Passage to Palmerston – part 3

During Monday 28 August the wind continued to ease to about 24 knots so we let out a bit more genoa. By 18.00 the wind had built again and we saw squalls of 30+ knots so reduced the sail once more. We had a casualty too – we had clipped the hand-held VHF on the binnacle so that we could save power by turning the main radio off at the panel. Power consumption is always a problem when all navigation equipment is on and the skies are grey. Anyway whilst reefing down Richard caught the radio with his shoulder and with a hop, skip and a jump it was lost overboard. It floated away and we waved it goodbye. There was no chance that we would have been able to find it in the large and confused seas so we accepted the loss. Damn! Richard did, however, offer to buy me a new one for Christmas…not sure that’s how it works LOL.
Overnight we were treated to large squalls to 35 knots and big seas with the motion on board increasingly uncomfortable so we both struggled to sleep off watch. Oh well..never mind…..
By the morning of Tuesday 29 August the wind had eased back to 20-25 knots so we let out more sail and quickly picked up our boat speed. It seemed strange to have been going so slowly in heavy weather but safety for both us and Morphie dictated our sail plan. Of course we could have screamed along but there is no room for manoeuvre when doing that….which definitely would not have been sensible in such a remote area. I think we have finally lost the racing mentality LOL.
In the afternoon the clouds cleared and the sun came through – hurrah! We were having a rollickingly good sail over the most beautiful deep blue seas although we were still getting the occasional thump from a rogue wave knocking us around. The seas remained big – about 12 feet – and they seemed confused at best. We had waves break over us on the port side and others breaking over the stern giving everything in the cockpit a lovely coating of sea salt. Reckon there is enough on board right now to harvest a pound or so LOL. Strangely, though, no flying fish or kamikaze squid on this run. We are constantly on the look out for whales – humpbacks give birth in this area each August and September – but sadly nothing seen yet.
By the time we entered our overnight shifts the clouds had rolled in again, there was rain in the air, and the winds and seas had increased significantly – perhaps 15 feet now. So we reefed down again in readiness for another challenging night ahead. The first watch wasn’t too bad and there was even a stormy sunset. But laying in my bunk later and everything was creaking and groaning when we tipped over a bit more than usual which sent a number of things crashing to the floor. Thankfully Morphie quickly righted herself and nothing was lost or broken. These conditions continued throughout the night and sleep was difficult to come by inside the washing machine action in the saloon. We are both a bit bruised here and there from tumbles in the cockpit but nothing serious thankfully. But I have a strong feeling we’re going to be a bit stiff tomorrow!
By 6.45 on Wednesday 30 August we were 15 miles away from Land Ho! This atoll is small so our rhumb line is a few miles away from it, however, we know it’s charted position is accurate as we have done a Google Earth comparison on it. Apparently when we are closer we will be met by a family member who will direct us to a mooring and will then become our host for the time we are here. Really looking forward to it. Fingers crossed they let us stay in these strong wind conditions.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to Palmerston – part 2

By 10.00 on Saturday 26 August the winds had started to fill in with some squally showers which we had managed to dodge. The seas were about 8 feet and the wind was 18 knots – so it looked like the weather was coming in as forecast. A bit rolly onboard but all was well.
By 17.00 the wind had nudged up to 25 knots and the seas were about 10 feet – we reefed down even more – and started to run downwind on a double-reefed genoa only. By 18.00 we had had dinner and Richard was off watch. The sun disappeared into the gloom and the wind I reefed down more….and it went up to 32 knots so I reefed down to a handkerchief-sized genoa. This obviously slowed Morpheus down but we were still making reasonable time and the angle of the waves wasn’t too horrendous, just a bit uncomfortable. Especially when a rogue one hit the port side and broke over the coach roof.
And that set the scene for the night – the wind went up and down between 18 and 35 knots – and we kept on ploughing through. It rained on and off in squalls but we both tucked up in the corner of the cockpit to avoid the worst. It was cold enough to wear long trousers and jackets too….
By the morning of Sunday 27 August nothing had changed. There was no visible sunrise in the gloom. The skies were grey and heavy, the wind was howling, and the seas were big with rogue waves giving us a kick every now and again. Frustratingly MetBob, the specialist weather forecaster for this region, blogged today and said avoid this squash zone area this week. Bit late when we were already out here having followed his advice last week that it was a good time to go west!!! Oh well, never mind, it is all good experience. I have just downloaded the latest weather forecast and it looks like even stronger winds are forecast now for the rest of our passage and beyond. The question was should we push on to Palmerston or activate Plan B and head to Aiutaki?
Richard joined me later in the morning and we debated our options. The only problem with Plan B now was our speed….we would arrive during the night….and that was not a sensible alternative. To slow down means staying out in these conditions anyway so we might as well push on. Decision made then, Palmerston it is.
By the time we moved into our evening shifts the weather had deteriorated further with sustained winds of 40 knots, gusts higher, and 15 foot high seas. But Morphie kept pushing on and we were confident in her. Rogue growling waves were appearing more frequently and then one picked us up and slammed us on our side putting the top of the life lines in the water. Morphie quickly recovered to an upright position and both of us were safe and unharmed – I had been tucked into the corner on the low side in the cockpit (harnessed in) and Richard was on the low side too down below secured by a lee cloth. So we weren’t thrown about, we didn’t get hurt, and apart from a couple of opened zips on the dodger everything was fine. Can you believe the force of the water opened zips?!? We were particularly grateful not to have lost any fuel cans from the rail. Anyway…..there were a few more rogue waves…..but that was the worst of it. Don’t worry folks we were never in danger, Morpheus was built for this!
During the early hours of Monday 28 August, the winds had started to diminish slightly and the seas had also flattened. So by the time it was light the wind was only 25 knots. Much more comfortable and the forecast says the worst is over. So onward we push. At this moment in time we have covered more than 400 miles and anticipate making landfall on Wednesday morning.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to Palmerston – part 1

