02 August 2017 | Bora Bora, French Polynesia
26 July 2017 | Tahiti, French Polynesia
21 July 2017 | The Tuamotus archipelago, French Polynesia
11 June 2017 | Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
07 June 2017 | Daniels Bay, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
03 June 2017 | Nuku Hiva, The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
28 May 2017 | Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
27 May 2017 | Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
26 May 2017 | Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
24 May 2017 | Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
23 May 2017 | Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
11 May 2017 | Tahuata Island, the Marquesas, French Polynesia
10 May 2017 | The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
09 May 2017 | The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
07 May 2017 | Hiva Oa, the Marquesas, French Polynesia
02 May 2017 | 2,170 miles logged : 630 MTG (miles to go)
28 April 2017 | 1,650 miles logged : 1,150 MTG (miles to go)
23 April 2017 | 930 miles logged : 1,830 MTG (miles to go)

Eyeglass Assist sessions - French Polynesia

02 August 2017 | Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Well we've made it to Bora Bora and our 90 days in French Polynesia are just about up. We haven't posted any photos of our Eyeglass Assist sessions and you might be wondering if we have done any, and the answer is most definitely yes. We managed to run 9 sessions on four different islands fitting over 250 pairs of spectacles plus dozens of pairs of sunglasses.

While the people in French Polynesia enjoy a higher standard of living than most other Pacific nations, prices are very high as well. Their standard of health care is good and on a reasonably regular basis an ophthalmologist attends main centres in the archipelago and if the villagers can make their way there then there is no cost for the examination. The trouble is that the glasses must be ordered from Tahiti and they are so expensive that the vast majority of people don't bother consulting the eye doctor as they know they can't afford the glasses. We regularly made the point with people that visiting the doctor would pick up any medical problems that exist, if they were having issues with their vision. It was interesting to overhear the message as it was being passed around a village about our presence, the first question was always “how much do they cost?”. The reaction is normally a mixture of hope and skepticism until everyone realizes that, yes, we are telling the truth. As you can see from the photos, we left some pretty happy people behind.

Don't forget to check out our website at www.eyeglassassist.org and our planned project for the Solomon Islands next year, we need your donations to make it happen.

An old dog with a new trick

26 July 2017 | Tahiti, French Polynesia
This is “The Office” at the Yacht Club of Tahiti. It was nick-named that by other cruisers due to the amount of time I spent sitting at that table staring at the computer. Others said that the only memory I would have of Tahiti would be a computer screen. All in all I spent around 60 hours online. I would have preferred to be in a non-public place to allow me to concentrate but such is the life of the sailor and this was the only place around where I could access the net. My work day often started between 2 and 4 am on board Monkey Fist and then Frances and I would go to “the office” around 8 or 9, spend all day there and head back to MF after dark for more work and we wouldn't finish until the evening. Frances did wake at a more reasonable hour than I but still managed to spend many hours each day writing, and locating, sorting and collating information. It's difficult to believe that less than two weeks ago I knew nothing about either web design or web publishing, servers, webhosts, ftps, coding, htmls, etc.,.etc.,.

Our visas are up in French Polynesia in early August so we had a very limited time frame, still we got there in the end. We are still working on www.eyeglassassist.org and making improvements all the time but the main part is done and it's good to move on. I though cruising was about lolling around, hiking, swimming or sailing but I suppose life is what you choose to make it so we can't complain and wouldn't want to change a thing.

The photo is of me with Christian, a fellow cruiser, without who's help I'd still probably be sorting out coding issues.

Website launch - Eyeglass Assist - Solomon Islands Project

23 July 2017
We are very excited to announce the launch of our website to create awareness of our 2018 Eyeglass Assist Project to provide glasses to people living in remote villages in the Solomon Islands and we need your help to succeed. To find out more check out our website at www.eyeglassassist.org (the link is to the left of the page), there is lots of info, stories, videos and much more. To donate and to become involved in helping us give the gift of better sight to people of the Solomon Islands please give what you can, any amount will help. If you could share this post with one and all it would be very much appreciated and help us get our message out there.

Four minute in the Tuamotus

21 July 2017 | The Tuamotus archipelago, French Polynesia

We have been to the Tuomotus before, in 2013, so we knew what to expect. But I have to say that we had forgotten how stunningly beautiful these atolls really are. I guess more than anything for us, it is the colours. Perfect white sand beaches, coconut palms waving in the balmy tropical breezes but, above all the hues of iridescent blue shimmering beneath a pane of rippled glass. When it's overcast it is still stunning but when the sun is brilliant in the blue sky it is mind blowing. The in-water visibility is generally a subjective value but I would estimate we have seen up to 40 metres, which is difficult to better. Because there are no rivers here there is nothing to dump sediment into the water which accounts for much of the clarity.

We made landfall at Takaroa, 450 miles south west of the Marquesas, after what started out as a fast passage, the first 28 hours we made 220 miles, but the beam wind faded for a while and later picked up again. We didn't quite make it to Takaroa in the daylight so we anchored outside the pass, which was a more than suitable anchorage in the lee of the island so we spent the next 3 nights there rather than go into the lagoon. We were lucky enough to meet a teacher who spoke English and he filled us in about the now defunct pearling industry there and gave us the password to the council wifi to check our emails so we gave him a big bunch of bananas that he shared with his fellow workers at the council - banana crepes were on the menu.

