Alex’s Photo Picks from the Last Two Years

As you are probably aware Sarah and I have been in Thailand for the last 6 weeks or so, bar a one-week side-trip to Cambodia for the sake of getting our Thai visas renewed inexpensively. It’s been wonderful spending time with Sarah’s parents and exploring places by land. There have also been moments of nostalgia. I’ve spent this morning looking through our photographs for the last two years and there are a few that really stand out for one reason or another, so I thought I’d share them with you here. Many of them you will have seen before but there are a few that we either didn’t have (because they were taken by someone else and we only acquired them later on) or which didn’t fit in with the subject matter of whatever blog post we were writing at the time.

We’ve had so many incredible experiences that it was hard to cut down my selection (it’s probably still a little long- sorry about that). There are also one or two that I would have liked to have included here – some videos from the first passage from Bermuda to St. Maarten – but which I don’t have access to at the moment because they are on an ipod that I left in New Zealand. I will post these later; they give some insight into my mental state during that passage and why I don’t think I’m well-suited to single-handed sailing.

So, without further ado, in chronological order:

 

 

Leaving the Las Perlas Islands on the way to Galapagos we caught our first fish of the voyage! Unfortunately, something else got there before I could pull it in…………….

 

 

This view was a welcome one –  making landfall at Pitcairn Island after three weeks at sea. At the time we assumed that this view heralded an opportunity for a rest. Little did we know we’d soon be trundling off to Mangareva at full tilt on an emergency medical evacuation!

 

 

Pitcairn’s reputation for less-than-ideal anchorage conditions is not ill-deserved. We woke up one morning during our second visit to the island and were excited to see another yacht in the vicinity. AIS identified them as S/V Maya. We hailed them on the radio but for some reason they seemed reluctant to stop by for a visit, so they sailed on without anchoring. These pictures of Bob taken by Asma give some inkling as to why they may have decided on that course of action, and why they sounded so baffled on the radio when we told them that we were comfortably re-anchored at Bounty Bay. We have since become very good friends with Herbert and Asma and have laughed merrily over our first encounter with one another. Apparently Asma turned to Herbert and said “I’m sure they were very nice people but now they must be dead, so we’ll never know!”

You can just see Bob’s mast beyond the breaking wave 🙂

 

And here we are nonchalantly raising the anchor:

OK, that was a lie. It wasn’t nonchalant at all. I couldn’t actually stand on the foredeck so I had to do everything braced against the pulpit railing and supported on one knee. Despite my best efforts to control things, the windlass and bow roller came under tremendous load as the anchor was torn from the sand by the rise of a particularly large swell. There are other pictures of the situation above where you can only see the boom and the tops of our heads, but I like this one because you can at least see that there is a boat in there somewhere!

 

 

Now we move on to the Gambier Islands. Below is the stunning view from the peak of Mount Duff. You can see the capital town of Rikitea in the bottom left. The tiny strip of land in the upper right of the photograph is the airport island. The Gambier Islands were truly spectacular. Sarah and I have already discussed that if we were to do a similar trip again we would prefer to sail direct to Marquesas from the Galapagos Islands and then head South to spend the bulk of the cyclone season here in the Gambiers instead of the other way around.

 

 

 

Provisioning in the Gambier Islands was sparse. Being Bermudian, I have a physiological NEED for mayonnaise. So, we decided to try to make it. Below is one of the earlier attempts. Since it wasn’t working by hand-power alone I decided to try an electric whisk………. which we don’t have. So, we improvised!

Note the not-remotely-mayonnaisish gloop in the jar in my left hand. I was not a happy bunny, as you may be able to tell. Fortunately, later attempts were much more successful.

 

 

A typical afternoon scene from the island of Taravai, where we ended up spending the majority of our time in the Gambiers. Complete with grumpy, sneaky horse who attempted to steal lunch, dinner, or rum whenever possible. The problem with being a horse is that one struggles to be inconspicuous, but Dior put in a good effort and was sometimes successful.

