Fiji to New Zealand 1,100 miles- 7 days

fiji to New Zealand

Fiji to New Zealand passage can be a dangerous passage because the low pressure systems coming up from the Southern Ocean. The logistics of the passage include taking unsavory conditions out of Fiji to ensure stable and safe conditions coming into New Zealand.

We waited 9 days for just the right weather window and took our beating the first 4 days to be rewarded by calm conditions as we approached New Zealand.

opua Marina

Opua- New Zealand’s main port of entry. We tied up to the “Island” Immigration and Customs dock early evening. There were 16 other boats tied up that had come in from Fiji, Minerva Reef and Tonga that day.

What a Party!!! 16 boats on an isolated customs dock Celebrating the passage to New Zealand and the end of a fabulous South Pacific cruising season.

I will never forget in all my life the energy of 30+ adults dancing / jumping up and down with their hands in the air, singing loudly to ABBA at 9:00 PM 🙂

It was that kind of passage

World Famous (in Opua) Princess of the South Pacific Party. Yes, grown men had an excuse to dress as a princess…most turned out in drag and loved it

Bay of Islands Cruisers Festival

A week of activities followed. Seminars on navigational electronics, sail repair underway, diesel engine maintenance and electrolysis. A talent show served up with hot pizza, a BBQ and a Bay of Islands scenic boat ride was all part of the week long cruisers social

TUIA 250 Encounters

250- year commemoration of the first meeting of Maori and Europeans in New Zealand

HMB Endevor

We reunited with John our California cruising mate and Martin reunited with Gavin Nel his childhood friend from South Africa

IMG_6282 We are now off to Whangarei, New Zealand

 

 

 

Video: Cruising Fiji searching for the idyllic surf wave, remote village or chilling at a yacht club or resort. Fiji has remained remarkably unmolested by mass tourism since our last cruising experience here 22 years ago

Vinaka Vakalevu!

English Colonialism + Native Fijians + Indian Immigrants

Officially the Republic of Fiji

Fiji gained independence from the British Empire in 1970 after 96 years as a British colony
Fiji is unique with a strong British influence and Native Fijian culture tossed with a large Indian minority; it all comes together to create a unique multicultural travel experience.

 The Fijians we met throughout the islands, anchorages and marinas were  genuine, approachable and just really nice people. BULA!!!suva YC

First Stop Suva Harbor right along the international fishing boats, freighters, yachts, cruise liners and a pirate shippirate ship.jpg

Suva Harbor, Fiji 

The Royal Suva Yacht Club
The club was founded around 1930 and has a rich history that is on display with flags, trophies, photos and mementos throughout the club

Tradition too..the wearing of hats by men in the bar area is strictly forbidden and the penalty for doing so is to buy a round of drinks for Everyone at the bar!

IMG_5975We spent most of our time in downtown Suva getting much needed parts, supplies and provisions. It was nice to come back to the yacht club in the afternoon and have a cold drink out on the lawn socializing with fellow sailors at this historic yacht club

                                                                The Market
The colorful municipal market is famous for being the largest retail produce market in the Pacific.  It was a welcomed treat to indulge in all the fruits and vegetables we could carry back to the boat

fitted bedsheet (2)

 

The Market has everything! I commissioned a seamstress to sew a fitted bed sheet for our “triangle shaped front berth”

Unfortunately, either our template or instructions didn’t translate and the “fitted sheet” did not fit. No harm in trying; it was only a $11 investment and I was able to use the sheet on another berth
show repair

 

Martin had better luck with the shoe repairs.

Martin’s 6 month old Keen Sandals had started to fall apart and it was a logistical nightmare to send them back to Keen Co. in the US for the warranty.

So, he had the local shoe repair guy fix them and reinforce all the stitching for only $14

 

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                                                                  Buyer Beware!!!
In downtown Suva we were approached by local conmen; they start off friendly enough saying “Bula” asking us where we were from, trying to get us talking to them so they could get our names. However, as soon as they know your name they whip out a wooden piece and proceed to etch your name in these wooden daggers. Once your name is engraved they Insist on getting paid for the Mask that goes with the wooden daggers!
Martin was a victim of the scam and ended up paying the “con artist” $50 Fijian dollars for a crappy wooden mask and daggers with our names engraved. Needless to say he was furious.
On hindsight Martin did remember his brother Gerald getting scammed the same way 22 years ago when he was here visiting us in Fiji; it made it all the more humiliating.
Humiliation then turned to hysterics as we met other sailors that were scammed the same way!

