Little Green Boat

Spruce visited Japan and Alaska in 2018 after time spent in the South Pacific, NZ, Australia and Asia.

31 May 2020 | False Pass - Gambiers - French Polynesia
31 May 2020 | False Pass - Gambiers - French Polynesia
24 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
24 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
16 May 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
06 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
08 April 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
02 April 2020 | Still On Passage
30 March 2020 | Still On Passage
26 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to South Pacific (Day-15)
24 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to South Pacific (Day-13)
23 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-12)
22 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-11)
21 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-10)
20 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-9)
19 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-8)
18 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-7)
17 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-6)
15 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-5)
15 March 2020 | On Passage - Mexico to French Polynesia (Day-4)

Happy Sprucettes

31 May 2020 | False Pass - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
The recent visiting supply vessel brought our new shroud wire. It was rapidly fitted and checked for size. All is now tensioned and our rig has a big tick for fixed. The autopilot is still in transit. A precise delivery date is still unknown.
With the change in emergency measures several sailboats have already departed northwards into the Tuamotus. We have gone off into the wider archipelago and are enjoying snorkeling, swimming and generally being anchored in some splendid turquoise vistas. Terns, noddies and occasional frigate birds fly by. Fish leap into the air, no doubt escaping predators chasing from below. The French Polynesian government recently published a list of yachts registered as being legitimately within the region. The key message is that the list includes those who were either already in French Poly or accepted as being on passage when the Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. Spruce is on the list and we are all welcomed and urged to go cruising throughout Frecch Polynesia.
Eggs are one commodity with a good local supply in The Gambiers. Here is a photo of Yves with one of his fine hens. In total he has 250 of them whose collective purpose is to lay some 200 eggs per day; he can supply consumers directly (call Monsieur Yves on VHF channel 16) or they can be found in several of the local shops. In common with many of the local inhabitants around Rikitea, Yves also has a productive garden. This sub-tropical climate favours bananas and papaya all year round. More seasonal crops include aubergine, lemons, grapefruit, oranges, breadfruit, ginger, pak-choi, tomatoes. For those who choose to grow their own produce a high degree of self sufficiency is easily achieved. The hungry months normally associated with winters in northern European climes are not a problem just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Although the temperatures can be quite cool with the southern ocean just over the horizon.

Happy Sprucettes (cont)

31 May 2020 | False Pass - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
This photo of Spruce was taken from the motu named Apou, just north of the runway on the eastern side of the archipelago which is atop Totegegie, running along the outer reef. In the distance are the islets of Kamake and Makaroa, they are 10-miles away and almost at the far side of the group, although the fringing reef beyond those islets is permanently submerged at a depth of between 2-10 metres. A little farther the seabed drops off into the oceanic abyss, 3000 metres and more deep. Behind the camera a beach of white coral sand a few tens of metres wide gives way to jagged lumps of broken coral. Off the eastern perimeter more ocean quickly falls off into the ocean depths. The Gambiers are a relatively small oasis of islands and shallows surrounded by deep blue. Today we moved a coupe of miles south to anchor near False Pass. A dinghy ride through a shallow coral strew passage took us to the ocean side of the reef. Snorkeling in 10-15 metre depths offered sightings of many sharks: white and black tips plus several greys. Groupers were also abundant plus a bonus of a couple of Napoleon Wrasse accompanying the myriad fishes. The coral looked healthy with little signs of bleaching: perhaps the cooler water in the more southern latitudes has held the more equatorial signs at bay.
Winter may well be coming closer, but we expect weather to be rather like a good British summer. When the wind blows from the south a chilly 23C can be expected, when from the more equatorial north a muggy 28C will be the norm. Winds clock right around the compass and can be rather strong from the south and the north, however, there are sheltered anchorages for all conditions, it is merely a case of watching the weather and moving around the archipelago. On Tuesday we shall move into the lee of Taravai, winds of 35knots from the northerly quadrant are expected from mid week.