 

 

 

We spent a day clearing away the brush from beneath the coconut palms, and made several big fires to dispose of it:

 

 

Unfortunately the heat of the fires produced an unforeseen hazard – spider rain. It literally began raining spiders as they leapt from the trees to the ground. This one landed on Jesse, and Sarah somehow managed to convince him to remain motionless for long enough to snap this shot. He wasn’t taking his eyes off it though, and was poised for some quick action in the event that it should have decided to make a run for it upwards!

 

 

During a sail from Taravai to Rikitea to pick up some supplies, David from S/V El Nido got this shot of Bob. Sarah particularly likes it because if you zoom in on us in the cockpit you can see a lovely bit of impromptu romance 🙂

 

 

Finally for the Gambier Islands, a beautiful shot of Bob lying to a home-made mooring on the South Coast of Taravai, on a wonderfully calm evening.

 

 

 

We both love this shot, taken during a hike in Marquesas. We are on the island of Tahuata. In the distance is the big island of Hiva ‘Oa, and between the two runs the Ha’ava, or Bordelais Channel.

 

 

In Nuku Hiva Sarah took a few dance classes in the local style, and was honoured to be invited (well…… to be honest it was more of an instruction than an invitation!) to perform with the dance troupe in front of a crowd of a couple of hundred people. Here she is in her dance regalia.

 

 

Better yet, for the first time we are now able to offer you a video from one of the performances (yay for fast internet!). Along with some other cruisers and the troupe of local girls she performed two dances, of which this was the final section of the second. I apologise for the shoddy standard of the work on this one. The reason for it is that Sarah is dancing and I have been tasked with capturing the moment. The sound is particularly poor, because it seems I had my finger over the microphone for most of the performance.

Sarah has stipulated that I must make it clear to you here that she only had two days to learn both of the dances, and wishes it to be formally noted that she is opposed to the publishing of this movie in the first place. Ah well, win some lose some. For the greater good, here it is:

 

 

This spectacular waterfall is located on the island of Fatu Hiva. We were fortunate that it hadn’t rained for a little while when we visited. If it had we would not have been able to get anywhere near it. It was a beautifully refreshing swim after a hot hike.

 

 

 

Down to the Tuamotu Archipelago now, to the uninhabited atoll of Tahanea. Sarah snapped this beautiful shot of a yacht that was anchored astern of us as a small squall came through. I love the misty effect caused by the rain pelting down onto the surface of the sea, and the yawing and slight heeling of the boat as the first gust of wind hits.

 

 

 

The squalls soon passed, and we sailed across the lagoon accompanied by a pod of dolphins to a spot known as ‘7 reef’. It was probably the most spectacular spot that Bob has ever anchored. When this shot was taken we had nipped over to a motu about a mile from the anchorage to collect coconuts, and stopped off on this spit of sand for a snorkel. Bob is just out of frame to the right.

 

 

The diving at the South Pass of the atoll of Fakarava was the most spectacular we have done. The site is famous for having a particularly high density of sharks – a sign of a healthy reef ecosystem.

 

 

This shot of a friendly rooster in Rarotonga cracks me up every time. Doesn’t it look photo-shopped? I promise it’s not!

 

 

Leaving Niue we were a little nervous, as the rigging had just broken and been repaired for the second time. As we came out from behind the island we were greeted by a large black cloud. Fortunately we managed to outrun the worst of it and were treated to this beautiful backdrop:

 

 

A day of ‘racing’ with our friends Rick and Jasna aboard their boat ‘Calypso’. At the pre-race skipper’s meeting Rick warned the other skippers that anyone overhauling Calypso was liable to be mooned. One skipper complained and implied that his children would be psychologically damaged by such an experience. Rick responded that he was terribly sorry but he could not afford to be discriminatory and that for moral reasons he was obliged to treat everyone equally. Fortunately for the family with the delicately-dispositioned children they were out of range, but these guys, one of whom was our friend Asma, ended up in an unfortunate tacking battle with us and were subjected to the view not once, but several times. We were dubbed ‘Team Los Culos Blancos’ (why Spanish I have no idea – we were in Tonga!) and awarded a special prize at the prizegiving! Let’s face it though, we weren’t going to win prizes for anything else……….