  Indian Infusion
Indians were initially brought to Fiji as indentured labors to work the sugar cane plantations. Between 1879 and 1916. 60,000 Indians arrived in Fiji.
Today Fiji is 38% Indian

We got our Curry on…eating and cooking our way through a variety of curries
irwinish windless 2

 Beqa Island- trials and tribulations

Pronounced Beng-a is outlier island to the main island of Vita Levu. There are no roads, no towns and only a few isolated villages. Beqa’s claim to fame is that it’s home to the traditional Fire Walkers, Sawau tribe that walk barefoot across blazing hot rocks.

We were packing Martin’s Sulu (Fijian Man-skirt) and a bushel of Kava root to present to the Chief and ask for permission to anchor in their lagoon. Also, we were hopeful to have an opportunity to witness a fire walking ceremony.
Unfortunately, we didn’t experience anything traditional on the island. Elizabeth and Garth reported back to us that they were told to pay to snorkel; which is simply unconscionable.
The Chief was away so there wouldn’t be any formal “Sevusevu” Ceremony for our seeking acceptance from the chief into their village
I did see a large Bull Shark on my morning snorkel that scared me to death and made me reconsider swimming alone for now.
As we (Shenemere & Irwinish) were pulling up our anchors with our sights set for Yanuca Island Irwinish’s anchor windless decided it had had enough after 20 years. Thank goodness they were able to manually pull their anchor up and sail to Yanuca Island strategizing along the way how best to get their windless repaired or replaced and where?

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                                                               Yanuca Island
Intrepid Surf Hounds Martin and Garth… destination Yanuca Island desperate to surf  “Frigates”. Unfortunately conditions were not favorable for Frigates surf break when we were there.

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Sweet Yanuca island is a hilly speck inside Beqa Lagoon only a few miles west of Beqa. We enjoyed exploring an abandoned surf camp, a quaint village and excellent beach for collecting interesting pieces of shells.

elizabeth in Beqa

Along with Elizabeth and Garth we hiked over to the village with our gift of Kava root for the Chief and Elizabeth with her lollipops for the children. We had to ask a few villagers where we could find the Chief only to find out that the Chief had left the island to get medical treatment. We did meet with the Chief’s “spokesman”, offered our Kava, received his blessing to walk around the village and to anchor in their lagoon.

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Fun putting  together this “postcard moment” of us on Yanuca Islandsusan sailing.jpg

 

The Fijian Triangle:  This is the time (we lost) when we started to sail every other day between Musket Cove, Namotu Surf Break and Denarau Marina

 

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Musket Cove Yacht Club: 22 years ago we partied at the same place but, it was called the “$2 Bar”… it isn’t $2 anymore $$$

Bless the sailor and the founder of Musket Cove Yacht Club Dick Smith; for creating and preserving an unpretentious yacht club in the South Pacific!

Again so many memories around the BBQ…Priceless!

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There are over 10,000 Musket Cove Yacht Club members worldwide. Back in the day your yacht’s name was etched into the beams of the club when you became a member. Martin spent some time trying to locate the “S/V Topaz” plaque from when we sailed and stayed at Musket Cove in ’98

So Grateful that Musket Cove remains welcoming to us sailors. It is still a social watering hole for all of us to get together and BBQ communally at picnic tables and share stories. LOVE IT!

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Cloud 9

Floating bar and restaurant in crystal warm Fijian waters. Very touristy yet very cool. Great music and atmosphere with folks having fun jumping off the second level platform. Not your typical “soggy dollar” kind of place…they only take credit cards.

