Tuesday, July 30, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#7

in deep waters!
today will lead us over 8800m deep water...wonder what's down there.

the last 24h were nice sailing - we are extremely lucky with the weather as it looks like there's just going to be enough wind to get us into tongan waters.
so - no suwarrow - no niue! unfortunately - but fortunately we did not get trapped by any systems and we'll be hopefully able to finish those 1300nm from bora bora to tonga by tomorrow morning. with a bit worse weather this trip could have easily taken 3 times as lomg which would have cut our time in tonga down to a few days.

so we get to enjoy the place that was named the "friendliest" in the whole of the south pacific by captain james cook himself. little did he now that the tongans had actually planned to eat him and hence were behaving at their best to not make him suspicious. to his luck the chiefs could not make up their mind when to kill him, so he left before they could cook cook.

we are going to head for the vava'u group - the northern most of the three island groups, having the reputation of a great cruising area with lots of protected anchorages and being known for the whale-breeding grounds.

cook apparently made good friends with the chief of the vava'u group - cook himself landed in the ha'apai group. the vava'u chief told him not to bother to go to his homeland as there are no anchorages and no protection there - and being a great mate, cook was thankful for the advice...the geography must have changed a lot in the last few 100 years!....i wonder why tonga never got conquered by any of the big seafaring nations ;)

appart from arriving we will also loose a day. it will be cut out of our lives without replacement! as we cross the dateline the 31.07.2013 will cease to exist for us (sorry Basi!!!) and jump straight from the 30th of july to the 1st of august.
the paradox being though i think because of it's non existence we will remember this day for quite a while.

Monday, July 29, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#6

conditions eased off a lot in the last 12h. we have now 15-20kn and the seas went down too - lovely sailing weather!

our speed also decreased a little - but as we don't want to arrive in tonga in the middle of the night, we keep on going under headsail poled out only doing between 5,5 and 6,5kn directly downwind and keep the mainsail in the mast.

this morning we had another pod of whales - in total it must have been about 6 coming to say good morning to maloo.
one calf (about 10m) crossed the bow really close and came up to breath at the same time. i was lucky to stand right there....simply magic!
and hard to put in words how wonderful it is to see this! (i know i keep repeating myself ;)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#5

well...what a day!
just after sending out the last blogpost and complaining about not having seen any whales yet...
just after being annoyed that the bloody cockpit speaker for the vhf is playing up again....
just while mark and i were talking that both feel a bit tired....

a loud sound came from just 15m behind our stern " pffffffft"...something that sounded like a massive blowhole.
and there he was - our first whale! a massive animal at least 1,5 times the length of our boat (about 20m) swimming at first right behind and then right next to us checking us out.
after guessing that he is a humpback he showed us his back fin which let us identify him as a fin whale (thanks to our sea mammal identifying card;))

and apparently he liked what he saw and decided to stay with us for over an hour.
we missed a few heartbeats there as he was performing the most amazing stunts (his view of things) and sheer madness (our few of things) crossing our bow while we were doing around 7,5-8kn and speeding up going down a wave 4-5 times so close, that we stopped breathing. we talk 1m meter here - not more.
so after having found that maloo means no harm he must have decided to try if she counts as a play friend - surfing our waves like i only thought dolphins or small melon head whales (3-4m) do.

for us simply the most amazing and also a tiny bit scary experience.

so for a loong long time he swam next to us, starboard then port - went ahead and then waited again for us to catch up.
after while the conversation with maloo must have got a bit too one sided for him so he left us with a cheerful "pfffft"

and what have i learned from this experience?

well, firstly, whales are truly amazing and this one was particularly beautiful- the sheer size is just mind-blowing! secondly, that they are inquisitive and playful...makes for a good pet, doesn't it?
and i also figured out how they cope in those big seas: they simply surf the waves breathing on their way down. they can swim amazingly fast - way faster than we can sail (makes you wonder how they caught them in the old days without "research vessels")

it is quite fascinating how we sat on our maloo in these still not easy conditions looking at each other and saying how stupid we are not having taken a plane to tonga (there would be tomato juice!) - and then you spot a whale - this wild animal comes and interacts with you... and all of a sudden everything is worth while.....or at least till the next wave crashing into the cockpit wakes you from your daydream.

during the night the conditions slightly eased off and we had only a couple small squalls. every now and then the sea was quite messy...but in the morning, when the sun came up guess who was there next to us again: our whale! (maybe a different one....but it definitely was a fin whale again - could be that he was traveling with us most of the night....)

stay with us, big friend....we heard some japanese spoken out there on the vhf and enormous fishing vessels without ais....hope they're just after tuna.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

PSN 27.07.

