Shark Attack

Well that got your attention. Happy to report no people were involved but an inflatable kayak owned by our buddies Bill and Kate was munched. Boaty folk get ashore in Taiohae Bay by heading inside a small breakwater to a couple of ladders where dinghies can be tied off. Coincidentally, this  is also the place where the fishermen clean their catch after returning in their small boats. 

There’s always an instant frenzy as fish guts and detritus are thrown into the water. The sharkies seem to know exactly when the fishermen are back around, waiting just like yowling cats for food. 

The aforementioned inflatable kayak is not quite as robust as our aluminium bottomed rib. A bit of an involuntary munch and poof. Kayak not so inflated anymore. Bill has been high for three days from glue fumes trying facilitate a mend. I suggested to Kate that Bill try it first before she gets into it.

It’s been a bit Windy Miller for the past few days so we hightailed it all of 6 miles round to Daniel’s Bay for a bit more protection. The main bay in Nuku Hiva gives access to essential services such as check in and ice cream shops, but the wind and swell wrap round the headland and deliver a free unwanted rock and roll ride. Time to move when the wind picks up. 

I don’t think Daniel is alive anymore, but by gum, he lived in an extraordinary place. The entrance looks a little foreboding as the anchorage is off to the right and not visible immediately. But once round the corner, you’re sat surrounded by high hills, flat water with a sandy beach at the head of the bay. We both simultaneously went wow. 

We’re here with our little Panama / Contadora gang. 5 boats. 7 people. 2 couples. 3 single handers. Dave and I walked up to a 350m waterfall about a couple of hours from the sweetest village you’ll ever come across. Maybe 8 houses, all cared for with fruit trees and vegetables growing.  No road access, just a couple of grassy paths and a french phone box. It felt a bit Local Hero like. (Watch the film…..for the phone box).

Once close to the waterfall, you enter a three sided canyon. The cliffs tower upward and you can’t actually see the true height of the waterfall. Just the last few feet. But it is visible on the walk in so the true scale is not lost. Quite a place. It rained the day we walked up so there was a full flow experience. 

We had lunch at one of the properties yesterday. Wild marinated goat done on the BBQ with bread fruit chips, mango and papaya salad and fresh avocado. Followed by coffee and banana ice cream. Everything from the local vicinity. Washed down with a choice of either lime or pamplemousse juice. Top nosh. Lovely lunch. Although not totally idyllic as a fair number of house flies joined the party too when the food came out. 

We’ve been ticking off a few jobs left over from the crossing. We took the headsail down and today we mended the sacrificial strip thanks to sewing machine mechanics. The batteries have been rewatered. The deck has had a scrub. The fresh water hand pump has had a makeover. 

We’ve had no internet for a few days so tomorrow or the next day when the wind and sea have abated, we’ll head back towards the main bay when I’ll be able to upload this. 

Being away from COVID noise and the ongoing chat as to whether NZ will open their borders has been great. But we can’t hide forever. 

Numbers

Last year just under 900 people climbed Everest. It’s more than I imagined. Assuming the statistics listed on the web page I looked at are correct. Gotta be careful of the Trumpism…..Fake News Dudes.

The next question is, how many people sail across the Pacific in a yacht each year? The answer to this is less clear. I decided to make an educated guess. This year, with COVID, I estimate around 400 boats crossed from Panama, Mexico, Ecuador or Chile. This is based on how many boats we are told are in Tahiti, the main centre of French Polynesia and anecdotal accounts of numbers of boats around other island chains. Some boats will already be based in these locations and won’t have crossed this year.

Back to the numbers. Most boats we know have 2 people on board. There are a few family boats with up to 5 people on board, but there are also quite a few single-handers. So for purposes of this totally non-scientific assessment, I’m saying each boat has 2 people on board. 

So here’s the round up maths. If 400 boats crossed with 2 people on each, that’s 800. Less than climbed Everest last year. I probably ought to put a disclaimer in here. My overall point is, it feels like we’ve done something fairly special crossing to here. 

I’m quite happy to be shot down with my amateur analysis, partly because I am actually quite curious as to how many people do cross. If you can add scientific rigour to my research, feel free to contribute.😀

We’ve been here in Nuku Hiva for a few days now. It’s visually quite a stunning place. Look out for some photos. And the local people we’ve met have been lovely. The island is currently COVID free. Although this will change I’m sure as international flights are being allowed into French Polynesia now.

I did a 4 hour hike up a hill a couple of days ago with two friends . My legs were surprising okay the next day which was unexpected. We hitched a ride back down and a local couple took us for a drive round, then back to their house where they raided their fruit trees for mangos, pamplemousse, limes and bananas. We left with two big bags. Just lovely.