The Wood-fired pizza at Cloud 9 and cold beers were to die for after Martin and Garth surfed the extreme tides and waves at Namotu’s all morning

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Port Denarau

The three R’s: Rest, Re-provision and Recreation.
It was a bit overwhelming coming into this swanky marina and retail complex. The Hard Rock Café with live music and half dozen restaurants to choose from. Everything looking new, well maintained and Touristy…something that we are not used to. That being said we didn’t have any issue watching the Rugby World Cup Games on wide screen TVs
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We took the open air “Bula Bus” that offers a continuous loop around the island stopping at each resort

The “Bula Bus” was indiscriminate with who got off at any one of the many resorts on  Denarau Island including the Westin, Wyndham, Radisson, Sheraton, Sofitel and Hilton so we did! We took our time looking at the restaurants, pools and spas of many resorts to see where we would celebrate our 22nd Wedding Anniversary.

Martin did his research on the many spas and treated me to a “Dream Spa Retreat” at the Westin…Best Anniversary present Ever!

 

Vinaka Fiji!

We are setting sail for New Zealand to sit out the cyclone season

Fair winds, safe passage and Love to all the amazing friends we met during our Pacific passage

PEACE

The Kingdom of Tonga was never colonized by foreigners so, unlike the other islands we have visited in the South Pacific…Tonga offered a more authentic cultural experience.

feast picture of pig

Traditional feast with David and his family at one of the anchorages we visited. His son pictured here maintaining the fire

Not everyone onboard Shenemere was “on board” with the pig roast however, it was a feast of local vegetables and fish dishes that satisfied all pallets both vegetarian and otherwise

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Polynesian Paralysis=

A welcomed malady

feast pictureMartin, Garth, Elizabeth and Adrien partaking in a local kava ceremony

In Tonga, kava is like alcohol

It is derived from the ground root of a pepper plant and is served up as a mild tranquilizer

From a communal bowl we each received a coconut shell full of kava

neifu

Neiafu- The town center of the Vava’u group

Good moorings, vegetable market, grocery stores and a local cruisers watering hole made Neiafu a great stop in between our island explorations 

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Me and my kayak in our natural habitat

I appreciated every creek, cave, island I explored “independently” in Tonga on my kayak

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4387.JPGpicnic

 

 

 

 

Picnic and Snorkeling off a secluded beachHinga Haven Narrow.JPGNarrow passage of Hunga ; we entered into a big volcanic crater lake and enjoyed good holding during a Northern frontal system

exit with Irwinish.JPGS/V Irwinish off our bow as we make way from Tonga to Fiji

no water bottlesNot much street art in Tonga

AND (on the waterfront I found this)

The word is spreading

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Next stop Fiji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kingdom of Tonga was never colonized by foreigners so, unlike the other islands we have visited in the South Pacific…Tonga offered a more authentic cultural experience.

feast picture of pig

Traditional feast with David and his family at one of the anchorages we visited. His son pictured here maintaining the fire

Not everyone onboard Shenemere was “on board” with the pig roast however, it was a feast of local vegetables and fish dishes that satisfied all pallets both vegetarian and otherwise

martin at the bonfire.JPG

Polynesian Paralysis=

A welcomed malady

feast pictureMartin, Garth, Elizabeth and Adrien partaking in a local kava ceremony

In Tonga, kava is like alcohol

It is derived from the ground root of a pepper plant and is served up as a mild tranquilizer

From a communal bowl we each received a coconut shell full of kava

neifu

Neiafu- The town center of the Vava’u group

Good moorings, vegetable market, grocery stores and a local cruisers watering hole made Neiafu a great stop in between our island explorations 

susan kayak

Me and my kayak in our natural habitat

I appreciated every creek, cave, island I explored “independently” in Tonga on my kayak

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4387.JPGpicnic

 

 

 

 

Picnic and Snorkeling off a secluded beachHinga Haven Narrow.JPGNarrow passage of Hunga ; we entered into a big volcanic crater lake and enjoyed good holding during a Northern frontal system

exit with Irwinish.JPGS/V Irwinish off our bow as we make way from Tonga to Fiji

no water bottlesNot much street art in Tonga

AND (on the waterfront I found this)

