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Two Years On (by Helen) – Revised

Last year I wrote a retrospective on our first year out cruising. Once again I have been persuaded to write another one on our second year out. Two years on and what a second year. How we’ve grown as sailors and explorers. Our first year was about learning the boat, gaining further sailing experience, adjusting to living on a boat and with each other. We accomplished this sailing down the eastern Caribbean where although challenging, the waters were accurately charted, anchorages fully described, major hazards well marked and emergency help and resources generally nearby. The confidence we gained the first year certainly prepared us for the second year as we headed westward to the not so well charted waters of central America and over to the Pacific.

In our first year we traveled 2,268 nautical miles and never did more than an over night passage. In our second year we’ve covered 9,100 nautical miles, and have done many multi-day passages including a 22 day, three thousand miles Pacific crossing.

When I started outlining this blog we were anchored just behind a large reef which protected us from the ever increasing ocean waves but not from the 25 to 30 knots of wind screaming over us. We were in a remote spot miles from any form of civilization. With the sounds of crashing waves over the reef and the howling wind around us we got on with our daily routine. We were pretty confident that our anchor was set well in and we were reasonably secure under the current condition. A year ago I would have been very, very, very unhappy.

The following morning we decided to move to another anchorage as we wanted better protection if conditions changed for the worse. We set sail in nearly 30 knots of wind, slamming into huge waves, tacking side to side, fighting currents, avoiding reefs, exposed rocks, small islands and blind roller waves. As we approached our destination we had to carefully negotiate our way through gaps in the reefs to the protected anchorage behind a small island. Always tricky in strong weather. This is also the place where less than a month ago, a couple we knew ran into the reef and sank their boat!

A year ago I would have been scared witless sailing under these conditions and would have completely panicked at seeing all the breaking waves and swells approaching our anchorage. Now days we just do it. Our time in the Tuamotus and the Society Islands taught us a great deal about entering dangerous gaps and passes into atolls and reefs. So we were aware of possible hazards and confident about our approach.

Although we’ve grown as sailors we never underestimate the dangers of the wind, sea and sailing near land. We check the weather daily, never over rely on our charts, always take visual clues, are aware of tides and current and we generally side on caution. If we become too complacent we should quit sailing.

Another big difference for most of the second year is that we’ve had a crew member on board with us. John our eldest son joined us in Panama last December and crewed with us until we reached Tahiti in June. Two weeks after John returned to England, Ben our middle son joined us and will be staying with us until we reach New Zealand. Having a third person on board has been extremely helpful especially during long passages. Sharing shifts and watches between three people during passages allows for longer sleep, more free time and keeping ones sanity!

Having said all that, I would say that we only spend about five percent of our time out at sea. Most of the time we are safely anchored off some beautiful or interesting place, exploring the land and enjoying new sights and cultures.

This leads to the highlights of our year. Once again there are just too many. What I’ve decided to do is make a list of the countries we’ve visited in chronological order and briefly mention some of my favourite places and moments which I can remember at this moment.

Columbia: The historic port of Cartagena, one of my favourite cities. The old city is considered one of the most beautiful on the American continent and I agree. Charming little squares, medieval style narrow streets, wonderful Spanish colonial architecture and its amazing city wall. It is also considered the safest city in Colombia so we were not too worried about being kidnapped and felt reasonably secure wandering the streets. One of the highlights during our stay there was being invited to the Colombian Navel Officers club by Derek & Martha a lovely couple we got to know there. We tried sailing on little Sunfish boats for the first time, had a wonderful lunch at the club house and explored the old fort which was exclusively inside the club’s compound.

Caribbean side of Panama: We spent Christmas and New Year in the beautiful San Blas Islands. Our time made more special by having our two sons John and Sam and also Annie (Sam’s girlfriend) joining us.

On our way down to the Panama Canal we visited a couple of ex cruisers who have rescued and adopted four sloths. Holding and cuddling those sloths kept a grin on our faces for a long time.

While waiting for our slot through the Panama Canal we went up the Chagres River for few days. Taking our boat up the serene river, banked by lush jungle was magical. We explored many side streams and openings looking for an elusive waterfall we had heard about. Every night we were serenaded by howler monkeys, a cacophony that kept poor Annie anxious and awake most of the night. Finally finding the waterfall on our last day, a little gem, where we swam and washed in the clear pool under the falls. Unforgettable!