We dropped our mooring ball at the Bora Bora Yacht Club at 16.50 on Thursday 24 August and motored out through the pass into light airs and glassy flat seas saying our farewells to French Polynesia. We both enjoyed the spectacular sunset over the island of Maupiti before moving into our overnight shift system.
The wind was so light we motor sailed until about 21.00 when the wind strengthened enough for us to switch off the engine and sail along on a beam reach in about 12 knots of breeze. Because of the notoriety of this area for sudden wind gusts of 30 knots at any time we were deliberately reefed down despite the low wind speeds so made quite slow progress.
At one point I looked up and suddenly saw lots of bright lights coming fast towards us – and thought at first it was a ship. Not able to see any navigational lights nor any AIS I watched carefully before I realised it was a large catamaran motoring fast towards our stern. All its cockpit / saloon lights were fully illuminated masking their navigational lights on the bow (which are useless in the Pacific anyway because of the swell of the ocean) and they were not showing either a masthead light or steaming light which would have definitely helped! I stood on and illuminated our sails with a torch to make sure that they could see me. They passed within 50 feet behind me – Richard was very surprised I didn’t berate the captain on the radio…. He was definitely an idiot. But he may have heard me swearing at him anyway he was that close!
The rest of the night passed quietly with no more incidents and the night sky was spectacular with a very bright star show. The moon was a mere slither and he went to bed pretty early on.
By the morning of Friday 25 August the wind remained slight. The sun came out and it was a beautiful day out on the water. The only downside was our slow progress making an average of only 4 knots in the light airs. But at least we were sailing! We saw no ships all day nor any marine creatures although Richard lost one of his new fishing lures to a huge fish who declined to show himself….must have been at least a marlin LOL.
As we headed into the evening shifts we had our evening meal together and downloaded the latest weather. This forecast threatened us with sustained 25+ knot winds and 12 foot seas starting on Sunday morning. This bright and windy weather will then stay with us for the rest of the passage. This is caused by a squash zone between a ridge of high pressure below us and the South Pacific Convergence Zone above us. Could be a bit challenging later on then…..
During the day the wind continued to be light and variable but the seas started building but nothing too uncomfortable. What was interesting were the strange currents running across us – one minute we were on the rhumb line, then you are being pushed above it so correct the course and then suddenly you are heading in the other direction. Certainly kept us on our toes.
We had another beautiful sunset at sea as we ate dinner and went into our shifts. The night sky was simply amazing. The sky was so full of stars from all angles they looked like they touched the sea – it felt like I was in a vast sparkling snow globe at one point. The only downside to this spectacular display by nature was the difficulty in seeing any boats as many of the stars masqueraded as masthead lights LOL. Around 1 am I spotted an unusual small white light ahead of us. So I watched it carefully for a while but remained unsure so woke Richard up. As we were relatively close to some ocean drop-offs and a small island we think he may have been a small fishing pirogue. I changed course slightly, Richard went back to bed, and I kept watch. He disappeared for about 20 minutes but then briefly reappeared behind us. Could have sworn he was using a phone to illuminate himself in the absence of boat lights!
Nothing else happened during the night – all was well on the good ship Morpheus – and we both managed to get some sleep.
At 6 am this morning (Saturday 26 August) the wind had filled in a little but not sustained as it has now dropped back to 10 knots. We are still making slow progress but I’m sure we’ll make up for it when the wind really kicks in later. The seas have continued to build – now around six feet – but are thankfully not pushing us around too much at this stage.
Bye for now Jan

Final days in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Sunday morning we were up early and by eight we were underway heading to the lagoon on the windward side of Bora Bora. The weather, of course, decided not to cooperate so we had 20+ knots of wind and grey skies – not what you need when you are planning on eyeball navigation!   Anyway….we worked our way around the corner and thankfully the skies cleared a bit…so we had some visibility when we needed it most to get through the chicanes of channel and cardinal markers.  You can see we did a 360 at one point to allow another boat to come through as there wasn’t room for us both to navigate through the cut.   It was pretty tricky and we had only 5 feet under our keel at times going across shallow stretches but the most nerve-wracking part was going through a very narrow cut in the reef.

We made it unscathed and continued to work our way down to Motu Pitiaau where we eyeballed our way in through numerous coral bombies and dropped the hook in the most beautiful blue water over sand.  Perfect!   We relaxed a bit and had something to eat before getting our diving gear together.

We got in dink and motored up the coast in very shallow water towards the Intercontinental Hotel. We found a place on the jetty to tie up dink, located the dive centre and sat and waited for the boat…..chatting for a while to one of the jetski instructors…..and admired the views across to Bora Bora from the resort.

It wasn’t long before we were on board the dive boat heading up the coast to the Four Seasons to pick up some more guests and another instructor who was taking a couple of tourists on a “Introduction to Diving” dive. We arrived quickly at the manta ray dive site but the visibility was zero due to the amount of plankton in the water – great for mantas as it is gives them something to eat but rubbish if we can’t see them! So the dive leaders decided to take us further along the canyon near the reef where the beginners could play around in shallow water while we could head off down the walls. We were both excited about this dive, especially as it was only us and the dive leader, with the possibility of seeing mantas so were surprised when we submerged. The coral was tired, dreary and broken…..little colour….with very few fish around. The visibility was rubbish and we had to stay pretty close to each other and of course no rays. I managed to find a few bits of coral to photograph but that’s about it sadly. We spent almost an hour underwater for very little reward other than getting wet. We returned to Morphie disappointed but at least we had tried. We both decided that was probably the worst (and most expensive) dive we had ever been on together!!!

We had a quiet night on board enjoying the anchorage although it was quite chilly. We have noticed that it is much colder at night now and I guess this will continue to be a theme as we move further west and south. It might be time to break out the fleeces.

Monday morning we were up early and checked out the weather forecast as we were looking at passage weather for our departure from French Polynesia. The weather window keeps moving on us but it was looking good for a departure this week. So we picked up anchor and worked our way – again in 20+ knots of breeze – through the reef system back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. We had intended to go closer to Vaitape but with the wind still blowing we decided to seek shelter behind the mountain again. We were pleasantly surprised that the ball we had vacated the day before was still vacant.

