First Light adventures

21 May 2017 | Maupihaa Atoll
19 May 2017 | Maupihaa Atoll
30 April 2017 | Papeete Tahiti
28 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
25 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
23 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
21 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
19 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
16 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
16 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
13 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
08 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
06 April 2017 | Enroute to FP
05 April 2017 | Enroute to FP
30 March 2017 | San Cristobal Galapagos
29 March 2017 | San Cristobal Galapagos
27 March 2017 | Enroute to Galapagos
26 March 2017 | Enroute to Galapagos
25 March 2017 | Enroute to Galapagos
24 March 2017 | Enroute to Galapagos

Life on an atoll.

21 May 2017 | Maupihaa Atoll
It has been three days since we arrived in Maupihaa atoll. The possible tropical cyclone near Tonga that precipitated my decision to pull over here instead of heading towards it didnt eventuate, however strong winds and rough conditions did. So we feel we are in a better place than if we had continued. In fact this unscheduled stop is shaping up to be the highlight of our French Polynesian experience. We have become friends with a local family ashore and have learnt some of their tricks for catching fish, lobster and other delicacies such as tern eggs that are in abundance. For the last two nights we have had fresh fish and last night we started with four small lobsters shared between the two of us. Tonight we are going ashore to share some of our pre prepared green curried chicken and fresh fish with them.

The lagoon in the middle of this atoll is alive with fish. You can catch one in minutes with a volunteer hermit crab picked up on the beach extracted from his shell and put onto the hook. Under the yacht a number of sucker fish have adopted us and emerge immediately any scraps go over the side. Also emerging are black tipped shark that are never far away and at times just circle the yacht. The water is so clear that you can see other fish swimming lower down, presumably hoping for something, but keeping a healthy distance from the sharks.

Damien went out with Hio yesterday in an outrigger and a canoe to check out the pass conditions in the morning and to get the lobsters and eggs. Damien is interested in their outrigger design as a potential training craft for Dragon boat paddlers in Australia wanting to train by themselves. He has a K1 kayak in the shed that is very tippy for the novice, but with the addition of an outrigger it would become more stable a possibly a very useful training canoe. I have taken measurements and photos with the idea of making an outrigger when we get home.

The weather windows ahead to continue our passage to Tonga are not brilliant, with some light and variable weather and some strong winds and big seas again to contend with. We have had reports of many yachts waiting in NZ for a weather window to head north to Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu. Normally conditions at this time of year are settling down to more consistent trade winds, fine and slightly cooler temperatures. At the moment it seems that if you are doing a passage in this part of the world longer than a few days, you will probably encounter some unsettled conditions. We are hoping that in the next few days we see an opportunity for a good passage and leave this magical place, but the weather will have to be good!

An overdue update

19 May 2017 | Maupihaa Atoll
If you check our Lat. Long. you might work out where we are...but more on this later.

A few days after we arrived in Papeete, Di flew in to join us for a couple of weeks cruising in the Society Islands.

We were initially busy with boat jobs and reprovisioning, but had time to look around the island and check out the markets and supermarkets. It is always interesting to see whats on offer in the markets and the main one in Papeete didnt disappoint. It was packed with people early Sunday morning and had an extensive range of seafood, fruits and vegetables. We noticed a strong Chinese influence paticularly when we spotted spiced crackling pork being chopped up into bite sized bits. So the very tasty pork became lunch with some fresh salad and a baguette. Yum!

On the 7th of May we departed Papeete and sailed the short distance to the island of Moorea where we anchored in Cooks Bay. The scenery in this bay is spectacular with high mountains 3/4 of the way around, covered in dense tropical growth. We were anchored on the leeward side of the island so as the humid air rose over the mountain tops it cooled and condensed creating a cloud, some of which would fall as rain over the anchorage. The shade from the clouds and the rain created a pleasantly cooler temperature that was a welcome relief from the incessant tropical heat that we had had since Panama.

Although we could have stayed in Cooks bay longer we had to deliver Di to Bora Bora in a weeks time, so we had to keep moving. We left Moorea late one afternoon for the overnight sail to Huahine island a 90nm passage. Once out off shore the conditions were a bit lumpy and our passenger took the appropriate seasickness drugs and retired below. We arrived at dawn off the pass to the township of Fare on Huahine island and entered. Once inside the lagoon we found a spare mooring just off the township and picked it up. The dinghy was launched and we began to explore the island. The township is only small, but to our surprise we found one of the most comprehensively stocked supermarkets we had seen anywhere. We were also able to ferry a bike ashore so the legs could get a bit of a stretch. A fish meal at a local restaurant was exceptional.

