Friday, April 29, 2011

Boray's Lure

I just sailed over the top of a sea mount, 970 metres below me. It rises from a sea bed nearly 5000 metres so it's more than just a hill. We always think such a spot will be fishy, but it hasn't seemed to be so, until today. I haven't wanted to use the beautiful lure Boray gave me, it's too easy to lose gear out here, but I put it in to bring me luck now I'm alone. I know I said I wasn't going to use reels any more, but being alone it's hard to watch the lines all the time and using a reel, at least there is a sound to let you know there's a fish. So was there a sound. Yes. In very short order the marlin that took Boray's lure, boat speed only 2.5 knots I should add, had stripped all the line and was away. He was certainly bigger than me, it's hard to tell with something you've never seen before and all over so quickly, but he did all the proper marlin things, leaping out of the water and thrashing around. It was an amazing sight, probably worth losing the lure. If only there was a lure that wouldn't attract the big fish!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


So it's goodbye to Marcel. He has put in a fantastic 4 or 5 months, always enthusiastic about the boat, checking and repairing. Climbs the mast just to make sure everything is still ok up there. Puts up with all the discomfort, washes up as soon as there is a mess, putting all other male crew to shame. We have crossed two oceans plus the Carribean in a very short time, without a lot of shore time for reward, so I don't blame him for leaving, and hope all goes well.
I visited the next boat in our last anchorage, off Raiatea, as Dieter is a lone sailor and I thought it good to chat with him about it. It was very comforting, his boat is bigger and harder to handle than Ellida. In the morning after dropping Marcel and his bicycle on shore, Dieter hailed me, and brought a fresh baguette over to send me on my way. Then some dolphins came to the bow in the clear blue (it's another blue.... ) water of the pass. A great start, and so far I'm not dissapointed with my first 24 hours alone. Moving very slowly, just covered 70 miles, but it's nice to have the space to myself. A lot of space actually! Since we couldn't check in and out I don't have a zarpe, the magic bit of paper that says where you are going next. I don't think it will be a problem wherever I land, but I feel rather free! If I don't stop I'll be in Fiji in two and a half weeks. More or less.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ya Orana

The day starts with a few green drinking nuts, and if the meat is still in the soft stage, a little snack on that. A couple of mature coconuts are grated and the cream squeezed out, then a big pot of coconut rice is made for lunch which sometimes lasts through to breakfast, sometimes not. The cream also goes into curries and sauces, and is absolutely fantastic in coffee! I don't know what they put in the tins of coconut cream, but this fresh stuff is quite a different animal.

Rangiroa to Haamene on Tahaa was a bit of a slow sail, and for the first time I had a badly timed landfall. We arrived off the pass into Tahaa before midnight and sat 15 miles off waiting for daylight. There is a flash orange sea anchor in the bottom of the sail locker and I thought it might help to hold us in a more comfortable position, so we let it out and waited. It did actually turn us just enough to take the edge off the roll but.. in ten knots of wind, less than a metre sea, drifting at 1kn the sea anchor shredded itself! It clearly says on it "for vessels up to 45'". I haven't read anything good about sea anchors and i can see why. Imagine if you were really in trouble and risking your life to try and deploy this thing which can't even cope with a ten knot breeze.
We arrived at Haamene in rain and thunder but it cleared to reveal a magic spot, very sheltered and great holding. People were very friendly and the vegetation rampant. I caught some great fish at anchor. We wandered in the hills and found all the fruit we could carry. (they don't eat fallen fruit so anything on the ground is ok to take, this was in the bush so not currently cultivated)
It seemed like paradise, so who could blame Marcel for wanting to stay?
He had planned to come through to Fiji, so I had to come up with a new plan. I asked a few people if they wanted to come to Fiji, they all looked rather surprised, can't think why, so I've decided to push on alone. Anne is furious and upset, fair enough, but I'm confident that I can do it. Winds will be light and always behind, the boat is all going well, I'll just take it slowly, not put up more sail than I can get down easily.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coconut Grater

