Leela Year Six - Across the Pacific

Well.... to our own surprise here we are

16 November 2019 | Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
07 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
05 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
03 November 2019 | Nuku Hiva
30 October 2019 | Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
20 October 2019 | Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
11 October 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
05 October 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
15 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
13 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
07 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
03 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
27 August 2019 | S Pacific Ocean
23 August 2019 | Nuku Hiva
20 August 2019 | Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
13 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
08 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
30 July 2019 | Puerto Aroya, Galapagos
24 July 2019 | Galapagos
17 July 2019 | Isla San Christobal, Galapagos

Cruising Life and Further Ramblings

16 November 2019 | Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
The circumnavigation of the island was very enjoyable but this post finds me in something of a strange place. The past year has been full on excitement/fear/adventure/delight. The long passage across the Pacific was a huge challenge for both of us and the South Pacific experience has been everything we hoped for and more, but, without immediate plans and in a cyclone season holding pattern, it is turning into 'normal life', with all the stuff that goes with that.

By way of example, yesterday was spent as follows; dinghying into the beach and sitting on a rock for several hours chipping rust and old paint off a propane tank that needs to last another year, dismantling the head (toilet) and removing a partially decayed dead fish from the saltwater intake, replacing the manky hoses in the galley salt water supply, relocating the autopilot breaker to a safer spot on the panel so that it does not get knocked off when reaching for something, battling with Google Fi customer support to understand why they are quite willing to store all our "secondary payment method" credit card details on their server but will not actually use it if the first method fails due to "security concerns" - go figure.... The rest of the day was filled with normal cruising stuff, making fresh water, commuting to the Internet access by dinghy, collecting the laundry and scuba tanks, reading the news then seriously regretting it, listening to the Polynesian HF radio net, going out to dinner with West Australian cruising friends and so it goes on. Normal life.....

Janaki is in the US at the moment, sorting out some admin, getting specialist supplies and keeping up with friends so I am alone on the boat for the first time in a VERY long time, maybe ever. You would think, after a year of never being more than a few yards apart, it might be a refreshing experience but it feels distinctly empty and I am really looking forward to the status quo being restored. My 'helpless male' act is getting me fed (I am pulling my weight) but I do need to revive my culinary skills and use what is in the refrigerator before it rots.

Once Janaki gets back I will shake off my lethargy and we will probably sail off to explore some of the other islands in the Marquesas. Being under sail always cheers us both up. We love that part of the lifestyle (thank goodness). Until then I will keep chewing away it the to-do list. There is plenty on it.... I really need to clean the waterline but the occasional large hammerhead swimming by, combined with the limited visibility, is a little off-putting so it will have to wait.

Apart from the rolly anchorage (good for the core muscles) this is a delightful place to hang out. The surroundings are dramatic, the small town is pretty and immaculately kept. There is no trash anywhere and no graffiti. There are a few general stores, a couple of reasonably priced restaurants, a pretty well stocked hardware store, a real farmer's market with fresh produce and fresh fish down on the dock.

What makes it really special is the Polynesian people (there are remarkably few French residents). There is no sign of wealth but neither is there any sign of serious poverty. They universally exude a sense of contentment and calm. They greet one another, and us, with a smile and talk and laugh together like the long term friends they clearly are. Kids are always running around and playing. No-one plays loud music and everyone is generous with our dubious language skills. Not once have we heard a raised voice or seen any sign of agression. Absolutely no-one hassles us, we don't lock up the dinghy at all and rarely lock up the boat. This is all a startling contrast to the noise, hassle, and palpable agression of the Eastern Caribbean and without the underlying danger of Central and S America. I'm sure this is a slightly optimistic view of things, everywhere has issues, but it sure is nice.

Do drop us a line any time. Either here or via our normal email. It is hard to stay in touch over such great distances but it is always a pleasure to get missives from distant friends.

