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S/V Nereida sails around the world

Wed 20th June
Didn't finally anchor off Queen's Wharf at Lautoka until about 4.30pm - too late for Clearance. A really strong NE (15-20 kn) wind came up this afternoon - as I was heading N & NE! So had to bash into 20-25kn apparent with chop building up - took way longer to get there than expected and then mosied around trying to decide where would be sensible to anchor in that wind - usual anchorage was wide open to NE wind & big chop so came around to SW of Queens Wharf in lee of Vio Island. Fine mud, so
anchor dragged quite a bit initially, but wind then died right down, so safe overnight (put more chain down...) Sunset was lovely - looking over a clear expanse of water towards a few islands way over on the horizon (usual lovely delicate colourings & bright 'evening star' near crescent moon ). Wanted to get up early to be waiting for 8am Customs opening, to get away towards Vanuatu (Port Vila) straight after. Noticed fuel seemed to be leaking from 'new' outboard....

Thurs 21st June
I arrived at the door of Customs/Immigration promptly around 8 a.m., despite having had to get towed in by helpful fishermen when the outboard stopped & I drifted well away from 'Nereida' and couldn't row back fast enough against the freshening breeze... One oar doesn't fit the rowlock properly and always keeps popping out - that doesn't help the rowing efforts. I had taken spare fuel, but actually couldn't undo the engine fuel tank cap - they'd fastened it too tightly the day before...!! And basically,
it had simply run out of fuel ...it having leaked out overnight...!

Finally, after giving me various instructions & their having also changed the gear oil for me, my outboard was carried back for me to the dinghy near Customs - first by the young lad & then by one of the security guards at the Customs gate - who wanted to know if I would find him a wife in England!! I then started off fine - but soon after, the engine died ... I suddenly realised that the fuel line had been closed ready for carrying the engine back to the dinghy ... but the switch was stuck tight
in the casing .... I couldn't budge it until I remembered I had a 'Leatherman' in my bag & so was able to prise it open... all this time I was drifting away from shore!! So I finally made it back to 'Nereida' (anchored a good distance off) & got almost to within arm's reach when the engine died again....no!... I couldn't start it... looked in the tank, not much there, so topped it up .... but still couldn't get it to keep going once started....Of course, I'd drifted well away from the boat by now...tried
rowing .... no use.... So got yet another tow in after signalling to a passing fishing boat (who thought I was just giving a lengthy, friendly wave - they only came to me when I frantically beckoned to them!!) They were all highly amused...!! I was lucky to be anchored in the path of fishermen returning to their little harbour... What makes you think I have no confidence in this 'new' outboard...??

I lifted the dinghy, raised the anchor & sailed away, late in the day, goose-winged eventually, downwind in a lovely 20 knot breeze, but that gradually died until by sunset, there was nothing. I motored on as the sky darkened & headed for the reef & Navula Passage. The pass is very wide & there was no problem seeing the flashing light on the N side, nor the quick flashing leading lights in Momi Bay behind me.... so although I came out through the reef in total darkness, I felt quite comfortable
- & the Navionics charts on the chartplotter helped in that they were, again, correctly positioned, as I could see when I passed (in good deep water!) quite close to the flashing reef light, following the (back) leading lights. I'd hoped to make that passage in daylight, but it's clearly perfectly safe at night.

Fri 22nd June
I'm now headed due west to Port Vila, Efate Island (Vanuatu) in light winds, with hot sun & not much swell. Decided to clean & adjust galley portlight - ended up taking entire inside fittings off because I'd forgotten how to adjust hinges.... good move because all now spotless (for the moment!) & hinges nice & tight. Ended up cleaning a lot of the Lautoka smuts off the deck also - no mistaking a boat that's just cleared Customs in Lautoka - smothered in black specks & cane particles from the smoke
from the sugar-cane processing plant close by!

Have also spent quite a time, on & off all day, chasing minute ants.... gained them from Vuda Pt marina via mooring lines & they clearly thought they'd found a new home... numbers are decreasing but slowly! (I'm hoping I don't have any 'cane beetles' hiding & making a family on board - I saw several before leaving the marina & was assured they're not cockroaches, despite looking very much like them.... do I believe this?)

Motoring earlier (5-9kn astern) & motorsailing at present, trying to make up for delayed departure from Fiji - hoping to make Pt Vila daytime Monday to clear in - don't want to lose yet another day to paperwork.. If wind picks up a touch more, maybe I can get rid of motor, for peace & quiet...

Just had midwinter's day here - explains why the sun is rising so late (6.46am), giving a really short day!

Sat 23rd June
Another hot, sunny day of motor-sailing - full canvas, goosewinged in afternoon with poled-out genoa. Wind gradually increased so that finally, by 4pm, I was able to switch off the motor - and sail properly... & peacefully!! Swell has built up - there seems to be some from NE & some from SE, often quite large. Near sunset, wind had increased sufficiently for me to take a reef in the mainsail, but we're still making over 6 knots... and should stay this way overnight and into Sunday, according to
weather forecasts.

I had a good sail over Friday night (apart from a second major squall which backed the sails), the seas calming as I got into the lee of west Viti Levu towards morning. I reached Vanula Passage (reef pass) soon after sunrise..... good news was a lovely relaxed early breakfast under full sail to that point, bad news was the leading marks being on 077T - so absolutely impossible to see against the sun... The wind was light & dead 'on the nose' so I had to motor in. Fortunately, the Navionics charts
on my plotter were spot on, entrance was very wide and a local boat came speeding past me just then towards the entrance. Shortly after that, while I was still searching for those leading marks, a big Panamanian tanker came out through the same pass - where it had been, "Nereida" could surely go!! By then, I'd spotted the two light structures either side of the pass anyway, so all was fine. Just had 20 more miles of easy motoring in bright sun, flat calm sea & almost no wind to Lautoka where I
had to inflate dinghy & lower outboard once I'd anchored off, ready to go ashore for check-in.... all ready by 1.30pm.

I came into Vuda Pt Marina on Saturday. Very nice place, full of friendly Kiwis (& v. friendly locals - nice!), many of whom have just arrived from NZ. Quite a community here (some long-term) - a real hurricane hole! Very different from Lautoka ("Sugar City") where the check-in involved LOADS of paperwork, but all very friendly & helpful. Of course, they had to come (in my dinghy out & back!!) to "Nereida" to 'inspect' her (with soft drinks consumed & checking on declared amount of alcohol on
board), which cost me F$20 (Health) on top of the F$40 for the Customs clearance. Avoided another F$15 charge (by Quarantine) by not giving them my rubbish - was very little there & I said I'd take it on to Vanuatu(!!) with me. In fact, I added it to a newly-arrived nearby Kiwi boat's black sack waiting to be taken ashore when I chatted with them later as they were being 'inspected'. I'd had to walk in to bank in town to get money, past dozens of trucks & lorries piled high with sugar-cane waiting
to offload at the processing plant, which was giving off lots of sooty smoke - "Nereida" was soon covered in black specks.

It's Z+12 here, so at least reading the chart-table clock, set to GMT, is easy!! And I found my instructions for re-setting my barometer/clock - so that's finally been changed to local time now, not the Mexican winter time (PST - 1) it's been showing since leaving Zihuatanejo in March!

