Beach Bum

28 August 2016 | Rarotonga, Cook Islands
05 April 2016 | Maui
29 January 2016 | Hawaii
03 January 2016 | Tahiti
14 June 2015 | Tahiti, French Polynesia
25 July 2014 | Moorea, French Polynesia
21 June 2014 | French Polynesia
03 March 2014 | Tahiti
29 October 2013 | Tahiti
27 October 2013 | Tahiti
07 July 2013 | Marquesas
21 May 2013 | Galapagos
05 May 2013 | Galapagos
07 April 2013 | Panama City
27 February 2013 | Shelter Bay Marina
10 February 2013 | Providencia
09 January 2013 | Isle A Vache
16 December 2012 | Isla Saona
18 November 2012 | Virgin Islands

A Cooks Tour

28 August 2016 | Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Designing and building long distance drones is a passion for the local small boats' Customs Officer. His flights are mostly over the wide open Pacific Ocean because Tahiti may be the capital island of French Polynesia but it is very small; you quickly run out of land flying a drone with a 3,000 mile range. Rarotonga Island, and its main town of Avatiu, is the capital of the remote New Zealand dependency of the Cook Islands. A drone would be there and back in a day but it took us 5; although, finding the place would be a challenge without GPS because even by Tahiti standards it is small.

Small, as in I cycled round the perimeter road in an hour and back round the other way for a second hour. But, the people were friendly and often waved a greeting: twice. Also, we had a fantastic hike across the middle of the island and back one warm sunny afternoon. Of course, the hike included getting lost and wandering aimlessly in the jungle before doing our "Doctor Livingstone I presume" bit when we stumbled across some walkers fording a river where the route vanished into the undergrowth. Climbing ropes assisted with our slithering and scrambling down the muddy tracks; it must be a real challenge when its raining, which it often is.

With tightly shut eyes, I tried to get some pictures whilst perched precariously on the top of The Pinnacle rock but my shaking hands and sweaty palms were not conducive to capturing the aesthetic pleasures that many consider the highlight of the hike.

Exposed to northerly wind and swells, the small harbour of Avatiu was a welcoming respite from the brisk winds and big seas that had battered us for the last couple of days of our 5 day passage.

Dropping the anchor and reversing onto the dock in classic 'med-moor' style went very smoothly. Except, that the fat, jolly harbour master dropped our thrown stern lines a couple of times but he was more efficient when I handed the line to him; maybe he's better after a breakfast enjoying the scrumptious bread from the local market.

"Don't go ashore until you have been visited by Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and Health. Oh, you need to check-in with the harbour master's office where you can get your bathroom key; you can go ashore for that". Official spiel, dictated by NZ, was soon put aside when Biosecurity didn't turn up until the following day; everybody was happy for us to go off shopping and exploring the island whilst we waited.

Tourism is a mainstay of the economy. Daily flights from Australia and New Zealand supplemented by weekly ones from Los Angeles, draw a huge crowd on the beach at the approach end of the runway. I guess, it is quite a spectacular experience to be so close to a thundering aircraft as it lands. As the horrendous din fades with the roar of the reverse thrust you can turn to watch the sun set into the Pacific creating vivid hues of orange that silhouette the palm trees. Blinking away the green flash, you can place your dinner order with the waiter at the 'Sunset Beach Bar'. Aboard Shiraz, we have to make-do with sundowners and olives as we sit quietly in the cockpit watching the meanderings of the locals and marvelling at the popularity of the shabby 24hr burger shack across the way.

School's out when the younger kids suddenly appear and begin to launch themselves from the harbour wall. It seems a daily ritual. Sometimes, a van load will pitch up with an adult vaguely in charge. The teenagers seem to have found something more entertaining to occupy them and rarely make an appearance at this small working harbour that we share with the local supply freighters. Occasionally, a container ship is squeezed onto the quay with the combined skill of the pilot and harbour master. We stand, tea in hand, mesmerised by the sight of the rusty stern of the ship as it passes just a few feet from our bow. The pilot said we look concerned but really we were just amazed that a few Polynesian dock workers hauling on some thick mooring lines could turn a very big ship around 180 deg and pull it to the quay.

