Saturday, October 31, 2009

One chapter is closing

Well, here we are in New Caledonia since the day before yesterday. We
can consider this as the end of the trans Pacific crossing. Papy Jovial
has covered 12,725 nautical miles since she left Portsmouth, 10,392
since we left Balboa,entering the Pacific and 9,585 since we left Manta
and South America.
As we came alongside in Port Moselle, three brothers of the coast were
there to take our lines, prelude to a fantastic welcome on their part.
The crew that arrived here with Papy Jovial is about to leave, Jean
Francois flying back to France tomorrow morning and Claude returning
home in Moorea probably next Friday.
On November 5th, Nigel Clarke will join me from New Zealand, and
Marie-Laurence, a young lady from Quebec who will live through her first
experience on the high seas, will join on November 8th. Both will stay
until New Zealand only. There is a possibility that Philippe from Noumea
will join me in New Zealand and sail with me to Sydney. But after that,
as far as I know today, I am on my own. I know that I have three month
to find help but I believe that it won't be easy.
The day we arrived, we were invited to the monthly dinner of the Noumea
brothers of the Coast. Unforgettable evening with lots of sea shanties,
bagpipe and "bombarde" (I don't know the english word for it). Great
party with superb food, lots of drinks, and an atmoshpere of friendship,
brotherhood and fun.
Last night, my niece Cecile and her husband Marc who is deployed here as
military, welcomed me to their home for dinner, and very kindly will let
me use their car while they are going on a week-end of relaxation at the
"Ile des Pins".
On the boat, only one problem, but a serious one. Again, three travelers
on the main sail have come loose and the fitting to maintain two of the
battens have craked. I have seen the sail maker and he says there won't
be any problem fixing it. However, I may have, like in Tahiti, to chase
him day in day out until I get the sail back. As a matter of fact, the
sail is still on the boat as he was supposed to pick it up today but did
not show up.
The marina of Port Moselle is a great one. It is right in the middle of
town and everything, post office, markets, bakeries, etc.. are within
easy walking distance.
At the end of the visitors dock, there is a bar restaurant called "The
end of the World" which will soon become my headquarters.
Right now, the weather does not look good. It looks like 25 to 30 knots
on the nose, which makes it impossible to go. I hope I won't have to
wait too long for a good weather window.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

End of passage

I though for a while that we were going to have a glorious finish under
spinnaker at 8 knots. Well, it only lasted a little more than an hour
before the wind started picking up again, not much but enough to trigger
luffing out of control and we were back under main sail (two reefs so
that Firmin can do its job) and full genoa on the pole.
On top of that, the current is still robbing us, today 13 miles. We
covered 145 through the water but only 132 over the ground. We only
have 194 miles to go and I am confident that we will enter the lagoon
early enough to anchor inside at the Ire Bay, only 20 miles from Port
As for fishing, it's dead calm. We now have the line wrapped up the
"Blue Star" tong of Claude, and a bengy cord to warn us in case of a
bite, but nothing to report on that score.
The weather continues to be ideal, just like on the postcards about
sailing in the south pacific. We are looking forward to getting to
Noumea, all for various reasons, some will go home, some will party, and
a new crew will join Papy Jovial.

Monday, October 26, 2009

current the wrong way

Another beautiful day, wind pushing us in the right direction, seas at
less than 6 feet, blue sky. Almost perfect. Only this damn current going
the wrong way which has cost us today 17 miles. Fortunately, this was a
25 hours day as we pushed the clock back one hour to UTC+12.
We have covered 159 miles through the water but only 142 over the
ground. Never mind, we don't complain as we are now only 33 miles from
Port Moselle where we might even arrive 28th evening, although we would
not enter but anchor outside.
Today the fishing line quit, or rather the mechanism of the spool. My
two fishing men rigged a "manual" line which is supposed to work just
the same, except that you have to keep watching it in case of a bite.
Basically, just two more days on the high seas before a good night sleep.