We got ourselves secured and rang Dolly our favourite Bora Bora taxi driver.

Dolly picked us up and we went into town to see the gendarmes. We were there for about an hour or so filling in five separate forms which all covered pretty much the same information. Oh well….never mind…. Surprisingly they said we could get the papers done in 24 hours – rather than the three days we had been told – so we said ‘yes please’ to a Tuesday departure date. We now feel ready to leave French Polynesia behind us and move onto the next adventure.

After leaving the gendarmes we went into a café for a light lunch and then returned to the yacht club. Back on board we wrote up a list of things we needed to do before we leave and spent some time doing our passage planning including looking at an alternative destination if the weather deteriorates significantly on us during the passage. Once we’d done this to our satisfaction and the waypoints / routing had been checked for hazards – Richard got on with his boat jobs including engine checks and making a new (temporary) lifting bridle for dink which we’ll need later on. I got on with computer-related stuff.

The forecast had brisk and feisty conditions (25 knots) and the wind should be on our port quarter to a beam reach rather than dead downwind (fingers crossed). The wind should ease as we arrive at our preferred destination Palmerston Island a passage of around 660 miles – so based on our normal average passage speed of five knots we are expecting to be at sea for about five and a half days. The mooring balls (which are compulsory as anchoring is not possible here) are outside of the reef so any north or west winds make this stop untenable. We will continue to monitor the weather closely and adapt our sailing plan to suit.

Palmerston is unique in that it is owned and exclusively populated by the descendants of Bill Marsters, the ship’s carpenter from HMS Bounty (think Mutiny!). He married three Polynesian women and then went on to produce 28 children – and they are the only families that continue to live there to this day. Apart from the obligatory entry / exit fees (in New Zealand dollars) we will have to trade goods for their hospitality and services and it is so remote the supply ship only visits every four months.

Our back-up plan if the conditions do deteriorate – this area is called the Dangerous Middle for a reason – is to pull into Aitutak instead, which is about 200 miles before Palmerston.

Monday evening we went into the yacht club for a couple of sundowners, enjoyed the sunset and watching the local guys practising in their long boat, before having an early night on board.

Tuesday morning we downloaded the weather again – and the conditions had deteriorated significantly already with 30 knot winds forecast. So we want to revert to a Thursday departure. We went to the gendarmes and told them – they weren’t happy as they had to amend the documentation. They refuse to give any leeway for weather delays so the day you get your exit papers is the day you have to leave the territory for your passage. So we put our heads above the parapet and agreed on a Thursday departure and had fingers crossed that the forecast would remain favourable.

We got back to Morphie and got on with more jobs on the list….my main task was to defrost the freezer and cook passage food. Richard got in the water and cleaned the hull again. The new antifoul we had applied in Guatemala is not up to the job here in the South Pacific as the marine-friendly product we used – which is approved by both New Zealand and Australia – doesn’t really repel growth. Oh well perhaps we’ll have to think again for the next time. Maybe a hard paint rather than ablative might suit better…we’ll see.

Tuesday night we went ashore for sundowners and got on with more computer jobs and had a ‘tapas’ plate to give me a night off from the galley after spending all afternoon slaving over it LOL. We watched two catamarans come too close again – the mooring balls were really not spaced with 55+ foot charter cats in mind – and to avoid a collision they ended up tying a line ashore to the restaurant so we had to do the limbo in dink to get back to Morphie later on LOL.

This morning, Wednesday, we were up early. Richard went back in the water to finish cleaning the hull, cooked lunch and did the laundry while I cleaned the stainless steel. You see we swapped blue and pink jobs around today LOL. I’m now blogging and expect to go ashore later to get it published. We are also having dinner out at the yacht club tonight as it is our last night here in French Polynesia and we anticipate being at sea for our 21st wedding anniversary on 2 September as we are not allowed to stay in Palmerston for more than three days apparently.

Tomorrow morning, Thursday, we’ll return to the gendarmes, pick up our exit papers, and then come back on board – put dink on the bow and the outboard on the rail and then we’ll be ready to go. We expect to pull out around 4pm to get through the pass while the sun remains relatively high in the sky. We anticipate arriving in Palmerston at sunrise on Wednesday morning although we may need to slow down to arrive in daylight hours but we’ll see. I’ll blog from the passage using our satellite system – so it will be without photos – and will let you know when we have arrived and when we get back online.

Bye for now


Exploring Bora Bora

Sunday afternoon the weather picked up so we decided to go and have a look behind the nearest motu for an anchoring spot.  We went up and down the channel but couldn’t find a suitable spot as there were quite a few boats already there and, if we had to anchor close to the reef to find good holding in sand then we were going to be quite exposed. So we decided to return to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. It was quite choppy going across the pass which made us realise just how sheltered the bay near the yacht club was so we felt much happier about returning and picking up a mooring ball. Later on we went ashore for sundowners and enjoyed watching the sun go down surprised by the dilapidated conditions of the hotel rooms….

Monday morning we spotted a boat leaving that had a ball in an even more sheltered spot so we quickly moved. We reckon we have the best spot in the house now LOL. We got all our dried and canned food out of the cupboards to do a check of our stores and made a shopping list. We didn’t need a huge amount just some staples really….. Later on we headed into the yacht club for a late lunch and then spent some time bobbing in the little sea pool they have created behind the restaurant. After a leisurely afternoon we returned to Morphie for a quiet night on board.

Tuesday morning and the wind had died down a little although it was a cloudy and drizzly type of day. We walked along the coast road towards Vaitape and were surprised to see that how poor the local housing was. Bearing in mind the huge cost of staying in the luxury resorts that inhabit the motus fringing Bora Bora’s lagoon it was a bit shocking to see so transparently that the wealth did not filter down with many locals still relying on fishing to supplement their diet.