"At least we will be able to understand the speeches" I declared as Kate and I headed to the Parliament Day celebrations at the Town Hall. It was a day for the locals and not for the tourists so I had high hopes of becoming immersed in the mores and customs of this Polynesian Island that are quite different from those of French Polynesia. The costumes, dancing girls and gravitas were quite amazing but the long tedious speeches were all in the local Polynesian tongue and I didn't understand a single word. Why-O-why do politicians think that people want to listen to them? Eventually, the word went out from the 'people', "dinner is spoiling so cut the talking and lets get down to the important part of the celebrations: the eating.

To quote from Mahatma Ghandi, "The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated". Well, Esther Honey (, an American tourist, set up a foundation to care for the dogs of Rarotonga. Now the animals, both stray and domestic, are well looked after.

In heavy rain we completed our clearance from the Cook Islands and obtained the essential departure stamp that would allow us to stay another 3 years in French Polynesia. Earlyish the following morning, as the weather front cleared, we headed out of the narrow harbour entrance to catch the favourable winds to Tahiti. 600 miles later and with a significant rise in temperature we arrived in Papeete harbour. In hot July sunshine, it was sweaty work cycling round the various dispersed offices to complete our arrival process for French Polynesia. Nobody asked for proof that we had actually been away. The all important Cook Islands Clearance Document remains unexamined. Marau, the lovely lady from the Marina Taina office, handed us Caroline's Christmas Card and regaled us with the story of how she popped to Rarotonga for the day on a local puddle jump flight. Her view, "a small but charming place with very friendly natives".

Family Christmas On Maui

05 April 2016 | Maui
Vic's Jet Ski and its truck full of windsurfing toys were at Kahului airport to greet us. They had just arrived after a morning of frolicking in the massive surf for which Hawaii is famous. Vic was in the loo, probably changing out of her wetsuit but her lovely friends, Emanuel and Marinesse were on hand to make sure we were properly welcomed and shepherded into the right vehicles with our luggage. Thus, the tone of the holiday was set. Charlie arrived through the airport back door some days later and had to come looking for his fan club that were waiting at the front door.

''Watch me windsurf Jaws'' says Vic. Well John and I remember the original film release so naturally we were worried. Apparently, this Jaws is one of the famous big waves of the world with a reputation for biting surfers. 'Watching' was not a passive activity. It involved John actually launching the Ski packed with windsurf kit from a dodgy jetty down some dirt track and then parking the truck. He's been around a bit, so some dicey Jet Ski launching was a piece of cake. Starting the car was a different matter because he didn't know about the weird American clutch interlock; you have to depress the clutch to start the engine. "Why can't you just put the car in neutral like a normal person?" He hates scrabbling about under cars in the mud and getting all oily; especially, for no good reason.

Apparently, to dice with death on the face of Jaws you need to get well psyched up by watching from the safety of your anchored Jet Ski. On the cliffs above, we watched hours of fantastic wave sailing by the worlds best whilst keeping an eye on the psyching up process. At last, Vic and tow buddy, Felipe are taking to the field and our excitement and nervousness builds. But wait! Catastrophe strikes. The poor lonely jet ski is sinking. We dash back to the dodgy jetty to assist with the recovery and, days later, with installing a seal to stop the thing filling up with water. We met Vic's tow buddy, Felipe, on Christmas day, so I gather he got a lift home from Jaws after being abandoned by Vic in her haste to save the ski from Davy Jones' Locker.

Of course, John couldn't resist the lure of the Jet Ski. It wasn't long before he was riding pillion for the hour ride to Jaws from the main harbour. I watched with some trepidation as they kept vanishing amongst the pounding surf only to reappear cresting the next massive roller. Huge grins and smoking tyres accompanied their return up the steep slipway. Little was said about his sore bottom but I could tell it hurt. How the truck survives all the abuse I will never know. It only gets attention when things are desperate. The Ski is the pampered pet having us all run round making his house clean, feeding and washing him, usually in the middle of the night when he gets back from playing in the waves.

Maui is famous for its surf, particularly the north shore. Its not so famous for its rain but it should be. I'm surprised residents of Haiku don't rot through overwatering. They're continually wet either from the surf or the rain. Vic provided John with a pick and mix assortment of kit, allowing him to join the throng of windsurfers blasting about at one of the slalom beaches. He seemed in his element with the howling winds until he put his head through a sail whilst tearing across the water; still, it was a very stylish wipe-out. The world renowned Hookipa beach is the daily surf spot for the soggy Haiku residents. Here, enormous waves are all too eager to smash you onto the rocks. Huge turtles adorn the beach and meander the surging shore zone ready to upend unwary swimmers as they sideswipe your legs from under you; I know this from bitter experience and large bruises. Charlie, realising that a nice holiday tan was not going to result from Haiku rain, drove his blue, battered, borrowed truck to the sunnier south and west coasts of the island and surfed the more forgiving waves. Then again, Vic continually enticed him into risking his well being by joining her in the Hookipa heaven for surfers.