The one after

I had said yesterday that it was the last of the mahi mahi because
Claude and Jean-Francois had promised me that the next one would be a
yellow fin tuna. Well, it was again a mahi mahi, this time a little
smaller yet with only 40 inches in length. But we are getting
professional at that game and the fish landed in the cockpit without a
hitch. I did not even had time to take the picture.
Apart from that, nothing to report. We continue to enjoy good wind from
the hind quarter and all we have to do is to adjust the sails from time
to time when the wind goes up or down. The only problem is a damn
current against us which cost us 14 miles for the day. We still covered
134 miles over the ground (148 through the water) and we are now only
461 miles from Port Moselle. We will probably have to anchored inside
the lagoon to arrive at the marina after daybreak.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The last Mahi Mahi

The last one ? Not yet, at least we hope so. Anyway, yesterday after one
strike and two bites with nothing to show for, we got a third bite and
this time a good one. Being a little further on the learning curve, we
slowed down, pulled the fish a little closer but not too much, waited
until it got tired, saw it flip on its side and brought it in surfing on
the water. Once alongside, Claude hooked it in the belly (Ouch ! it
hurts ) and dropped it in the cockpit for a last drink of cherry liquor.
And all that with almost no blood in the cockpit. This time, the catch
was 44 inches long.
After that, it takes almost two hours to clean the fish, filet it, clean
the boat, so much that we decided not to put the fishing line back in
action. Cocktail hour was closing in fast and we could not be distracted.
Last night was party night as we were celebrating crossing the
antimeridian. So Ricard and Kir with liver pate on toast, then dinner
with pan fried Mahi Mahi and red beans, washed down with a bottle of a
good bordeaux wine kept for the occasion. Then peaches in syrup,
improved with a good splash of Armagnac. Everybody slept well that night
(not all at the same time of course.)
During the night, the wind also decided to go to bed and the speed
dropped below 3 knots for almost 4 hours. But in the morning, things
went back to normal, even a little more as early afternoon we had to
roll 1/3 of the genoa and keep 3 reefs on the main.
For the day, we have covered 136 nautical miles over the ground (140
through the water as there is still some adverse current) and we got 131
miles closer to Port Moselle which is now at 591 miles. Arrival still
expected for 29th morning.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eventful day

Today, I almost have too much to tell, so I will keep some for tomorrw.
First of all, during the night we crossed the antimeridian and have
entered the eastern hemisphere. It is a little less symbolic than
crossing the equator, but still, we feel that it is worth being
celebrated. Apprently, it also confused the software which is supposed
to let you see us on the map since we disappeared from the screen for
almost one day. I have no way of knowing, since to see the map I would
have to connect to Internet and I can't do that at sea. Anyway,
everything is back to normal and I am told that we have reappeared on
the screen this time in the eastern hemisphere.
Today, we had also decided, as recognition for its services for the last
five months, to promote to the rank of fully fledged crew member, our
faithful windvane which had been steering the boat since we left Fort
Lauderdale. There has been a little problem with a serious case of
arthritis between Manta and Tahiti, but it has been solve since. The
Monitor has therefore now a name which could fit the name of Lady X's
driver, and before lunch, we baptised it with rum Barbancourt, of
course, under the name of Firmin.
After which, it was time to sit down for lunch to enjoy one of Claude's
specialties, a salad that could be served in a three stars restaurant.
Obviously, as soon as we sat down, the fishing line called us to action.
Is is now almost routine. I roll up the genoa, reduce the main, remove
the cushions from the cockpit, prepare the hook, the cherry liquor and
the camera while Claude and Jean-Francois devised a proper strategy to
bring the Mahi Mahi (yes, again !) aboard. Unfortunaly, Claude lost
patience and tried to lift the fish on the hook to attempt to land it
inside the cockpit, as he had done for the previous one. This time, the
beast unhooked itself as soon as it got out of the water and we lost it.
OK ! We put everything back in place, we put the fishing line back in
the water and we sit down to continue lunch. Well, no more than ten
minutes, and again we got a strike.
This time, we talked a lot about taking our time to tire the fish before
attempting to bring it aboard. But once again, we got it too close too
soon close to the boat and it had still enough energy to jump out of the
water and break the line.
We put the line back in service, but this time a bigger line, with
bigger everything, swivel, hood and lure.. I will tell you tomorrow
whether it was successful.
By the way, yesterday afternoon, we passed Turtle Island and a
helicopter flew over us, checking us out. This is the first sign of life
that we see at sea since we are in the Pacific.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stow away