As the weather improved we admired the lovely views out to the bay and had a quick look at the Maikai Yacht Club. Funny how they are all called yacht clubs when they are really just restaurants with mooring balls. We were surprised at the white caps and the wind howling through and were very grateful for the shelter we had found for Morphie.

After a hot and dusty walk dodging the traffic – there are no pavements here – we arrived at the SuperU supermarket so we picked up some shopping and fresh bread – and started the walk back. We were very grateful when a young lad – who works at the Intercontinental – offered us a lift back. We returned to Morphie, did some laundry and boat jobs, before going back out to the BBYC for sundowners and an internet fix.

Wednesday morning it was blowing really hard and then suddenly the superyacht Antares turned up – with a ripped genoa. Knew it was a bit lively out there LOL. The sail was making a huge racket but clearly they felt it too dangerous to send someone up the mast so they turned around in circles and tried to wrap the shredded sail best they could – it was successful for a little while but then the wind caught it again and pulled it back out.

We went ashore and started walking towards Vaitape. It took us almost an hour to get there and we saw a cruise ship was in town so there were quite a few tourists milling around aimlessly. The motoryacht Arctic was also anchored off – not every day you see an icebreaker ship in the tropics!

There really was very little to see other than a few stalls selling jewellery and the artisan centre selling handicrafts. The cruise ship passengers seemed a bit bemused by it all but they all seemed to have found something to buy from the pearl shops and French boutiques if the number of shopping bags was any indicator of consumer spending. We went to the tourist office and got ourselves a map of the island and were then entertained by a local band on the main pier as we took shelter from the sun. After a few hours we found a taxi and returned to the yacht club.

In the afternoon we did some laundry and Richard did engine checks. We were sitting in the cockpit trying to make sure that our washing didn’t fly off in the strong wind and were amazed to see a manta ray alongside us going under dink. He wasn’t huge – about a 5 foot wingspan – but big enough and we were stunned to see him. Amazing!!!

Later on we went ashore for sundowners and another internet fix and then returned to Morphie. Sitting in the cockpit in the dark we heard a huge crunch and a scream and couldn’t work out what the noise was. It turned out that two catamarans had collided – we had commented earlier that they looked too large to swing around on the balls they had picked up – oops! Anyway the crewed Moorings charter boat moved off and ended up anchoring in deep water in the bay for the rest of the night. Bet that was fun especially as it was raining by then….

Thursday morning we returned to SuperU for our provisioning run so walked one way, got some drinking vouchers from the ATM, and then got a taxi back. It was blowing old boots when we got onboard and we recorded 27 knots in our protected spot as we watched huge whitecaps out in the channel. We were going to clean the hull in the afternoon but were put off by the huge numbers of tiny jellyfish in the water – they sting and can cause a nasty rash so we decided that job could wait for another day.

Friday morning we were up bright and early and headed over to the yacht club. At 9.15 our little boat turned up – full of honeymooners from Greece, Italy and the US. Many of them were talking about the cost of the food in their hotels slightly shocked at the £40 (equivalent) cost of a salad lunch!!! So the trip – which included lunch – at only £60 a head for the whole day seemed like a real bargain.

We were introduced to all the family members of the tour company and they proceeded to entertain us with some great ukulele playing and drumming…. They sang an eclectic mix of songs from local Polynesian through to some popular (and annoying!) international tunes that everyone sang along to.

First stop was to the Conrad Hotel to collect a couple more guests and then we went through the channel out onto the reef. We got our snorkelling gear on and did a back roll off the side much to the surprise of the rest of the boat LOL. We immediately swam into loads of trigger fish and black tip sharks. Noho was in the water and started feeding the sharks and then he swam down about 30 feet to the bottom to encourage the much larger lemon sharks to come up to the surface – well he was like the pied piper – they followed him up and then were rewarded with a bit of fish and a pat. There were lots of sharks around and we thoroughly enjoyed being in the water with them although a few came a bit closer than I would have preferred LOL.

Oh yes and Noho could hold his breath for ever….here he is 30 feet down blowing bubbles!!!!

Back on board and the frigate birds came down to see whether there was any food left for them.

Shark feeding over we headed back inside the lagoon and worked our way through the very shallow water around the Matira Point….so shallow that the engine had to be partially raised to clear the bottom less than two feet below us. We admired the beautiful colours of the water out to the reef….not to mention the stunning island of Bora Bora itself.

We then moved on and loved the beautiful hotel rooms set over the stunning water. There didn’t seem to be that many people around though despite the sizes of some of these resorts.

We then went to another spot inside the lagoon to feed the stingrays.  Well…there were lots of them….and they are obviously used to being handled in return for food. The favourite of Noho was called Juliette and he spent most of his time cuddling her. So, of course, we had a go too and even gave her a kiss. But at least there were no tongues involved unlike Noho!

There were loads of rays in the water circling plus the odd shark or two and some of the girls in the group were quite freaked out when the rays brushed up too close looking for a cuddle – so lots of shrieking going on. And of course the new husbands were determined to show they weren’t scared but you could tell there were some nerves there too LOL.

After the ray feeding it was time to move on to the coral garden where we went snorkelling. The coral was actually a bit disappointing but there were some fantastic clams there and some fish just lazing around on the bottom. To make it a bit more interesting there were a few bits of art created by the tour guides.

Then we spotted an octopus. What happened afterwards I wasn’t happy with – the guides dug the octopus out of his hiding place using their snorkels, presumably to avoid his sharp beak. Then they swam away with him while he inked like crazy…. Finally he seemed calmer – or just frightened to death not sure which – and Noho put him on his back and walked around with him. Hmmmm…… I know this is about entertaining his guests but I felt really sorry for the treatment of this beautiful creature although at least they put him back in a hole with a fish for his troubles! If he has any sense he’ll find another place to call home…

Moving on we arrived at a lovely beach surrounded by the shallowest water ever….so shallow that the guys had to walk the boat as the engine could not be deployed. We went ashore – met more family members including Noho’s mum – and had a nice lunch.