Panama Canal: Transiting the Panama Canal on our own boat was an awesome and unique experience. John, Sam, Annie and myself acted as linesmen while Steve was the helmsmen. Being part of the process inside those gigantic locks was fascinating. Entering each lock level, watching the massive gates shut, controlling our boat and keeping it away from the walls as the turbulent water rose. Then at the top, spending the night on a tranquil fresh water lake. The following day, motoring through lakes and man made channels, seeing with our own eyes what man has achieved. Finally reaching the other side and descending down the locks to the Pacific. Amazing!

Panama City: Although I wouldn’t say that Panama City was one of my highlights it was certainly a momentous place. Sam and Annie left us there to return to the States and college. Except for the old city its a pretty horrible place. However it’s a mecca for bargains and cheap shopping so was the perfect place to provision for our Pacific crossing. We spent days filling our boat up with excellent cheap wine and beer, dried goods, cans and luxury treats, snacks and gifts for children in the remote Pacific islands. With a much lower water line, we happily left Panama City and headed out to explore the waters of the Pacific for the first time.

Pacific side of Panama: Our first stop was the Las Pearlas islands, another set of beautiful islands. Considering these islands are only fifty miles from Panama City, they were surprisingly unspoilt and non commercialized. It was here we really learned how to anchor in tidal changes of up to 20 feet. What depth to anchor and the consequence of letting out too much or too little chain. At one place, we anchored at high tide only to find rocks popping up around us as the tide decreased. John slept up on deck keeping an eye on how near we got to the rocks as the tide went down. Fortunately there wasn’t any large boulders under us and our chain was just short of reaching the nearby rocks. Not our best anchoring moment.

Journeying along the Panamanian coastline we stopped at many remote and isolated anchorages. The coastal stops were not as nice as the islands but all were new and interesting to us. One of the most beautiful anchorages we’ve visited was off the Secas islands. Definitely in my top ten.

For Steve and John, probably the most memorable event along this coast was catching nine fish in one morning. This was never to be repeated. As we left the coast of Panama the fish left us too. Since then on most passages, the catch has been zero.

Costa Rica: This is the country where we had the most difficulty checking into. It took a day and half and a lawyer to finally clear us in. Having said that, once we were in, we really enjoyed our time here. Costa Rica is famous for its Eco tourism and fabulous national parks. Ella, John’s girlfriend joined us for a two weeks vacation and we explored the coast and nearby national parks with her. We saw plenty of wild life, especially monkeys and colourful exotic birds.

Later, Ben and his girlfriend Jess joined us for their Spring break. With them we explored the inland cloud forests and the area around the volcano, Mount Arenal. We also had a lovely time visiting with Jason Bell my ex colleague from Solomon Schechter Day school, who is now living and teaching just outside the capital of San Jose.

The Doldrums: During our 8 days crossing from Costa Rica to the Galapagos we had to avoid many squalls and a water spout (tornado) before we hit the doldrums. In the doldrums we had absolutely no wind, the air completely still, the ocean totally flat as far as the eyes could see. It was like floating on a clear blue silky mirror so utterly mesmerizing and beautiful. At Sunset, the red sun reflected itself over and over again on the mirrored ocean, turning the water into molten metal of gold, purple and red. Absolutely awesome and the most memorable sunset so far.

A migration of turtles passed us causing continuous ripples and patterns on the smooth water. At first we thought they were floating coconuts and then realised that they were humps of their shells. We must have hit their migration highway as hundreds passed us for hours going in the opposite direction.

Crossing the Equatorial line: Once we cleared the doldrums our next milestone was crossing the Equator. Keeping with tradition we placated Neptune by throwing gifts into the sea. We didn’t dress up as many sailors do but instead we placed our boat over the imaginary equatorial line and swam across the Equator. To complete our celebrating we each had a glass of bubbly, the only alcohol we allowed ourselves during the eight day passage.

The Galapagos Islands: I would not describe the Galapagos as being beautiful. Dramatic is a better description with interesting basalt formation, long white sand beaches and striking lava flows. Most of the vegetation are cacti, bushes and small trees. For many people, including us, the unique fauna and marine life of the Galapagos is what we’ve come to see. And we certainly saw them. Giant tortoises, lava lizards, land and marine iguana. We scuba dive and snorkeled with hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, sea lions, penguins, rays and turtles. A once in a life time place to visit.