Last night at cocktail time, no fish, but a bird. Claude says there are
called "fou" with yellow feet. As the wind was picking up and we were
busy rolling up the genoa and reefing down, two of them decided to come
aboard and spend the night on the solar panel. Eventually one of them
went away, but one stayed on and it's only early morning as we were
reefing down to 3 reefs and rolling some more with wind exceeding 25
knots that this guy woke up, obiously not pleased to be disturbed. It
even came to Claude and tried to hit him with its peak to express its
dissatisfaction about the service. Then it flew away, probably back to
Turtle Island, only 30 miles away.
After lunch, the weather looked like it would stabilize with the wind at
20 knots from the SSE, but the seas already at more than 6 feet.
Despite the snail pace of yesterday afternoon, we covered 145 miles over
the ground (156 through the water) and closed in on Noumea by 141 miles
which is now at 866 miles. We might get there on the 28th if the wind
stays that way, as the grib files are predicting.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mahi Mahi

A scientific survey of the feeding habits of fishes in the Pacific
should show that they feed exactly at the same time as the humans.
Once again, with the pressure cooker on the stove, table set and the
crew ready to start having lunch, the fishing line got bussing again.
This time, coordination was a little better. I rolled the genoa and
dropped the main sail while Jean-Francois and Claude took care of the fish.
Once sails were dropped, I started the motor to maintain a minimum speed
and in not time the fish was in the cockpit. It had happened so fast
that I did not even have time to reach for the cherry liquor and the
last drink of the fish this time was a liquor of rasberry. It turned out
to be a Mahi-Mahi 46 inches long. Jean-Francois reckons that it weighed
about 10 pounds.
Meanwhile, since last night, we only have a weak and sick wind with no
strength at all although fortunately still on the beam. So, for the
day, we dont' have much to show for it. Closing by 113 miles on the
target, having covered 115 miles over the ground and 119 through the
water. We could do without this current, even if it is not all that strong.
All forecast call for improvement in the strength of the wind, so we
still expect to get to Noumea on the 29.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moving again

Monday was shopping day. After breakfast, we went ashore looking for Aki
and his Toyota and he took us to a supermarket for "palangis"
(visitors). In fact, it's a shop half the size of a 7/11, with very few
items refrigerated or frozen and a lot of canned food, but in this case,
mostly from the US, as opposed to the chinese supermarket which has
goods from New Zealand or Australia.
We looked at the frozen food and were afraid that somehow along its
journey, that stuff got unfrozen and frozen again and we did not want to
take chances. So most of our shopping was canned fish and meat. We went
to the chinese for butter from NZ, long life milk and some canned fruits.
For the last evening, we had a nice dinner at the Aquarium cafe, and
this time, the ice cream had arrived and we had it to top up a nice fish
On Tuesday, we prepared the boat, Jean-Francois and Claude went ashore
for a last jerrycan of water and to purchase eggs and fresh fruits. Then
we went to the main dock to pay our port dues (9.77. tongan dollars) and
clear customs. Coming out of the customs office, I bumped into George,
the owner of Triple Seven who had just arrived. They had a tough
crossing apparently and blew up the bottom drum with the mechanism of
their roller furler.
The first few hours of sailing turn out to be ideal. Ten knots of wind
on the beam, nice calm sea as we are still protected by the Vava'u group
of islands.
At noon, we had 1120 miles to go for Port Moselle in Noumea. As it
stands, we expect to arrive anytime between the 28 in the afternoon or
the 29th evening. I guess it will probably be early morning on the 29th.