 

 

At the ‘Coral Garden’ in Tonga we met this incredibly brazen anemonefish. Perhaps a male guarding the eggs, it had no qualms about challenging a creature many, many times it’s own size. I was not intimidated……….. but then I did swim away, so I’m pretty sure he’ll chalk that up as anemonefish 1, biguglyungainlything 0. Fair enough.

 

 

Also in Tonga: Sarah must have taken a hundred shots of the fruit bats trying to get a really good one. I think she managed it with this:

 

 

And finally! Videos can never do justice to actual, real-life experiences but I really like this one. It is a short video of a swim-through at a reef in South Minerva. We spent hours exploring these channels and caves. It was the best snorkelling either of us have ever done. Here’s a small taster of why:

 

Finally, just a quick note to say that we will (I promise!) do one or two blogs soon about our travels in Thailand and Cambodia. Until then, stay warm and enjoy yourselves!

A month in the Gambier Islands

We’ve been enjoying the Gambier Islands for just over a month now and I must say I’m very comfortable here. The islands are beautiful – volcanic in origin and covered in lush green vegetation with small tranquil beaches on its borders. So far we’ve visited five of them, Mangareva (the largest and most developed island), Taravai, Aukena, Akamaru and Totegegie (an uninhabited island with only an airstrip on it). The islands themselves are surrounded by a barrier reef, making the seas here very calm, warm and filled with wildlife. The snorkelling here is brilliant and although the animals aren’t quite as friendly as in the Galapagos, there’s a huge array of species to see and I’m starting to get a little better at identifying them.

The best thing about the islands, however, is the people. The locals seem to be really friendly and although it’s a definite advantage if you speak French (we don’t), they are generally amenable to giving help and are happy to share their surplus fruit and vegetables. The other cruisers especially are absolutely wonderful. It’s been very easy to make friends here and there’s a real sense of community in the anchorage. Perhaps the fact that all the cruisers here have taken a route that’s slightly off the beaten track gives them a bit more in common, creating more of a connection with each other. We’ve had a number of parties on shore where everyone brings along some food and drink for a picnic. My favourite was a get-together in a derelict house with no roof – it created quite an atmosphere and gave us a bit of protection from the nippy wind outside. We explored another island at the weekend and stayed on our friend’s boat for a few days. It’s a very shiny modern catamaran called El Nido and is home to our friends Olivia and David and their two young children. It felt like going on holiday in a luxurious five star hotel with all the modern conveniences you can imagine, and best of all….. a hot shower! My first hot shower since March, I was in heaven!

Another good thing about Gambier, which I was pleasantly surprised to find when we arrived, is that Mangareva has it’s very own wifi hotspot which can be reached from Bob in the anchorage. Before our mums start wondering why we haven’t used it to Skype them yet, I should point out that the internet is incredibly sketchy! It usually cuts out at least once every 10 minutes and is even slower than the old dial-up connections – we’re lucky if some websites even load up their homepage before the internet cuts out.  Still, it’s better than nothing and it means that we’ve been able to catch up on a few emails, order a few things online and update the blog. Thank you to everyone whose posted comments on the blog, we’ve been able to read them all and are thrilled so many of you are keeping up to date with us. We’d just like to say welcome to the new followers and sorry we’ve not been able to reply to all the comments individually. Ryan seems to be the most talked-about subject in the comments and I’m sure many of you are still wondering what’s happened to him. Well, after having a plethora of medical tests in Tahiti it seems that no one really knows what was wrong with him. They ruled out appendicitis and even though they weren’t completely sure what was causing his stomach pains, they have given him the all-clear and he is currently on his way back to Pitcairn as I write. I’m thrilled he’s happy and healthy and although I’m sure his parents must still be worried that his condition couldn’t be explained, he’s not in any imminent danger and should hopefully stay that way for a long time to come! He arrived in Mangareva by plane a few days ago with Nadine, Andrew and his grandparents who were already in Tahiti. We never saw Ryan and Nadine as they had already boarded their ship to Pitcairn when we arrived on the dock – it was a very rainy day and I don’t blame them from wanting to be in a dry warm cabin. We did get to see Andrew and Ryans grandparents (Olive and Steve) briefly which was lovely, and got an update from them. We’re still planning on heading back to Pitcairn during the next suitable weather window and I look forward to seeing them again in the near future.

