South Sea sailing

We feel as if we are back in Scotland. Beautiful islands with lonely bays to anchor in and the occasional hamlet or village. The mountains are just as rocky, the sea is just as blue and the goats on the cliffs are just as brave. The main difference is the temperature and amount of clothes you need or rather don’t need.

Rain and sun. Just like Scotland.

Yesterday we were anchored off the palm fringed beach at Hanamoenoa on the island of Tahuata. In the afternoon we lifted anchor with the electric winch and drifted out to sea. As Heidi set the Monitor windvane up to steer, she noticed a safety clip missing and a bolt almost lost. While Heidi held the windvane tightly to stop it shaking, we turned and headed back to the bay to drop anchor again. With Neill in the water and Heidi with hammer in hand a repair was quickly made. Luckily the three meter sharks that live in the bay were elsewhere or Heidi may have had to get violent with her hammer.

So, with a feeling of Deja Vu, we raised the anchor and set off again. We only had our small jib out but, when a squall caught us in the acceleration zone between two islands, that had us moving through the downpour at seven knots. An hour later we were in the wind shadow of Hiva Oa and drifting at under a knot while eating dinner. As we finished the last of our meal the wind came back and we sailed the rest of the night at a steady four knots in the light of the half moon and stars.

At dawn Neill was asleep but Heidi found the island of Ua Huka directly in front of us and adjusted the course to take us past a few impressive rocky islands to the remote Haavai Bay where, on the second attempt, we found sand to hold the anchor.

And now a day of sun and laziness is planned far from the rest of the world.

Anchor watch?

Recently we mentioned that the first nicht anchored off Fatu Hiva we sat outside on anchor watch. Gertrud sent us a message saying “What is anchor watch? If the anchor is holding? And what do you do if it isn’t?”

Traditionally while at sea you have your “watch” when you are on duty. On land you would talk about your shift. While at anchor the watch system continued. The person on watch ensured that the anchor held on the seabed and the vessel stayed where it should be. He also ensured that neighbouring vessels kept their distance.

Safely at anchor

Normally when we anchor we check that the anchor is holding by pulling back on it with full motor revs. In these warm waters we also swim over and look at it. After that we let an app on our phone “keep watch”.

Sometimes the anchor doesn’t hold when we dig it in because of rock, coral or seaweed (but with our Rocna anchor, that doesn’t happen often.) Then we have to lift it and try again. Once, in the Caribbean the anchor lost its grip after a day. That was strange and not something we want to happen while off cycling. Normally we ask the neighbours to keep an eye on Artemis and ensure she stays put.

As I write this squalls are blowing the boat from side to side but with the Rocna anchor dug in to sand and thirty meters of chain out, we are going to sleep well.

Fatu Hiva

From the island of Hiva Oa we sailed upwind past Mopotani to the magical island of Fatu Hiva. We arrived in the dark and the tiny bay already had seven yachts at anchor, shelved incredibly steeply and was rocked every few minutes by winds from the mountains. Despite instructions per radio from Mollymawk and light from the other boats, it was extremely hard to anchor but we managed. For the first time in our adventure we sat outside all night at anchor watch.

Artemis and friends at anchor in the Bay of Virgins. photo by Caesar from the SY Mollymawk

The following morning we awoke to impossibly beautiful scenery. We were anchored in the legendary Bay of Virgins, surrounded by volcanic crags with palm trees and the church spire at their feet. This island needs a huge sign “you have reached paradise”. We baked chocolate brownies and spent the rest of the day drinking coffee with all our helpers from the previous night. Cafe Artemis was the social middle point of the bay. We also managed to break our flag pole when a gust swung us towards a neighbouring boat.

The next day was Sunday so we took the broken flag pole and went to church. The singing was so beautiful and the rhythm made it impossible not to sway in the pews. An amazing concert. The sermon was in polynesian so we have no idea what it was about but there was lots of smiling and laughing.

Looking down to Artemis anchored far below.

After church we took the flag pole to the master carver, Teno to be repaired and, after we saw his beautiful work, ordered a new one as well. We also loaded up with fruit from his garden and carried it back to the dinghy in his wheelbarrow.

In the afternoon we walked up the valley to a hundred meter high waterfall hidden in the jungle. There are no signs and the directions were minimal so we followed our noses along a stream until we found the huge waterfall cascading into a deep cool pool. Naked we jumped in and enjoyed the limitless refreshing water in our private shower.

