Sunday 7 April 2019

Off we go again

We are delighted that plans made nearly year ago have worked and Paddy,
Lizzie, James and Bridget have made it to this side of the world to
join us for a few weeks. Tintin is full and ready to go! The lure
of exploring coral atolls has led us to wave the incredible
Marquesas goodbye.

Two days ago we set off from Nuku Hiva, to cross 500 miles of
South Pacific Ocean to reach the Tuamotu archipelago. These islands are
also part of French Polynesia. They are low lying coral atolls: each
island looks like a slightly squidged circle on the chart. The inside is
lagoon, the edge is coral reef, some of it a few metres above the high
water line with beaches, coconut palms and maybe a village. Some are
just a couple of miles across, others up to 50.

We are heading for Kauehi, an atoll with one entrance (or pass) - a
gap in the reef which will allow boats to go in and out. The current in
some of the Tuamotu island passes can reach 9 knots so we need to
time our arrival carefully. If the wind is strong and against the
current, large standing waves can build up in the pass, best avoided!
Once inside the lagoon we will need to keep a sharp lookout for coral
heads as we navigate to our chosen anchorage.

Friday and Saturday gave us good sailing conditions with a wind across
the beam and a reasonable sea state. Yesterday evening lightening lit
up squall clouds far away on our horizon, while we had the starriest
sky above our heads. But at 1:30 am I was woken by the boat heeling
sharply and Rob suggesting we reef, now. No lightening close by
but we were under a dark storm cloud and the wind speed doubled quickly
to 35 knots. Lifejacket on, headtorch on, up into the cockpit where it
was noisy, windy, occasionally quite wet and very dark, white horses
just visible all around. James appeared close on my heels and between us
we quickly reefed the main and genoa down to 3rd reef. All at once it
felt calmer and much more manageable, Tintin doing what she (gender
fluid!) does best: floating and carrying on regardless in the direction
we want her to go, easy on the helm, riding the waves.

This morning the wind has dropped and we are now motor sailing to avoid
being tossed around uncomfortably in the swell.
The crew has all emerged, Bridget reporting quite a lot of airtime in
the forward cabin last night (when lifted from the bunk due to the bow
in the waves) and Lizzie complaining of having been woken twice in the
night by seawater coming through slightly open hatches and landing on
her face! It's already 33 degrees by 7am so sometimes the desire to have
airflow in the cabins below wins out against the risk of getting a

James is our fisherman. On Friday we lost a hook and
lure to something that must have been very big. Yesterday the line got
tangled with the towed generator again. (We must learn from past
mistakes but optimism sometimes overrides experience).
I have been briefed by James (in case he is asleep) what to do if the
reel buzzes and spins: stop the boat, increase the friction in the
reel , and wake him up.

It sounds so easy.

At about 8am, the line went whizzing out. Shouting "Fish, James, FISH!" very
loudly by his bunk didn't work. Toe pulling and more shouting
eventually did.

Rob was on the line, and saw a really big blue marlin jump clear of the
water at the end of it, then swim off. Line broken, again. We will keep

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