In fact Vic did a lot of enticement. Quite unexpectedly we ended up on a 25km hike into the Haleakala crater. We were freezing at the top but it became pleasantly warm during the 2500ft descent and we had a lovely sunny afternoon meandering the floor of the crater. We were late starting because of some mincing. Charlie decided he would prefer chilling on the south of the island rather than endure a famous Abbott expeditionary hike. We planned to be back for the sunset but missed it even with an energetic ascent up the 'Switch Back' trail and arrived back at the car as dusk settled. We were frozen again. Warmer activities were in order so we went for mud hikes and runs, saw the latest films, walked Vic's 3 legged dog named 'Little Boy', and went to beaches and stuff. Indeed, Little Boy featured very heavily in our activities. He's so cute even when he tries to pee on beach towels but at the ripe old age of 10 he can be pretty bloody minded.
I fought off predatory packs of mosquitoes to pick tropical fruits growing wild in the overgrown rainforest of a garden; avocados seem to taste better freshly picked from your garden. With the abundance of mosquitoes it was no surprise to find chit-chats by the dozen. They would fall out of window blinds, scamper across the window panes in hot pursuit of the dreaded mosquitoes and, in a scene that could have come from Harry Potter, one tried to take up residence in Charlie's beard and was not keen to be evicted.

Christmas traditions are important and I was delighted that Vic started two for herself. You need a tree for Christmas and it's open season on these invasive plants once a year on the slopes of the Haleakala National Park. It's a festive morning with kids roaming everywhere trying to bag the best and biggest tree whilst the parents try and pick something that can actually be felled with the small hand saws that are the only tools permitted; mixing kids with wildly swinging axes and chain saws would be irresponsible. John races Victoria up the wooded slopes fighting the vegetation and the juvenile competition for the best trees. John's wildly swinging axe makes short work of the thick trunks and he soon has a pile of trees scattered about him; oddly, other people seem to detour round his patch of hillside. Vic goes for quality not quantity, probably due to the dinky little folding saw she uses to sever the thick trunk of her prime specimen.

Soon the borrowed car we drive is loaded underneath a massed forest of trees and, with a small gap through which the driver can peer, the forest sets off for the cautious ride home and subsequent delivery. A couple of days later, Charlie chopped ours to size and I decorated it, then bought more lights and baubles to finish the job; it was a surprisingly big tree. It looked really festive and I wish Vic luck in continuing the tradition.

At 10,000ft the peak of Haleakala sits majestically above the clouds. Watching the sunrise from the freezing summit is a 'must do' tick for any self-respecting tourist to Maui even if it does require a 3am start to drive the hairpin ascent to be in time for the spectacle. There are plenty of tour companies eager to part you from your money to help you achieve your goal but Vic was eager for us to accomplish it independently. A family event. To watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala warmed by each others company on Christmas morning. What! Stop! Wait! What did you say. Are you effing nuts!!! John and I have done some stupid things in our life (well John mainly) but that is not one of them. Better luck with your next idea for a Christmas tradition Vic. Well actually, we did all see the Haleakala sunrise on Christmas morning. I got some very pretty postcards for us all.

And a few days later, the family saw the sunset with the crimson glow on the clouds.

New Year's Eve we had a little family day at the beach with surfing, yoga and an evening Bar-B-Q.
I've no idea what happened at midnight. John and I were safely tucked up in bed again. It was a complete contrast to Christmas Day when we had a big get together with some of Vic's many friends where we ate and drank too much; such is Christmas. Actually, eating and drinking too much seemed to be a recurring theme. Marinesse and Emanuel entertained us on many lovely occasions and we thoroughly enjoyed being spoilt by them and their family; I'm also relieved they keep a parental eye out for Victoria.