Monday, October 19, 2009

West is best

The more we move westward, the more I like the places that we visit.
The arrival in Neiafu, or rather in the Vava'u group of islands is very
beautiful. During the night, I had slowed down to make sure we would not
arrive before daylight, and in fact we arrived at the entrance at
sunrise, that is at 6 o'clock local time, bearing in mind that we had
move the clock back one hour and the calendar forward one day.
When you arrive at the entrance to the port of Neiafu, do not trust your
GPS or you will sail right over a hill on your starboard side. But if
you trust the range at the entrance and your radar, you will be OK, it
is very easy in the daytime, with plenty of water everywhere.
Shortly before 8, we were tied up at the main dock waiting for the
authorities. They showed up as expected at 8:45 and everything went very
smoothly, much more than I expected. We had been told that they would
inspect our food, remove all fruits and vegetable, and so on. Nothing of
that sort. The only disconcerting thing was to see the Immigration
Officer show up wearing a skirt. We will discover that many Tongans
dress that way.
Then we started looking for a mooring. The bay was full of boats, either
staying here for the hurricane season, or waiting to leave for New
Zealand, or boats belonging to the Moorings for charter. So it took some
time to find one, but eventually we did and we were able to settle in
before lunch time.
We then went for lunch at the Yacht Club and started enquiring about
Internet Connection, before going to town to identify the various
supermarkets (only a few, very small, owned by chinese and not well
There are many Internet supplier everywhere, but they all depend on the
TCC (Tonga Communication Company) and apparently they were having major
problems and internet was down most of the time. I have learned in
Tahiti to be patient in that respect.
One obvious thing as we walk around town is that here, there is no way
you could pretend that you could be anywhere else. You are in the
kingdom of Tonga where people dress, behave and interact in their own
unique way. For me very refreshing to get out of my occidental cocoon
and plunge into a new and very different culture.
Facilities in the harbour are quite good. At some of the moorings
suppliers (Moorings, Sailing safaris), you can go to their dock and get
fuel and water. The other have water too. Prices are reasonable for most
things. The exchange rate is 53 dollars or 35.65 euros for 100 tongans.
After a few purchases of non perishable goods, we get back to the boat,
preparing to go out again for dinner as it is the night of the week at
the yacht club. But I feel tired and I let Jean-Francois and Claude go
ashore while I stay on the boat to sleep.
On Saturday, we visited the farmer's market, took our laundry ashore,
and did some shopping in the chinese supermarkets, taking whatever we
felt was safe and reasonably palatable..
We again spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a good internet
connection, but again, everybody depending on TCC, we were having no
luck. So we went back on the boat for a nap before heading out again for
dinner at the Aquarium Cafe followed by a brave expedition in the ONLY
night club of Neiafu, where we did not feel we wanted to spend a lot of
On Sunday, we had booked a taxi to visit the island. Communication with
our driver Aki was not very easy. But we went almost all around the
island and saw that there was not much to see. Since it was Sunday,
almost everybody was at church, which are many.
We had lunch at the Mango cafe then back on the boat for few minor
tasks, including writing the blog. In the evening, we did not feel like
going ashore again and settled for a chicken noodle soup and early night.
These last three days have been quite busy and I still think that this
was the best stop so far since Balboa.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Catch and release

Exactly and precisely as we were settling down for lunch, with steaks
cooked as required, mashed potatoes ready on the table, ssssttttrrriiikkke !
All hand on deck, stove still burning cooking my steak, task at hand
being to stop the boat and collect the fish. In the manoeuver (lousy
one at that), my steak became coal before we could switch off the gaz.
In my haste to stop the boat and come to heave to, since we had the
genoa on the pole, I started the engine and managed to get the line
underneath the boat and probably in the propeller.
After almost an hour of trying to clear the line, Jean-Francois and
Claude decided to give it up and cut the line. So they did it and we got
ready to resume lunch. That's when Jean-Francois decided to go back at
the stern and secure the gaz bottle in their locker. Doing that, he saw
the fish being trailed behind the boat. So, one more time. But this
time, on only rolled up the genoa to slow down, and our two fishermen
did their level best to try and catch the line with boat hooks without
much success. As they were about to give up again, the line got caught
in Claude's hook and they were able to recover he end of the line going
from the prop to the fish. In no time, the fish was aboard enjoying its
last sip of cherry liquor. But it looked very much like a barracuda and
we were definitely undecided. While Claude started cleaning the fish, I
looked into my books to see if I had drawings of fish in the Pacific and
yes, it was a Barracuda. I still have vivid memories of the year spent
to get rid of the ciguaterra, and although this one was caught in deep
water, we decided to send it back to were it came from and to keep the
photos. And all that happened in a non moment in time, just after I had
pushed the clocks back one hour and the calendar forward one day.
Apart from that, the wind continues to blow at more than 25 knots and we
are still going too fast. We will probably have to drift for a while
before going into Neiafu. We only have maybe one third of the genoa and
no main and still we are going at more than 5 knots.
At noon (UTC-10) we had covered 118 miles, closing on Neiafu by 112 with
84 to go. To get there at 7 local time, we need to do no more than 4.2
knots. We'll keep the foot on the brake pedal. . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another blast