16:36.570S 163:35.920W

bora bora to tonga - day/night#4

same same but a day later.
so no great news on maloo island.

we are half way there - and i still have seen no sign of a whale.
mark has had a couple of flying fish in the cockpit last night - i had a couple of rainy squalls.

at the moment we are still heading straight for tonga as the weather forecast has changed a little again and now shows wind till wednesday - only a little break on tuesday morning.
so here goes our chance to go to niue again....but it's not the last weather file we've downloaded;)

Friday, July 26, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#3

the wind eased off a little - now we get 22-28kn, which is a bit more comfortable.
the seas are still big but not as angry anymore - so we should have a nice sail the next 24h.

as already written, we turned wsw, a course of about 256° towards tonga yesterday. if the wind really disappears on us towards tuesday, as currently predicted, we came up with a new "plan b".
we might just head a bit further south, about 250° and stop in niue - one of the world's smallest nations (if not the smallest)
as niue has no fringing reef and the island itself comes straight out of the deep the local yacht club has set up a couple of mooring buoys on the west side of the island - anchoring is. not recommended, because you have to anchor deep in coral. apparently there is not even a way to land the dinghy, so they have installed a dinghy-lift that hauls you out of the water.
with only the protection of the island against the prevailing winds, it gets fairly uncomfortable if the not-prevailing winds set in.
the southern pacific convergence zone, short spcz, causes a fair bit of havoc in this area that i so far have referred to as "systems moving through".
so if one of those systems, that seem to come about every 7-14days moves through it is likely to cause a west wind blowing towards niue. and that, you have guessed it, is not nice on a buoy that is only sheltered from the east. so you are forced to leave immediately and sail right into the wind.
this was one of the reasons why we so far did not plan to go to niue. but with the forecast of no wind we might go and check out that fancy dinghy lift ;)

we will see.

apart from that all is well - for some reason i keep daydreaming of a big bowl full of fresh cherries. i saw a punnet in papeete, but 16$us for 100gr. was even for met too expensive.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#2

and the wind keeps blowing.

during the whole of yesterday and the night the wind kept pushing us with around 30kn plus.
some of the waves rolling through are massive - hence our new speed record of 17,7kn!

we took in the boom as we felt we might start dipping it into the water again and are currently going under poled out headsail with a little reef alone.

life on board slowly turns to normal - finally mark and i can catch some sleep and get into our rhythms.

looks like the weather will hold for us to go all the way to tonga so in the morning we decided to turn down ssw and go for it.
we might have to motor the last 24h as conditions are predicted ease off - hard to imagine at the moment...or maybe we will already be there with the lightning speed we are doing before this happens;)
...or maybe be will stop in niue for a little break till the wind returns
no rain during the night but every now and then we have a wave slapping into the cockpit to make sure we stay awake!
rain came now before lunch...:(

just wondering how the humpback whales come up to breath in seas like that...as we get closer to their birthing grounds in tonga i keep looking out for them.
saw a weird white big fish swimming with us that morning - it did not want to show itself properly though. definitely not a dolphin and a bit too small for a whale, but maybe the biggest tuna ever seen!?
i keep on looking.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

bora bora to tonga - day/night#1

wet'n'wild...that's what we're in for at the moment.

we left bora bora yesterday at 11:00am with gust of 35kn in the anchorage - so it was to be expected that there would be wind out there. but at least the weather forecasts showed a constant wind direction and no systems that could change those 30kn from behind to 30kn on the nose.
and the good thing is, we are moving fast!
currently we are goose winging and roll a fair bit but we are doing this with an average of 7,5 to 8kn...so the effort is not in vain.

generally the conditions are exactly like we had it at the beginning of our atlantic crossing - probably a bit more wind here and there (i've seen a couple of gusts with 38,5kn) and the odd high wave that at one point got the end of our boom wet...but a well placed preventer made sure everything is good.

so here we are again - a long passage - the first painful 36h until you just drop dead sleeping when you're off shift - but nothing new for us and you to read about too;)

island hopping in the south pacific takes a bit longer then in the mediterranean. the distance from bora bora to tonga is pretty much the same as from kusadasi (where we started) to gibraltar.