On Monday we put our bikes together and set off to cycle to the neighbouring village of Omoa. It is only 35 kilometers there and back but this is a volcanic island so you climb more than 600 meters over the pass each way. And the road is extremely steep.

As we left the village we met the preacher from Sunday and told him how we enjoyed the laughs and smiles. He thanked us and filled our rucksacks with bananas. At a bend in the road we looked straight down on to Artemis anchored hundreds of meters below us and then continued up in to the jungle and the pass summit at 613 meters. Here we met Lucian who gave us a grapefruit. We then enjoyed the long roll down to Omoa.

In Omoa we looked at the church and admired the huge waves before finding a snack bar for a ham sandwich. Strengthened by this we set off home. On the way up hill we found Mango trees so filled the rucksacks with fruit. It was getting late and the afternoon sun produced scenes full of colours at every turn. No pictures can ever do the reality justice.

Back at the boat we converted mangos, chilis, grapefruit and limes into chutney and prepared a fruit and rum cocktail. And all with ingredients from the jungle and Teno’s garden. Unbelievable.

On Tuesday we cleaned the bikes and packed them away again. We swam round the boat a few times with dolphins swimming near by and then our new flag pole was delivered by Teno and his wife Karin. The neighbours also came over from Joy, the boat next door and together we enjoyed pizza, chutney on bread and banana bread all washed down with rum punch, wine and beer. Teno and Karin brought us drawings on local cloth made from trees and Karin gave Heidi the flowers from her hair. While we were eating Pierre, another neighbour stopped to give us a few kilograms of goat meat so after the guests left we started preparing goat stew. The bananas Pierre gave us earlier need to be turned in to jam with the fresh lemons we picked.

Two days later, before the sun rose over the mountains we lifted anchor and used the trade winds to sail north, on to our next adventure and away from magical Fatu Hiva.

Virus dodging

When we left Ecuador there was a virus in China called Corona and a few cases elsewhere. Not something to worry about.

As we crossed the Pacific we learned that Easter Island and Pitcairn were closed due to Corona. Suddenly the virus was affecting us and we had to change our plan and sail the 3000 miles to French Polynesia. But at least we were well isolated with hundreds of miles of nothing in every direction.

A few weeks later we heard that French Polynesia was also closed but had no choice but to continue. It is not as if the East Pacific is full of other alternatives.

Eventually we reached Hiva Oa in the Marquesas and were given permission to stay as long as we first spent 40 days in quarantine. Luckily the 54 days at sea were counted so within a few days we were free.

While the world was in lockdown, we received flags to show we were virus free and could cruise the islands.

The island had just experienced a long period of lockdown and had no Corona. Restaurants were still closed but we could move freely, shop, meet people, shake hands with strangers and sit shoulder to shoulder with people at a table. As we learned more about the situation in Europe, we realised how lucky we were to be “stuck” in this south sea paradise.

But we are sailors and after nearly a month on the island, we want to see other parts of these beautiful archipelagos. And what happens? This week the government declared the whole of French Polynesia Corona free, published a list of boats that are legally in the islands – including Artemis – and wrote “go sailing”.

I suppose when we are old and people reminisce about lockdown, face masks and home office we will just have to keep quiet.

Once around Hiva Oa

After a few weeks in Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa we were feeling the call of the sails again. Because of Corona, we are limited to sailing in the Marquesas archipelago but that is enough to keep us occupied for a long time.

We lifted the anchor, set the sails and let the wind blow us across to the neighbouring island of Tahuata. Just off a palm fringed beach we turned up wind and tacked back to Hiva Oa and the bay at Hanamenu. The entrance to the bay can not be missed as it is next to a huge rocky headland that can be seen from far out at sea.

Bath time in the jungle

We anchored alone in the bay and enjoyed the peace and stars. The next morning we rowed to the beach and found a beautiful fresh water pool fed by a crystal clear and very cold spring. A tropical paradise. We collected some fruit and coconuts and that night enjoyed Rum Hanamenu. Less enjoyable were the hundreds of nono bites we collected all over our bodies.

The next day we sailed on to the bay and village of Hanaiapa. The chart shows a sandy bed to the bay but we found coral twice and had to re-anchor. During the second maneuver we wrapped a rope around the propeller shaft so had to dive with a sharp knife to free it. Definitely a good way to work up a hunger for breakfast.

