Friday, 30 July 2010

Snakes Alive! We Have Arrived

Day 10 Maupiti to Niue, Thursday, July 29, 2010
Position at Noon Niue time (UTC -11hrs), 19 03.082s, 169 55.304w
We've just picked up a mooring at Alofi Anchorage in Niue, one of the world's smallest self-governing states (in free association with New Zealand).
We're looking forward to exploring this most unusual island. We've been doing our research and reading the World ARC notes. About 20,000 Niueans now live in New Zealand and only about 1500 live on the island itself. Niue is a raised atoll, formed of limestone. As we rounded the island on our route to the anchorage on the western side, we noticed hundreds of caves.
We can expect to see a rainforest on the island, and explore some of the caves and chasms. If we are lucky we might see some whales.
Oh, and Niue is known to have lots of sea snakes. But that's not the only reason for the corny blog title today. Robert and I take great delight in thinking up the corniest blog titles (most never see the light of day), just to embarrass our children.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Winds of change

Day 9 Maupiti to Niue, Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Position at Noon Niue time (UTC -11hrs), 18 53.377s, 167 46.143w
At long last the winds are starting to pick up. The sea state is getting messier (technical term for not so much fun). We are 120nm out of Niue and will make landfall tomorrow. This passage will go down as one of our longest not in terms of miles but days at sea.
The temptation to make a short stop at Beveridge Reef is not great enough. We are looking forward to ending these days en route and making landfall in Niue.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Anchorages... Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, May 25, 2010

Hakatea (Daniels Bay) is the most protected from the swell entering Taioa Bay and is a favourite among cruisers. Through the fairly narrow entrance the bay opens up to the right into a circular basin with a sandy beach. We celebrated Elliot's 21st birthday with a crab feast on the beach. Yes, Elliot and Owen hunted down the land crabs behind the beach at sunset and we cooked them straight away over the fire.

From the anchorage of Hakatea you can take the dinghy or walk around to the bay of Hakaui where you can hike to Vaipo, the third highest waterfall in the world (free-fall cascade over 900 feet). The hike starts as a pleasant walk down a hibiscus lined path, through citrus and banana groves and gradually becomes more strenuous. Everyone says it's well worth the effort to swim in the pool at the bottom.

Taioa Bay is a magical, eerie kind of paradise, as this picture suggests.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Laundry Library, Tales from the South Seas

Day 8 Maupiti to Niue, Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Position at 9AM Niue time (UTC -11hrs), 18 13.781s, 165 21.615w
A well stocked library, essential equipment on a blue water sailing boat. Due to space constraints, books come as go as their relevance or usefulness changes and sometimes we just hate to let a favorite book go. That's why we started our "Laundry Library" page of the blog but recently we've had little opportunity to update the page.
At anchor we are kept very busy with maintaining Bristol Rose, catching up on admin tasks that just go along with life in general, communications, socializing with other cruisers and enjoying the location. Reading is not an activity we have much time for. However on a long passage that all changes.
On this passage the crew have read 7 books so far! Plus consulting a library of reference books, Jimmy Cornell's "World Cruising Routes" (long standing essential reading for ocean crossings), "The Pacific Crossing Guide" by Michael Pocock, "Landfalls of Paradise" by Earl Hinz and Jim Howard, "Moon Handbooks South Pacific" by David Stanley and "Ken's Comprehensive Cruising Guide for the Kingdom of Tonga" by Ken Hellewell. We also have quite a lot of reference material filed on the computer.
The reference books are essential as we dream and plan our landfall. We like to be prepared to make the most of each new location. As it must have been back in the times of the early explorers on voyages of discovery, sailing the South Pacific is an exotic and richly rewarding experience. Now that we are here we realize how little we really know about the islands and the people, literally on the doorstep of Australia.
To feed the appetite for reading material we frequently swap books with other cruisers. Usually a laundry or marina bar is a good place to swap. We try to make sure we have a fresh supply of books to keep us entertained on a long passage.
We picked up a copy of Mitchener's "Caribbean" from a fellow cruiser when we were in Las Perlas and found the signature of Christian Alair, of S/V Christa, inside the cover. Prior to departing from Maryland in November 2008 we followed Christa's Blog and dreamt of cruising the waters of the Caribbean. When we visited Grenada we finally got to meet Christian. After following his blog for over a year we felt like we already knew him. Getting to read a book that he too had read on his journey was a special experience for us. Like a message in a bottle, his signature said "Christa was here".
Lately we've been leaving our mark by way of the BR boat seal inside books we particularly like. It's fun to make the connections and think of the journeys the books themselves make as they hitch rides across oceans.
Posted by Single Sideband Radio