Anyway, back to our exploits in the Gambier Islands…. As I was saying, the internet here is pants! The bad news is that it’s taken me many hours (if not days) over the last 4 weeks to upload my low resolution photos to the blog – but the good news is that I have actually managed to upload some photos to the blog! So first of all, here are the photos from Pitcairn and our medivac with Ryan:

Our first view of Pitcairn - the first land we'd seen after our 23 day passage from Galapagos

Our first view of Pitcairn – the first land we’d seen after our 23 day passage from Galapagos

 

Pitcairn Island - a steep sided, luscious-green island rising out of the barren ocean like something out of Lord of the Rings. A deceptive sanctuary as it's so exposed to the sea and the elements that it's extremely difficult for boats to anchor here

Pitcairn Island – a steep sided, luscious-green island rising out of the barren ocean like something out of Lord of the Rings. A deceptive sanctuary as it’s so exposed to the sea and the elements that it’s extremely difficult for boats to anchor here

 

 

Us with Ryan and his mum Nadine on the way to Mangareva. All really lovely people, making the best of the difficult situation and an absolute pleasure to have on board.

Us with Ryan and his mum Nadine on the way to Mangareva. All really lovely people, making the best of the difficult situation and an absolute pleasure to have on board.

 

low_taporo

We met the Taporo VIII at sun rise about 120 miles from Mangareva to transfer Ryan and Nadine to the ship. It meant they arrived in Mangareva 12 hours earlier than Bob, closer to medical help if he needed it

 

low_taporo 2

Nadine and Ryan being craned onto Taporo VIII

 

And here’s what we’ve been up to in the Gambier Islands, again in picture form 🙂

 

low_climb to Mt Duff

We climbed the treacherous path up Mount Duff during our first week here. Ropes were installed towards the end to help people climb up the steepest bits. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top – I doubt we’d have made it at all if the ropes hadn’t been installed. We did the hike with Chris – the skipper of a catamaran called Ohana (which Alex talked about in his previous blog). Chris is English but has lived in New Zealand for many years. Now he is sailing through the Pacific towards Panama with another two crew members (Joe and Anthony) – all really great people who became good friends of ours.

 

The view from the top of Mount Duff. Absolutely stunning! Definitely the best view I've seen on this trip.

The view from the top of Mount Duff. Absolutely stunning! Definitely the best view I’ve seen on this trip.

 

Bob looks so small from all the way up here

Bob looks so small from all the way up here

 

A photo taken by Joe from Ohana during a sail to Akamaru. Hmm, I think the bottom needs a bit of a clean...

A photo taken by Joe from Ohana during a sail to Akamaru. Hmm, I think the bottom needs a bit of a clean…

 

This is Jessie and John cooking freshly caught fish on a home-made barbeque for the cruisers and locals at their farm on Taravai (an island with only 7 inhabitants at the moment). They sailed here from England in a 26 foot yacht called Sparrow. They’re now looking after a small farm on Taravai whilst the owner is away. They are on a show-string budget so mainly live off the land. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, go spear fishing, trap chickens and goats for meat, and make their own coconut milk, yoghurt and cheese. They even cook all their meals on a fire since they ran out of cooking gas! They are really cool guys and a real inspiration - we've started to make a lot of our own foods using the skills we've learnt from them.

This is Jessie and John cooking freshly caught fish on a home-made barbeque for the cruisers and locals at their farm on Taravai (an island with only 7 inhabitants at the moment). They sailed here from England in a 26 foot yacht called Sparrow. They’re now looking after a small farm on Taravai whilst the owner is away. They are on a shoestring budget so mainly live off the land. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, go spear fishing, trap chickens and goats for meat, and make their own coconut milk, yoghurt and cheese. They even cook all their meals on a fire since they ran out of cooking gas! They are really cool guys and a real inspiration – we’ve started to make a lot of our own foods using the skills we’ve learnt from them.