Three and a half weeks after greeting him, we were saying an emotional goodbye to Charlie. Before we knew it, our two months were up and we were Tahiti bound for our 5 day trek back to Shiraz on the hard at the remote atoll of Apataki. I take wonderful memories of our trip to Maui with our family all together for such a brief period. I do hope we will be back some day.

Big Boobies

29 January 2016 | Hawaii
I am not a fan of getting struck by lightening on a boat. The first time it happened was 35 years ago as we were bobbing about the Sporadies and getting zapped about every 10 minutes. Not your massive flash, bang stuff. It just made the boat zing and everybody would jump and whip their hands away from the soaking wet surfaces because they had just been given a nasty electric shock. That time I was concerned for our 2 children, Victoria and Charlie, because I was reefing the main with my legs locked round the base of the metal mast and if my timing was out they would not get conceived.

This time we were struck whilst becalmed in the middle of the Pacific 5 days from the nearest land. The dismal, rain-lashed dawn suddenly became very bright. All the instruments went blank and a confusing cacophony of alarms rent the air. Standing at the helm, I got a nasty fizzy, zappy feeling. Bugger, I thought and called Kate out of her recently assumed slumbers.

Stormy sea and sky.

We got off lightly. Only a few of our instruments failed to come back to life and I was able leave the sextant and its instruction manual safely tucked away at the back of the storage cabin.

The storms wandered off and a light breeze filled in to take us towards Hawaii and the first family Christmas in 10 years. As dusk settled upon us, a couple of Boobies appeared seeking rest for the night. These were adventurous birds indeed. They eschewed the comfort and safety of the usual roosts and opted to try for the wildly gyrating masthead. I did my best to make landing a problem but I could not defeat the persistence of one of the Boobies. Looking very pretty in the dazzling red and green navigation lights, it clung tenaciously to the precarious perch for half the night before being ejected into sudden darkness by a particularly vicious roll: bird brain! Under pressure to make the long passage to Hawaii we were probably a bit bird brained ourselves.

Nine days after leaving the Tuamotu atoll of Rangiroa we came back through the pass, surfing some sporty standing waves; we were a bit early for the slack tide but it was exciting nonetheless.

The pass at Rangiroa with waves

Five days south of the Equator we had turned back because we faced being becalmed for 15 days and had no idea of the weather prospects beyond that; they turned out worse than forecast. Stupidly, a few days later we decided to have another go on an iffy weather window and gave up after a day bashing into strong winds and rough seas with Shiraz on her ear and a lot of our belongings cast onto the heaving floor of the cabin. Our return to Rangiroa with the wind abaft the beam was a cracking sail.

Rangiroa shore with John and dinghy

So, plan C: put Shiraz in the boat yard at Apataki and fly to Hawaii. Sounds easy doesn't it?

Apataki Haul-out

Well we race to Apataki to get hauled-out before storms hit; they have to dig sand from under our 2m keel to get us on the haul-out trolley; they don't have tie down blocks or enough support stands until the supply ship docks; the local flights to make our international connection are booked solid so we have to take the rust-bucket supply ship to Tahiti; the ship is delayed by the storm and when it does arrive the sea conditions are marginal for the wet and bouncy hour long boat-taxi to the dock.

Supplies lowered onto raft

Still we made it to Kahului airport on Maui. Our darling Daughter, despite a morning of tow-in surfing on some massive waves, was waiting for us at the terminal. True to form, she had a packed holiday itinerary for us to ignore.

John and Victoria on the Jetski

The Wedding Guest

03 January 2016 | Tahiti
It was really exciting news to hear that Alistair, my nephew, was getting married. I know that Windsor in the UK is a hell of a long way from our mooring in Tahiti but I just had to go. I really, really wanted to be there to see Alistair and Gemma tie the knot (a nautical expression based on the 'True-Love knot'). I come from a small family and occasions such as this are rare indeed. John would have loved to be there but cost and the need to supervise Shiraz finally dictated that he remain behind. So, in the end, I was escorted by Charlie; it was nice to have a handsome young man to take to the wedding even it was my son. Regretfully, Victoria was in the throws of setting up a new life and job in Hawaii and so missed the wedding as well.

We booked my flights in Feb. Then, suddenly, it was the 5th of August and John was bundling me into a taxi for Air Tahiti Nui to dump me in Los Angeles so that Air New Zealand could dump me at Heathrow where a hire car managed the long drive to Plymouth. I guess it was fun gazing out on the massed sprawl of Los Angeles with its surrounding mountains and I enjoyed seeing the sun shining on the green and golden fields of Blighty with harvesting in progress. Suffering a viral infection, jet lagged and generally knackered after 2 days of travelling, Charlie's big welcoming hug and a few gentle days were just what I needed.

