Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Society Islands

The Society Islands

As with any new destination, there is administration and service to execute. We needed to perform all the usual tasks: food, laundry, fuel and water, in addition to "checking in" with the Gendarme and collecting a certificate allowing us to purchase fuel duty free. I had also to collect Jean-Jaque's new passport, which the British Consulate in Panama had forwarded to a commonwealth office in Papaeete that turned out to be an Air New Zealand office. After so long away from mainstream civilisation Papaeete was quite a shock…. noisy, fast cars, hustle and bustle, we had to be on our toes as we were all easily distracted. I was surprised at how alien it all felt!!

Taking the bus into town, we had one of those days where all things just slot into place. Amanda and the Boys found a play park while I was doing the admin, we had lunch in town and on the way back spent a fortune at the supermarket.

In truth the selection was fantastic and the pricing was not dissimilar to Europe. After 2 hours we had restocked Pegasus, bought Louis' Birthday presents and completed the major part of our administration leaving us free to enjoy Louis' 3rd birthday on 4th July.

As is the birthday ritual, we decorated the pilothouse with balloons and streamers and when Louis woke he opened his presents with a little help from Jean-Jaques, before breakfast of banana pancakes and maple syrup.

The boys had a great day and we took them to the Lagoonaruim (sort of poor aquarium) and walked back to the boat via a fun fair where they performed a good double act on the bouncy castle, running rings around the ticket collector gaining a few extra goes.

It was festival time in Tahiti, culminating in big celebrations on Bastille Day, 14th July, coincidentally Jean-Jaques 5th birthday. We planned to be back in Papaeete on 13th July so were keen to spend the week looking at the island. We decided a circumnavigation was in order so on 7/7 we set off through Passe de Taapuna and headed south to a quiet anchorage behind a motu for the night before anchoring in Teeahupo the following day.

Teeahupo is a world famous surf spot and we intended spending a few days there before moving on. Our friends on Vagabond Heart and Lucy Blue appeared that evening and so there was plenty of social for all. We spent time snorkelling / drift diving the outer lagoon area close to the reef, collecting shells and watching the fish and stingrays. The waves breaking against the reef were huge and at night we could hear their thunder, while safely anchored inside the tranquil lagoon.

The snorkelling in Tahiti was just fantastic. The vibrant turquoise shallows close to the outer reef are just amazing. Every time is different as you just don't know what you are going to see or find. Saying that, its also weather dependant, as if overcast, windy or raining, its just not the same experience. We had our fair share of rainy overcast days as well.

We left through the Teahupo pass headed south to the wild side of "little Tahiti" the smaller southern island. The road stops at Teahupo and the villages on the south and Southeast side are cut off, with villages travelling by small speedboats inside the lagoon. We spent a few days in the south enjoying the solitude and local hospitality, and headed back up to the Tahiti Yacht Club on 12/7. After messing around with the anchor in a squall, we elected to pick up a club buoy and went ashore to settle up and find the lay of the land. I have to say that the club was lovely and felt very welcoming. The Secretary gave us a key for the showers and laundry and there was a small bar open. "Just one night? No charge - just bring back the key in the morning" We all went back ashore for showers, but sadly the restaurant was shut. We put the laundry on and headed out to find dinner.

Behind the club was a small sports hall with plenty of action and music?? We walked in and found a seat and watched traditional Polynesian song and dance for an hour or so. There must have been 60 dancers in full dress and it was spellbinding. We found out later that it was the last dress rehearsal for the Bastille Day dance competition in Papaeete. There is something very evocative about Polynesian dancing and we felt very lucky to have witnessed such a wonderful display.

Next to the stadium we found a pizza / brochette stall and enjoyed pizza sitting on stools beside the van. These vans are everywhere in French Polynesia and are really a restaurant on wheels. As you can imagine, the food is French, so quite delicious and it makes for a viable alternative with the Boys. Eating is taken seriously by the French, so restaurants tend to open later and the boys are usually just too tired to eat after 7pm. Lunch is always our best restaurant option.

