I’m stood in the dentists. I’ve managed to wheedle an NHS appointment before we fly back. A dental appointment is the equivalent of a medieval coin turning up in your change from the supermarket. Extremely rare. 

I’m standing in the corridor. This is an advanced position. First position is outside the door on the path. Position two is checking in from afar at reception. The corridor is close to the stairs where above, all the drilling and filling action takes place.

There was a time two years ago where receptionists never left their chairs, the counter providing an impenetrable barrier. Movement was not a requirement. Now they’re up and down like a jack in the box. Ushering, temperature taking, separating, sanitising, door opening. It’s a much healthier job.

Magazines are no more. I always liked a flick at the docs or dentists. Who’d have thought that ‘Derbyshire Life – extended Easter Edition’ would be life threatening. 

But I get it. And I’m grateful to get the appointment. I’ve got a temporary filling, hazzah, and a time booked to see a dentist again before we head back to Grace. Thanks helpful receptionist. 

Flying over to England was timely. French Polynesia is in lockdown, cases having ballooned. Locals are now queuing up to get vaccinated we read which wasn’t happening while we were there. This is good news, and with 7 weeks before we return, lockdown may be done with by the time we get back.

I could name check all fine people we’ve seen since we arrived in the UK. But the list would be very very long and a tedious read. I did say however I’d name check Brian and Judy! So there you go. Thanks again for the lovely ‘salmon-less lunch”. You’ll have to ask Biddy’s dog about the fish whereabouts. 

Tomorrow we plan to do some paddleboarding on a section of the Thames with our friend Lisa. Falling in will not be like the Pacific Ocean. Lots of incentive to stay dry.

The red car we bought in Wakefield has delivered us safely from Northumberland to Suffolk and Wales and places in between. This weekend it’s Maidenhead and Winchester from Derbyshire. Next weekend it’s the south coast and Brighton area. It’s busy busy busy. Even a bit of work has been thrown in. My God, I hear you say.

British seaside

We’re browsing around a used car garage in search of cheap wheels for our stay here in the UK. The owner comes over and says….”I’m not a salesman” then negates his statement with the word BUT. I know exactly what’s coming next, a diatribe of sales blather.

I’d glanced, hardly a glance, more a micro blink, at a Honda. “You can’t go wrong with a Honda. It’s bombproof. Only reason it’s for sale is the owner kept having those things that need to go in pushchairs”. He was a delightful example of a human being?! A depressingly stereotypical representation of a used car salesman. Harry Enfield or Paul Whitehouse need look no further than this man for their next character.

We called in at the aforementioned garage on our way back from Grimsby. The purpose of this journey was to look at another car which turned out to be a bag of spanners. I’d never been there before so in case you go, here what to look out for. The town welcomes visitors with its magistrates court and a large sign advertising a solicitors who can help in the police station. Sets the tone nicely for your visit.

It was lunchtime so Dave took me to the seaside for chips. It was FAB. The traditional british seaside at its best. Cleepthorpes delivers. We walked the prom then shared a box of fish and chips followed by an ice cream each. We’d only paid for an hour’s car parking so missed out on the crazy golf which was saddening. The sun shone, the donkeys plodded, children dug and the deck chair folk put the world to rights.

Our friend Linnit pointed out that someone had stolen the sea but that was irrelevant. It may not be the Pacific. It made me smile for the hour we were there.

Wheels update. We still have no car after further searching. I think our expectations are too high for the bargain basement section of the used car market. A reality check may be needed.


Footnote

In the interests of impartiality, we only drove through Grimsby briefly and visited a trading estate. My previous comments should be taken merely as a tiny uneducated snapshot. Thank you.

UK arrival

We eased into the UK with very little hassle. Assembling the paperwork prior to the flight was a greater challenge. And getting Grace ready to be left in the marina in Papeete occupied us right up to 8pm, the day before we flew. We threw a few things in a bag each, went to bed at midnight then got up at 4am to catch a taxi to the airport. It was slightly more manic than we imagined.

We’ve now eased into isolation life at Dave’s mums. It’s day 3 and I’m counting. First UK Covid test was negative. Two more to go. Fingers crossed. 🤞

Tomatoes

Macron, that is Mr Macron, French President, is visiting French Polynesia this weekend. He’ll be here for 4 days, whizzing around the different Polynesian island groups, in the way politicians do. An uneasy relationship exists with mainland France. The reason, nuclear testing. France conducted dozens of tests here, the last one being in 1996. Some of the atolls where tests were carried out are still off limits. 

Among locals there’s a feeling of disregard for the lives of islanders. In 1974, the fallout from a test drifted unexpectedly over Papeete and the Society Islands. It’s estimated 110,000 were affected by nuclear radiation fallout. And that there was a massive cover up by the french authorities.  Cancer cases rocketed afterwards and to date only 63 citizens have received compensation, even though many more payouts have supposedly been agreed. Soldiers and contractors involved in working at the test sites have been paid out but not the uninvolved citizens. 