This is an excellent, large, cruising area, inside the barrier reef - lots of little islands to explore.

Big news of Saturday was that I finally climbed to the top of the mast by myself! Can't honestly say I enjoyed the experience... & complicated by trying to make myself 'safe' using harness and clipping onto steps as I went up (nothing else to clip onto!!). Started off without - and felt very vulnerable halfway up so came down ... My tricolour hasn't been working for a time (bulb presumably gone) - trouble is, having finally got up there (some difficulty avoiding shrouds etc while placing feet
on steps at top!), I couldn't get bulb out - couldn't see how to undo fitting for top bulb...grrr!!! And both hands not easily available to work with, since have to hold on to something as well - must figure out a way to deal with that - tried wrapping harness line around mast-top but not too successful... Maybe I should use gri-gri &/or jumar clips on spinnaker halyard as a safety line... But did change the steaming light bulb halfway up the mast, which had also gone, and, later, the port nav
light down in the bow ... good to have the spares on board, although chandlery here is quite good.

Outboard is playing up ... should have been one of Sunday's jobs but didn't get far with looking at it - fuel problem, it seems - carburettor? Took a long time to download emails in the morning, what with PC playing up & poor connection giving 'decompression error' in first two tries at download ....! Had to switch off & restart PC several times.... I've had to give up on the one laptop - too unreliable - so just using chart-table (Nobeltec) laptop - tried putting ferrite (choke) on wire by laptop
input - but didn't seem to help - it was still playing 'silly devils' & hanging up when I tried connecting on frequencies around 13/14MHz (OK on lower/higher ones) However, later, I noticed it was better - maybe because I'd wound the cable around the choke a third time &/or maybe because I'd moved the laptop further from the SSB radio...?? Live music Sunday after lunch was excellent - too much socialising again - gets in way of doing boat jobs! Meant I did way less than I should have ...

Was thinking of taking bus in to Suva on Monday - Queen's Birthday Public Holiday here (second Q's B'day - had one 2 wks ago in Nuie!)... but decided I'd better sort out motor - neighbour is excellent mechanic & said he'd help me. I took the carburettor off & he dismantled it & cleaned it thoroughly - but motor still not behaving. (I'll need it in Vanuatu.) Later, to get rid of salt and soot, I gave 'Nereida' a thorough freshwater hose-down in the heat of the afternoon - a thoroughly enjoyable
job!!

Tuesday was a successful, if long, day. Managed to get a gas bottle filled which they said they couldn't fill in Papeete (with butane, not propane, but that's OK). Then I was lucky to be directed by my neighbour to some really helpful, friendly Fijians close to Customs in Lautoka (Dan's Outboard Motor Repairs) who inspected my outboard, checked the carburettor over & decided the head gasket had gone due to overheating. The load of plastic that had wrapped itself around the prop on Friday after
I ferried the officials back to shore, following the check-in 'inspection', when the motor suddenly started misbehaving, must have also presumably plugged the cooling water intake. That diagnosis was bad news since parts for an aged Evinrude were clearly not available here but they then proceeded to go out of their way to find a 2h.p. replacement - I would have preferred a Yamaha, but the smallest for sale at the local agent in Nadi was an expensive (& heavy) 8hp. Then they remembered that a friend
had a 2hp Suzuki for sale (lying around for the past 18mths, it turned out, but not that old) so I was taken to look at it & bargained him down from F$450 to F$300 (100sterling) on the understanding that it would be thoroughly serviced to make sure it worked reliably before parting with any cash - a necessary proviso, since it didn't sound too much like wanting to come back to life initially, even with a new spark plug! Having explained my sailing to them, they understood my need to be able to get
to & from shore when at anchor without being forced to row (they clearly didn't think a 'lady' should have to row anywhere, let alone in a soft-floored multi-directional inflatable, and as for sailing around the world.... they reckoned that was far too dangerous!!) So one hour and a nice mug of green tea later, having parted with a total of F$330 to cover their time also, with lots of smiling, handshakes & good wishes, I was brought back to Vuda Pt marina at sunset with 2 outboards. I had also found
time over the day to get to an Internet cafe (F$1/hr, including use of headphones for Skype - about 50 US cents per hour!!) and to Fiji Meats for some good, fresh, inexpensive meat for my forthcoming passage (they will vacuum pack & freeze meat if you ask them).

I was interested to see the little single-track railway bringing in high loads of newly-harvested sugar cane in tiny trucks from further south to the Lautoka processing plant which I was told operates continuously from June to early December.

I gather the NZ High Commissioner was expelled from Suva on Thursday - but no-one seems to know exactly why (except maybe a personality clash?)!! Also heard on Sunday there'd been a major earthquake in the Solomons - tremors being felt here - but that's well off my path.

I hope to clear out tomorrow morning (2 days later than planned), ready to leave for Port Vila, Vanuatu - a 5-day passage.

Sunday 10th June

Spoke to people on 'Rag' net (8173) this morning about forthcoming passage to Fiji - may get someone about to enter Suva tomorrow to see how long it takes to get cruising permit - otherwise consensus seemed to be to head straight for Lautoka (if only one stop, to clear in & out , no cruising permit needed). Have a few days to firm up on where I'll make landfall in Viti Levu (Fiji), since either way I just head due west from here. E winds are forecast, so will be dead downwind.

Presently anchored off a little island down in SW corner of Vava'u group (Ovaka) - feeling pretty uncomfortable in rather shallow water,not far from the beach and jetty & with very shallow reef area not far astern....!! Fortunately, wind is not strong just now - but will have to keep an eye on it overnight. Had to raise my anchor soon after getting here because local boat tied to jetty had a LONG stern anchor line which reached way out to under my chain - as we discovered when he left loaded
down with locals going back to Neiafu. (I'd seen the line on coming in & thought my anchor & chain was well clear of it!) Hadn't realized there was a problem with this Moorings-recommended anchorage until I arrived rather too late to go to any other.

I'd had a lovely relaxing Sunday at the other anchorage (Tapala), finishing a novel sitting out in the sunshine before ambling over here mid-afternoon. Alternative anchorages nearby don't have safe, easy access so are not very good for leaving from in early hours of morning - at least from here, once the anchor is raised, I head due west clear of all dangers to leave for a point north of Late island & on to the Southern Lau Group & Fiji. Must say, it felt very unsettling at times moving around
this area when the sun was in the wrong direction to see clearly where marked coral heads or reef areas near my path were!! It'll be nice to get out to the safety of deep ocean tomorrow!!

It has been very useful to have the accurate Moorings paper chart that Derek, the manager here, kindly gave me on Friday. Unusually, the Nobeltec chart is not detasiled enough & the Navionics charts used on the chartplotter, while far better & nice & clear, is positioned 2 cables N and W of where it should be for GPS input - not a lot, but enough!!

The new volcanic island reported by the skipper of 'Maiken' last August is temptingly close to here - but I'll restrain myself from going to see it....

I raised the outboard & dinghy, deflating it, around sunset so I'm ready to leave here at first light (if I've not already left earlier... I've just noticed that with the tide down a bit more, waves are breaking over some rocks uncomfortably close to me...!!) (Later: Well, I'm relieved to report that the depth here is still around 12-13 ft, having only once dropped (1-2 hrs ago) to 11.4ft for a time - so it looks as though the tide will not cause me a problem, nor the wind, which has been
up & down around E 5-10 knots max.... so maybe I can afford to have a decent sleep before taking off tomorrow! It's pitch black outside - feels a bit weird out here on anchor - no moon & no shore lights, just a light-house flashing every 5 secs off to the west - my path out tomorrow..)

