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”.

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.

To the Tuamotus

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.

At sea in the Pacific

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 chart is 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 to the lost city

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.

Midwinter

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.

Feed the machine

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.

Bridge with alibi hand rail

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.

Outdoor shower

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.

At sea in the Caribbean

We were two days out of Marigot on St. Martins, about two hundred miles from anywhere in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It had been a good day with lots of sun and little wind. In the morning we had changed to our Parasailor and thus maintained our momentum despite the missing wind.

We had also modified our prototype deck cover to give us more headroom and more shelter – another project that is progressing well through fast prototyping with pegs, ropes and a bed sheet.

We now have a data logger keeping track of both system voltage and fridge temperature so another ongoing project is optimising the one without sacrificing the other. Who would have believed a tenth of a volt plus or minus ciuld be so interesting or that tracking the sun with the solar panels so rewarding.

Artemis at sea in the Caribbean

In the evening we cooked dinner which we ate in the cockpit direct from the saucepan. The only other sign of life was a huge ship just visible over the horizon. Perfect timing allowed us to follow our meal with a glass of chilled wine as the sun set. As we ghosted along in the breeze a pod of dolphins joined us to play at the bow. With the wine finished, thoughts turned to Neill getting some sleep.

And then …

The wind came back. Suddenly the boat was healing and being dragged upwind by a fifteen knot wind in the Parasailor. Luckily we are an experienced team so lifejackets on, boat turned downwind and Parasailor snuffed. At which point the AIS alarm started trilling to let us know the huge bulk carrier was no longer over the horizon but heading our way. Ships seem to be magnetically drawn to us. They have millions of square miles of ocean but always seem to want to pass close by to look at the “little boat”. Or maybe we are just paranoid.

With the Parasailor stowed, the “normal sails” set and after ducking behind the ship we were off again at over five knots. After half an hour of tidying up ropes and dish washing, it was time for a second try at an evening drink – this time a shared can of beer.

And then it was time to switch on the navigation lights and see what the night watches had waiting.

Karibik ade !!

Auf zu neuen Ufern oder in unserem Fall – auf nach Südamerika, ein neuer Kontinent.

Nachdem wir vier Monate in der Karibik waren, wunderschöne weiße Traumstrände, türkisfarbiges Wasser, eindrucksvolle Landschaften und vieles mehr genossen haben, sind wir am 21.5. nach Curaçao aufgebrochen. Wir haben hier viele neue, total unterschiedliche Menschen verschiedener Nationalitäten und Kulturkreisen kennen gelernt. z.B. eine Familie aus England, die mit ihren drei Kindern erst nach Frankreich ausgewandert ist und jetzt in der Karibik rumsegelt. Medos so heißt ihre 14 jährige Tochter ist mega cool oder total verrückt; sie sagt immer “meine Eltern sind Hippies”, sie spricht fließend Englisch und Französisch, kann sich in spanisch und deutsch verständlich machen, gibt sich ihr Lernspektrum bzw. ihr Lernpensum selbst vor und ist so offen und kommunikativ wie man es sich von einem Teenager nicht vorstellen kann. Oder Herrn Barwahni einen indischen Ladenbesitzer aus St. Martin, er ist von Indien nach Afrika zum Arbeiten aufgebrochen und lebt jetzt mit seiner Frau und Tochter hier doch um seiner Tochter eine gute Schulausbildung zu ermöglichen, ist die Familie auf der Suche nach einer neuen Heimat. Auch hier haben wir soviel Herzlichkeit, Offenheit und Hilfsbereitschaft erfahren, dass ich fast eine Gänsehaut bekomme.