Kate and Charlie on the beach in Cornwall

Pasties, scrumpy, beaches, surfing and skateboarding in the finest Cornish tradition were the order of the day; well the surfing and skateboarding were more for Charlie and his friends but I did sit in the sun, watch and eat pasties. It was wonderful, very relaxing and enabled me to recharged my batteries for the wedding in Windsor on 14th August.

A showery Friday and the Holy Trinity Church in Windsor was adorned with beautiful floral displays for the traditional wedding. Alistair, his best man and the ushers were all in their Army Uniforms; I felt very proud of Alistair looking so smart and sporting all his medals.

The Groom, Best Man and Ushers

Gemma looked slim, elegant and radiant and the bridesmaids were quite stunning in their fashionable grey/silver satin dresses. The new Mr and Mrs Wigley were conveyed to their very grand reception at the Royal Wentworth Golf Club, Virginia Water in a lovely vintage car. It was a fantastic evening with much merriment and, thankfully, neither Charlie nor I disgraced ourselves; that's my line and I'm sticking to it.

Sadly, I had to say an emotional goodbye to Charlie the day after the wedding. He caught the train back to Plymouth and work whilst I regaled many tales of life afloat to a persistent audience at a BBQ hosted by Gemma's parents in the grounds of their Windsor home. With all the emotion of the two days, I was much relieved to swap the Beaumont Estate Hotel for the homely welcome of my sister in law's house in Leicestershire.

The gardener: Michele in her poly tunnel

For the next 3 weeks I tried in vain to keep my waist line from suffering. However, although I had great fun visiting local places of interest and cavorting with the dogs as we walked the forestry trails and woodland paths, the exercise could not counter the gastronomic delights forced upon me by all the friends I was able to visit. All too soon I was back at LHR heading for Tahiti. Actually, now I come to think of it, Tahiti is not a bad place to be heading home to even if it is on the other side of the world and getting there involves lots of tedious messing about at airports.

I had 18 Hrs to kill in LA but at least I could look forward to the luxury of the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel. One last challenge: getting there. I and my travel weary fellows must have looked like startled rabbits in the headlights as we tried to single out the correct courtesy bus from the predatory pack. Waffles for breakfast was a new experience. An attentive gentleman explained the process to me most enthusiastically. He became less interested in his new found teaching role when his wife decided that she too was to have waffles for breakfast. A whistle stop tour of the LA traffic jams allowed me to view the Del Rey Marina and Santa Monica Pier after I had collected John's package from the Outdoor Superstore. Then, Tahiti here I come.

I suppose I was hoping that John would be at the airport to meet me; you know what blokes are like. Well, I was thrilled to have garlands of flowers bestowed upon me as I came through the arrivals gate even if they did get somewhat crushed in an embarrassingly passionate hug. Awaiting me on Shiraz were flowers, presents, champagne and a card saying welcome home. I feel so lucky to be loved so much by my family. I hope Alistair and Gemma are blessed with the same luck and happiness in their future life together. It was a great privilege to be invited to their wedding and I thank them greatly for that opportunity to witness their special occasion.
The gardener: Michele in her poly tunnel

Ten Days Holiday with Victoria

23 July 2015
Kate and John
"I am coming to visit you. I've already booked my flights. Oh yes, I will be travelling light."
Totting up the dates, Vic's holiday added up to just 10 days. A brief stay by our standards, so we needed to cram in as many activities as possible to keep Vic occupied; she doesn't like to lounge around.

We made a huge faux pas at the airport last year. We were late arriving to meet Victoria and Charlie's flight and, to compound the situation, we forgot the traditional garlands of flowers. This time, I was determined to make amends. Heading for Eileen´s table in the airport Artisan craft building, I had plenty of time to choose a couple of flower garlands from her wonderful selection.

