Une belle journée de navigation

The morning coffee was accompanied by a french lesson from our language app “Babbel”. We have now reached the stage where we know that the above means “a nice day sailing”. We are currently fighting with the passé composé and trying to work out avoir ou être. Mental jogging before breakfast.

Coffee finished, brains scrambled and time to sail the few miles round the island of Raiatea to do some serious shopping in the town of Uturoa. We had thirty meters of anchor chain out with the last fifteen suspended on fishing buoys to avoid the coral. Unfortunately the first fifteen were wrapped round a nice solid coral bom so we needed a diver to go down and unwrap the chain. He said it would take a minute but took ten and a crowbar. But experience costs money or pain so we were glad that this time it was only money.

The yellow line was us. Hitting yellow islands or blue reefs is “very bad”

We installed the new lower shrouds a few days ago (after breaking one on the way to Maupiti) so could set full sail to tack our way upwind. Navigator Heidi was calling the tacks and managed to take us through the narrow Tearearahi pass between the reefs straight in to the wind. A wind shift had us almost scraping the coral but we shot through.

We continued on to town and sailed past the harbour wall to find the perfect berth then back up wind to get the fenders and mooring lines set up. We turned and began our run in still under sail only to find that another boat had slipped in behind us and taken the only safe berth. They were our neighbours last night and had motored all the way to steal our spot.

No problem! Back up wind towards the reef and then another mile to anchor behind a palm island and wait to try again tomorrow. Hardly an efficient day but what a great sail.

A day later and we got the dream place head on in to the wind. All full with resupplies.

Taha’a – chilling in 30°C

Another week, another island. Taha’a was only a short sail from Bora Bora and, amazingly, the wind was blowing the correct way.

Taha’a has the green hills, the transparent waters and the reef protecting it from the Pacific swell. It also has an incredible sense of peace and everyone seems to be busy doing nothing slowly. The entire island is one huge botanical garden. Hibiscus is everywhere, the hedges are a riot of colour and fruit grows in every garden and wood. We returned from our first walk with so many mangos and bananas that we had to restart the chutney production and after our bike ride the rucksacks were laden with fruit.

We cycled the 66 kilometers around the island and every corner offered another beautiful view. We were shown a vanilla plantation by it’s owner and visited the island’s rum distillery. Bikes are definitely “the way” to see the islands. Fast enough to get round, slow enough to enjoy the experience.

And today is the first Sunday in Advent. A breeze let us sail the few miles to another piece of reef, the water is the perfect temperature to cool off and we have another dream sunset ordered to accompany the pizza this evening.

Bora Bora – and getting there.

After a few enjoyable weeks in Maupiti, we sailed towards Bora Bora. The good news was we had wind; the less good news, it was against us. It was only 32 miles from anchorage to anchorage but we ended up tacking hard and finally took seventy. It seemed that as fast as we changed tack, the wind changed direction. We arrived outside the reef in the night so waited for first light to enter and thus enjoyed the spectacle of the mountains appearing before the rising sun.

Against the wind sailing.

Anchoring is forbidden so we took a mooring buoy just off Bora Bora Yacht Club. One day we walked in to “town”, the next we climbed the mountains and the third we cycled round the island. No matter what the activity, each evening we enjoyed sunset cocktails on the yacht club terrace. It isn’t every day you sail to Bora Bora on your own boat.

We climbed Mount Ohue with Sybille and Bo from Sybo. The Internet talked about the trail being hard to find through the jungle, steep with fixed ropes and best with a local guide. We went alone but it is definitely steep and sometimes we had to backtrack to find our way. Luckily the ascent was on the shaded side of the mountain and all four of us reached the summit to be rewarded with stunning views. Heidi and Bo continued on climbing an overhanging rock to summit on Mount Pahia, the highest point normal mortals can reach on Bora Bora.

View from the summit.