Mon 11th June

Got away early as planned, in good wind, and the volcanic shape of Late Island was fading away to the ESE as night fell. The new volcanic island is about 20ml S of Late Island - I passed over a fault line with lots of recent volcanic activity with some trepidation!

Sat in the cockpit as the sun set, watching the clouds, with delicate colours fading as the night fell. Stars appeared - bright Venus in the west and a really bright star (planet? Saturn?) high up in the East by Sagittarius. The Southern Cross is high up - but what a DARK night, with so many stars but no moon...! Always feels odd to be sailing along, often very fast, in the pitch dark, with no possibility of seeing anything ahead... Definitely a time to be sure you're keeping well off any
dangers... land, reefs...!! I'd poled out the genoa earlier so the sails were set up nicely for downwind overnight - so long as no squalls come along... (Amazing... I'd JUST written that on Thurs evening when we got hit by a squall - sudden backing of strong wind under a dirty black cloud... so there we were, both sails backed, heading off north towards a big reef in the distance.... had to rush up on deck to sort things out!! Decided to reef down for overnight peace of mind... too many grey
clouds about.)

My position report to Winlink Monday evening:

TIME: 2007/06/10 05:49 (GMT)
LATITUDE: 18-44.51S
LONGITUDE: 174-05.71W
MARINE: YES
WIND_SPEED: 8
WIND_DIR: E
CLOUDS: 5%
BARO: 1013
TREND: 0
AIR_TEMP: 27.0C
COMMENT: Anchored off Ovaka island, Vava'u group, Tonga. To Fiji at daybreak

Tues/Wed

At 0343, I saw two bright points of light on the horizon astern - wondered what they could be - they got brighter & larger.... & then joined up to form a delicate crescent moon 'flat on its back'!!
After a morning of light & variable winds, with a few light showers, the wind settled down to a nice ESE 4-5. Good 'tradewind sailing' at last - which continued over into Wed also - very nice day's sail in sunshine with a much-reduced swell! The only problem arose overnight because I was heading towards the reefs of the Southern Lau Group - I had to reef the sails to slow down, so as to arrive there in daylight - I didn't dare take chances with the charts possibly being well off-position since
the passage through the group of atolls was only a few miles wide - too many stories of charts in this region being several miles off (Met a couple who wrecked their yacht last year on Niue reefs - they said they gave it a 2-3 mile clearance but their chart was 5 miles out...)

At 1156 GMT (2356 local time) Wednesday, "Nereida" passed into the Eastern hemisphere - we'd crossed the real Dateline (180deg E or W, take your pick!) at 18deg 27.55'S and are now East of Greenwich. Fiji time is the same as NZ at GMT+12hr (except Nov-Feb when they go into 'summertime' so as not to be beaten by Tonga into the New Year!!! Introduced for the Millenium celebrations!)

Thursday

I had to be careful of my route - too many isolated islands & BIG reefs around Fiji area.

At 0420, I'd taken the pole down after the wind had veered suddenly & backed the genoa - presumably under a cloud. I had to work on the sails in the moonless dark using my headlamp for light - what a blessing that headlamp is, leaving hands free for work..!

The rest of the day was a delight in that it was mainly sunny & the wind went more SE, up to 15-20 knots, so we made excellent speed, broad reaching, often at 6-7knots. Of course, the downside of constant strong wind is that the swell builds up - back to a 'bumpy' ride again!!

The ongoing problem I've had over Wed & Thurs is my Winlink computer deciding it's giving up the ghost - occasionally working but mainly forever shutting itself down suddenly after 'blinking' at me, often refusing to start up again, so it's become totally unreliable. Since all my emailing & obtaining of weather info has been done on that computer, this has been a major headache. I managed yesterday to get the info off that computer (emails/addresses), using an external hard drive (which it is
currently no longer 'seeing'!) & onto my 2nd computer - but that PC is also misbehaving when I connect it into the HF radio, 'hanging up' when I try to connect on 14MHz.... grrr!!!... and telling me that 'Com port 4 is already occupied' (of course, it is... that's the radio connection...!) & it keeps 'hanging up' when I try to close it down - re-starting the PC being the only way I can then re-connect into Winlink... so my 'log' has been delayed as a result.... Oh, and, of course, that computer
requires the inverter since it blows the 12V circuit whenever I try to power it that way, so that's a major power requirement now... Oh, what fun computers are...!

Oh-so-dark-8pm!! I just had to gybe around Mbengga Barrier Reef in 20+ knots - think it 'only' took 30 mins, since I delayed gybing the genoa for a bit to keep well away from the reef and also had to reorganize the preventer before deploying the mains'l on the new starboard tack, but it felt like an hour or so!! Fortunately, I could see the flashing light on the S. end of the reef a couple of miles away, which was comforting, but I now have to make sure I don't get too close to another (unlit)
reef, east of Vatulele Island to the NW of here. The radar is showing that the GPS positioning on the C70 chartplotter is OK - always a relief to see that at night.

Expect to be safely in port at Lautoka tomorrow around midday - major reef entrance beforehand and then we'll see how well the Fijians conduct their clearance-in & out procedures... I hear there's a public holiday on Monday.

Let's see if I can send this off....

Ahoy!
Just to let you know I (unwittingly!) crossed the date line on my way to Tonga (Nieafu) today - thought it was UTC-11 on 5th June, but seems it's UTC+13 on 6th June!! So I'm now ahead of you all (or most of you!!) ...and I just lost the afternoon/evening of Tuesday & the morning of Wednesday.....
Had a lovely sail here from Niue in nice following winds, making excellent time to arrive early this morning and then 'ambled' under sail for as long as possible around the north and west of Vava'u to get here in between light showers and pick up a buoy off the Vava'u Y.C. at 2.30pm - no, sorry... 3.30pm local time!! Had a friend from Niue help me pick up buoy and will spend time this evening with L.A. couple from 'Lazybones' (introduced by Scott of Cal Y.C.). Will do inbound clearance with Customs
in the morning - no, I've not set foot on shore as yet...!! Seems like a nice place... counted over 50 yachts here in the very protected harbour!!
Bye for now.....!