Designer Madness

07 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
We finally got to Scuba dive for the first time since Galapagos and it was awesome. There was too much surge to secure the dinghy at the edge so we swam from Leela using snorkels to conserve air. We did not go deeper than easy free diving depth (about 20') but being able to just stay in one spot and wait made all the difference. This crazy lot are just a sampling of the things we saw. It was very different to the Tuamotus, big boulders and very little coral, but the marine life was spectacular, lots of first sightings and schools of fish that we had only seen as rare individuals previously. We could have just stayed on one boulder for the whole dive and not got bored. Unfortunately we decided to save half our air for the next day but a big swell came up so no more diving fore a while. We really need a compressor to dive these super-remote locations.

It was also too rough to land the dinghy on the steeply sloping boulder beach but we did swim ashore with all our stuff in a dry bag in an effort to walk up the beautiful valley - no chance. There are absolutely no paths and it is an impenetrable thicket of thorny bushes. I guess that's why we have the place to ourselves.....

I will put up an album of Nuku Hiva photos once we get back to Taiohae, the main village.

A Place of Our Own

05 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
After several days hiking and surf swimming in the Anaho Bay area we decided to check out the snorkeling on the drier west coast so we sailed round until we found a small nick at the southern end of the west coast that had a sandy bottom to anchor and sufficient protection from the ever-present swell. We are at the head of a steep valley with no roads or trails visible so we have seen no-one apart from a distant fishing boat on the horizon. It is certainly peaceful, just us, the birds and the fish, and fish there are a plenty.

The snorkeling is challenging but very rewarding. The cliffs drop straight into the water which is full of large boulders. There is too much surge to secure the dinghy so we have to swim over from the boat. Once at the rocky edge we need to get used to being swept from side to side but there are plenty of fellow travelers. The place is loaded with fish, many of which we have not seen before in such large numbers. The school pictured are Fusiliers but there are numerous schools of fish such as grunts, tangs and surgeon fish that we have previously only seen in ones and twos and there are many small and interesting individuals such as the spotted box fish. The visibility is not up to Tuamotus standards but it is better than anything we have seen in the Marquesas to date. Underwater photography is particularly challenging in the surge but I'm getting a few passable shots that I will upload once we get back to 'civilization' later in the week.

It looks more interesting Down deep here than we have seen previously and we have two full dive tanks so we are planning our first scuba dive in a while for tomorrow morning. Apart from getting in the water there is not much to do here. The beach is steep pebbles and the scrub behind it looks impenetrable. In the past we would launch the dinghy and head to the beach as soon as the anchor was secure. Now, after a few longer passages, we seem to be content on the boat or in the water and we may well leave here without touching land.
Life onboard has settled into a routine of swimming, snorkeling, reading, processing photos and relaxing. The basic chores go on, washing a few clothes, meal prep, cleaning the boat, making water but major boat projects are on hold until we can get some supplies.

We will probably head round the corner to Daniel's Bay after the dive tomorrow. There is likely to be a few other boats there and there is a farm where we can stock up on fresh vegetables.

Exploring the Island

30 October 2019 | Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
Only a few hundred miles apart, the Marquesas are remarkably different to the Tuamotus. The latter are just coral atolls that formed as fringing reefs on volcanic islands that have long ago sunk beneath the waves. The Marquesas are much younger volcanic islands, steep and high, with no fringing reefs and little coral. This makes for a very different cruising experience. The anchorages are deeper and unprotected, sometimes making for a rolly experience that varies between mild and unpleasant. At the moment we are in a small bay on the SW corner of Nuku Hiva that is perfectly calm and quite beautiful.

The other difference is the experience onshore. The Tuamotus consist of just reefs and coconut palms and bushes with only a couple of meters of elevation and very few people (thankfully....). The Marquesas are highly contoured and lush with small communities in the valleys.

The valley where we are currently anchored is one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. The surrounding hills are a delight and the valley is amazingly verdant with a few small farms that produce an astonishing variety of fruits and vegetables. Just in this small valley there are coconuts, mangoes, grapefruit, avacados, guava, limes, lemons, oranges, bananas, soursop, custard apple, breadfruit, taro, tamarind, ginger, and vanilla. We are sure there is more that we are not spotting. As we walked down the valley yesterday we were given grapefruit and limes and offered bananas but we already have more of them than we can eat.