if weather permits we will head straight through leaving the cook islands to our port and starboard. we currently head WNW towards suwarrow, an uninhabited atoll that belongs to the cooks. if the weather should go bad on us we will head there to sit it out. if not we will turn down SW towards the vava'u group of tonga.
we made this decision for three reasons: 1 -being the timing. essentially we are running out of time and can't afford to be trapped by bad weather for 2 weeks in on one of the cook islands.
2-being the weather systems that at the moment seem to go directly over the central cooks with strong strong winds
3- being the bad anchorages in the cooks. for a boat like ours there is only a couple of places really to go to and even they sound quite adventurous to enter and leave.
a shame really!
same counts for nuie - another place i would have loved to visit.

but as it seems, we might just have to cruise the south pacific again with a bit more time in our pocket:)

and to finish up, a couple of new records!

maloo and crew have now officially sailed half way around our blue globe! - we are a little proud, but celebrations will have to wait till we feel a bit better.

and our new speed record surfing down a wave (and seen twice for about 2 seconds!): 16.1kn - not sure if this one is to be proud of as a 42ft boat should never go that fast;)

that's all for today- stay dry! we will try to too!

maloo over and out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

kind of...back in europe...or not

after our superfast sail from toau towards tahiti, we enter the lagoon through the pass and see that the society islands are the perfect mix between the scenic marquesas and the calm waters of the tuamotus. 
we went to the town dock in papeete and took a walk through town. being sunday, all the shops except the mc donalds were closed - someting that i remember faintly from germany and austria. ever since we left the med, all the shops were open 7days a week
so, a "le big makke" and a filet o'fish later we find ourselves sitting outside watching the cars go by, feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that traffic, the people and maybe (or most likely) the food and realize, all the cars are euro-make. shiny and new like home and no old american bombs like in panama. from the radio in the background we hear french music and people wear helmets riding their scooters. HELMETS! it´s been a while since we saw helmets!
if it wasn't for the people around us, who look far from pale and french, we'd think we are in corsica. 

so, as always after being away from shops for a longer period of time, we spent the first couple of days hunting down chandleries and hardware stores for spare parts that might come in handy.

maloo gets a good clean and the fridge gets made ready to be filled with yummie stuff.

i took a long walk through town window shopping and eating frozen yoghurt, drinking coconut water from a cold coconut and feeling utterly "townish"
Papeete looks to me as if has been quite a nice place in the 80ies. but unfortunately all the "great" french architecture from the 80ies was not built to last and so everything looks a bit f**ked up and run down.
still - a nice enough place for a little visit, nothing to fly on the other side of the world for though.

after a few days we moved on to a mooring field further down the coast which happened to be right next to a "hard provisioning girl's dream"  - a Carrefour! - and not just a tiny shabby one....no! this Carrefour is equivalent to the ones visited often in spain like las palmas on gran canaria or la linea... a full size grown up mega hyper Carrefour!

you might wonder, why this is so exiting... but for me this means i only have to go to one shop to buy things i need and like and it also means that no experimenting is required to find out if f.e. the canned tuna will be nice or more like catfood and therefore inedible for an austro/austalian gum. (picked a couple of those in Columbia...the cats there still write me emails;)

having stocked up enormously in panama meant we were in for fun-shopping - so just the things you really "need" and like! like chocolate, biscuits, special pickles, a new frying pan...we had gravad lachs for lunch one day etc....you get the picture

it turnes out that all my provisioning efforts in Panama where in vain! sure - some things are more expensive in Tahiti - like chocolate and some imported french cheeses, but other things are dead cheap! and i dare say that meat is soooo much cheaper here than in australia or austria! great new zealand lamb or beef for real little money!
all in all i think shopping here is the same as back in our last home, munich - and you get the same quality. no pasta with bugs and flour with weevils.
the best thing is though that i am in heaven here in french polynesian supermarkets as it has the best things from home and  - wait for it: ARNOTT'S BISCUITS! yes!!! TimTams and Kingstons and Montecarlos....only my loved WeagonWheels are missing!
so definitely a place to settle for me:)

we then moved on to moorea, where our sailing-hero Bobby Schenk once used to live - and we could see why. 
we rented a moped and did a round around the island (only takes you about 1,5h) and it is really a nice place. i reckon the quality of life is quite amazing...but i can also see why the Schenks gave up their house after a few years... moorea also has the potential for severe boredom.

another nightsail  (or unfortunately night-motor) brought us to raiatea - the most historic of the society islands. it is said, that the people later inhabitiing new zealand and hawai started their journey from here in quite amazing outrigger canoes.

again we hired a car and did this time 2 rounds around the island....only to find out that there is no road inland. again, a wonderful place, but not too much to see.
we had a night in taha'a and then moved on to bora bora.

