It is now two months since we last wrote a blog and back then life was “exciting!” Sorry. Sometime life goes faster than we can write. So here is my attempt to summarize two months in one page.
Escaped the Great Sandy Strait and made it to Bundaberg. In the Burnett river we survived the worst thunder storm we have ever seen and heard. The gods were definitely having an amazing party that night.
In the Bundaberg Port Marina we prepared Artemis for six months on land without us and made some new friends. We finally fixed the wind-vane and the local sail-maker repaired our sails and other canvas. Artemis is now stood in the yard drying out.
Caught a train to Brisbane which didn’t make it as a huge sinkhole opened under the track ahead of us. Transferred to a bus. Spent two great days in Cleveland …
… and then flew to Singapore, Frankfurt (avoiding Russia & the Ukraine) and Munich. Reached Allgäu after about 36 hours of travel!
Heidi is working at “her” doctors practice since two weeks ago and Neill starts his new job at an accountants office on Tuesday. The bikes are being well used and we are enjoying meeting so many old friends – including the crew of Sybo who stopped by for three days – and making new ones.
Another overnight sail had us just off the Wide Bay Bar, south of Fraser Island, at dawn. We had read all the pilot books, received advice and routes from the coast guard and checked the charts. The bar has a bad reputation.
Warning – Wide Bay Bar is dangerous and should not be crossed except with local knowledge. Conditions on the bar can vary rapidly with changes in tide height and direction, ocean swell and prevailing winds. Extreme caution should be exercised when crossing the bar in the afternoon, especially from seaward when the sun may make the leading lights difficult to see. Ebb tide combined with a south east swell or sea may cause significant waves to form on the bar and break on the adjacent banks.
The wind was “only” 15 knots from the south-east and the swell was under two meters so we turned in towards the bay. The situation quickly got “exciting” with waves picking us up and throwing us around. At least once the propeller was out of the water and once a lump of ocean was dumped in the cockpit. Heidi was navigating and Neill trying to hold the course through the rodeo ride. It took us nearly an hour to cross the mile of shallow water before things finally calmed down.
Heidi described the crossing as interesting when talking to the coastguard. (She is working on her British understatement.) The coastguard laughed and told her “well you will know what to expect next time.”
And then you read about people who cross in 5-6 meters of swell and have to be rescued. No wonder!
We finally left Moreton Bay and ventured back out into the Pacific Ocean for the first time since we entered quarantine in the middle of November. The wind was either against us or non-existent but we managed to reach Mooloolaba in time to cross the river bar at high tide. We then sailed up the Mooloola River, amazed at the huge fishing fleet to the right and homes of the rich on the left. Despite the river being strewn with anchored boats, we found a spot and dropped anchor.
Next we launched the dinghy to visit Estelle, a lovely lady to whom we had been recommended by her son. She was between appointments but found time for a quick drink and a talk. We agreed to meet the next morning when she had a few hours between two engagements.
One doesn’t discuss a lady’s age so it is enough to mention that Estelle’s son is as old as Heidi. BUT that doesn’t stop her driving a shiny red Ford Mustang convertible and neither does it stop her beating EVERY other car at EVERY traffic light while smiling sweetly. The car is responsive and the driver experienced so the highway and the curvy mountain roads were quickly behind us and we reached the Kondalilla National Park. Estelle pointed us in the correct direction and we walked through the virgin forest to the Kondalilla Falls.
The forest was shady, the view was expansive and the waterfall was impressive. Just another slice of amazing Australia.
Back at the car we headed for a cafe and then Estelle showed us another way home with stunning views across the countryside and the ocean. She dropped us off back at the dinghy before speeding off to her next “date”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
From the volcanic island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas to the coral atoll of Raroia in the Tuamotus is only about four hundred miles heading a bit west of south through the South Pacific. Between the two is nothing but deep blue ocean, flying fish and – directly in the way – the low lieing, dangerous, coral atolls of the Isles of Disappointment.