Wed/Thurs 30th/31st May: Last part of passage from Bora Bora was no better than previous two days - big, rough seas crashing into us making life difficult - not pleasant! The wind stayed up (E/ESE 6-7) but the problem there was that I needed NOT to go too fast because I didn't want to arrive at Alofi anchorage before daylight - so furled genoa to just a scrap and effectively scandalized the reefed-down main to creep along at about 2 knots as I came around the N end of Nuie. I could see lights from
houses on shore - excellent news, since there were no navigation lights anywhere - so that enabled me to confirm what the radar indicated - that I was keeping a safe distance off. The wind was still strong and dead ahead as I nosed towards shore ...no leading lights, contrary to the chart, but some bright lights on the wharf & on a fishing boat nearby were helpful. I found my new Raymarine C70 chart-plotter a real boon in this situation - clearly the GPS position on the Navionics charts it uses
was spot-on and the depths & details shown seemed pretty accurate also - gave me confidence in the complete system! (In fact, a noticeable feature of my passagemaking since San Diego/Mexico has been the lack of any problem with my electronics/instrumentation - it has all been working really well (12V circuit apart!), including the autopilot, whether motoring or sailing, in light winds & big following seas ... )
I ended up anchoring just before daylight, having located where a couple of (unlit) yachts were moored to buoys, but had a problem with the steep-to seabed: started at 15m, but as I let out chain, found myself at 20m, so let out more chain - I was now at 30m...! Fortunately, the wind was less strong close inshore and the big seas had disappeared completely as I had come round into the lee of the island, so I let out a bit more chain & set it, put my Nobeltec into tracking mode zoomed right in as
an anchor watch - so I could see immediately if I dragged - & decided, after waiting a bit, that I seemed safe enough to sleep, intending to take a buoy in daylight.
I was awakened around midday by a call from a dinghy with divers in - a dozen more buoys had just been laid - & I was advised to pick one up. I thought I'd better do that immediately, in case I needed to call on 'Nuie Dive' to help retrieve my anchor if it were stuck in the old coral of the seabed! But all went fine, including my unaided picking up of the buoy despite the gusty wind, which I felt pleased about...!
I called 'Nuie Radio' to let them know I'd arrived & needed to clear in - they organized a friendly guy from Customs to meet up with me on the nearby wharf - only problem being that my dinghy was stowed deflated & would take a time to organize.. but he had no problem waiting for me... The couple from a nearby yacht came over to offer to help me get the inflated dinghy off the foredeck in the gusty wind and also attach my outboard - typical helpful boaters...! They were also able to show me how to
get my dinghy up from the water onto the 8-ft high concrete wharf - no nice dinghy dock to tie to here! The dinghy had to be raised, using an old hoist, moved out of the way using a 'dolly' & the hook lowered back down over the water again so it was ready for the next dinghy to use... not a simple procedure! I wasn't looking forward to reversing the procedure by myself to get back out to 'Nereida'! With a bit of practice, it worked out OK, but was always a slight worry, especially in the dark,
manoeuvring it all by myself...
Customs clearance went fine - I found all the Nuians to be very friendly people - & I then went over to the 'Nuie Yacht Club' to meet Mamata - a very helpful, nice lady who seemed to know everyone on the island & was able to answer any questions. Her husband Jim runs the Y.C. and mooring buoys.
Niue is definitely not an 'up-scale' tourist place - the exact opposite! A 'fish & chips' evening was organized at Jemma's restaurant nearby (wahoo was the fish served up - delicious!) & a dozen of us turned up for that. There are few places to eat or drink at - and everything closes down entirely over Saturday (except the evening) as well as Sunday. I organized touring the island by car on Saturday, sharing the car-hire with some other (Danish) boaters - we enjoyed our tour, were lucky to get a
day without rain, but couldn't find a single place to get even a soft drink or coffee!! There are few hotels but some houses/apartments for rent.
The island is very low, being basically one big block of coral limestone, raised up from the seabed over millenia. Niue is called 'The Rock' here - not to be confused with Gibraltar!! So, unlike the volcanic islands elsewhere, its soil is not very fertile and the surface is covered with rough rocks & stones. They had a tremendous cyclone in '03 which caused awful, widespread damage - as much from the raised seas as from the extremely high winds - & that, together with the many abandoned houses
of absent Nuians gone elsewhere for work, gives many of the villages a derelict appearance.
However, they do get quite a good rainfall & there are plenty of flowering plants, bushes, even a forest in the south, which 'greens up' the island. I saw very few birds, except for the hens & roosters everywhere, & was told this was another effect of the recent cyclone, but fishing is good. The main attractions are by the shore - diving & snorkelling in crystal clear water, enormous linked caves with fantastic limestone formations, arches, chasms, the surf crashing onto the south coast... the entire
island is surrounded by a step - a 'ledge' of foreshore reef which drops away almost immediately to great depths. It's definitely a place to 'get away from it all' among friendly locals - refreshing! But don't look for any gourmet cooking...! By the way, I heard, & then saw, a whale just off Nereida's stern overnight on Saturday.

Sun/Mon 3rd/4th June: Left for Tonga - heavy rain overnight & during morning, so I didn't leave until mid-afternoon, after dealing with dinghy & outboard & partly refuelling with diesel from jerry cans. The wind was following, around 16 knots, so I soon shook out all reefs, poled out the genoa to go goosewinged & was soon rolling around in the usual 1-2m ESE, quartering seas - but making good speed (6-6.5 knots) in sunshine, which was a nice change from the overcast I've seen so much of lately.
Overnight & Monday, the wind swung around a bit, so I had to gybe onto starboard tack & later gybed back again, to keep the mains'l from backing - we're pretty well on a dead run which is always a difficult point of sail... but at least we're sailing & not motoring! The wind has died a bit over the day to around 10 knots (ESE3-4) but I expect to reach Neiafu by mid-afternoon tomorrow (Tues 5th) which means I should have the sun nicely behind me when I head east through the reef area to the anchorage.
Time now to enjoy sitting in the cockpit with a mug of tea and my novel, I think...

Friday 25th May: Sea has glassy surface with slight wind ripples (2-3 kn from ENE) and long, slow, gentle SE swell... All the weather info I'm getting shows a low stuck nearby to SW of me & a trough to N of me. Very light winds forecast for several more days - no chance of sailing, it seems, so must fill starboard tank shortly from jerry cans. Have switched to port fuel tank and also made the decision to skip Aitutaki (in the Cook Islands) - not worth the time spent motoring there, anchoring (outside reef - not deep enough for me to pass inside safely), inflating & lowering dinghy (& outboard), maybe having to clear in also & then finding no fuel in easy reach... So I'm heading (motoring) to Niue directly now. I calculate I've nearly enough fuel to motor all the way gently! I must leave some fuel in reserve so may end up wallowing for a bit, pretending to sail, if wind picks up a touch!! Didn't expect this much calm weather in SE Trades belt - variable, maybe - but flat calm....?? Southern Doldrums...!

At least I have no worries with regard to food or water!! My main concern is that 'smart' battery regulator is not always behaving as smartly as it should, when motoring. When the batteries are fully charged, it keeps on piling in the charge - so they end up overcharged - I keep having to keep an eye on the voltage & turn off the secondary alternator to stop charging. It's easier at night because I run all the lights etc I can, and it seems to cope better.

Time is getting very confusing!! I've recently re-set my chart table clock to keep accurate GMT, my ship's clock (in the main cabin) is showing Mexican time (PDT-1) from when I left Zihuatanejo, this computer is showing PDT (& also UTC), I'm speaking to Russell Radio who refers to NZ time... and my actual correct local (zone) time (at 158W) has just now changed from GMT-10 (Tahiti time) to GMT-11 !!! I'm sticking up notes to myself to keep on top of it all! Hate to think of the state of confusion I'll be in when I get to the Date Line... and then Fiji...!!

Later(8pm): The boat just got a good rinsing - just had some rain! I sailed for all of 35 mins under a raincloud before the wind died back to 3 knots again....!