in bora bora we saw probably the only live coral in the whole society islands  and swam with manta rays - we treated ourselves to nice dinners and a wonderful massage in the st. regis hotel (we anchored in front of the 2000$us a night bungalows for - you guessed it - free! and probably spoiled their view a little with our washing hung up all over the boat;)  - if the guests would take binoculars though they soon would find out, that the most expensive bungalows face the bora bora rubbish tip:) - so yes, the universe is fair!

we saw some of the "Heiva" - the big festival where the polynesians celebrate themselves and their culture with lots of dancing and  drums. after having seen the girls shake their hips and the guys shake their knees it is easy to understand why the early seafarers claimed that the polynesians are the most beautiful/erotic people in the south pacific. simply stunning!

generally bora bora is the most scenic one of these islands and definitely wonderful! if you come here and stay in one of the resorts you will get what you see in the catalogues. if you go to the main little village you will find what you always find in places where people live off tourism - and when you go a bit further you'll find a nice little island with simple houses, children running out on the street to shout "ia orana" (tahitian for "hello") and people who have time for each other and seem mostly genuinely happy living a very simple life - though happiness seems a bit more fragile here than in the tuamotus...maybe because we, and thousands of flown in half- and super rich spoil the view?

and soon our time in french polynesia comes to an end - tonga is waiting for us! the french polynesian really have been the most friendliest and welcoming people we met on our entire trip. nowhere else have we been smiled at like here. even though we don't speak french, people tried their best to communicate with us and usually apologized for not speaking english well...we have been given car rides just because thats what people do here, we have been always met with a warm attitude. something that i will definitely miss when back home (no matter if that will be australia or europe)

we currently are hanging out in the maikai yacht club attached to a very nice mooring as 30m is a bit deep to anchor with little swinging room. the wind is blowing our heads off with 40kn gusts and constant high 20s. 
we will head off for tonga (maybe past suwarrow - depending on the weather) tomorrow making our 8 day sail through what is called "the dangerous middle" and has quite a reputation for strong winds (...no kidding !?)
the last long haul for maloo and us, and i have to admit i am a bit stirred up for this one as i maybe read too many blogs about squalls with 60kn and high seas on this passage, but i am dead sure that maloo would manage and so would we - and anyway... let's just set sails and see!

i will try to post every day again...so follow us if you feel like 

tahiti seen from moorea

morning view in moorea

same hill - different view point - moorea

look down to cooks bay, moorea

our ride for the day

going up the river in raiatea

river traffic

coconuts everywhere

small motu (island within the reef)

fishing in the shallows

preparing for the "heiva"

old temple of raiatea

bora bora

dogs of bora bora

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

heaven is in the lee of the reefs...

after a mixed 3nighter we arrived in our first atoll of the tuamotus - kauehi.
the entrance into and within those coral-surounded bits of still water can be quite nerve wrenching.

imagine an empty bowl with one hole somewhere. now try to put this bowl in a bathtub...and through the one hole a lot of water under quite some pressure will run into the bowl until the waterlevel on the inside and outside of bowl and bathtub are equal.
now imagine that this one hole is more like an indent in the rim...and there you got a reef being the rim of the bowl and a pass through a reef.
with the changing currents lots of water either enters or leaves through that pass making currents up to 10kn (as we experienced) of speed that is visible miles outside the pass in the open ocean, a tidal bore.
so we waited for "slack water" - the little time window when the tide changes and the currents come to a halt.

we got in through the pass about 1h befor slack water and had app. 2kn of current against us - but maloo and penta did well and we flew in not quite sure what to expect.
all of a sudden the swell was gone - the water was flat and we started navigating to our designated anchor spot. in the middle of the atoll the water is rather deep  - around 40m... just when we left the center to get closer to the shore the sealevel rose to about 10m spotted with "bommies" (i.e. coral heads that come sometimes right up to the surface, sometimes lurk under water waiting for one nice boathull to hit them)
so you would have seen me standing on the bow staring into the water and giving mark directions to navigate us through the labyrinth of coral heads. an hour later we were confronted for the very first time trying to anchor between the bommies. the problem here you want to avoid is the anchor chain getting wrapped around those corals as the shifting wind moves the boat around. with the scope decreasing there has been cases of windlasses being ripped out of the hull... so definitely something to avoid.
our solution is to use a technique Bernard Mortissier invented: basically you put floats on the chain every app.10 to 20m and let the chain fly over the coral. works a treat!

