Bay of Biscay Day 4 (Max’s blog)

Fortunately nothing exciting happened on this night. Dad woke me up at four in the morning for my shift, mentioned that the wind was nice, a bit overcast skies and the Spanish coast was approaching. Another sailing boat had passed us going the opposite way, so that was the only light visible, situated somewhere behind us. Stuck my head up and was overwhelmed by what was going on. Sure enough, the other boat’s light was behind us, but there was a slight drizzle, I could see a flashing light from a Spanish lighthouse to the port side on the horizon, two lights were to my right and pretty much straight ahead there was a flashing orange light. Most of the things I don’t have a problem with. The lighthouse is known, the rain isn’t a problem and the two lights to my starboard (right) I knew were two boats. The flashing orange light had me stumped, though, so I got dad up to check it out. Turned out it was a fishing boat doing some trawling. The official sign for a flashing orange light is a hovercraft, but apparently Spanish fishermen love to use them, too. Kept my distance from him and Dad went to bed after a while.

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Sailing is a sport

Some days we sail over a hundred miles and enjoy a relaxing day as Artemis carries us to our destination. Some days we sail seven miles and feel like we have done an intensive workout. Today was the second type of day.

We were anchored in a bay off the island of Moorea. We had brushed all the “gunge” off the hull of the boat the last few days so were already making “old people noises” about shoulders, elbows and wrists. Friends were anchored in the next bay, five miles up wind and we had agreed to sail round to visit them but when we woke up – to rain and flat calm – it appeared we were going to be motoring. Neill asked his weather witch to organize some wind and by the time we were ready to leave we had a healthy fifteen knots of wind straight against us.

Lifting the anchor in fifteen knots of wind is a real team sport. One stands at the front and signals the direction of the anchor chain while the second person steers the boat. The third person is below stacking the chain nicely. Unless of course there are only two of you then some one (Heidi) ends up running between tiller and anchor locker to get warmed up.

We headed away from the reef and in to the bay to set the sails. We briefly thought about a first reef (less sail) but decided on the second (much less sail). We didn’t even consider the large front sail but chose the jib. A bit more team work with lots of heaving on lines and the sails were set so we turned out through the pass and in to the Pacific.

Around mountainous islands there is a phenomena known as an acceleration zone. This leads to a band of much faster wind just offshore and today the wind was blowing at 25-30 knots. The wind was against us, the swell was against us and Artemis was in her element jumping the waves and making five knots. We were SO happy that we had tidied everything up and tied everything down as the boat heeled 20 degrees. After two miles Heidi calculated it was time to do a tack so we headed back towards the island leaning the other way, just to check what was loose on the other side of the boat.

The swell was beating us down wind so navigator Heidi ordered two quick tacks in succession to reach the pass back through the reef and check the arm muscles were still working. It was at this point that the wind decided to “pick up a little” so we let the sails out a touch and screamed through the pass at eight knots. In the bay we managed to roll the jib away – more muscle work – and get the main stowed just before the anchorage and drop anchor on a sandy part of the reef.

A boat who followed us through the pass was caught with too much sail out and entered with his genoa (large front sail) ripped from top to bottom and flapping crazily in the storm.

Shirt off, goggles on and then in to the water to swim upwind against the current to check the anchor and surrounding coral. Back on board I was met by a jug of warm water to wash the salt off and then we enjoyed a coffee and agreed that we had done enough sport for one day.

How is sailing?

This morning my daughter sent a WhatsApp from her camping van in Greece. “How is sailing?”

We are not sailing much. I think only three times in the last three weeks. And then “just around the corner”.

We are anchored on a reef off Moorea floating about four meters above white sand in transparent water. Fish, turtles and the occasional shark swim past. We have a huge swimming pool when “the going gets hot”. On shore there is a beach with showers so we can shower and wash our hair as often as we want – a sailors paradise.

From basil leaves to pesto and then a sundown drink

Today we started with our daily French lesson and then walked the 12 kilometers to the nearest supermarket and back to buy an internet refill for our 4G SIM card. Opposite the shop we found a basil bush so picked a hand full of leaves with which we made basil & garlic pesto. Home made fast food for when we lack the motivation to cook. On the way home Heidi found a ten dollar note on the road which paid for the shopping.

Back at the boat, the batteries were fully charged from the sun and wind so we made fresh water with the desalinator. A local called by in his dinghy and gave us a present of a large hand of bananas so we quickly made a banana cake from those too ripe to survive the night.

Everything was finished, washed up and tidied away just in time to enjoy a rum punch in the cockpit just as the sun sank in to the sea. And now the stars are appearing above us as a breeze cools the cockpit.

So little sailing but yes, life is good!