Flower garlands at the airport

The late evening flight arrived on time and smiling passengers spilled through the arrivals gate to be embraced by family and friends. We were on tender hooks anticipating our turn for a family hug. We waited. We tapped our flip flops and we waited. We waited as the last few stragglers came through the arrivals gate and departed into the night. Eventually, and without her luggage, our darling daughter appeared for her hugs, kisses and garlands of flowers. Delivered to the marina the following morning, the "I'm travelling light" luggage comprised a large hiking ruck sac, a weighty travel bag, 2 surf boards and a very swish, brand new inflatable SUP. Thank God for the delayed luggage, it saved fighting with the mountain of bags in a small dinghy in the middle of the night. John inflated the SUP whilst Victoria flounced around the marina, before hauling the massed stack of bags out to Shiraz on the mooring buoy. The SUP and surf boards kindly agreed to convey Vic to the boat which was good of them because there was no way everything was going to fit in our tender. Travelling light my foot!

Luggage delay. Toys arrived next day. Fabulous Quatro inflatable SUP .

I abstained from hiking following my recent knee surgery but John and Vic had a number of hikes lined up. The first was a scramble through and around the Lava Tubes with the Reva Trek company. It had rained heavily, so the waterfalls and rivers were in full flow. They looked exhausted when they returned in the evening but by all accounts had had a great time.

Spending a few days on Moorea, the dynamic duo hiked through the valley and mountains from one side of the island to the other and then back again. I hired a car for the day and met them at the Belvedere lookout point so that we could feed our lunch to the starving feral chickens and their scrawny chicks.

Chickens get everywhere. Le Belvedere. Moorea

The SUP was great fun. Reclining on the expansive bow, I was ferried around in style for a visit to the local reef aquarium. The thing seemed so stable and easy to master that I regret not testing it out for myself.

This is the life.

Returning to Tahiti, Vic met up with her good friends Marina and JS who were transiting through Tahiti on their way to France. Whilst later in the week Vic SUPed with her surf boards to the Passe Taapuna to catch a few good waves and get a pounding on the reef. She returned with a lot less skin and blood than she started out with. I can understand the need to rub fresh limes into the gaping wounds to neutralise the coral toxins, but I don't see the need for all that shrieking; it must be some strange surfer ritual.

Where would we be without a spot of junking? Well, sensibly, John was elsewhere. Nonetheless, Mother and Daughter headed to the sales to nab a bargain or two even though Vic had already scored some really good deals on stuff she didn't need whilst on a scouting foray the previous day. I'm pretty sure we visited every junking shop in the town.

Moving Shiraz to the newly opened Marina in Papeete gave us the opportunity to sample the delights of the famous roulottes in town. Sadly, this marked the end of Vic´s holiday and before we knew it, we were carting all her luggage along the pontoon and out into the, thankfully cavernous, interior of a minibus taxi from Paradise Tours. All too soon she was whisked away to the airport and that was it. I hope Vic enjoyed our 10 days together in Paradise. I certainly did. Back on Maui, she found that she had managed to travel on the same flight as her luggage and so was encumbered with the sales inventory of several large junking shops. The shop owners seem particularly happy and keep asking when she is returning.

Another Year

14 June 2015 | Tahiti, French Polynesia
With Climb Every Mountain tune from The Sound of Music film resonating in my mind, I reflect on life afloat Shiraz since the last blog, incredibly one year has past. Until my knackered right knee underwent yet another arthroscopy in April, we were doing OK with our outdoor pursuits, scrambling up mountains, through rivers, caverns and generally anything that resulted in us getting wet and muddy. Tahiti offers some amazing underrated inland adventures. Our 2 day coast to coast hike of Tahiti Nui nearly succumbed to the ferocious rantings of the wild witch of Mataiea who was determined to prevent us trip trapping past her cottage. We ignored her and soon the small South Coast town was behind us and we had our sights set on the North Coast town of Papenoo. We broke the journey half way by staying over night in the remote and rustic Hotel Relais de la Maroto, which is right in the middle of the mountains.

Next morning back on the road again.

We, along with the only other guest, were somewhat surprised when, mid way through dinner, a Brixton handbag and speakers were set up and we downed forks to watch the Rae-rae manager and two female staff elegantly perform a traditional dance routine in full female costume.

A Valentines day hike to the Lava Tubes with Angelina and Hero from Reva Trek, sounded pretty mundane. However, this turned out to be a great, albeit cold and at times very dark experience. The Lava Tubes are a series of huge caverns, carved through volcanic rock by the river as it flows down the mountain side. We were kitted out with plastic shoes, wetsuit tops and head torches enabling us to wade through the the dark caverns, climb ropes and cross waterfalls. Normally, we like to do our own thing but for this trip we appreciated having the guides.