so after all this navigating and anchoring we looked around and found ourselves in paradise. the water crystal clear and turquoise,  palm trees ahead of us and the water so still, we felt like the boat was on the hard again. in fact the first night i woke up thinking i must have dreamed all the last months as we still appear to be on land in turkey.

we spent the next days snorkeling and seeing the most amazing colourful fish and coral, hunting down coconuts and staring at this landscape around us.
after 4 nights we moved up to the little village of kauehi and attended a wonderful sunday church service held in the local language. but why we went there was not to hear the priest do his sermon, the whole of french polynesia is known for their extremely beautiful singing especially in church... and it was just amazing how the whole village joined in to sing in wonderful harmonies.
kauehi has about 150 people living on its island, a little airstrip and a school, one little shop and lots of happy children running around.
we met James and Cook - who sold me some pearls and took us out to a little pearl farm and then joined in with the village party that was waiting for the supply ship bringing all sorts of goodies, including fruit and vegetable. people gathered at the little jetty and had cake and coconut milk catching up on gossip... we simply had a great time

we then moved on to fakarava, another atoll and went through the south pass with 4kn of current against us. same navigation through coral, a different paradise. here we had black tip reef sharks swimming around our boat almost constantly... not too inviting for a snorkel, fascinating never the less.
the drift snorkel through the pass is probably one of the best snorkels i have ever done (apart from playing with the seals in galapagos) and here we saw over 100 grey sharks, white tip reef sharks and some of them getting a bit too curious to stay in the water for my liking. the amount of fish is just mind boggling. with the water so clear it is not a problem to see down to 20m of depth.

we moved up to fakarava village in the north, spend a few days there riding our bikes along the atoll and enjoying the tuamotu-lifestyle.

after 3 days we left fakarava through the north pass which is really wide and therefore not that prone to big currents. as we were told. but never believe other sailors! we went out at the height of the outgoing current with 20kn of wind behind us. we expected to be shot out from the atoll with max.4kn of current and smooth seas. we got 10kn of current, standing waves and dolphins surfing these waves. the water simply disappeared under our hull and with loud slamming we made it out...is was a bit of a gut-wrencher though!

we sailed up to Toau where we picked up a mooring buoy in a dead pass - so really well protected but on the outside of the reef and visited Valentine and Gaston who live on that atoll with their family of 8 and 5 dogs, 5 pigs and chooks.
we had a snorkel even better than fakarava south on the outside of the reef with hugh napoleon wrasses, eagle rays, turtles amazingly colorful fish and of course, sharks in crystal clear waters....we played with the dogs catching up on our lack of "puppy love" and eating a wonderful dinner Valentine prepared for us with parrot fish, big clams, lobsters, coconutbread....simply great.
Mark got offered a job to open coconuts for a year to help on the copra-planataion....very tempting! - we are still contemplating!

but all great dreams come to an end...and ours had to too. we sailed with amazing speed to Papeete, Tahiti doing those 220nm in less then 30h thanks to the 25-30kn of wind.

here we are now in the middle of a buzzing town, still finding the sand of the tuamotus in the cabin and imagining the traffic noise to be the wind in the coconut palms.
just the tuamotus alone would have been worth to cross two oceans....and i promised myself: i will go back! after all, heaven is in the lee of the reefs!


camping with friends (chilli cat to the left, lazy bones to the right)

tricky coconut work

voila - coconut without the shell...he`s getting seriously good with the machete!
church of kauehi village

pig pen with a view

supply ship in kauehi

shopping done differently
ordering fruit and veg from the supply ship

supply ship village party

when the weekly shop for food is fun

and every where...crabs

the village truck - still going strong

a squall over toau

my puppy friend on toau

dog vs. shark

dog vs. 3 sharks (the dog always wins!)

one of many many black tip reef sharks

and a fat silver tip shark behind the boat

or more than just one?

Valentine and Gaston cooking for us (langoustine, big clam and sea sail)

things you do, when the sea is your playground: Valentine and grand nephew on an afternoon boat ride looking for manta rays

parahi, maruru roa - tuamotos!

photos from the marquesas

fatu hiva

fatu hiva

nuku hiva, village

chicken islands
lunch break on nuku hiva
and a bigger mahi on the way to anaho bay

nuku hiva, village

nuku hiva, north eastern side

nuku hiva, anaho bay

nuku hiva, anaho bay
and every day it rains
the supply truck to anaho bay
the smaller one of two yellow fin tunas caught

and the sushi, we made from it