Little Green Boat

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

30 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
30 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
21 June 2020 | Tenoko - Gambiers - French Polynesia
21 June 2020 | Tenoko - Gambiers - French Polynesia
06 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
06 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
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)

More Wind - Migration Continues

30 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
Swedish vessel Hakuna Matata, with Andreas and Cecilia aboard, sail towards the northern reef pass in The Gambiers, at the commencement of their passage to Hao, an atoll in the Tuamotus some 500-miles to the north-west. The wind is still very brisk from the south, another weather system passes by and gives the usual rotation of the wind from NW to W to SW to SE and finally back to the north awaiting the next depression to roll through in the southern ocean. Hakuna Matata and Maya, a German registered yacht, both left yesterday with the aim of completing their passages in favourable winds. Swell is from the south-south-west and at 5-metres height; that combined with the wind waves will deliver a rather more lively ride than preferred. Alternatively, bound for the Marquises, Burasari and Haiyou left a day earlier, their passage somewhat farther at around 900-miles will take them a week. Thirteen yachts of the thirty-six once here now remain. A gaggle of others will depart in the coming days bringing our numbers below ten.
Many vessels from a variety of countries have weathered the Covid-19 storm here in The Gambiers. French Polynesia has remained virus-free, until two cases arrived in Tahiti, aboard a plane from Paris a few days ago. It has been most welcome to gain a plethora of different world views from peoples from varied backgrounds and experiences. While here we have met locals from Polynesia, both from Mangareva, in The Gambiers, and from Tahiti. A scattering of expatriates from Metropolitan France also live here: often these are incomers who married locals. Among the yachting community are folks from European backgrounds: French, German, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belarus, UK; from wider European ancestry: Australia, USA, Canada; and a handful from Hong Kong, Philippines,Vietnam and Peru. Fortunately for us, a common language has been English. Our Dutch is rather rusty and our schoolday French is getting an intensive upgrade with an audio course and day-to-day usage. Like all these courses claim �"You will be able to speak French in X-weeks!�". Yes, we can be understood and conduct our essential business, but the problem comes when a response is delivered...very fast, words slurred together and a smattering of Mangarevan or Polynesian thrown into the melange for good measure. All we can claim is a report card that states �"Steady progress is being made!�" It is remarkable the number of languages mastered by many travelers who generally seem to speak three-languages quite proficiently, with a smattering of others to hand.
Spruce may soon be one of the departing vessels. Our long awaited replacement autopilot is aboard the Taporo supply ship that left from Tahiti on 25th June, she will berth in Rikitea on 5th July and we can begin the installation. Once that is completed, and a couple more anchorages explored in The Gambiers, we shall be bound either for the Tuamotus or the Austral Islands.

More Wind - Migration Continues (cont)

30 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
In the meantime we have been keeping ourselves busy with some recreational activities around the archipelago. A repeat visit to False Pass saw us donning scuba gear and taking a short dive with sharks and groupers. Sue had not been beneath the waves for quite a while so she treated this shallow dive as a refresher. Although we have seen these same sharks from the surface while snorkelling it is pleasant to sit on a sandy spot and watch them from below. Their endless cycle of cruising along the reef edge looking for opportunistic snacks is fascinating to witness. Remora cruise with them, sometimes attached to the underside of their host, continuously close to the action and free meals spilled by messy eaters.
In Taravai village Hervé and Valerie's home fronts the shoreline. Their sons, Alan (17) and Ariki (8) make use of contact with yotties to improve their English language skills. The family welcomes visiting yachts-people later in the afternoons for a session of Petanque or Volleyball, depending upon numbers. On Sundays, Hervé lights a driftwood fire and a �"Pot-Luck�" barbecue rapidly becomes a great venue for meeting people and practising our French.
Sue is finding time to do more drawing and some painting. Boat jobs are being completed only slowly. A mixture of culinary delights are being undertaken: more chutney and marmalade making, baking cakes and bread, and a toad-in-the-hole for dinner yesterday evening... the climate is quite cool in winter here, down to 20C, and comfort food is a nicer treat than in the hotter climes to the north.
Things still to do in The Gambiers include: to see the launching of the weather balloon, at the meteorological station each day at 14:00hr. Hike to the summit of 428-metre Mount Duff. We made it to the top of neighbouring Mount Mokotu, 5-metres less tall, a couple of weeks ago... but one must always try to make it to the top of the highest peak on the island before departing.

Cruising Around the Gambiers Some More

21 June 2020 | Tenoko - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
After the gale of early June we ventured out into the lagoon to a northern motu, Tenoko, for a helping of some glorious turquoise colours beside the outer reef. Ocean swell from the south and a wind driven wave train from the northerly breeze stirred up a little sediment from fine white coral sand. The crystal clear water hoped for was not to be found. However, it was clear enough to snorkel along coral edges and see a plethora of fine fishes. Several sharks roamed along the same reef, the white tips inquisitive as ever, possibly checking whether we might stir up some food, or perhaps sizing up the neoprene wrapped morsels. One excellent sighting was a Spotted Eagle Ray. This majestic creature ghosted in towards the reef from deeper water, then slowly circled us as a constantly open maw gorged huge volumes of plankton rich water. A metre across its tail faithfully trailed behind out to three-metres astern.
The photo shows some of the scintillating colours. These blues and greens are so soothing to the human mind, perhaps a genetic remnant from evolutionary ancestors' lives spent beneath the waves.