Sat/Sun: Flat, flat calm most of the time, with wind getting up to 6-7knots later on Sunday - and finally switching from N to SSE - a good sign. Hopefully, it will strengthen more, as forecast, by tomorrow or Tuesday, to get sailing properly.

I've spent a lot of time finding out how to download weatherfaxes directly from New Zealand and Australian Met Offices using my SSB and modem to laptop (as for Winlink & Sailmail) - also finding which frequencies give the best picture (some can be unreadable - just a lot of black blobs!). Very useful info, once it all works, although yet another item where you have to get the timing spot-on (or miss the transmission completely!). It would have been nice to have had a standalone unit that just gets on with it - but Furuno had a 'hiccup' in their production of an updated version of theirs & it's supposed not to be available until later this year - or so they said in January.

Midnight Sunday - turned off motor for all of two hours thinking wind might be increasing... then realized that we were sailing at 1/2 kn - not getting very far...!

Actually spent time over the weekend reading a novel ('The Englishman's Boy') - haven't managed that for some time..! Very good one, too!

Monday morning (28th May): SAILING!!!! Around sunrise, I realized wind had increased enough - to SSE 11 knots - so finally switched off engine - so good to have peace & quiet again while making way under sail nicely!!

"Nereida" is now further West than she's ever been before. (Previous 'best' was 162 29'W on way around N. Pacific High, headed north from Kauai (Hawaii) to Sitka (Alaska) last July.)

Tues 29th May: Having a few connection problems - had hoped to send a weatherfax showing reason for my lack of wind over last week & weekend but that idea will have to be abandoned if this email is to get sent...

Wind increased to F6 over most of yesterday & overnight (around 20-25kn). We're between a low & a trough.. Had triple-reefed main with small genoa & was still making 6-6.5kn boatspeed. Wind has died back a bit now (midday) but we're still getting hit regularly by big, rough swell (3-3.5m) that has built up - my coffee mug jumped up & spilled twice, even though it was on the gimballed stove!

Expect to make Niue early Thurs 31st May. Deliberately trying NOT to go too fast - want to avoid getting to the anchorage in NW Niue in the dark.

So much for clearing out and leaving immediately on Monday... I had to wait until after their lunch-break for the Gendarmerie to issue my clearance out of French Polynesia & then had a major hassle trying to fill up with duty-free diesel at the nearby fuel dock - papers were supposedly 'incomplete/missing', he took cash only, and, to cap it all, AFTER all that, I discovered that his minimum for duty-free fill-ups was greater than I needed... Using up my remaining cash, I finally got just 18l at
125francs/l, instead of twice that at the duty-free price of 69 francs/l ... and left with a 'bad taste in my mouth' from their unfriendly attitude.
The weather was very squally and I did not feel ready to leave on a long passage after all that...
However, I was cheered up soon after by managing to pick up a mooring buoy unaided, on returning to Bloody Mary's - where I went for a nice meal later!

Tues-Thurs 22-24 May
Took time to hoist outboard & dinghy, deflate & stow dinghy... Released buoy around midday & sailed over to reef passage - motor-sailed out in flukey winds. ENE wind, dead astern... Long slow swell from SE and another competing swell from ENE.
Motor-sailed gently overnight with just 5 knots of following E wind. At sunrise, was about to turn off engine to get sailing when noticed 1st reef line had chafed through at cringle in sail - managed to tie it (wind being light helped) & luckily still have enough line at the cockpit to pass through clutch. Hope the knot holds and doesn't cause more problems. Managed to keep sailing over the day, eventualy poling out the genoa as the wind lessened & backed a little, but by nightfall, having already
downed the pole & gybed the main, boatspeed was down to around 2 knots in ENE 8knots, so ... back to motoring again....
During the night, I was awakened by the wind gusting, with dark clouds around. I turned off motor & hurriedly reefed the mainsail & genoa as the wind suddenly got up to 23knots from the SSE - at least we were sailing again.... but not for long ... 2hrs later we had just 5 knots from the SE, ...and so it went on over today (Thursday) .... Having passed through a mass of cloud around midday, when we managed another short spell of sailing, we're presently motoring in 3knots from the NW!! So much for
the SE Trades....! Light N winds are forecast, according to my grib files, for the next day or so....
I've spent quite a time today trying to find weather info sources via Winlink & Sailmail. Interestingly, when I looked at a f'cast issued from Fiji, it mentioned that the ITCZ was causing unsettled weather & gave its coordinates.... passing right through where I am! Obviously, the cause of the squall overnight. Also of interest - the barometer has not given any indication of use - it's stayed roughly constant at around 1012 for over two days.

I'm looking around me now, before going below to post this via my SSB radio - bright sunshine, almost no clouds in sight, except a grey mass on the N horizon (that ITCZ...!), motoring gently, to conserve fuel, with sails pretending to help, in 5 knots of N wind & a long, slow, SE swell. Haven't seen another boat since early Tuesday night and don't expect to sight land (possibly Aitutaki) for over two days.

Time for a mug of tea.... and to decide what to eat tonight. Yesterday's meal was steak and onions with fresh broccoli and fried potatoes!


Bora Bora
Originally uploaded by svNereida.

Had a nice sail over from Moorea initially, but slowly wind died down so I ended up motoring overnight, knowing I could top up in Bora Bora. At daybreak, I was passing Raiatea, with Bora Bora just visible in the distance. The wind came up as I reached the SW end of Bora Bora, so I was able to have a nice peaceful breakfast under sail, watching the surf crashing spectacularly onto the reef as I passed towards the well-marked reef passage into the lagoon.

I went over to the Bora Bora Y.C. just to see what the anchorage was like and then headed down to Bloody Mary's and picked up a buoy there. I was kindly offered help picking up the buoy by David & Mary ('Kismet') on a nearby boat who turned out to be fellow-members of the O.C.C. with several mutual friends. We all went for a relaxed lunch at a very pleasant hotel beach restaurant nearby (Bloody Mary's, surprisingly, being closed on Sunday). On the way, we passed a black pearl 'Farm' - the dark

'cultivated' pearls were fascinating colours and the lovely pearly shell halves were hanging everywhere - I couldn't resist the offer of being given some... (shells, not pearls!)

Back at the boats, we found S. African friends of David & Mary had turned up - so I ended up with yet another highly sociable evening .... and late to bed. (I think I need to get to sea again to get some rest...!!)

Although there are clearly lots of hotels and tourist development here, it's all fairly low-level and doesn't seem to me to detract from the scenery too much - not from the water, at least.

Today I'm making use of my last chance to get on Internet for a time and then I'll be going to refuel and clear out from French Polynesia before heading towards Niue - a 9-10 day passage with the possibility of a stop midway in the lee of an island if I fancy it & if it's not overnight when I get close - I'll see - it's often simpler to keep on going, once you're in 'passage mode'! The forecast is for light winds for several days so the passage may take longer anyway - another good reason not to

stop.

I'd better send this now, so I can get to the 'gendarmerie' well before midday in case they close then.

