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Back to the two of us

Our last day together with the boys was emotional.

We had breakfast together at one of the marina restaurants before setting off in the car. It took nearly 3 hours to get to the airport but fortunately we had no problems with the traffic.

I stayed in the car so the boys could check in. As we had plenty of time our plan was to check in then go somewhere for lunch. I circled the airport a couple of times to avoid being moved on from the drop off area. Ben popped out once needing some cash for a visa which I thought was odd. Next time round Helen came out to say I should park and help out.

We had a bit of a problem. We are all dual national. When Ben left the US he ran into difficulties heading into French Polynesia with a one way ticket on a US passport so he switched to his UK passport. Since then we’ve cleared him out and into each country on his UK passport. When we inquired with NZ customs as to the best thing to do to avoid a wrangle when Helen and I left without him they suggested he should leave the country on his UK passport. Ben had diligently checked in using his UK passport and the checkout required him to have a valid US visa which is required these days. I managed to talk to an immigration official and agreed a plan that would probably not cause Helen and I any problems. Ben cleared out on his US passport. We then took a photocopy of his US and UK passports along with his boarding pass. We’ll use that as a starting point to demonstrate we have not brought in an illegal immigrant when we leave the country without him.

That being sorted we still had enough time to leave the airport for a bite to eat for lunch. Then it was back to the airport to drop them off and say goodbye. It was a little tearful. It’s been great having both of them aboard for the last 3 weeks and getting to know Ben as an adult over the last six months. Since December 2009, bar 2 weeks in Tahiti, we’ve had family aboard and now we’re going our separate ways again.

It is sad of course but one has to focus on the positives. It is a time of new adventure for all of us at our respective point in our lives. This is truly exciting for all. We are thankful for the opportunities we have for spending time together in fantastic places seeing and doing amazing things with the kids we brought up. There are enough estranged families to remind us how lucky we are. And, who knows, they may communicate from time to time to let us know how they’re getting on.

We returned to Whangarei a different route (RT 16) as I’m getting fed up of driving the Auckland to Whangarei main road. It didn’t take much longer and gave us some refreshing scenery. We stopped at a hardware store on the way back to pick up a camping table and some hosepipe attachments I need.

I’ve just spent the last couple of hours sorting out our tracks from Tonga so that Ben has a full record of the mileage he’s covered with us. His total is 3,137nm which is a lot more than many will do in a lifetime. Not bad. At the same time I’ve caught up with the tracks for this blog. Here are our tracks since we’ve arrived including the leg from Tonga if one can be bothered to zoom out and see it. If you’re really diligent, mad or both you can actually find the bit where we turned around to lash the broken rudder post and steering gear. During that time our course changed as the current pushed us south east.


View 2010 NZ1 in a larger map

Tonga Tracks

I’ve split our Tonga tracks into two parts. The first part is in and around the Vava’u group.


View 2010 Tonga 1 in a larger map

Part two is our travels through the Ha’apai group and then down here to Tongatapu.


View 2010 Tonga 2 in a larger map

If you zoom into the northern part of this second map you’ll see our various tacks into wind.

Recent Tracks

Not so recent perhaps but here are our tracks since we left the Marquesas.

Tuamotus


View 2010 Tuamotus in a larger map

Society Islands


View 2010 SocietyIslands in a larger map

Southern Cooks / Beveridge Reef / Niue


View 2010 CooksNiue in a larger map

Fakarava Village

There was little wind to speak of yesterday and once underway we were reluctant to stop so we made it all the way to the village. No surprise but there were quite a few boats in the anchorage of which we recognised most.

We were soon connected to the internet and struggling through the slowness of it all to get a few things done. Two of the key tasks were to book Ben’s flight to join us (now set for July 13th) and Sam’s flight to South Africa to visit his family there.

Later we went ashore to have a look around. We bumped into Jackie from Jackster who was on a similar mission to ourselves. We found Gunther who provides free visits to his pearl farm and set up a trip for the next day (this afternoon). We then visited the dive shop and set up a dive for this morning on the incoming current at the northern pass.

