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.