The big hardware store was sure to have a coconut grater, they told us back on Manihi. It wasn't so big and it didn't, but the kids were very cheerful. They thought we might have some luck at the Shell petrol station and we did! Finally. I had to jog to the ATM and back before they closed but I made it.(ATM!!! first one for 3,500 miles!) Back to the boat, quickly moved to a sheltered spot, a bit tricky with the sun about to set but we had clear instructions and they agreed with the chart which is always nice, plus there was another yacht anchored so we dropped in near them and started grating coconuts!
We don't usually catch fish easily at anchor, but next morning Marcel pulled in a 1.5k cod, and squirrel fish, so I put in a line and another cod and another unknown. Marcel hailed a passing family, baby in pram, toddler, mum, dad and black dog in the dinghy, to check if the fish were OK. All are excellent! So far there seems to be no ciguatera, we've been told all fish are good. They did say there is one like the cod, but with spots which is not good, but I don't know if it is just not so tasty or to be avoided.
I turned most of one cod into Poisson Cru... this is a heavenly dish. Cut your fish into little bits, and completely cover in fresh squeezed lime juice. After some time it will be white through, cooked by the acid. Drain, and in this case put a little chopped onion, some dry roasted chili and one precious Tuamotu Tomato from Fernando's garden. Then cover in fresh squeezed coconut cream. Now go to heaven.
We had an excellent beach-comb here. I found a modern polynesian canoe paddle, very high tech! A fish scaler, bait chopping board, a nice oregon plank to mount the coconut grater, a hair brush, a lure like the one Sabine found in Italy and the usual bits of rope and other usefuls. Marcel chatted to a lady about coconut cream technique, she said she had never seen the famous pink sands of Rangiroa, but she had been to the Blue Lagoon. We will see neither as it's a day's travel to one, a day's travel to the next and another back to the pass. So three days just to get there and back. The anchorage would be nasty in the current wind but in truth, we have to get to Fiji. It would sound great to say 'we saw the Pink Sand and the Blue Lagoon' but I have enough joy from the beautiful faces, flowers in hair and laughs and smiles of the people of Rangiroa. And the fish! We were anchored close to some shallow reef and between it and us were massive schools of Unicorn? Fish, slowly milling about with their upper jaw in the air going clack clack clack. Reef sharks cruising amongst them, occasionally trying for a bite and there's a loud white patch as the fish politely make a little more room for the shark. Between us and the bottom were a lot of big blue fish. On the way to the beach huge schools of garfish. I've never been anywhere so fishy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


It was a quick and easy sail, less than 24 hours, to Rangiroa. My book says 'second largest attol in the world' and we all immediately want to know, but are not told. You lucky people with google at your fingertips will know already but I must wait to learn where the biggest is! Attols are formed as a mountain sinks under it's own weight and the fringing coral reef grows apace. Coral can't grow as quickly in the calmer water of the lagoon, so you have a fringing reef and a quick drop to a few thousand metres, a string of 'motus', coral and sand islands surrounding a lagoon which might be twenty metres deep but studded with big coral heads making navigation difficult. You must move about with the sun behind you. There are many shallow breaks between motus and in this case, two deep passes. Tides bring the lagoon water rushing in and out of the passes, currents up to 7 kn. The passes here are on the weather side, so with wind and swell coming in against the outgoing tide you can get very nasty conditions at the entrance. Now, I've given up trying to understand this, but my tide program lists two Rangiroas, one in Samoa, one in Tuamotus, with the same map reference so they are in fact the same place, but.... they have tide times two hours apart. I know this now. As we approached the pass I thought we were half way into the incoming tide, not the best time but far from the worst, but in fact we were in the last half hour of outgoing tide! It wasn't too bad, just 2 or 3 knots against us, but there were some interesting wave effects and sitting high and dry above the waves pounding onto the reef on the lee side was the hull of a yacht that got it wrong!

