It’s amazing how your perspective can change. When we kept the boat in Gorgeous Goole and then its downstream neighbour, Hedonistic Hull, the start of our summer holiday trip was usually a 3 day non stop sail to the south coast, usually the Solent area. The thought of doing 3 days was a BIG DEAL. What would we eat? Did we have enough fuel? What was the back up plan? Would we get enough sleep?

We left on Sunday for our first passage of any distance since the biggie from Panama. It would take around three days from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas to Takaroa, an atoll in the Tuamotus. We bought some veggies, put some stuff away, tied the dinghy to the deck, hauled anchor and we were off. No fuss. No big conversation. Our mindset was, it’s only three days. That’s what I mean about perspectives changing. 

The sailing itself to get here was very straightforward. Plenty of wind, probably averaging around 18 knots, wind on the port quarter, (think of over your left shoulder when facing the front) one reef in the main, one tack, point and go. We reefed the Yankee as and when the wind piped up a bit or died away but that’s as sophisticated as it got. 

We did however have to be really mindful as to the time of our arrival. This arrival would be more complicated that arriving into the Solent. Although I must remind myself of scary trips up to Goole on the river and that horrible lock in Hull. Lots of places have their individual gremlins.

The atolls here have passes into their central lagoons. The passes are often narrow, sometimes with a dog leg over a shallow patch, fringed by coral and are susceptible to fast incoming and especially speedy outgoing tides. Timing your arrival for high water slack is recommended. But working out when this is not straightforward. And can appear to be nigh on impossible.

It seems to me that there’s some science based on moon rise and moon set times and always, always, always a disclaimer that the wind, the tide, local variations, the atmospheric pressure, the weather for the last week, the price of fish etc etc can all influence when this time is. The top advice from most books and articles seems to be to ask a local. Great! 

We started with a slow scout of the entrance as we tried to work out exactly what the tide was doing. Dave had prepped a graph yesterday with moon phases, high water, timings and we estimated we were close to slack water. It was all very scientific, with a smattering of black magic. Our objective, a concrete dock just inside the pass where we would tie up and check out the lie of the land and the flow of the water.

Once past the first navigation mark, we were committed. The tide was still actually in the final throws of going in. A final dribble but with two strong coffees inside him, Mr Savage positioned the boat skilfully  and with nimble (ish) Parker working the lines, the duo parked neatly without any marital strife or shouty shouty pointy pointy moments.

We were met by three friendly officials in masks who asked where we’d come from as Covid is unfortunately spreading again in French Polynesia. We have our ‘out of quarantine’ documents from the Health Department in Nuka Hiva which they were keen to have copies of. A short walk to the local government building, a WiFi hotspot and pages whizzed off a printer. Sorted. 

It’s been quite a while since we’ve been tied to something solid. I’m enjoying it! No need to get in the dinghy and whizz across acres of water to get ashore. Luxury. 

Thin WiFi….so not many piccies!

Please let us in!

We have submitted paperwork to request an exemption to the border closure, for a ‘compelling reason’ to be allowed to enter New Zealand. With help from an Australian friend who is more in the know than us, we (well Dave almost exclusively) pulled together the required documentation. It proved to be rather like writing a proposal for work. I remember those days! Dave was always pretty good at that, being pithy and to the point with no extraneous words or bullshit. His mantra was often, ‘well the words look pretty and some people may think that sounds impressive but it actually doesn’t mean anything’. 

We are part of a pilot group of a handful of sailing boats ‘testing the waters’ for getting permission to go. 

It took most of the day as we had internet / connectivity problems but the twenty six page document has been lodged, we have received an acknowledgment of its arrival and now we wait 15 to 20 days before NZ process it. 

Are we confident about getting a yes, do come? The mood varies from its pretty unlikely to there has been an enormous amount of behind the scenes work to get to this point. Marine organisations, insurance companies, a particular marina in NZ, weather experts, the Ocean Cruising Club plus many committed individuals have all had a part to play talking to various government offices and the health authorities is NZ. 

We have fingers, toes, legs and eyes crossed for positive news. Means we’ll be tied up in knots while the two to three week wait drifts past. In that time, we will move further west, meaning a few days at sea again. Not sure when we’ll start to move. Need to check the weather. 

We’ve been in a bay called Anaho for a few days. Take yourself back to 1949, get into a musical theatre mind and search out South Pacific on you tube. You’ll recognise some of the tunes. I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair, There is nothing like a dame and Happy talk. You know you want to sing along.

Anaho is a small village only accessible by boat or by an hour’s hike over a hill. If you’re looking for a film location in the South Pacific, this could be your place. 

Chocolate Bomb’s

If someone in high places could have a quiet word with the NZ authorities, that’d be much appreciated. It’s mid August and there’s no word as yet on transient yachties, such as ourselves, being allowed into NZ to avoid cyclone season in the western Pacific. 

By all accounts, negotiations are taking place but there are spanners. Covid is back in NZ. The government is on the verge of being dissolved for an election. Governments world over move at very slow speeds. There is a suspension of temporary visa applications as the backlog is over 5000 applications. Hence you’ll understand my spanners comment.

Whether the borders will open (we’d be asking for exemption on humanitarian grounds….cyclone season) or not is still a complete unknown. Exemptions are being made we understand for economic reasons. If you guarantee to spend $50,000 kiwi dollars (invoices needed up front) you can come in. Money talks!

This rather large unknown has led us to hang back a bit and not head further west yet, although the next island chain, the Tuamotos, is not so far away, a 4 day ish sail depending on where we aim for. 

In the meantime, we’ve had lots of fun hanging out, walking trails and generally enjoying the unique landscape the marquesas has to offer. The people are lovely. Universally everyone is friendly and says hello. Properties and land are cared for. Litter on the whole does not exist. 

We hiked a circular trail up to a granite volcanic plug called Poumaka on the island of Ua Pou. It was quite something. Especially the ridge line through the trees and bush on the way down. Our rucksack was heavier at the end than the start due to the fruit we collected along the way and the chocolate we’d bought too. There’s a slightly bonkers elderly German called Manfred who earns his keep as a chocolatier, growing cacao amongst other things on his property. His passion fruit and dark ganache chocolate bombs were just insanely lovely. 

Today we’re anchored at Baie d’Anaho back on Nuku Hiva. No comms here so it’ll be a few days before I post this. We had a dolphin jumping 8’ out of the sea on the sail here. Plus a couple of sharks fins….we’re guessing hammerheads. Anaho delivers a classic Pacific island vista. Sandy beach fringed by palm trees. High green hills behind. 

We’re off for a walk today then the plan is for a bonfire on the beach this evening (bug spray will be needed as the no-no’s, known as no see ‘ums, or midges as they’re called in other parts of the world will be out). There’s a New Zealand couple from North Island anchored next to us. 

Could they be our hot line to government?

10 years and counting

Ten years ago today, Dave and I got married. Some of you may recall the party in a tent on the school field in Bonsall. The official day itself was the previous week up in Northumberland. The guest list was just immediate family……parents, brothers and sisters and their kids. 24 in total. 

At that point back in history, we were already talking about the bones of this trip and how we could make it happen. There’s a sheet of wall paper In a drawer with a scribbled Mind map on it as to how we could make the plan work.

it look a while, (well years!) but we got there.

Off to Oa Pou today. A short 25 mile sail followed by a little celebration.