08/07/2013, French Polynesia
When we left Tahiti we realized that we had a stowaway! A tiny gekko was stuck fast to one of the windows. A few days later we found him sheltering under some rope on the anchor roller, very sensible as the wind was coming from behind. We are happy to accommodate him (or her) as he feasts on mosquitoes and is a very undemanding guest.
Isabella wrote this story today............................
I looked through the salon window and saw a tiny gekko clinging on! How did he get there I wondered? .............
Brownie was a very small gekko. Last month all of his family had escaped from Tahiti on the super yacht called 'Legacy' captained by K.P. which was going to Australia. When it was dark they had all climbed onboard using the shore lines and hidden in a deck locker. Brownie's Mum and Dad did not see that he was too small to jump onto the lines and the super yacht left without him.
Brownie was left on the dock in the dark and cried his little eyes out. In the morning he saw Chilli Cat with the Australian flag on it and jumped on board while they were getting fuel. He had a big adventure with Isabella and Luca before he was re united with his family in Tonga at last.
Isabella Manfredi July 2013
08/07/2013, French Polynesia
This is a creative writing story that i set for Luca today in his English lesson.
I have seen lots of flying fish on this trip. Are they birds or fish? This is my fun story of how I imagine they came about...................
Once upon a time there was a sardine called Sard from Sardinia. At that time there was also a seagull called Seg from Spain. Sard was a small sardine, only 7 cm long and he was living under a rock in Sicily at that time.
One fine day, Seg was flying over head and he saw that Sard was eating a piece of chicken. " oh, no no no " Seg said to himself and dove down as chicken was also his favorite. Seg also started picking at the chicken. "Mamma mia" screamed Sard as he saw his meal rapidly disappearing.
Seg and Sard were so busy fighting over the chicken that they did not notice the speedboat race going on nearby. "whoaaaaaaaa" they both shouted as the speed boat shredded them to pieces. "This is going to hur....". They were shredded by the propellors and became moulded together into two super strange looking creatures; fish with wings!
And that is how flying fish evolved.
05/07/2013, French Polynesia
We are now in Papeete, Tahiti which actually is home to over half of the population of French Polynesia.
It was a 48-hour sail from Fakarava in good winds and we actually had to slow the boat down towards the end, as we did not want to enter here in the dark as a reef surrounds the whole island. As it was we timed it beautifully and we reached Venus point lighthouse at first light. It had been a very clear night as I could make out the white light from 40 miles away on an earlier watch. There are only a couple of mooring options here and we chose the town quay first. It had been some while since we had been in a marina but no dramas and we tied up on the end of the pontoon right in the centre of town.
What a culture shock! Cars, noise, crowds, buses, shops, restaurants - all of the things that we had not witnessed in such quantity for some months. I had my 'galley closed' sign up before we even shut the engines off! We took a stroll and checked in, a process that we had started in the Marquesas. Our main reason for a stay here is to repair and re provision. We needed to make some repairs to the UV strip on the head sail, fill the food cupboards and freezer, re fuel tanks and cooking gaz and a huge list of other things as well as give Chilli Cat a good clean inside and out. So, it was just as well that there was not much to see around the island itself. We didn't know but we had arrived on a public holiday weekend so many things were shut. Because that meant we couldn't get things done we hired a car on the Sunday and drove right around the island. Apart from a nice walk and a lovely lunch there was nothing of note to come to Tahiti for that we spotted anyway. As we had the hire car we finished the day in the big Carrefour supermarket, which was actually very exciting (how sad!)
It is nice though to enjoy a complete change and just step off the boat. We have eaten out for a few nights at the roulottes, a collection of caravans with kitchens and tables and chairs in the car park near us that offer all types of food. There is a big oriental influence here so our appetites have been very well satisfied.
