Saturday, 25 July 2015

Queensland, Australia


The wind has come up again; blowing over 30 knots as we approach Hydrographers Passage, the pass through the Great Barrier Reef.  We identify the westerly cardinal buoy and the tower marking the opposite side of the channel. This is the finish line for our last leg of the World ARC and we cross the line in the lead, around seven hours ahead of the nearest boat. As we close the pass we can see white water breaking on the reef and then we are though; inside this huge reef but still a hundred miles from the coast of Queensland.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Vanuatu

Silver threads of rain glisten in the glow of our deck lights as we ghost into Port Resolution bay. It is pitch black with no moon. We follow the waypoints on our chart to take us between the reefs and into the shelter of this deeply indented bay.  It is very unsettling anchoring in a shallow bay at night with no ambient light and reefs and shoals on all sides.  I kill the engine and the silence is profound.  This is the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, devastated by a hurricane only a few months ago and we are here with much-needed supplies for the villagers.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Fiji

The ratchet on our big Penn reel screams as the strong monofilament line is stripped off at high speed. The rod arcs in its holder and the fish makes its first run. In our wake I see the distinctive bill of the famous blue Marlin, the king of game fish, thrashing in the water trying to throw the hook.


Monday, 22 June 2015

Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 islands, of which 52 are inhabited. In 1900 Tonga signed a treaty of friendship with Britain and in 1970 Tonga became independent. The consequence of this is that it lives off its own resources without the colonial subsidies of most South Pacific Islands. But the great advantage is that its traditions and culture have been preserved without compromise and visitors like us can experience an authentic Polynesian experience first hand.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Niue

The weather is gorgeous.  The sky is overcast with a cool breeze blowing through the anchorage. Overnight we have had a blanket on our beds for the first time since the Canary Islands. I never thought that I would celebrate the cooler weather but here we are on the island of Niue with no hat, no sun tan lotion, and no perspiration. Bliss.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Pacific Storm

The next leg of our journey takes us to Suwarrow in the Northern Cook islands, made famous by Tom Neale, a New Zealander who wrote about his experiences living there alone for many years. Now it is uninhabited, an atoll famed for its wildlife, visited only by private yachts and manned for three months in the year by park rangers who will stamp your passport for a small fee.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bora Bora

Rain lashes down as we beat upwind, ploughing into a big sea whipped up by the squalls that have been bearing down on us all day. We are sailing parallel to the reef where the swell from the south rolls in. Nine hundred metres deep, only half a mile offshore, this huge volume of water runs full tilt into the shallows and with nowhere to escape it thunders against the coral with a roar and rears up, throwing spray high into the air as it washes over the reef into the lagoon. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Raiatea, the Pearl Regatta

We are in Raiatea, the spiritual capital of the Society Islands, 150 miles west of Tahiti and host of the Tahiti Pearl Regatta.  We enter the pass into the lagoon and dock on the quay in the small town of Uturoa. The central market square has been taken over by the regatta where coloured flags ripple in the breeze and earnest young assistants crouch at makeshift desks over Apple computers, taking our registration forms and our Pacific Francs, issuing us with fluorescent wristbands and T shirts. 

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.