Thursday, 30 April 2015

Tahiti

Our pilot book states that the southern pass into Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, is accessible at all times – other than when there is a big swell from the west.  We are now accustomed to the swell in the South Pacific; it normally sets from the south, but today - well today it seems to be coming out of the west and I estimate it to be between two and three metres – that’s quite big.  A mile away from shore I scan the horizon through my binoculars and all I can see is surf breaking. Now we are only a few hundred metres away and I can clearly make out the channel markers, and nearby, surfers lie on their boards, waiting to catch the waves – always a bad sign. I am thinking of aborting the entry when I see a catamaran enter the pass ahead of us. There is a gap between the waves and it slips through. We gather in the cockpit, point Juno’s bows at the middle of the pass and run the gauntlet.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Moorea

On watch in the early morning one can truly appreciate the slow and uplifting wonder of dawn. It starts with a faint light in the eastern sky; colour seeps from the horizon, spilling into the clouds, lilac at first, then pink and gold as the kaleidoscope revolves. As the first orange crescent appears above the horizon, the colours deepen and become rich and vivid. On the island ahead the dark peaks light up first, high above they are first to see the new sun; then slowly, the light spills down the eastern slopes, long dark shadows withdrawing into the deep green ravines cut into the hillside. The sun enjoys its first glimpse and now climbs quickly, increasing in power and splendour as it rises to create the new day.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Tuamotos, Fakarava South

We are anchored behind the reef, a million miles from anywhere.  A huge blood red horizon glows in the west, a scatter of black clouds drifts pass like battleships; the sound of the surf on the outer reef is a muffled roar and on Juno all is still. The water is so clear that even at dusk we can see the reef sharks circling the boat. Between us and the ocean is a narrow strip of pink sand, dense with palm trees, a thin finger that stretches out and disappears below the dark surface. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Tuamotos, Fakarava North

We approach the island of Fakarava at dawn. The passes into the Tuamoto lagoons are notoriously dangerous. As the tide ebbs, a huge volume of water flows out of the narrow passes in the reef, surging through underwater canyons, churning up the surface and creating standing waves as it collides with the inertia of the open ocean. We have done our calculations to arrive at slack water, just as the tide is turning, but as we approach the pass, the horizon is boiling with white water and breaking waves that run a mile out into the ocean.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Marquesas, Nuku Hiva

We are on a broad reach, champagne sailing at 8 knots towards the Tuamotus, 500 miles to the southwest. The sun is already high in the eastern sky as the Marquesas fade behind us; the towering cliffs and emerald forests just a faint silhouette in the haze of the rising sun, the lens of proximity no longer in focus.  A pod of twenty dolphins plays in our wake; two pups swim in tight formation with their mother while energetic adolescents playfully leap high out of the water before sprinting ahead to the bow where they weave and jostle for position in the surf.  Curiously, this captivating sight barely raises a glance on board Juno. Caroline looks up briefly from her book, Andrew pokes his head up the companionway but that is all. We have become blasé about the bountiful marine life after our experiences of the Marquesas.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Marquesas, guest written by Andrew

It is 0230 in the morning, I am on watch and we are sailing from Tahuata to NukuHiva. We are proceeding at 6 knots and are passing on our port side Ua Pou – what great names! I am sitting in my shorts with no shirt, having hardly worn a shirt or shoes for the last 2.5 months. Our 17 day Pacific crossing ended at Hiva Oa 3 days ago; we are at the Marquesa Islands.  Hiva Oa and Tahuata are stunning and I have high hopes for Nuku Hiva which has one of the world’s highest waterfalls, which we will trek up to. On our Port side about 1 mile away is A Plus 2 and on the starboard side about 2 miles away Makena; both boats on the World Arc. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Marquesas, Hiva Oa

On a long ocean passage reality is suspended. As the days roll by, our mental image of land is framed by our previous destination; the endless vista of sea and waves suspends that picture in our minds, making landfall all the more dramatic when it appears. Whether the palm trees and beaches of the Caribbean after an Atlantic crossing or the soaring peaks and lush jungle of the Marquesas, our senses are heightened, the impact greater. We are moored in the bay of Tahauku on the island of Hiva Oa, our port of entry to the Marquesas where generations of sailors have dropped anchor after the long pacific crossing.  It is a spectacular setting in the shadow of the brooding Mount Temetiu, its steep sides swathed in thick jungle, plunging down to the murky green sea below.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, Landfall

Dark shapes appear ahead out of the night, suddenly very close; a rich aroma of earth and vegetation is carried on the air towards us, pungent after the pure neutral air of the ocean.  A faint light blinks on, then disappears.  The wind has died and we are motoring towards land, wholly reliant on our charts until daybreak when the veil of darkness will be lifted and our landfall will be revealed.  After 3,000 miles and sixteen days at sea we are approaching the Islas de Marquesas, named after their chance discovery by Alvaro de Mendana on a voyage financed by the Viceroy of Peru, Marquis Hurtado de Mendoza.

Three men in a boat, by Caroline

There is something very comforting and friendly about three men in a boat particularly if you are the girl lucky enough to share it with them.