We dropped the anchor where the chart had a little anchor symbol, a truly terrible spot but I wanted to find the Gendarmery. I've been breaking rules again and had chosen this island as a likely place to get away with it all.
There was a moment in Fatu Hiva heading back out to Ellida past a newly moored vessel. I wondered if this might be the fabled police boat that would fine us, it did have a 'P' in it's registration number.. A warrior like Polynesian climbed up onto the bow and I started to feel sure this was not a police boat. He held both hands with fingers together but split in the middle, a solid 'V', saluted us with one, then roared and saluted the setting sun out to sea with both hands high in the air, then dangled himself from the railing and went to the toilet!
Meanwhile... I'd checked in with the policewoman at Manihi, she was extremely nice, but obviously didn't care too much about the official protocols. She almost forgot to write our names down to phone through to the Gendarme in Rangiroa. (Police are Polynesian, Gendarme are French military, paid triple French wages to suffer in the tropics.)
Mr Rangiroa Gendarme had quite an odd manner and I wasn't at all confident... he said that actually we would have to go to Papaete to check in, we said, actually, we don't want to go to Papaete, just to Tahaa (I must mention here, that i also want to go to the village of Faaaha on Tahaa) to buy fruit and vegetables, we are going to Fiji. He said, the problem is the bank. Rangiroa is an official port of entry, so we should be able to check in, but the bank is refusing to handle the 'bond'.
This bond is the equivalent of an airfare home that I, as a non-european, must pay. I get most of it back when I check out, so we were asking to check in and out on the same day....that is why we avoided checking in at Marquesas.
So in the end he simply looked at our documents, apologised for not being able to stamp our passports and wished us a good journey!
I'd love to know why the bank is behaving so badly!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Modern Goats

Mr Slocum has a reputation as a great navigator, certainly helped by his writing his own story, but if he was such a great navigator why did he let a goat eat his charts? I think him a rather dubious character, but he did write a great book before losing his boat with all hands.
Here is a modern trap for navigators! My chart table is actually much tidier than it looks to the untrained eye, but on this occasion I'd left the camera on the corner to remind me to take a photo of the village as we left Manihi. In the end, the pass was too scary to leave the wheel and the camera sat forgotten. Out to sea it got quite rolly quite quickly, and things were moving inside the boat... the camera jumped onto the computer keyboard. We have had this problem before. In the past it has been people who don't love computers but love to write in log-books, simply placing log-books on the nearest convenient surface, the computer keyboard! However, this time I can only blame myself. If a camera or log-book happen to rest on the 'enter' key, and where else would they go, the navigation software begins to enter 'New Mark's. And continues to enter them. Until the camera or log-book is removed or the computer crashes. In this case for quite some time. Now a couple of 'New Marks' are all in a days work, but if you put in a few thousand you bring the computer to it's knees and it can no longer tell you where you are, where you are going, or the children's birthdays. There are two ways to remove the offending marks. You can remove All Marks, which includes the ones that tell you where you want to go and where you have been, or you can take them off one at a time by hand. Since the computer is on it's knees this takes a long time. Especially unrewarding are the places on the chart where the boat didn't roll, so the mouse stayed still and you have a few hundred marks on the same spot. 'Select' 'delete' 'select' delete'. Forty minutes and a sore mouse hand later we are navigating again. OK in a clear sea but it would be unpleasant if were between motus in the dark!