The four of us cycled round the island. It is a pleasant ride but, if you have just arrived from Maupiti, the island isn’t so special. The rich tourists are out on the luxury hotels on the surrounding islands so the main island is just “where the locals live” and the “resupply base”. The locals are friendly of course but have definitely seen a few tourists too many. But, who can say they have cycled on Bora Bora?

On the sunday we dropped the mooring and sailed to one of the outer islands. A perfect sailing day. Sail from buoy to buoy, transparent water and perfect scenery.

Climbing – done. Cycling – done. Sailing – done. Cocktails – done. Time to head off elsewhere else.

Our climb. Our route round the island.

One year of water making. Katadyn PowerSurvivor.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

We spent a week away from the boat when we cycled in the Andes but other than that we have been living on board all year. In those 358 days we have produced nearly 4000 liters of water and have given away about 350 liters, so on average we use about ten liters a day. By pre-washing ourselves, our clothes and our dishes in salt water, we manage to live comfortably with that.

The system uses about 60 watts of electrical power and we run it only from wind and solar power. Unlike many of our neighbours, we never have to run our diesel motor or a petrol generator to produce electricity. The water maker is a good “energy puffer”; on days with too much power we can produce more water and on overcast, windless days, less.

The water quality has been good all year. We have regularly given the Seenomaden water and, after over twenty years at sea, they still say it is the best water they have tasted. We have a measuring device which always claimed our water had less than 300 parts per million (ppm) of salt in it. SY Mikado’s meter measured far less so we are not sure of the real value but our guess is an average of about 180 ppm.

Until now (touch wood) the system has run with no problems. We wash out and dry the two pre-filters every few days and occasionally lubricate the piston shafts as per the manual. We have seen black oily leaks from the piston shaft but they are irregular. We asked technical support for suggestions what it could be but received a standard “take it to a dealer” answer. Katadyn still do not appreciate how big the oceans are and how limited their dealer network is in the middle of the Pacific.

We bought a water maker to increase our freedom and that is exactly what it has done. If we want to stay a month on a dry coral reef, that is what we do. If it takes 54 days to cross an ocean, we still arrive with a full water tank. When the neighbours need water, no problem! We always have pure clean water and therefore a meal and a cup of coffee.

Technical bit. The PowerSurvivor has produced an average of 5.40 liters per hour during the last year. The flow rate is dependent on the battery voltage varying between 5.2 (under 12.8V) and 5.7 (above 14V). We have a pre-pump installed below the water line which can pump about 170 liters an hour through the pre-filters.

Maupiti. Far, far west

I recently wrote about the exciting journey to the Pacific island of Maupiti at the far west of French Polynesia. Look Maupiti up in the Internet and it is the impossibly small tip of an ancient volcano lost in the middle of the huge blue Pacific. You have to zoom in a long way to find it.

The volcano that originally created the island is slowly sinking back in to the ocean leaving a small mountain to climb and a huge reef all around the island to anchor behind. The island is green and fertile, the sea is many hues of blue and the locals are friendly. Another piece of paradise.

Turn left just after paradise

Together with Nicole and Georg from SY Mikado, we climbed to the summit of the island and enjoyed the panoramic views out to the reef and beyond to Bora-Bora on the horizon. Our boats were tiny little vessels floating in the aquamarine lagoon. A few days ago we watched Disney’s “Moana”, and thought “that is where we are!”

Manta rays come in to the lagoon to be cleaned of parasites by cleaning fish. We swam over to a rock that is used as a “cleaning station” and watched majestic mantas queuing for their turn to be cleaned. Nature is unbelievably well thought through and watching huge mantas swimming just below you is incredibly impressive. A few days later we saw a local family knelt in the sea stroking a stingray lieing on the sand next to them. When they stopped it slid away only to return.

We considered taking the bikes ashore to cycle round the island but we decided we could easily stroll around the thirteen kilometer circumference. It was a pleasant walk with the sea on our left and gardens and forest on the right. A local gave us a breadfruit and grapefruit and we found mangos, limes and basilica growing wild. Once again we plan our menus around what we find.