We are hours away from completing our Pacific Crossing and again it has proven an uneventful journey. I say this not that because it was in any way boring but it was ‘event free’ which in sailing terms means no major (or even minor) disasters.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, approach to Marquesas

A dusty trail of magical luminous powder has been scattered softly in an arc across the night sky, studded with bright pinpricks of light from the stars and planets of our solar system. The light at the top of the mast swings through millions of miles of space like a giant pendulum as Juno rolls to the rhythm of the southern swell. The moon is still below the horizon and without its radiance the stars are brighter, more intense, the contrast with the dark sky more vivid and the effect even more spellbinding. I am on the evening night watch and it’s a glorious place to be, sitting on the aft deck cushions, gazing up, the only ambient light for thousands of miles is the red glow from the compass.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, mid passage

Our bright red spinnaker is flying, drawing us smoothly and swiftly towards Polynesia. Two fishing lines stream off the stern of the boat, each with a lure occasionally flirting on the surface before diving under the waves, its colourful skirt aping the tentacles of a squid, tempting a big pacific Dorado to bite. The wind has eased and the swell is lazier, the motion drowsy, and I sit alone in the cockpit after lunch, writing to keep myself awake as Juno rocks us gently. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, guest written by Paulus

We have just passed the 2,000 mile mark since leaving The Galapagos Islands and contrary to our expectation we have been on a broad reach with wind consistently blowing from a south easterly direction and a fairly big swell from the south, for the last 11 days. This means that we have been heeled over to starboard  on a lively sea for almost a week and a half. Apart from the resultant lean to port that we have all developed, there are various sensitive items of equipment, notably thermo and our refrigerator, that are struggling to keep up normal working duties under these conditions.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, the southeast trades

It is the hottest part of the day in the South Pacific and the air is thick and heavy below decks. In the cockpit it is cool in the shade of the bimini, but still warm enough to prove the dough that seems to expand before my eyes, ready for the oven in time for supper.  The sky is a washed out pale blue; bunches of towering white cumulus cloud gather on the southern horizon, greedily consuming the warm evaporating sea water that will transform them from harmless white cotton-wool balls into demonic black squalls.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, in the Doldrums again

There is a long swell running from the south, four metres high at the crests, rolling in under our beam and lifting us high before we slide down into the trough as it pulses north. Angry black squalls march overhead, bringing heavy rain that bounces off our decks and drips into the cockpit off the bimini. There is little wind; the engine is running and we roll drunkenly in the swell, the mast creaking, the boom snatching at the mainsheet as it swings from side to side. We are back in the Doldrums.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Galapagos to Marquesas, the start

The full moon rises early in the sky behind us, a faint silver disc in the blistering afternoon sun, glowing brighter as the sun fades, then rising high in the cloudless night sky and casting a shimmering light over the surface of the sea.  This is the first night of our Pacific crossing and it will take some time to adjust being back on the ocean.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Santa Cruz, Galapagos

We anchor behind the reef, where the long swell from the south bursts against the black rocks in clouds of spray, sharp white in the intense equator sun.  A water taxi takes us across the aquamarine waters of the lagoon, through the mangroves to the deserted wooden dock where an eagle ray glides through the shallows in slow-motion acrobatics.  We walk past a big fat iguana basking un the sun, down an unmade track into the sandy streets of Puerto Vilamil on Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago of Galapagos.

Monday, 23 February 2015

San Cristobal, Galapagos

Straddling the equator, 500 miles from mainland Ecuador, lies a remote archipelago. Located on the intersection of three tectonic plates, it sits on a hotspot of volcanic activity at a point where the earths crust is thin, allowing the magma to burst through, creating 18 islands of volcanic lava.  We approach at dawn, rounding the cardinal mark. A sea lion basks on the yellow buoy, looking slightly ridiculous, its head hanging over the side, watching us with bored indifference. We are in the Galapagos Islands, and it is quite extraordinary.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Crossing the Equator

The equator is a huge heat sink where warm air perpetually rises, cools and then subsides over the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, flowing back towards the equator.  As this air moves south it is deflected by the Coriolis Force, pushng the wind to the west and creating the trade winds that carry us around the world.  

Monday, 16 February 2015

Las Perlas

Only forty miles from Panama, yet the archipelago of Las Perlas feels very remote. A small group of pretty islands, famous for their pearls, they are largely uninhabited. Densely forested, with rocky outcrops and hidden beaches of the finest white sand.  With large tidal ranges, the water turns green as the tide ebbs and flows, suddenly clearing at slack water to reveal the sea life beneath.  Poorly charted with isolated rocks lurking just under the surface, we proceed with caution, the Bauhaus pilot book our constant companion.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Compendium, guest written by Andrew

I have been aboard for a month now and it seems time to pen something.

So we have arrived at the Las Perlas Islands, 50 miles from Panama city.  It is a big relief to have finally got sailing again after 10 days in Panama. The canal was fascinating (25,000 dead from disease and accidents in the construction) but it is a long slow route from the Atlantic to the Pacific and once you have seen one lock the next 5 are all the same. I seem to be blasé about locks having experienced the mega locks on the Rhone.