I should not have complained that we were having a boring sail downwind
! When we passed Niue at 3 in the morning, I though that the fact that
the wind was still around 20/25 knots was due to the proximity of the
island and maybe some venturi effect. Surely, once the island behind us,
it was going to drop as the grib files predicted.
Well, around 9 a.m. , we got some windy rain showers and behind it, the
wind steadied itself at around 35 knots and has not weakened since. At
first, no problem. We dropped the main and reduced the genoa, and
continued sailing downwind at around 6 knots quite comfortably. But of
course, the longer the wind stays that way, the more the seas will build
up, and are now getting into the 15 feet range and more. This of course
means a liltle more being tossed around.
This has confused Claude who had prepared a delicious salad of gambas,
with rice, green pepper, onion and various spices. We enjoyed it a lot
but we felt that there were not a lot of gambas in it. In fact, busy
steadying pots and pan while we were being tossed around, he forgot to
put the gambas in ! Great opportunity to prepare nice snacks for
cocktail hour !
For the day, we have covered 142 miles over the ground and have closed
in on Neiafu by 138, with 196 to go.
I had overlooked the fact that Neiafu is on the west side of the date
line, so we are going to loose one day. Instead of getting there on
the 15th morning, it's going to be 16th.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nothing to report

Except for some more rolling during the night and two brief rain showers
this morning, not much to say about this easy sailing downwind. I feel
more and more like a gentleman, as I have heard several of my friends in
Austalia and New Zealand remind me that gentlemen only sail downwind.
We are 70 miles away from the smallest independant state in the world,
the island of Niue, with, I am told, as few as 230 people living there.
The island was devastated by a hurricane about 10 years ago and most of
its 2000 inhabitants were evacuated to New Zealand and stayed there. We
should see it tomorrow morning, depending on this changing wind.
Although the wind is likely to remain easterly, it is also expected to
be very weak until the morning of the last day when it will establish
itself again at 15 to 20 knots. So, I think it very likely that we will
arrive in Neiafu in the morning of the 15th.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Iron sail

Luck was with us ! We had to start motoring just after cocktails at
around 7:00 p.m. last night, but we were able to sail again as early as
3:00 this morning. Up to now, it has been perfect sailing, starting on
close haul and moving gradually into running. It should keep that way
until the day after tomorrow when the wind will perform another 360. We
are currently under full genoa on the pole and 2 reefs on the main (to
allow the windvane to work properly) with 15 knots of wind on the port
side 150 degrees.
For the last 24 hours, we have covered 124 miles over the ground and
closed on Neiafu by only 114, with 456 miles to go.
Overall, still nice sailing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The best of the best