It’s 7.45 in the morning here. The supply boat is in so there’s a hive of activity on land. Dave is trying to sort out our supposed, plug and play data SIM card (hmmm). Big news today is I’m getting my hair cut. The lady in the tourist office called someone, who happens to be called Helene too. 11am is the date.

As we sit in the cockpit enjoying hot drink number two of the day, three big manta rays are circling the boat. Yesterday one was just doing somersaults in the water, clearly visible because it’s white belly was distinctive. How cool is that. 

Pacific to Nuku Hiva

Part One
We’ve just passed the south west tip of Nuku Hiva. It’s about 5 miles to the anchorage. The battle plan for pre arrival chores has been instigated. Showers, shave, hair ziz for Dave, wash the cockpit with fresh water, do the washing up, etc etc. Generally making Grace and ourselves look as bright and shiny as we can after many days at sea.

There will be customs, borders and immigration officials so looking bright and shiny sets the right tone in our heads.

The land is spectacular. Wild rock shapes, crazy looking ridges, every inch covered in green. Birds pop over to have a looksy before heading off. The wind is ‘up the chuff’ for this 4 mile leg along the south of the island. It’s relatively slow. But an extra 30 mins or so in the scheme of a passage of this length is neither here nor there.

Part Two…. some time later
Dun, Dun, Dun…..we’re in. About 3 months later than planned due to a respiratory disease, but we’re safely here. We’re anchored in Taiohea Bay on Nuku Hiva. 29 days and 14 hours to be precise was our time at sea from Pedro Gonzales in the las perlas islands just south of Panama City.

I can’t say the passage has all been a bed of roses. Often the things I (and I’m guessing others too) appreciate and value are things that have been worked for. Let’s face it, we’re in French Polynesia!

But that is forgotten now. We’re having beer and a picnic lunch. Friends came out in the dinghy with Hinano Tahiti Beer.

I will be asleep very soon.

Day 27 (posted on day 28!)

Not the most inspiring of titles but I thought I’d write something a bit more practical to share a modicum of daily life on Grace.

An ocean passage for us is primarily about keeping the boat moving. It’s a constant balance between speed, comfort and looking after the stresses and strains on the boat and ourselves. It may be possible to go quicker but if it makes life unduly uncomfortable because you’re living at a funky angle all the time, it’s not much fun.

Keeping a constant eye on the strength and direction of the wind dictates how much, or what sails we have up. During the day we generally feel more comfortable with more sail up. While at night – and it does get pretty dark out here – putting some sail away reduces speed but can make for a much better night’s sleep

We constantly keep an eye on how much power we’re using. Doing your batteries over is not a good idea. We run instruments to tell us stuff like wind speed and our course over the ground. We’ve kept the chart plotter on more than we anticipated and at night we often run the radar with alarms set to inform us if there’s anything out there. Our experience so far has been not much! One yacht which came past us, and three large container ships. One we saw on the horizon. The other two we didn’t even see but they showed up on the chart plotter. The radar also shows up rain showers which is pretty handy.

Our fridge / freezer uses constant power. Charging iPads, the camera, the Big Torch, cabin lights, et al also eat amps. The solar panels replenish some power during the day, but we are in a routine of running the generator in the morning for a short time to top up the batteries. With the added benefit of water-making.

Food wise, we normally sort ourselves out at breakfast time as we’re on different schedules depending on night watches. Lunch and dinner we eat together. Dinner is normally around 7.30pm with the night watch starting at 9pm. The watch is around 3 hours but not set in stone; the ‘sailor’ wakes the ‘sleeper’ when they are ready to swap over. This gives flexibility – no alarms – without disturbing sleep too much. Although being gently shaken awake at 3am from a deep deep sleep is not always the most pleasant.

Onto food, particularly freshies. Almost 4 weeks in, we have plentiful onions and potatoes from the sack of each in Panama. Every five or six days, we empty the sacks, check their condition & get rid of rotters. We also have plenty of green apples, having wrapped these individually in paper before leaving and they’ve lasted really well. There’s a handful of satsumas left, garlic, ginger, some tomatoes, 2 big squash, around 10 limes and about 1.5 trusty cabbages still going strong.

I cooked and froze about 8 meals before we set off so if we had crappy weather or neither of us felt like cooking, there were good meals to go. I think we’ve used about 5 of these. At the start of the passage, you’re often easing into the situation and cooking is not always high on the agenda of things you fancy doing.

