Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fatu Hiva - Arriving at the mystical islands of the Tiki Gods

Land Ahoy!! After 19 days at sea since leaving the Galapagos, we have reached land, tiny specks dotted in the middle of The Pacific- one degree out and we would have missed them completely!

Yes we have arrived in Fatu Hiva and of course we couldn't resist stopping! We spotted her from 30 miles away.  A towering  dramatically steep island lush with vegetation even on the steep cliffs.

 As we approached she loomed over us, and we could smell her fragrant flora enticing us to make landfall! As you saw, we sailed round on the leeward side and anchored in a small bay lining up rock pinnacles as our transit.

The landscape is breathtaking, huge rock formations which resemble large faces of the Tiki Gods ascend into the mist above. There are coconut palms, banana trees, foliage covering every possible aspect of the mountains and unbelievably I can see little goats teetering along tiny narrow tracks in the cliffs! 

This beauty is like nothing I've ever seen before, I feel like I'm in some sort of mystical fairy land. 

We ventured ashore where they are constructing a small breakwater for the fishing boats to be safe from the thrashing seas, which now appear to be quite calm but later on in the year the wind and swell hit this tiny fishing village hard.  

The village is sweet, dotted with small corrugated roofed houses painted bright colours. The villagers are very welcoming and greet us in French and I find I'm more in my element here. Every household was offering to sell us fruit which we wish we could buy but didn't  have any local currency. They said that doesn't matter, we can come back with something to exchange that they might like. One lady wanted shoes. Another man some rivets for his boat. Some young men asked for alcohol in return for bananas or any fruit from his garden.  So tomorrow we are going back with a sackful of things that might be of interest to them. I might take some clothes I haven't needed and I think we've got some fish hooks and bits and bobs they could find use for. 

It took us a while to walk through the colourful village as we were chatting to everyone. They told us about a waterfall we must visit about an hours walk into the jungle so we went exploring! 

On the way we saw some men tending to their beehives and they motioned for us to come and have a look. We timidly went over as there was a thick swarm of bees but we weren't stung once. They were extracting the honey comb and each gave us a decent slab to eat. It's the tastiest honey I think I've ever tried from the mango flower of the surrounding trees and slightly smoky from them smoking the bees out  (but the bees were surprisingly not angry at all) They very generously  gave us a huge slab to take away. 

 I was poorly shod for such an adventure into the jungle, only in my flip flops. As we got further in following the river upstream, the pathway became so muddy and slippy that I went barefoot. This was much easier and actually a very lovely feeling being more at one with nature..In fact it was the best massage for my feet.  We walked passed hibiscus trees, birds of paradise, orange groves, breadfruit trees, grapefruit trees, coconut palms, mango and papaya trees.  A wonderfully natural cultivation of the land.

It was a beautiful walk up into the mountain and we knew we were getting close as we could hear the cascade approach. We had to climb under a few big boulders to get there and we arrived very muddy but wow it was worth it! What an incredible waterfall!

There was a pool at the bottom of the falls which we all jumped into and it was so deliciously cool. It was hard to swim towards it to be immersed in its power but I managed to get under it and feel it crashing over me radiating energy through me which I can still feel the effects of now, still buzzing! 

The walk back down was a muddy one too but at least we were able to wash off again when we reached the river further down. Papa and I were stopped on the way down by a lady selling big bottles of honey, I guess it was her sons we tried the honeycomb off before. She invited us inside her house and showed us the rows of bottles. They were wine bottles filled to the brim with honey! We told her we must come back with some money tomorrow  and she was very grateful and gave us 4 huge pomplemousse (grapefruits) as a gift to take away. We must find someone willing to exchange some euros with us and go back tomorrow. That honey is out of this world! 

We arrived back for a stunning sunset over the bay with the giant faces in the rocks lit up with gold.  There are the lovely tropic birds with the fabulous tails flying around and swooping down to the water. Dora's coming out tomorrow first thing, I can't wait to explore around the edge of the bay, there looks like there are some secret little coves and even more waterfalls cascading into the sea. 

I'm sitting up at the bow now and the full moon is so bright. Actually it's half hidden behind a cloud now but as it becomes uncovered it lights up the peaks of the mountains and pinnacles that surround this.bay.  I'm watching the reflections in the ripples of the water and I can hear occasional splashes of life in the water. I wander what is below... large fish... very large fish? 

We were invited the next evening to dinner made by a local lady Katerina who cooked for occasional sailors that came into the bay.