All day yesterday and all night, we have been waiting for the wind to
veer to NE then N then West before dying and forcing us to hoist the
Yanmar sail. In fact, all night last night, it stayed ESE with overcast
skies and drizzle, but this morning it started veering to ENE then NE
and I thought that this was the beginning of the end.
In fact, since 11 this morning, the wind set itself on NE 15 knots and
has not changed since. We have full genoa and full main with the wind at
60 degrees on starboard tack and we are sailing nicely at 5.5 knots. The
sea is blue, the sky sunny, the swell at last is that long gentle swell
that we were promised for the Pacific, and I am beginning to believe
that we might get lucky and keep that wind much longer until it is ready
to switch rapidly to SW, then SSW then S then SE. We might possibly make
Neiafu on the 14th instead of the 15th.
It will take around 9 days to get to Noumea, so I am thinking that we
will have to leave Neiafu no later than 19th to make Noumea before then
end of the month.
Yesterday, a gigantic fish struck and not only took the lure but also
broke the line, after putting so much tension on it that when it broke
it became severely entangled. Claude spent a good part of the afternoon
sorting out the mess. We are again fishing with the line out, but so far
no strike.
This turns out to be a wonderful day at sea.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Having it good

Since we left Rarotonga, we have a nice 15 to 20 knots wind from the SE,
maybe a little too much on the stern, but pushing us anyway in the right
direction at 5 to 6 knots.
I keep checking the Grib files and they keep telling me the same story.
Starting tomorrow noon, we might have to hoist the Yanmar sail. I hope
it won't be the case, but it is doubtful.
We have so far covered 138 miles with 698 to go to Neiafu. This time
round though I don't think we will average 140 miles per day and I
expect to arrive on the 15th morning rather than the 14th. I will
probably have to keep my stay there short as I need some time in Noumea
before heading for New Zealand.
Yesterday, I got confirmation that I will have a crew from Noumea to New
Zealand. He is a friend of the National Captain of the New Zealand
brothers of the Coast and I am looking forward to that.
This gives me time to find one, or possibly two crews to do with me at
least Sydney-Capetown, and possibly all the way back to France.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rarotonga - Sailing away

Thursday morning. Up at 7, not that we are in a hurry, but today is the
day to go. First, like everyday, breakfast, then harbour master to
recover the clearance.
Then, taking our time, we prepared the boat, put everything away, did a
bit of cleaning, cast the mooring, heave up the anchors and get out to
meet again with the huge Pacific swell, the heavy rolling with 25 knots
of wind from SSE.
We have 830 miles to go and should get to Neiafu within about 6 days.

Stopping in Rarotonga - Day 3

Wednesday. Today was supposed to be provisionning day but again there
was no hurry as the farmers market does not open until 9. Except on
Saturday, it is a very quiet market with few offerings. We found lemons,
tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, papayas and eggs. We took
all that back to the boat, put the finishing touch to the lines of the
Monitor and to the lazy jacks, filled up the water tanks (but we had
first to go and buy a hose with all the fittings for european
standards) and were ready to go for lunch, supermarket, liquor store and
clearance before being picked up by Claude's friend at 5:30.
After lunch, we went to the supermarket but while we were shopping, we
were told that there was another Tsunami warning and that we should
immediately seek higher ground.
So we went back to the boat to store the groceries and I went to the
harbour master to find out more about the warning. It turned out that
the warning had already been cancelled. Alas ! Too late to make the
liquor store.
All that was left was to wait for the Harbour Master to bring the
clearance to the boat, take a shower and wait for Claude's friend.
The harbour master never showed up, but Andre Raoult was right on time
and we were on our way to a very very nice evening. First he showed us
his house, ranch style, with a view over the ocean and superbly built
and decorated.
After that, he had prepared a "couscous" which is a North African dish,
very different from what I have heard called couscous in the US.
The conversation was mostly on boats, sailors and sailing as Andre is an
international judge for sailing competition worldwide, mostly dinghies
such as Laser.
While we were enjoying a very nice and entertaining evening, a strong
front went through, announcing the southerly wind we had been waiting for.
We were back on Papy Jovial around 11 happy to have spent another
excellent day in Rarotonga.

