Phylis and Us

24 August 2017 | Musket Cove
29 July 2017 | Neiafu
07 July 2017 | Alofi, Niue
17 June 2017 | Avatiu Harbour
31 May 2017 | Maupiti
24 May 2017 | Bora Bora
04 May 2017 | Raiatea
14 April 2017 | Huahine
08 April 2017 | Fare, Huahine
22 March 2017 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
26 November 2016 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
09 October 2016 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti
21 September 2016 | Rotoava, Fakarava
07 September 2016 | Hakahau, Ua Pou
29 July 2016 | Atuona, Hiva Oa
27 June 2016 | Isabela, Galapagos
30 May 2016 | San Cristobal, Galapagos
09 May 2016 | Isla Taboga
20 April 2016 | Shelter Bay, Panama
01 April 2016 | Shelter Bay, Panama

Fiji (1)

24 August 2017 | Musket Cove
CRACK! What the ???? The autopilot started beeping at me and telling me the rudder arm was fully extended. Phylis was veering off course and in serious danger of broaching. For a minute I thought we'd lost the rudder. I took over control and phew, she responded to the wheel. OK, so the rudders still connected to the helm. Something has happened to the autopilot then.

"Kym, Kym wake up" I yelled. It was 1am and very dark. Phylis was surfing downwind doing 8kts in a nasty choppy following sea and I was having a hard time maintaining course. She staggered out. "What??" "Somethings wrong with the autopilot." "Oh bugger." Next thing I heard her ripping the aft bunk apart to get at the autopilot. Then I heard the tool drawers being opened. After about 10 minutes she emerged with a black object in her hand - it just happened to be the backing plate that connects the autopilot hydraulic arm to the bulkhead that had somehow disconnected itself." "Oh dear" I said, "can you fix it?" She nodded and disappeared below armed with a fistful of spanners. Some 15 minutes later she came up and told me to try the autopilot - hey presto!! It was working again. Thank goodness for that as we still had five hours to go and you really don't appreciate just how much you rely on the autopilot until it is rudely taken away from you.

We had left Tonga two days prior to this incident. We had light variable winds and a fairly flat sea. It wasn't until we were inside the reefs off the Lau Group of islands that the wind backed and increased to 25-30kts. We learnt later that the Koro Sea is notorious for rough seas. Once inside the shelter of Savusavu Bay things quietened down and we gently motored up the bay in time for an 8am arrival at the Copra Shed Marina. A quick call on the VHF and we were directed into our slip with a little difficulty due to tide and wind but we were soon tied up and sitting back breathing sighs of relief. Another 428 mile leg completed and we were safe.

Savusavu is on the second biggest island of Fiji named Vanua Levu. It's a wonderful laidback place full of activity. Everything you need is here laid out alongside the main road that goes right through the busy town. The backdrop of sloping green hills enhances the idyllic atmosphere. Meeting up with old friends positively puts the cherry on the cake.

The town consisted of a variety of local stores, a couple of bakeries and a couple of supermarkets

Savusavu had a great fresh produce market where you could stock up on extra hot chillies amongst other things

No shortage of cold beer here, and the Waitui Marina also did a FJ$5 fish and chip lunch!

Peace and tranquility was shattered on one day as a cruise ship pulled up behind the mooring field, the main road was suddenly lined with a myriad of stalls selling every possible souvenir

The yacht club bar was a mere 100ft from our boat and the scene of several raucous evenings with Paul and Trish from Babe, and Craig and Aron from Raeo

Craig and Paul decided to 'do their nails' during one evening of happy hour drinks, Craig went rushing back to their boat Raeo to fetch his bag of nail things so that he and Paul could compare colours....

As we were all on different agenda's there were several rounds of goodbye drinks, especially as Raeo were having some pesky engine issues which resulted in them returning to Savusavu a few times for some more partying

3rd and final (for now) goodbye drinks with Raeo before they left for Suva and we left to go round the north of Viti Levu

I wish I could describe a whole load of activities but we appeared to do not a lot for eleven days apart from party! We did manage a few walks to take in the sights while recovering from the night before getting ready for the night ahead. The food in the restaurants was pretty good and exceptionally cheap so we ate out a lot.

Walking out either end of town you soon found yourself on a quiet road with the hillside dotted with houses

We had heard about a hot spring where the water is literally boiling so we set out to find it one morning, it was located just on the edge of town, behind the playing field, and had an interesting welcome sign

The water really is boiling and it bubbles away furiously, the locals use the hot springs to cook food and we found a couple of pots simmering away

Looking towards the commercial wharf and the back of the mooring field

One evening at our favorite Chinese restaurant stands out. We were being pretty rowdy after consuming many scoops beforehand. Sitting next to us was a group of locals. Paul was doing his usual trick of going around chatting to everyone (especially the waitresses) when suddenly, the guy next to us sat back and started singing "on Ilkley Moor Baht'at" an ancient Yorkshire song. We instantly joined in and brought the house down. Laughing the guy introduced himself Major General Sitiveni Rabuka (OBE, MSD, OSTJ, MP) who happened to be the dude who was in charge of the 1987 bloodless coup and instigator of lots of doodies. He also represented Fiji at 1974 commonwealth games in shotput, hammer, discus and decathlon, and now he's the leader of the opposition party, yet here he was having a raucous singsong with us piss 'eads! Who next? Theresa May?