During the day, there’s no watch pattern. We just go with the flow, with someone keeping an eye on things in the cockpit. Daily life needs servicing. Cooking, showering, keeping the boat clean, checking things over visually for signs of stuff going wrong. Fishing (helps if you don’t drop your primary favourite rod into the sea), reading, writing, napping, mending things, card school. Doesn’t sound like much but the day gets filled pretty easily.

It’s a simple existence. We do have the sat phone which gives us basic email and the ability to download weather / current predictions. We both love having this as it means we can stay in touch with folks.`This may sound a bit wired, but we don’t really feel disconnected even if physically we are!

Right, that’s enough. Time to check the course and make a note in the log book of our position. Oh, and finally we don’t actually steer the boat ourselves. We have machines to do that for us.

The Three M’s

Mary, Mungo and Midge crossed the Equator with us. Not sure where numbers 4 and 5 went but we are down to 3 resident Boobies. I surmised that numbers 4 and 5 woke up one morning and thought, this doesn’t feel like home anymore, and headed back east, following similar words of the 1939 classic staring Dorothy and Toto.

The three M’s show no signs of jumping ship. We chase them off. They come back. They fish in the morning and again in the evening, spending the rest of the day, squabbling, preening and dozing. Not unlike Dave and I. Not strictly true….preening has dropped down our list of essentials. 😀

We have two big bits of boats news.

Numero Uno. We crossed the EQUATOR. The display on the chart plotter swapped from N to S indicating we’re officially in the Southern Hemisphere. I expected to see Neptune on a sleigh of dolphins, surrounded by preening mermaids. He may have been there and I was just looking the wrong way. Still, it was fun as we offered a snifter of the hard stuff to honour his presence. Then had one ourselves. Photographic evidence exists although all you can actually see in my photo is Big Hair and little else.

Our second bit of news is that we are into the last 1000 miles. 977 to go according to the machine. Maybe a week at sea, although the last few days have been slow going after the heady 200 mile days of a week or so ago. We’re supposed to have wind and current all the way now so fingers, flippers and hair crossed for this.

Supplies are holding out well although the fishing has been really disappointing. On our Atlantic crossing we caught something pretty much every-time we put a line in. Not so in the Pacific. The tuna was nice but it was also several days ago. My weekly onion sort has just been completed. All pretty good. And of course you want to know about cabbage. Still two full ones. Dave did say to me one evening, we seem to have cabbage every time you cook. He’s a lucky boy.

Day 18 – Independence Day

Today is day 18 and it’s the longest we’ve ever been at sea. Although we are not alone, having 5 non paying passengers who have taken up residence on our bow sprit. Their hygiene and toileting habits are fairly dire and they can’t stand a night watch so they are not the most welcome of guests, our freeloading red footed boobies! They are bizarre looking birds, so if you don’t know what one looks like, google it and you too can join in the experience of smiling at these crazy looking creatures.

We’re at the point where days are melting into one another. The catering department stands out though. We had fish and chips last night. Posh fish and chips no less…..fresh yellowfin tuna marinated in lime juice with sautéed potatoes and a side order of top notch cabbage, onion, garlic and ginger. Followed by tinned peaches. We are at sea and a can now and then is obligatory and I really like tinned peaches. Mixed fruit is disappointing and pineapple should only be used to make cakes. Things like figs are other worldly and prunes pass muster but only at breakfast time.

Fishing in the Pacific has been less successful than in the Atlantic. We’ve lost 3 lures….maybe the fish are just bigger here, and we have no more spare line. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Resources are finite on Grace. Good job we’re stocked up on loo roll and tinned peaches.

Our purple patch of hyper galactic speed is now behind us as currents have eased. Daily runs of 190, 194, 174, 178, 209, 195 have been followed by a more subdued 135 today. It’s weird to think we’ve been on the constant move for so many days now. Sometimes I forget this.

Tactics wise, we are still above the equator, but starting to curve down in a south westerly direction. There’s a current roundabout ahead. No it’s not a new offering at Greggs the bakers. It could be the British version of a Danish pastry though. Grace needs to position herself to ride the south going anti-clockwise current then hop out to the right and join the current down to the Marquesas.

I shall stick my head briefly above the parapet here. It may prove a foolish move. Time will determine. I’m surmising an arrival between 15th and 17th July. Dave has just gone for 40 winks and he departed pointing at the Speed Over Ground instrument saying, “don’t let that drop below 5”. So far I’m being successful doing nothing more than delivering a brief glance every so often. Sailing through telepathy.

Scores on the doors if you’re interested.
Current position 01 31.13N. 116 16.33W
Speed over ground 5.8 knots
Distance to go. As always it’ll be more than this, 1557, meaning we’ve done 2283.