Once again we had to keep moving so departed Huahine for the 50nm passage to the island of Bora Bora and arrived there later in the afternoon. We have become more and more confident with the accuracy of our electronic charts particularly the detail provided of the passes into these island lagoons. Entering Bora Bora was no exception, but even with the aid of these charts you have to be very vigilant and despite the assurance of the charts, it is still a bit unnerving to see waves curling over and breaking on the reef either side of you. Once inside the lagoon of Bora Bora we started looking for a mooring. To our surprise the island seems to be only able to accommodate 50 to 60 yachts on mooring buoys or at anchor, there is no marina as such. As we cruised past the main mooring areas we found they were all taken so we headed across the bay to the famous Bloody Marys restaurant where there are some free moorings. From a distance we could see a number of yachts already there, so I shot off a quick prayer to St Bernard who always delivers! Sure enough there was one remaining mooring, so we hooked up and relaxed. After a few days looking around and a memorable meal at Bloody Marys, Di departed. We navigated the convoluted clearance formalities required for us to leave French Polynesia and eventually got all to forms filled out, stamped, scanned and sent off and finally got our bond money back from the bank.

Damien and I departed Bora Bora on the 17th May bound for Tonga a 1300nm passage. Once offshore it soon became obvious to me that I had lost my sea legs in the calm waters of the Bora Bora lagoon. There was little wind but the swells were a good 3 metres, so we had to motor for awhile but later in the day we had enough wind to hoist sails. I had no interest in dinner that night, but Damien could still enjoy a beer! The winds picked up to 20+ knots and the seas rose accordingly till they were occasionally crashing aboard. We had squalls with heavy rain from behind so we copped it from all angles. In the early hours of the morning I was studying the latest weather forecast and noticed what appeared to be a developing tropical cyclone towards Tonga right in our path. I started looking for places ahead of us that could provide shelter in a cyclone and could find nothing. I was not happy to continue on, so looked back and discovered a small atoll that we had passed during the night. It seemed to have a recently surveyed pass a navigable lagoon and a village, so a possibility for us to go into a holding pattern before continuing on when safe. I made the decision to head back upwind the 25nm back to Maupihaa atoll and try to enter the pass. The rest of the day was spent going to windward in the 20knots and big seas. Actually the boat seemed to enjoy the experience a lot more than its contents and crew.

We arrived off the pass at 1530 an ideal time we hoped with the light behind us. As we approached we were escorted by two birds that flew so close we could almost touch them, they were unafraid of us and hovered above our bow showing off their flying skills. We hoped it was a good omen. The closer we got to the pass we realised we might need all the good omens we could get as the water coming out of the pass was ripping through creating overfalls and huge eddies and whirlpools. We sneaked closer in with me on the helm and Damien watching the chart and calling out directions while we both watched the depth. As we were entering the narrowest section I was doing over 6 knots in the water but only inching through the pass and could see the reef only meters on either side. Quick response on the helm was required to keep us on the straight and narrow. I have no idea how long it took to get in, but it was probably only a few minutes before the current reduced and the water settled down and the depth increased to over 10m. We motored across the lagoon towards the village and dropped the anchor. After a quick pack up we tucked into a cold beer and huge serving of spag bol. I hit the sack before 8 exhausted.

We awoke this morning after the best nights sleep to the amazing sight of the few bits of green atoll that surround the lagoon with the fringing reef filling in the gaps.

I dont know if I made the right decision, but right now I am happy with it. We will rely on friends with internet to report on the weather that unfolds around Tonga. In the mean time we are considering our options. A trip ashore this morning revealed the population of the atoll is 14 and we met an uncle, two sisters and a brother from a family originating from a nearby island. The only industry is copra from coconuts and they only get a ship into the lagoon when they have 35 tonnes ready and this is often about every 8 months! The ship has 1.5 metres clearance either side when entering the pass and apparently the captain doesnt like coming here!!! I wonder why? We have already traded some of our stores for fresh fish and fruit.