Awaiting Suppplies

24 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
Sue takes a look in the kitchen at Philippe's, the local Brioche Baker's establishment. As one taps away at a keyboard, using his wifi connection, the enveloping aroma of freshly baked loaves is ambrosial. There is also a baguette baker in Rikitea. To secure loaves for breakfast requires a 5am collection. With an eye to potentially expanding waistlines, we are rationing ourselves strictly on portions of French style breads and pastries.
At the moment a Maramu wind is blowing a stiff breeze from the south. This will back into the south-east and then east over next 3 days, but remain at around 20-25 knots strength. Sporadic rain squalls bring stronger blasts of wind, sometimes at 30+ knots. As the winter closes in, the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) near the equator moves farther north and, in tandem, the westerlies in the southern ocean come closer. Even though we are at the latitude of the Tropic of Capricorn,the interaction between huge winter depressions down south, and the trade winds to the north cause these intervals with stronger winds. Accompanying the breeze are 3-4m swells pushing north from the awesome oceanic expanses towards Antarctica.
This oceanic archipelago is remote, situated some 900-miles SSE from Tahiti, the administrative centre of French Polynesia. Chile lies 3,500 miles to the east, New Zealand off to the WSW 2,600 miles. The closest neighbour is Pitcairn Island only 300 miles in the direction of South America. A mostly submerged fringing reef with a few motus (islets) provides an excellent breakwater for the scattering of islands sheltered within. The largest Gambiers island, Mangareva, is where the main village of Rikitea nestles at the foot of a steep rocky hill. Trees hug the slopes in a pleasant array of shapes and textures: pines, mimosa, and nearer to houses shiny dark-leafed breadfruit deliver a marked contrast in late afternoon sunshine. To the south of the anchorage Mount Duff overlooks a bunch of yachts patiently awaiting arrival of the next supply ship.

Awaiting Suppplies (cont)

24 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
The last visit by MV Taporo, one of the two supply ships that service Rikitea, was around 3-weeks ago. On the last visit we bought a 200-litre drum of diesel fuel; this was decanted into jerry cans to transport back to Spruce using our dinghy. The vessel has a large tank of diesel on board, that is pumped into (what looks like 500-litre) containers to be transported to the local electricity generating station. Sailboats who want fuel must buy in 200-litre units. Typically a number of crews from smaller boats will get together to share the minimum quantity. We carefully planned usage and emptied jerry-cans to accommodate the full amount.
The next arrival of the Taporo will follow close on the heels of a sister ship, the NukuHau. Our replacement rigging wire, swaged and constructed in Tahiti, is reported by the rigger to be aboard for our collection. Payment for an order for our new autopilot has gone through successfully. That item will arrive in Tahiti at the convenience of the shipping gods....then to be onward sent with a future Taporo schedule to get it brought to The Gambiers for us to install.
The restrictions on inter-island travel within French Polynesia have been lifted. We understand that cruising will be possible providing the authorities at the intended destination island are willing to accept visiting boats traveling from locations within French Polynesia. Apparently, new arrivals from outside French Polynesia must make Papeete in Tahiti their first port of call. Information continues to be vague with detail filtering through gradually, rules governing the revised situation should become clearer in the coming days. It expected that many of the thirty-five cruising boats presently in The Gambiers will sail north for the Tuamotus and warmer climes.
In the meantime, once we have installed the rigging wire, we shall be able to cruise the local archipelago and visit some of the more remote anchorages... as weather permits.

Testing the Waters and Scaling the Heights

16 May 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
This beautiful view of Spruce and Pitufa, anchored in the bay on the south side of the island, was taken from the hilltop on Taravai. In the distance the fringing reef can be seen; largely it is submerged but still provides wonderful protection for anchorages within the archipelago. The large south-westerly swell, generated by southern ocean depressions, is very much attenuated. We first met Christian and Birgit, aboard Pitufa, in the Cape Verdes back in 2011. We also transitted the Panama Canal together in Dec 2012. They sailed on from Galapagos to Gambiers in 2013, we went to the Marquises.
Our attempts at regaining fitness are paying dividends. The hike up the steep pathway felt much easier than our first outing a few weeks ago. Snorkeling among gorgeously colourful fishes, particularly when towing the dinghy, has also provided a decent stint of aerobic and leg exercise. The water is noticeably cooling down as the southern winter approaches. Although, we do not expect it to become as cool as seas along the Mexican coastline.
Domesticity aboard is more prevalent than when undertaking long ocean passages. A good crop of bananas ripening too quickly to eat were turned into chutney. An abundance of pamplemouse (grapefruits) with the addition of sugar has yielded a few months supply of marmalade. Now we have run out of preserving jars we must desist from further production. Breadfruit gleaned from a generous local chap's garden has proved to be a rather tasty sub-species, some varieties are less nutty flavoured. There is quite a talent to selecting the fruit at just the right moment to harvest and then to cook it before it rapidly turns to mush as ripening continues too far.
Here in French Polynesia, the battle to contain the covid19 virus is proving successful. We hear that Tahiti is now down to 4-active cases, patients who are expected to fully recover soon. Inter island air travel is intended to resume on 21st May. Until the latest decree is actually published, how cruising vessels will be affected is unknown. Spruce will remain here for some time, waiting for parts to be imported. The latest news from New Zealand seems promising. They have reduced their emergency measures for the covid19 pandemic from Level-4 down to level-2: there is real hope that cruising vessels will be allowed to head out of the cyclone zone to NZ later in the year. We certainly need a safe port to accommodate Spruce during that period and do not want to sail farther westwards until there is a route available to escape the cyclone prone region. We also have a long list of jobs that need to be done in our next pit-stop: including new sails, standing rigging, cap rails and many other projects that typically need attention aboard an ocean cruising boat. Our access to international news is limited, but we are most grateful to find ourselves in a safe refuge as the turmoil and effects of the pandemic appear to be wreaking varying degrees of havoc around the globe.