Still smiling.

There is still so much to see in Tahiti, so fingers crossed that the still damaged cruciate ligament in my knee allows me to hike with John once more.

OK I shall take time to harp on about this next experience because it was wonderful. My dream since childhood has been to visit New Zealand, so as a celebration for my 60th Birthday we booked a flight and luxury camper van for a three week holiday there. We went mid November to mid December, which heralded the end of Spring and start of Summer. The temperature was a bit chilly for us but the timing was ideal, as we were there before the locals broke up en mass for their Summer holiday. The New Zealanders have perfected their tourist industry and offer superb camping facilities second to none.

Going camper vanning

To say that we had a fabulous time would be an understatement. Here are just some of the things we enjoyed. Hiking the beautiful Queen Charlotte track over three days on South Island. On North Island we joined the massed hords to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing complete with volcanic steam issuing forth from the snow fields. We fought against the wind to walk the Macara coastal track. We visited the beautiful Mackensie rose gardens, saw the fabulous orchids in Wanganui´s Bason Botanical gardens and walked the Redwood trail at Whakarewarewa forest. I took the cable car to Wellington's Botanical gardens and Zealanda wildlife reserve, whilst John challenged himself on the technical trails of the Macara Peak mountain bike park. A visit to the Otorohanga Kiwi House allowed us to view a live nocturnal Kiwi during the day; it's a weird, shy creature and it's bigger than I imagined. For our geothermal fix, we bathed in the Tokaanu hot pool, visited the Whakarewarewatango O Te Ope Taua, a Wahiao Maori village and Geothermal site with mud pools, hot pools, hot springs and of course the Pohutu, Prince of Wales and Kereru Geysers. We mingled with the throngs of Japanese tourists to view a Geyser shoot up in the air. Actually, the Japanese had paid a huge amount of money to enter the commercial site adjacent to the Maori village. We, on the other hand, just climbed over the fence once we had finished our Maori cultural bit in order to see the same amazing Geyser for free.

And bigger.

Other fun events involved frequent swims in the local swimming pools, zip lining on the Rotoroa canopy tour and visiting glow worms in the Waitomo caves with the Black Labyrinth adventure tour company. Viewing the worms involved floating down a subterranean river whilst sitting in an inner tube and freezing to death despite wearing a raggedy wet suit. River rafting the Kaituna waterfall with River Rats was a terrifying experience; at least it was for me. To my shock and horror, the inflatable raft turned upside down during the descent of the 7m waterfall and I was unceremoniously ejected into the foaming waters. John, just clamped himself to the raft and waited for it to settle on top of him before dragging himself to the surface and rescuing me.

I think I am going for a swim

The three week holiday went in a flash. We had so much fun as all our photos reflect; well maybe not the ones depicting my eviction from the crashing river raft.