The food here was amazing and so cheap, well if it's good enough for Sitiveni Rabuka....

Everything was so convenient and living so easy we honestly didn't want to go any further. However with around 322 islands to explore we thought it best we saw a little bit more of Fiji. There are so many cruising options in Fiji and each one with a different look and feel. We had an end game in sight and decided to make our way slowly over to the big island of Viti Levu, doing day hops of no more than 50 miles. Taking the northern route, we estimated that it should take us 8 days to get to our next marina at Musket Cove. The first few days of our cruise were fantastic with calm seas remote islands and spectacular scenery.

We had a great sail on our first day to Namena Reef, and we really did sail most of the way!

We were the only boat at Namena, unfortunately the snorkeling wasn't great and a lot of the reef seemed dead, most likely as a result of Cyclone Winston in 2016. We were however surrounded by birdlife, with red footed boobies and tropic birds calling the island home

The second day saw us arrive at Makogai, entering the reef was a little intimidating with strong currents and a large breaking reef by the entrance. It didn't help that you couldn't see the north side of the pass at all so you had to trust in the charts and waypoints which thankfully proved accurate

Makogai was once a leprosarium for the whole of Pacific Island region and used to have a small village and a clam hatchery and turtle breeding station in Dalice Bay, however since cyclone Winston ripped through there is little left - just a few houses occupied by one family and some tanks that are the remains of the hatchery.

There were still some giant clams in the bay, these beauties were all more than 3ft long

The next morning saw some cloud and rain setting in so we decided to skip the island of Naigani and head straight to Viti Levu Bay where we could hold up for a few days if needed

We spent a wonderfully calm night at Viti Levu Bay, it also showed the signs of Winston's passing with the trees on the top of the outcrops stripped to bare poles. We fancied staying on a bit here as the villagers had already buzzed us and brought out their children to say Bula!

We awoke to a perfectly still morning but we knew the weather was going to change so we decided to push on around the corner to Volivoli whilst the conditions were benign as this passage is notorious for accelerated winds

Threading our way through the reefs was pretty nerve wracking until we had confidence in the accuracy of the charts and it's a good job to! Once upon a time the inside reef route was delineated with numerous reef markers aiding navigation but many are now gone and most in need of repair. Any stick, sticking out the mud, is now something to be wary of. Often a reef would not be apparent until you were just a few meters away. Despite the accuracy of the charts Kym spent much of the route standing on the bowsprit looking out for anything uncharted.

We had some really strange weather conditions, everything was very still and grey and it became difficult to distinguish between the sea and sky

Many of the reef markers were in need of a little TLC

A lot of the markers had disappeared completely but some of the reefs were quite easy to spot at low tide

We were glad the charts were accurate as once the tide had risen a couple of feet without the markers it was hard to see the reef

Our idyllic cruise was shattered on our fourth night as we lay at anchor just off Volivoli resort in the north east of the big island. We were in a notorious wind acceleration zone. Still the forecast was for only 10kts. We had just gone to bed when the howling started. Suddenly our quiet bay turned into a frothy cauldron and the wind started gusting 35kts. Not much sleep was had that night as Phylis bucked and tugged on her anchor. Dawn saw us underway as soon as possible to get out the wind zone and sure enough after a couple of hours the wind died down and conditions returned to normal.

Passing Ellington Wharf on the way to Volivoli point

One of the resorts close to Volivoli point

Sunrise at Volivoli point with the wind ripping up the bay

The north coast of Viti Levu is pretty remote and the scenery very spectacular. Unfortunately, there are no sheltered anchorages here so we pushed on to get around to the west coast to where most cruisers end up. As we sailed by the ugly commercial port of Lautoka we could only hope that things would improve. Of course they did!

Cruising along the North coast of Viti Levu still trying to get away from that pesky acceleration zone

Spectacular scenery along the north coast

Approaching Lautoka we were greeted by an abandoned cruise ship left to rust on a mooring

Lautoka is a commercial port and not very cruiser friendly, however it is a port of entry and there were several sailboats anchored near the sugar can processing plant

We spent a night at Saweni Bay which is a bit of a staging post while boats wait to get into the various marinas. It was a bit of a shock to be surrounded by other boats. Suddenly Fiji had got popular.

The day after we carried on to Musket Cove Marina. It's a very tight med moor job and with no assistance somehow Phylis managed to stop on the right spot, drop her anchor and with a series of forward and reverse maneuvers, back very nicely into her slot. Way to go Phylis!!