The place has such a peaceful feel to it, horses are used a lot and there is barely any traffic on the few roads. There is absolutely zero sign of tourism. The population is pretty much entirely Polynesian and the place is utterly spotless. Nearly everyone we met walking through the village was carrying a rake or a brush and all the gardens were immaculate and beautiful with a heady mix of frangipani, jasmine, hibiscus and bougainvillea along with many beautiful trees and plants we don't recognize at all.

One highlight of our walk was eating fresh tamarind straight from the tree. It is an amazing flavor, recognizable from the dried variety but quite different. Today we are going to the annual (?) village fair that seems to be quite a big deal. I will report later on that.

For those of a literary bent. This valley is called Taipivai or Taipi Valley and is the subject of Herman Melville's first book 'Typee' before he became famous for writing Moby Dick. Before the local population was decimated by western diseases there were 20,000 people living here in a tribal culture that seemed to spend their time playing, carving statues, fighting and eating one another. There are ancient ruins everywhere in the woods and museum quality statues in people's yards and by the roadsides.

There are a few other apparently lovely bays on the island so we are doing a slow and weather dependent circumnavigation.

UPDATE: We grabbed a weather window and headed round to the more rugged north side of the island and we are now anchored in Anaho Bay (pictured). Unlike the southern shore we can snorkel here. The visibility is nothing like the Tuamotus but the marine life is interestingly different. There are half a dozen other boats here so we are having a pleasant social life. There is no road into the bay but there is a small boarding house that brings their guests in by boat so we will try their lunch today with a few other cruisers.

Yesterday I managed to help fix an obscure electrical problem on another boat's generator which was very satisfying but also confirmed our 'keep it simple' 12V only system that does not require the complexity of a generator. This does limit us to camping mode without the luxuries of washing machines, induction hobs, microwaves and the like but Leela is too small for all that stuff anyway. There are many different approaches to this cruising life. They all have pro's and cons.

As long as the weather holds we will probably stay here another week before continuing our circumnavigation.

Raroia Photos Posted

20 October 2019 | Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
Graham Openshaw
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.

Time to Go

11 October 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
We have had an awesome six weeks here in the Raroria Atoll but it is time to take our leave for this season. We have loved the isolation and the underwater experience has definitely lived up to our expectations for the South Pacific but we are completely out of fresh food, our administrative '€˜life' is a shambles and just to make sure we get the message, the propellor on the outboard AND the spare failed so our 'car' will only go in first gear so to speak.

So, tommorow we head back out to sea for a four day passage to the Marquesas. We are the only boat here at the moment so this end of the atoll will return to its normal deserted state, just the fish and the birds.

We will be hard on the wind to get up to Hiva Oa but the seas will be on the beam so it should not be too unpleasant. It is going to be strange to be moving again after the tranquility of this place but we should get into the swing of it pretty quickly and it is a short passage by recent standards.

Once we arrive I should be able to post some (a lot of....) photos so I will write more then.

David from Perigee took the photo from the top of his mast while he was doing some checks before heading out. We will catch up with them before long.

Still Here

05 October 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
Wow! Time has both ceased to exist and flown by. We are still in the very remote NE corner of the Raroria Atoll. There is only one other boat here now and, apart from a French boat that stopped for one night, we have seen no-one else. We have settled into a routine of boat chores, snorkelling, swimming or walking, reading, board games and movies. The snorkeling continues to amaze. We have been going for a couple of hours pretty much every day for about six weeks and we cannot recollect an occasion when we did not see something new and interesting. I am looking forward to being able to post more pictures but these little composites are all I can manage for now.

