•Tuesday, 28 March 2023 • Leave a Comment

A lovely relaxed sail across the 10 miles from Hiva Oa to Tahuata through the Bordelaise Channel. We spied coconut tree fringed beaches – beautiful white sand – very different to the black volcanic sand on the island we had just left. We sauntered along the coast line until we found a bay we could have to ourselves and weighed anchor. The joy of a calm anchorage, clear blue water and the possibility of a swim to the beach to explore. This is what I call a holiday and I resolved to do no jobs and simply enjoy the moment!

Snorkelling was fabulous – so much to see and all so close to the boat. A wander along the empty beach and a lovely lie in the sun listening to my audio book. Heaven. Apéros, large G&T’s and a beautiful sunset … perfect.

We planned to move to Ua Pou Island the next day thinking it was about 40 miles away so a leisurely start … in fact, as we got organised to leave at 9.30am after our fresh mango and banana breakfast, Cap P realised it was 65 miles away and had we left then, we would be arriving in the dark … never a good idea in unknown waters. Obviously, we have got far too relaxed about planning. I was disappointed … a) I had spent more than an hour packing up and getting ready and b) I had got excited about our next destination and realised our visit would now be a really short one. Still … another day in paradise was not such a bad option and having got over myself, I set to work planning the next few destinations (having learnt our lesson), snorkelling and then cleaning the boat hull from the water. I am a bit more than half way round now so some good progress.

We set sail this morning at 4.30am … we will be at Ua Pou early afternoon. So far, a relaxed sail … Ua Pou looks magnificent from 20 miles away as I write.

Ua Pou

Mavi Mai (welcome) Hiva Oa!

•Sunday, 26 March 2023 • 5 Comments

OMG … we are actually here! Huge excitement as the sun rose on Wednesday morning (my watch) and the land emerged in the dawn. A sight for sore eyes. Janie on deck to share the joy; both of us snapping away – how many sun rise photos is too many??

We dropped anchor at 0950 to much applause from fellow arc sailors already there and immediately popped the champagne … an epic journey … the longest passage we will ever do. Definitely worth celebrating! We were all tired but somehow it was like Christmas Day … so excited and lots to do in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the beautiful remote island of Hiva Oa.

First things first though – we had to check in, customs and immigration. There is always a very long list of jobs that need doing fast – we will only have 2 or 3 days on this island so we need fuel, provisions, money, laundry, gas bottles filled, generator looked at by a professional. Mistral has a filthy hull and needs a good clean – weird, as we thought the sea was clean but no … it turns out that in spite of paying a fortune for anti-fouling, barnacles and all sorts of other stuff attaches itself. Ugh. We also want to see the island and explore. All this and each time we go ashore, we have to take our lives in our hands getting into the tender in our happy but quite rolly anchorage!

We booked ourselves into the only fabulous hotel in the island for dinner (Macron was there 2 weeks ago!) and got ourselves organised. Dinner was indeed fabulous – gorgeous hotel with stunning views and great food. So happy to be speaking French again and enjoying some french food and wine albeit with a Polynesian twist!

Gaugin lived in Hiva Oa in the last few years of his life and there is a delightful museum built in the grounds of his home on the island with copies of much of his work. Day 2 started with a visit to Gaugin and an exploration of the main village (definitely not a town). I spent the afternoon cleaning the hull – quite tricky as I had to fix lines around the boat that I could hang onto from the water with one hand and scrub the hull with the other. The joys of boat ownership.

Day 3, Patrick, Janie and I joined some friends for a tour of the island. Chris guarded the boat and worked with the engineer on the generator. The island is like a lost paradise – lush, green and totally uninhabited. There is a single track road going to the north of the island where we visited the remains of a Polynesian village with the tiki’s (sculptures) for which the archipelago of the Marquesas is famous. Quite stunning. Hiva Oa is applying for UNESCO status for the ruins and they deserve it. We finished the day back at the fab hotel where there was a fiesta with a fantastic display of traditional dancing. The men (v hot!) performing dances akin to the New Zealand Hakka performed at rugby matches with the women in grass skirts belly dancing. Gorgeous and a lot of fun.

Today we move on … destination Tahuata – just 10 miles from Hiva Oa. More excitement to come …

View from hotel into the bay

400 miles to go …

•Monday, 20 March 2023 • 2 Comments

We are still trucking along – between 5 and 8 knots depending on the winds – which, by the way, are totally fickle and very annoying. We are up and down frequently, trying to sail as well as we can and stop the sails flapping and flailing as the wind is directly behind us much of the time. Apart from the sails misbehaving, Mistral has been seriously rocking and rolling … wearing when we are trying to do anything at all although good for the core and building balance. Every cloud/silver linings??