The good news is that I now have propane flowing into my cooker - so coffees, teas and cooking are all possible now that I've replaced the gas regulator - what a lot of time, walking & effort over six days that has involved! Had to ask for help from kind people at the marina twice - once for male muscle-power (!!) to undo a gas-pipe connection and once for a second pair of hands to push two bits close to each other while I screwed them together (I needed four hands for that job - impossible!).
The engine oil-change problem turned into another time-consuming job - removing surplus fresh oil from the engine (as well as cleaning up lots of spilt oil from under the engine)..... It turned out that only some of the oil I'd just put in had spurted out from the loose oil-filter thread, so when I put more oil in (the dipstick had shown the level well below minimum) I actually put in way too much! Two-and-a half litres too much, in fact, as I discovered after finally figuring out pipework/pump connections to remove it... (That great little 12V in-line pump again...!)
I gave up trying to leave on Wednesday, being busy well after noon, with the bonus of finding that I was in a relatively safe marina berth while a nasty frontal weather system passed over, giving heavy rain & strong winds. There was also a big southerly swell & I could see the breakers crashing onto the reef near the pass I had intended leaving by. I also gained the company of two other cruising boats: 'Far Niente' & 'Southern Star' berthed close by & we ended up socializing during the evening - a pleasant change from my jobs!
So I finally left Tahiti for Moorea at noon on Thursday - 3 days later than intended. Straight into 25-30 knot headwinds down the channel leading to Papeete Pass! Only the thought that once outside my course to Moorea would put the wind abaft the beam stopped me from heading back to the marina, as I hurriedly put 3 reefs in the mains'l waiting to be raised...! In the event, the winds reduced somewhat as I got further out & I had a lovely/lively sail over.... very enjoyable.
What dramatic scenery Moorea has - high, steep-sided, jagged mountains - clearly of volcanic origin - covered in greenery. I dropped anchor near the head of Opunohu Bay - & was promptly invited over to the only other boat nearby for a sundowner. The next morning, I moved anchorage to be close to the outer reef, not far from the pass, to be able to enjoy some snorkelling ....and also to be within range of Wi-Fi internet access! Again, I was invited over to a nearby boat for the evening... and people think single-handers are lonely...?!!
Unfortunately, I'm now having a problem with my 12V circuit - it keeps blowing when I connect my laptop to the outlet at the chart table and also when I connected in at the cockpit with a different plug.... more investigation needed.. the 12V circuit wiring has also been suspect since San Diego - may need 'beefing up' to be able to take the load.
Saturday morning, I shall sail to Bora Bora - an overnight passage of about 135 mls - just over a day away.

P.S. I'm now nearer to New Zealand than to Hawaii... & Sydney is closer than San Diego!!

 
'Le Truck' - local bus from Taina to Papeete.  
Originally uploaded by svNereida.

I'm in chaos here - major problems sorting out propane system (no cooking possible still) and changed engine oil, but unfortunately didn't tighten filter enough so most of new oil spewed out on starting engine - had to buy more oil & screw on the filter again, so tomorrow's job list includes cleaning oil from under the engine (yet again!!) & topping up and starting the engine - with fingers crossed I get it right this time...!

I had a 100% motoring passage over two nights from Tiputa, Rangiroa to Tahiti - but just as I entered Passe de Papeete soon after sunrise, having paused for a couple of fast ferries from Moorea to go in ahead of me, the engine stopped (I'd run out of fuel.... didn't keep eye on tank level, thinking I had plenty, so hadn't switched tanks....grrr!!) Had to unfurl the genoa in a hurry (having not long dropped the mains'l), with only 4 knots of wind (almost ahead!), & prepare the anchor.. I just managed to sail out of trouble into the West Basin (a bit too close to breaking surf on reef & breakwater for comfort!) where I dropped the anchor & then had to bleed the engine. (Glad I had a tiny 12V pump I could place in fuel line to help things along - thanks yet again, Alan!)

One & half hrs later I had the motor running & I made my way through the well-marked channel inside the shallow fringing reef around from Papeete to Taina. There's a big supermarket within walking distance, friendly, helpful marina & fuel dock staff & a local bus - 'Le Truck' - into Papeete town (130fr), a good 20 minutes drive away.

I've got to know the industrial area in Papeete (port area) very well, having spent most of Friday and Saturday walking around there, not to speak of today, chasing around unsuccessfully for propane, dinghy & watermaker parts & plumbing connections. I was lucky to discover a good refrigeration guy here in the marina area who has sorted out my fridge problem (insofaras he can - the system is not really suited to the tropics). The French Polynesian Wi-Fi system is run by Mathieu here in the marina - he has been very kind & helpful & I've made good use of my Internet access on board 'Nereida' (such as in posting this with a photo!). I also had to visit Customs & Immigration, who are on the seafront near the Tourist Office where the bus finishes not far from the market - finishing with paperwork took 4 visits (It would have helped if they had posted a notice pointing to the very closed door at the side for entrance & given some idea of their opening hours.)

I'm hoping to sort out the propane regulator tomorrow (the present one leaks badly). The only possible replacement one on offer is twice the size of the present one so may not fit into the space, but I did find the brass connections needed to adapt it to use in my system. Tahiti Gaz also said they couldn't fill one of my 3 gas bottles - a valve was faulty & they can't replace it - Cairns, perhaps??

With any luck, I'll be able to leave for Moorea on Wednesday... In the meantime, the view I have from the boat is of Moorea & its jagged mountaintops across the reef from here & each day I have a dip in crystal clear water.... I'm constantly reminded of the definition of cruising as "dealing with boat problems in exotic places"...!!

What wonderful snorkelling here! Nereida anchored in turquoise blue water (over white sand) with her own pair of fish that stick to sharks etc (have sucker pad on top of head) that took up residence - to clean 'Nereida' or were they just hoping for scraps?? The reef nearby inside Timatu Pass, called 'The Aquarium' for obvious reasons, is full of beautifully coloured coral. The locals take people there and then feed the fish with bread and large fishheads - attracting hundreds of fish of all shapes and sizes in so doing - also black-tipped reef sharks! I counted four really big ones and a tiny baby one on Tuesday - they stayed near the sea bottom but I kept a wary eye on them to make sure they didn't get too close to me!!! A bit later I saw a big leopard moray (had leopard-like markings all over large grey/brown body), having already spotted an enormous plain grey one on Monday - it was very aggressive and definitely followed me for a bit! And always there is such a variety of fish of all kinds, often in shoals, many I've not seen before. Snorkelling has become a 'must' every afternoon, in company, usually, with 'Can Kata' and 'Dreamweaver'.

One day, I dinghied over to the resort hotel dock nearby & had a very nice seafood salad in company with a French couple. Another day, I visited Avarotu, the other 'town' 5mls WNW of this anchorage. It didn't take long to wander around everywhere, watch some volleyball, get a few tomatoes (& some Polynesian francs at 80 to the US dollar) & have lunch (chicken&chips for me, providing a drumstick for the next day's lunch on passage!). Had to avoid lots of hazardous connected lines of pots on the way (black pearls are a major 'industry' here).

One job I got done was to give the cockpit sole a thorough cleaning - it needed attention badly since the cockpit drains were thoroughly blocked. I also found a ballpoint pen, plenty of fluff etc and lots of almonds my guests had obviously dropped the other night when they came for sundowners!!

One of the screws on my starboard genoa car seems to be coming loose, yet I can't tighten it.. Another outstanding job (for the calm water of Tahiti) is to go up the mast for tricolour bulb replacement. That's in addition to propane bits & pieces - & refilling propane gas cylinders, hopefully.