Approaching Malololailai and Musket Cove in perfect conditions, flat seas and sunny skies

Cruising through the reefs to enter Musket Cove where we needed to find a free mooring while we waited for mid-rising tide in order to enter the marina

Phylis on the dock, med-moored, at Musket Cove Marina - and yet again the bar is only 100ft away

So here we are then. Musket Cove is a luxury resort as well as a marina and as marina guests we get full use of all the facilities. Paradise we have found and we aint moving for quite a while!

Looking out across Musket Cover Resort to the small marina and mooring field, mega yachts anchor out beyond the moorings - the large power boat is the 78m Dragonfly, supposedly the fastest mega yacht in the world and owned by one of the founders of Google

The island has a series of trails you can walk or cycle, but when crossing the end of the landing strip don't forget to check for planes!


29 July 2017 | Neiafu
There were some very strange noises coming from under the hull as Phylis was hove-to in Vaitukakau Bay. It was 6am and very dark. We were waiting for first light to show us the way into Neiafu Harbour, our first landfall after leaving the island of Niue some 48 hours earlier. Suddenly there were bubbling noises and some thumps on the hull - could it have been a whale?? We will never know. We had just completed another reasonable passage of two days with no drama to report apart from losing a day somewhere. Suddenly today became tomorrow and yesterday disappeared. Once the sun started to poke its face above the horizon we motored through the outer islands and into the bay. Hello Tonga!!

"Go to the fishermans dock and wait for the customs officials to come to you", a friendly voice said on the radio. Getting onto the dock was easy as there was a 20kt beam-on wind pushing us in sideways, getting off would be another matter. A friendly Kiwi couple on an adjacent yacht (they were clearing out) helped us in. Fortunately it was high tide and with Phylis' deck level with the dock we managed to keep her fendered off the very yacht unfriendly concrete dock. And so we waited. "They know you're here" said a passing person. All the officials insisted on coming aboard - not a problem, only the gap between Phylis and the top of the dock was getting bigger as the tide dropped. This is going to get interesting I thought. The Environmental dude hopped aboard with no problem. The customs guy, impressively decked out in the local uniform (black maxi skirt with a woven reed mat thing wrapped around his torso) appeared. He was the size of a house. He looked, he pondered and eventually took the leap. Somehow he landed without incident (need to check out those new cracks on the deck) and managed to step down and squeeze himself down our companion way. Better be quick, I thought, otherwise there would be no way he'd get back ashore. He managed, and by 12.00 noon we were all done and dusted.

The very unfriendly fisherman's dock

We were wedged into a space between the Kiwi boat and an old rusty fishing boat. By now it was gusting 25kts with a nasty little chop developing. There was no way anyone was getting off the dock without assistance. We were adjusting the fenders every 10 minutes or so to keep off the barnacle encrusted dockside. The prospect of being stranded all night having to constantly move fenders up and down began to dawn upon us. After two largely sleepless nights at sea we were beginning to feel extremely pissed off. Fortunately the Kiwi's had a mate with a tour boat, we just had to wait for him to return to port. Eventually he turned up and pulled us off the dock with little effort from his generous twin outboards. We were off and shooted across the bay to pick up a convenient mooring ball. Finally, by 4pm we had engines off and a G&T in hand.

Our own personal aquarium on our mooring ball

Phylis on her mooring ball in Neiafu Harbour and her crew ready to go explore the town

"What's Tonga like", messaged my Son. That's quite a difficult thing to answer as it all depends on what you're looking for. Without doubt it makes for a pretty glorious cruising region. If you just stay in the north amongst the Vava'u island group you can find over 40 charted anchorages lying within a myriad of islands and coves. Some are just day anchorages, some offer all round protection. On the bigger islands you'll find small villages populated by extremely friendly folk who will often offer you whatever surplus produce they have. The more enterprising villages will put on a Tongan feast. The food is reasonable, given the circumstances, and who doesn't like a freshly roasted cruiser.

The dock at Matamaka village after one of the very small boats offloaded it's 18 passengers from Neiafu

The village green, complete with volleyball court, in Nuapapu village

Dogs and pigs roam free everywhere you go

We went to a Tongan evening at the Aquarium Café complete with guitar band and dancers, the dancing is much more conservative compared to dancing and jiggling we saw in Rarotonga

The guitar band sat around the Kava bowl, indulging between each song, and yes we did try it - a sort of radish tasting liquid made from powdered root of a plant - apparently this was a weak one

The fishing here is pretty good too, especially when someone else catches it for you.

A Yellowfin Tuna kindly donated by a group on a charter boat in the anchorage at Matamaka who had caught too many fish and their freezer was already full, the fishing table and fillet knife have now been christened

It's amazing where you will find enterprising expats. While moored in Tapana Bay we heard of a Basque couple who had set up a business on the adjacent hillside. They were cruising the South Pacific some 20 years ago until they reached Tonga and went no further. Up on a hill they have built a glorious little restaurant that looks like something straight out of a Robinson Crusoe film set. With a set menu of tapas and paella we had a great evening including a bit of a live virtuoso guitar performance by the husband.

