From the northern pass of Makemo, we motor-sailed 80nm, passing south of the Katiu Atoll continuing on to the Passe Tumakohua at the southern end of Fakarava. We had thought of stopping at Tahanea atoll, but the timing of the tides, coupled with weather forecast, we decided to time our entry into the atoll at the top of the high tide. Conditions were calm and there was little current as we entered the pass. Patches of splashing and turbulence which I thought were whirlpools, turned out to be sharks in feeding frenzies! And we’re going to dive in that?!?

The Navionics charts were good for this entry, but the reef is close to the narrow dogleg route. I imagine this entry might’ve been rough a few weeks ago during the blow.

Once around the north cardinal marker, we headed towards five other vessels already moored.

There are five moorings available and all but one taken, which we quickly tied onto. A shipwrecked yacht on the nearby motu, and a dodgy looking sixth mooring, had Wayne diving below to check out the mooring. The tackle was solid enough, and we were told they were reasonably new – heavy chain with thick rope and a protected spliced loop with two yellow floats. This was to be our home for a week. There is no cost to take one of these moorings – a bonus nowadays.

Mooring at South Fakarava

Fakarava is recognised as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and the atoll is famous for groupers, mantas, turtles, and of course sharks. Our plan was to dive the Wall of Sharks! After a nap to catch up on sleep from the overnight sail, we motored the dinghy back through the pass, jumping in the water to snorkel to see if we could see any sharks, but we only saw three. Well, that was a little disappointing. The next day in our SCUBA gear, we dinghied to the southern outer entrance of the pass (conditions still quite benign) and jumped in, Wayne towing the dinghy this time. Diving to a depth of around 20m, we drifted in with the slight current, but towing the dinghy wasn’t so easy and the slight wind blew the dinghy in a direction we didn’t want to go in. After 45 minutes we were a little off course and ended up on the other side of the pass. Although we saw a lot of sharks, we weren’t really in the best place.

Back on board, Wayne cranked up our dive compressor and filled the SCUBA tanks. Besides the five boats on moorings, a number of other vessels turned up and anchored to the north of us. Including the large ‘Arctic P’ – a converted tug owned by the Packer family. I read that James Packer listed this for sale in September 2021 for $283 million – can’t imagine there’d be too many buyers. This massive superyacht has a slippery dip from the heli-pad deck and we can hear people squealing as they slide down (I wonder if it was James?). A couple of sleek black support tenders raced over the water transporting the vessel’s guests to the dive locations; in the evening loud music blared across the water as the on-board nightclub turned up the volume to eleven. During our time at Fakarava, we’d see a few other superyachts enter the lagoon. On our boat, we watch movies on our iPad sipping boxed wine – a less opulent lifestyle, but we have the same views nonetheless.

The Arctic P – complete with slippery slide!

The next day, we organised a second dive, this time with Kevin from ‘Kismet’, and dinghy support from Brian of ‘Hold Fast’ and Mayda from ‘Kismet’. The three of us, Wayne, me and Kevin, jumped in with our dive gear at the outside entrance to the pass and followed the eastern wall on a rising tide. Now this was a good dive! We saw hundreds of sharks, literally. Not all at once mind you, but there is certainly a wall of sharks drifting by, underneath and above us. Not daunting at all, in fact quite peaceful down there. I’d be concerned though if someone threw in a lump of meat from above. This dive lasted only 30 minutes as we had entered on the last third of the flood tide and we drifted in the 1-2kn current right into the pass and around the village into the shallows. What a ride! We arranged to do it again the next day.

Our third dive in the pass was the best. We dived further down the wall and seemed to be swimming through the sharks – sharks above, to the sides and below us. They moved slowly, seemed more curious, as were we. With my trusty little Crosstour camera, I got some close video of sharks and we stayed down for almost 50 minutes – 20 minutes more than the previous day as the current wasn’t as strong. It was great! There are dive shops at Fakarava so if you want you can join a local operator for around US$70 a dive or get your tanks filled for around US$15.

