We are back in the Marquesas and managed to find enough Internet access to post our photos of the Raroia Atoll. They can be found here
as well as a side link on this page. I'm afraid there are a lot.... Where it might be informative I have added a brief description in the comments. I was going to try and add the names of all the fish but life is too short.
We had a very difficult passage back up here. The winds at this time of year trend to the NE so it has a bit of a reputation but we picked a doozie - entirely our own fault. I think we were suffering from post-Pacific cockiness but our preparation for the trip was way too casual. We decided to ride a frontal system thst promised to supply plenty of wind. It did. We spent the first two days in winds up to 30kts on the nose, 3m seas and torrential rain. We had more boarding waves (into the cockpit) than all of the last six years put together. I was very glad we had finally got round to making a watertight cover for the poorly located engine control panel.
We emerged from that tired and soaked then had to spend the next three days close hauled into 2m+ seas in order to make the Marquesas. The boat movement made it difficult to cook and moving around inside was decidedly tricky. Most of the time the person on watch had to huddle in the dry(ish) corner of the cockpit while the off-watch just slept. We heaved to to take breaks, something Leela does exceedingly well, when we could get a bit cleaned up and have a meal. It was a long five days.... I must admit it left us wondering how long a pair of old farts could keep doing this, and dreaming about campervans.
We will be taking a much more conservative approach in future. There were a few specific lessons learned:
1. 'Short' passages can bite. You need to prepare for the worst case every time.
2. Gradient forecasts might be great for forecasting trade winds but they can significantly under-forecast wind in frontal systems
3. We need to make more effort to stay fit and strong to cope with the physicality of rough weather sailing.
4. Leela is very reassuring in bad conditions. The boat always feels solid and the rig, with the triple reefed main and the staysail, is very flexible. We can continue to point reasonably well with very little canvas up.
We are going to spend a couple of months in the Marquesas so time to regroup and address #3.