04 July 2012
Well at present we are well in transit between The Cook Islands and Tonga. Having motor sailed due to light winds in the middle section we are now back to sail with a lovely 15 knots off the port stern. 48 hours away till the greetings of the Tongans. we encountered cyclone Keith upon leaving The Cooks. With a strong 20 knots off the port beam, side on winds to the left, we had a rough and bumpy passage for the first 24 hours. Keith took on breakfast claiming he does his best work when drunk and by sure the conditions simulated this. With best plans he summoned up his cooking skills in the rough weather and bashed together omelets. Interestingly he had no qualms in explaining like lightning never strikes the same place twice that his cooking never produced the same results either. With plenty of prime ingredients left in the pantry Keith presented us with Asian style omlets with the addition of fish sauce. Fortunately all 5 serves were used, one each for Keith, Mark and Simon, the other two being for the floor and stove top. One would not think it possible to use every utensil on the boat other than 2 tea spoons to make such a dish but one had to see to believe. The Cook Islands saw us stop at Roratonga the capital, with no access to the harbour we anchored close to the shore in the lee of the island on the north side. Dinning ashore for a break from cooking we had seared tuna salads, steaks and Indian to expand our culinary experiences. Keith and i took a walk across the island and got lost on the trail due to talking too much and continued along the ridges in the jungle to one of the mountainous peaks. The last portion being identicle to climbing a tree as a kid, at close to 70 degree incline we went up up up. Stringing together a few dives here the water temperature had dropped from all previous dives of 28 degrees to 23, now having become very soft this was cold! The day temperature has also dropped to mid 20's and required a Tshirt for the first time in 5 months. The previous sail from Bora Bora saw the two crew a little green as this 3 days passage was quite bumpy with large swells and constant 25-30 knot winds. Broa Bora is an amazing island and one to see on anyones list. The resorts all have their rooms on stilts over the water with decked piers connecting them. The Packer super yacht the Arctic P was present as well. We snorkeled in the lagoon with the 28 degree water being warmer in than out. The island is like a castle with a ringed moat around it. The peak at about 800m high is surrounded by a lagoon with the fringe reef being a little further out like an atoll. a yacht can complete a circuit within the lagoon, amazing. Definately worth a google to look at the resorts on line, stunning. I strang together a few dives here, all amazing. A dive inside the lagoon saw us sitting on the bottom with manta rays circling above, the biggest being 4m for wing tip to wing tip. they were like ufo's hovering above. Again the marine life came to us, they would go nearly out of view and then turn around to come back and glide over us at about 2m above our heads. The biggest one i cannot describe accurately how breath taking it was. An outer reef dive saw me find the lemon sharks that Sandy and i did not see at Tahiti. With about 10 Lemon sharks at 3m long plus plenty off black tip reefs too. The sharks, which were truly bloody big would cruse up to us about 3m away, one of out dive leaders swam and caught the tail of one for a tow! Not my cuppa tea! Thats all the tails for now, cheers mark.
Sharks one Bannanas
11 June 2012 | Tahiti
Well while at Hivo Oa we grabbed some fruit from a farm in the mountains. I Bunch of 120 bananas for $5 and my new bestest favorites food, pomellos. I have never heard or seen pomellos but the are like a grape fruit but up to 30cm. Not as bitter as a grape fruit, they are delicious. At only $1 each if I had of known how good they we're I would have bought 20!
Well I knew that the bananas were to ripen together but I did not think so fast. We got through the first 60 and since then have found it more difficult to eat the second half. Superb to eat but nearing overdose I think our poo will look like bananas shortly.