Bay of Biscay Day 3 (Max’s blog)

At one point during the night I was once again awoken by the  rocking of the boat due to the waves and swell. Also Dad was standing at the chart table right next to my bed and had to have the light on to check a few things. The boat felt like it was off by a bit, so I stuck out my head and asked him if everything was all right. He replied that he was just checking the wind, as there seemed a bit of a change around. This was at about two o’clock in the morning, so Heidi had just gone to bed and was in a semi sleep state. So, back to bed and tried to get to sleep. The next minute I hear a shout from outside that Dad needed a hand. The wind had blown the main sail around in a weird way and the wind vane had been messed up and twisted around. As I didn’t know the exact problem from down below and for all I knew the mast could have been ripped out of the boat (probably not to that extreme, though), I got dressed and geared up in record time. Once outside the problem became clear and Dad and I tried to get things sorted out just between the two of us. After a bit it became apparent that a third hand would help greatly, too, and as Heidi had been woken up by our activity she came out to help. So in the end we had to pull in the genoa (front sail), screwed that up, sent someone forwards attached to the boat with a safety harness, folded up the genoa correctly, turned the boat to get the mainsail around properly, make sure we weren’t messing up the wind vane during the whole procedure and do all this whilst it’s dark outside. It was, as said, two in the morning, and we were at least one hundred nautical miles from land with a bit of an unkind sea and wind. 

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A day in the life of …

We were talking to friends in Germany and mentioned that we had “finished work for today”. The lady laughed and said “Your life is a holiday. What work do you have?”

Well the last two days we have been anchored in a bay off Tahiti so we wake up late, have fun and eventually manage to drag ourselves in to the cockpit where a negligee clad Heidi serves brunch which takes us through to midday. A few hours of sunbathing, swimming and WhatsApps and it is time for afternoon coffee with the neighboring boat before we all dress in casual smart clothes to visit the yacht club for a sun downer followed by an evening meal on their terrace.

In our dreams!

The day begins with a coffee and French lesson to get the brain working. Yesterday was lequel, laquelle, lesquelles and today s, ss, c & ç so a great way to wake up. The following breakfast is normally combined with a planning conference when we agree “the plan”. Yesterday was meant to be easy with a quick change of the motor and gear oil and food resupply.

Run the engine to get the oil warm and fluid and then extract the oil with the suction pump, twist off the oil filter, new filter on and refill back to the correct level. Easy! It would have been if the suction pump had not developed an air leak, the filter wasn’t on so tight and the spare filter wasn’t the wrong size. But no problem. You can seal an air hole temporarily with an oily tissue, the shop at the end of town can order a new filter from Papeete and they also had a better filter removal tool than our current one. Today the engine oil is changed and now we just need to find some one that sells 20W gear oil.

Shopping began with a stock taking, checking that those items we believe we have agreed with the actual contents of our lockers. The food is all below the seats in the saloon so dismantle everything, empty the cupboards and count. Once we were sure of what we have it was easy to create the “big shopping list” for the next three months.

With all the bags we owned, we took the dinghy across to the marina and walked in to town and to the supermarket to fill two trolleys. Shopping is also good for the brain. If one tin of beef costs 483 francs but you can buy a pack of three for 1456 francs, which is cheaper and is 0.7 kg of milk powder for 634 or 0.8 for 712 better value? Good that we had both paid attention in mathematics forty-five years ago.

changing the brushes

Luckily a local friend had agreed to drive us from the supermarket to the marina so we “only” had to carry the shopping to the dinghy, ferry it back to the boat, lift it onboard, sort, store and document it all. And on the second day it was just a case of buying diesel, gas and oil.

The sun down drinks really happened. They were mixed by Heidi on board and followed by home made hot dogs with a fried aubergine relish and special yogurt sauce. Who needs a yacht club when we can prepare food like this onboard?

And did I mention that at some point during the two days we also dismounted the anchor winch motor to replace the brushes? Or that we found that the leak in the front cabin is from the holding tank?

Real Recycling

We all know about recycling. Don’t worry about how much plastic or other rubbish we buy; as long as we separate it when we throw it away, then we can feel good and be sure that we are “saving the planet”.

But maybe it is better to buy stuff that you can recycle yourself.

Long ago I received a “Jons Adventures” T-Shirt to wear as part of the official team at the bike fair. It was a good quality T-shirt in a nice bright yellow with a discrete logo and was long one of my favorite post-biking outfits. Three years ago it became my smart “shore going” T-shirt and was worn all the time on land.

Eventually, after a few years, there were a few small food stains around the stomach area and a small hole on the neck so it became my “on board” T-shirt; still OK to have on when unexpected visitors dropped in but to be changed before going anywhere.

As the holes grew and the stains increased it became a working shirt, ideal for crawling in to anchor lockers or greasing winches. This is not an easy life for a shirt and the descent to general rag was rapid.