From top left clockwise:
1. An aptly named Shrimp Goby. These gobies consistently share a hole with a particular type of shrimp. The shrimp does all the excavation while the goby acts as lookout. The shrimp is blind and only comes out of the hole while the goby is there. It keeps one feeler on the back of the goby and if the goby moves, rapidly retreats into the hole. Remarkably, there are many different shrimp gobies, each with their particular type of shrimp. How all this gets set up is a mystery. It is indeed a strange world.
2. Talking about strange worlds, this is a juvenile Rock Mover Wrasse. Like many fish it looks nothing like its mature form. It swims like a drifting piece of weed, twisting and turning as it tries to avoid being eaten while it hunts its own prey.
3. We have not seen many nudibranchs yet but this one is a beauty and we should see more as we head west.
4. I was taking a photo of two Convict Tangs in about eighteen inches of water when this Black Tipped Reef Shark photobombed me. They do not normally get that close but it was a pretty confined area and he clearly had places to go. Sharks are ubiquitous here. We treat them like stray dogs, largely ignoring them but remaining cautious. There are four types of sharks we have seen so far. The Black Tips are everywhere but we see the occasional Grey Nurse shark, White Tip Reef Shark and Grey Reef Shark (given a wider berth).

Anyway, the clock is now ticking on our little escape. Our administrative affairs continue to collapse due to lack of Internet access. This morning's fun was our Paypal account being suspended 'please go online to resolve the issue' - business as usual.... We pay a lot of small bills with Paypal so that one is going to be a big mess. Almost every program on every device is now complaining that it cannot call home. It is really scary what a busy life our communication tools are having, normally behind our backs.

There are other reasons for partially rejoining the world. We are running out of fresh food and we need to be further north by the start of the cyclone season in November so it is time to take more interest in the weather forecast and look for a window to head back up to the Marquesas. At this time of year the winds tend to be from the NE (where we are going) so we will look for the least bad window then pay the price for our time in paradise with a tough four or five day upwind sail. Once we are there we should be able to sort out all this administrative chaos and, hopefully, make it all more robust before we head down to the VERY remote Gambier Islands in January as we will be there for several months. We will also be able to post all the fish pics we are accumulating.

That's it for now. This morning's boat chore is to go up the mast and try and sort out our failed masthead light, not my favorite activity but someone has to do it. All part of the fun.....

On (not) Getting Away From it All

15 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
One of the many things we are learning out here is how utterly dependent we have all become on ubiquitous Internet access. All of us have administrative threads back into ‘civilization' that need to be maintained; stuff in storage, phone services, satellite services, credit cards, cash cards and so it goes on. It is very easy for this house of cards to come tumbling down. In the last couple of weeks we have had our primary credit card gratuitously repaced with ‘updated technology' and our backup card that we NEVER use in a retail establishment fraudulently used by someone else. Then our (fixed) primary credit card gets blocked by the over-zealous (and frankly dumb) ‘smart' security system. None of these issues would be overly disruptive IF we had internet access - but we don't. Well, we sort of do, via the satellite phone but most administrative websites are so badly built that they fall apart over low bandwidth connections.

The first indication of a problem is the phone bill does not get paid. This has to be fixed in three days so we get to a cell tower (without Internet access) and call customer service to change the account. Sorry, there is absolutely NO way to add a credit card to the account except via the (non functional) website. Customer service won't do it. Can't be done by email. When we tell them that it is simply not possible to get Internet access in the required time we are met with an utter lack of comprehension and a degree of suspicion. Everyone has Internet access all the time don't they?

So, back to the credit card to try and fix it there. “We just need to send you a security code to your mobile app”. No Internet access so the app does not work - back to the lack of comprehension and suspicion.... After providing my life history and, managing to receive a text message they are willing to talk to me. “We just wanted to check that it was you that authorized the payment to Google Fi (that we happily paid last month)”. OK, credit card fixed BUT the only way to get Google to retry the charge is through the website, remember? The one that does not work via satellite. Argh.....

I'm pretty much resigned to the phone getting cut off at this point. We don't use it much but it is one more broken thread in the tenuous web we depend on. This is just part of a long running saga but there is a cautionary tale for us all here. One day the Internet is really going to go down. If we persist in electing imbeciles to ‘govern’ us that day might come sooner rather than later. When it happens we are totally and utterly screwed. The veneer of civilization will fall away amazingly rapidly when the power goes off, fuel cannot be purchased and food supply systems collapse (remember New Orleans?). Maybe the preppers have a point....