The Big Pacific Crossing: Three thousand miles and twenty two days out at sea. It’s difficult to explain what goes through ones mind. Steve, John and I wrote a daily blog during this passage. Here is the link to these blogs if you interested in knowing a little of what was going through our minds while floating in the middle of a vast ocean.

The Marquesas: How can I describe to you the thrill of our first land sighting after more than three weeks out at sea? I just can’t!!! Our landfall was the island of Fatu Hiva, a true paradise, with spectacular jagged mountains, open plateaus and lush deep valleys. We anchored outside a small village nestled in a fertile valley. The village was perfectly immaculate with each house surrounded by a profusion of tropical flowers and fruit trees dripping with oranges, grapefruit mangoes, papayas, breadfruit, bananas and more. Not only a paradise island but with a Garden of Eden too. The locals were full of smiles, children running over to chat to us, everyone welcoming and friendly. Throughout the Marquesas this was typical, with beautiful places, immaculate villages and friendly people.

On the islands of Ua Pou, Steve and I each had a Marquesan tattoo done as a rite of passage. Tattoos are something I didn’t really approve of but Marquesan tattoos are very unique and special. We found an excellent local artisan called Kina who worked on our tattoos from his front porch. His house was up a hill, surrounded by a lush garden and a lovely view out to sea. Being in such lovely setting helped nullify the discomfort of being tattooed. The theme of my small tattoo was the waves and seas of the Marquesas with intricate motifs and symbolic meanings. Steve’s larger tattoo was a manta ray with a staff of life, again with detailed symbols. After finishing our tattoos, Kina invited us to share a delicious lunch with him. Before we left he insisted on picking us fruit for from his garden. We walked away with two gorgeous tattoos and two huge carrier bags full of tropical fruit. Just wonderful!

Tuamotus: The Tuamotus are an enormous arc of coral atolls. A true atoll is formed of unbroken circular reefs with an interior lagoon. Fortunately for us, many of the large atolls have one or two broken opening in the reef forming passes for boats to enter into the protected calm interior. These inner lagoons are stunning with turquoise clear waters and fringed with islets of golden sand and palms trees. However great care has to be taken entering and exiting these atolls. The current flowing in and out of these passes is very strong. During mid tide and bad weather, whirlpools and standing waves form in the pass making it very dangerous to enter. So timing for slack tide and careful eyeballing the pass is a must.

Our first atoll entrance was pretty nerve wrecking. We were going at six knots, the counter current was four knots, so we were moving at only 2 knots and trying to keep away from the eddies that was to our port side. The water was so clear that the bottom looked a lot shallower than it really was. I think I held my breath all the way through the pass.

My favourite atoll was Fakarava. It had the best scuba diving and snorkeling we’ve ever done. The water was crystal clear, the coral life was immense and colorful and marine life abundant. Drift diving through the south pass was incredible. We saw dozens of sharks which wasn’t that many as many other divers saw hundreds. Fortunately these white and black tip sharks have no interest in us humans. No other snorkeling or diving sites has measured up since. We say we’ve been “Fakarava’d”.

We also visited a black pearl farm, the main industry in these atolls now. Fascinating to learn how they grow and harvest the pearls. Steve bought me a necklace with a lovely single black pearl for our wedding anniversary.

The Society Islands: Arriving in Tahiti after months of being in remote and undeveloped islands was a bit of a culture shock. We saw more cars in five minutes than we’ve seen since leaving Costa Rica. We spent nearly two hours in a supermarket just looking at all the things we could buy.

In Tahiti we joined the Rendezvous rally. This ended up being a three days fun packed event for us sailors. We met up with many old friends and also made many new ones.

After the rendezvous John left us to return to London and the rat race. Since we had two weeks to wait before Ben joined us, we traveled down to the south coast of Tahiti. Here we discovered the beautiful unspoilt part of Tahiti. It was also the perfect place to launch ourselves out to sea to view the total eclipse of the sun that we had been anticipating for some time (four years in fact). We were able to sail out far enough to view the total eclipse for a full minute. Even though some thin clouds went over for part of the total viewing, it was still an incredible experience.

