me "You cant put that light on because the battery is low and I will have to start the engine and don't have enough diesel." Or "No you can't have a shower today because we don't have enough water." Also for the first time in months I am writing the blog in real time, not retrospectively.
We came into the town harbour since the new marina is full and I think we have the better deal. We are right next to where it's at and the buzz of traffic is actually soothing after so much silence.
We have restocked, although Gordon almost needed to be medicated at the check out. Two trolleys full, which I reckon at Tesco prices would have come to about £300 cost us approximately £850!! However that will see us to Oz.
The Polynesian culture here is alive and well. Even in the bars, supermarkets and streets everyone, men and women and children, have stunning flowers in their hair.
We arrived at the start of the Papeete - Moorea Regatta, so loads of yachts came in including "Mikado", "Complicity" and at the marina "Hilde", "White Hawk", "Blues" and "Drimea". The local tourist board set up a wonderful ceremony called "The sea blessing" carried out by an elder in long flowing robes and accompanied by several conch blowing warriors who would have scared me off had I been a marauding pirate. As it was they were charming young men who posed happily later for photos.
There is a wonderful square in town here where the "Roulottes" (mobile kitchen trailers) serve fabulous Chinese and Polynesian food. Tables and chairs are set out on the street and they operate from 6pm until 1am. The woks work overtime throwing smoke and flames high. The smells and tastes are delightful and Polynesian families crowd many to a table. On weekends they roast whole calves over a fire. (Gordon's favourite, sorry veggies!)
So here we sit apparently in mid winter, one year to the day since we left Port Edgar (June 26th). I can't summarise the last year easily, it's been too diverse. From the rain lashed west coast of Scotland and east coast of Ireland, the beauty of everything then and since and the wonderful people along the way, the huge seas and the calms, the heat and the colours, sunrises and sunsets. I think we are the luckiest people on earth and hope we are describing some of it in a way that shares the experience with our friends and family at home and those met on the way.
Thanks to everyone who drops a line on the blog site. Good to know you are out there! The dream continues.
Anne and Gordon