As a rag the cloth continued to be used daily for everything from holding a nearly dead fish to being wrapped around a rope to prevent rubbing. The holes slowly grew, the areas of whole material reduced and the color bleached out until the day we needed a “bike rag” to clean the mountain bikes.

And today, after over seven years, the “T-shirt” is still going strong in its sixth “re-cycle”.

A friend on a neighboring boat makes bags out of used sail canvas. As soon as we saw these, we knew that this was a type of recycling that we needed so ordered a bag with our logo on it. Now we can use “old sails” to go shopping and enjoy the smiles of the stall holders when we say “pas de plastique merci“.

Bay of Biscay Day 2 (Max’s blog)

The second day dawned, me getting up at 4AM in the morning to take over my shift from Dad. Heidi had given over here shift to Dad with a healthy five knots of speed, but during the night the wind had dropped, so Dad and then me carried on with only four knots (I think it was). Got reprimanded by Heidi later on (heh), but what should we do. 

The fog was still out, but the chances of meeting someone were even lower now. Just stick your head out every fifteen minutes or so to check for sounds and sites and then back into the warm interior of Artemis with a good book and tea. Generally you can hear big boats coming from quite a distance, as the noise their engines make can be heard over miles of water. The big risk is other sailing boats, as all of us tend to be rather quiet, but that’s a risk you take sailing. 

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Time out in Tikihau

After your first Covid injection you have to wait three weeks for the second. The thought of 21 days in Tahiti was not that appealing so we decided to head north to the coral atoll of Tikihau.

There is a lot of sky on the reef

The wind was against us as always so we tacked to the end of Tahiti before heading hard on the wind the 170 miles to Tikihau. Sail changes kept us fit and occupied as squalls continuously descended on us. A front crossed over us and provided five hours of uninterrupted excitement with wind from every direction and loads of rain.

We reached the pass in to the lagoon on a rising tide but still fought a strong outgoing current to enter the small opening. Once inside we followed the marked fairway before heading off through the coral boms to anchor near a luxury hotel. Our depth meter stopped working so we found a sandy patch, guessed the depth, swam to the anchor to see it was set and subsequently checked the depth with the lead line. It worked for Captain Cook and it worked for us.

Artemis at anchor

At anchor we found the Austrian sailing boat Mikado with Nicole and Georg on board. They have decided to take a break from sailing and go back to work so we were happy to help by taking excess food and herbs off their hands. Nicole admitted that, like other sailors we know, she feels trapped in Polynesia, frustrated at the inability to continue their voyage and homesick. Paradise is not always a South Sea Island. We shared a few drinks and a meal with them before they headed off to a yard to haul Mikado out and fly home.

We sailed across the reef looking for the isle of Eden. Here a religious cult have their community far from the “rest of the world”. The village was closed because of Covid but on the beach a man sold us succulent, fresh vegetables and herbs all grown on this tiny palm island. The next island belongs to the 74 year old Frenchman “Claud”. He is at anchor off the beach and uses the island as his base for sailing trips to Alaska and Antarctica. Claude has been sailing for forty years, has travelled the world but still insists that he only speaks French.

The wind turned so we once again crossed the stunning blue waters inside the atoll keeping a permanent watch for the coral boms and pinnacles that crop up without warning and that can rip the bottom off your boat. With the sun over your shoulder they shine like underwater lights but when it is overcast or the sun is in front of you, then they can be hard to identify and Heidi has to stand at the bow watching carefully.

As I write this we are anchored off the tiny village. We walked all round town in a few hours yesterday including visiting the airport just after the last house. The people are friendly, the shops have no eggs and everyone hides in the shade. A traditional Tuamotus village.

And tomorrow we plan on heading back to the city after our “holiday”.

Bay of Biscay Day 1 (Max’s blog)

So, the big crossing, the one that a lot dread, the bane of sailors of yore,… and a bit more of some sayings like that. In modern times it is still interesting, as the winters can be rather harsh and in summer you’re out in the middle of the ocean with not a lot of information coming in other than from passing ships or satellite phones (which we didn’t have). 

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UK to France (Max’s blog)


Max joined us as crew for half a year and sailed on Artemis from England to the Canary Islands. Here are the blog posts he wrote about his time on board.

So, I had been promising to write a blog about my time on Artemis with Dad and Heidi forever now. It seems like Dad has given up pestering me for a blog (but it’s understandable on his end) and now I feel bad for nearly letting two years go by without writing it. First of an apology from my end to both my captain (Dad) and his first mate (Heidi) for dragging this out so long. But I should still be able to get a rather good recap of all the things we managed to do together, as sailing for that long is rather memorable (and I still have the unedited four day crossing of the Bay of Biscay). 

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