After Ben joined us we set sail to visit the rest of the Society Islands. Each one was beautiful and on each one we had our little adventures.

Ben celebrated his twenty third birthday on Bora Bora, considered the most beautiful island in the world. Even though it’s quite touristy now with a number of upmarket resorts, it’s still pretty damn stunning. O
n Ben’s birthday we climbed up to the top of Bora Bora. A challenging climb with ropes to help get up steep rocky surfaces and a long a ridge that dropped off on each side. The view at the top was brilliant and well worth the effort.

The last island we visited in the Societies was Maupiti, the most remote and unspoilt. Here we swam with these amazing giant manta rays. They must have been more than eight feet wide. Have I mentioned how often we see dolphins and whales? They often escort as we approach land, as if they’ve come to welcome us. Each time is just as thrilling.

Cooks Islands: The passage from The Society Islands to the Cooks Islands took us four days. This was Ben’s longest time out at sea (so far) and he managed very well.

After more than twelve months of being in either a French or Spanish speaking country it was wonderful to arrive at an English speaking place. Dealing with immigration and custom was a pleasure and we could read every sign and information posters.

The most extraordinary island we visited in the Cooks was Palmerston Island. The inhabitants of this island are all descendents of William Masters an English man who settled in Palmerston with three Polynesian wives. The island has been divided up for the three branches of the family, each branch being descended from one of Williams’s three wives.

Two of the families vie to host cruisers who arrive on the island. They feed their guests, give tours of the tiny island, offer laundry and showers and generally make their visitors feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible.

We were hosted by Edward and his family. Our six days at Palmerston were fantastic. We got involved in many of the daily routines and activities of the island. Ben and Steve went fishing and sea bird catching with Edward and his two sons. Ben learned how to husk coconuts properly, while I listened to Edwards’s mother tell stories of old times gathering copra and life on Palmerston when she was a girl. We help pluck and prepare the sea birds caught. Only Ben had a go at wringing one of the birds neck to kill it. We went to church with the family and had a special Sunday lunch of chicken and sea bird that we caught and prepared the previous day.

In exchange for their hospitality we offered them goods that we had on board. Since a container boat only visits Palmerston once or twice a year, they were thankful and in need of almost everything we could offer.

We gave them them fresh fruit and vegetables (much appreciated), tin food, dried goods and any treats we had to spare. We also gave Ed gasoline for his outboard, fishing hooks, our rusting 300 ft anchor chain and small electrical parts and small miscellaneous items. We fixed a couple computer printers that belong to the school and admin department and a lap top power supply of an extended family member. The island was a strange contrast of basic subsistence with quite advance computer technology!

Niue: This Island is one of my favourite places. Being an uplifted atoll, faulting, weathering and erosion have created many crevices, chasms and limestone caves.

It was absolutely delightful exploring this island. The massive limestone caves were astounding, each cave we visited unique with surreal formation of stalagmites and stalactites. We hiked through fantastic petrified coral forest and down into deep chasms with clear pools at the bottom. Swam and snorkeled in the natural pools formed on the coastal reef. We enjoyed great food in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the main town. At night we were serenaded by whale song from the nearby humpback whales. I even took courage and scuba dived among the famous Niuen sea snakes. Niue far exceeded our expectation. A must stop for travelers.

Tonga: Another favourite place. The Kingdom of Tonga is a perfect sailing ground with some of the most scenic and unspoiled groups of islands. Here we enjoyed the Vava’u Regatta, probably the most fun packed week we’ve had since starting our cruising life. Ben got recruited into helping with the Regatta and ended up having an amazing time and making good friends with organizers and locals. He also got the opportunity to teach Chemistry and Math to the children of other cruisers who were here during this get together time. Steve and I once again met up with many cruising friends, some we haven’t seen since leaving the other side of the Panama Canal. We were quite exhausted from socializing when we left Vava’u.

After our busy time in Vava’u, it was wonderful to relax and chill out in the distant islands of the Ha’apai group. While visiting one of these remote island we were invited for lunch by a local family. We were served a feast of lobsters, fresh fish deliciously fried in batter and local vegetables. While we ate our food, our host and hostesses fanned away flies from us and our food. We, as custom dictates, gave them small gifts to say ‘Thank you’ for their hospitality. The Tongans are really gracious and affable people.