The wind picked up that day and happy enough with our three dives, we threw off the mooring lines and motored 6nm east to the more protected sandy anchorage at Hirifa. This was a pleasant spot with a long sandy beach to wait for the wind to ease.

We spent a couple of hours rinsing our dive gear and filling the cylinders, then Wayne ran the watermaker to fill the water tanks. A loud clatter, and a mist of water sprayed out of the cockpit locker. A high pressure hose had blown on the watermaker. Ugh! After purposely constructing the watermaker for the Pacific passage, we now have no way to make water! The Tuamotos is not a place you want to be without water, so we began rationing our usage, more than usual, that is. At least the watermaker had been running over an hour before it blew so there was a good chance the tanks were almost full. Just another little hiccup in the life of sailing…

Coral bommies not always easy to see

The next day we sailed north 17nm, following the channel, but still looking out for bommies. We anchored for a night before continuing the next day onto the main village of Rotoava. The village is a little bigger than Pouheva in Makemo with around 850 inhabitants. The tidy village streets are lined with hibiscus, bougainvillea and frangipani and the humble homes generally have a dog or three roaming around. The locals offer a welcoming “Iaorana” along with a friendly smile. The village has the usual facilities – post office, town hall, small supermarkets, etc. Fortunately for us, it’s one of the few places in the Tuamotos where you can get potable water. We dropped anchor in around 10m on a big sandy patch away from bommies.

Dinghy dock, Rotoava, Fakarava
Rotoava church
Fakarava lighthouse

Our goal was to replace the blown hose (fixing boats in exotic places, yawn…). We contacted Soflex in Tahiti and they said they could make up a hose and courier it to Fakarava. However, since we could fill our jerries with water, we decided to wait until we reached Tahiti to buy the new hose. We should have enough water until then.

Tumoana market near dock. Water available at building to east.
Potable Water available for a small fee at the Town Hall

The Town Hall is next to the Post Office and yachts are required to pay a fee for garbage disposal and water if needed (which we did). It’s not much to pay, considering we don’t have to pay anchoring fees. The Tumoana market is close to the dinghy dock and has a good selection of products. Boulangerie Havaiki had a small amount of fresh produce so I grabbed tomatoes, egg plant, onions, and even some crispy New Zealand apples. Chicken pieces tend to be in frozen 2kg blocks but once thawed, they cook well on the Cobb. They also have fresh local eggs and baguettes in the mornings if you’re quick. Most of the shops and services open early but close by 11am or 12 noon until around 3pm.

Chicken on the Cobb!

Fakarava Yacht Services run by Aldric and Stephanie offer laundry, wifi, sail repairs, gas fills, and bike rental, amongst other things and you can dinghy close to their location or walk from the town dock. We took our almost empty gas bottle and had Aldric fill it with butane, and had a load of laundry washed too.

Getting some overdue exercise, we took our bikes ashore and rode south along the flat narrow road until we reached Teviru and popped in to purchase some virgin coconut oil. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden so it was good to be outside again, although the hot weather sapped our energy. On the way back, we stopped for lunch at Snack Elda and enjoyed a tasty fish meal with fried taro root, washed down with a large Hinano beer, watching reef sharks circling underneath the verandah.

Tasty local cuisine

On Wednesday a supply ship arrived from Tahiti and the locals gathered to grab their pre-ordered products and supplies. Shops commence filling the shelves with fresh produce and the anchorage seemed a little fuller as boats arrived to take advantage of the available items.

Supply ship in dock, Rotoava

Tanks filled with water, fridge with a reasonable quantity of veggies and meat (yes, the fridge is playing nice lately), we departed Rotoava anchorage and motored 5nm west to the North Pass. Here there are four moorings available, which we added to the Community Edits in Navionics. A good place to wait for conditions to exit the pass, or in our case, a good place to leave the boat while we dive the north pass. This pass is much wider and has a stronger current than the southern pass.