After lunch we had a coconut shucking competition which I’m pleased to say that both Richard and I were victorious in our heats before moving onto coconut shell cracking and making milk. Was quite competitive between the Italians and the Greeks LOL.

After a really fun day it was time to speed back to the yacht club.  We quickly went aboard Morphie, got cleaned up, and then returned to the club for sundowners and caught up with Chris who we hadn’t seen for a few days.

While we were sitting there chatting over a beer a guy was rushed in by his friend to the dock asking for urgent medical assistance as he had sliced an artery!!! We paid our bills and left the staff to deal with it. Hopefully he’s alright although I guess that’s his sailing holiday ruined….

Today, Saturday, and I blogged while Richard was in the water cleaning Morphie’s hull and then we came ashore to get internet access. The wind has reduced significantly so we have booked a manta ray dive for tomorrow afternoon – but first we have to move Morphie around the lagoon to the windward side of the island near to the Intercontinental Hotel where the dive centre is located as they will not come and collect us from here. Fingers crossed the mantas will be in residence and we’ll get to see these beautiful creatures up close so we are really looking forward to that.

Bye for now


Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora

Monday morning it was very squally, raining hard, and the wind direction was making our position less than ideal.   So we decided to run across the lagoon eight miles to tuck into Haamene Bay, Tahaa, to get better shelter from the southerlies.   We waited until one major squall and whiteout went through and then headed towards Tahaa working our way through the reef and the numerous cardinal markers.  

We had rain on and off throughout our short passage so we were extra cautious and vigilant going very slowly as it was impossible to read the colour of the water under the heavy cloud-laden sky.   Just as we entered Haamene there was another whiteout so we stooged around until the weather cleared enough for us to see the markers.  

We navigated the channel chicane and ended up quite close to the village at the top of the bay and dropped our hook in 40 feet and got a good set in the mud.    It rained and rained and rained all day…so we didn’t do anything other than keep warm and stay dry…and watch the anchorage turn brown with run off as the rain eased. 

Tuesday morning and it was a bit brighter so we headed ashore. 

First of all, though, we stopped at Sea Bear to see how he was doing.    Last time we saw Chris he had a New Zealand woman on board as crew – well, she had clearly overstated her sailing experience and it hadn’t worked out so he was going to dump her stuff on the dinghy dock.   She had headed off the day before and hadn’t returned overnight – for a backpacker she sure had a lot of stuff!   So we helped take some of her luggage over to the dock to be met by a gendarme who was looking for Chris.     He came ashore – the backpacker turned up looking like she might have slept rough – and we left them to it.  

We found a surprisingly large supermarket in this sleepy village and then sat inside the Post Office – to escape the rain – and got online using their wifi hotspot so we managed to catch up with some emails.   Heading up the street we came across a couple of cows picking through rubbish that was being burnt…..thought they would have been nervous of the flames?!? 

Later on we headed into the snack bar where we found Chris and were relieved to hear that the gendarme had been friendly and there had been no problems – he was very relieved that she had been evicted!    We had a coffee and decided to try the quiche but it was made with some sort of fish.  It was all very strange but not as weird as the chow mein baguettes that were on offer and were selling fast LOL.   We headed back to Morphie and spent the rest of the day on board.   I cooked and did a bit of cleaning as Chris came over for dinner in the evening and we had a nice time catching up.

Wednesday morning as the weather had cleared we could enjoy the sights of this beautiful anchorage.  We decided to move on leaving Chris behind as we had identified a ‘Coral Garden’ on the west side of Tahaa close to an anchorage in Tapuama Bay.    We picked up our anchor, exited the bay, and turned left to go across the top of the island.    It was surprisingly windy out there…..with a lot of chop inside the lagoon……but we enjoyed looking at the different motus, the colours of the water, and the fancy hotel sitting over the reef with Bora Bora behind.   

We looked at the shallow sandy anchorage for the Coral Gardens and decided not to drop the hook as the angle of the wind at this point meant that the reef would be a lee shore and that isn’t something we’d ever do out of choice.   So we moved on to Tapuamu Bay and were hopeful of getting a mooring ball there as the anchorage is 100+ foot deep and the bottom is solid rock.    Sadly there were only three balls which were all taken – and the supply ship was in – so we carried on exploring the coast.  

Around 2ish we finally pulled into Hurepiti Bay and picked up a mooring there which belonged to Vanilla Tours.  According to our guide we can stay on these overnight for a price or for free if we took the plantation tour.   So, being good law-abiding citizens, we radioed them once we were settled and told them we were there.   They told us straight away to move and refused us permission to stay on the ball overnight.   Damn!!!!   

We checked out the rest of the bay but the holding was poor with lots of rocks in mud so we carried on….after letting the huge motorboat Plan B with his helicopter go by first…… 

By now we were heading towards the bottom of Tahaa having virtually circumnavigated the whole island.  Not what we had planned when we set out in the morning that’s for sure.  But never mind we had enjoyed the views – including our first sight of Bora Bora – and were delighted to find a mooring ball free in Apu Bay.   We picked it up and got settled again.  We telephoned the restaurant ashore to find that they were doing a typical Polynesian dinner buffet with a show for £50 a head but sadly they weren’t open for sundowners.  We decided not to partake and had a quiet evening on board instead.

Thursday morning and the wind was still blowing at 25+ knots so we decided not to head to Bora Bora – we could see the huge waves breaking over the reef and the disturbed conditions in the passes.   We were nodding a bit in the fetch so picked up another mooring ball closer to shore which gave us more protection.   It wasn’t a totally lazy day on board as we did manage to do the laundry and Richard patched dink yet again….

Later on in the afternoon a skiff came by….and it was the owner of the mooring ball which belonged to a local pearl farm.  We asked him how much we owed him and he was happy for us to stay for free but asked that we vacate by the morning as he had guests coming.  No worries…..thank you.   We had a quiet night on board and were disappointed by the next weather download as the expected lull was moving further away.  Chris had also joined us by now as the anchorage in Haamene had turned nasty…….