And wow, that was some meal! I think we returned back in the dingy a little lower in the water than our trip ashore (full tiki bellies!) No goat on the menu but an array of lovely dishes: tuna ceviche in coconut milk and limes, papaya salad, hot coconut chicken, rice, roasted spiced plantain, cooked bananas and grapefruit 

A beautiful feast laid on by a lovely Fatu Hivan family. We sat down to eat with Katerina and her husband Serge, their daughter/granddaughter? Hanavave and then we met their older son who had just come back from la chasse, hunting Sanglier(wild boar) up in the mountains with his two dogs. 

The husband showed us all the sanglier tusks hanging up from their hunts. They make them into sacred necklaces.  Serge also carved beautiful tikis but he's going to take them in a boat to Tahiti where he'll sell them in the artisan market during the festival. Such skilled workmanship and beautiful carvings.   We gave some euros for our meal but it was a shame we didn't have any more to buy a tiki.  We had already bought a beautiful carving of a manta ray made out of rosewood from another villager who also gave us grapefruit and limes.

It was such a pleasant evening and it was so nice to be able to converse with them at ease, they were so wonderfully welcoming and we had a good laugh!  

This morning the weather was beautiful whilst I was exploring with Dora but the afternoon changed to heavy rainstorms which we had to seek cover under a corrugated roofed eve of a building. The winds came howling through the valley out to sea and we were worried for a while that Tin Tin might not hold her ground. 

I'm going to be sad to leave this island, in only 2 days of being here I've really fallen in love with it and it's people!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Water Water Everywhere...

Water Water Everywhere...

I realise that I haven't blogged in a while now and there's a fair bit to catch up on. I'm carrying on in diary format so I don't lose my mind on ever merging days!

Day 12
So big news is.... we caught a massive tuna! The sun was almost setting and we were about to reel the lines in and call it a day when both lines took a hit. I ran to my line and started pulling it in but I wasn't strong enough or fast enough and the fish got away but Justin who had the rod was slowly reeling his in keeping the angle up so as not to lose it. It looked like the line was really straining and we were afraid it might snap but eventually the fish tired and he was able to land it. And what a beauty it was. We reckon it was about 5 kg and had the most vibrant silver and bright blue colouring. This time Papa went back to his original method of inebriating the poor soul by pouring rum into its gills which actually did the trick and made it pass out in a flash. Then we were able to cut its head off swiftly without it thrashing around and then bled it upside down in the bucket for a few minutes so it drained. This seemed much less traumatic than our previous attempts so
we might keep this one as the best method so far, even if it still does seem terribly cruel! I then filleted and skinned it whilst it was still warm and chucked the carcass, head and guts over board for the sharks.

Whilst the excitement of the tuna was going on, we had a visit from a booby who had been circling us for a good half hour previously. At first we thought he was just interested in our catch but it turns out he just wanted a place to rest his tired wings for the night and settled on the aft, finding a good balanced spot on Snowy. I thought he might like some supper so I kept a few scraps of the raw tuna and put it on the solar panels for him to help himself but he was not interested one bit and has since ignored the succulent pieces of tuna, skinned and filleted! I've come to think that actually, he's probably never eaten tuna before as there's no way he would ever be able to attack something that size, so I expect it's quite foreign for him so is wisely avoiding it. His preference being little fish swallowed whole that would wriggle inside his belly!

Sadly we noticed, the poor thing has a bit of blue fishing net stuck round one of its feet, at first making us believe he was a blue footed booby! The problem is he would be far too scared for any of us to go near enough to remove it. It doesn't seem like it's bothering him but then how can we tell? If he's still with us by the morning we might think of a way we can help the poor fella. I'm going to bed now but I hope he's still there on my watch at 3 to keep me company. He's so cute!

Day 13
Well, I'm awake now on watch and the sky is peppered with stars and the Milky Way reaching all the way down to the seas surface and horizon.

There is a light on the horizon, however, that is not a star and is most definitely a boat as I can see it's starboard light. It's not on AIS but does show up on the radar occasionally but keeps disappearing. I'm just taking its bearings every so often to determine which way it is moving and if we are getting closer. It must be a fishing vessel I think, hearing of our good catch yesterday!

Booby is still with us snoozing his little head under his wing. He must be quite glad of a rest and the winds and seas are gentle enough for him not to worry to much about sliding off or being got by a wave. Papa is going to wake at five to help me remove the netting, it will be easier to see when we have the first light of dawn but hopefully he'll be sleepy enough not to cause too much distress.

Day 14
The booby stayed all night with us and when it was dawn I woke Papa so he could help me me remove the netting from its foot. He was sleeping with his head under his wing and so I quietly stood up on the railing ready to place over a sarong so I could capture him but he had lightening reactions and before I knew it he had flown away not before giving me a piercing look with his eyes. I know it was just a millisecond but in that look I tried to tell him not to be afraid and if only I could have explained. I think he had had a good rest though and was refreshed to face another day at sea- if only we could've helped him.