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Brisotl Rose keeps on Rollin. Rollin, Rollin, Rollin, on an Ocean

Day 7 Maupiti to Niue, Monday, July 26, 2010
Position at 10AM Tahiti time, 18 32.690s, 163 39.912w
For most of this passage wind speeds have been less than 15 knots. We're sailing directly downwind in light air out of the NNE. Progress is slow and Bristol Rose rolls from side to side with each wave. How slow? On our passage from The Galapagos to Marquesas we traveled the same distance, 700 miles, in only 4 days. If nothing else, we are having a relaxing time of it and getting small projects and lots of reading and writing done.
The days have been sunny but cooler and night watches in the cockpit get quite cold. We've been enjoying beautiful moonlit seas to sail by, as if someone has left the nightlight on. It's a full moon tonight.
Last night we sailed past Palmerston, a popular stopover for many crossing this part of the Pacific. We are anxious to get to Niue so we continue to slog on.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Underwater, Blue Eyes, Funny Face

All underwater photographs by Elliot.

A Day of Rest

Day 6 Maupiti to Niue, Sunday, July 25, 2010
Position 18 27.740S 162 37.313W

Neptune has taken the day off and turned the wind machine off.
We have had a very slow, slow, slow day. Sun is shining, seas are calm, so can't complain.
Hope to see some small increase in wind speed soon to help us get moving along our way to Niue.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Are we there yet?

Day 5 Maupiti to Niue, Saturday, July 24, 2010
Position 18 13.559S 160 29.388W
At noon today we past the 500nm mark, only another 500nm to go to Niue.
Whenever I come up through the companionway after rest, I'm still surprised to see the big swells looming behind the boat. What are we doing out here? Out in the Pacific that is thousands of feet deep, hundreds of miles from land and as confirmed by the net check-ins - about 70 miles from the closest cruising vessel. Is anyone else out here? We keep looking but only see occasional birds and flying fish. I go back to my book. Elliot is designing his new boat card in Photoshop.
Some fellow cruisers on this route have anchored off Palmerston Reef for a rest and perhaps some whale sightings. It's about 150 miles away and about half way between Tahiti and Tonga. Some cruisers intend to anchor off Beveridge Reef for some snorkeling, about 120 miles south east of Niue. If we reach Beveridge Reef during daylight we might be tempted to stop there briefly.
Last night we had a brilliant starlit night with an almost full moon. This type of night has been elusive since we arrived in the South Pacific. Mostly the sky is covered with clouds and storms are more common then we desire. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise however, the wind is dropping and clocking around to the NE. Not so good for our passage making. Owen is enjoying the sunshine and playing a game on his itouch in the cockpit. Robert is calculating, updating the log, and ignoring the inevitable "are we there yet?". Not nearly!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Blue Water Everywhere

Maupiti to Niue. Day 4, Position 17 41.488S 158 40.518W
What's there to like about doing a 1,000 nm passage?
It takes about 3 days for your body and mind to stop fighting the inevitable truth of making a 1,000 nm passage. It is not comfortable, boring most of the time, terrifying some of the time, broken sleep, wishing it will end soon. But the passage takes its own sweet time.
Bristol Rose does her best to get us through safely; she works tirelessly day and night, negotiating wind and waves to get us to Niue. We spend our time reading, eating, watching a vacant sea, some times chatting, some times nothing.
The morning and evening nets are a highlight, someone outside the family to talk to! Daily weather reports to download via SSB, update our blog posting and position reports, and email. We're getting more blog updates done at sea than when at anchor when wifi often, and SSB too will fail us. Volcanic island heights sometimes block the SSB.
Now into our 4th day at sea, we have traveled 400nm at an average speed of 5.3kts, we have not changed the sail settings, our Monitor windvane has steered all the way. We've done running repairs: a chaffed line replaced, reattached a main sheet shackle to the boom, reattached a chaffed reefing line, cooked and cleaned. Outside of keeping a visual watch and making adjustments to the monitor from time to time we have little else to do. We catch sleep where we can and count down the miles and days to landfall in Niue.