Most afternoons the kids and I would go to the nearby park so that they could ride their scooters, something they really enjoy when we have the chance. After a few days on the quay we moved up within the lagoon to a mooring at marina Taina. This is a trolley push away from the big Carrefour and the sail repair man would be returning our headsail there too, as well as it being the location for the fuel dock. The mooring space was very full and with just two bouys free that we could see we quickly grabbed one with the boat hook and made ourselves at home. The next morning we set off on a longish dinghy ride for the big shop. After a morning in the supermarket we emerged to 40-knot winds and driving rain, we were a little concerned. Back at the marina the sea was whipped up a bit and we had the dinghy full of groceries but luckily it was all of the non perishables so a little (or a lot) of sea water wouldn't hurt it. The current was luckily in our direction but at the end we had to turn into it to dock the dinghy and get our stuff on board. Luca, being very lithe, hopped on board and got the line secure and then Charles and I had the fun of heaving the bags from one moving object to another, its all about the timing and no beer or otherwise was lost! With the VHF on we rinsed and dried our purchases and listened to some emergency calls close by as a couple of dinghies also flew past us hotly pursued by kind rescuers! By evening it had all calmed down thank goodness.
Some friends of ours had mentioned that one of the super yachts also tied up at the marina had a captain by the name of K.P. If this was the same man it was very exciting as Charles had been first mate to K.P on his first trip through the pacific 14 years ago. When we fuelled up the next morning we located him and yes it was! We made plans for a catch up later that day and had a lovely evening with a couple of drinks on the bridge deck while the captains swapped stories.
The following morning we left after breakfast for the morning's trip to the neighboring island of Moorea.
29/06/2013, French Polynesia
The three of us buddy boats set off with the morning light for the passage across the lagoon. There were channel markers but in this part of the world they are not always maintained or replaced so there is no substitute for keeping a look out. Despite our buoyed anchor, we did manage to get it slightly wedged to we had to pull hard to free ourselves and the screws on one side of the anchor roller plate came out! All still functioning ok though with a temp fix. Hoping that that was our only drama for the day we led our little flotilla south with all hands on deck keeping an eye out. The marked channel was actually good apart from one cardinal mark completely missing but luckily we had plenty of light and the reef was very obvious. 5 hours later we were ready to drop anchor in the south west anchorage. There is no town there these days, just a small guest house and 2 dive operations. Due to the conditions in the south pass, it is home to an enormous amount of sharks, mostly reef ones the size of Isabella or Luca around the anchorage but bigger ones in the pass itself. We were very lucky to be there for the June full moon as once a year at this time, thousands of groupers come in to lay eggs in the pass which in turn attract even more shark and frisky shark activity!
Charles did a dive most mornings which were really good and we all did a dinghy drift snorkel through the pass - something new for us. This entailed taking the dinghy to the outer pass and jumping in and hanging on to the attached lines and just drifting back into the lagoon with the current, no effort involved. Actually it was all too quick so we did it again a couple more times. The visibility was possibly the best I have ever encountered. Most of the big sharks were in a trench down deep but occasionally we would literally bump into one and luckily they ignored us. We were a little anxious for the kids being smaller so we kept them close to us - unless they had been naughty of course!!
Afternoons and evenings were a delight in this anchorage, the little islands opposite us were great for exploring on foot or by canoe. We now have way too many shells. The cowries are lovely here though. One enterprising cruising couple have generously fashioned a beach bar out of driftwood found recently on the windward side of the island. In the evenings we would light a bonfire and everyone would come ashore with their drinks. One evening there was even a bbq and volley ball match but I cant report on that as I was in bed being ill with sunstroke/dehydration. That will teach me to spend hours in the sun on deck looking for coral heads without my hat on and no water for hours!!!!!duffer.
We were having such a great time here that we decided to forego the next planned atoll and stay here. There were a great bunch of people around, even another couple of kids so we were all very content to hang here.
20/06/2013, French Polynesia
We entered the pass with a bit of current but had timed it well and aimed towards the only village in the north east corner. There is a population of about 600 here, some small pensions, an airport and a couple of dive operations. We navigated between the coral heads and dropped the anchor close to the town with our fancy buoyed chain system to avoid any snagging. A trip into town revealed a charming little place with tidy gardens and houses on the 500metre strip of land between lagoon and ocean. We found a bakery, 2 shops, a church and a few pearl huts. A packet of over priced Tim Tams was purchased at the store along with the baguettes, Charles made arrangements for some diving and we had a nice wander around. Not the best sleep here as it was quite rolly but we enjoyed the company of a small group of reef sharks constantly at our stern. Charles had a dive in the pass and really rated it which was great. It was another technical drift dive so again, not a great one for me to try and get back in the water with.