So what’s the news? There is always drama. Very sadly, one of the Arc boats had a medical emergency with one of the crew having a stroke. Everyone pulled together offering advice, support, fuel and help to get the best placed boat to transport the patient to land asap. A power cruising boat was close by and stepped in. The patient was transferred safely and we learnt today that a slow recovery has begun. Scary stuff.

On Mistral, we have some of our own challenges! The generator has failed. We have worked on it each day to try to resolve the issue and had good advice from other Arc boats. In spite of all efforts, we still haven’t sorted it – it’s frustrating and is bad news for 2 reasons – firstly we can’t make water so we now have to seriously economise on our water usage, and secondly, we have to use the engine to recharge the batteries of the boat every day. We will all be smelly when we arrive – yuk! On the bright side, we have 3 days to go and the water tanks were full so there is no real crisis.

We have continued to eat well … I am baking bread as we ran out; fresh fruit has long gone and we are down to 1/4 of a cabbage, 1 carrot, 4 potatoes and onions by way of veg. The freezer is low but we still have a banana cake (made in Galapagos), frozen tuna and mahi-mahi… we will not starve! I made flapjacks this morning just to be sure.

We have had no joy with the fishing rods recently – several bites but the buggers manage to jump off the line before we can reel them in. Today I am going all out – we have 2 fishing rods out for the first time – my tuna slayer is on as a lure so I am feeling optimistic! Patrick is now beating me at cribbage – definitely not chivalrous given that I taught him to play! And I have finally started to draw – I am hopeless but have been encouraged to start by Laura K. Chris is still ordering stuff from Amazon when ever he gets a chance in his spare time. Nothing new there!

On a slightly more ethereal note, the night skies are stunning – I’m learning about the stars and planets and have managed to nail Venus and the Southern Cross so far. Obviously, a lot more to go but I am loving the expanse of the skies – every day and night is different and really beautiful in the panoply of colours, the shape of the clouds and the vastness of everything that surrounds us.

I am hoping that my next blog post will be our arrival in Hiva Oa … praying to the wind gods …

A rescue mission

•Tuesday, 14 March 2023 • 7 Comments

At 4pm, as the duty net controller, Chris began the daily High Frequency (HF) radio roll call for the Arc Fleet and immediately received an emergency message. Sailing Vessel (SV) Rain Dancer (not one of our fleet) had been hit by a whale and sunk. The crew of 4 people were in their life raft and we had their last known co-ordinates.

The message came to SV Far – one of the Arc Fleet. They were closest to a boat called Southern Cross, who had received the May Day call. Chris spoke to every vessel in our fleet to share information and work through how the fleet could help. Chris’s years of handling emergencies through the radio on aeroplanes really showed through – he was fab. Mistral was 60 miles away – the second or third nearest boat to the life raft co-ordinates. Along with 6 other Arc boats, we changed course – heading south as fast as we were able. Chris suggested the fleet speak on the radio every hour on the hour to keep everyone updated.

As we changed our sails, the wind picked up and we were able to sail at 8.5 to 9 knots (faster than engine speed) into the night in a fine reach. We were conscious that the 4 souls in the life raft had already had 2 hours in it and faced the night stranded.

SV Rolling Stone was closest (a non Arc vessel) and estimated their eta at 9.15pm. Far was next at 12.45 and us at 12.50 – 6 to 7 hours away. If there had to be a search, there were going to be several boats available. The US Coast Guard was contacted along with the Joint Rescue Control Centre and the Peruvian Navy. A cargo tanker was within 50 miles and was also asked to assist. The Star Link internet contact was invaluable. A WhatsApp group was set up for all those involved in the rescue mission. The messages came through thick and fast. A mix of information, support and emotion.

On Mistral, we continued our watch rota – Chris tried to get rest so he would be alert as we approached the last known co-ordinates. I stayed with the communications – listening out for progress. The first really positive news came through when SV Rain Dancer connected to a boat via their handheld electronic tracker – we had new co-ordinates. The tracker can also receive messages so Southern Cross was able to communicate with Rain Dancer – they knew a rescue mission was underway. I can’t imagine how much of a relief that must have been to those in the life raft. You hope the electronics are sending your position out over the air waves, but it’s an act of faith until someone is able to actually make contact.

The next big news came when Rolling Stone announced she had Rain Dancer in her sights on the AIS – it was 8.59pm. Rolling Stone was 5 miles away. At 10.13pm, SV Rolling Stone had all 4 crew safely on board – healthy and happy to be there. Thank God.

Huge relief through the Arc Fleet. Although we had not been needed on this occasion, it was clear that our support had been invaluable to Rolling Stone and others on the mission. Knowing that there are others close by to help when you are 2000 miles from anywhere is huge – it’s a privilege to be part of this amazing sailing community.