The word is spreading

shenemere.jpg

Next stop Fiji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking out of French Polynesia I went to the immigration office. I said to the immigration officer “Bonjour” and explained politely that my French is limited and asked if he spoke English?
His response (in perfect English) was “you have to speak French here because in your country we have to speak English”
Fair enough, I held up my phone and told him I have Google translate if he has the time.
We proceeded to complete the check out process in English.

big seas from Maupiti to AS

1079 miles/ 8-day passage from Maupiti French Polynesia to American Samoa
 Strong winds and big seas for 4 of the 8 day passage

Halyard uphaul line broke from the spinnaker pole so “someone” had to go up the mast underway and retrieve it. I volunteered only because it had to happen fast and I wasn’t sure how quickly I could winch Martin up the mast. Scary 15 minutes up and down to get the line followed by a few days for the bruising to go away

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Tsunami in 2009 killed 29 people in American Samoa and decimated the lower portion of Pago Pago Harbor

 

 

We arrived in the morning following instructions from the Harbor Master to come along the dock for immigration/ customs check in. While we were there, we hailed our buddy’s S/V Polar Wind to find out more about the anchorage. What we heard back about the anchorage wasn’t good. Since the Tsunami of 2009 the harbor is still a “Debris Field”. The bottom of the harbor is littered with cars, matrasses, toilets etc., S/V Polar Wind blew out their anchor windless dragging up a net that eventually got caught in their prop. Another boat in the anchorage at the same time hooked a car and couldn’t get their anchor free without hiring a local diver to dive on the anchor. In addition, the tuna fish processing plant releases tuna bi products into the harbor thus attracting Bull sharks so, diving on your anchor here isn’t really an option. A kitty pool, tractor tire and mattress were some of the other items fouled in anchors.

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Hipping up with our friends on the dock seemed like a logical solution to the terrible anchoring situation. Strategically tapering the three masts so when the wind blew (and it did) our rigging wouldn’t get fouled into each other

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Pago Pago Harbor

Gritty as it comes; two tuna canneries with all their smells when the wind blows just right and a huge working seaport. Yet, this harbor still has magnificent peaks of the protected national parks all around and the people are the friendliest we have met in the Pacific.
We were able to overlook a lot when the conveniences of American grocery stores/ restaurants were finally within our budget and our engine parts were ready at the post office.

fagasa Bay photo

National Park of American Samoa
The territory’s sole national park protects  swaths of pristine landscapes, volcanic geology, rainforests and coral reefs

 

From Fagasa Pass we hiked 7 miles of the park’s lowland “up hill hike” and mountain rainforests

Bats are the only native mammals found in American Samoa. These bats were all over the place day and night, some with impressive wingspans

Local aiga or “family buses” are frequent but with no schedule so you just hail a bus and jump on board. For $1 per ride we were able to get all the places we needed to go…groceries, hardware supplies and touristy places

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Nu’uuli Falls
Day trip with John, Joe, Martin and Adrien to the secluded waterfall with deliciously cool swimming hole at its base

 

 

 

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I don’t know how else to say this…American Samoans are physically huge. They apparently have the highest representation in the NFL relative to their population of only 46,773 and you can see why. They have huge hearts too and I would have to say they were the friendliest we have met in the South Pacific. We had people give us rides, help us out with directions and I was even invited into a families home for dinner after we had a conversation on the bus about our mutual appreciation for a good curry cooking. Genuinely friendly nation of people.

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Next stop: The Kingdom of Tonga

Drone footage of Maupiti

Maupiti … “Boro Boro’s discreet little sister” A ravishing island of only 1,500 residents have decided will not turn into another Boro Boro. There are no resorts and just a single road around the island with only a few cars. They don’t even have an ATM and don’t accept credit cards, so we had to be careful with the French Francs we brought; making sure we had enough for our visit while spending it all before we left as this was our last French island

top with boraShenemere safely nestled within the coral reef lagoon. Boro Boro seen 27 miles in the backdrop

top of pass

Onoiau Pass

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There aren’t even that many sailors that visit because the pass to get into the lagoon is known as one of the trickier in the Pacific. Reefs SE of the pass make it look like the pass has breaking waves in it. The waves breaking over the reef raise the water levels in the interior of the lagoon creating a strong current flowing out of the pass.