Pearls from Manihi

After three days in the wilderness we headed back down and dropped anchor next to Xavier's motu. Anchoring in coral is fun. It is often hard to find nice shallow water, there is usually good sand for the anchor to dig into, but there are usually coral heads for the chain to wrap around, or a big lump of loose coral to foul the point of the anchor. We managed to get the anchor down in 13 metres (yes, I know, it's nautical miles across the surface, but metres for depth!) and holding well, with the fringing reef of the motu running alongside us ten or fifteen metres away. If the anchor let go we'd be scraping along the reef in very short order, but we were all certain it would hold, and it did. Xavier let us loose on his internet again and I managed a few more photos to the blog while the important business was done. He had received a Scottish Bagpipe from Christmas Father! Not that I'd actually played one of these before, but got it working, played a Breton tune, and gave him some pointers and tips to get started.
We moved to a safe anchorage and in the morning went to see Fernando, the village baker. He is also one of the two remaining pearl farmers and I spent a long time admiring pearls and trying to choose ones that might be very cheap but the girls might like. Ended up paying $50 for 40 but he kept dropping handfuls into the bag so i have something more than that. It was gratifying as well as disappointing to see that the ones I really liked were all quite valuable, so they stayed behind. While I looked at pearls, Fernando and his brother tried to convert Marcel to 'Herbalife'! Very odd to have this pyramid health food tablets being pushed out here in the ocean. Out to the garden to pick us some breadfruit, and there, struggling in the bare coral 'soil' were a few tomato plants. Fernando picked two of these precious green fruits for us! It's been a long time between tomatos out here. He showed us his pet coconut crab, living in a 200L barrel with a split coconuts. Actually I don't know if it's a pet or just being fattened. The crabs we've been eating are clearly not coconut crabs then, and the book which told me coconut crabs are green is wrong, as Fernando's pet is very brightly coloured, reds and blues and big! Loaded up with manioc and coconut bread from his freezer, and baguettes it's back to the boat and away. As we navigate the pass, Fernando is on the VHF waving and wishing us a safe trip.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Geckological disaster for Hobart?

Here is our hitchhiker from Panama. I wasn't too worried about him till we spotted a second one, so they might be able to breed! Philip, should I try to catch them and throw them overboard, or can we keep them to eat the cockroaches?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Manihi, Tuamotu

This morning I crossed over to the ocean side and walked along the tidal reef. Pools at the edge of the drop off are full of reef fish and ocean breakers. The flats look barren but are covered in table size crabs vigorously defending their patch of red brown rock, or scurrying under their boulder, beautiful colours on some of the species. Lift almost any rock and a gorgeous patterned grey/green eel shoots out, quite happy to travel overland to escape. I captured a Peacock Flounder, more by running him down than by spear. To the boat to drink a few coconuts for morning tea, then back to foraging. I bought a cast net in Martinique, but it's much smaller than the one I left at home, and has a spread of just two metres. Yesterday I was getting it over the fish, but they didn't have far to swim to escape it's drop. What does happen,is the reef sharks come by to see what made the splash. They are only to one and a half meters, but one did take a piece out of a lady's leg in WA. I'm sneaking along looking for mullet, goatfish, parrotfish when the shark that's almost run into the back of my legs notices me and does a big panic U-turn. That makes quite a splash so I make a bit of a splash too. I ended up with six of them keeping tabs on my netting. Today I had success and we have a few nice mullet in with the flounder. We are eating coconut crabs, sprouted coconut pancakes and tonight there will be coconut rice. We've been trying since Panama to buy the implement that turns a ripe coconut into half a cup of coconut cream. Every house has one, and you can only buy them in the big city, but I had a bright idea. Surely the Polynesians didn't wait thousands of years without coconut cream till metal arrived? So I found a nice grater-like lump of coral and tried that. It works! My hand feels like your feet if you walk on a coral beach but we have our coconut cream.
We are anchored at the top of the lagoon inside the attol of Manihi, in the Tuamotus. There is a village at the bottom and a pass to the ocean, then some shacks and houses coming half way up to us, on the string of 'motus' seperating the lagoon and ocean. We are quite alone up here. Haven't seen or heard any people or boats. Water is completely calm and turns a beautiful tropical pale green as it shallows to the sand and coconuts.
We had a very easy four day sail to get here. The trees are delivered to Xavier and I had a few hours with his internet so got a few photos to the blog. The locals in the village are extremely friendly and helpful, we were given a 'small' Meko, that's a fish. We ate it for two days and nothing was wasted, especially not the lips!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

a few photos...