Doch jetzt steht uns ein kleiner Trip von 500 Nautikel Miles bevor – gar nicht schlimm, denn wir genießen die Tage und Nächte mit nur Wasser, Himmel, Sternen, Mond, fliegenden Fischen und manchmal auch Delphinen. Unsere Nachtschichten verlaufen immer nach bewährter Weise, ich beginn und wenn ich müde bin wecke ich Neill; am frühen Vormittag macht er dann ein Nickerchen und ich halte Ausschau nach Schiffen. Gestern morgen z.B. entdeckte ich ein Schiff am Horizont, weit weg. Nach ca. 40 Minuten konnte ich immer noch nur seinen Bug sehen, was bedeutet, dass wir direkt auf einander zu fahren, aber nachdem wir segeln, sind wir Vorfahrtsberechtigt also sollte das Motorboot ausweichen – nichts geschah; ich weckte Neill da wir uns auf Kollisionskurs befanden und Neill funkte das andere Boot an. Nach dem er zweimal gesagt hatte,” Hallo wir sind das kleine Segelboot an deiner Seite” meinte das riesige Kreuzfahrtschiff doch total gelassen, klar ich hab euch schon gesehen, ha ha wer es glaubt wird seelig und wer es nicht glaubt kommt auch in den Himmel, aber er schlug einen Hacken und wir sahen das Boot direkt an uns vorüberziehen.

Wir kommen super gut voran und unsere Artemis bringt uns sicher durchs Meer; nur heute Nacht wurde ich etwas unsanft geweckt – eine Welle kam über die Seite und durchs Dachfenster, was wir einen Spalt offen hatten, damit ein bisschen Wind rein kommt, und ich wurde geduscht, ihr könnt es euch ungefähr so vorstellen, als ob euch jemand einen Kübel Wasser über den Kopf schüttet. Ich war so geschockt, dass ich erst nur aufspringen konnte und gar nicht wusste, wie mir geschah und Neill musste trotz des ganzen Wassers erst mal lachen, denn ich sah aus wie eine getaufte Maus. Doch nach etwas putzen und trocknen schlief ich nach 30 Minuten weiter als ob nichts gewesen wäre.

Codrington

Nachdem wir zwei von drei “Sehenswürdigkeiten” in Barbuda abgehakt hatten, wollten wir natürlich auch die Fregattenvögel sehen.

Ein Wassertaxi hatten wir beim Hummer essen bestellt und so wurden wir tatsächlich am Ostersonntag um 9 Uhr am Strand des Sandwalles abgeholt und über die Lagune nach Codrington gebracht. Unser “Taxifahrer” Georg Jeffery ist ein gebürtiger Barbuda und erklärte uns, dass hier das Land den Einwohnern gehört und das schon seit Ende der Sklavenzeit, den zuvor gehörte die ganze Insel einer reichen englischen Familie den Codringtons, die hier Kartoffel und Wurzelgemüse angebaut haben; da staunt ihr, ich lern gerade soviel an Weltgeschichte und das hautnah. Am Kai angekommen vereinbarten wir, wann wir zu den Vögeln fahren wollten doch zuvor inspizierten wir die Haupt- bzw. die einzige Stadt der Insel und die Umgebung. Wir wanderten (bei ca. 12 km kann man das schon so nennen) zum höchsten Punkt der Insel dem Highland House – dem Herrenhaus er Codringtons – und genossen einen Rundumblick über die ganze Insel.

Wir fuhren mit dem Motorboot in die Mangroven um die Fregattenvögel anzuschauen; tausende von Vögel in verschiedenen Altersklassen vom flauschigen Jungvogel, über die weißköpfigen Jungtiere bis hin zu den Alten alles war vertreten. Sie brauchen zwei Jahre um erwachsen zu werden und ihr Futter sind hauptsächlich die fliegenden Fische, die sie im Atlantik fangen. Wir konnten die Vögel fast berühren, so nah stakte uns der Skipper im seichten Wasser heran – unglaublich, wir sahen sogar einen Container in den Mangroven, den der letzte Hurrikan hier her geblasen hat.