OK. Back to the illusion of getting away from it all....

Enough Fish For a While

13 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
We are still hiding out at the NE corner of Rarioa Atoll with Perigee and Capel, Mara, two Australian boats. A spell of calm weather has allowed us to get out to the mid-lagoon deepwater bommies, which are fantastic and I am getting the hang of photography while snorkeling so LOTS of fish pics are forthcoming. Unfortunately one of the downides of remote anchorages is only having satellite communications so they will have to wait, possibly for quite a while until we get to an island on the fiber optic cable that has recently been strung through parts of French Polynesia.

I have now dragged out the big camera and started to get some bird pics. We are not sure if this is a Tern or a Petrel but I'm sure someone out there will know. Anyway they are beautiful birds that often fly around in pairs in such tight formation that they can be mistaken for the white wing tips of a larger bird. This formation flying appears to be an important part of their mate selection process because we sometimes see a second male join the formation for a fly-off. They are impossible to tell apart so the victor is uncertain but it ends with one male flying off alone.

We motored down to the village yesterday as a group on Perigee to see if we could get online and visit the only store to buy some veggies as the monthly boat came in the day before. Slim pickings, carrots, cabbage, onions and garlic was all we found. The village satellite internet link was down so no internet either. We did manage to find some beer and some Tim Tams (the Audtralian equivilant of US Oreos or UK Kit Kats) and it was a very nice day out.

A fourth boat is arriving later today so our little community of six people will become eight - very exciting.

Back in the Water

07 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
There is no dive shop here to get tanks filled. In fact, there is no anything here..... so we are just snorkeling. There are plenty of small reefs around us with an interesting range of different creatures. Taking good pictures snorkeling is a challenge, particularly in three feet of water. The dappled sunlight is distracting and it is very hard to keep the camera still enough. None the less I'm managing to get a few interesting pics.

From the top left, clockwise:

1. An as yet unidentified goby cleaning out his home. He would disappear inside for thirty seconds or so then come out and spit out a large mouthful of sand and gravel.

2. The head of a reef top pipefish. Our first pipefish ever in decades of diving. This one is slightly thinner than a pencil and about four inches long. The patterning is fabulous.

3. The biggest marine life in this region are the sharks. These are black tipped reef sharks. They can get to eight feet long but the ones we see are typically three to five feet. We have never been in the water without seeing them and we are beginning to take them for granted. Most of the time they pretty much ignore us as they cruise the reef looking for someone (small) who is not paying attention. Sometimes they circle us, getting a little closer at every pass. When they get too '€˜friendly' We swim at them aggressively and they shoot off (so far....). They are actually quite beautiful to watch once you get past the 'shark' thing.

4. There are giant clams everywhere, in an amazing variety of patterns and colors. They can get to more than four feet across but the ones we are finding are generally four to eight inches. What is odd is the crazy diversity within the species. Most marine life is very uniform in appearance within the species but these guys are all over the map.

We go for a snorkel pretty much every day but the weather has been a bit nasty (30kts of wind and a steep chop) for the past day or so and the visibility is going to be poor tomorrow so probably no photography. The longer range forecast is good so more soon.

I Think We Have Arrived

03 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
It was hard work getting here but the payoff is astonishing. We are tucked into the NE corner of the Rarioa Atoll (red arrow on chart). We can hear the Pacific Ocean crashing on the outside of the reef but in here the turquoise water in perfectly flat (a real luxury at this point), the palm trees are swaying gently and it looks and feels like the epitomal South Pacific scene. The temperature is just about perfect, the humidity is low, the sky is mainly blue and there really is nothing you would want to change.