Macron is apparently going to address the nuclear issue on this visit. We’ll be following the local news to see what transpires.

On Saturday several roads downtown will have restricted use due to Macron’s visit.  A local chap has been servicing our tow generator and is due to drop it off this Saturday.  Tom, a friend, who was also getting something dropped off said to the chap, “you do know about the road closures. It might be tricky to get here.” “Yes” he said, “I’ve got my tomatoes ready. And they’re green not red. Red ones are too soft whereas green ones have impact!”.

And here’s some boaty news for you boaty people out there. Life in the marina is busy. We have new dyneema guard rails. The generator works again. It hasn’t done so for a while. Dave managed to source a second hand high pressure pump which did the trick. The dinghy has had an overhaul. The chain has been over-ended and remarked. The water maker has been pickled. Dave said he felt like Walter in Breaking Bad measuring out chemicals. I said if you have cash stashed in a locker you need to tell me now. There is no cash. 

This week’s projects involve engine hoses, batteries and paperwork for coming home. 7 days and 8 hours till takeoff. 

Pee Test

Just over two weeks till we get in the metal tube and cross part of the Pacific and all of the Atlantic to get home. It’s not a particularly enticing prospect the thought of being in a restricted space with strangers for many hours sharing recycled air. It’s the polar opposite to being in the open air on a boat in the ocean by ourselves. 

We’ve been in Tahiti for a week now. We had a fast easy sail from Toau and have been anchored in the airport anchorage since we arrived. Well the autopilot stopped working properly but the wind vane stepped up admirably. Something else to add to the fix list. 

The authorities are in the process of dropping concrete blocks to install moorings. The overall plan, we believe is to restrict / cease anchoring possibilities. It’s something which we are told has been talked about for just 30 years! A french friend said I’ll believe it when I see it. 

Here’s a tale. The mayor wanted local citizens, well local men, to be involved in the work, thus providing employment. The work entails diving and being in the water so those interested needed to pass a medical before being accepted. To a man, they all failed the pee test as marijuana smoking is pretty common.

The doc said, if you want to be considered for this work, you need to come back to be retested in 3 months and be ‘clean’. Three months later, the blokes turn up with their pee samples. They all passed. And four of them were discovered to be pregnant!

The doc’s ultimatum was that he would test them again, right there and then. If you know you won’t pass there’s no point staying. They all left. This group was 20 strong.

The pull of a smoke is greater than the pull of work it would seem. How quickly the moorings are finished is anyone’s guess.

It’s fun here. There’s 7 or 8 boats that made up our Gambier Gang. We have been to Heiva which is a celebration of Polynesian culture, particularly song and dance. Troops of up to 80 dancers performed dressed in local costumes, keeping traditions alive. We supported England in the Euros. (came second if you were on Mars for the weekend and didn’t hear the score). We ate fresh mushrooms after a gap of 9 months. We shared dinner with the crews of 5 other boats on a catamaran. 

In the next few days we plan to head into the marina which is where Grace will stay for a while. It’ll be easier to get all the required Covid tests / paperwork in order being tied to the land. It’s a 20 minute dinghy ride to town which can be pretty damp experience depending on the strength and direction of the wind. 

This time last year we were 2 days out from Nuka Hiva, the end of our 29 day pacific crossing. It feels  a fair while ago. 

Off to Tahiti today

Apologies. I’ve run out of time to post something longer but here’s a few piccies to whet your appetite. Do you whet anything else?

Anyway. It’s been constantly windy the seas have been big (4m) for the last few days. Not enticing conditions even downwind. So we’ve been here in Toau for about a week. But it’s been fun. I have new cousins! There’s a family living here who also share the Parker name. My maiden name so we’ve been welcomed gloriously by Valantine and Gaston. And her per frigate bird?!

But Tahiti calls. It’s 230 isn miles. See you on the either side in a couple of day’s.

And finally….. and most importantly, my awesome friend Mr Shed Radio himself, Mr Roberto Knowles, aka video Rob has turned MY LIST of tunes into a radio broadcast akin to desert island discs but much better.

I’m having a momentary lapse of self promotion here. Don’t worry. It won’t last long.

Check out http://www.Mixcloud.com/shed_radio/ and look for H’s playlist. It’s episode 9. And do it before England play football again in the semi finals. Then listen to episodes 1-8.

This frequency is now clear.

Home time!

Grace from above

Air France have taken our money. We have booked to come home for 3 months! We’re super excited at the prospect of getting to see everyone again. 