Our final task before re-setting our sails and heading west again was to ensure everyone on the fleet who was helping knew the rescue had been made. Only half the boats have Star Link, so the other half rely on VHF radio or HF radio. 2 more calls from Chris at 11pm and midnight along with an email to the fleet and we were done. I slept for a couple of hours before my watch at 4am. Another beautiful sun rise. Another day dawned. We are 1200 miles from our destination. The day promises to be a good one.

Losing count …

•Sunday, 12 March 2023 • 7 Comments

Yee ha! We passed the half way mark at 2am today. Finally, we are counting down rather than up. Bloody hell … this is a long passage and I am losing all sense of time. Today we will celebrate with a small glass of wine to go with our roast chicken dinner … I can not wait! Definitely feeling the need for that glass of cold Rioja.

More excitement today as we change all the laundry – clean everything for the second half. I know … small things but there are standards on this boat!

We are getting more adventurous with our sails. Today we managed to get the cruising chute up (our biggest, lightest and most colourful sail). It took 2 hours and 3 attempts before we finally had it. Patrick and I had a significant work out trying to haul the snuffer up the sail (the snuffer is like a long condom covering the sail – as you roll it back, the sail is released and unfurls). Having only got the snuffer half way up twice and having used all our strength to do so, we lowered the sail back down to the deck to discover the shackle at the very top of the sail had been damaged. Hey ho … there is always a reason things are hard. 3rd time lucky and hooray – it looks fabulous. Vindicated in my recommendation to spend 2 hours getting the sail up (Captain P had just got out of bed and wasn’t enthusiastic!), I was keen to build on my success. What about poling the Genoa out on the other side of the boat? Another first for Mistral. Finally we are flying!! Well … not exactly flying but definitely going at least 1 to 2 knots faster than we have been in incredibly light winds. I’m really pleased … we have seen some of our fellow Arc sailors racing past us and haven’t been able to work it out … more creativity on the sail plan might be the answer!

Onward, onward … Groundhog Day again.

PS cribbage championship not going quite to plan – Patrick is 3/2 up … grrr … 😖

Celebrating 1000nm – 2000nm to go!

•Wednesday, 8 March 2023 • 9 Comments

On passage – day 7 … 2100 miles to go

•Wednesday, 8 March 2023 • 6 Comments

Hooray!! We have the trade winds. We picked the wind up yesterday morning – 10 to 12 knots of consistent breeze. Thank the lord for that … we have been sailing on a beam reach ever since. Mistral is gliding through the water and the rock and roll is significantly reduced. We are on course for the Marquesas Islands and all feeling much happier with life.

We had a second hairy night before we picked the wind up – massive thunderstorms, fork lightening, heavy rain and no light with black swirling cloud everywhere. Chris and I were up and down into the cockpit every hour or so – sails in and out, course corrections to try and avoid the worst of the weather. The radar was lighting up in orange and red everywhere – very unusual and somewhat scary. My watch from 4am to 7pm was positively miserable – cold, soaking wet and no visibility apart from lightening 5 miles away. Hugely relieved to see the sunrise and a couple of hours later, the breeze started to blow. We’ve had heavy cloud cover for quite sometime but pleased to report, the sky is finally starting to lighten and we’ve seen some blue with the sun working hard to poke through.

With very little sleep and the lurgy, Chris and I felt under the weather most of yesterday but a better night followed by scrambled eggs on toast has seen us both in better spirits. So today, after boat chores (changing water filters, deck checks, washing, cleaning etc), the cribbage challenge continued (Patrick and me), celestial navigation activity began again (Patrick and Chris) along with some music and reading. Happy days!

PS I forgot to mention we spotted a short finned pilot whale the other day – looks a bit like a dolphin but much longer (twice as long) and with 2 fins. Janie is definitely the David Attenborough of our boat!

On passage – Day 5

•Sunday, 5 March 2023 • 5 Comments

Praying to the wind gods … we are still without wind and motoring. We have used half our fuel. We thought we had hit the trade winds last night and had the sails out for 2 hours with 10 to 12 knots of true wind but then the wind died. Back to motoring for an hour and then sailing again for a couple more hours. More motoring and another couple of hours blast until 4am when the wind disappeared. We have been on the motor since then. It’s been pouring with rain with heavy cloud so a bit of a miserable night without much sleep as we were up and down getting sails in and out. We have 2400 nm to go.

Many of the fleet boats are in the trades now – they are east of us and further south. We are closer to the Marquesas but need to get further south. We should find those pesky trade winds later today. In the meantime we are wallowing about with only 4 knots of wind. Rubbish.