As the sun rose, I was able to see that the green light that had been getting closer all night was in fact the top of a masthead and I could see that they had their sails up! So it wasn't a fishing vessel as i so had imagined. Dad tried to radio them to say hello but with no answer.

However, they did later contact us and they are a Dutch boat called Acapella heading towards Hiva Oa, like us. They were really friendly and told us to listen in on the radio to a network called puddle jump who broadcast everyday at 5 and it's a network of sailing boats crossing the Pacific, who keep an eye on each other and if any run into difficulty, the closest boat can come to their rescue.

We'd heard about this group before and I think dad had tried to contact them but hadn't received the right frequencies to be able to connect. We listened in and there were about 8 other different boats on the network who checked in with their positions wherever they were in the Pacific with helpful info on what wind conditions and boat speed. So we have now officially joined puddle jump and had a lovely welcome. It's strange to think there's a little community out here in the middle of the big sea.

We almost ran over a raft today which only I spotted as I was sitting at the bow. We were sailing along at quite a speed and so passed it quickly. Too quick for me to see exactly what it was so I shouted back to Papa who was at the helm and we did a man over board drill and turned back to go and investigate to see if it was anyone needing rescue.

It didn't take long before we found it again and on closer inspection this raft was very well constructed almost looking like a massive lobster pot about 3m2 and attached to it looked like some sort of sensor bobbing. We decided that it must be an oceanographic floating buoy collecting data. Apparently there are a few just floating around the Pacific but you certainly wouldn't want to run into one of these at speed!

It's two in the morning and I'm wide awake on my night watch for once. I've just logged that we only have 865nm to go and Tin Tin's really in her element with these trade winds, whooshing along at a comfortable 9 knots!

Day 15
We have had another visitor on board today. This morning we found a tiny petrel bird that had landed on deck completely drenched from the sea. It was shivering and must have been cold and in shock. No one saw it land or crash. So we wrapped it lightly in a tea towel and kept it in the sunshine on deck to dry out.

We gave him some tiddly little flying fish that Justin had so kindly chopped up in hope that he would eat something. But he wasn't interested. I think he must have just been exhausted so we let him rest.

Eventually he started to wake up and spread his wings to dry them in the sun, and started to preen himself, oiling his feathers, which was a good sign. He kept on sliding off the deck as the swell was making us roll so I sat next to him for quite a while to protect him and stop him from falling any further and injuring himself.

About an hour ago he thought he was ready to fly again and kept attempting, each time gaining more strength but I still didn't think he was strong enough. Finally he made flight and flew off the boat and flapped for maybe about 30 secs before landing in the sea not having the strength to go any further : ( This made me really sad because now he was water logged again he wouldn't be able to lift off and we saw him bobbing away into the distance so vulnerable in the turbulent swell.

Poor little darling! I wish he'd stayed with us for longer to build up his strength, perhaps we should have kept him in a box until we thought he was ready but it seemed cruel to stop him flying away if he thought he was ready... oh I don't know, now I'm so sad for the poor little thing, who has no chance of survival!

Day 16
I was rudely awoken this morning early to being thrown around in my cabin as the bow was crashing hard into the waves. I thought why the heck are we going head to wind? Maybe they wanted to get the mainsail up but it was already up so it couldn't be that. I rushed out of bed to see what was going on and Papa said that he think he spotted an orange life raft half deflated or a life jacket!
So he set off he MOB alarm and turned around to search for it so we were crashing head into the wind and had turned the motor on. It was raining hard and waves were crashing over so I put on my waterproof and life jacket and leant my eyes to the search. We went back to the position where it was first spotted but it was nowhere to be seen so Papa followed a search pattern scaling the area that it could have drifted within a couple of miles from the original position. Uncle Mark and I kept watch scanning the surface but ... nothing!

We had been searching for about 55 mins before I spotted it and it certainly did look like a big deflated life raft but was in fact a fishing net with loads of orange and yellow buoys floating together. It was such a relief to find that there were no dead bodies or an empty life raft! Also, if we hadn't have found it, it would have played heavily on our minds. It is scary, however, how long it took for us to find it. It is so difficult to spot something in the water where the swell and the waves are hiding it. Not a nice thought of it really were a man overboard. But good practice for us, nonetheless!

Day 17
I've just watched another beautiful sunrise, not so dramatic but lovely soft colours as it lit up the clouds. We had a lot of rain yesterday and I think today we might be dodging rainclouds again but we're not complaining because there's great wind in our 3 sails!