On Wednesday evening I left as planned and safely took the close-to-shore short-cut to Tiputa Pass (min depth 6m for a very short time!). My main slight worry after leaving and coming around on the outside of the atoll was seeing an enormous dark grey cloud well ahead in the fading light - clearly a big, rainsquall.. but it stayed out of my way!

I'm glad to say that both Nobeltec on my laptop and the Navionics chips used in the Raymarine chartplotter are using very up-to-date French charts - they both seem spot on in GPS positioning -quite a relief on an overnight passage skirting this big atoll in pitch darkness. (The Nobeltec software is so much easier to use for routeing than the chart-plotter). I have radar on also, of course, and there's actually a small lighthouse flashing clearly on the NW corner that I have to round. I'm motoring & expect very light winds for most of this passage, according to my weather info.

I expect to reach Papeete, on Tahiti Nui, early morning on Friday 11th May... at present, I'm motoring in a glassy calm sea!

I'm now on a 4-5 day passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus (Rangiroa atoll), having had an absolutely brilliant sail so far, since leaving Nuku Hiva yesterday. Perfect trade-wind weather, although with accompanying swell!! I'm also slowly recovering from the bad cold I picked up after landfall, so today has been very enjoyable.

I enjoyed my quick tour of the Marquesas - scenery was frequently spectacular and always superb! It was nice to relax & meet with people, although it was lengthy, hard work re-fuelling via jerry cans, with a trip to fill them up at a high concrete fuel dock in big swell. Fortunately, I had help with that - I could never have managed to get two, full, 20l jerry cans down into the dinghy otherwise..

I'm also feeling really good just now because I'm hoping I may have sorted out my ongoing radio problem. I found a loose/very slightly corroded ground connection - so I'm finally making radio connections for emails & weather- & being heard far better over the radio.

If this arrives OK, you'll know that my radio is definitely better!

"I'm certainly not having a solitary life... quite the opposite! While anchored Thursday 26th in Hakahetau Bay, Ua Pou, I was invited over to "Magnum" for a drink & meal by Uwe (who rowed over to collect me!) and Anne (& little daughter Kara) with crew Maxim (who rowed me back!) and Nicky - a very pleasant evening..! Then on arrival in Nuku Hiva on Friday, Norwegian Trond and wife Leslie on "Coconuts" came by with children Camilla and Colin. Saturday morning, Steve & Susan from "Surprise" came by
to invite me for a meal on Sunday evening... and later that day, Greg ("Seven Thunders") invited me out with "Magnum" for a meal on the terrace at the local 'posh' resort hotel high up overlooking the bay that evening. My social diary gets very full!!

Today (Sunday) was spent onboard using the Wi-Fi Internet access here, catching up with emails and updates to my website - time-consuming... I did also find time to look at the back connections to my SSB radio - found a rather loose connection and cleaned up the very slightly corroded metal parts... hoping it might help resolve my problem. I still need to take some woodwork to bits to access more connections from my radio to the ATU (tomorrow first thing!) to see if they are good or need attention
also. Perhaps then I'll try to connect in to Sailmail/Winlink to see if I can connect any better than before. If there's no improvement, that means it's almost certainly an internal radio problem - and Papeete in Tahiti may possibly have someone familiar with dealing with Icom radio problems. If radio transmission doesn't improve, I'll have to wait until Cairns, Australia, in July to (hopefully) get it dealt with ...& suffer communication problems in the meantime. Fortunately, having InmarsatC
(reliable satellite system) and Iridium, means I'm not totally out of touch despite radio problems. And even my English cellphone works here close to the islands!

I still have several other jobs outstanding, but having a bad sore throat and cold (which explains my feeling so very tired on Friday when I got here) have made me disinclined to over-exert myself this weekend. Manana!!"

Arrived Hakahetau Bay, Ua Pou island, at 9 am this morning after a good overnight sail from Hiva Oa where I  had checked in with the local 'gendarme' with little fuss, since I'm an EC citizen.  Unlike Canadian/US friends who had to pay a large amount for a 'bond' and spend two days using an agent before they had finished clearing in to French Polynesia - big hassle for them!

I'm anchored in a wide open bay, looking at green mountainsides, rather rolly due to swell with surf breaking on black rocks nearby & a steep black beach behind which is a tiny village with a red-roofed church spire peeking through the trees lining the beach.

High volcanic 'spires' and mountain tops tower over all - reaching up into perpetual dark grey clouds, although it's sunny out here in the bay!! 

A beautiful place. But very difficult to land a dinghy safely, so it's on early to Nuku Hiva tomorrow, just 24mls away - fuel, shops & maybe Internet!!  And a place to do some more boat jobs.... look at that SSB radio again, hopefully...

It's always nice to have friends helping in difficult situations - & few cruisers enjoy anchoring bow & stern - especially true of me as a singlehander in a crowded anchorage - so it was great to have help both after entering (from 'Jade') & on leaving (from 'Wyntersea').
Atuona, the nearby village where I checked in was accessed by dinghying in to the nearby dock and then hitching a 10 minute lift, both there and back, from one of the passing locals who invariably were happy to give a lift (no buses around here!) & chat on the way (good French practice).
It's fame lies with Paul Gauguin, who lived the last few years of his life here, and Jacques Brel, a well-known Belgian singer, who similarly settled here & died early, after illness. Both of their remains lie in the cemetery high above the village, with great views over to seaward.
There is a museum dedicated to Gauguin in a beautiful building constructed in local fashion of wood, plaited palm leaves & thatching - very cool and full of copies of his paintings, giving a good overview of his life and artistic development. Nearby is a replica of the house he had built in the village and where he ended his days.
Espace Jaques Brel houses the small aeroplane he introduced to bring medical/dental and other help to Hiva Oa from Tahiti (in the 1950's) in the days when all French aid seem to go solely to that island, and the other islands were largely ignored. It also gives an overview of the songwriter's life, with his songs played in the background - an excellent test of my very rusty French since nothing was in English! His was the era of Gilbert Becaud, etc.
The whole area is green and full of flowering trees & bushes, with high peaks as a backdrop. The President of French Polynesia was visiting the Cultural Centre the day I was there - lots of food was being prepared & 3 piglets were about to be spit-roasted in his honour... I was interested to see the men's tattoos - commonly as decoration around their neck & shoulders (just as women might wear a broad, intricate, bead necklace), as well as on their faces, arms and torso. Most of the women daily
wear a fresh flower on their ear & I've also seen many wearing a headband of woven flowers, again as an everyday adornment.
I enjoyed my first fresh French baguette, straight out of the village baker's oven, and wandered around the local store - everything is ridiculously expensive, so I was pleased not to need much, mainly looking for fresh tomatoes etc.
In the anchorage, as elsewhere since arriving in the Marquesas, I was struck by the large number of European boats (many from the Panama Canal via the Galapagos Islands) and the small number of the U.S. boats I'd become used to seeing.
I dinghied to shore with some empty jerry cans to get a little diesel from the nearby fuel station, ready for leaving for Ua Pou, making good use of my fold-up 'cart' on the return journey to the dock... the first of many such refuellings in the Pacific, I'm thinking!