Stopping in Rarotonga - Day 2

Tuesday, nothing urgent calling us. Today is tourism day. After
breakfast, we took care of a few chores on the boat, gave our clothes to
the laundry and Claude and I set out to visit the island. There are 2
buses, a clockwise and the anticlockwise. In each case, the ticket is 4
NZ$, but if you want a day ticket, which allows you to get off and on as
often as you want, it's 16 NZ$. We opted for the 16 one, and for the
clockwise one. Since they drive here on the left side of the road, I
figured that being on the clockwise would give us a good view of the
beaches. The complete round trip is exactly 10 miles. We first did one
short leg to a place called "Muri Beach". It is on the east coast but
the beaches are well sheltered by a few offshore islands, offering a
nice clear lagoon. We walked the beach and stopped for drinks and lunch
while watching people doing wind-surfing, swimming, kayaking, etc....
Very relaxing.
After lunch, we felt that we needed to walk it off, so we sent on foot
for a couple of miles along the road. As we did, a car passed us,
stopped suddenly, and the driver that emerged from the car turned out
to be an old friend of Claude who had settled in the Cook Island to take
care of the sailing activity for the youngsters, so successfully that
they came back from the Pacific Games with several medals. After a quick
chat, he invited us for dinner the next day.
We went back on the bus and got off in an area where we though we would
see more activity. There was not much, apart from more beaches and
hotels, and we got back on the bus to go and visit the Parliament by the
airport. Unfortunately, they close at 4 and we got there at 1 past four.
So we stopped for soft drinks in a bar opposite the airport and walked
back to the boat.
We only had time for a short nap, after which we went out again for
dinner in a very nice indian restaurant and I though for drinks and
music at the "Banana Court". But when we got there, nothing was going
on so we ended up again at the Trader Jack where we met an unfortunate
canadian sailor who had sunk the day before 140 miles from Rarotonga on
a wooden double masted boat and was rescued by the Cook Island Coast Guards.
We then walked back to the boat, and by that time the northerly wind
had made it quite a challenge to transfer in the dinghy from a slippery
ladder and then back on board.

Stopping in Rarotonga - Day 1

Right from the start, it did not look good. First of all, we went
through a front the day before we got there and we experienced again
strong wind and heavy seas. I needed to slow down as I did not want to
arrive in Rarotonga before day light, but even with the main down and
only 15% of the jib, we were still going 6 knots. Fortunately, things
calmed down and we got at the entrance of the harbour around 7:30 a.m.
which was perfect.
But the wind was still blowing at more than 25 knots and we were
supposed to anchor away from the wall and then back in to tied up
windward of a big catamaran with the wind on the beam. So, why we were
backing in, we drifted towards the cat, and after we got one line
ashore, we were riding above one of their lines and I could not use my
engine. In the process of moving of the car by using the windlass, the
waterpaddle of the monitor got caught in one of their line, and when we
moved away was forcefully pulled back, bending again the part that
support the strut and damaging the stainless steel welding. I felt for
sure, there is no way that I can get this fixed here in this small
island with surely no good facilities to weld and adjust.
So, as soon as we were tied up, I ran ashore and tried to locate a
workshop. I was directed to "Dave", working out of a 20 foot container
right on the harbour. I described the damage and he said "we'll see, but
you know, here we fix everything. I will come along this afternoon and
let you know". I was not going to wait, so we removed the Monitor from
the boat and I took it to Dave. He looked at it and said "no problem,
Mate ! Come back in 2 hours". And indeed after lunch, it was fixed and
looking like new.
Meanwhile, I dealt with all the various formalities, health, quarantine,
customs, immigrations, some of which had to be done by the harbour
master who did not spend much time at the harbour. But why be in a hurry !
However, having been warned that everything had to be settled in cash, I
then went to town (only 20 minutes walk) to get cash and a wifi card.
Back on the boat, time for lunch and we went across the street for
burgers, which turned out to be huge, with a large serving of fries
soaked in garlic butter. This called for a super sized nap, which did
not quite relieved us totally, but enough to go out again for drinks and
We went to the other harbour which is no longer used for large boat but
lies where all the polynesian canoes do their training. We had drinks
and a nice dinner at the Trader Jack. After dinner, I could hear some
nice music coming out of the "Banana Court" but rain was threatening and
I knew that I had left my hatch open. So, back to the boat, although the
rain never materialised. Banana boat will be there tomorrow, I thougth.
Nothing lost.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Front crossing