Four moorings at the north pass Fakarava

The following day, joined again by Kevin from Kismet, and support crew Mayda and Brian driving and towing the dinghies, we drove out to the entrance to the pass and drifted into the atoll at an average depth between 15-20m. This dive took around 45 minutes, and we saw a nurse shark, black and white tipped sharks, red emperor, and a huge variety of large groupers (I believe it’s spawning season), and many other pretty fish. The current was around 1-2kn and it was a pleasant enough dive, but somehow diving with hundreds of sharks is a hard dive to beat!

With our gear washed in fresh water, dried and stowed, the next day we departed Fakarava and headed north to the top end of Toau atoll to Anse Amyot. Here we would do wall dives looking out into the big blue depths.

Until then.

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From Nuku Hiva, and filled with as much locally grown produce as we could buy, we sailed 28nm to anchor at Baie de Vaiehu on the western side of Ua Pou. This anchorage is a little daunting with a swell lifting the boat beneath a cliff while the waves crash on the banks, but the anchor held and we had a comfortable night. There is no access to going ashore at this anchorage, perhaps if it’s very calm.

Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou

The following morning, the sky was clear, giving us a great view of the rugged peaks of the small island as we sailed south.

Ua Pou, Marquises

This was Friday 22nd April and the wind was blowing in from ESE. As much as we would’ve liked to visit Hiva Oa, the consistent ESE wind would not allow us to sail in that direction. Our destination was Makemo atoll and we had to reach there before Tuesday 26th when a huge blow was coming in from the south east. The distance is 480nm from Ua Pou so we had to plan our arrival into the atoll, as the passes can be turbulent and possibly dangerous if entered at the wrong time of the tide.

Blue Heeler sailed from Ua Pou at 4pm and in 10-15kn set an easy pace in perfect conditions to make sure we could enter Passe Arikitamiro on the low tide slack on Tuesday morning. A steady sail averaging 5.5kn had us arriving two hours before slack water so we waited outside with three other yachts; all arriving at the same time from different locations.

The tidal race outside the passe was fairly boisterous even in the calm conditions. We sat and watched as the outgoing current clashed with the ocean until conditions settled and the tide reversed. Blue Heeler took the lead and Wayne navigated our entry. We had 1kn against us and it wasn’t long before we had made it through and made our way around to the anchorage outside the small village of Pouheva. The Navionics charts were good and the channel markers were in place.

Makemo is one of the largest atolls in the Tuamotos, and Pouheva has a small population of around 600 people. The anchorage is filled with coral bommies so anchoring in sand is a feat, but we did find a sandy patch for our anchor to hook into.

That same day the wind began to pick up and would increase over the next three days. While there is a small reef and wharf to help temper the fetch of waves coming across the atoll (it is totally exposed to the south and south east), conditions did get a little wild over the next three days. Mostly, the wind was from ESE consistently blowing between 20-30kn, at times hitting 40kn. Our anchor held but there was no way we were going to leave our boat in these conditions on a dodgy coral bottom, particularly on a lee shore. Others did though…

Fishing dock, Pouheva

Once conditions settled, we could relax a little and headed ashore to check out the village of Pouheva. We made sure our anchor was okay and added a couple of floats to keep the chain from snagging the coral in the lighter winds.

Floats to keep the chain above the coral bommies

The village of Pouheva is tidy and the locals smiling and friendly. It is low-key – not ‘in your face’ boat boys or people flogging souvenirs like some islands in the Caribbean. As visitors, we respect their small village and try not to intrude on their daily lives. Walking around we are greeted with ‘la orana’ or ‘bonjour’ by children and adults walking or biking along. A couple of times we stumbled upon a couple of groups playing guitar and singing beautiful harmonies. Perfect.

Tidy streets of Pouheva

The streets are swept clean, and skinny dogs in various states of producing offspring roam for scraps, while a pleasant whiff of burning sandalwood fills the air.