Friday morning and the wind was blowing old boots again and had swung more easterly so we needed to find another spot with more protection.  So we dropped the mooring ball and had a feisty sail in 25 knots of breeze across the lagoon and returned to Apooiti Bay, Raiatea.   This got us out of the fetch and put us in close proximity to another pass through the reef.  

The difference in the day was stunning!  

We decided to go ashore and walked towards the airport – trying to hitch a ride but no-one stopped for us.  We arrived at the airport and found a taxi which then took us into the main town of Utora.   We wandered around this small town and admired the colonial-style properties and the waterfront area.   We found a bar / restaurant called Cubana and enjoyed a few hours having lunch and listening to the great live music 

We then went shopping in the large Champion supermarket as it was across the way, hopped into another taxi, and returned to Morphie.   Chris told us, on our return, that the harbour master had been looking for us to pay for the mooring but, of course, he had now gone home for the evening.  Oh well….    We had a nice evening in the cockpit and an early night.

We got up really early on Saturday morning, delighted that the conditions had calmed down, and prepared ourselves to leave for Bora Bora.   Richard decided to go ashore to pay for the mooring ball so slipped the cash in an envelope under the harbour master’s door….  We could easily have left without paying but the gendarmes don’t have much to do here and the last thing we needed was someone waiting to give us grief in Bora Bora for the sake of £14! 

By 8 am we had dropped the mooring ball and motored out towards the pass….we got through easily although were amazed by the size of the rollers coming in despite the eased conditions.   Can’t imagine what it would have been like earlier in the week! 

The 29 mile passage to Bora Bora was disappointing….very rolly and swelly….with very light airs and really not enough wind to get us sailing properly.  We decided to motorsail under a full genoa and make water at the same time.   By now we could see Sea Bear ahead of us and we were gaining ground on him – he had three full sails up and was going along quite nicely considering the wind speeds.   Took a while to get this photo though as he kept disappearing into the swell LOL.

We passed Chris and headed towards Bora Bora and, at one point, we took the sail down and then suddenly we got 15 knots so we pulled it back out and sped away.    We followed the contour of the reef to the outer marker and turned towards the entrance.   We edged in gently aided by the sun high in the sky so we could see the shallows and cleared into the lagoon.    

The Bora Bora Yacht Club was just to our left so we made our way there and picked up a mooring ball.  It is too deep to anchor here in over 150 feet of water just off the shore line…..   We got dink down from the davits and reinstalled his motor and watched Chris arriving through the pass being chased down by a huge catamaran – so Richard went to the last mooring ball and held onto it – the catamaran thankfully took off in the other direction and Richard helped Chris tie up.   Great all secure…..and despite some wake from fast ferries and fishing boats….the water is lovely and flat. 

Later on we headed into the Bora Bora Yacht Club and had a look around.    Chris joined us and we had a few beers.  We were going to eat dinner ashore but the restaurant over the waterfront was more of a fine dining experience than we had anticipated and, although we will eat there at some point, we really wanted something simple to soak up the beer.  So we returned to Morphie and ate on board. 

This morning, Sunday, and we are having a lazy start.    The weather forecast is depressing reading so, after a nice night here, it looks like we’ll be moving on behind a motu today to try and get some protection from the high winds expected tomorrow for about a week.   Looking forward to exploring Bora Bora properly once the weather calms down – I particularly want to see the manta rays.   So feel quite excited to be here.


Bye for now


Huahine to Raiatea

Wednesday early evening we picked up Chris from Sea Bear and went ashore for a beer….which turned into a bit of a session…and we returned quite late.  It was really nice to catch up and have an evening off the boat.

Thursday we started later than planned and really couldn’t get into it – so jumped into the water for a swim to liven ourselves up.  Whilst there we decided to give the hull a clean so spent an hour or so doing that.  Later on Richard ran ashore to arrange for a hire car for Friday and to buy some petrol for the generator while I stayed put.   We followed up a lazy day with a nice evening listening to tunes and relaxing on board.

Friday morning we were up early, collected Chris, and headed into town to pick up the car.  By 9.30 am it was all ours…a little Ford Fiesta….and Richard had to remember how to drive a manual gearbox again LOL.     

We set off around Huahine Nui (the big island) in a clockwise direction on surprisingly good roads and first stop was the archaeological sites which had been discovered, destroyed in a cyclone in the early 90s, and rebuilt.   Were the biggest examples we had seen on this trip so far and the little museum was pretty interesting – my favourite was the ancient fishing hooks made out of mother of pearl. 

Moving on we drove along the shore of Lake Fauna Nui and admired the fish traps which are used to trap the fish in the lagoon by the rise and fall of the tide.   Then we headed to see the Art Gallery which was run by an American called Melanie although all of her subjects were locals – I loved the amazing faces with the full crowns of flowers and some of the less staged pieces of art.  Sadly not really practical to buy during this type of journey but we certainly enjoyed our visit to the gallery.

We then continued inland to Faie where we saw the sacred eels – these are black with blue eyes – and actually look a bit evil LOL.   They are living in a sort of culvert which has water running through all the time but there really isn’t much water for them to live in as you can see by the pictures – kind of interesting that they stay and breed here.   Some of them were huge!

Continuing around the big island we went up in the hills and came across a view point – Belvedere de Maroe – and enjoyed the sights across Maroe Bay towards Huahine Iti (the small island).    We then crossed over a bridge and headed around to another view point looking across the ocean at the different colours.  

Whilst driving around we came across some fishermen who had just come back with their catch – so had a chat with them – and saw that they really just eat anything that comes out of the sea.  They had caught some parrots, some triggers, other reef fish and a good supply of conch.   We realised they were feeding the fish scraps to a pig tethered in the water – I asked if they were fattening him up for food and they were shocked!   “No, he is domesticated like our dogs, he is a pet.  We would not eat him.”   And just to prove it they gave him a bath in the sea and then took him home on a lead LOL.

Moving on we went to the Pareo House where they showed us how they made the cloths that they use for sarong-type dresses here – was interesting and I liked some of the designs – but thought that the prices were a bit steep.   We then went to Avea Bay and saw the wrecked catamaran still sitting there on the reef getting bashed by the waves.  