Taking Stock

06 May 2020 | Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
Spruce has been here for 4-weeks, the first 2-weeks we were in quarantine and little could be done, save to read many books in-between doing some of the inevitable boat jobs that accrue during a long passage. Since then we have been ordering spare parts to be shipped in to fix some defects. This simple exercise has been further complicated by no access through the local phone network with our existing SIM cards; the local SIM cards can only be purchased in Tahiti. We cannot sail to Tahiti until we have spare parts. One is a new shroud, a swage began to fail during our voyage, the other major item is a new electrical autopilot, the old one did not like a salt water bath when a hatch seal failed. A charming local Brioche Baker, Philippe, lets visitors use his wifi for internet access, but when several people simultaneously connect, during the couple of two hour open-sessions each day, performance is naturally very limited. The locals are friendly, supply vessels come every three-weeks to maintain stocks in the few local shops and, now that local emergency restrictions have been eased in the outer islands of French Polynesia, we can hike the roadways and walking paths along the shore and over the hills to recover fitness lost after six-weeks on board.
Looking back on the passage from Mexico, in the distant past now, it seems not to have been so long as when we were actually sailing the miles. After the first 18-days at sea the remaining week did rather drag along. Maybe that was due to the novelty of long passages being somewhat tarnished after doing so many of them over the past few years. A couple of weeks at sea is a wonderful experience, long enough to get into the mood, but longer does become more of the same.
One thing we continue to enjoy, particularly when travelling a good distance north or southwards, is witnessing the astronomy of our spherical planet in fast-time action. We left Mexico as the summer season was fast approaching. The climate was rapidly warming up and starting to feel unpleasant. Only the cold current from the north helped by keeping sea temperatures cooler. As we travelled past the equator we had a couple weeks of hot humid climate, then once into the south-east-trades the breeze cooled. By the time we reached 25-degrees south latitude the sun's geographic position was already north of the equator and we had reached somewhere that summer was but a distant memory and winter was coming. The sun had been rising in the south-east at 20-degrees north latitude, now is is rising in the north-east. Definitely, this is not a flat earth.
With limited bandwidth our access to international news is patchy but we glean the Covid crisis is causing terrible consequences for people's health and for economies. Fortunately, for the folks who live here in the Gambiers there have been no cases of the virus. We hear that Tahiti had around 50 cases at the peak but the emergency shut-down measures in French Polynesia's scattered archipelagos has almost eradicated the virus except in more populated Tahiti and Moorea; they are expected to be covid-free in mid-May.
For the moment we are focused on getting our parts and making Spruce ready for her next ocean passage, whenever that may be. There are many international vessels in the South Pacific. Hopes remain that the situation will ease before September thus enabling cruisers to go west out of the cyclone zone in Sept/Oct, before the next season commences in November. The risk of encountering a cyclone increases as one moves westwards into warmer waters, we are reluctant to move in that direction until we know there is a safe open port outside the cyclone zone.
Vessel Name: Spruce
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg Rassy 42 - Enderlein Design
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, UK
Crew: Sue & Andy
About: Sue is an artist, plays the flute and guitar. Andy enjoys technical challenges and hoped to learn to speak more Spanish. Unsuccessfully:-( Maybe this year?
Extra: During 2013 and 2014 we sailed across the Pacific to New Zealand and then Australia. 2015-18 brought us from Asia to Washington State via the Noorth pacific Rim. In 2019 we aim to cruise BC and then head south to Mexico.
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Image by Robin Warman.
Image by Robin Warman.
Added 24 December 2013