After the recent storm, the swell is pumping so much that it has filled the atoll and the outflow of water from the atoll is running at around 4-5kn on the incoming flood tide. We watched as yachts attempted the rough passage into the atoll motoring at just enough speed to pass through; so much different to our unremarkable entry.

Makemo lighthouse
Peaceful after the blow

If you’re heading down this way, make sure to stock up well with fruit and veggies from Nuku Hiva. While the best supermarket in Pouheva is the Opareke Market, there’s a definite shortage of fresh produce. The market has a good variety of dry and canned goods, and some items are reasonably priced due to subsidies, while others are expensive. Eg: A packet of muesli was around A$15; potatoes around A$9/kg. Whereas a can of coconut milk was around A$2 and a packet of self-raising flour A$2 – coconut milk on pancakes for breakfast seem like the way to go!

Opareke Market – best in town

Fortunately, the supply ship came in during our stay so I managed to buy 2kg of potatoes, two cucumbers, bok choy, three packets of fresh ham, and a couple of other things for 4000FP, around A$55. Not cheap, but it was nice to have a fresh ham and cucumber sandwich. Unfortunately, it seemed the cucumbers must’ve been frozen or chilled, as they didn’t last long in my fridge and started to dissolve. Making the most of my dwindling stock of veggies, now is the time we start to work our way through the canned stuff I’ve been squirrelling away for the past year.

Supply ship
Supply ship

Across the bridge from the supermarket is an egg farm and I bought two dozen fresh eggs for 1000FP – about A$12.50. There is a boulangerie, but I make my own bread so we didn’t buy any from there. I bought a 2kg box of frozen chicken legs for around A$10 – they came up a treat on the Cobb BBQ. Wayne thought he’d hit the jackpot when he found Twisties – a clue we are getting closer to Australia!

From my reading, I understand the economy is supported by copra and pearl farming. Besides a College, Town Hall, Police Station, there’s a large undercover sports pavilion near the fishing boat dock to keep the kids happy. Many of the locals have reasonably new battery powered bicycles – a great way to get around the small village. Once the weather calmed down, teams of young people in outriggers paddled hard to beat the other teams, laughing and squealing as they sped by. Life seems idyllic here.

Post Office, Pouheva, Makemo Atoll

Pouheva has a small Post Office with an ATM and I bought another Vini SIM card and top up cards. Vini has 4G here so while hunkered down during the storm, we at least had access to internet. The ATM was a problem for me; two attempts at withdrawing money came up with a declined message and no money discharged, but it turns out my bank thought otherwise, deducted the second attempt from my account. The lady at the Post Office was super friendly and tried to help me (she also speaks English), but there’s not much she could do at this point, so I’ve left it with my bank to sort out.

We stayed on a few days more and snorkeled on the nearby reef and enjoyed the peace after the wild conditions; even got the Cobb out and cooked up some chicken pieces to share with the crew of Kismet who we invited over for supper.

Leaving Pouheva, we motor-sailed through the maze of bommies 16nm until we reached the motu of Punaruku. Navionics charts are okay and the Community Edits do identify some bommies, but eyeballing the bommies is the best way to navigate through the maze. I stayed at the bow for four hours as we made our way north, spotting bommies that weren’t marked and noting them on my iPhone Navionics app which I’ve added to the Community Edits. The depth was typically 20m .

Pouheva to Punaruku through the bommies

The next morning after a peaceful night and a tasty pizza cooked on the Cobb, we motor-sailed 9nm to the northern Passe, again keeping watch for bommies, and exited in calm conditions with 3kn of current spitting us out of the atoll. From here we planned an easy 80nm overnight sail to the south pass at Fakarava.

Pizza night at Punaruku
Eyeballing the bommies – you don’t want to run into these!

One of the world’s best diving places.