We headed into the hotel to check out the beach restaurant but the guests looked us up and down like something they had trodden in so we decided against staying for lunch – it felt very unwelcoming – despite the lovely surroundings.

We then headed to Chez Tara Restaurant which came highly recommended by Parker on our boat tour the other day to find that it was closed because of a family bereavement.   So we headed back towards the top of the small island and took a detour to Haapu where we found a small local restaurant where we had lunch.  My plate of tuna could easily have fed two people.   It was absolutely delicious.

Heading back towards Fare we still had time to spare so headed into another hotel to check it out – it was very fancy with a nice pool and great views over the anchorage.  And, unlike the other one, it was very welcoming and we were able to wander at will.   Afterwards we went to the shell museum which was a local guy’s own collection.  Was really interesting with a huge variety of all shapes and sizes and certainly educational as there was one shell which is a common sight here which we didn’t know carries a critter that has enough toxin in its spike to kill you….and it doesn’t hurt apparently when you get pricked either.   Will definitely not be picking up any shells in the shallows any time soon!

Back to Fare and we returned the car…..we did a bit of shopping….and the returned to Morphie.  We got cleaned up and headed back to the Yacht Club as there was supposed to be live music.  We enjoyed happy hour and another spectacular sunset but the band never showed so we gave up around 7.30.

Saturday morning we picked up anchor.  It was quite difficult as it had got wrapped around a rock but the water was so clear I was able to direct Richard at the helm and we got it back on the bow without having to resort to jumping in the water.   We headed out through the pass and said goodbye to Huahine and had the most wonderful passage of 24 miles on a beam reach in 12 knots of breeze under a blue sky…..    We both really enjoyed it.

We arrived at the outside reef at Raiatea and worked our way through the pass and headed into Faaroa Bay and found a spot to anchor in about 50 feet.   This was another lovely mountainous anchorage and flat calm so we enjoyed the rest of the day on board.

Sunday morning we took off in dink up the Aoppomau River – which was lovely although a tad shallow in places.  

Absolutely stunning scenery although very little in the way of bird life which surprised us. We had read lots about this place and, apparently, most people get a tour from a local guy who then supplies them with copious amounts of fruits and vegetables.  Well, of course, he wasn’t there today – perhaps in church? – so we navigated as far as we could and then returned to Morphie without any goodies.   Despite the absence of the tour it was a lovely little excursion.

On our return we picked up anchor and headed off out of the bay. 

We planned to stop at Uturoa – the main town on the island – but couldn’t find a suitable shallow enough spot to drop the hook and didn’t want to go into the marina or pick up their mooring balls – so continued on through the lagoon towing dink behind us.    The scenery here in the lagoon is just spectacular!

We then looked at the Carenage area where there are haul out and boat facilities – with the fuel polishing idea in mind – but the anchorage was full of derelict boats and after our experience in Key West we’re a little wary of them.    So we turned around and headed back towards Apooiti which is the marina home of the Moorings fleet.   We picked up one of their mooring balls and enjoyed having internet access again via a hotspot – despite its terrible speed!

Later on we headed into the marina to have a look around.   The bar/restaurant on the map was derelict, the other bar/restaurant was closed until the 18 August, and the rest of the place was shut up too.    Hmmmm……Le Weekend strikes again!      Richard is going to try to talk to the guys in the Carenage and/or marina Monday about the fuel and, if we can’t get that organised, we’ll just move on.    According to the latest weather forecast, we shouldn’t continue moving west until next Tuesday at the earliest anyway.   

This morning – Monday – we were up early after a windy and slightly rolly night.   There is another island inside this huge lagoon, called Tahaa, which we will probably move to later on as we can get better protection from the weather there.   But  it looks pretty quiet – and Richard is getting a bit bored with the whole experience despite the obvious natural beauty and culture as there are very few opportunities to socialise outside of tours / hotels.   After Tahaa, Bora Bora is our final destination in the French Polynesian chain, so looking forward to seeing that iconic ‘jewel’ and, fingers crossed, maybe even getting a bit of diving and socialising in! 

Bye for now


Mo’Orea to Huahine

Friday afternoon we had completed all our pre-passage checks and re-provisioned so we headed into the Bali Hai for a final bobbing session in the pool.   We then returned for an early night on board.

Saturday morning we had a late start – hoisted the outboard onto the rail and put dink on the bow – before eating an early dinner.   The wind had picked up, as forecast, and we were looking forward to a good overnight passage.   We picked up anchor around 5ish and headed out through the pass saying a sad farewell to Cook’s Bay and Mo’Orea.  

The winds were 15-20 knots on our starboard beam so we decided to sail under a reefed down genoa only….and glad we did as the wind then picked up to 30 knots and stayed that way for a while mostly dead downwind.   

The seas were large and confused and we were being bounced around again.  Oh well….then of course the heavens opened up with horizontal rain from behind, which we had no shelter from.   Nice sunset though despite the squally conditions.

We went into our shift patterns but neither of us slept very well – I think we were both slightly anxious to get this passage under our belt.    The Mayday Relay heard in the night didn’t alleviate anxiety levels either although the French language was spoken way too fast for us to understand….I worked out that the incident was nearby but that was about it.    The Coastguard had it under control so we weren’t unduly worried but it felt wrong to just listen as the drama unfolded.

As the sun came up Sunday morning we were still being pushed around by strong currents and could see the mountainous island of Huahine ahead.   This island is completely surrounded by reef and only has a few navigable passes and we were heading for the main one in the north west near the main settlement of Fare.    We stayed well offshore as we knew that the charts were inaccurate.   Finally we reached the entrance to the cut – although the markers are actually half way inside the channel rather than marking the edge – and worked out way into the anchorage.   We dropped anchor in 17 foot of pale blue water and got a good set straight away.   Yay!