The village of Hanaiapa was beautiful, spotlessly clean and tidy. The jungle runs seamlessly in to the gardens and fruit was everywhere. Rum Hanaiapa was another variation for our evening drink.

After another day of tacking against the wind, we reached Puamau bay and anchored as close in as possible to avoid the heavy swell. Puamau had been the end stop of our cross island tour a few weeks earlier and we could see the beach where we had cooked lunch during that trip.

The following morning we were just going to lift anchor when we saw the supply ship Aranui 5 entering the bay so decided to keep out of the way and wait for it to anchor.

The Aranui waiting to help us lift our chain

Our anchor chain was well and truly stuck. We could not lift it with the winch nor break it out with the full weight of the boat. We radioed Aranui and asked if one of their lighters could give us a lift to shore where the whole village was waiting for supplies. Their first officer was only too happy to help. On shore we found a diver who agreed to help for a bottle of rum and went off to get his gear. Just as he returned Eduard, the first officer of Aranui, also arrived on board with his diving gear and freed the chain from a fissure in the coral. Unfortunately we had given our rum to the locals so could only offer Eduard tea, biscuits and t-shirts.

Only three hours later than planned, but extremely relieved, we set sail back to Atuona.

Shark bite

We had been invited for drinks on a neighbouring boat as they were leaving the next day. Shortly before the appointed hour the wife called on the radio to say that the husband had been bitten and Heidi should come NOW!

We emptied the medical chest in to a big bag and dinghied over to find the husband sat on the stern dripping blood from his foot on to the boat and in to the sea. You could read the relief on the ladies face as Dr. Heidi arrived and took command. Heidi quickly had the leg in the air, cleaned, disinfected and bandaged. Parallel she told me to organize transport to a hospital.

All the toes are still there but the bite went down to the bones.

My first “PanPan” message was in English and elicited no response. Daniel asked Patrick to translate in to French and then things happened quickly. The fire brigade was on their way and wanted to know type of wound, status of casualty and so on. The hospital wanted to know type of wound, status of casualty and so on. The coast guard just wanted to know what was happening.

A dinghy appeared out of the dark and transported Heidi and the casualty to shore. A translator also headed to shore and blue flashing lights appeared from town. The medics relieved Heidi of her patient and disappeared off to hospital so we sat down with the wife for a few beers. Later we received the information that the local doctor had decided on an evacuation by plane the following morning.

So now Heidi has added shark bite to her growing list of cases.

Hiva Oa chutney

Yesterday we returned from our tour of the island loaded with fruit so today we “had to” make chutney and it was great fun

We had a whole bag of mangos that we picked up from under the trees so the first job was skinning them and extracting the stones – a really messy job and the cockpit needed cleaning afterwards.

raw ingredients we picked in the jungle.

To some of the mangos we added grapefruit that we were given from a family’s garden and bananas from the huge bunch we received earlier this week. With this mixture we made some jam for the afternoons pancakes.

We needed raisins and had none so we picked them out of the muesli. Cooking on a boat on a Sunday, you have to be inventive. Luckily we still had chili that we were given by a swedish boat so a portion was added.

Garlic, onions and a local apple we had picked in the jungle were cut as small as possible and then vinegar, sugar and mustard added.

Heidi stirred and tasted and adjusted and stirred some more and after a few hours of work we had multiple jars of Hiva Oa chutney and even Heidi agrees it tastes “mmmm!”

Touring Hiva Oa

A friendly sailor asked if we would like to join him on a tour of the island. His local friend was picking him up and we had 25 minutes to decide, get ready and go. Of course we cancelled our plans and said “Yes please!”

Lucian, our local guide was born on the island some seventy years ago and knew everybody and everything. He was an expert on flora, fauna and history. Some of the passes were very “exciting” but he drove the 4×4 expertly and we felt safe all the time.

The huge tiki “Takaii”

First we headed up to the airport following the road we cycled up a few days ago. At the top we enjoyed the view, interesting ferns that close when you touch them, ferns that you can use the pollen to make white tattoos on your skin and Lucian’s stories of Hiva Oa.