Until then…

Special thanks to SV Soggy Paws for the useful info on their blog. http://svsoggypaws.com/files/

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It’s funny to think that only a few weeks ago we were making our way through the Panama Canal. Now we are sitting in French Polynesia some 4100nm west. Almost two weeks after our arrival, the 29 days offshore seem like a short and distant memory. That’s a good indicator that we had a successful passage. Along the way we saw whales, dolphins (plenty of), red-footed boobies, and all sorts of birdlife. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to haul a fish on board, but they were happy enough eating our lures!

Whales as we departed Panama

Red footed Boobies on passage

The first ten days were spent slowly sailing or barely motoring through the calms of the ITCZ – the Doldrums. That was fine as we have a small drifter spinnaker to keep us moving in the slightest breeze. As long as we were doing 3kn, we were happy enough to float along the current. Each day I’d update trip notes on our GPS Tracking link (see above right).


Crossing over the Equator (the fourth time for us ol’ shellbacks), we began our southerly pass of the Galapagos archipelago, then headed west before making our way to 4 degrees for a better angle and better current to sail direct to the Marquesas. By this time, we’d settled into our normal offshore routine – eating, sleeping, reading, sailing – and repeat each day until arrival. The days seemed to melt by.

The islands that make up the Marquesas archipelago lie in a SE-NW direction, with Nuku Hiva at the top of the chain. Pre-COVID, yachts could clear in at other islands, allowing sailors to sail the trade winds up the islands. Now, the only official place to clear in is at Nuku Hiva. This means that sailing south to the other islands will be a disappointing bash into SE winds, so many yachts are foregoing visiting islands south of Ua-Pou, which lies 26nm directly south of Nuku Hiva.

Arriving in the early morning at Nuku Hiva in the Marquises, the rugged high mountain tops over-looking the bay is a beautiful sight. Gybing in with reduced sails with 15kn on the beam, we furled the sails for the final time in over four weeks. The bay had at least fifty yachts anchored. During the week, this number changed daily as boats arrived and departed regularly. A fleet of Oyster boats kept our agent, Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, busy. As their fleet dwindled, new arrivals of Outremer catamarans and the World Odyssey fleet filled up the anchorage, as well as individuals, solo sailors and a surprisingly large amount of family groups with kids. There’s always a rally of some sort passing through. We joined the South Pacific Posse at Panama – about 30 boats all leaving and arriving from different locations – and have since caught up with others on the same route as us. It’s a great way to meet people and even better when we have similar interests, such as hiking and diving.

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva

Church, Nuku Hiva

We have a 90 day entry to French Polynesia, and anyone with a British passport can no longer stay for six months on European passports, and would need to obtain a long stay visa. BREXIT just keeps on giving…

As far as the boat, we had no dramas on this voyage, although we had an issue with our auto pilot. The Raymarine Type 1 has been unreliable on all our ocean voyages, so we are thankful our WindPilot has steered us over these passages. We carried spare drive gears and rotary ring which Wayne replaced on arrival and the autopilot was back to normal operation in a day. Wayne also spent some time re-programming and wiring to improve our Raymarine tiller pilot setup to work better with the WindPilot and added a remote control. This all seems to be working well too.

Fixing stuff in exotic places! Can you see Wayne?

The next thing to fail is our fridge. Of all the places for our fridge to die, the Pacific isn’t the best place. (Why didn’t it fail in the UK?). We thought it might be low on gas and fortunately Kevin could do a re-gas, although it didn’t really fix the problem. There’s something not right with it and it’s running too warm, but left alone it can keep things cool, but not icy cold. As long as it stays cool and we don’t fill it with meat, we’ll look at sorting this out once we get to a place with more convenient facilities.