I could go on and on about all the great moments and places. I feel I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg.

Visiting wonderful places, seeing amazing sights, observing incredible wildlife, discovering unique cultures, tasting their foods and enjoying wonderful hospitality, is what cruising life is about.

There is the other side too. Continually maintaining and fixing our boat, struggling to get spare parts, dealing with difficult officialdom, language barriers and slow communication.

Other low moments were saying goodbye to John when he returned to England and saying goodbye to friends we may never see again. Also hearing about other cruisers who have severely damaged or entirely lost their boat. The worse was hearing that a young cruising friend of ours, just last week, died of a blood infection here in Tonga. It was only four weeks ago that we were sharing a beach fire and BBQ with her.

There are times when I long for land life again. A nice home and the comfort and security it provides. A familiar community with family, friends and good facilities nearby. These thoughts usually occur after an unpleasant incident, when things go wrong with the boat or anticipation of a difficult passage.

When I really think about it, would I give up this life of adventures, exotic locations, remarkable experiences, being footloose and fancy free, returning to a normal, mundane and predictable life on land.

No, I don’t think so! Even on land I remember feeling worried, insecure and faced risks just driving to and from work each day. The highs of the cruising life far far outweigh the lows.

The real question is. Will I ever be able to give up this life!!!!

Daniel’s Bay Hike

I’m running out of superlatives to describe the beauty of this place. The hike started with a dinghy ride around the corner and a short way up a river. As it was low tide the water wasn’t deep enough so we had to get out and lug the dinghy a fair distance before the water deepened enough to motor to a quiet bank where we could tie off.

The little village here is set amongst lush vegetation and, as with all the living areas on these islands, meticulously kept. Towering above the village were steep cliffs of arid volcanic rock creating a total contrast to the green of the valley. The walk traversed this valley first along a vehicle dirt track and then, for most of the way, along a single track. As the sheer walls of the valley pressed in the cultivated fruit trees changes to dense, wild foliage. We came across some ancient ruins now totally abandoned as with all the others we’ve seen. All these old settlements appear to be away from the coast and up valleys – perhaps for protection as a result of the warlike tendencies of old. The path at times was clear and easy to follow. At other times it involved following cairns set amongst areas of mud and rock or flowing streams.

Eventually we reached the end of the trail where the sheer walls now (I think) a couple of thousand feet above us closed in around a pool we could swim in. There was no sign of the falls but at the end of the pool there was an area where huge rocks had fallen. There was a tight swim under and a climb over. Either way got us to another pool behind where we found the falls. As it has been dry for some time there was little water flowing from the towering heights above us. However, we could see the effect of what must be incredible flows of water. Around where the water fell the now tiny end of the valley was carved out and to one side a huge smooth spherical cave had been created by an immense flow of swirling water. It was quite moving to see the enormous effect of simple processes occurring over long periods of time. We have to remind ourselves that these islands are young and in perhaps a few more million years they’ll have been eroded and compressed down and end up looking like the Tuamotus we’ll be visiting soon.

Once we’d returned to the boat we ate lunch then motored around to Taoihae. On the way the genset overheated and shut down automatically reminding me I still had to find the missing impeller blade. We’d been motoring directly into wind and had just turned the corner so we threw up the head sail and used the wind in the bay and a little battery power to make the anchorage.

We were soon connected to the very iffy internet here and I was chasing the impeller blade in a hot engine. After removing a few hoses I found it wedged into the inlet of the heat exchanger (between raw water and coolant) where no doubt it was significantly impeding water flow. Having roasted my fingers and put the genset back together I was able to get on with the online things we needed to do. It was painfully slow taking many minutes to get pages up. As the evening wore on it got better but never that good.

As for today. We’ll provision here and sort out a final few things on the internet. We may leave this afternoon. If not we’ll definitely leave in the morning. We still haven’t completely decided which Tumatotu to make landfall but we have information and time as they are still 500nm away.

Looking back on our time in the Marquesas we could have easily stayed here another month or two. We had originally thought we’d have a lazy time here but we haven’t. We feel we’ve made the best of our time here and cannot think of anywhere we’ve been that we’d rather have skipped for a day off. Perhaps when we reach the Tuamotus we can slow down. But even there there are more places to go then we will ever have time for. Difficult choices. One thing I can say is that the wind forecast is beginning to look good. Boats who have headed there before us have had to motor nearly all the way. We would really prefer to sail particularly given the cost of fuel here. It’s almost as expensive as the Uk !!!!