so here are some photos...
Sperm whale, and don't complain! if you want a better look come on the boat! Another fruit we forgot the name of and finally a photo of flying fish flying. You wouldn't believe how many photos of waves I delelted trying to get one with flying fish in the air, so this is a triumph for me!
then there is our first view of land at Marquesas, very dark!
walk in the hills

Friday, April 8, 2011


Sitting on deck doing the washing up, surrounded by magnificent volcanic ridges and peaks, the small village of Hanavave tucked in the little river flat amongst the rocky outcrops. Tropic birds circle and fly in to their nests on the rock faces in the hills above. A huge pod of Spinner Dolphins have been hanging around all morning, as close as 5 metres from the boat. Every now and then they practise their spinning, I guess that's where they got their name! The babies look only about two feet long, so when they spin it's incredibly cute. Marcel has gone for a swim with them, he says they were friendly, I think they would have been most un-impressed with his spinning ability.
Walking back from the waterfall, all the teenagers are playing volleyball, girls against the boys, doing real warmups and all. The boat ramp is full of the younger kids swimming and splashing. This is Fatu Hiva.
We made our crossing in 23 days, a fabulous time for 3000 miles,arrived in heavy cloud, rain and mist and were welcomed to the anchorage by one of the anchored boats on channel 16 given us directions where best to park.

On our first trip ashore we didn't even get out of the dinghy before we were organised.. well. They wanted to trade, anything... I had a bottle of wine in case, not feeling great about it but we didn't think we had anything else they want, there is no bank so we have no local currency, and anyway, they don't sell fruit, only trade. So we got a walk through the village and a big big bag of pampelmousse, but the giant ones, huge, 5-6inch! plus all the limes we could pick and two breadfuit. Philipe brought our fruit back to the wharf in a wheelbarrow, with his diving gear, and wouldn't let us leave it in the dinghy while we went for a walk. He said the kids would steal it and sell it to people from the other boats! The truth is more likely that Marcel initally told them we had two bottles of wine, so he wanted to make sure we were on the boat when he came by. They called in their dinghy, asking for the other bottle and and a corkscrew. Also asked if Marcel wanted to go diving too..... They did survive, of course, but it felt bad to see them going off diving and drinking. It's a dilemna.. If only we had known what they wanted! Shackles, silicone, life jackets, rope, lures, the list goes on. DVDs of stupid movies, really bad jewelry, plastic beads and stuff they love! Here they probably have real pearls but they are keen on Marcels rubbish baubles.
The mountain ridge behind the village is so high and so shear,they say there is no possible path across. There are another 3 ridges behind, so to get wood from the other side they go around in the dingy.

Today we went with the neighbors Yolo, in their dinghy to the next village down, Omoa, or I should say, the other village. This island is mostly vertical so there aren't many spots to park houses. We have been asked to take some trees to Manihi attol in the Tuamotus, and Cecile in Omoa would organise the trees for us. Cecile was lovely, and sent us on our way with some citrus and a corrosol, whatever that is. We also were able to buy bread, there is a bakery there, so for the first time in a month we ate bread! French sticks of course. I also bought the most expensive vegetables of my life. Four onions, four tomatoes and a medium cucumber for $15! Think I'll stick to fish, coconut and breadfruit from now on.

Fishing from the boat at anchor has been somewhat trying. I lost a lure to something big, the braid broke. Most of the guides on my rod have broken, all my soft plastics have been bitten in half and all I managed to do was land one beautiful silver mullet shaped fish that unhooked itself and bounced back over the side. However, today I set off in the dinghy, which is a little un-nerving, as if I have a big problem and no-one notices I will drift an awful long way before there is any more land. Sure enough, it was only a few minutes of trolling along the shore and I had two nice silver fish, not sure what they are yet. They are slender, like to jump and the frigate bird tried to get one. Sure to be delicious.