Kevin from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services regassing our fridge

While Wayne busied himself with the electrical stuff around the auto-pilot, I busied myself washing the boat of thick salt that had accumulated from the voyage. Water is available from the fish dock, but it’s brackish and only suitable for rinsing the boat, or maybe some hand washing. As luck would have it, a huge downpour came that night and washed the places I couldn’t reach, rinsing the salt away from the teak deck. Once clean, I polished the stainless, removing rust stains where the salt had sat for days. Other typical jobs on arrival include laundry, organising a sim card for internet from Kevin and TopUp cards from the Post Office, then sitting at the local snack shop with free wifi to sift through loads of emails while we supped on a Hinano beer and downed a plate of hot fries.

You’d think that sailing offshore our hull would be nice and clean. For the most part it was, but on the starboard quarter, a thick band of Gooseneck barnacles had gathered, their sticky feet sticking to the gelcoat, but not the newly applied antifoul. These were scraped these off and the waterline tidied up.

Gooseneck barnacles only on the starboard quarter after 4000nm

Reading through our emails on arrival, there was one email from JRCC Tahiti (Joint Rescue Coordination Centre – responsible for coordinating aeronautical and maritime search and rescue operations in an area covering 12.5 million km2). Apparently about 24 hours out from arrival, a yacht was in distress and we were the closest boat. JRCC had only our regular email, not our offshore email or satphone number so couldn’t reach us offshore. Underway, we saw no vessel, and heard nothing on the radio so were unaware of the situation. Turns out, the septuagenarian captain had died from a heart attack, and his wife, in her 70s, in an obvious state of distress, was trying to sail under duress – a terribly sad and stressful situation for anyone. I guess the fact that she was so close to Nuku Hiva certainly helped with the rescue, and I doubt that we could have helped her much, except perhaps reassured her and maybe assisted with navigation – it’s hard to say, as conditions were 25kn with 2.5-3m seas. Very sad. We’ve since given the JRCC our correct offshore contact details.

Taiohae Bay can fit a hundred yachts, but unfortunately the fish dock can’t fit many dinghies. With a slight swell and a tide of around one metre, the concrete dock struggles to accommodate the many dinghies and yachties all vying for their chance to get ashore. One ladder is available so the best time is to arrive at high water, or early morning, making it easier to get on and off. Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, run by Kevin and his wife Annabella, is found under the yellow awning. He is run off his feet managing all the paperwork for arriving boats – his time is spread thin around the visiting yachts so patience is required. On VHF68 at 7.30am, there may be willing yachtie to run through some announcements.

With so many boats and so much rubbish, the local Municipal office requests that each boat pay a fee for access to water and garbage – FP1500 (around US$15) for one month. There are large rubbish bins a little way up from the dock, and turning left onto the road, and across into a carpark, there are large bins for plastics, cans and bottles (no paper). I think this fee is fair, after seeing so many garbage bags of rubbish being brought ashore by visiting yachts. It’s annoying to see boats arriving with plastic drink bottles in the garbage bags – you’d think that cruisers would be more considerate with keeping pollution down.

Near the fish dock is a Tourist Information office with a friendly lady; a hut presenting works and jewellery from local artists; and a fruit and veggie market. By mid morning most of the produce is limes, coconuts and bananas, but if you get there early you can pick up tomatoes, eggplant, bok choy, lettuce, cabbage, mangos, sweet potato. The supermarket up the road just beyond the bank also has regular supplies of freshly laid eggs and you can buy fresh baguettes. The supermarkets are well stocked with a good variety of products, and those marked with a red price label are subsidised so may be a little cheaper. The items are expensive, but considering where we are, that’s to be expected. The bank has an ATM so it’s easy to get some local Polynesian Francs.

As we motored conservatively since leaving Panama, we decided we had enough diesel to continue on to Tahiti but we did fill our unleaded jerries (sans plomb), as we need to run the Honda generator, our dive compressor and the outboard over the next couple of months. The cost was 134 Polynesian Francs per litre for unleaded.