Food in France and by influence French Polynesia is a way of life. The range available in Tahiti was vast and varied, but many imported items were very expensive. Baguette, butter, pate and some cheeses are subsidised, readily available in most islands. We stocked up on pate, Camembert, pickles, cured meats and sausage, which was our daily lunch, and Amanda bought what we required for dinners on board. She is really very talented at shopping and will buy what we need. I am no use in the supermarket as I'm always looking at the prices…"do we really need 4 of those" etc. However I never complain at the fair Amanda presents at sea and our table is always full of varied and delicious food. I have now rationalised my supermarket experience to fulfilling specific tasks with the boys….18 litres of milk ok,…4 dozen eggs…".right I'm taking the boys off for a coffee / juice". This is now much better for everyone

Leaving the Yacht Club the following morning we wound our way through the coral and exited the pass. Accompanied by a pod of dolphins, a rare sight in French Polynesia, we motored 5 miles back up to Papaeete. We needed to get back up to the shops to buy the rest of JJ's presents and get ready to meet Grand Mere who would arrive on the 15th.

We anchored out by the reef and I amused the boys (swimming) while Amanda went and finished the shopping. The boys went to bed excited and we decorated the pilothouse with balloons and pirate paraphernalia and wrapped JJ's presents. His main present was a boogie board, which he had specifically asked for, and he was delighted to open it the following morning.

The plan was to meet the Vagabonds and Blues in the anchorage by Tahina Marina on the afternoon of the 14th as we were hosting a joint Pirate party for the boy's birthdays. Everyone turned up at about 4 and there was lots of fun on board. Treasure hunts, party games and lots to eat. Amanda had prepared sushi for openers at JJ's request but the real winner was a watermelon full of melon balls with a chocolate dip, and of course the Pirate cake. Everyone had a great time and the Boys went to bed happy and tired.

Grand Mere had arrived in Tahiti late on the evening of 14th and we planned to go to the Hilton early the following day for breakfast and swimming in the pool. We arrived at 8am and the Boys had a great time swimming then we all had breakfast, a real treat. OK it was pretty expensive, but I do love an all singing all dancing hotel breakfast.

It was decided that I would leave the others in the hotel, and I went downtown to sign out with the Gendarme, as we planned to leave for Moorea, just 12 miles to the West, the following day. Mum and Amanda went off to Carfour after lunch for a few last minute items…a pair of fins for Grand Mere… and we had a great evening on board with presents for the boys and lots of goodies from the UK. Star of the show were a pair of Crocs each for reef walking, a present from Edwin my younger brother, and a large jar of Branston Pickle for the excellent cheddar we had found in Carfour. The Boys number one were a power ranger's suit for JJ and a Spiderman suit for Louis. They both love them, and are hanging up by their bunks today.

We set off for Moorea in good time, sailing in light winds under Genoa arriving in Opunohu Bay at lunchtime. This is a beautiful bay and we anchored in 4 meters of crystal clear water on sand. After lunch we swam off the boat and went ashore for a walk and swim A lazy afternoon. We had an early super and by 7.30 we were all in bed. (On Board we tend to eat and go to bed early. It just seems to be the correct rhythm to be in bed by 8 and up by 6.)

Our plan was to try to get to the northern islands and spend most of our time there before Grand Mere had to leave for the UK. We had a weather window and I was keen to make the 80 mile passage in fair weather, but was conscious that Grand Mere needed to get acclimatised to Pegasus first, hence our trip to Moorea. The following day we moved to a shallow sheltered anchorage, known romantically as the Club Med anchorage, and spent the day snorkelling off the boat, shelling on the Motu and watching stingrays being fed. By 4pm we were back on board ready to pull up anchor and depart for Huahine.

We were in no great hurry, again wanting to arrive in daylight, so sailed under Genoa alone, making 5+ kts in a slightly confused sea. We arrived at the pass at 8am and made our way down the West side of the island and finally found a sheltered spot to stop for a couple of days, swim, shell and relax. Huahine is a little off the beaten track and has few tourists so local interaction is more genuine. We spent a memorable hour with a local farmer who cut drinking coconuts and gave us Paw paw and bananas for the boat.

There was a growing desire on board to get to the shops. With impending windy weather we decided to head for the next island of Raiatea and the old capital of Uturoa. It was a short hop of 30 miles downwind and we arrived at a sheltered anchorage early afternoon. We organised a taxi and spent the following morning in town, stocking up with stores and wandering round the various shops.

I was keen to stop and put the anchor down for a few days. We had decided that we would spend most of the remaining time in Bora Bora, and as the weather looked good that day we made an uneventful 30 mile passage arriving at the pass Teavanui just after lunch. I had read our cruising guide, Charlie's charts and selected a sheltered anchorage behind a sandy spit, showing a good beach and walk over the Motu to another Motu…. Sounded lovely.