Getting into the atoll was interesting. It is a coral ring, about 40km long and 12km wide. It has a tide of 1m and only one significant pass. This means that about 450 million cubic meters or 119 billion gallons of water rush through that pass four times a day so timing was important. We arrived well before the calculated slack tide and monitored the pass. It was not too hard to see the flow. Even with wind with tide there was a remarkable tidal rip where the outflow hit the Pacific swells so we hung about and watched as it gradually settled down. A mother humpback whale and her calf and a small pod of dolphins entertained us while we waited. Eventually we started nosing into the flow to check the current. The north side of the pass was reasonably flat and we only saw a couple of knots so we pushed on through. The max current we saw was 3.5kts which was easily managed and we were through our first atoll pass.

Once inside we had very precise waypoints provided by our friends on Capel Mara, already waiting for us at the anchorage. We used those, geo-referenced Google Earth images and mark 1 eyeballs to navigate through the many coral outcrops or bommies between us and our destination in the NE corner of the atoll. There we met up with our sailing buddies (and waypoint providers) Sal and John on Capel Mara and Leanne and David on Perigee, the main culprits who helped us talk ourselves into this crazy endeavor a couple of years ago and many miles away in Lagoonies bar in Sint Maarten.

Since then life has been slow and easy. The boat was a tip after two passages so we are still working on that and we have the inevitable list of boat chores but we work for a few hours each morning the either go snorkeling, walking on the Motu (area of reef that has built up enough to support vegetation) or hanging about in the shallows chatting. The marine life is always entertaining. If you look at the bottom left corner of the bottom right image that smudge is a 3ft black tipped reef shark doing his rounds. I am posting this via satellite so I can only post one image at the moment so I will do another short post about the underwater scene.

There are some challenges involved in 'getting away from it all'. There is only a very small village on the island and that is about ten miles away on the NW side of the atoll. The nearest actual town is probably Papeete on Tahiti, a four day sail from here so we need to be pretty self sufficient. There is on store in the village but the supply boat only comes once a month so pickings will be slim. We are well stocked up on food and making water so we can go a couple of months or more before we need to move. We have no phone service so the satellite link is our only communications. It is nice to be able to get emails and post this but, to be honest, a spell with zero internet would be fine by me. I know it is going to upset me but I cannot resist the occasional look at what passes for news these days, even if it does take fifteen minutes to download an image-free web page.

We think we will probably stay here for another month then move down to a nearby atoll, Makemo, that apparently has a dive operation. After that we are not sure. Janaki needs some dental work in Tahiti so we might sail there and then back to the Marquesas, just another 1,200nm.....

I will pop up a short post to get an underwater pic up and, as soon as I get some half way reasonable internet I will put up a photo album but that might be a ways off.

Moving on (a Little too Quickly)

27 August 2019 | S Pacific Ocean
After only a few days in the Marquesas we decided to push on quickly to the Tuamotus. There were some strong drivers for this. The Marquesas are visually splendid and the perfect arrival destination but there are drawbacks; the anchorage was so rolly we would wake up at night wondering why no one was on watch, the water is murky and not good for swimming or diving and the islands themselves are not particularly accessible. In any event we are coming back there in November for the festival on Ua Pou. The Tuamotus, on the other hand, are classic coral atolls. Clear blue water caressing white sand beaches lined with coconut palms, FLAT water anchorages, snorkeling and swimming. Add to that our sailing buddies on Capel Mara and Perigee, who we have not seen for a while, are hanging out there. Why not?

Here is why not. We really had no idea how depleted we were from the two big crossings and the rapid scuttle round the Galapagos. One day into this thankfully short three day passage and we are both feeling our age. Just run down and bone weary. Not dangerously so, just uncomfortably so. The boat is still a tip from the long crossing and we are ready for a break. So, two more days, into the lagoon, and both the crew and the boat are going to get some much needed TLC. We have an ample to-do list for Leela, much of it involving cleaning and the crew is going to work half days then laze about, swim, play games, whatever.

The first day was more on the nose than we expected and quite boisterous but the wind has now backed to a more comfortable beam reach. The seas are down and the sky is bright blue and dotted with little, picture book, cumulus clouds. At night the Milky Way lights our path south in a moonless sky. All good.

I'm struggling to post photos to the album with the generally dreadful internet access here but I will let you know when I have managed to do that.