Visitors can go on 4WD tours of the island, and the local guys were kept busy shuttling people around the island each day. Once we’d done our chores and had a look around, we decided to leave the bay and head west 5nm to Taioa Bay, known as Daniel’s Bay. This turned out to be a lovely spot, anchored in 9m with good holding on a mud bottom. Two other yachts were there, making it a peaceful change from the busy Taiohae Bay. The next morning we sailed to the small island of Ua Pou, 28nm directly south of Nuku Hiva. I think this is the first ‘day sail’ we’ve done in the last six months!

Taioa Bay aka Daniel’s Bay

From Ua Pou we are planning a 480nm sail to the atoll of Makemo.

Until then…

Drop us an email at BlueHeelerHR39(at)myiridium.net
Follow our progress here – https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV_BlueHeeler

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We arrived one week ago, and I’ve been a little tardy in updating my blog (been busy doing the usual ‘new country arrival’ stuff). The last couple of days of sailing were bouncy and windy, but we had an early arrival at Taiohae Bay at the impressively rugged French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva. Below are our trip stats; I’ll post more about the trip soon. Thanks for following our voyage!

Total distance: 4103nm
Nights offshore: 29
Fastest daily distance: 171nm (day 16)
Slowest daily distance: 91nm (day 7)
Average speed: 6kn
Engine hours propulsion: 48 (only in first nine days crossing doldrums) Engine hours energy/water making: 45
Fuel used: guessing between 130-160 litres
Highest wind speed: 26kn
Lowest wind speed: 0kn
Lures lost: One
Fish caught: Nil
Books read: Five
Mugs broken: One

If you want to contact is while offshore, you can email to blueheelerhr39(at)myiridium.net.
Follow our progress here – https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV_BlueHeeler

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If you’ve been following our GPS tracking and reading our daily updates, you’ll know that we’ve sailed over 3000nm since leaving Panama. As we sail along the final 1000nm to reach French Polynesia, here are some more of my random thoughts from life offshore.

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Progress
The last 1000nm took only six days to sail; unlike the first thousand which took around nine days due to its calmness as we crossed the ITCZ. Sailing in the low latitudes (between 3-5 south) allowed us to stay in the equatorial current and avoid a counter current south of us. Once we reached 117W, we altered course to head directly to our destination, again with favourable current and wind angles. We’ve managed to sail on a port tack for the last 2000nm at P100 to P120 – a more favourable angle than sailing winged out with easterly winds, which we may have encountered at latitude 9S. For the most part, seas have been less than 2m, although the last couple of days seas were up to 3m. The days were generally blue sky and fine, with no rain. Our ETA is either late on the 10th or the 11th of April.

This Weather4D screenshot from 31st March shows favourable currents at 4degSouth, while below us are light counter-currents. The extra boost helps the overall voyage.

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Is there anybody out there?
Three weeks in and we’ve visually seen one yacht, and no other vessel. We haven’t seen anything on AIS for over a week. But I’m sure they are out there.
The day we clocked up 3000nm we were 1100nm from the Marquesas, and 2000nm from Galapagos – a long way from anywhere. Before sunrise, I saw a light on the horizon to the west. It was man made light, white and glowing, like that of a fishing vessel. No chance it was a dipping star as it stayed there until the sunlight washed it away. Anyway, I’ve got a pretty good idea how to identify stars, and fishing vessels, nowadays! Later that day, we heard unintelligible banter on the VHF, so somebody somewhere is out there.
We did pass a huge whale. He was heading east about 100m south of us. The only thing visible, the shape of his hulk under the water, and the spurting out of his blowhole. The only other life we see are flying fish and playful dolphins. The occasional squid lands on deck, but there’s not much life in those by the time we find them.

GPS Tracking allows us to see other boats; this one 350nm south of us took a different track to reach Marquesas.
He likely had wind directly from behind.