Back in Tahiti we spent the cyclone season inside the Marina Taina and had a haul out in Papeete to have some repairs and the anti‑fouling renewed. Now back on our mooring, the weather is kind for the moment. I hope it will stay that way because we did have some horrendous swells crashing over the reef and throwing poor Shiraz around. Any moment now, Victoria arrives for a short holiday. We plan to drop anchor and explore Moorea then stay in the newly opened marina in Papeete. More adventures.
Vessel Name: Shiraz
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau Oceanis 393
Hailing Port: Shotley UK
Crew: Kate and John Abbott
K [...]
Extra: Amateur circumnavigators. That's amateur from the French 'Amour': for the love of it. Not Amateur from the American 'Inexpert' or making a cock-up.
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Christmas preparations
16 Photos
Created 7 January 2016
11 Photos
Created 7 January 2016
Sail to Hawaii? I don't think so.
30 Photos
Created 7 January 2016
16 Photos
Created 7 January 2016
Vic missed the August UK wedding. She was collecting her dog from Cape Verde to start his new life on Maui.
5 Photos
Created 7 January 2016
Kate in the UK and other things
17 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 7 January 2016
June events with a visit from Victoria
52 Photos
Created 18 July 2015
Some of the action in Tahiti.
8 Photos
Created 6 April 2015
A Trip To The Tahitian Lava Tubes
61 Photos
Created 15 February 2015
God its another Christmas
5 Photos
Created 15 February 2015
Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park
5 Photos
Created 18 December 2014
The Black Labyrinth Ruakuri Cave experience in Waitomo. Basically floating around jumping off small waterfalls in a rubber inner tube whilst looking at glow worms.
12 Photos
Created 18 December 2014
A Trip Round Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest.
10 Photos
Created 13 December 2014
A bit of New Zealand that is still smoking
18 Photos
Created 13 December 2014
A Spot of White Water Stuff
56 Photos
Created 9 December 2014
Rotorua Canopy Tour
14 Photos
Created 7 December 2014
A 20km hike across the Tongariro Alpine Pass
21 Photos
Created 7 December 2014
Walking the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand over 3 Days
21 Photos
Created 7 December 2014
Out and about in New Zealand
17 Photos
Created 7 December 2014
New Zealand Garden Sights
32 Photos
Created 7 December 2014
Views from the mooring Marina Taina. Tahiti.
8 Photos
Created 16 November 2014
Papenoo Traverse Hike with an interesting overnight stay.
45 Photos
Created 28 October 2014
Events around Shiraz. Marina Taina. Tahiti.
15 Photos
Created 26 October 2014
A short guided hike along the steep, narrow Mount Marau ridge. Our guide was Angelina with Tahiti Reva Trek. We were driven up the rough track to the peak in a 4X4 and started the hike by the highest radio tower.
14 Photos
Created 25 October 2014
A fun hike in the Temarua Valley, crossing the River Mateoro eight times each way. We were pretty wet.
39 Photos
Created 23 October 2014
A hike through the Fautaua valley to the Fachauda waterfall.
25 Photos
Created 22 October 2014
A hike by John to Mount Marau radio towers. Tahiti.
21 Photos
Created 21 October 2014
Mostly about our hiking on Moorea when we went to hide from some big swell making our anchorage bouncy
29 Photos
Created 24 July 2014
A family holiday when Vic and Charlie visited us in French Polynesia May 2014
3 Photos | 8 Sub-Albums
Created 23 June 2014
Life in Tahiti
27 Photos
Created 21 October 2013
Tuamotus experience.
14 Photos
Created 25 August 2013
The Marquesa Islands of French Polynesia
60 Photos
Created 14 July 2013
Crossing to Galapagos and Wandering San Cristobal
45 Photos
Created 11 May 2013
Transit of the Panama Canal
34 Photos
Created 11 April 2013
Stuff in Panama
42 Photos
Created 11 April 2013
Offshore Colombia. Our Wanderings
19 Photos
Created 11 April 2013
Haiti and Jamaica
14 Photos
Created 15 January 2013
Heading west through Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic
23 Photos
Created 19 December 2012
Wanderings in the Virgin Islands
7 Photos
Created 18 November 2012
October in Grenada Saw Michele Visit Us
20 Photos
Created 28 October 2012
A bit of Bequia in summer 2012
10 Photos
Created 29 September 2012
France in the Caribbean during the spring of 2012
9 Photos
Created 29 September 2012
Dominica wanderings
49 Photos
Created 18 April 2012
Charlie and Faith Visit in Jan
41 Photos
Created 4 April 2012
The Life and Activities of Winter in Grenada
33 Photos
Created 27 December 2011
Visiting the Southern Grenadines in Jun/Jul 2011 before the Hurricane Season gets going
31 Photos
Created 1 October 2011
Summer Frolics in Grenada
11 Photos
Created 29 August 2011
Summer in Grenada. Out and About
33 Photos
Created 4 June 2011
A selection of snaps during the trip south from Antigua to Grenada
41 Photos
Created 13 March 2011
The Atlantic and Antigua
34 Photos
Created 19 January 2011
A short visit to Sao Vicente and Santo Antao in Dec 2010
43 Photos
Created 18 January 2011
Sights of the Canary Islands Early Sep to Late Oct 2010
27 Photos
Created 17 January 2011
Sights of Madeira Mid Aug - Early Sep 2010
48 Photos
Created 14 October 2010
A trip to Sal in late Oct to Late Dec 2010
58 Photos
Created 18 August 2010
To Spain and Beyond
50 Photos
Created 13 July 2010
Out and About
7 Photos
Created 24 June 2010
Snaps on the way to Plymouth
11 Photos
Created 22 June 2010
Still at Shotley
15 Photos
Created 31 May 2010