Due to lack of sleep overnight we decided to stay put for the day and just enjoy the vista.   This island is mountainous and wild and has just the coast road running around it – with many communities accessible by boat only.   The water is crystal clear to the extent that we can see the anchor chain laying on the sand beneath us…….   We had an interesting afternoon on board with 30+ knot winds howling through followed by torrential rain which cleared up as quickly as it arrived.  Apparently the unsettled weather was due to this area being squashed between a front and the convergence zone.    Later on we went for a snorkel and showered off the back – and sat and watched the sun go down whilst having a couple of celebratory beers on board before having an early night.

Monday morning we got dink off the bow and the outboard reinstalled and then headed into Fare.  We tied up at the very nice dinghy dock and then wandered the town.  Well, it is tiny!   It has a couple of banks, a couple of restaurants, a public beach and a yacht club….  Plus a huge supermarket which must feed the whole island as it is so close to the main quay where the supply ships tie up. 

If you look at the mountains… will see it resembles a woman lying down….and this the island where the Disney film Moana’s ending is based upon.   We had a couple of beers in the yacht club at Happy Hour prices and then decided to stay for dinner.  We had some great food – steak for me, fish for Richard – and we loved the dauphinoise potatoes and green beans….just a shame that everything turned up tepid.  Oh well, never mind.    We watched the sun go down on a nice day and returned to Morphie for the night.

Tuesday morning we were up early and headed into the yacht club.  We had organised a boat trip out for the day.   Seemed a shame to pay for a boat tour but this takes us to places that are not navigable with Morphie or within range of dink so we are going to be tourists for the day!   The boat headed towards us….and it was a little outrigger…..and it was full of French tourists.   

They clearly weren’t going to speak English to communicate with us so they left it up to the captain Parker to make us welcome…..    As we were the last ones to board he took to his ukulele (which are made here in the islands) and sang us a nice song from the comfort of his captain’s seat.

We took off down the coast admiring the lush mountainous hills….the isolated motus (islands)…the occasional resort….and then turned towards the channel between the top island Huahine and the bottom island Huahine Iti.   We enjoyed the shallows and the views and went under the road bridge that joined the two together.   Then we headed to a small motu where we did some snorkelling.   The coral wasn’t very exciting and the fish were skittish but we enjoyed being in the water.

Back on board and we took off towards a pearl farm going past many isolated communities which are only accessible from the sea.   We had to navigate very carefully through the very shallow water….and eventually tied to the pearl farm’s dock.  

We had a wander around the shop and I was not tempted to purchase any pearls as I had already bought my lifetime’s allocation in Tahiti – or so Richard reckoned anyway LOL – and we were treated to an explanation of how pearls are made.   As there were only three English speakers in the group – the other being a Dutch guy – we had a good question and answer session.   Fascinating stuff……   Interesting facts – did you know that the mantle creates the mother of pearl inside the oyster shell?  And they have no control over the colour – each is unique to itself.   They carve a ball from an old oyster shell and then transplant that, and a piece of mantle, into the gonads (seriously that is what they call the reproductive organs!).  

The oyster then is put back in the water for 18 months and either turns the ball into a beautiful pearl or spits it out and rejects it.   The oysters that refuse to grow pearls have shell balls glued into their shell which, over time, become covered in mother-of-pearl and then are turned into shell jewellery. 

Many pearls end up misshapen with the rarest ones being those that are perfectly round and without imperfections.   This transplantation can happen up to four times so you can see that to make a large perfect pearl takes a lot of time and patience and a little luck!

We all got back on board the boat again and headed to another motu which was going to be our lunch destination….all kitted out with picnic benches in the water and umbrellas.   The beach itself was made of old coral rather than sand.   Great spot for lunch!  

We were surprised to find that beer was generously included in the day’s trip so we had a couple and watched Parker prepare Poisson Cru, the national dish of French Polynesia.  This is raw white tuna (can be any fish I think) which is first coated in lime juice.   Then you mix in carrots, cucumber and onions.   Then squeeze coconut milk from fresh grated coconut and give it a stir.  Voila!    The buffet also included some chicken, rice, salad, bread and copious amounts of fresh fruit.  Was a veritable feast and we thoroughly enjoyed it and a few cold ones while we chatted with the Dutch guy who was travelling alone and had been feeling a little bit fed up as the French wouldn’t speak to him either.

Oh yes…and we have found out that this is where the teletubbies come on holiday…think this might be Dipsy and LaLa LOL!!!!   

After a few hours, including some bobbing, we were royally entertained again before getting back onboard and continued towards the top of the island.  

We looked out to sea and ended up going past the wreck of our friends’ catamaran on the reef – what a sad end to a fine boat – and it looked OK despite the fact that we knew it was damaged beyond repair.   Shows the real dangers of navigating in this region at night….

Back towards Fare we continued to admire the scenery and the face in the rock….and saw that Morphie was still happy on anchor.  

We went through the anchorage out towards the reef and tied up to an old boat anchored just inside the reef and got off onto a viewing platform.  Time to feed the sharks!   Well, actually, it is time for us tourists to watch the sharks getting fed and we were told to keep behind a roped off area….   Had never seen so many black-tipped reef sharks in one place and they were swimming around us, towards us and behind us.  But never really felt threatened…..  Was a great experience although some of the kids were freaked out by it LOL. 

Back to land and we were dropped off, we had a couple of beers in the Yacht Club watching a young girl – maybe six year’s old – going up and down on a wakeboard.   Future champion we reckon!!!   We had a lovely day.

This morning, Wednesday, we were up early….   We did all the laundry by hand – including the sheets this time – as I refuse to pay £20+ for one washing machine load plus more for drying!   So Morphie had washing hanging from every conceivable drying space.    Richard cleaned the racor fuel filter again…we have some sludge appearing each time we are in a big rolly sea….so think there must be sediment in the bottom of the tank.  We may try to get the fuel polished and the tank cleaned at our next island stop as they have facilities there….     Anyway, we’ve also made water, downloaded weather and other boat jobs.    Sea Bear has just arrived into the anchorage and we have arranged to have a beer with Chris later.   

Bye for now