Conditions have to be just right to get in or out of the pass so even if you make it in you could find yourself stuck in the lagoon waiting for less than 20 knot winds and less than a 2 meter swell.
Also, the pass is quite narrow, so you then have to carefully line up two sets of markers just right. We have said it before, and it was true for Maupiti the French do take care of their navigational markers.

net hammock

 

 

Cool hammock made out of a fishing net

 

 

Maupiti has incredible sights and friendly people but what struck me most was the laid-back vibe. Everyone was so incredibly friendly; virtually everyone you pass greets you with their sing song “Ia Orana” their Polynesian “Hello”. They are very family orientated and bury their loved ones in their front yards in elaborate tombs that are usually shaded by trees. Family members like to hang out around the graves at sunset chatting and remembering.

Another highlight was snorkeling with the massive Manta’s 

sm on top

 

 

 

Climbing Mount Teurafaaiu (380m) was one of the most rewarding hikes with breath taking views all along the way that just got better and better as we ascended

 

 

 

Tereia Beach
 crystal clear water and a completely sandy beach (no smashed coral) It was a stunning place to picnic after our morning bike ride

Traditional Dancing
We got lucky, we where there for the islands annual festival

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Martin gets a kiteboarding lesson from Steve Sadler

IMG_5002Take Care

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        Peace Out from all of us on Shenemere

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Coconut bras are cool. Its festival times! Fast gyrating hips, outrageous costumes, intricate drumming and soothing harmonies throughout our stopovers in Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea.
Other festivities included beauty pageants (Adrien was invited to one in Pape’ete and said she couldn’t take her eyes off the stunning women, some who were transgender and accepted). We watched outrigger canoe races from the comfort of our deck and nightly drumming could be heard from the shore at almost every anchorage we visited.

TAHITI

We reacquainted ourselves with civilization in Pape’ete; enjoying the big supermarkets and the occasional HH beer however the restaurants were prohibitively expensive. Tahiti was the perfect place to take care of the boat repairs we needed to desperately tackle. Again, fixing Shenemere in exotic places 3.0
Yes, Tahiti has the prerequisite turquoise waters and impressive green peaks, hibiscus flowers, humid breeze and warm people but, it is a metropolis of busy roads and busy people. So, it’s not the untainted paradise of “explore lore” but we made our own adventures surfing, diving and sightseeing

Intrepid Wave Hounds: Tahiti had a sweet surf break that Martin and Garth lapped up

Indulge my “dramatic license” these pictures are not related

We rented a car for two days with Elizabeth and Garth and toured the island as true tourist do. Getting lost and driving the wrong way into cars on a one way street…Priceless!

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March’e de Pape’ete– This outdoor market is a Pape’ete institution that fills an entire city block. We went a few times to the market just to meander through the stalls looking at the colorful sarongs, woven bags, stunning shell and pearl jewelry

ELTR2917Marae Arahurahu– A highly spiritual place for meditation, rituals and sacrifices; located in lush tropical surroundings with the peak as a backdrop it wasn’t hard to imagine/feel ancient tribes chanting and dancing in ceremony

Vaipahi Spring Gardens gorgeous gardens and natural waterfall

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Faarumai Waterfalls

 

Pointe Venus & Matavai Bay- We had a picnic here at this historic waterfront park and lighthouse. Several monuments to the sea fairing explores included Samuel Wallis whose contribution according to the French are “the union jack and venereal disease”

Drone footage of Moorea

 

MOOREA

EMEM5884What a breath of fresh air. Moorea was an antidote to the relative mayhem of Tahiti. The best thing about Moorea is the pace of life or rather the lack of pace
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We took long dingy trips around the bay to swim with the sting rays and sharks

Attempted hike up to Belvedere lookout (ongoing debate as to if we were on the right trail; we never made it after hours of hiking in the rain) 

KFSY4947Sailing on our Anchor An impressive low-pressure system over a large part on the Society islands trapped us in Cooks Bay for a few days with 30-40 knot winds. Howling 50 knot gusts that seriously sounded like a freight train as the winds funneled between the cliffs delivering its full force directly into the bay

RAIATEA

IMG_2739_Moment(2).jpgWe got lucky and arrived in Raiatea during the Taputapuatea Festival

IMG_5411The octopus is the Polynesian symbol for advanced knowledge of navigation and Raiatea is known as the cradle of Polynesian culture thus the meaning and symbolism of the Taputapuatea Festival

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The Taputapuatea Festival (every 4 years) is like a “family reunion” of Chiefs and tribal dignitaries that come to Raiatea from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Rapa Nui and New Zealand.