The airport was just out of the main village and nestled between the open ocean and the lagoon. Right where the terminal was was a small man-made dock and quay and this would have been a fantastic place to fly into and be ferried out to a waiting yacht anchored in the turquoise lagoon. The stuff of dreams.

On leaving Takaroa we had to sail the 65 miles to the next atoll, Aratika, overnight in order to be at the entrance of the pass by 7 am at which time we expected slack water to be. Determining when slack water is at a pass at any atoll in the Tuamotos is a black art. There are so many influences that preclude long term prediction of current flow that it is pointless to do so. The Pilot for the area, the official guide, relates current flow to specific times before and after moon set and moon rise; other information relates the current flow to the sun and yet another influence, which many believe is the most influential is the height of the waves crashing onto the surrounding reef and washing into the lagoon. This is the only explanation for the fact that, the vast majority of the time, the current flows out of the lagoons. Of course this all makes it difficult to predict when slack water is going to be and every atoll is affected differently.

I must say that I was a little reluctant to tackle an east facing pass due to the added complication of having waves and swell confronting the strong currents at the pass. But the pass was a reasonable depth and only short and by the time we arrive the wind had died to only a light breeze so it was worth a look. The current was still pouring out of the narrow pass and causing standing waves (mixed with swell) 100 metres from the pass. What we have done in the past is try and avoid the standing waves by approaching from the side and then maneuvering into the centre of the pass upstream of the standing waves. The only real unknown and only real danger is how strong the outflowing current is. Once you are in the main flow, before you enter the pass itself and therefore commit your boat to transitting, it is possible to gauge pretty well how strong the current is. I prefer an opposing current as this allows for slower speed and more control, of course this is a fine strategy but is based upon one important assumption : that the current is not greater than the maximum forward speed of your boat. Even if this was the case this would not be necessarily disastrous as it's theoretically possible to steer under these conditions while exiting a pass sliding backwards but it's not a position I wished to put ourselves in. Any turbulence could be catastrophic.

We moved in close to the pass, had a good luck and decided to wait. A hour later we did the same thing again and again we decided to give it more time. I should also say that there is a pass on the sheltered western side of the atoll but all the information we had at that stage told us that it was not deep enough for us to enter (which we later found was totally inaccurate). If we decided the east pass was too dangerous plan B was to sail the 13 miles to the west pass, anchor outside and survey the depth ourselves in our dingy. However, on the 3rd time that we checked out the pass I decided that conditions had improved enough to enter (the current had slackened off a little). It was nail biting stuff as the entrance was only narrow nor is it straight but as we slowly edged towards the narrow gut Monkey Fist still had plenty of speed left in her. In the end the current was flowing out at just under 5 knots so we were able to make 2 knots of headway. Sure the engine could have failed but as we hadn't had any issues with her since San Francisco, 10 months previously, if it did malfunction then it was fate.

We successfully entered the pass and the lagoon itself was clear and tranquil and we spent the next 3 days enjoying the beauty and peace of this semi isolation. We met a few of the local people who were very friendly needless to say. We spoke about the east pass and it did indeed have a reputation for being dangerous. We were told that only 3 years previously a New Zealand yacht had been wrecked trying to enter via the pass. We would not be exiting the atoll the same way.

Still having a significant number of bananas from the Marquesas we gave them to two families we had spoken to earlier in the day. They don't grow bananas here and it was the first time in 5 years that one lady had eaten bananas so they were a real treat.

After leaving Aratika we planned to head to Kahuei but the wind was against us and so we turned our bows towards Fakarava, the same distance but at a much better angle. The very wide north pass at Fakarava had a outflowing current of over 5 knots so, although it was quite safe we were often down to less than 2 knots over the ground. Once in we waited at Rotova in the north western corner of the atoll until the northerly wind started veering around to the south. The south pass of Fakarava was our goal and to experience the world renowned dive with sharks.

So to cut a long story short.... I've added a video to Youtube which runs for 4 minutes that will hopefully give you an idea of how beautiful this archipelago is.

Mexico to the Marquesas Islands

20 July 2017

We've finally managed to upload the film we made about our voyage from Mexico to French Polynesia.

The first few minutes tells you about the challenges we faced and also explains the all important weather information we have available that can make the difference between a good passage and a miserable one which will put things into perspective for you. It will help you understand the rest of the film. It runs for about 28 minutes and we've made it so we can share our experience with people who may not necessarily be sailors but also to provide information to any sailors who might be considering this passage in the future. So sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy.