Friday, 23 July 2010

World ARC Fleet in Australia

French Polynesia to Niue, Day 3. Position 17 08s, 155 38w
Today is overcast with a bit of blue poking through. We did experience winds over 25 knots last night as the cold front passed over us on it's way east.
We're thinking about our friends in the World ARC fleet. They are arriving in Mackay this week and we're disappointed not to be with them. Cruisers make friends fast and make fast friends! Will we ever see them again? We truly hope so.
When we can get a wifi connection we check their locations and daily logs. Some of the crews have jumped off in order to spend more time in the Pacific. They might catch the WARC on the next round, 2012-2013.
Being a part of the World ARC has been a good experience for us. Much thanks to Paul Tetlow and the World ARC team who have continued to support us along the way as we've trailed the fleet. The World ARC introduction has smoothed our entry procedures and slip/mooring arrangements all the way.
Leaving French Polynesia is a big turning point for us and another fleet, the loosely affiliated cruising fleet made up of Puddle Jumpers and others, generally known as cruising yachties. There are so many choices, various routes across the Pacific. It's been a blast to have covered so many miles with our friends in this fleet (some for over 18 months, since the Bahamas). We hope to see them again in Australia over the next 12 months or so as they make their way across the Pacific.

Our schedule now is to reach Australia in September. We are making the most of the fabulous locations along the way, leaving some time in Queensland to see family and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef before making our way south to Sydney before cyclone season in November.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Net Gains... or, Give a Little, Take a Little

French Polynesia to Niue, Day 2. Position 16 45S, 154 03W
Weather forecasting in the South Pacific is a challenge. We obtain Weather from a number of sources and get opinions from other cruisers. Everyone has an opinion on the weather around these parts and given how variable it is you stand a good chance of being right some of the time.
The weather charts show a cold front coming our way. We have been on the lookout for it all day after a report this morning that an ominous cloud bank is building to our West. Yesterday and today we have had light winds from the ENE and relatively flat seas. It would be nice to have a little more wind so that we can sail a little faster, but let's hope not too much wind.
There are a number of boats in our area, some heading north to Suwarrow, some to the Southern Cooks and Tonga. It's comforting to know through the morning net that we are not out here alone and it could be helpful to hear what conditions others are experiencing. Since the Marquesas, we've been checking in with the Polynesian Breakfast Net on 8164 SSB. 7:30AM on 8164 started with Whiskers wanting to keep in touch with us as well as Emily Grace and word got around to the point where a net evolved. Steve on Dignity organized everyone into a helpful and widespread net. In response perhaps to the difficulty in getting reliable weather information and in particular the unreliability of the grib files, Jack on Whoosh took on the job of Principal Weather Guesser. He's since recruited another three or four Guessers who collect information from various sources including Nadi Weather Map, Fiji Fleet Codes, NOAA, New Zealander Bob McDavitt's weekly newsletter, French Polynesian Weather and GRIB files. It turns out that the models used for the GRIB files have difficulty predicting the wind in the South Pacific so a prediction of light winds is not always reliable.
Organized nets rely on controllers to facilitate. Trish has been helping once a week with the Polynesian net. Our experience has been that if you put yourself out for the greater good, you give a little and you typically get a lot more back from the organized nets. When boats check in to the net they are not just reporting their position, which could be useful if they should find themselves in difficulty later on. They're also providing on the spot wind and sea conditions that could help others in their wake. Cruisers also share information about anchorages, services, etc. on the net. We all gain from being involved.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Anchorages... Tahuata, Marquesas. May 13, 2010

Tahu means fire, ata means spirit. The island is known for its tatoo artists, stone and wood carvers, and friendly people.

Crystal clear waters of the anchorage at Resolution Bay, Vaitahu. Captain Cook landed here and named the bay after his ship, Resolution.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Farewell French Polynesia... Two Tuna To Go!