On top of Maupiti with the lagoon far below.

Sybo arrived in the lagoon a few days ago and Mikado left for the Austral Islands this morning so last night we had the “Mikados” and “Sybos” over for dinner. Heidi’s legendary corned beef lasagna had been requested as main course and was followed by Maupiti Tiramisu with home made yoghurt and local grapefruit. The previous evening we had enjoyed tuna caught by the Mikados. It is hard living in the middle of nowhere.

Knockdown & lockdown

With Covid booming in Tahiti and Moorea, the boat full of supplies and cycling, walking and snorkeling all done – it was time to head west to Maupiti and avoid the much rumored lockdown.

The weather forecast was good. And stupidly, even after 30 months of lies, we still believe the weather forecast and so expected a quick relaxed sail with the wind on the beam. We even left late to avoid being at the pass in Maupiti too early. Our neighbours on Mikado left with the same plan. At least we aren’t the only optimists.

The first hours everything ran according to plan. The wind blew constantly from the North and Artemis ran as if on rails heading straight for the southern tip of Raiatea. This lasted about ten hours and then the wind turned to the east, settling down blowing directly from our destination. We could tack badly to starboard or port. But at least we had wind.

Approaching Maupiti

And then the wind became fluky and varied between little and nothing. Happy memories of our Pacific crossing as we changed tack and sail throughout the night. Sailing is definitely a sport.

At dawn we accepted that we were not going to reach Maupiti and considered diverting to Raiatea but decided to continue and spend another night at sea. As soon as we had found our peace with the lack of wind, the breeze increased and soon we were back on our way dodging the occasional squalls. Well, most of them!

We had the first reef in the main and the full genoa out when a squall backwinded us. Before we fully realised what was happening, Artemis was lieing on her side. She turned in to the wind and came up again but not before the water out of the bilge had covered the engine and landed in the galley. Water everywhere and two confused people trying to work out where it came from.

We put the boat back on track and cleaned up and then returned to enjoying the sail. It was, however, not long until the next huge squall appeared ahead of us. The radar measured this one at 12 miles long but suggested we would just graze it. Things were going well and then suddenly we were sucked in. With the wind rising, a line jammed round a cleat at the bow and stopped us rolling the headsail away. Harness and safety line on and Heidi made her way to the bucking bow to clear the line so that we could reduce sail. She returned just as the downpour started. Neill got soaked at the tiller and Heidi used the radar to measure the distance to the end of the squall and offer encouragement.

Once out of the storm, things calmed down, the ocean turned deep blue, the waves dropped, the sun came out and the wind accelerated Artemis to five knots in exactly the correct direction. To complete the picture of perfect Pacific sailing, the green island of Maupiti rose out of the waters directly ahead and we were set to enter the pass before dark.

Safely at anchor inside the reef at Maupiti

But sailing wouldn’t be sailing if everything remained perfect and, of course, the wind turned with the reef still four miles away. We could tack but would run out of daylight so reached for the motor starter. Not surprisingly the diesel didn’t start immediately. Lieing an engine on its side and throwing water over it is never going to be helpful. Without an engine, it was impossible to enter the pass straight in to the wind and against the current and Plan B was already being formulated as the engine stuttered to life.

Through the pass, with huge breakers to each side and against the outflowing current, we reached the lagoon and dropped anchor behind the reef and before the backdrop of a stunning pacific dream island. Maupiti!

Climbing Mount Rotui

A few days ago we awoke to find the famous adventurers from the Austrian sailing yacht Nomad anchored next to us. They had spent the night fighting their way upwind and had arrived in Moorea at first light. Heidi and Wolf were soon yodelling greetings across the water and shortly thereafter they came across in the dinghy to tell us of their plan to scale the 899 meter high Mont Rotui above the anchorage. Of course we were going too!

Two mornings later, at five in the morning, there were six of us at the dinghy dock – the crew of Bella were also looking forward to an invigorating hill walk.