 

An afternoon relaxing on the farm – playing volleyball or having a drink, enjoying the excellent view and the even-better company

An afternoon relaxing on the farm – playing volleyball or having a drink, enjoying the excellent view and the even-better company

 

One of the local boys with Fatty the dog (yes, the name says it all!) and her puppy 'Sparrow'. Sparrow was born whilst John and Jessie were looking after the farm, so of course they named her after the boat that brought them there all the way from England

One of the local boys with Fatty the dog (yes, the name says it all!) and her puppy ‘Sparrow’. Sparrow was born whilst John and Jessie were looking after the farm, so of course they named her after the boat that brought them here all the way from England

 

A close up of the super cute Sparrow. I could honestly steal this puppy and take her with us! Even Alex has succumbed to her charm!

A close up of the super cute Sparrow. I could honestly steal this puppy and take her with us! Even Alex has succumbed to her charm!

 

Another afternoon tea on the farm

Another afternoon tea on the farm

 

The church on Taravai. Amazingly the 7 inhabitants here have their own church. John and Jessie even have a graveyard on their farm. Apparently many of the locals believe that this island is haunted and this is one of the reasons why so few people live here. Even those who come to visit will usually leave before it gets dark.

The church on Taravai. Amazingly the 7 inhabitants here have their own church. John and Jessie even have a graveyard on their farm. Apparently many of the locals believe that this island is haunted and this is one of the reasons why so few people live here. Even those who come to visit will usually leave before it gets dark.

 

Our first attempt at making homemade mayonnaise didn't go as planned. After whisking with a fork for half an hour we still had nothing that resembled mayonnaise - so Alex decided to make an electric whisk using two forks and the drill..... Well, it still didn't turn into mayonnaise and we were left with a rather uninspiring oily yolk beverage. We've since learnt that we were missing the key ingredient - acid (either lemon juice or vinegar would have worked). I’m pleased to report that our subsequent attempts have been much more successful.

Our first attempt at making homemade mayonnaise didn’t go as planned. After whisking with a fork for half an hour we still had nothing that resembled mayonnaise – so Alex decided to make an electric whisk using two forks and the drill….. Well, it still didn’t turn into mayonnaise and we were left with a rather uninspiring oily yolk beverage. We’ve since learnt that we were missing the key ingredient – acid (either lemon juice or vinegar would have worked). I’m pleased to report that our subsequent attempts have been much more successful.

 

 

Some might say that the most important day of the year is the 1st August. Also known as Yorkshire Day! This was our contribution to the celebration of a great county - a Yorkie girl holding a box of Yorkie tea with a Yorkie flag :-)

Some might say that the most important day of the year is the 1st August. Also known as Yorkshire Day! This was our contribution to the celebration of a great county – a Yorkie girl holding a box of Yorkie tea with a Yorkie flag 🙂

 

 

Preparing to leave the boat during a rain shower. Alex promised me this trip would be to warm sunny places!

Preparing to leave the boat during a rain shower. Alex promised me that this trip would be to warm and sunny places!

 

 

We had some very nasty weather back in Mangareva and even though the anchorage was very sheltered, we still experienced gusts of 50 knots. Two boats dragged anchor, including this one. This was a boat attempting to smuggling cocaine into the area but was impounded by the police - so it was unmanned, and careening across the anchorage towards the rest of us...

We had some very nasty weather back in Mangareva and even though the anchorage was very sheltered, we still experienced gusts of 50 knots. Two boats dragged anchor, including this one. This boat had attempted to smuggle cocaine into the area but was impounded by the police – so it was unmanned, and careening across the anchorage towards the rest of us…

 

All the men got together and managed to use their dinghy motors to move the yacht to a safe place. Everyone was looking out for each other; such is the community spirit here :-)

All the men got together and managed to use their dinghy motors to move the yacht to a safe place. Everyone was looking out for each other; such is the community spirit here 🙂

 

In other news, I found out recently that a good friend of mine will be coming to visit us in November, so we’ll have an additional crew member for 6 weeks! Her name is Charline, she works in ecology like me, but is also an incredible drunken dancer, crazy motorbike driver, very outdoorsy and French. She joined me and my family for New Years Eve this year in Bradford and had us up until 4am doing drunken dancing in my mum’s kitchen!  As well as being excellent company she’ll also be incredibly useful for communicating in French Polynesia. We’re both really looking forward to seeing her and maybe if we can show the rest of you what you’re missing out on, some of you might also decide to come for a visit 🙂