20 August 2019 | Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
This afternoon we made landfall in Baie de Taiohae, Nuku Hiva,in the Marquesas Islands, one of the archipelagos in French Polynesia. The passage from the Galápagos Islands was 3,076nm (3,540 Statute miles, the distance from London to New York), completed in exactly 19 days at an average, current assisted, speed of 6.8 knots. As our estimate was 24 days at 5.5 knots we are pretty pumped by this result. The other surprising fact is that we are already more than half way to New Zealand from Panama. We will do the second half at a more leisurely pace.

While the winds were ideal for a fast passage, conditions were decidedly robust and it was definitely not the serene experience we have heard about from others. Moving hand over hand in a sometimes violently moving boat for weeks at a time is hard and slightly risky work. I know that my balance and upper body muscles have benefited enormously. It will be interesting to see how bad the dry land vertigo is this time.

So, how do I feel about it now? Firstly very pleased to have done it. It was the culmination of several years of boat preparation, skill development, incremental challenges and learning. I think this is probably the most serious adventure I have ever undertaken and I've undertaken a few. Then I feel relieved. It might be something to do with my background in the offshore oil industry, constantly doing risk assessments, but I spent too much of the trip in a state of heightened anxiety. "What's going to break?". "What have we forgotten?". "How would we deal with the many hundred failure scenarios I managed to conjure up? I think we did a really good job of preparing the boat and ourselves but the difference between 'succeeding' and 'getting away with it' is always fuzzy and we were a LONG way from any help. I was particularly concerned about injury in the rough conditions so we were very careful how we moved about and protected ourselves and each other. As soon as we were within motoring distance of land some of the anxiety fell away. Now the rest has gone. We did have a buddy boat, Kelvin and Caroline, a couple of New Zealanders on SV Ondina. We managed to stay within 50nm of one another for the entire passage which provided a potential source of help but, perhaps more importantly, a sense that we were not completely alone in a VERY big ocean. During the entire passage we have only seen two other vessels, both tuna fishing boats waiting for calm enough weather to fish.

I have really enjoyed working with Janaki to manage the operation of the boat. She has been developing her cruising skills and we have become a more balanced sailing team, working really well together. She has remained resolutely upbeat (apart from a couple of well justified galley melt-downs). I cannot conceive of anyone I would rather do this with. We discussed getting crew to help but we are very glad we did not. Getting enough sleep has been a non-issue and crews bring all sorts of other challenges. Just being the two of us has made it a great experience. We have actually been quite surprised by our resilience. Neither of us feels too depleted and we agreed that we could continue pretty much indefinitely if we were so inclined - we are not.

We do still have a few pink and blue jobs. Janaki does the provisioning and cooking and I do the cleanup and the fishing. J did a lot of planning for the trip and it worked out amazingly well. We are still eating salads and fresh fruit on the last day. The meals have been fantastic, with plenty of rough weather options. My fishing was pretty meager due to the conditions (and some competence issues) but we have supplemented our menu with some very nice Wahoo steaks.

So, the few serene days were just that. The rest was rugged but OK. I enjoyed the isolation but it was somewhat marred by ubiquitous internet access. It would have been nice to avoid my daily dose of unpleasant reality but I couldn't resist. This is about the only aspect of the passage where I envy the early navigators. Janaki did a much better job of staying offline.

Overall I'm very pleased to have done it but equally pleased that I don't need to do it again. There are lots of five day trips in our future and maybe a few ten day passages but nothing like this. Fine by me.

I will do another post on the more technical aspects of the passage when I've had a good sleep.
Vessel Name: Leela
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol 38.8
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, NH
Crew: Graham and Janaki
We are a Brit and an Australian now based in the wonderful community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We have a delightful home there but a couple of years ago we began to feel a bit over-domesticated so we thought we would buy another boat and head south. [...]
Leela, a Bristol 38.8 has turned out to be a wonderful cruising boat for us. Some might find it a little cramped by modern standards but it feels like just the right balance of living space and storage to us. She sails like a dream. She is remarkably well balanced and is comfortable in pretty [...]
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