La Paella Restaurant, the paella is cooked over a wood fire

Enjoying the sunset before our tapas

The after dinner entertainment

We elected to stay in the north and day hopped around the main hotspots returning to the main town of Neiafu to reprovision. Most days would see us either exploring an island or snorkeling its fringes. It was quite a treat to finally see living coral and the abundance of associated marine life. Of course, the main thing visitors want to see here are whales. We saw a fair bit of them, either breaching right in front of us or spouting in the distance. One night I woke up to the sound of whale song coming up from the depths or was it Kym trumping in her sleep.

An unusual visitor to the mooring field in Neiafu, this sea plane landed and then took a tour round the boats before flying off again - very strange!

Finding somewhere to beach the dinghy could be quite interesting depending on the state of the tide, most of the beaches had very shallow coral in front of them making low tide arrival or departure tricky

Sunset at Matamaka with S/V Emma Louise and S/V Duende

We were very close to the reef on our mooring ball at Matamaka, but the snorkeling from the boat was great!

A spectacular coral mound at Ovalau Island was teaming with fish

Giant clam on the reef off Matamaka

Blue starfish seemed to be everywhere at Matamaka and Nuku, this was the only one we saw with 6 arms though...

There were also quite of few of this squishy pink starfish, as well as some black ones that we didn't manage to get a photo of

The reef off the village at Matamaka had quite a few of these nasty devils - Crown of Thorns Starfish - they can have up to 23 arms and devour the reef

Living coral, a treat after snorkeling in French Polynesia

Every little coral mound seemed to have its own resident fish

Lots of little brightly coloured fishies

Swimming back to the boat in Nuku we came across this monster, some kind of sea snake about 4m long and very scary looking, we didn't linger close to him for long

Someone is checking us out....

We did have make one alarming discovery. While anchoring off Nuku Island Kym suddenly shouted and stopped letting out anchor chain. I ran to the bow wondering what was amiss. She pointed at the chain and said take a look at that. Bloody hell! One of the links was nearly severed. How many times had we had that chain down relying on its integrity? The culprit, we determined, was the chain hook on the snubber line that had somehow got itself twisted on the link. We think this occurred way back in the Marquesas where we experienced some pretty strong side-on winds. We have now top and tailed the anchor chain and put a temporary soft shackle around the link.

Not what you want to see when looking at your anchor chain!

Neiafu is the hub of the northern group of islands. With a well protected harbour and over 50 mooring balls, most transiting yachts make this their first port of call. The town itself is a pretty scruffy affair but the smiles and generosity of the locals soon win you over. The island itself is in a pretty spectacular location and a quick walk up to Mount Talau reveals all its charms.

The small boat harbor in Neiafu where you can leave your dinghy if you can find somewhere to squeeze it in amongst the local boats

Neiafu main street

The view across Neiafu Harbour and to the islands beyond from the top of Mount Talau. Phylis is one of the little white dots in the middle

Provisions in the western style are limited but there is a reasonable fresh produce market. As with many other islands we've visited, you know when a cargo ship has docked as the shop shelves suddenly have good stuff on them, and boy, you'd better be quick.

'Utukalongalu Market with a wide array of fresh produce

Potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage sorted, now just to find something to go with it...

Most yacht service businesses are run by expats who collectively run a very useful daily net, so there's no excuse to miss out on any happenings. There is a pretty lively social scene going on as you can imagine with so many boats around. Even we, the very conservative crew of Phylis, have managed to make drunken prats of ourselves. But who cares really. As my mate Ron says, "you're a long time dead."

Celebrating Aron's birthday, after a few beers on Raeo we headed to the Tapas bar for a few more and a game of pool - who would have thought the Kiwi's would have their own rules for pool??

After a few more beers and some tapas the dancing began

Mick and the birthday girl

There are 171 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga and less than one quarter are inhabited; a cruiser could easily lose himself here for many years. Unfortunately for us, time is pressing. Our current plan is to leave here around the 4th August and head off to Savusavu in Fiji. It's another pesky three nighter, so no time to acclimatise; you just get very tired. We're looking forward to cruising Fiji and will be there until November when we will haul Phylis at Vuda Point Marina and stick her hull in a pit for cyclone season. We plan to return to Fiji in April of next year and take it from there.


07 July 2017 | Alofi, Niue
Where?? Find Tonga and look right about 250 miles and it’s that very small blob in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly the smallest independent nation in the world and the largest uplifted coral atoll in the world, it does have a few things going for it.

We arrived midnight on 29th June after a four and half day passage from Rarotonga. Conditions were fairly good with light to variable winds and a low swell interspersed with the odd squall just to keep you on your toes, or should I say, huddled under the cockpit dodger, the only dry spot. You can see them coming on the radar and also how big they are so you have a good estimate of how long your misery will last. Oh, and they always seem to come at night.

Arriving in Alofi Bay at night was tense. I could spot the dockside lights from quite a way out but the mooring balls, although having reflective tape seemed to take forever to reveal themselves. Just when it seemed we would be running aground suddenly the ocean was lit up with shining orbs, all we had to do was take our pick. Kym was a star and picked up a ball on the first attempt despite the swell.