On arrival we found that those intrepid explorers messes Hilton and Intercontinental had visited sometime after our guide and built a sprawling hotel on the site. What a shame. This was very much the story with Bora Bora. Most of the beautiful spots had hotels on them with little huts on legs protruding into the lagoon and signs declaring the beaches private. It really was quite developed, and the overall impression was that of paradise spoilt. That said, the developments and indeed Bora is designed to be viewed from land and I'm sure if one were staying at the four seasons it would be breathtaking.

We searched and found some beautiful spots in the south of the island and spent 10 days in various anchorages, swimming, walking, shelling etc. Grand Mere had found the addictive nature of shelling and was building quite a collection, so much so that I think she had a concern about her baggage allowance!

The weather was varied. We spent 2 days on a buoy next to a restaurant called Bloody Mary's where it rained all day and blew 45+kts. Not too taxing in your little hut at the four seasons but a challenge on a boat with 2 small children. We walked, played on the (quite filthy) beach in the rain but had a good lunch. It all changes quickly when the sun comes out.

Grand Mere's departure was looming and we decided we would fly her back to Tahiti from Bora rather than waste a day on a windward passage.

Those of you who have been to Tahiti from the UK will know what a long process it is. Mum left on a Monday from London and arrived on Wednesday night in Tahiti. But I have to say that she organised it pretty well. On advise from the travel agent, and on the grounds that her knees are "just not what they were", she played the wheelchair card which effectively meant that she queue barged her way across the globe. In addition she is the only person I know who can have 2 family size suitcases accepted as hand luggage. It certainly made her trip less stressful, perhaps not the airlines!

It was time for Grand Mere to leave and we were all sad when we took the shuttle ferry out to the airport to say goodbye. We had last seen her in Lanzarote in October 2008 and who knows when we will see each other again. We all had a wonderful time and the Boys simply loved having their Grand Mere with them, sharing the close intimacy as you do on a boat.

It was also time for us to leave Bora and French Polynesia. I had been listening to the SSB following the passage of boats heading west and knew that the next leg to Tonga would be difficult. The weather predictions for this region are notoriously inaccurate as the South pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) can forcefully influence the region. Wind strengths were being seriously underestimated and the vessels that left the week before were being hammered in 40+ kts on predictions of 25's. The seas can be pretty big as well with 4-5 meter seas reported. The boats that headed on a more northern route, close to the Cook Island atoll of Suwarrow or Suvarov seemed to have better conditions. We decided to remain flexible and see what the conditions dictated. The weather worsened for a few days and after we had re-provisioned, carried out pre flight checks….mast inspection etc, and generally sorted our selves out, we left Bora on 6th Aug headed west.

I was glad to be leaving. The Society Islands are beautiful, but lack the expectation of discovery that we enjoyed. They suffer from being rather hyped and certainly overdeveloped. Finding real Polynesian spirit was difficult and we were looking forward to making our way back off the beaten track a little to discover atolls and island less frequented, offering a more intimate experience. In addition I was looking forward to some good sailing. I hadn't put the main up for over a month and we hadn't had the kite up since it was repaired 3 months past when in the Marquesas. Hopefully we would have a good trip to either Tonga direct (1300 miles) or Suwarrow (700 miles)

We are discovering, cruising the Pacific, that on arrival you really know very little about the intended cruising ground: nothing is relative as you have no experience. Moving downwind through the islands you constantly realise that there are islands now upwind that were passed over in favour of the visited mainstream islands. You are so fully immersed in the whole learning curve of Pacific sailing, weather, passage routes, food, money, tradition etc that disappearing off to unheard of islands is just a step too far, and too daunting to favour the unpopular over the popular, especially for those with novice status such as us. I'm sure current experience will open future adventure. I wish we had more time! To fully research the islands and passages, explore the more remote, outer islands, that would be a thing…….already, life is just too short

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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Right Here, Right Now

Right here, right now…

Its 4am, 22nd August. Amanda's finished her 12-4 and I'm up now for the duration. Its 29 degrees and its going to be a hot one.

We're 15 degrees south, 165 west, heading 230 slowly….basically in the middle of nowhere…850 miles W of Bora Bora, 250 miles SW of Suwarow 250 miles SE of American Samoa and 450 miles NE of Vavau, Tonga, our destination.