So eta to Hiva Oa is supposedly 11th April if we keep up the speed but we think the winds might drop the closer we get. We might decide, however, to have a cheeky stop in Fatu Hiva which is on the way, depending on the time of day, because we won't want to be rocking up there at night!

So I've been reading up about Hiva Oa and how there's one bay that it's not recommended you swim in because of the large shark population. You see, this island isn't protected by shallow reefs but is a huge volcanic mountain where the depths plummet to hundreds of metres below. The steep incline being very close to the shore, thus the difficulty we are going to have in anchoring! Perhaps no swimming then, although I'm becoming more at ease with them, I don't think these ones will be as friendly somehow by the sounds of it!

Day 18
It's been difficult not to lose track of what day it and let them all merge in to one. But I've tried my best and I think it's day 18? I do know however we have just over 300nm before we reach Fatu Hiva and land!

We've finally tacked and changed to our final course to Fatu Hiva as the wind had taken us a lot further south than we had intended.
Time now 04:34
Position 11 21'.167 s, 133 01. 31 w
SOG 8.3kts True wind speed 22.7 kts starboard tack COG 288' Distance to waypoint 338nm.

Having tacked however, the wind was pushing us too far north and not on the course we wanted. So after much deliberation before lunch we decided it was parasailor time! And that has been a great move so far allowing us to head directly to Fatu Hiva and reacting perfectly to the now light winds. Hallelujah!

I'm longing to reach land now, I can't wait! Also I'm so looking forward to seeing my darling mummy too. It will be very refreshing to have her company and to join us on our voyage! This last stretch is feeling very long now and it sort of feels like we've been on board for an eternity. Not that I haven't enjoyed it, it's been pretty wonderful, exciting and reflective. In a way just living day by day without the clutter of civilisation has been very cleansing to the soul, being surrounded by ocean and sky and governed by the wind and the elements!

Wow, sorry that was a long one! Maybe don't read it all at once!

Love from over the oceans

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

the most remote place on earth...?

Day 9
It feels like I spent most of the day doing the washing in between my watches. I've only just taken down and folded the last few garments and bed linen. It takes some time as there's only two small buckets but it was quite a nice therapeutic task to do on the aft deck and oddly I enjoyed being washerwoman for the day! I'll relish sleeping in some crisp clean linen tonight.

We had the lines out again today but no fish. The lures aren't lasting very well in the water though, whether it's wear n tear or big fish are biting at it without getting hooked I don't know, but they're losing their skirts.

Does anyone have any good fishing tips? We'd be so grateful for some suggestions!

I've really been on the look out today for more dolphins or whales and all the white horses and every splash teases me into believing it's something but it has been a disappointing day on the sightings front! The sunrise was lovely this morning but the rest of the day has been overcast. At least the wind has not been a disappointment and has kept up in the 20s.

Poor Papa's not feeling very well with a fever so we've put him to bed with paracetamol and are covering his watches although I know he's going to be stubborn about it. I hope it passes quickly and that he feels better tomorrow.

Day 10
We're over half way there now and on the final heading of 260 to Hiva Oa . It's not ideal as we're running with the wind behind us but we've maximised speed by having the genoa at goose wing to the main which has allowed us to also put out the staysail- so 3 sails up and there's no stopping us!

Still no fish! We are not to be defeated, however, and will persevere to catch our supper!

I'm on watch now and there's a threateningly inky dark cloud that's come to take away my starry night.. I'm not welcoming it and I might need to don my cagoule!

Day 11
We've had a few flying fish reach their sorry end as they misjudge their flight and land wii a crash on deck. So we've changed our tact and We have decided to try and attach it is a lure. Surely this will bring in the supper! Justin threaded its body very skilfully and securely with wire but we soon learned that the speed in which it's being dragged through the water just disintegrates it and it falls away so when we reel it in only the hook is left. We feel deflated and revert to our other lures.

I've been baking bread today and I've just taken out a lovely looking golden granary loaf from the oven... mmm the smell of freshly baked bread!

So yet another unsuccessful fishing day passes and my menu must change to garlic and ginger vegetable coconut curry in rice minus the fish accompanied by homemade lentil flour chapattis.

It feels like we're floating in the remotest place on earth.... is there anybody out thereeeeee???? Not even a dolphin to comfort the solitude or a plane to wave at... but quite wonderful nonetheless!

If you lovely people would like to comment on my blog or send me a message, I have a satellite email address pandaem@myiridium.net which works if the file size isn't too big so please not too lengthy and no attachments/ photos! It would be really nice to hear from you out here in the middle of this endless blue seascape!