Over and out Bernie

Arrivee Papeete

30 April 2017 | Papeete Tahiti
We arrived in Papeete yesterday afternoon at 1500 and berthed in the marina. The island appeared out of the mist with the upper peaks shrouded in cloud. After seeing nothing but sea for weeks, the vivid green of the island was spectacular..

The passage from the Galapagos was 3800 nm and took us 25 days, a few days longer than expected due to over a week of light winds that we encountered. All in all a good passage with no significant problems, good food, good company and a few challenging times with the weather.

Immediately and I mean immediately after we checked into the marina we found the first place selling cold beers and sank a few frosty beers to get our systems quickly adjusted to shore life. Walking down the street it initially feels like the footpath is rocking but after a few beers this sensation is canceled out...thats how it works!

We wandered around and found an area where food vans cook meals and we had fish and chips, then it was back to the boat for an early night with no 3 on 3 off watches.

Today we have started working down the list of jobs. One job we had not anticipated was cleaning off all the growth that had formed above the waterline due to this area being submerged for long periods of time and not treated with antifoul paint. The green slime and weed is proving hard to remove.

Di turns up tomorrow night for a couple of weeks cruising with us in the Society islands. Updates to this blog may be a bit sparse for the next couple of weeks as we enjoy some R and R.

Bern and Damien

Nearly there!

28 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
The last two nights have been the most challenging of the whole journey to date. We have been negotiating the maze of Tuamotu atolls on the way to Papeete in Tahiti.. Ideally you would do this with moderate winds, in daylight or a full moon, fine conditions and clear visibility. Instead we we negotiated the tight bits at night, no moon, squalls with 10 to 30 knots of wind, torrential rain, visibility zero. Fortunately I had confidence in the electronic charts which said the area had been surveyed by the French last year. We had backup navigation running on the laptop and this always agreed with the chartplotter.

It was with relief that we finally exited this area early this morning and we are now on the final strait to Papeete, just 140nm to go and one more night. We have 15 to 20 kn winds now from behind so we are scooting along with a reef in the main and the jib poled out.

What we cant believe is that we have seen no sign of human life for weeks. We thought we would see aircraft, ships or yachts the closer we got to Tahiti, but nothing. Has everyone gone to ground? Is Donald threatening to flick the switch?


560 nm to go!

25 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
We have entered the Tuamotus atolls area but have not seen any of these low lying atolls yet. We have some tricky navigation coming up to weave our way through the maze. All being well it looks like we should make landfall in Tahiti on the weekend.

Wind up to 20kn with some squalls. Boat speed 7 to 8 knots. Sailing TWA 140 deg, one reef and partly furled headsail, overnight mode.


Are we there yet?

23 April 2017 | Enroute to French Polynesia
No we are not there yet, but we are inching closer, 830 nm to go. After a couple of days of frustrating light conditions mixed with rain squalls and many sail changes we are moving again and mostly in the right direction. A day was spent on the toilet, not sitting on it but making a fibreglass impeller to replace the damaged one. The end result was successful, we now have a very confident flush again.

We are approaching a 400nm wide maze of low lying atolls called the Tuamotu, they lie between us and our destination Papeete. This area is a navigators nightmare as the atolls are very lying and mostly uninhabited and unlit. I have charted a course through them, but our challenge will be to actually sail this course. We have been saving fuel so we have the ability to motor through any tight spots in this area . Re the notice we have been avoiding this topic. Well two fish have been caught, both barracouta, the first one half eaten by his mates and the second one very scrawny, both returned to the deep. Hoping for more luck as we sail through the Tuamotu.

Bern and Damien
Vessel Name: First Light III
Vessel Make/Model: Adams 12
Hailing Port: Melbourne Australia
Crew: Bernie
About: Bernie is passionate about sailing and finally living his dream to cruise long term. Dianne is First Mate and looking forward to many adventures along the way.
First Light III was fitted out and equipped by Bernie and launched in 2004. She is a fractional rigged cutter with a good turn of speed. Specification: Length 12 m. Beam 4m. Draught 2.2m Displacement 7500Kg Engine Yanmar 39HP Saildrive HF radio with email capability High capacity ECH2O [...]
First Light III's Photos - Main
Photos from NC and Vanuatu
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Created 15 June 2009
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Created 14 May 2009

First Light 111 Adventures

Who: Bernie
Port: Melbourne Australia