Cruising Around the Gambiers (cont)

21 June 2020 | Tenoko - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
On shore some coves are bedecked with coconut trees. The detrius of fallen nuts and leaves give habitat to the Coconut Crab. These animals can live to 50-years of age. That is providing they are not eaten by humans. Once out of their early larval stage we are their only real predator. The status of these creatures wobbles between Vulnerable to Extinction, and not so threatened. We wonder if the less vulnerable label is more a politically expedient term when many cultures in their tropical sphere have a tradition of eating them, particularly in Asian regions where the meat is seen as an aphrodisiac. We have wandered many tropical islet beaches and inland zones between here, their eastern extremity, and across to Indonesia, we have seen only a very small number of such crabs so suspect their true status may well be threatened.
Other bays on the northern and western sides of Taravai, at Anganui and Onemea, are also beautiful locations. We enjoyed short stops there anchored alone. There the narrow beaches are more yellow-ochre in colour, quite a difference to the whitish coral sand on the reefs. More good snorkelling although even less clarity. We were struck by the many decent sized steep-head parrot fish munching on the coral. Perhaps the issue of nerve paralysing Ciguatera toxin, preventing human consumption of reef fish in much of French Polynesia, is aiding a resurgence of size and numbers.
With a forecast of more strong winds from the northerly quadrant, we sailed to the western outer reef, then around the south side of Taravai and back to the village anchorage. A large building swell from the south west thundered into the shallows after many miles travelled from the southern ocean. Spectacular breaking waves glowed in the sunshine and gave one of nature's great performances as we sailed parallel to the reef, safely inside.
Once back to the village we dug in for the forecast 21knots and predicted squalls of 30-knots. On the second day, we experienced more than an hour with winds of around 45-knots, the strongest gust we saw peaked at 51 knots for several seconds. A long fetch violently whipped waves across the reef. Low level spume streaked past the four craft anchored, tugging hard on chains while rigging shrieked in the unexpected intensity of wind. Although lively this harder blow came during daylight hours and eased off before nightfall. On the radio we heard of excitement at Mangareva. Four boats at Rikitea dragged anchor. Apparently, one bumped into other craft as it made its way through the fleet. Another was narrowly saved from striking the reef while crew were ashore.
The southern winter solstice is upon us, days will start to get longer, winds have now moved into the south and look set to remain there for several days. We expect another echelon of yachts to depart today and make their way into the Tuamotus, a 500-mile passage to the closest tenable islands. We continue to remain here in the Gambiers. Our replacement autopilot should have arrived in Tahiti and be on the next supply ship for Rikitea. Once that is installed we shall review our situation.

Breezes, Gales and Squalls for Capricorn

06 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
The last blog posting mentioned that we were making towards the island of Taravai. Our plan was to anchor in a sheltered spot before a region of compressed isobars between high and low pressure areas developed and moved eastwards, along the northern fringes of the southern ocean.
Mission accomplished, but violent squalls on night two gave crews aboard the eleven boats taking refuge in the same anchorage much broken sleep. Three boats recorded gusts of 60-65-knots within squalls of 40-knots. Shifty winds caused vessels to heel alarmingly from side to side. Two craft dragged anchor but reset themselves without issue; the bottom is excellent holding in fine sand and heavy silt. Our anchor dug itself deep. We moved to a slightly more sheltered spot in the north of the bay the following morning; the anchor reluctantly pulled out of the seabed by motoring back and forth once the chain was up-and-down.
This morning, after four days being pounded by strong squalls, the stormy weather continues. Periodic momentary lulls are broken by the next squall hurtling across the bay. Sometimes wind strengths are ameliorated by heavy rainfall. The photo shows a Dutch ketch, Lucipara-2, through driving rainfall. The duration of this spell of turbulent weather is remarkable. Although, we hear this is quite normal during the southern winter for these fairly modest latitudes: just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Spending time below while cuddling a hot beverage as wind howls in the rigging and rain hammers the deck is an unexpected pleasure for June in The Gambiers.

Breezes, Gales and Squalls for Capricorn (cont)

06 June 2020 | Taravai - Gambiers - French Polynesia
Sue & Andy
As described in earlier blogs, the produce grown here is bountiful. A visit ashore to Edouard's, during a short lull between weather fronts yesterday, enabled us to purchase locally grown and wonderfully fresh oranges, mandarins, lemons, breadfruit, bananas and pumpkin. Sue is definitely smiling at her hoard and not the lashing rain seen behind.
Breadfruit has unfavourable associations in the UK due to the history of the Bounty. Captain Bligh's unsuccessful first attempt, later achieved, to transport Breadfruit to the Caribbean as food for slaves, belies this food's versatile nature. It is a wonderful substitute for potato, we think much tastier. However, the fruits cannot be stored for long without turning to mush. They are ideal for tropical environments where they grow much of the year.
Paw-paw (aka papaya) coupled with onion, chillies and few other choice ingredients will be used to cook a batch of chutney that will last a few months. One of the ways to while away the next few days until more clement weather returns.
Several of the boats still here are waiting for a favorable weather window to travel north into the Tuamotus. News on the SSB radio net reports gale force winds have been experienced by boats 500 miles north in Hao and other islands. There is a major problem with winds coming from different directions when located in atolls. The wind-fetch across a lagoon may be tens of miles and large waves may batter those unfortunate enough to be anchored in a non-sheltered leeward spot when the wind shifts.
Spruce will head that way eventually , but not for a few weeks more.
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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Added 18 November 2017