Daniel’s Bay

The sail around the island to Daniel’s Bay was fairly uneventful. The winds in the lee of the island were fluky which was to be expected. In fact for a good distance, the easterly trades were curling over the top of the volcanic ridge creating a light westerly wind.

We arrived around 3:30pm and found a spot close to the shore amongst a pack of around 15 boats. With not a lot of daylight left we went ashore to stretch our legs along the short sandy beach. Along the beach I spotted a fair sized crab sitting there that appeared unafraid of my approach. I was able to catch it by pressing down on it with my flip flop then holding it by it’s carapace.

Once I’d carried the crab along the beach and back to the dinghy where I deposited it I noticed John and Helen had disappeared. I ran back down the beach to find them. They had been exploring a dried river bed which had lots of crab holes and they’d spotted a few scurrying around. We soon found quite a few crabs hiding under the coconut fronds and sometimes two or three to a hole which meant the top one was quite exposed. I managed to grab five more crabs handing them over to Helen and John to hold in each hand.

We dropped the five crabs into the dinghy to make six in total. We headed over to Kamaya to say hello and ask about the nearby walking trail. They gave us directions and showed interest in the crabs. We soon had their son, Kay, aboard so we could meet his Dad Tim who would kayak ashore and collect some too. We headed back to Dignity to drop off the crabs and grab a few spare eggs for Ruth on Kamaya.

Soon John, Tim, Kay and I were back with the crabs this time with buckets to contain them. We managed to collect at least twenty more of which John and I took another seven back to the boat.

We soon had our crabs on the boil. Although they tasted nice, the meat to shell ratio was quite small so it took a lot of effort for a little return. Helen had also cooked up noodles and we were quite full long before the crabs were finished. John and I finished off by collecting the meat from the remaining crabs for future use.

Today we’re off on the nearby hike to the dried up water fall. We’ll probably go along with Stuart and Sheila from Imagine who sailed around the island at the same time as us yesterday. We’re also thinking of moving back to the main town of Taiohae this afternoon after the hike. It’s about 6nm away so it won’t take long. While the anchorage here is (again) stunning we’re keen to get ourselves sorted out and on our way to the Tuamotos.

Another day in Baie d’Anaho

Helen and I decided to go for another walk. John preferred to stay aboard so we headed off to the beach together. Having just the two of us to haul the dinghy up the beach makes such a difference as we can only lug it inches at a time rather than drag it up in one go. Fortunately Stuart from Imagine was there and gave a hand.

We walked along the beach with Stuart & Sheila for a while chatting about plans, etc. We’ve agreed to run a controlled net from here to the Tuamotus and possibly on to Tahiti. This will start up next week. We parted company when they headed off to the town in the next bay while we carried on along the coast. Our destination was the leeward beach to the east which required following the coast of this bay for a while before climbing a low saddle and out to the other side. I think I sound like a stuck record when I say the scenery and views were stunning. But they were. Unfortunately the leeward beach with it’s crashing waves also had it’s collection of trash. It was not as bad as elsewhere but even here, thousands of miles out into the Pacific, plastic bottles, old rope and other items had washed ashore.

We walked to one end of the beach before resting in the shade of a tree, taking water then turning back. On the way we found what we think was the skeleton of a horse.

After returning to the boat I popped over to Jackster to borrow some tools so I could open up our old water maker feeder pump. While in the middle of opening the pump Gary from Inspiration Lady called about some problems he had with his email software. It turned out he needed a file so I invite him over to collect the file and see how to apply it. Dave from Jackster popped by then too and hung around for a while during which time he invited us out to dive round the corner later in the afternoon which we accepted, particularly considering he was offering to fill our tanks afterwards.

Having pulled the pump apart some of the bits inside were flying around. They could have been lose as a result of my dismantling but I figured out how to put it all together. Maybe it works now but I have a suspicion some of the metal is worn and output pressure will be poor.