Ideally you need good trade winds from the East to sail south but light weather to enter the atoll. You definitely need to be sure you are securely anchored in a lagoon before the next period of strong south winds. Amazingly the weather looked perfect one day, with five days until the next storm would seal our way, so we drank a coffee with the neighbours from Bengt, lifted anchor and sailed south.
The first day there was a little too much wind so we made great progress but bounced around on the three meter swell. With the main reefed right down and the small jib, we managed 130 miles. The second day was a little less boisterous but we still achieved over 120 miles.
Our plan was to keep well away from the coral atolls especially as we had read that the charts are wrong and the islands are not where they should be. But! The sun was shining, the sea was calmer and we had a few more hours of daylight so we changed course to sail past the larger atoll of Napuka. The islands are very low and difficult to see over the waves but nearly eight miles out Heidi sighted the palm trees and the radar confirmed that the size and shape were correct. Using satellite photos and lots of eyeball, we sailed past the reef, the church and the airstrip. We saw a few people on shore but we were too far off to wave. And the charts were definitely wrong!
The next challenge was to calculate when to arrive at the tiny passage through the reef that would allow us access in to the lagoon at Raroia. The pilot books suggest that with a wind from the East you should enter just after high tide or just before low tide but that an entry against the ebb is difficult after lots of rain, days of high swell or strong winds. There are no tide tables for Raroia so you have to extrapolate between those for the atolls of Hao and Rangiroa based on their longitudes. We had two sets of tide data on board and they disagreed massively. We sent a message to our weather router and he sent us a third time! Did I mention that there are two different time zones in the islands so you have to adjust for them as well? After a few tries I was pretty certain high tide was going to be at 2000 UTC so 1000 Tuamotos time or maybe low tide was going to be at 1130 Marquesas time – depending on which tables were correct. And all assuming it didn’t rain 🙂
Fifty miles before our destination, and against all weather predictions the wind died. We managed to drift 24 miles in the right direction and “surfed” eight miles along the front of a massive squall. Using the radar to stay just outside the rain we used the squall induced wind for two hours of midnight adventure. Finally our calculations showed that we were going to miss the tide at the passage so we started the engine.
We reached the entrance through the reef just before low tide and could see an out flowing current but, as the guides warn that sometimes the current remains out flowing for days, we headed in. On full throttle we can make 5.2 knots but we averaged 0.4 through the pass. Fifty minutes of trying to stay in the narrow corridor between the steep coral walls while inching forwards against the current was “interesting”.
Finally we entered the lagoon and “only” had to navigate the seven miles to the East side. The lagoon is strewn with coral towers that you definitely do not want to hit. We had identified these using charts and satellite images and then plotted a “hopefully safe” route. Heidi still spent the two hours on the bow identifying coral ahead and one coral tower was only avoided at the last minute as Heidi commanded “Hard to port – now!” To add to the fun there is a pearl farm and they have spread ropes and buoys around like a huge spiders web. Heidi added underwater rope identification to her list of tasks.
Finally, behind the shelter of the palm covered reef, we dropped anchor. An inspection of the surroundings with snorkel mask found coral next to the anchor and a shark swimming under the boat. The shark was OK but the coral meant re-anchoring and another swim.
We set the anchor, attached floats to the chain to keep it off the coral and drank a coffee. The forecast strong winds arrived earlier than expected but found us safely hidden in the middle of nowhere.
In the Vaipo valley on the island of Nuku Hiva there is a huge waterfall. The valley is only accessible by boat and cut off from the surrounding areas by huge vertical cliffs. Heidi commented that it looks like the land that time forgot.
Having anchored in the bay, we paddled the dinghy to the beach, towed it up the river at low tide and moored it to an overhanging palm tree. We took the main path through the immaculate village of Hakaui and exchanged greetings with all those we met. A fully tattooed local asked how we liked his valley and, when we gave a positive answer, presented us with a grapefruit from his garden.