The diving at Rangiroa was absolute stunning. With enormous visibility in comparison to the Galapagos it was what you would dream of. These atolls are the first place that has burnt me to return. An absolute must for anyone who dives. We had first a manta ray larger than us split the 4 of us diving as it came from behind and just swam through us. We all peed in our wets suits a bit. Eagle and spotted rays, turtles and a family of dolphins that came to us and white tipped reef sharks that stayed around too. I do know what they have done here but one normally is chasing the sea life to keep up. The turtle saw us and dashed to us swimming in and out looking for a pat, the same as the dolphins, super! I did one drift dive through the atoll Chanel. Running at about 5 knots it was like flying. Unfortunately one in our group was a learner and had some difficulties so we had to adjust our dive profile. As the water was running so strong against the waves the surface water was very rough and the dive boat could not see us for pick up untill about 60 min after we had surfaced and had drifted about 3km into the lagoon. Nothing dangerous but a super example of having other people around looking out for you. I will see if there are flares I can carry in my bcd in the future. Sandy braved another dive here too after I had commented on how great it was. With a dolphin encounter too she was not disappointed. So much so as soon as we arrived at Tahiti we book a dive the same day as she flew out the next. This did not disappoint either. No beatiful corals, dolphins or turtles but party central for sharks. We plunged in off the boat into at least 20 sharks straight off. Half black tip reefs at about 1.5m and the others grey sharks at about 2.5m. The grey sharks are more your typical Hollywood looking shark, probably about 5 times heavier than the reefs. We encountered between 50 to 100 sharks for the dive as I definitely lost count. I have never before though I would start to get bored looking at sharks on a dive. A little spooky when you are drifting along and check your 6 to find a grey shark following you. Still I was safe as everyone knows that sharks eat girls before boys. I remember from primary school that girls are made of sugar and spice and every thing nice while boys are made from slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails, the sharks know this too!
Papeete the capital of Tahiti is very cosmopolitan. The most modern town, as it not really big as I would call a city. The first place where Skype has worked well. Sandy has left and certainly will we miss her culinary skills. Max is home shortly and I am staying. More to come.
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Don't Shoot the Messenger
11 June 2012
Listen up guys...I am not the writer and I have things to do so I don't always have time to do an instant update so please don't winge when I am not intantly updating this website. I do it when I can. Tha being said here is the next episode.
With no satellite phone operational again I could not write the blog in transit as previously. Two times before we have had no data for emails for over a week on the Iridium satellite and this time no email or phone calls. The phone had issues the instant it was turned on when arriving and as per may things when one has an issue I was the only person ever to have ever had an issue. This US military issue hand set, water proof and ruggedized was the only faulty one ever. As per Iridiums slogan, everywhere, it would not work every where and even though sold every where could only be attended to in Australia, not everywhere, go figure. I will say in the retailers defense that we have received a subsequent email advising there is a recall on the hand sets as when they are everywhere they do not always work. Well it's back working now.
We have just arrived at Raniroa Atoll, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago.14,58 south, 147,38 west.
We have anchored inside the atoll which is as large as Port Phillip bay and at last are in dead calm water. Well not actually that dead calm, when the sun set as for what ever reason on insane number of small garfish surrounded the boat and as what I would assume to be barracuda were having their dinner. Garfish jumping out of the water all around with the predator fish following them out and I mean thousands of gars. We have anchors off a resort with the thatched roof rooms being on poles over the water, very beautiful. We left Hiva Oa in the Marquise hurriedly as the anchorage was not kind to us. The first two days, as the bay was very full, we lay off the rocky cliff with fore and aft anchors out to keep the boat from swinging around toward the rocks. Even though the anchors held well the stretching and groaning as they worked to hold the boat in the swell was in nerving. We relocated after 2 nights here to the rear of the fleet in shallower water as there was now room and being away from the adjacent rocks was releivingly. Unknowling until dark did we find that the incoming swell caused the waves to crest and break at where we were anchored. Had another yacht which came in after us not settled uncomfortable close to us and others, not allowed us any movement. We had more than ample anchor chain set and could have just pulled forward on our chain our of the breaking wave zone. After eating and well after dark random waves broke around the board. After a rogue wave broke completely over the front of both bows washing up to the cabin and driving us ferociously rearward, saw us then put floats or our 2 rear anchor ropes and throw them over and head for deep water. Upon leaving and navigating through the fleet we found the cats steering to be not responding unless on near full lock, bloody hopeless. In the dark, obviously no street lights here, also no head lights in the cat, we poked through to a safe area and dropped anchor. We retrieved the anchors the next day, made repairs to the stripped bots holding the rudders to the steering shafts and head south west towards Tahiti. Hive Oa had been a stress full stop even with out these events. I had become ill with chronic dirrohia and vomiting 2 days out from arriving and had to visit the hospital from assistance to recover.I was quite concerned that there may not be a doctor even on the island. The population of 1500 people only saw very little shops: gendarmerie for customers clearance, police station, post office, 3 small mini marts, hardware, one bank, one restaurant, chemist, hairdresser and a small hospital. All usually