Phylis the only boat in the mooring field, not sure if it was something we said but the day after we arrived the other two boats left!

Phylis and Valkyrie in the sunset, Valkyrie joined us in the mooring field for a couple of days before they left again for Tonga so a few beers were consumed

The mooring field is basically in the ocean only marginally protected from the prevailing winds by a small indent in the coast. So, we roll – yet again. Aren’t we lucky. The day after we arrived conditions aboard were so intolerable we checked into the Niue Backpackers hostel for four nights just to get some uninterrupted sleep. The place was a bit rough and ready but we couldn’t care less. It also made a great base from which we could explore the many delights of the island without the palaver of having to hoist the dinghy out the water every time going ashore. Or trying to get the damn thing back into a swelly ocean late at night after consuming a few grogs.

Hoisting the dinghy in and out the water could be a little bit tense when the swell was running

Niue Backpackers, also home to the Niue Yacht Club, and our home from home

One of our fellow ‘backpackers’, Mossy a diver from Australia took some amazing photos of Phylis at sunset with his much more professional camera than our little one

Another of Mossy’s great shots

Sods law. The moment we get off the boat a whale is seen breaching just behind Phylis. We managed to get a distant shot of it but you have to take our word that it was a whale.

That is a Whale tail – honest!

Niue is about 64km around and we drove every little road that went around and some going across. The island is largely flat and covered in dense bush so not a lot to see from the roads. It’s not until you venture on foot along the numerous sea tracks that the island coast reveals itself in all its glory. All the stuff you’d associate with deeply eroded limestone cliffs is here. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Going down the 155 steps into Anapala Chasm

The path through the pinnacles to reach Togo Chasm

Sandy oasis at the bottom of Togo Chasm

After crawling through a narrow opening and clambering over some rocks you can reach the sea from Togo Chasm and witness the force of the swell as it crashes against a natural arch

The steep ladder that is used to access Togo Chasm

We stopped at the Hikulagi Sculpture Park on our way round the island, not really sure what was going on there

We stopped at the canoe cave at Uluvehi and saw a sail in the distance, our new company, turned out to be Roziante 1 a Vagabond 47 we last saw in Shelter Bay, Panama

If you time your visit to Talava Arches to coincide with low tide you can walk out on the coral platform to the third arch

One of the other arches at Talava, with so few visitors to island you soon start to recognize the people at each of the tourist sites

Matapa Chasm, fresh water bathing place of Niue’s past kings, we decided not to go for a dip there as we were heading to the Limu Pools next

Stepping in to the first of the Limu Pools a sea snake decided to come and say hello, a bit scary as these things are highly venomous but apparently either won’t bite or can’t bite people as their mouth is too small

Snorkeling in the second Limu Pool, when passing under the arch out to the reef there were two sea snakes swimming around which was unnerving

Looking back through the arch to the main pool

Exploring the Palaha Cave

Interesting karst features inside the Palaha Cave

The view of the reef from Palaha Cave

The swimming pool at Avaiki Cave, site of the first canoe landing on Niue

Lunch stop at The Washaway Café on Avatele Beach, the bar works on an honour system – take what you want, write it in the book and then pay at the end. Somehow we ended up with a free lunch (only joking)

We’ve been here now for nine days, probably a bit too long but then we are waiting for the perfect weather window to take us to Tonga. Niue, upon reflection, is a delightful place but as soon as you scratch the surface you find a lot of decay. Once a thriving island the local population has been declining since the 1950’s. A massive cyclone hit the island in 2004 and wiped out most of the villages and infrastructure. Most islanders removed themselves to New Zealand never to return. However, with $20 odd million in annual aid money the island has rebuilt most of its infrastructure and a few entrepreneurs have established low key tourist oriented businesses.

The place feels like a remote outpost of New Zealand and indeed most tourists are from there taking a winter break. Once away from the tourist attractions you encounter village after village of derelict houses with only a few hardy folks still trying to make a living off the land. I stopped outside what I thought was one deserted house to take a photo and out popped a woman asking me if she could help me – well we got chatting and she told us the tale of woe of the gradual decline of the islands population. Any chances of redevelopment are greatly hampered by the fact that only locals are allowed to own land. Foreigners can only lease land but the problem is, I was told, is that most locals now live in New Zealand and that they are not interested in any kind of development enterprise, so their holdings, whatever that may be, remain moribund.

The not so derelict house in the village of Liku

Abandoned houses were a common sight in the villages outside the main town of Alofi

It’s now Friday 7th July and Windyty is telling me the seas are now down to 1.5m and we can expect around 15kts on the beam. We’re not going to get anything better than that so we’re hoofing it off to Tonga tomorrow, a trip of around 250 miles that should take us about 48 hours. So, without further ado, see you all in Tonga!