 

Enjoying afternoon sundowners onboard Spirit of Millennium when the cruise ship Wind Spirit did a drive by. I tried to get all 9 of us to lineup on the bow and “moon” the ship, which was a failure and only succeeded in totally embarrassing Adrien 

IMG_2713_Moment.jpgHappy 18th Birthday Adrien! 

BOAT REPAIR LOG

KNYD0871Coolant Tank: After 3000 miles of our 4000-mile trip to Gambier we noticed a water coolant in the bilge. On closer inspection we found the culprit to be the plastic coolant expansion tank which had a hose clamp wear a hole into it. We did a temporary fix and patched it with epoxy hoping it would get us to Tahiti. We reached out to a company in Tahiti who quoted us $740.00. Fortunately for us we have Shore Support in Miami from our Good friend Martin Kroshoff who was able to get a tank in the USA for $295.00 plus $100.00 in shipping. We picked it up at the post office at the Papeete airport (avoided $$$ on import fees too) and installed it anchored off the Marina Tahina

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Mixing Elbow: a week before leaving Tahiti for Moorea during an engine check we found more water leaks, this time from the exhaust. The mixing elbow where saltwater is injected into the exhaust system had a hole in it! We removed it and after degreasing and cleaning found more holes. Nobody in Tahiti would weld it due to the thin material so we used JB weld epoxy…to the rescue.

Once again; Martin our Miami shore support has organized a new one plus the hoses, barbs that go with it and will ship to American Samoa where we will pick it up

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Gooseneck: Another casualty of our 31 days at sea… a breach in the welds of the goose neck. We removed this and had it rewelded in Papeete. This is the second time this has happened in the 9 years we have owned the boat. We think it’s a bad design and something we going to have to reengineer in New Zealand

 

 

 

The Society Islands has some of the best wall art

IMG_5007 (2).PNGDrink Responsibly. Single use water bottles have a lasting impact

shenemere drone shot.jpgNext Stop: The highlight of all the islands Maupiti

 

Fakarava Atoll- here we are…only two ways in or out

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32 mile atoll is entered “Only” on low or high tide. Narrow North and South passes entered/ exited on nothing less than: tidal, wind and swell information could be hazardous!

Crazy amount of sharks

Stunning island, pristine anchorages and fabulous diving

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Local cutie

IMG_2442Adrien learning some sewing skills

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It’s A Small World! Martin ran into an old sailing buddy he knew in Miami; they hadn’t seen each other in 12 years. “French Jerome” and Martin have a lot of history

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Anchors up headed to Tahiti

 

 

 

blog map

Part I: Getting there
We left Panama on March 23rd after preparing and provisioning Shenemere for the longest passage we will make from North America. As Jimmy Cornell says it really is a “plan for the worst, hope for the best” sort of passage. We were planning for 30-40 days at sea and we happily completed the passage in 31 days. It was a sailing event and we had to work for most of the miles. Goofy variable winds ranging from 1- 25 knots, swells from “pond flat” to 2 meters, close hauled, close reach, beam reach, broad reach and running (we had it all)!
We kept busy working the constantly changing sail configurations. It was a lot of up and down work on deck. We would pole out the jib for a downwind tack only to have to haul the cruising spinnaker out, reef and unreef the main while always trimming the sails. Chafe, is a killer. We had to keep checking and protecting against chafe where the lines would rub.
It was fabulous sailing until we hit the “doldrums” 7 days out from Gambier. We took the opportunity to replenish our fresh water supplies by making water with our Rainmaker and Adrien and Pierre took a few swims while we bobbed around. Normally we would tick over the engine however, we were leaking coolant in the coolant header tank and wanted to conserve what was left of the tank to be able to safely motor into the pass.
Also, we had to keep a vigilant eye out for squalls and for the random fishing boat. As usual it happened at night; we found ourselves surrounded by a group of Asian long-liner fishing boats.