closed for their 1 1/2 to 2 hours lunch, Friday was part of the week end, 3 days week end! The chemist and other shops only open some odd half days. Other than these trials the island was beautiful with sheer high peaks covered with cloud most of the time, greenery everywhere and smiling people. Boy, most of them were big units too! I think this is where Andrea the Giant from WWF was born. For those whom never saw Andre the Giant wrestle, Hulk Hogan came up to his arm pit and weighed half. My understanding whether correct or not is that tattooing originated in the pacific islands. Both the men and women have inked skin which looked in place on their dark skin, the tattoos having meaning to them. Paul Gogan the French artist lived here on Hiva Oa the second half of his life dieting I think in 1906?. The museum houses tributes painted of his many many works. No mistaking the images of the islanders as his primary influence. I cannot say that I would request any of his paintings for a wall at home but it was an interesting time to walk through regardless, it must be my convict background. Well as per the previous blogg a walk was well warranted upon getting off the boat. The unnatural act of not walking and very little even standing for 20 days saw both Sandy and I walking with a stoop with the pain in our backs. It was about a 3km walk into town with a good large hill half way. After 2 walks in and back over the first 2 days we were both good. A tour over the island and a visit to the far side saw us traveling 4wd across the cliff edges with no armcove. I awae I could not imagine how this road could have ever been safely cut into the steep edge falling to the water. Kilometer after kilometer we travelled to see the giant stone tiki. The Tiki is obviously a very important item to the native people. No two Tiki's look alike. However whether you are 6 or 96 the one thing that you instantly comment on is wow they all have enormous DICKS! Either a Tiki is a 3 legged animal or wow! As mentioned earlier, they are massive units here and I dare anyone to ask these islanders whether the Tiki's resemble them in any way and live! Sailing to here we finall caught a tuna small enough to keep. I know that's the opposite of normal fishing but all the fish to date have been too big. Sandy baked the tuna as a whole with Thai spices, chilli, lime and lemon. Yum. It's still took 2 sessions for the three of us to nearly finish it. The four days passage to here was a sinch in comparison to the previous 20 day, such a relief! Cheers for now.
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Land at Last
29 May 2012
As we approach the Marquise islands we come to huge sheer cliffs hard to gauge their height but can easily be 500m plus. I cannot wait to get ashore and out of the boat confines. I have been cramming for the last week and long for a decent walk. The first place I will head to will be any store that has a Coke!
The winds this second half have been lighter than the first apart from the last 2 days which was consistent 20+ knots and rising seas to go with them. The lighter winds saw some motoring to keep us moving but also revealed what has been there all along but we could not see.
We had 3 separate whale sightings with the first blessing max and sandy with a whale in full breach out of the water doing a back wacker. With the calm seas it was easy to identify the water spray of the whales breathing. The closest a family came to us was about 200m off the starboard side, then down they dove with the last thing we would see being a huge tail exit the water as they head down.
One thing that is not missed as we sail are any Mosquitoes and flies. Their absence is welcome. One would think that the great Australian salute was unique to OZ but the same incessant buggers have been at every port of call.
I still haven't worn any form of shoes or even put on a t-shirt other than when we have gone ashore. I am looking for a reason why one would live in Melbourne with winters when you can live in the tropics like this.
In the lighter winds we travelled with the two jibs for a couple of days and then reverted back to one jib and the main sail gull winging as the wind was not perfect for us. The last 2 days with 20 plus knots saw us running under one jib only and still making good time.
Well I did wish for smaller fish to catch too which did come true. We caught one smaller tuna which I could actually get into the net and lift in alone. The beautiful skin colour when taken out of the water is very memorable. It was still far too big to keep and would have been such a waste of fish that again we let it go. The next day we were blessed with a double hook up with max controlling the boat and sandy and I on a line each. It's a team effort on a yacht to slow the boat and attempt to pull in a fish. We had some good methods when a line would scream loose with an unknown fish on the end. We would immediately set Sandy to adding the brake to the reel and controlling the fish as Max and I would round the boat windward, winch in the jib as per Australia 2 in the America's cup and leave the main to luff in the wind. To keep control of the direction we would start both motors and then I could help Sis. Obviously when hooking up with 2, as happened twice, this made for some bedlam. This last double hook up proved to be easier to bring the fish to the boat than before, as already mentioned the big tuna took about 40 minutes to land. Hoping this time we had some smaller tuna we found, once in sight of the stern, we had hooked 2 Mahi Mahi. Unbelievably along with the 2 hooked came the remainder of the school swimming next to each fish, about 15 in total in the water. It was exciting to have hooked them but truly heart breaking to see the family coming in with them as they were obviously in distress being hooked. I have never felt bad about catching a fish before but had the same felling as I would have though in accidentally catching a dolphin. The family guarded them as we got them to the rear steps. I landed mine first with the net, being over 1m long but nothing of the girth of a tuna I assume they could be may be only 10kg. With care we unhooked the lure from its lip, took some photos and returned him or her to their family. Unlike the tuna whose tail was so easily held this Mahi Mahi I could only hold using the net to assist gripping. Max had set the auto pilot to hold the boat windward and started recording the video as Sandy landed hers. Again some photos, removal of the lure carefully and back home to the abyss.