All day yesterday I could feel that something was in the making in terms
of weather. And there was. Of course, it started during cocktails hour,
with rain, continuous and heavy, and then the wind coming up, with
lightning and thunder to spice it up. Eventually, the wind went up to
more than 40 knots and we ended up naked, with no mailsail and less than
15 % of the genoa. The dance went on until 2 in the morning when the
wind subsided to around 35 knots, but still the rain continued.
During my watch, I saw someting strange, around 3 in the morning,
looking like a lunar rainbow. It was on the East, had all the
appearances of a rainbow except for the colour which was only shades of
blue, no other colour. Then the rain shower that probably had caused it
was upon me and the rainbow disappeared. By early morning, the wind was
down to 25 knots and I was able to put up the pole on the genoa. I am
really happy that I had it shortened by 4 feet. It feets my genoa and is
much easier to set up.
Then at 10 the wind was down to 20 knots and if I believe the grib
files, it should decrease to 15 knots by 16:00. At noon, we had 94 miles
to go, which means that we must average less than 4.7 knots to get there
after dark. This promises a quiet night as we will remain undersailed.
I am still a little bit anxious about the entrance which is open to the
north and looks like a very narrow one. This being the week-end, I have
had no reply from the harbour master, which means that I am not even
sure that he got my emails. We shall see tomorrow morning.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Back in the washer

All night, crazy weather. Strong winds, speed up to 8 knots and lots of
rolling. Early this morning, it became obvious that we were going to
fast with the risk of arriving at the entrance of Aviatu in the middle
of the night and inclement weather. So I dropped the main and rolled up
the genoa to reduce the speed to 4.5 knots, which should get us to
Aviatu around 7 in the morning.
Unfortunately, since then, the wind has dropped, the sky became
overcast, we have that long and heavy swell that sometimes causes us to
roll very heavily. I increased speed again to maintain the 4.5 knots,
but I must admit that I do not like the weather at all. It does not feel
established, rather in a standing by position before it decides either
to unleash some kind of hell or just keep going like that undecided. I
wish I had a crystal ball to see what will happen in the next 12 hours.
Considering that we slowed down to 4 knots at 8 this morning, the past
day figures are looking good. 148 miles over the ground, 445 total since
we left, closing on Rarotonga by 137 miles with 204 to go.
This morning I sent emails to Rarotonga to try and find out at which
point weather conditions start to make the entrance not safe. If there
is any risk in going in, we will just keep sailing on toward Neiafu.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to reality

The Pacific Ocean looking like a postcard, that was just for one day. We
are back to cloud cover, squalls, big swell and rolling. It started last
night just at cocktails time (Ricard, Kir, with Pate de foie on toasts)
and continued until after dinner (tuna steacks with rice pilaf). Then
the wind disappeared until 4 in the morning, with the sails flapping
noisily, the boat rolling and creeping along at snail pace (2 knots).
This morning showers and wind came back and we put up the new whisker
pole (4 feet shorter), reefed down to 3 reefs to help Mr Monitor, and
since then we are moving at more than 6 knots, although in the wrong
direction as the wind veered to the NE earlier than I expected.
However, we covered 142 miles over the ground for the day, closing on
Rarotonga by 131 miles with now 341 miles to go. We still expect to
arrive Monday morning, October 5th.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sailing in paradise

We have been waiting for this for quite some time now. But finally, we
got it. Blue water, blue sky, a long gentle swell that does not even
rock the boat, a steady SE wind 10 to 20 knots pushing us where we want
to go.
We left the Taina marina at 7:15 on wednesday, went through the Taapuna
pass, set up the sails, set up the monitor (which by the way works now
almost better than new), and now all we have to do is enjoy the ride and
wait until we get to Rarotonga.
At noon, we had covered 155 miles on the ground since we left, had
closed on the destination by 144 miles with 472 miles to go.
Not much to report in such nice conditions. A radio contact at noon with
Triple Seven, also sailing to the Cooks but to another island and which
we will probably meet again as they are also going to Neiafu in Tonga.
We are expecting the wind to veer from ESE to ENE, and we set a course
that will keep us at the same wind angle almost to the end.
We should arrive in Rarotonga on the 5th in the morning if everything
stays as forecast.