It's harry flatters. I mean absolutely flat… glass, like oil. There's no moon or cloud, but light by the stars, mirrored on the surface of the water. Astern there's a trail of bioluminescence, a brief mark of our passage over waters were unlikely to see again, ahead a lost horizon, where stars stop and the ink begins. Breathtaking in its beauty and humbling in its magnitude, we are a speck on the Pacific. An insignificant 120 square meters of family life….Hmmmm…. don't want to dwell on that too long!!

I've got 2 hours before the boys are up and 7 weeks of blog to write…so that's not going to happen….I might get it wrapped before the wind kicks in… tomorrow, later, who knows, but when it gets here its going to blow old boots. Were in the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) and its all or nothing. If historics are anything to go by we can expect 35Kts SW and 4-5 meter seas with a 5-7 second frequency…I had better tuck some more southing in the bank…

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Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Tuamotoes

The Tuamotoes

We stayed only a short time in Haahopu Bay. It was lovely with a sandy beach and we all had fun in the surf, and snorkelling the rocks around the bay. I very nearly managed to catch a large octopus for the freezer, but it got away at the last. I wasn't that upset as it looked pretty big and I had no idea how it was going to react on the end of my lance. It was much more at home in its environment than I was, so I was slightly relieved when it and I retreated in opposite directions.

The weather looked settled and so on the evening of Friday 5th June we set sail for the 450 mile trip to the Tuamotoes, some times referred to as the dangerous archipelago.

The Tuamotoes are know as old islands where as the Marquesas are new?? Briefly, the Marquesas are tall volcanic islands that are not old enough for coral to have formed fringing coral reef. The Tuamotoes are old enough to have fringing coral reef but the islands themselves have sunk and eroded away, leaving just the reef and lagoons where the islands used to stand. The society islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora etc) are in between with tall islands and fringing reef and lagoons.

As the Tuamotoes are just low coral atolls, reefs and lagoons they are not visible from any distance and, due to strong currents running around the reef and motu (islands), have claimed many ships. To enter the lagoons and take advantage of the calm seas you have to get the tide right as the water can enter and exit the small passes through the reef at ferocious speed, making navigation impossible. In addition the lagoons are full of coral heads and reef so navigation is difficult and a good lookout with the sun behind / overhead is essential.

It is, therefore, not so much about speed on passage, rather the time of arrival. We wanted to arrive at our destination, Makemo atoll, in daylight and at low slack water. That put our perfect arrival at 11.15-1200 8th June.

We had a good sail down, with a rather lumpy cross swell, making 153 and 189 miles on the first 2 days. We caught a lovely big Mahi Mahi, but consigned it to the freezer as neither of us felt we could tackle eating fish yet!!. We were lucky and the weather was kind with 25 kts of breeze on the port quarter. We both still felt weak from the Ciguatera poisoning and it would have been a struggle had the weather turned nasty. But it was as expected and the following morning we spotted Makemo and headed for the northern pass. Our timing looked good, and we entered the pass at midday. Half an hour later we had the anchor down in clear, calm water at 17m depth. We could see the coral heads in the turquoise water and felt pleased and somewhat relieved that we had made our first pass without incident.

Lunch and ashore.

"Shark" cried Louis. "Look there" said JJ. There were 4 black tip reef sharks cruising the reef in 4 feet of water some 10ft from the beach. The boys were very excited, and it took some moments to persuade them that swimming with sharks was not a good idea. These were the first Pacific sharks we had really seen up close so we were all quite excited.

We walked down the beach and over to the windward reef looking for shells….one of our favourite pastimes. Its great to walk down a deserted windward beach as a family. The Boys love exploring the rock pools, finding crabs and fish, although there were quite a few baby Moray eels so we had to be careful, but they thought it was very exciting. Amanda and I keep a keen look out for shells and we always find a few nice specimens. There's a lot to look at and see. It doesn't matter where you are in the world…the boys love the beach. If we were back on the Isle of Wight, we would be doing much the same thing, although the marine life is more colourful and the shells more exciting in the Pacific.