The sails were reset and we headed back to our original course. It really felt right as we all discussed over lunch, YMCA ( yesterday's muck cooked again) to have let them go. Really special the remaining fish covering their two hooked mates. We approach these giants of islands and will report on our next adventures soon.
Cheers Mark, Max and Sandy.
22 May 2012 | 100o mls short of next landfall
Happy birthday Sis! (How many people get to have their birthday in the middle of the Pacific and be with their Dad and Brother? (BG)). We have now made it 2/3 on this leg, currently we are at 5 degrees south, 123 degrees west, 1000nm to the Marquises . The wind goddess Blusterina forgot us for 2 days after half way. With 2 consecutive days of very light wind it was the first opportunity to put a line in the water. Well within no time Sandy was pulling in a mahi mahi or dolphin fish. Amazing with its colourful yellow and green colour, a perfect size to cook up for dinner for 3. alas as from previous fishing with no land in site and not catching anything we did not have the landing net ready and lost it pulling it up to the boat, bugger. At least there is proof of life here other than flying fish and squid. It makes sens as there are so much smaller things for them to feed.
Well back into the water with the lures and about an hour had past when both the trailing lines hooked. If it were a Looney Tunes cartoon there would have been smoke pouring off the reels as the line fed out of both at an amazing rate. Sandy grabbed one, me the other and max slowed and turned the boat. As both reels started to get to the end of the line we applied more and more brake to the spool. Sandy’s rig broke and mine held. The following 40 minutes saw me gain line and then loose it until we had the largest fish I have ever caught, a tuna at the rear step of the boat. The net barely got most of the fish in it and was impossible to lift out of the water. The rear step on the scoop of the hull is basically at water level and when a wave comes it has water flow over it. With the net around the fish we slid it onto the step. It was like pulling a wet bag of cement out of the water. Sandy and I pulled the fish up one step at a time into the boat. What a beautiful animal, way too large to keep for food. If were having a bbq for 50 then this would be fine. The hook had barely held as the rigs we had were really too small for this size fish. Fortunately the tail of the tuna is similar to the handle bars of those Razor scooters the kids ride and we could get a great grip to hold the tuna up for a photo then send him back home into the abyss. We hooked up another 3 times through the afternoon, Sandy landed an identical one and the others got off the hooks, again not big enough rigs. Sandy too took 40 minutes to get the tuna to the boat, the same effort to get it out of the water, photos and then back in. We have no scales to weigh them but assume a similar weight to a 20kg bag of cement. For the first time when I have been fishing I have wished to catch smaller fish.
While on watch at night there is plenty of time to star gaze. When overcast its impossible to determine the horizon’s edge, its like being in a dark room with sensory deprivation. For a good adrenalin gland work out watch the movie paranormal activity while on watch! When there is no cloud, which is most of the time’ there are more stars to see than I have ever noticed. With no light pollution from suburbia it is terrific. There is more than the occasional shooting star to be seen, some for an instant, others for half the sky’s length. Who ever named earth earth really got it wrong, Why is it not called more aptly water? There is certainly plenty of it here. Cheers,
Middle of nowhere
16 May 2012
6 days out from the Galapagos and we hit 1000nm. 1/3 of the way, haven't see a boat of any sort since leaving. The winds have been consistently 10-15 knots with our boat speed averaging around 7+ knots. We look likely to cover the 3000nm in 18 days assuming the same weather. When the weather map is downloaded we check to confirm out current course directly east at 3.5 degrees south of the equator has predicted good winds. On every download there are always larger winds and storms to the south for us to be wary. If they come more northerly than predicted we plan to sail with them towards the equator as they reduce in intensity. Sandy has the cooking sorted and I'm sure the boys home in Cairns are missing that. Such a long way still to go and one has to be mindful to keep your mind occupied. It took me two days to get back my sea legs on this trip as I did not quite feel right. As the boat speed has been up too high for any fishing I still have managed to catch a flying fish in my bed courtesy of an open window. Cheers for now, mark.