17 June 2017 | Avatiu Harbour
I sighted between the red and green cans and with a 3kt current behind me aimed Phylis straight down the middle of the channel. We shot out the pass at Maupiti doing 9kts. A tricky start to a four day passage successfully negotiated. You will know by now that Kym and I are very much fair weather sailors so we look for flat seas and moderate winds. We were not disappointed and with a gentle 15kts and 1.5m swell we ambled our way south westwards towards Rarotonga. Of course, the wind did finally die on us and we motor sailed a fair bit.

We finally arrived around dawn on 5th June. We waited outside the harbour entrance for daylight and at around 7am motored into the small harbour. It’s a med moor job and there were plenty of boats in there already. We hung around waiting for someone to notice us to help us in but no one was around and we couldn’t raise the harbour master on the radio – it was a public holiday. Finally, we blasted a few good morning toots on our fog horn and out popped Steve from Emma Louise and Craig from Raeo. Steve jumped in his dinghy and marshalled us in. We opted to deploy our stern anchor and so just drove straight at the dock letting out chain as we went until close enough to get our bow lines ashore. Surprisingly everything went smoothly and the first information Steve told us was that the Hula Bar just down the road had all day happy hour – say no more!

Sunset at the Hula Bar

The sailboats in the main harbor, dinghy’s used to get from the boat to the steps to shore

The protected small boat harbor, unfortunately no room for Phylis in there

Despite burning a lot of diesel we had a smooth passage. Crews that had gone before us when there were 3-4m swells reported the worst sea conditions they’d experienced their entire sailing careers. Boats were pooped or continuously smashed by vicious cross-seas that had cockpits swimming.

So here we are then. We’ve been here nearly two weeks already and we don’t want to leave. It’s not just one thing that makes this place great but a whole collection of little things like having a near 24hr burger shack right opposite the boat. Great hikes across the island. An excellent food and craft market just next to us and of course great beach bars selling reasonably priced ale and great food. Everything is perfect apart from one small little detail. You really don’t want to be in this open harbour in a northerly.

Exploring the Saturday morning market

We went to an ‘Island Night’ and the hotel attached to the Hula Bar, great buffet and lots of dancing and drumming

Some of the mama’s gave it a go as well as the youngsters

The local kids come down to the harbor after school and jump into the water, using the boat lines as a convenient resting place

Some get brave enough to use the derelict fishing boat as a high diving board

We knew it was coming. I had it charted for days. Surely it can’t be that bad, can it? Emma Louise and Raeo decided to cut and run. We decided to stay – we hadn’t had enough beer nor fish and chips nor burger and chips nor pork spare ribs in sticky BBQ sauce nor sirloin steak in an amazing mushroom sauce etc etc.

Enjoying some beers with the crews of Raeo and Valkyrie before Raeo headed off to Niue

Saturday night at precisely 7pm the wind backed to the north and our fairly tranquil harbour turned into a vicious choppy cauldron. Two metre waves came rolling into the harbour from the Pacific Ocean with nothing to stop them but the small harbour wall and a handful of yachts. With the fierce back swell Phylis started to hobby horse quite violently along and with the other boats, the respective motion was really quite alarming. Phylis’ bowsprit was leaping up and down about 3m. When the wind backed around to the north west all the boats started tugging sideways really straining their lines. Tutkum on our left was in grave danger of smashing his radar arch on the derelict freighter moored alongside the dock. John on board Leomar on our right was being pressed by Valkyrie on his right. Both yachts had to rapidly deploy midship lines to shore. Fortunately we were OK despite the horrendous boat motion. At one point I had to tighten up on our stern anchor that was well dug in.

Rocking and rolling in the Norther, and this was before it got too bad to go up to the bow! The crews of Tutkum and Leomar busy adjusting lines.

Everyone stayed awake that night and of course it was also pissing it down. I was tired, cold, soaking wet and feeling extremely seasick. To add insult to injury the bloody Hula Bar party bus kept going up and down the road with much merriment aboard totally oblivious to our bit of misery. l gave up watching around midnight as conditions seemed to have stabilised and Kym joined me around 1am after the wind and swell started to abate somewhat. Come the morning we found that all the boats had survived the ordeal with no damage reported. We unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t hang around for another norther to hit us. That night at the Hula Bar we celebrated coming through our little ordeal unscathed.

Just one bad night then that lasted no more than eight hours. The rest of the time here the weather has been perfect. Just like a British summer with warm days and refreshingly cool evenings. Sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast and drizzly, but always comfortable. One day we hiked across the island. The cross- island walk takes around four hours and traverses the spectacular mountainous interior. We had another great scramble up tree root ladders and walked scary ridge paths no wider than a couple of feet. The route was pretty challenging but we were rewarded with fantastic views. At the highest point the main feature is the Needle at 413m, locally known as Te Rua Manga.