We parted company with Jackie and headed down the main drag (such that it was) and visited the three stores along the way picking up some rather overheated croissants left over and some raisin bread. Outside one of the stores we met Brian and Jodon from El Regallo who we’d known from the radion. It was nice to meet and get to know them. Soon we were back aboard internetting again before settling down to sleep.

This morning I was ashore at 6am to pick up fresh baguettes and croissant for breakfast. Shortly before 8am John and I dinghied to the dive shop for our dive – Helen wanting to pass on this one as it was a little technical. We met the Jacksters there as well as John and Ian from Sea Mist along with some others who we didn’t know. It didn’t take long to get out to the dive site 5nm away in their powered RIB. We were separated into groups of 4 with a dive master with each group. Our group went second. We were dropped into the water and had to head down fairly quickly lest we be swept beyond our target in the strong currents.

Our first stop at around 110ft was on the rising reef. Here we saw thousands of fish and hundreds of sharks all milling around each in their own place in the food chain starting with the small life being swept up over the reef by the current. We soon hand to handed over to coral to a spot about 90ft deep where we waited another 10 minutes before letting go. We were swept over the reef and through some canyons for around 10 minutes before arriving at a dip in the reef called Ali Baba where sharks and fish took refuge from the current. The other two divers in our group were running low on air and needed extra from the dive master. Presumably they’d not been able to relax in the deep part of the dive and used up too much air.

Forty minutes into the dive it was time to rise and take a 5 minute safety stop to allow some of the nitrogen to fizz off. After that we were on the surface being picked up by the RIB. A great dive.

Back ashore it was back to internetting, this time ordering parts to be sent to Ben to bring to the boat in a months time.

This afternoon we went back ashore to visit the pearl farm. We didn’t get the full show as the technicians were out in the lagoon fixing things but we were shown an oyster being opened and a black pearl within. We also had explained the whole pearl making process which was pretty interesting. The end of the trip, inevitably, was where we could buy some pearls. Helen found one she liked and John bought a few.

That’s about it. The wind has been non-existant today and the lagoon consequently flat. From others I understand the forecast for the next few days is about the same. We’ll stay here until our online work is done and then head to Toau even if we have to motor.

In the meantime I’ve put together our tracks of our big crossing and our stay in the Marquesas. You’ll have to zoom out to see the bigger crossing.


View 2010 Marquesas in a larger map

With any minutes left I’ll try and uploading some more pictures.

Old Friends

The first thing we did upon arriving was to call our selected agent to facilitate our check in. In the Galapagos it is the law that we have to use an agent and we are unable to disembark until the process is initiated.

We then set about finding an internet connection which seems to work ok except certain features just don’t work. Accessing our email using local clients doesn’t work so we have to go online. My Picasa picture uploader also does not work. But enough other things work for us to reconnect and see what’s happening in the world.

Probably as a result of it being Good Friday it took nearly four hours for our agent to show up during which we cleared the boat and rested. As mentioned before I used this time to set up the dinghy and go and visit Leu Cat nearby. While waiting we heard from Sail Away on the radio who we’d met around Xmas/New Year in the San Blas. It’s not so much a small world but a narrow path we traverse.

As soon as our agent had our passports we were good to go ashore. We took the same water taxi as our agent and went to explore the town of Ayora. Helen was immediately drawn to the supermarket right by the dock. Once we’d had the customary price check we were free to walk around the small town taking pictures. One remarkable thing about the place is how clean it all is which is a very nice change.

We didn’t stay too long as we had a 5pm engagement aboard Leu Cat for sundowners. We took some ice as their freezer was having problems and plenty of beer/wine which we unceremoniously downed having spent the last week dry.

After a few hours of pleasant company we went ashore to eat out. As we alighted the agua taxi we bumped into Tim and Ruth and kids from Kamaya who we met in Panama City. They’ve been here for a month and loving it. They’ll be heading west for the Marquesas about the same time as us which will be nice. We learned from them about a nice back street where the locals eat so we went there and had a very enjoyable meal.

It was nearly 11 before we got back to the boat. We were exhausted. Nice to be in a new place and better to meet up with old friends.

This morning we’re off to the Saturday market and later we expect to visit the Darwin Center.

I’ll leave you now with the track of our crossing.


View 2010 Galapagos Crossing in a larger map