Hier in Codrington kann man die Ausmaße des Hurrikans “Irma” von 2017 noch intensiv sehen und erleben; fast jedes Haus ist ohne Dach bzw. nur mit Folie abgedeckt, überall stehen noch Zelte von der UN die kurz nach der Katastrophe vor Ort waren und geholfen haben. Georg Jeffery erzählte uns, daß hier ca. 600 Menschen leben und die Hilfsmaßnahmen der Regierung gegen Null laufen, da man am liebsten die ganze Insel privatisieren möchte um Luxushotels zu bauen und man die einheimische Bevölkerung “loswerden” möchte. Ich kam mir total hilflos vor, inmitten der Häuserruinen denn wenn wir von einem Hurrikan im Fernsehen sehen ist das alles furchtbar schlimm aber soweit weg dass es uns irgendwie nicht so sehr betrifft.

Barbuda

Was machen wir 1 Woche lang?

Antigua ist genial und wir waren auf verschiedenen Inseln und Buchten doch wir haben noch bis 26.4. Zeit denn dann kommt Neil (ein anderer Cruser) mit Ersatzteilen aus England und wir treffen uns in Falmoth Harbour. Barbuda hört sich gut an – 25 Nm von Antigua entfernt – ok gebongt.

Wir machten uns schlau, was es dort alles zu sehen gibt und fanden folgendes:

– traumhaft lange weiße Sandstrände und türkis farbiges Wasser

– Frigattenvögel in rauhen Mengen

– Hummer – den besten in der Karibik bei Onkel Roddy

Wir segelten nach Barbuda und wenn du Noon Site glauben willst, ist das nur etwas für total erfahrene Skipper – was wir ja mittlerweile auch sind – und ankerten in Cocoa Beach am Prinzessin Di Strand – WOW !!

Kilometer lange weiße Sandstrände, türkis farbiges Wasser und keine Leute. Wir ruderten an den Strand und spazierten dort rum, nur am Wasser entlang, denn weiter oben ist ein Luxus Hotel und dort sind andere “Menschen” nicht erlaubt und werden von der Security weggeschickt – uns haben sie zugewunken und keiner hat uns vertrieben, scheinbar schauen wir ganz vertrauensvoll aus. Ein Privatjet landete auf dem Wasser und ein Amphibien Fahrzeug holte die Gäste direkt im Wasser ab. Ein junger Kanadier wollte uns ein Taxi in die Stadt organisieren, dass nur schlappe 80 US $ kosten sollte – nix für unseren Geldbeutel – und das Hummerlokal Onkel Roddy ist seit dem letzten Hurrikan geschlossen. Zurück an Bord gönnten wir uns ein Glas Wein zum Sonnenuntergang.

20.4. Heute wollen wir in die Stadt; mit dem Dinghy durch das Loch im Sandwall und durch die Lagune nach Codrington – easy – zumindest hört es sich so an, denn am Loch brechen die Wellen vom Meer mit den Wellen von der Lagune und das bedeutet, dass es schäumt und bestimmt 1,5 Meter hohe Wellen sich auftürmen. Wir haben es uns angeschaut, wurden klitsch nass und haben uns spontan umentschieden. In der Mitte der Insel gibt es noch einen Ankerplatz Boat Harbour, dann segeln wir eben dort hin; nach 5 Nm waren wir dort und versuchten hinter einem Riff zu ankern, dem einzigen auf unserer Karte. Ich stand vorne am Bug und hielt Ausschau, was bei dem Wellengang alles andere als einfach war, und Neill steuerte und behielt die Tiefenanzeige im Auge; ich sah Felsen auf der steuerbord Seite und Neill fand Korallenköpfe Backbord. Nein hier bleiben wir nicht also raus und etwas weiter vorne nochmal probieren, puh geschafft. Mit dem Dinghy gings dann an Land, wir hörten schon vom Boot aus die Musik und fanden hier Einheimische beim Grillen und Feiern und ihr werdet es kaum glauben, wir haben sogar Hummer bekommen. Genial – mein erster Hummer und er war einfach nur “Sau guat”, ein Einheimischer hat uns für morgen ein Wassertaxi organisiert, damit wir endlich auch die Stadt anschauen können. Danach segelten wir wieder zurück und wir sind neugierig, was uns morgen erwartet.

Faxit von Barbuda: eine geniale wunderschöne Insel nur gestaltet es sich etwas schwierig vom Boot aus an Land zu kommen.