We’ll arrive in the UK on 2nd August, coming from Tahiti to LA to Paris to Manchester. There’s a raft of logistics to sort before we can get on the plane. Leaving Grace needs throughly sorting plus we have to ensure we’re COVID compliant. And then there’s the quarantining element and UK testing procedures.

Dave has already asked me if I’ll be putting a spreadsheet / planner together for the time we’re back. Duh! Of course. How else can we fit in seeing people!? Secretly I think he likes being organised. And organised he will be….. in a nice way of course.

Of late, the winds have been more settled at 14 to 18 knots so Dave has been doing lots of practice at kite surfing. He’s getting really long runs in now, can get up and going easily, his kite control has improved massively and occasionally he’s getting upwind, which is the ultimate goal. To be able to get back to the place you start from. I’m still providing dinghy support every time he goes out or he’d be off permanently into the downwind dim and distant future. 

We had a few days on an atoll called Toau. You may remember a blog from about 10 months ago about an 87 year old man we met on an atoll called Takaroa. Well, we met one his sons! Small world. We were invited to head out spear fishing and to stay for dinner the follow day but we knew the winds were due to pick up and wanted to sail back to Fakarava. So we declined this time but plan to visit again.

I’ve been walking most day’s around the moto at Harifa, the kite surfing location on Fakarava. I head out along the ocean side then complete a loop back on the inside of the lagoon. Ollie and Maroc, two of the dogs who live there often tag along. Ollie showed off impressive hunting skills catching small fish and two land crabs. 

Maroc is a bigger dog and he stole the first crab from Ollie. He headed off with his booty and licked the meat from the body then crunched the legs. I’m happy Ollie caught another so doesn’t go hungry. It’s not fair doing all the work then having your breakfast stolen.

And the other thing I like about Ollie. The name might suggest a dog but she’s actually a bitch. 😀

Teenager

Last night was bloody awful. The wind decided to be a truculent teenager and do whatever it fancied ignoring the weather bods who work for the Met Office or the ECMWF or the GFS. Don’t concern yourselves if these letters don’t mean anything. I’d never heard of them before we started this trip. 

They are different global weather models offering computer generated forecasts of weather data. When they all align, this is generally good news as there is an consistent pattern meaning the likelihood of the weather forecast being accurate Is high. 

Conversely, if the forecasts are significantly different, it can a bit of a lottery so pick the forecast you fancy and cross your fingers. Usually that’s the ECMWF for us. 

Back to last night. We were securely anchored pointed nicely into the shore, protected by the coconut trees and with no fetch. The truculent uninvited teenager turned up about midnight and our position altered as we swung 180 degrees with the change in wind direction leaving us facing out to sea, with the wind freshening and the waves travelling 13 miles across the atoll. It was bouncy. 

The anchor was good and secure so we weren’t concerned about dragging but the comfort levels were dismal. Grace is big and heavy. Even so, we pitched up and down for a good few hours. We were both up. I did the washing up. Dave cleared away some kiting gear. We both read and tried to ignore the discomfort. Eventually about 4am the wind dropped and we were able to enter the land of nod. 

By morning the wind had disappeared completely. We motored 14 miles up the atoll, making water as we travelled and anchored, nicely tucked in behind a small reef. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a leisurely day. We snorkelled the reef and encountered lots of small fish…..angel fish, shiny blue ones, goat fish, unicorn fish and the ‘toon army’ fish. (That one has black and white stripes). Only one shark spotted. 

I finished scrubbing the hull on the starboard side. This unfortunately means there’s still a whole side to scrub. Essentially underwater cleaning with a scrubbing brush. While holding your breath. It’s knackering! I understand why many boats have scuba kit. Lightweights. 

Guess this means Grace will be skewing to port as the starboard side will slide through the water easier than the port side. I did buy 2 new scrubbing brushes though so Mr Savage can join in. 

Pig

We’re sat outside at the Rotarava Grill in Fakarava having a plate of food with Holly, Jarne and Holly’s mum. The conversation rolls and we’re absorbed in each other’s company. 

All of sudden two fulsome arms envelope me and a smacker of a kiss lands on my right cheek. Woah, what’s going on! I turn to my right and it’s Alise, the Tahitian woman who runs the little restaurant at Harifa at the south of Fakarava. If you remember from a previous post, her mother was a Parker, so we are officially cousins, Parker being my maiden name. 

Alise is dressed up to nines on a night out with her husband and she’s had a couple of sherbets. She’s beaming the biggest of smiles and is plainly delighted to see me. We have a chat about how she’s been in Tahiti and when she’ll be back home at the south of the atoll. Forget social distancing and Covid, when you see a family member, rules are out of the window!