Climbing up the tree root staircase towards the needle

At the base of the needle, there was a chain that took you round the needle but we declined

The verdant interior of Rarotonga

Looking back to the needle as we head towards the South of the island

Wigmore’s Waterfall on the South of the island, more of a trickle…

We thought we’d hire some bicycles and ride around the island’s 32km coastal road but they wanted NZ$30 per bike so we went down the road and hired a scooter (Josh) for NZ$25. Off we motored around the island taking in the sights and picking our lunch spot. I can honestly say that Rarotonga is an extremely pleasant place and they don’t speak French – such a refreshing change.

A quick stop at Black Rock (Turou), believed to be where the spirits of the dead commence their voyage to Avaiki (the afterworld)

A couple of lagoon tour boats with their many snorkelers at Muri Lagoon

The beach at Muri Lagoon

Relaxing at The Mooring Café while we waited for our yummy Tuna sandwiches

The ‘Back Road’ around Rarotonga, the alternative to the ‘Main Road’

We spend hours sitting in our cockpit watching the world go by. There’s always something occurring and great excitement was had yesterday morning when we were woken up by the sound of massive diesel engines and rushing on deck, there, right up our backside was the huge container ship Liloa II. Watching a boat that is as long as the harbour is wide do a 360 was great entertainment and to top it all the Air New Zealand flight took off and buzzed our masts (yes, we are right on the islands airport flight path).

Not what you want to see when you stick your head out of the boat first thing in the morning

Only a few feet to spare as it took the whole harbour to turn around

Safely on the dock, and there goes the Air New Zealand flight

As I write this most of our neighbours have already departed for Tonga via Niue. Tutkum left this morning leaving just Phylis and Valkyrie moored to the dock. We heard yesterday that Emma Louise and Raeo had made Niue after a rather extended passage – bet there’s an interesting tale in there. For us, it looks as though we will head off in a weeks time when the swell has gone down a bit. So for now it’s back to people watching and boat jobs (bloody water maker has packed up) – hold on though, it’s market day, yum yum. Let’s go!!!


31 May 2017 | Maupiti
Bye bye Bora Bora, hello Maupiti!

We got here a week ago knowing if we spent more than 24 hours here we’d be marooned by weather. So be it – there are worse places to be. The tricksy bit is the pass getting in. Approaching from the east you see nothing but a line of breaking waves but as you come around to the south and west you see the small pass open up in front of you. Not a lot of room here and with a swell of anything over 2m it is not recommended to attempt passage. We came in on a 2.2m swell and nearly stalled on a standing wave at the pass entrance. A few more revs and we slowly made headway. Once into the lagoon all was well and what a magnificent lagoon it is.

Approaching the pass into Maupiti’s lagoon

We moored up just off the town centre and sat back. There were only three other boats here so we had virtual seclusion. Maupiti is the little sister of Bora Bora. Small yet perfectly formed and with no sign of any serious commercial tourism the place really is a Polynesian paradise. The town of Vai’ea is pretty quaint and has a few shops selling basic food stuffs. There’s a good restaurant by the quay that serves Polynesian portions (Texas sized portions) of reasonable food. Small roadside stalls are a plenty, selling fresh fruit and veg.

The town of Vai’ea with its spectacular backdrop

One day we walked around the island. It’s about a 2 hour walk and with no traffic it was like a walk in the park. Mountain to one side, gorgeous lagoon on the other. I had to keep reining Kym in to stop her raiding the Pamplemousse plantations growing by the roadside.

Seems that there are more boats than cars on Maupiti

The beach at Tereia Point on the West of the island

Eyeing up the pamplemousse at the side of the road, the view wasn’t bad either

We were stuck on the boat for a few days as the weather picked up as forecasted. The lagoon was fairly flat but conditions at the dinghy dock were a little too boisterous for my liking so unfortunately we spent Kym’s 40th birthday on board drinking rum cocktails. I did cook her sausage, fried potatoes, egg and beans for tea though – no expense spared here.

We took the dinghy to the nearby motu which was lovely until the mosquitoes found us!

Having stared at the hill in front of us for a good few days we decided to climb it. At around 385m and with the path going straight up as usual, it was a good workout and what magnificent views from the top.

Looking south to the pass from the top of Mt Teurafaatiu

Phylis (on the right) at anchor off Vai’ea

Intricate patterns in the coral on the South of the island

The islands airport, not much room for error

Heading back down the mountain, there were a few steep sections but luckily ropes and been left to help

Mick about to base jump from 300m

Today we dinghied down to the pass to see the fabled Manta Rays. Alas, none were available for viewing but we did see some little fishes and not a lot else.

Pretty crap really

It looks like we have fairly stable conditions coming up for the leap to Rarotonga in the southern Cook Islands so we’re planning to leave tomorrow morning (1st June). The trip should take us four days and we only hope there is going to be room for us in the small harbor, otherwise we will just have to keep on going to either Palmerston or Niue. Westward Ho!