After that we hired bicycles from a small guest house and rode as far as the only 'resort' on the atoll and treated ourselves to lunch on the beach. There were some pearl designs on display in the resort and we had fun window shopping but nothing really grabbed us. We were incredibly proud of Isabella. It had been over a year since she had been on a bike but after a minimum display of Italian theatrics she was on her way with speed and style!
On the Sunday here we were fortunate enough to catch the last 30 minutes of the Sunday service. It seemed that all villagers were present in an amazing display of colourful flower print clothes and more flowers in their hair. The singing was spine tingling! The whole congregation sang in harmony and in tune and often. I don't know it it's a characteristic of the islanders but no one was off key. My Dad would have loved that for his choir many years ago!
18/06/2013, French Polynesia
It was very difficult to move on from the atoll of Kauehi, but move on we must. Its hard to believe with all of this time that we have, but we are actually on the short trip compared to many cruisers!
We upped anchor early in the morning and reversed our track out to the pas in the lagoon hoping that we had our tide calculations correct- we did and it was an easy exit with just a knot of current to contend with.
There are many other atolls to choose from but we decided on Fakarava for a few reasons. It has a supposed easy entrance in the north and another in the south. we can move within the lagoon between the two passes as long as we pay attention to the channel markers and keep a look out at all times for the coral heads. Another reason was to look at the black pearls that this area is famous for and finally for diving with sharks in the south pass!!!!!!!
14/06/2013, French Polynesia
When i think of the South Pacific i conjure up images of white beaches, swaying palm trees, clear turquoise waters, my boat anchored just off the reef and a cocktail at sunset. Yes i know it, i am a very lucky girl because that is exactly what we had at Kauehi atoll. Sometimes it just all falls into place. This atoll is a popular one for cruisers as the pass is pretty easy to enter but we were just 4 boats in our anchorage in the south east of the atoll. we had food and drink on board and the jobs list wasnt too bad so we allowed ourselves some free time to capitalise on this feeling. We took the dinghy over to a nearby reef and anchored and had a great snorkel with the kids. they had their first view of the reef sharks and were not al all perturbed by them although Isabella did stick fairly close to her Dad! The reef was in great condition and the fish were lovely but what really struck us here were the clams in such bright colours. on the second day, the kids were able to use hand held scuba propellors kindly lent by Brian and Catherine, to whizz them effortlessly around the reef James Bond style!. In the evenings we enjoyed sundowners as a group and one evening the 'boys' went on a crab hunt to the beach in the dark, not enough for a meal so they were able to live to fight another day. The spearguns also came out and Mike and Brian bagged a coral trout. She was a beauty, we let everyone else eat it first to check if there was any Ciguatera present and then fired it up the following day after crumbing it in Isabella's home made herby breadcrumbs, really yummy. The anchorage was so still but we had the benefit of the breeze coming over the reef, a perfect combination for a few good sleeps. there is a small village on the atoll, possibly 100 people live there concentrated into one area. the rest is pure south pacific dreamland for me.
11/06/2013, Tuamoto islands, French Plynesia
Its approx 500 miles from the island of Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas to the island we chose in the Tuamoto chain. Now that it is just us 4 again Charles and I decided to alternate 4 hourly watches and we both agreed that it was a great passage.
We set off at midnight from the main anchorage in town along with Maloo. It is a large anchorage with plenty of room so it was easy enough to up anchor and get on our way in the dark, especially as there is no moon at the moment.
We motor sailed for the fist night as the wind was too light for sails alone but the wind kicked in a bit more in the morning and we flew the asymmetric kite in the lovely light conditions. We needed to average our speed at 6 knots to make the pass at the reef where we were going to some attention to detail on watch was needed. On the second night the wind just died so all sails down. In reality this was lovely as we have a raised day bed up on deck so with no sails to obstruct the vision we could do the watches from there as well as lie back and gaze at the amazing night sky. I must have counted at least 10 shooting stars on one of my night watches and the milky way showed up so well.