Once out of the village, we followed the remains of a substantial track some three meters wide. This was raised above the surroundings and lined with large stones. At one point we had to ford the river but, despite stories from other sailors, nothing bit us. As we continued through the jungle we were continually passing ruins and the foundations of houses. At one point we passed an area that looked like the ceremonial areas we knew from elsewhere. The impenetrable jungle was obviously hiding a lost city. Heidi was in Indiana Jones mode, dreaming of lost diamonds and head hunters.
At one point we saw the waterfall across the valley cascading many hundreds of meters down the vertical cliff. Down by the river we lost the path and spent half an hour clambering over moss covered ruins and under huge trees before returning to the river. On our second attempt we realised that the fallen tree was actually the bridge and crossed it to find the path continued on the far side. Up close, the waterfall was less impressive as you could see less of it but the gorge was stunning in its size and steepness.
Back in the village we learned that before the missionaries arrived, “with their god and their diseases”, there had been 20 000 people living in the valley which explained all the ruins. The city had extended from the river up to the temples which was the reason for the “main highway” that we had followed. A local lady proudly explained how her ancestors had lived here before the Europeans decimated the islands.
Another exciting day and further proof that a boat gets you to unbelievable places that you would otherwise never see.
Today is the 21st of June so midwinters day here south of the Equator. The sun is as far north as it is going to be and the days as short as they will get this year. Sounds awful doesn’t it? But there is no need to worry about us. Even today we have a temperature of 28°C, a gentle breeze and a warm ocean to swim in.
We are anchored in the lonely and peaceful Hakatea Bay on the island of Nuku Hiva in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is hard to be at anchor and still be so far from civilization- if we define civilization as motorways, shopping malls and McDonalds. The bay is completely surrounded by hills and protected from every direction and we are floating on a calm blue pond swinging gently in the breeze.
On the beach there is a tiny village where a few people live and farm. The small river can be entered in a small boat at high tide but otherwise we can land on the beach. Yesterday we stocked up on bananas and herbs from a ladies garden and today the cockpit smells of drying basil. We were very impressed with the ladies solar system. With 12 solar panels she powers a fridge, a freezer and all her other devices. Like Heidi, she knew exactly how much power each device uses.
We have been here a few days and seen no sharks so yesterday we were enjoying the water and cleaning our hull. Today’s big project is hair washing so we will need to swim again – I know, it is a tough life – and then we plan on returning to the “big city” of Taiohae. Hopefully we can adjust to the hectic pace of a town with a road and police station.
At the end of our last blog we were in a motel which offered no breakfast so we left at seven after a few biscuits. Our route immediately turned off down a stony track which later became a path. We descended to a river and were faced with stripping off and fording it but then we noticed a bamboo bridge which we balanced across. Later we found an even more exciting bridge with two bamboo sticks to stand on and a very bendy handrail. But we negotiated it successfully.
We were in the middle of nowhere and hungry so when we finally rode in to a town, we stopped at the first shop to buy fluids and bread. Then it was back in to the stunningly green countryside and extremely stony trails. By midday I was “only firing on three cylinders” and needed food. Luckily after crossing the Rio Blanco, we found a beautiful hotel facing a huge waterfall. The rest of Sunday was declared an afternoon off. Pinacolada, swimming, lieing in the sun and lazing around was ordered.
By the evening we were seriously hungry and each ate two main courses and almost took a second dessert. The body is quite happy to cycle to the Andes but it demands fuel.
On Day 5 we did it all correctly. Started the day with a big breakfast and then began the long uphill slog in to the mountains. By eleven we were soaking so hid in a coffee shop with warm mugs of milk coffee until the worst passed. At three we were at 1100 meters and had cycled 50 kilometers. The tank was once again empty but we found a restaurant to refill. More food; more drinks; and then we quickly polished off the final 20 kilometer climbing through the rain forest to spend the night in a lodge above 1700 meters.