Bora Bora

24 May 2017 | Bora Bora
Where's Bora Bora gone? One minute it was there five miles away shimmering in the noonday sun, the next it had vanished. In fact, everything had vanished including the front of the boat. We were having one of those tropical moments, blinding torrential rain and gusting winds. I looked at the chart plotter, yep it was still there and we were on course for the pass through the reef. Suddenly an AIS icon started moving fast on the screen. The coastal freighter Taporo was looking as though it would come out the pass and no doubt head directly for us. With no visibility, I just preyed they had seen our AIS signature. Thankfully they had, and veered off to give us plenty of room. We were in the pass now and still sailing blind. Kym went to the front of the boat to see if she could see any sight of our intended anchorage. Finally, she shouted out that she could see some yachts up ahead, I still couldn't see a thing. Kym guided me in and at about a hundred feet away I finally sighted our destination. Phew - I'm eternally grateful for accurate electronic charts and the invention of the GPS.

We left Raiatea some three weeks ago and have been hanging out in one of the most famous dream destinations on the planet. Bora Bora. Unfortunately, we are not alone! You can lose yourself if you want, just motor over to the reef and drop the hook in your very own turquoise lagoon paradise. You will though get buzzed by hotel shuttles and jet skis. We opted to hang out at the Mia Kai Marina and Bora Bora Yacht Club, good food, reasonable internet and within walking distance of the supermarket. We were actually kicked out of the Mia Kia Marina because the World ARC rally was turning up. As it turned out sea conditions over at the Bora Bora Yacht Club were far more favourable as the weather turned foul. Ha ha - up yours blood ARC.

Mai Kai Marina and Yacht Club

Enjoying the pool at Mai Kai, and their buy one get one free happy hour

Bora Bora Yacht Club, alas no happy hour or pool

Dinner at Bora Bora Yacht Club, the perfect setting for a 10th anniversary meal

Another fabulous sunset from Bora Bora Yacht Club

Bora Bora is a big lump of volcanic rock with numerous peaks surrounded by a gorgeous lagoon. The outer edge of the lagoon is dotted with outlying islands or Motu. We hired a couple of bicycles one day and cycled the 32 km round island route. The road was reasonable and pretty flat. On the one side we had the "rock" where all the locals live and on the other side was the lagoon and its outlying Motu with its myriad of luxury hotels. The haves and the have nots, co-existing with a handy moat between them. The trip was uneventful until a landrover full of tourists ploughed into the back of Kym's bike wrenching her shoulder. No apologies offered. She recovered enough to get to the famous Bloody Mary's restaurant for a prolonged lunch. Prolonged because we had to wait an hour to get seated as (you guessed it) there was a cruise ship in town and the restaurant was packed with people on round island tours.

Cycling the round island route

One of the motu based luxury resorts

Lunch stop at Bloody Mary's, and they do make a good bloody mary!

One of the WWII canons left by the American's who made Bora Bora one of their Pacific bases during the war

Getting bored with the aquatic life we decided to climb the "rock". Mount Pahia to be precise, is only 661m high but the path goes literally straight up. Within minutes we were drenched in sweat as the humidity in the rainforest was at maximum. After an hour the terrain was so steep that we were reduced to all fours scrambling through the muddy undergrowth using tree roots as handholds. Where the path became so steep not even trees could take root, handy ropes had been installed to help you get up the bare rock face. Unfortunately, many of the ropes were covered in green slime and the rock face covered in moss. After three hours of climbing we were defeated at the final rope ascent. I just couldn't get a grip on the rope or rock. Kym tried and managed to do a kind of Tarzan act when her footing failed her. Now, if you think going up would be hard the going down was even more treacherous. Unsighted, you'd be hanging on to a tree root dangling your foot below hoping to find another root to take your weight. Oh what fun (not).

It's just asking to be climbed, and after a week of looking at it we could resist no longer

The view from the almost-top was pretty spectacular

The view of the Mai Kai Marina and Phylis from a view point about a quarter of the way up wasn't too bad either

Scrambling though the undergrowth wasn't so much fun though

We can agree that this walk is not for the faint hearted....

It took a good few days to recover from our mountaineering escapades - any excuse to lay back and do sweet FA. Oh, one thing we did do is put Phylis on the market. After having spent three weeks at sea and failing miserably to fall in love with the sailing ethos we decided at Christmas that we would not be crossing any more oceans doing a paltry six knots. We made the decision to end our cruise at Brisbane and sell up in 2018; however, our yacht agent advised us to put the boat on the market sooner rather than later. So, if we sell, we're done; if we don't, we carry onto Australia regardless. Check out our beloved at:

We've just checked out of French Polynesia and plan on heading off to the island of Maupiti tomorrow (25th May). It's reputed to be just like Bora Bora but with no tourists. The island is about 30 miles down wind so we should be there around lunchtime. Whether or not we up anchor and carry on to the Cook Islands the following day depends on the weather. At the moment it's looking a tad rough for us fair weather sailors so we may well hang out in Maupiti for a week or so.
Vessel Name: Phylis
Vessel Make/Model: Spindrift 43
Hailing Port: Conwy, UK
Crew: Mick and Kym
Extra: "Instead of flying home why don't we buy a boat and sail home" - that's how it all started 6 years ago.
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