Sometimes I find something useful…a marker buoy, a little piece of stainless steel, some rope…One day I found something I just couldn't leave behind. It was spherical with a Perspex dome on top, a solar panel and Arial. It was clearly a piece of scientific equipment designed to float at sea, and had a bar code with serial number on it. This, I thought, was worth the struggle. It must have weighed 20kg and after I had persuaded Amanda that we really needed this thing, I lugged it back to Pegasus. I thought I could trace the owner through the Internet and they must be keen to have it returned….the least I could do was to take the solar panel and LED light. My father googled the company and sent them an e mail. They replied that they weren't interested in its return and that it had been lost a long time ago. Ok, so lets take it apart…With hammer and chisel I gave it a good shot but I have to say that it was pretty indestructible. After half an hour I thought the best option was to return it to its home in the sea. It gave me some pleasure to think that some other cruiser will do exactly as I did in time to come.

WE had planned to stay in the north of the atoll for a few days and spend some time alone as team Lawrence. We found a lovely anchorage 12 miles down the lagoon and spent a week exploring, walking on the windward reef, making fires on the beaches, shelling and generally relaxing as a family. We were also recuperating from the poisoning and by the end of the week we felt much stronger and ready to move on.

The outer reef was just spectacular. Once you had made it through the bush, across the sharp volcanic lava full of fossilised coral (which makes up the atoll) then over the coral rubble, the outer reef lies ahead in no more than a meter of water. It forms a barrier around the island only 30 meters wide and the very outer 5 meters is slightly higher and solid coral. The colours were amazing with the solid, outer coral a vibrant pink and the inner coral a multitude of colour. We walked through the coral surrounded by fish, looking for shells and watching out for moray's and other nasties.

When on Pegasus we would all swim off the boat out to coral heads close by and watch the fish, keeping a constant look out for sharks as we had seen them from the dinghy when swimming. JJ is becoming a great diver and can touch the bottom in 3 meters of water, and Louis has just mastered his snorkel so we can all explore together. Louis got very excited when he really saw fish underwater for the first time. The Boys love to swim off the back of the boat, but we have a rule that we don't swim early or late in the day as that's shark-feeding time. At other times they're quite docile.

The weather turns about every 10 days or so being influenced by frontal movement way off to the south. The wind backs from the SE through E, NE then NW through to SW then back to the SE over a 2-3 day period. This causes havoc with the anchor rode and coral heads and also brings rain, wind and cooler temperatures. We found ourselves sitting on the beach in shorts and oilies thinking it was not so different from the Isle of Wight in summer. Even so, the boys were happy on the beach, harassing the large hermit crabs, chasing each other with palm fronds and generally doing what children do on beaches around the world.

We waited for a weather system to move over us, and as the wind backed round to the SE again we headed out of the N pass of Makemo and off to the southern pass at Fakarava atoll, some 90 miles west, but in effect 3 tides away. We planned to leave at last light…we had a track on the GPS so could safely leave the pass at roughly slack water and last light.

We planned to arrive in Fakarava at close to 11am, low water slack, so we were in no great hurry, sailing with just the Genoa making 5 kts in light winds. We arrived on 16th June at 10.45 am…perfect timing. We motored in through the pass without difficulty, with the surf breaking both sides only 20 meters away, and found our way easily to a suitable anchorage inside the lagoon, dropping the anchor in 12 meters of water in good holding. There were a few other boats there and we knew 2 boats, Vagabond Heart (with 3 children) and Lucy Blue (2 children). The Boys were very excited to see their friends again and its always a bit easier for us when there are other children around…not to mention good adult social as well.

We knew Vagabond Heat from the SSB Net we had been part of, on passage from the Galapagos, and first Met Australians Bill and Debbie (Edward 13, Alice 11, Will 9) in Anaho bay in the Marquesas. Debbie is a doctor (we discovered later), and they were anchored next to us when we had the ciguatera poisoning and looked after JJ and Louis the day after so we could sleep and recover. Lucy Blue we had met in Huku Niva (Marquesas) but had only met Ina, (Simon 12, Amanda 9) as her husband Buck was at work flying SAR helicopters in Norway. He was now on board for the rest of their passage to Australia.

We had a wonderful few days at the southern end of Fakarava. There is a little dive operation with a few guest huts on the motu by the pass, and plenty of other beaches on other motu close by. We would go off to the beach or swim / sail the optimist in the morning and get the children together in the afternoons. Its amazing how well they all integrate despite the age difference, with poor old Louis at the tail end, but the older boys are very inclusive and they all had a great time. Usually we would go and have a drink on board one of the boats and the kids would all watch DVD' s together for a hour or two, and it always made for a jolly evening. Debbie organised a treasure hunt on one of the motu one afternoon …. we built a fire, ate coconut and chatted as the sun sank over the horizon.