For our last 24 hours the wind kicked back in with a few squalls too, nothing too bad though. It was great to kill the engines and sail for the last night.
The dawn came and with it our first sight of this island group. We had chosen the island of Kauehi as it is reported to have one of the easiest passes to enter.
Essentially, the Tuamotu islands are almost all atolls with lagoons and smaller land areas (motus) of a variety of sizes. It is not possible to navigate into all of the islands but with care, some can be entered as long as tides and currents are worked out in advance.
We entered the pass at pretty much the time we calculated and it was fine but now that we were inside we had to navigate around the coral heads that were in abundance! We put Luca up on the first spreaders so that he could report back and I stood up at the front too and we could both direct Charles around any coral that turned up. After an hour in the lagoon we found our spot for anchoring and breathed a big sigh of relief!
06/06/2013, French Polynesia
A full days motor sail bought us to the island of Nuka Hiva. This is the second largest island and the administrative capital of this area. Also it's the only place where there is internet for us. The main town of Taiohae was our first port of call, a large anchorage with space for everyone. We spent a couple of nights here, catching up on e mails, fuelling the boat by jerry cans, some minor repairs etc. The shops were also okay here so we took on some more provisions. (when I say that a shop is good, think of a village store 20 years ago and you are close). Just under 3000 people live here, mainly in this town which is towered over by the islands highest point and the lush green hills that we have now come to expect.
After a couple of days we headed east (never nice going back ) to go up and around the island to Anaho Bay in the north east corner which was highly recommended. We had an amazing trip, about 100 (really) melon headed whales joined us as we headed up the east coast of the island. They stayed with us for a long time, increasing in number and playing off both bows until they reached thier cut off point and swam joyfully away leaving all of us with smiles on our faces. Those smiles stayed as we entered the bay at Anaho. What a great place to hang for a couple of days. A huge sheltered bay with a couple of promised walks and a veg farm for some goodies.
The following day we walked over the steep hill to the pretty village of Haitiheu and grabbed some fresh mangoes en route. Great to stretch the legs on the mountain pass! That night we did pot luck on the beach with our cruising pals. A great day.
01/06/2013, french Polynesia
We had heard mixed reviews about this island but set off anyway and so glad that we did. It is the 3rd largest island and boasts the highest peak, Mount Oave at 1232m and the peaks and ridges of phonolite are very impressive. We just motored up the west coast and enjoyed the scenery. An hour before anchoring for the night Luca caught a huge wahoo which portioned up will do us for 5 meals. There and then with the help of Orshi, we made fish stew and ceviche for the following day, yum!
The anchorage that night was not one we could use for going ashore due to the swell so the following morning we carried on around (in the rain) to the main town of Hakahau which was bustling with activity as the Aranui 3 (the supply freighter/cruise ship) was expected in within the hour. It is not a large anchorage so we used bow and stern anchor again and watched the comings and goings with the supply ship. Once we knew that our boat was secure we went ashore and found a good supermarket where we ordered bread for the following day, arranged a 4 wheel drive tour and walk also for the following day and enjoyed looking around the crafts that were on display for the benefit of the passengers on the Aranui 3.
Jerome our guide on our day out was great. We packed our picnic and stout walking shoes and had a great day. We learnt a lot about the history of the peple and traditions as we journeyed around. The scenery was breathtaking as we climbed higher and higher taking in visits to ceremonial sights en route. Just before lunch we left the vehicle and basically did some mountain climbing to a burial site tucked up high in the hills. No national trust footpaths here so just as well Jerome knew where he was going. After that we then stopped high up on the islands for our picnics. The trip carried on to a beach where you can find the flowerstones. Apparently this island and only 2 other places in the world have them! On the way back our truck blew a hose and we all had to pile into the one truck for the return. It was great fun for us sitting in the back amongst the bananas, mangoes and fresh chillies that we had gathered from mother nature.