After lunch we got our dive gear together and around 2pm John and I were out in the dinghy – Helen preferring to read. Our first port of call was to stop by the nearby boat “Secret agent Man” which had tangled it’s chain under a coral head. I’d free dived down to take a look and realized it would take some moving of the chain and some hard pulling to remove from under the coral head under which the chain was tightly wedged.

Dave and I donned our scuba gear and we went down. We shifted the chain and anchor to create some slack on the chain one side of the coral head. I kept this up while Dave pulled the chain out from under the coral head. Then we gave the signal to Eric on Secret Agent Man to up anchor and move. They were off. We waved goodbye, got back into our dinghies and headed off to our selected dive site.

The dive was murky but we did get to see a lot of fish. At one point we found a lion fish and while we were looking at that a manta ray snuck up behind us so we had two good sightings in one. I also spotted an octopus which is always fun and I managed to spot a second, larger manta which was in view for just a few seconds.

Once we were back on the boat we received a call from Eric on Secret Agent Man inviting us over for dinner. He was thankful for our rescuing him from the reef. He’d tried for ages the previous day to free himself to no avail. While he offered us the few beers he had we declined suggesting instead he ‘pass it on’ to the next person he found that he could help. They’d cooked us a chili dinner with rice which was nice. We’d brought chocolate cake for dessert which went with their banana cake.

I was quite exhausted by the end of the evening and was quite glad to lie down and sleep.

Today we’re heading round the island anti-clockwise to Daniels Bay which has received praise from other cruisers as well has having a great hike to what some have said is the third highest waterfall in the world despite it having no water. We’ll see. We’ll do the hike regardless as it’s supposed to be quite good.


The boat needed a bit of a clean up so we spent the first part of the morning washing the decks and cleaning the interior. Once this was completed we set off for our walk to Hatiheu in the next bay.

The beach is accessible by dinghy through one small channel as the rest of the area is all shallow coral. We landed on the beach and secured the dinghy to a tree before walking along the beach looking for the path that would take us over the hill. There is a small village here if you can call it that – just a few small buildings and a church. We found the path up and began the climb. According to my charts the climb is about 250 feet but in the heat of mid morning with the sun on us it felt much higher.

As we climbed the view of Baie d’Anaho and it’s surrounds became progressively more impressive and stunning. Reaching the saddle where the trail peaked was a relief as it was now downhill to Hatiheu and, even better, it was shaded.

The view of the surrounding geography was even more stunning from Hatiheu. Volcanic rock formations towered over green hills and a sleepy little village. Typically there were a couple of small shops and an impressively built church.

After exploring the village we started climbing again up the track out of town towards where there were some ancient Polynesian ruins. We expected just a few rocks but found the base of a what must have been a town for several hundred if not thousands of people. It was a haunting reminder of the culture on these islands that was decimated by the arrival of Europeans, their diseases and their ideas. Contact was inevitable and cultures are inevitably impacted but it is still sad to see the result. While wondering the ruins we met Frank and Margo from Silver Lining and ended up chatting for a while.

Back in town we looked around for somewhere to eat. The only place open was a large dining area with meals for around $25-$40. We passed on this deciding to have a curry back aboard the boat.

We struggled back up to the saddle again now in the midday heat. On the way back down we came upon a French lady who had lost contact with her party. She looked exhausted so we offered her some of her water. It turned out she had no water as it was the rest of her party who were carrying it. We ended up giving her our bottle as we were on our way down and there was abundant free fresh water from taps by the beach. She was very grateful for this. Once we’d left her behind we realized we’d not seen anyone else on the trail so if she was behind her party it was a long way behind. Still, with a bottle to carry water she would make it.

Just before reaching the beach I managed to stub my little toe tearing the nail off and causing a bit of a mess on my flip flop. There was a shower on the beach of which we availed ourselves rinsing off all the grime (and dried blood in my case) and taking our fill drinking straight from the flow.

We’d bought some empty bottles and cans to fill. Despite now having a working water maker we still can’t pass the opportunity to carry more – particularly water so fresh and clean.

Back on the boat we had dinner. The wind had picked up earlier in the day and John found the snorkeling to be a little murky. We rested the afternoon before entertaining the Jacksters, Inspiration Ladys, the Bristol Roses and Jack from Anthem celebrating Dave from Jackster’s birthday. Another good time was had by all.

This morning we’re a little hung over so today is set to be a day of rest.