We drift dived / snorkelled the pass a few times. The boys loved it…loads of fish, rays,turtles, sharks, huge Maori wrasse, beautiful coral…quite spectacular. I took some great video for the production company and in a state of excitement viewed it on our return to Pegasus…..Nothing…a shark tail exiting the screen, fish just out of shot, close ups of nothing…really terrible. I had to go back and do it again the following day, but this time I got some great shots.

Our last night there, we all had dinner at the dive shack restaurant over the water. We had a great evening in the most spectacular setting Just 13 of us and 6 of their guests….flowery shirts bare feet and our dinghy's tied up outside the restaurant like horses outside a bar in a western.. I love travelling out to dinner in the dinghy…... There's always that little bit of adventure to look forward to on the way home.

The following day the Vagabonds and the Blues headed up island and we planned to meet them after lunch 15 miles further up the lagoon…I wanted to go and dive the pass one last time.

We motored up island and arrived in a beautiful anchorage early afternoon. It was perfect, just the 3 boats, no other people and virgin beach. We walked the beach looking for shells while all the children played and swam.

Now the shell thing was getting interesting, and there was just a little competitive edge starting to show between the girls. Ina found a rare and perfect shell right where we were all sitting on the beach…I think that started it. Anyway the following day we all went for a long walk on the windward side to try and find some large Cone shells, which had so far alluded us. We found some shells and Debbie was particularly pleased with a large cone shell she found..

That afternoon Amanda and I decided to walk across the island from where we were anchored, to try and find some beach that had not been picked clean. I reasoned that the more difficult it was to get to, the greater the reward…..extreme shelling…sounded up my street. An hour later it was apparent that we needed some tools to get through the jungle…a compass and machete. We had to abort.

The next day we cut a path through the jungle to some beach that I would doubt any one has ever been on. The boys handled the thick jungle well, and after an hour we arrived at virgin beach. We found some beautiful large cone shells, cowries and others and it was all very rewarding. We tried in another spot to cut through the island but after an hour had to give up. I think we were lucky to get through once.

The downside to extreme shelling is that your body gets pretty scratched up, especially if you happen to be up front with the machete. Not usually an issue, but when your swimming in the lagoon which is rich in coral and coral spores, any scratches soon get seriously infected. 2 days later I was off games and on antibiotics, but Amanda has some great new additions to her collection.

The weather was due to turn again, so we headed up to the North of the island to the village. Here we bought some provisions and had a few meals out as we waited for the winds to swing and return to the trade wind set. After a few days things looked a little settled but brisk and we decided to head off to Toan, the next atoll north. As the wind had been strong there was a lot of water flowing out of the pass and even though we left at slack we had a pretty rough little exit from Fakarava. We sailed gently round to Anse Amyot some 30 miles away, and arrived just before dusk. We dropped the hook and spent a few windy nights at anchor. Lucy Blue and Vagabond heart arrived and we had drinks and dinner on board Pegasus. We set off to Tahiti the following day, as we needed to arrive at least by The 3rd July to buy some presents for Louis' birthday.

I was looking forward to Tahiti. It's of one of those iconic places one dreams of sailing to, and finally on 1st July I could make the log entry "Bound for Tahiti"

Its 220 miles to Tahiti which means a day and a half, so we left early in the morning and sailed in a confused sea out through the atolls. Again we caught good fish, and filled the freezer with Tuna. When we cleared the islands the sea settled down but the wind was strong, and it was a squally, windy night, which kept me on my toes. After a fast passage, passing other sailing boats and some shipping, we saw Tahiti the following morning rising above on the horizon in front of us.

We anchored that afternoon having entered the lagoon at Papaeete, and motored round to Tahina Marina. The marina was full of super yachts and it all felt quite Mediterranean. This anchorage was great for us as there was a huge Carafour supermarket just round the corner, making restocking and servicing the boat an easier task, and the bus into Papaeete was close and apparent. The marina services were also available and there was a great atmosphere in the quayside bars and restaurants.

I think after so long at sea and in the islands we were all looking forward to a bit of civilization. We hadn't been to a city since Panama back at the beginning of April, and the boys were excited about their birthdays. Their key request for their birthdays was a trip to "Old Macdonalds", and, can you imagine, we found one close to the marina and it had its own beach!!!!…..now that really would go down well in Wandsworth!

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