As soon as we turned off the road we realised why the guides describe the route as difficult. It follows the ridge and is a very thin path around and across the basalt mountain. Strenuous and requiring uninterrupted concentration. But when you stopped to look at the views, they were amazing! Mountains, bays, reefs and the Pacific!

We passed a “viewpoint” at about 400 meters and the path got thinner, rougher and slippier. At about 550 meters, after two and a half hours and about half way, we split in to a summit team of Bavarian and Austrian Alpinists and the “rest of the world team” who set off back down. Getting back down took just as long as the climb up and on the way Matthias’ boots began to fall apart. The sea air had obviously eaten the glue and, by the time we were back at the dinghy, the soles were only just attached to the shoes.

Mountains. Cheaper than a drone.

The “mountaineers” reported that, the path had continued to become more challenging and that they reached the summit after over four hours of climbing. But all three agreed that the views were worth the nine hour round trip.

Our track is at AllTrails.

Whales watching humans watching whales

Through a series of lucky coincidences, a group of us ended up on the catamaran Sybo for a whale watching trip. We had the french “whale spotter” on the roof, the German “video man” and a collection of “swimmers” from three nations.

Our whale spotter found a male, a female and a calf just outside the reef and immediate excitement broke out. Heidi was left looking after children and Neill at the helm. We watched swimmers and whales only a hundred meters from the boat and enjoyed the stories of their close encounter when they returned.

Tired whale watchers

The next day the “Sybos” and we decided to take a second look. We sailed down the reef in Artemis and after a few tacks had only seen whales at a distance. As soon as we had a coffee in the hand, a mother and calf surfaced next to us. The sail was down in seconds and Heidi, Sybille and Bo were in the water immediately.

The calf was nosy and came to look at the strange little creatures – he was only five meters long. The mother was below but also surfaced directly between the swimmers. Neill could hear Heidi’s laughter from the boat. Some one was obviously having fun.

After about an hour the whales had seen enough human and vice versa so went their separate ways. Back on Artemis there were some extremely excited whale watchers and it was good we needed two hours to sail back to the bay so they could recover their composure.

Exploring Moorea

Bo – a friend from the catamaran Sybo – suggested a bike ride on Moorea so at six in the morning the three of us were on land with our bikes assembled, kitted up and fully motivated.

The island of Moorea has a road all the way round the edge. A nice flat road with a good tarmac surface and, most of the way a bike lane. It is 60 kilometers so on a sunny morning you are finished before it gets warm.


Moorea also has a mountain bike trail. A lot of off road track and some steep, slippery, root covered, stony trails. Every kilometer there is a stony stream to cross and most of the time you are heading up or back down. The entire route is through plantations and jungle so there is a lot of different greens and no breeze.

That sounds more like us.

By starting with the “once round the island tour” to warm up, we ensured that we reached the mountain bike trail with the sun high in the sky so that the sweat was pouring off us. It was still great fun and took us far off the tourist track.

We finished by cycling up to the Belvedere viewpoint which, at 270 meters above sea level, is the highest point you can cycle to on the island. From there it was all downhill back to the boat.

Our route is at AllTrails

Trekking Moorea

Moorea is stunningly beautiful. You have the verdant mountains of the Marquesas but the protective reefs of the Tuamotus. And shops and Internet. Definitely paradise.

From the boat we can enjoy the view up in to the mountains but yesterday we joined Sybille and Bo for a trek up to the three pines viewpoint. Luckily our guides had already been there so we just followed in the steps of Sybo Tours (would have 5 stars in TripAdvisor if they were in there).

At a little above three hundred meters we reached the viewpoint and were rewarded with a panoramic view not only of Cook’s Bay but also of Opunohu Bay and the peak of Mount Rotui between them.

We continued on over the ridge and down in to the Opunohu valley where we passed traces of houses, store sheds and temples dating back to the fifteenth century, a reminder of how populated Polynesia was before the Europeans arrived.

Back at the dinghy Sybo treated us to drinks and ice cream. If they start taking paying guests, their success is guaranteed.