We are definitely in a passage routine now. We eat together twice a day – cooked brunch around 11am and dinner at 5.30pm – just before our call with the rest of the fleet and before the sunsets. Our big news yesterday was fishing news – we caught an enormous tuna! Patrick gutted and filleted it so it was ceviche followed by super fresh loin of tuna – wonderful! We have enough for another 3 meals in the freezer. The wind gods are not being kind but Neptune has been good (as he should be given the sail we sacrificed to the sea across the Atlantic!)

The throat lurgy has now moved to Patrick so 3 of us not on top form but we are eating well, sleeping when we can and have just started to play some cards and some backgammon. Honestly, very little downtime on this boat!

Tech Blog Update

•Friday, 3 March 2023 • 1 Comment

I have got to the bottom of why my photos won’t load … I need to upgrade my site membership! Now done and I will reload the last 3 posts so the lovely photos get published.

Santa Cruz – the last few days …

•Wednesday, 1 March 2023 • 8 Comments

It’s been a while and there’s a lot to report! We’ve had a lovely time.

Chris and I had our day out at North Seymour – a tiny uninhabited island north of Santa Cruz. It was a really special day. A bus ride to the north of Santa Cruz where we were ferried to a big catamaran for the 45 minute trip to North Seymour. En route, at least 50 dolphins jumping and playing with us – a spectacular sight. And onto the island itself – I felt like I was David Attenborough! We were greeted by blue footed boobies followed by Magnificent Frigates mating, Santa Cruz gulls guarding their eggs, Golden Iguanas, sea lions, turtles and dolphins in stunning surroundings. Next stop was a snorkelling tour … words can’t describe it… starfish, manta rays, parrot fish, sharks, so much sea life … it was as if I was starring in Finding Nemo! Delicious lunch on board followed by a visit to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen … and I have seen a few! Pink flamingoes, red and orange crabs, pelicans feeding on white sand, azure sea, blue sky and a lush green backdrop. Truly we were privileged to be there. A perfect day celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary!

Janie and Patrick joined us on Monday – we were all excited! So glad they are here as preparations are so much easier with 4. Janie and I did fruit and veg provisioning whilst Patrick and Chris changed oil filters; skippers briefing at 4pm, and prize giving with drinks followed by dinner. We came in 2nd on the leg to San Cristobel and were awarded a prize for winning the eta competition on the leg from Santa Marta to the San Blas Islands – all good causes to celebrate!

The following day (the day before we left) we were up early to get the main sail out to check all was well – you may remember that a piece of metal had fallen from the sky and bounced into the water when we crossed from Isabela to Santa Cruz. We couldn’t see anything amiss but wanted to check and sure enough … the swivel that furls the sail in and out had broken – a big bolt had flown out and the thing had fallen apart. Bugger. I went up the mast and having identified the problem had a wobble about staying up and trying to fix it. Bad memories of mast swinging! Luckily for us, one of our friends from Amanzi (the lovely Ron) had come over to help Chris change the engine oil and was happy to volunteer to go to the top. Our challenge … get the sail down manually so that the swivel could be brought down to boat level to be fixed. Patrick went ashore to find a new bolt. Janie was designated to go ashore to get passports to immigration. Chris and Ron changed the oil in the engine in the meantime. A super team effort. We were hugely relieved to have a working mainsail.

As an aside, every time we need to go ashore, we have to hail a water taxi on the vhf radio. The system works but honestly, you take your life in your hands every time you leap into one as it revs itself close to the boat. Especially challenging when holding 30 eggs in a tray (for example!) or several loads of seriously heavy supplies!

To continue with our story … briefing/training for Patrick and Janie all pm whilst I cooked, cleaned and packed the boat ready for our 3 week sailing marathon. Dinner on board, a robust conversation on Covid followed by an early night!

Today is the day. We got up early again to get the (new) code zero sail ready (early morning before the wind gets up) and put the vertical batons into the mainsail (too windy the day before). Mission accomplished, we waited for the 5 inspectors to visit us – essential to be signed off before we could leave. Loads of paperwork later, a narcotics agent searching my underwear drawer whilst an environment inspector looked into the freezer and we were signed off. We planned to weigh anchor at 1215 ready for the 1pm start.

And hey ho … would you believe it (of course you would!), the anchor chain was rammed tight below the surface. Nothing we did would move it. We called a diver and sat to wait, watching our friends cross the start line and begin their big journey. So frustrating and such a disappointment. A happy ending to this particular tale however. An hour later as a water taxi came by to see what he could do, we tried again and miracle of miracles, the chain lifted! 45 minutes late over the line. We are excited to be going. The fleet are ahead of us but we will catch up I’m sure. Our new code zero is flying beautifully … please god let it last!