At noon today we made our way from one of the most delightful anchorages in French Polynesia, through the amazingly blue lagoon, along the well-marked channel and out the "infamous" pass to the open sea. We could easily have spent a lot more time in Maupiti. They say the small island is what Bora Bora was before it was "discovered", unspoilt. We enjoyed our time in Bora Bora and all the islands we visited in French Polynesia but Maupiti will probably always be a little special to us. So many people pass it by on their way to the Cook Islands or Tonga. Some people tried to talk us out of going through the pass because it's narrow and impassable when the wind is from the south or southwest. We're glad we made the stop at Maupiti, just 27 miles west of Bora Bora.
From here it's farewell to many of our friends and the beautiful islands of French Polynesia and on to Niue, about 1,000 miles from Maupiti. From here the cruising fleet spilts multiple ways as cruisers head for the final destination for this cruising season, New Zealand or Australia where they'll wait out the cyclone season. We met Gary and Jackie of Inspiration Lady and Jack of Anthem by radio in the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos over a year ago. They're heading to New Zealand along with Jacqui and Dave of Jackster so it will be at least another year before we see them again. We met Gerald and Di (and Beatrice) on Whiskers, in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas almost 18 months ago and will be trying to catch up with them at points along the way to Australia in the next few weeks.
Just to start us off on the right "foot", or is that keel, Elliot landed two beautiful yellowfin tunas simultaneously this afternoon. That was exciting. Plenty of fish to go on our way.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Underwater, Unbelievably Blue Tuamotus

Can you believe that some bright sparks thought the Tuamotus Archipelago was a good place to do nuclear testing???

Underwater photographs by Elliot.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Anchorages... Ua Pou, Marquesas. May 16, 2010

Hakahetau Bay, (hock-ah-hay-tao) with a backdrop of seven vertical spires, "powerful giants that reign over the landscape", according to Joe Russell author, "Exploring the Marquesas Islands". Arguably the most striking anchorage in the world.

The tallest spire, Oave, is over 3,900 feet and was shrouded in cloud for the time we were there.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Underwater, Pink Turbans and Pipe Fish

Turban shell

Pipe Fish

It's hard to believe the colors and careful camouflage of life underwater. All underwater photographs by Elliot. He really has an eye for the small pipe fish so thanks to him, I get to see what I missed while snorkeling.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Underwater, Big Fish, Cool Colours

Giant Clam, the animal can be purple, red, blue, green, whatever.

Big fish, about 3 feet long.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, March 2010

Reclining Sea Line

The Galapagos, where the birds walk on water. The tiny Elliot's Storm Petrel was our intro to the islands.

Arriving in the Galapagos was a relief. That’s probably an understatement; it was tremendously exciting. As we approached San Cristobal, we saw a small waterfall tumbling into the sea, lava coastlines, sea turtles, a shark, birds walking on water and sea lions.

Inspiration Lady, San Cristobal

The population of the Galapagos islands is over 30,000. In 2008, 180,000 tourists, including Ecuadorian residents, visited the islands. I can’t tell you the sea lion count except to say they appear everywhere. You might even find one on your stern or peering inside your hatch, as Jacqui and David did on Jackster.

Anthem and Jackster, San Cristobal

Sally Lightfoot crab.

Jack, Anthem, enjoys his ice cream. Thanks to Jackie and Gary, Inspiration Lady, (first across the line) we all enjoyed ice cream.

Owen, Elliot and Robert rented bicycles to explore the beaches.

We took a bus up to the El Junco national park. To get to the top of the crater you take a steep walkway. Then you can look down into the fresh water crater lake. Frigate birds come to the lake to wash salt off their wings. The mountain is shrouded in clouds so the vegetation is lush and the air is dripping wet.

Elliot and Owen inside a moss and fern lined “Hobbit Hole” at El Junco, San Cristobal. Exposed tree roots help to form the walls and roof. The earth was washed away when the lake overflowed and formed a river down the side of the mountain.

We visited the Cerro Colorado visitor center on San Cristobal where they have a captive tortise breeding program.

From tiny babies to giants

We also visited the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz, home of Lonesome George, the last of his particular species of tortise.

Luxury Galapagos cruiser, M/S The Alta ran aground in Puerto Ayora,
Galapagos on March 17, 2010.

We didn’t expect to be able to do a lot of provisioning in the Galapagos but we found the small super mercados to be quite well stocked. The farmers’ market in San Cristobal was an unexpected bonus. We found watermelon, oranges, papaya, bananas, canteloupe, peppers, cucumber, potatoes, onions, mandarins, tomatoes, coriander, passionfruit, pumpkin, beans, and tamarillos and got change back out of $20.

Kicker Rock, from our lunch time anchorage on a snorkel trip.

Look out for Elliot's underwater postings from locations along the way.

For the story of the grounding of The Alta,