We are now anchored down at Harifa with around 10 other boats. Many kiters base themselves here as the wind angle is often favourable. Dave is now one of these kiters. He’s making good progress  and getting upwind on occasion. With less major wipeouts. And Alise is home. Word went out, ‘they’re killing a pig’ and there’ll be a hog roast. 

Last night as the sun was going down about 20 of us gathered on the beach. The pig was on a spit and had been roasting for over 9 hours. Boy it looked great. Maybe not if you’re a veggie but to us carnivores, I knew this was going to taste great. And so it did.

The pigs on the property roam free under the coconut trees. At present there are many many piglets snuffling around joined by half a dozen cats, one little kitty, a black and white spotted puppy and two young woofers. One of the woofers, the leggy brown one, tags along on walks around the moto. He’s a great companion, independent but he also checks where you are and waits patiently if you stop for some reason. He likes the gang to be together.

Provisions arrive on Wednesday. The boat will be in and we have stuff ordered. We’ll go back north, 28 miles ish to meet it. Dave has been investigating getting new batteries shipped from Tahiti but stocks are out of the ones we want. August, suppliers say. Lithium is all the rage these days. But sourcing them for a sensible price requires time, and all the ancillary charging parts will add up. Plus the whole battery area will need re-engineering. So we’ll stick with what we have, lead acids. The ones we currently have were installed in Goole by Dave with much help from Phil in the winter / spring of 2011 /12 so they’ve done pretty well. It’s a big bank, 900aH for you techies. 

And finally a bit of an update for getting home. We have contacted four yards about getting hauled out. Two have offered a definitive no. We are on a waiting list for the other two. There is a ‘log jam’ in yards here. People hauled their boats when Covid hit and went home. They haven’t been able to get back meaning there is no space. The pacific does not have a plethora of options for haul out. 

International flights are looking slightly more possible. Another american airline is reinstating flights and air travel from France is resuming too. We’re hoping this easing will allow folk to get back to Tahiti  and get their boats in the water. Meaning space for the likes of us to haul. This may be an aspiration rather than a concrete plan. If you know anyone with a boat on the hard in Raiatea tell them to get their backside on a plane and get it shifted please.

Tahiti Trip

Sorry folks! After being absent for a few months, I’m on a bit of a diatribe run. More epistles from the end of my fingers as I tippy tap my latest thoughts on our boaty happenings. I’m confident normal service will resume with a post every two weeks or so in the very near future. So in the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic”

A quick location update. We left Gambier, planning to make landfall at Hao, a 460 mile trip.  But we had good wind so decided to just keep going to Fakarava, an extra 300 miles away. We sailed the whole way, averaging over 6 knots which pleased us, came in the pass at the north end of Fakarava in the dark and anchored off the village around midnight. 

Fakarava delivered internet, lettuce and Holly’s mum. Holly is a good buddy and her mum flew in from the States for a 10 day visit. She brought with her an A4 file detailing numerous covid tests, permissions to enter and leave French Polynesia from the High Commission, proof of vaccination and other gubbins. She said travelling is indeed possible but not straightforward and each compulsory covid test takes quids from your wallet. Doesn’t make it a particularly appealing prospect.

Dave and I tagged along for some activities (we were invited!) and a top top time was had. We dived south pass a couple of times again, went cycling, ate out once and had cocktails at a local pension which, more importantly had a table tennis table. Jarne and I abandoned our drinks as competitive table tennis was much more absorbing. Jarne, a lovely lovely Belgian guy who has just had his 30th birthday asked me how old I was, after I’d beaten him twice. 55 I proudly said. 

On the bike ride, Holly decided she would fly with her mum to Tahiti the following day for a bit of city fun and her words ‘a fancy ladies day’. Her mum had a day to kill in Papeete before boarding a flight to LA. “You should come” they said. So I did! 

It’s only just over an hour on the plane and we had two nights in town. The majority of my time was spent trying to tick boaty items off my extensive shopping list. We did find time for dinner out at the food trucks, a lunch meet in the market and pina coladas at happy hour. Holly and her Mum did have a “fancy ladies” day. They both arrived for drinks with glamorous pearl jewellery. Very gorgeous. I didn’t show them my fuel pump purchase. 

And finally here’s a little bit of blatant marketing. Like all marketing, feel free to ignore it.  Let’s face it, most of it should be ignored or not even be allowed to see the light of day. 

  1. Check out wind hippy sailing on you tube. That’s Holly. Sailing a 27’ boat from Maine, USA solo. She’s one of a kind….in a very nice way.😀
  2. Check out Shed Radio. www.Mixcloud.com/shed_radio/ This is my very good chum Mr Robert Knowles Esq. from Matlock who during lockdown started up a radio show from his shed. There’s about 7 shows uploaded all of them spanking and worth a listen. We like to listen so we can hear his cheery derbyshire tones.