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Sleep
My dictionary explains sleep as “A condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended”.
Out here, I can’t say our muscles are fully relaxed when we sleep, and our consciousness isn’t quite suspended. The opportunity for anything close to a luxurious deep sleep state will have to wait until we are at anchor.
When the sailing is rough and the boat rocks back and forth, the best way to sleep is to bury yourself in pillows, the body wedged close to the hull. I wear earplugs to block out annoying creaks and squeaks, and an eye mask to block out any light. More than once I’ve been laser-beamed awake by moonlight, or sunlight, penetrating through the hatch. Our ‘hot-bed’ is set up on the starboard side of the saloon, which works fine on this voyage as we’ve been on the one tack for twenty-something days.
Over that time, we’ve settled into a daily routine that goes something like this: I go down to read and sleep around 5pm, back up at 8.30pm; make hot chocolate, then Wayne goes down at 9pm, returns at 1am; then I go back down for a sleep, then I’m back up at 5am and Wayne goes down for a sleep until he wakes by 8am. Once he’s up we have a coffee and breakfast, then I go back down for a couple of hours. He might go down for a break, before I prepare the afternoon meal. That’s a loose schedule, but you get the idea. This is repeated day after day, after day.
With that routine, we can generally get eight hours sleep over 24 hours, although not all at once, and we spend the majority of the time on our own. A few hours during the middle of the day we chat about all sorts of things, including what our future plans are once we get to Australia.

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Ship shape
Unless we are resting below, our time is spent in the cockpit. The boat down below stays tidy and we’ve had no dangerous missiles flying across the saloon as we stowed well before departure (except for the mugs, see Tracking update day 23).
Our head (bathroom) isn’t used much and has remained clean, as we are bathing each day on deck with cool seawater washes and freshwater rinses. The head can become quite dank when it’s always wet as we can’t open hatches to let the breeze in, so it’s good to have it remain dry for a month. Now and then I flush clean water through the shower pump and add disinfectant to freshen it up. Not much to say about the loo; we add cooking oil to the pump weekly to keep it operating smoothly. Other than that, it’s just a loo.
Outside, stainless steel has spots of rust where salt has built up and the deck has splotches of fish scales left behind by flying fish. Everything feels greasy due to the salty air and high humidity. Ropes are becoming stiff, and we’ve not had enough rain to wash the salt away.
Corners of cabins are in darkness, probably growing mildew. The remedy; the boat needs to be opened up and filled with sunlight and fresh air. Plenty to do once we arrive.

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Provisions
There is a problem with our fridge. It’s not reaching a low temperature, and it’s running all the time and icing up very quickly. It’s been eleven years since we had it re-gassed and we can only assume it needs re-gassing. At present the contents are remaining cold, but it’s a problem that we hope to sort out in French Polynesia.
Otherwise our fresh food supply is doing very well. Into our third and final cabbage, carrot supply is good, still have six green apples, two green capsicum, and plenty of ripe Roma tomatoes. The eggs are on the edge, but I give them the sniff test before using them. So far so good. Still some chicken breasts in the small freezer, and other salamis, hams, and cheeses, including that tasteless Soylent Orange cheese. (I have a tasty quarter of Danish blue tucked away that I intend us to share with a glass of red upon arrival).
On this trip, for the first time on any voyage, I’ve not baked bread, nor have we eaten much rice, and no pasta. Sitting for hours each day isn’t helped by having to much starchy food, so we’ve had smaller meals of veggies with some meat, and the odd treat such as small chocolates, bickies, and corn chips when I make nachos. I have cooked pizza, so it’s not like we’ve gone full vegans – we’re only human!

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The final thousand
Breaking through the thousand nautical mile mark does wonders for morale. The last thousand was sailed in six days, and at our current pace and forecast conditions, we hope to arrive by the 11th of April. At the time of posting this we have 940nm to go.
There are still plenty of things that could go wrong out here, so we continue to sail conservatively, not stressing the boat, or breaking anything through inattention or carelessness. It’s not over until it’s over…

Weather routing from 2nd April – go direct to Nuku Hiva

If you want to contact is while offshore, you can email to blueheelerhr39(at)myiridium.net.
Follow our progress here – https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV_BlueHeeler [end]

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