Hakahetau, Ou Pau

11 June 2017 | Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
Our final island before heading off to Tuamotos and another stunning skyline of natural spires. The scenes are so stunning that it is difficult to tear your eyes away, each island it's own unique shapes. We visited two villages on Ua Pau, Hakahetau and Hakamaii - funny, each place we go to seems friendlier than the last, but that's ludicrous surely. Hakahetau had a new concrete jetty/breakwater but whatever Hakamaii had was reduced to rubble on the boulder beach, but we figured it was doable so we sat outside the surf and waited for a lull and made it to shore, dragging our tender over the boulders with the help of a young local guy. Our departure was even more interesting - when the surge had receded from the boulders, with the help of 3 locals guys we quickly moved the tender to where the water was going be any second - Frances jumped in, I a moment later, the water surged in as the wave broke and we rode the backwash a few metres out where quickly started the engine - all's well that end's well .

We wanted to stock up on fruit before heading to the Tuamotos, not that we had much choice anyway as the village people are so generous. But we ended up with 180 bananas, 55 pamplemous, 10 kgs of limes, 30 Marquesan Apples, a dozen mangoes, a dozen huge papaya and a few green coconuts - saying "no, thanks" is not an option...

Daniel's Bay (Hakaui)

07 June 2017 | Daniels Bay, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
A few miles to the south west of Taiohae is Daniel's Bay which is famous for three reasons : - firstly and most importantly it is stunning; secondly it's where one of the "Survivor" series was filmed in 2001 and thirdly; a yachtie was murdered here in 2011 by a local guy. The international media beat-up revolved around cannibalism which obviously achieved it's goal of world attention but there is very little evidence to support this. The report I read (see link to Death in Paradise) suggested that it was likely that homosexual rape was the likely motive.

Anyway.... the local villagers were extremely friendly and the 4 hour waterfall walk through muddy jungle paths led to the stunning waterfall, purported to be the 3rd highest in the world. There is only an extended family living here now, maybe 30 people. Once upon a time there were 30,000 people living in the valley - they even had a king. The only evidence now is the stone bases for maraes scattered throughout the jungle.

Anaho, Nuku Hiva

03 June 2017 | Nuku Hiva, The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
We dragged ourselves away from Fatu Hiva after spending longer there than intended. One thing you can be reasonably certain of is that there will be plenty of wind for sailing places. Our destination was Nuku Hiva 130 miles to the north west, the other large island in the Marquesas. Sailing at 7 to 8 knots means you can cover long distances by day sailing which is what we did. We anchored for a short time as at Taiohae, the administrative centre of the islands with the other 40 odd yachts there, filled up with gas and diesel and baguette and wifi. And then went about circumnavigating Nuku Hiva - a little over 50 miles.

This is a big call but I would have to say that the north coast of Nuku Hiva rates in my books as one of the most beautiful places I have seen. It wasn't just one particular scene but one, rugged, jagged silhouette after another - draped in seemingly infinite and iridescent shades of verdant green vegetation. We only saw a few yachts in the the 6 days we were in the area. I always find it odd that there are such beautiful places such as this yet the vast majority of yachts choose to spend most of their time in the urban centres. Sure we all have our "business" that we have to take care of but I have no doubt that extended stays in urban centres is due to a need to be connected. Anyway what that means people of our ilk is that we often share such places with a handful of like-minded souls.

Some of the food items in the shops are subsidized by the French government, like baguettes - they are more or less standardly priced at 70 francs (about $1). They grow very little in the way of vegetables generally - although breadfruit is used as a vegetable. There is some tapioca and if you are lucky you will find someone who grows small amounts of veggies for the rare markets - like eggplant, beans, cucumbers and the odd tomato or lettuce. Most veggies seen to come from Tahiti and are up there with the most expensive we've come across and they generally have seen better days. A bunch of celery was $18Au and half a cabbage was $12. Three small tomatoes were $11. I found it very odd that the prices in the larger magazines (small supermarkets) here were actually more expensive than the small village shops, which I can see only one explanation for. Luckily however, we still almost fully stocked with food on Monkey Fist.

Anaho has the reputation of having arguably the best anchorage in the Marquesas and I'd have to agree - no rolling !! There is no village per se but a few basic houses and a youth pension (guest accommodation). As with most of French Polynesia the only employment available to many is processing copra (the dried meat of the coconut). It's a labour intensive job, all you need is a small axe to chop the coconut in half, a took like a round ended scraper to remove the flesh, a rack for drying it, sacks to carry it and someway to get it to a place it can be collected. I was told the price they received was 140 francs per kilo (about $2) and the price hadn't gone up for 5 years. The copra gatherers here would load there sacks onto their train of horses and bring them down to the beach here where the sacks were transported via speed boat to the nearest village 5 miles away by sea, then via truck to Taiohae then to Tahiti by the inter island ferry the Aranui to be processed - phew !

Frances hopes you like the photo of the dragonflies mating. She saw it as too good to miss and snapped away quickly while "no-see-ums" (sandflies) feasted on her exposed skin.
Vessel Name: Monkey Fist
Vessel Make/Model: Jeanneau 43DS
Hailing Port: Darwin
Crew: Paul and Frances Tudor-Stack
About: After spending over 20 years in the NT Paul and Frances returned to the sea in 2008. Their first trip was into the Pacific via West Papua and over the top of PNG and then back to Australia where they sold their old traditional boat "Sea Spray" and bought "Monkey Fist"
Monkey Fist's Photos - Main
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