Around midday (local time) on Thursday 19th April, "Nereida" finally came to rest in spectacular Hanavave Bay on the island of Fatu Hiva, in the Marquesas - the scenery was truly awesome with enormously high sharp mountain peaks (edges of 3 craters) very close and the land dropping almost vertically down to the small village at the head of the bay. The hillside close by has many coconut palms and is very green. Occasionally, I hear goats calling and beautiful birdsong, in between the sound of the surf breaking onto the rocks edging the bay. The rocks are volcanic black and there is a perpetual dark grey cloud sweeping towards the bay from the mountains - with frequent heavy showers as a result!

I had a really good sleep for a few hours and then found a local outrigger canoe nearby with a woman who was offering a local meal that evening to the boats in the bay (there were about 8, mainly European arrived from Panama/Galapagos).  I thought that sounded like an excellent way to celebrate my landfall so accepted - but none of the others were interested so, in the event, it didn't happen, but  it enabled me to be taken ashore without inflating my dinghy!! She (Andrea) then proceeded to take me on a tour of the village, very green & full of  fruit trees with just one shop where I was able to change US dollars into French Polynesian francs - BIG coins and paper money just like the old French before Euros.  80francs to 1 US dollar and everything very expensive as well means that whatever you buy, the amount is very large!

Friday 20th:  Decided to stay and relax in these dramatic surroundings.  But I also had to fix the windlass - it would not drop ground tackle when free-running under gravity due to salt crystals and corrosion.  Making use of water, and the  judicious use of a hammer, I gave it a good clean & service - it's running freely now.

Saturday 21st: Problem with gas solenoid cut-off switch for propane from gas tanks - could not cook!  I went to make a mug of tea to reward myself after cleaning and tidying up after the passage - no gas.  I had to remove the solenoid completely - there was a lot of water inside it so it's hardly surprising it gave up! I've no spare but at least I can cook now.

Did a few other minor jobs - a workday in (very rainy) Paradise!

That evening, a fisherman came by the boat .  I exchanged tuna (I made ceviche) + four enormous grapefruit for a small bottle of whisky!

Sunday 22nd: Had a lovely 45 NM beam reach to Atuona on Hiva Oa (Paul Gaugin's village). Celebratory evening with 'Jade' & 'Wyntersea' - first time we'd met up since Manzanillo in Mexico!

Please bear with me, updates may be sporadic until communication issues resolved!

Despite many attempts to connect & send or receive emails by radio - no joy...  Very occasionally, I'd get Sailmail (not Winlink) 'connection' - painfully slow due to poor signal strength. If connected, downloads are impressively fast! Only one station I find I can connect with - at San Luis Obispo.

Came up with 'ploy' to get Winlink position report uploaded via friendly PMBO (Winlink Station) - I'm hoping that's working OK. Uses satellite email (Inmarsat-C) which costs, so messages kept short & abbreviated!

Both days have been very pleasant, with Nereida sailing at quite good speed (5 - 6 knots) under blue skies with little clouds, mainly on beam reach in E winds, occasionally close-hauled when wind veered ESE.  Grey clouds disappeared, although I saw some lightning in clouds on the far W horizon on Tuesday evening around sunset - luckily, they kept well away!

The Equatorial current has kept up: 0.3-1.0 kn. Lovely to have such a consistent 'push' for such a long time!

Still have fresh fruit & vegetables - & a grapefruit I'm keeping for celebrating when I make landfall in Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva - Thursday a.m. in daylight, if I keep up my present speed.

Tues 1800GMT: 06 36'S, 136 11'W. 108mls by log (133ml actual). Distance to go to Fatu Hiva: 268ml.

Wed 1800GMT: 08 32'S, 137 26'W. 116mls run by log (138ml actual). Dist to go to Fatu Hiva:130ml.

Sunday
A day of no wind, or too much wind, rain, big grey clouds, squalls, blue skies ... a real mix! Kept me busy! And often wet! Wind was all over the place - but always in the 'East quadrant' I even poled out the genoa in light winds this morning, only to find we were, by the time I'd finished, on a beam reach... grrr!!!
After sunset, we finally escaped from the belt of bad weather & have been sailing closehauled, beautifully fast, ever since.

Been busy finalizing my passage plan to & beyond Australia in detail - weather permitting!

1800GMT position: 02deg 50'S, 133deg 32'W Just 88mls run by log (actually 113ml over the ground) - too little wind! Distance to go to Fatu Hiva: 544ml.

Monday
More grey clouds, rain & strong winds. Had a fast, close-hauled ride overnight, with reefed main, putting in a 2nd reef during this morning when winds went up to around 25kn & gusting - we've been making excellent speed! And that lovely Equatorial current is still doing its bit, helping us along often by over 1.5 kn!
Now (3.35pm PDT), the wind has backed to the NE & we're running goose-winged under white clouds. So much for the 'SE Trades'!!
And now (6.20pm PDT) - pole has had to be taken down - wind veered to E and we're on a beam reach.... it's all go!!

1800GMT position: 04deg 47'S, 135deg 08'W Just 114mls run by log (actually 143ml over the ground). Distance to go to Fatu Hiva: 400ml. (ETA Thursday?)

I thought wind was becoming more consistent, it being very light this morning when we started sailing again, an hour after sunrise, then gradually filling in so that by mid-afternoon we were beam-reaching at around 4-4.5 knots, with the current helping again, ending up doing ~5.5kn over the ground. But later on it went E-ENE (abaft the beam) 8-10 knots - so this evening we've been struggling to make 3kn boatspeed, ~4knots SOG. The SE swell is not too bad so life on board is generally very pleasant, except when we've little boatspeed and then we get knocked about by the swell which is on the beam (our course is 215T) and the sails flap like mad.

Sailing along at these slow speeds is certainly conducive to a relaxed mental attitude: nothing you can do about it - shrug your shoulders and just wait for the wind to increase - if it will! "We're going in the right direction - we'll get there when we get there," is the kind of comment heard on the radio from one boat to another!!

Beautifully clear, starry night sky - Milky Way so very clear and the occasional shooting star.

I'm spending way too much time, morning & afternoon, trying to connect to Winlink/Sailmail - think I'll have to cut down on my efforts and make a big connection effort every two days instead! I've had no proper connection to Winlink since 6th April - I presume my radio transmit problem is at least partly to blame.

1800 GMT position: 01deg 18'S, 132deg 25'W . 24hr distance run by log: 96 n.ml.!! (110 ml over the ground) Distance to Fatu Hiva anchorage: 667 n.ml.

"Nereida" crossed into the S hemisphere today - HOT sun, calm sea, clear sky... & hardly a breath of wind - the Doldrums! So motor plus sails most of the day... couldn't even drift over the equator around 1.30pm PST - too light a wind from 'abaft the beam'.
A lovely, relaxing day to remember - I had a refreshing, long shower on deck & we had a little 'party' lunch/tea - and, yes, even Neptune/Poseidon had his share of 'champers' - as a true nereid, we could not but take care of him...!
Eventually turned off the motor as 11kn of NE wind came up after midnight - but have now (Sat 0530 PST) had to turn it on again .... boat doing well under 2kn!.. Oh well, back to sleep for an hour or so... At least current is fair again just now!

Friday 1800 GMT position: 00deg 15'N; 131deg 27'W . 24hr distance run by log: 92 n.ml.!! (Actually only 83 ml over ground - unhelpful Equatorial current at times.)



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