The island is “wild”. It is the top of three volcanos that rise out of the pacific and drops straight in to the ocean on all sides. The vegetation is jungle and wild boars roam the forest. Animals and fruit are there for the taking and the people all smile. It is how I imagined paradise.

our “lunch stop”. It was a “do it yourself” restaurant but beautiful

The descent to the north side of the island was very hairy and we were glad the worst bits had been concreted. As we drove along we continually paused to enjoy the stunning views or collect ingredients for lunch. A breadfruit tree supplied the main course and then Heidi was sent up a coconut tree to pick both the still water and sparkling variety. We collected mangos from the side of the road and were given grapefruits out of someone’s garden. Just before the beach we collected palm fronds and once there we lit the fire with them.

The breadfruit was cooked in its skin on the fire. We added some corned beef and all ate from the pan. We each had a coconut to drink and then ate the jelly from inside. Mangos and grapefruit would have followed had we not been completely satiated.

On the way back to the boat we visited the Tikis at the head of the valley. These massive stone carvings represent ancestors and are impressive and thought provoking set on their platforms on the edge of the forest. We also collected more fruit to take home with us.

An absolutely fantastic day of visiting the real Hiva Oa. We were so privileged that Patrick invited us and Lucian took the whole day to show us his Island.

Arrived on Hiva Oa

At the end of our last post we had just beaten the dark and anchored off the island of Hiva Oa. That night, for the first time in nearly two months, we could once again sleep next to each other and at the same time. It was rolly outside the breakwater but I slept well and Heidi less so.

Artemis entering Atuona harbour on the island of Hiva Oa

In the morning we looked out at huge, jungle covered mountains that rise in to the the clouds and the houses that are dotted around the bay. Everywhere there are sailing boats at anchor, all trapped by the Corona virus. It appears that we have really arrived in the South Pacific.

Various neighbours dinghied over to welcome us and bring us fruit. We later learned that the local population had presented every yacht with a box of fruit the previous evening to thank the sailors for their solidarity during the Corona lockdown period.

We were especially happy when Sylvie and Marc came out to see us. Our friends from Panama had heard on the radio that Artemis had arrived from Ecuador with two people on board so suspected it was us. Luckily, at exactly that time the authorities called (in French) and asked us to meet them on the dock. Sylvie and Marc became taxi, translator and advisor all rolled in to one.

The Gendarmerie were assisted by a local volunteer from the rescue service and a german/english/french speaking sailor. No one knew of our emails to the government but no one seemed surprised. Passports and papers were inspected and we were instructed to stay in the immediate area of the dock until our situation had been clarified.

The ferry dock is also the petrol station and “end of the road” so from our cockpit we can watch and hear polynesian life happening around us. A big difference to the vast ocean that has been our view for the last seven weeks.

Yesterday we had seen the supply ship/ferry leave as we entered. The ferry dock and area in front of it are perfectly protected behind the breakwater but forbidden to yachts. We were however invited to moor stern to at the dock as the ship would not be back for two weeks. With southern winds and high swell promised in the coming days, this was too good to miss so we moved immediately.

Attached to the dock in Atuona on Hiva Oa

The area we can move in is not so big but a lot bigger than Artemis so we went for a walk, visited the supermarket which marks the end of our area and enjoyed non-moving land. I just wanted an ice cream but Heidi bought potatoes, eggs and onions for an amazing lunch.

The border is closed. We can not enter the country or be officially here but we are attached to land and surrounded by helpful people. Life is much better than it could be.

A third of the world

Blog originally written about a month ago while in the Pacific

Phileas Fogg may have travelled around the world in eighty days but he certainly was not sailing.

Today we have been on our voyage for two years and reached Longitude 120°W. The world is divided in to 360 lines of Longitude and we sailed to zero back in England so today we have officially sailed a third of the way round the world. A long way in a small vessel that averages about three to four knots (6 km/h).

the first third of the world

After two years at sea, we really feel like sailors, especially today after seeing no land since nearly six weeks and no other sign of mankind since three.

We are a well drilled team and can manage most tasks “on automatic”, communicating for fun and not out of necessity. Complicated sail changes that used to take an hour are now done in 20 minutes. We can both feel when something needs changing and a look from the one is answered with “reef the sail? I thought so too.”

We no longer know how far we have sailed or how many lands we have visited. We have lost track of the myriad of languages and the meters of mountains we have biked up. The adventure isn’t about numbers, it is about experiencing other people and learning about ourselves.

We are currently in the middle of the Pacific. It is over a thousand miles to anywhere and, due to the Corona virus, we are not sure if we will be allowed to stay when we get some where. But we have our home and we have each other so the adventure will continue.