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.

The last few miles

After 53 days at sea we finally sighted land. In the distance we could vaguely make out the south Pacific islands of Hiva Oa and Mohotani. Our navigation had worked, they were exactly where they should be. As the day continued we sailed between the islands and began a race – us and the wind against the setting sun. Each hour we recalculated average speed and distance to run and each time the result was the same – we may be there before dark. No way were we entering an unknown, badly lit, full harbour at night.

Hiva Oa to starboard

We prepared the stern anchor because all our information was that the bay at Atuona would be packed with boats stuck there by the Corona virus and, if we could find space, we would have to shoehorn ourselves in.

We called ahead on the VHF to try and finally get permission from the authorities to enter the country. But no one heard and no one answered.

Would there be any space? Would our depth sounder work after the Raymarine bus problems a month ago? Would we reach the bay before dark? Would we be spotted and turned away by the French navy? Would our engine work after seven weeks of inactivity?

The sun cheated by setting an hour early behind a mountain and we retaliated by starting the engine for the last three miles – it worked after a bit of cranking. In the twilight we found the marker that shows the entrance to the bay – although the lights on it were not working – and headed towards the shore. Finally, and to our great relief, the depth gauge began to work. On the first boat we passed a lady ran to the bow to inform us that the inner bay was full but to anchor by the breakwater.

We dropped anchor and within minutes the new neighbours were there in their dinghy bringing us fresh fruit and assuring us the locals would let us stay whatever the central government said.

We had sailed 4035 miles across the Pacific and were excited at our new achievement but now we were relieved and happy just to be at anchor.

Last night at sea?

Tonight is our fifty third night at sea and it may be the last for this voyage.

We both find it hard to believe but maybe at first light tomorrow we will see the island of Hiva Oa before us. This has been our destination since we changed plan some 3000 miles ago. Back then it was so unimaginably far away and now it waits “just over the horizon”.

The last person we saw was a fisherman who begged food seven weeks ago. The last ship or vessel of any type was also six weeks ago. A few weeks ago we met a huge whale and there is always the occasional seabird or flying fish but basically we have been alone.

Maybe tomorrow we will see people or even talk to someone. Maybe smell vegetation or earth. And maybe sleep anchored to the seabed. Strange thoughts but we shall see.

Now we just enjoy another warm night under the well known stars by the light of a quarter moon.

Signposts in the sky

Woken up in the night with a coffee by Heidi to start my shift. Half moon was about 40° above the horizon so the time was roughly two in the morning. The southern cross was off to port (left) so our course was west. The water could be heard running past the hull so we were making over three knots in the correct direction.

We have all sorts of electronic toys on board. With the magic of GPS, we can be sure of the time to the second, our speed to a tenth of a knot and our position to about three meters. Nice – but irrelevant. The moon, the stars and the sounds of the boat tell us all we really need to know.

Two years ago, the northern star – Polaris – was our guide. A quick glance at the big dipper showed us where it was and we knew our course “good enough”. But Polaris long ago disappeared below the northern horizon and now we have new friends – Kruz, Garkruz and Arkruz, three points of a cross and Kantaurus and Hadar pointing towards them. New stars above a new ocean guiding us on to new lands.

Morning wake up call

Another morning in the Pacific. Over three hundred miles from Peru and two hundred off the Galapagos Islands. The sky is blue, the water is blue and we are brown – and in my case naked. Heidi has a bikini on but there is a huge rip in the back. We are lounging in the cockpit drinking coffee. Only another two thousand miles to Easter Island and getting less each day.

Then the AIS alarm sounds and the display starts blinking. Something is going to hit us in three minutes. We scan the horizon frantically but it is empty. The alarm stops and the ghost ship disappears off the screen.

Barely have we sat down again and the alarm starts again. “HC-COA” is approaching at 80 knots and impact is imminent. We can see NOTHING! Heidi suggests a super fast submarine. I’m thinking cruise missile. We are both thinking “Shit!”

This is the helicopter that visited us.

And then Heidi spots a helicopter heading our way. I dive below to look for underpants. Keeping her bottom away from the helicopter, Heidi waves to the hovering pilots and they wave back. Then they are off again looking for some one else to terrify.