blog fishing boats

A.K.A. Fishing Vessel “Net Hung Lo”

blog Equator PictureOur Equator Crossing Party: Neptune, Pirate, Mermaid and Sailor Celebrate 

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Air B&B

These birds stayed with us for a few days catching fish in the morning and lazing carefree during the days

I gave them a poor guest rating because they left poop on the deck
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31 days at sea moving, leaning, lurching and pounding sometimes made basic tasks Herculean events

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Gambier was a sight to beholden!

Part II: Apprehension
As we approach Gambier I wonder how the years will affect my memories this remote atoll Martin and I sailed into 21 years ago on Topaz by way of Easter Island and Pitcairn Island.
1998:
Back in the day it was just the two of us on a 33 ft sailboat. No refrigeration, only paper charts for navigation and just enough money for the Pacific sailing season and to get to New Zealand. Night watches stargazing contemplating our insignificance in the universe and dreaming of the future.
2019:
Now it is us plus my daughter and Pierre our French crew on a 51 ft boat. Refrigeration is great because we can keep the 30 lb. tunas we caught along the way. We have electronic charts but still mull over the paper charts. We still worry about money. Marvel at the enormity of the night sky while reflecting more on the past.

Part III: GAMBIER

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Gambier is the stuff that dreams are made of…unique place, with the combination of turquoise waters, healthy reefs, colorful hills and mountains and pretty beaches.

That was day one. And all I can say about the next 7 days is I am so grateful we were in a secure lagoon comfortably on anchor because the weather deteriorated… strong winds and cold rain for a week. Other boats were not so fortunate and got stuck out at sea in 4 meter swells.

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It was a rough couple of days as a low pressure system went past

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Pierre and Adrien staying positive

In 1998 Gambier had just opened up from being a “Restricted Nuclear Testing Area” and only 7-10 boats visited the island. We were told that this year the island will be visited by over 100 boats. The population has doubled from its original 700 inhabitants.
The capital Rikitea offers many great hikes with amazing views and you can follow a paved road around most of the island. The people are friendly and gave us fruits when we asked for bananas and breadfruit from their yards.

Gambier benefits greatly from all the French subsidies. Unsubsidized food is painfully expensive.

                         Tobasco: $9.80            Bag of chips: $$7.50         Mayo: $$$14.50

 

There are a few shops in the village with a variety of merchandise but not much in the way of fruits or vegetables.
We managed to collect for free Pamplemousse (massive grapefruit), bananas, breadfruit (cooked tastes like potatoes) and were given a few eggplants.

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The most important part of each day started at 4:00-5:00 AM when the local baker opened his doors to distribute fresh baguettes $.70 each and chocolate croissants on the weekend. If you arrived after 5:30 AM you would be “Pain” less.
I used 9 bags of flour baking my way across 4031 mile passage so, I made sure “someone” was up and ashore in the morning to get the bread. When we were ready to leave Gambier I tried to find flour to replenish my provisions and they didn’t sell it and there wasn’t any processed bread in the shops either so the baker is really the mayor of this village.

The supply ship visits the island on an irregular schedule; no one quite sure when it would be back. So, when the ship came in we made a plan to split the purchase of a barrel of diesel with Elizabeth and Garth on Irwinish and shared the work of decanting the 200 liters into 10 jerrycans and transporting back to the boats

blog fritzMartin and Fritz united after 21 years

Fritz the German lives in the blue house at the northern end of the anchorage. He came to Gambier 30 years ago after spending 15 years in the French Foreign Legion. He tells us he is French but his heart will always be German. Fritz has 6 Polynesian daughters with names like Marie, Alise and Heldagard. He now runs an open house for yachties. Fritz operates the only “bar” in Rikitea (his fridge) and when we visited him back in 1998 he was playing German “schlager” music full volume and non-stop and welcomed us into his home for dinner, supplied us with water and hot showers.
When we visited Fritz this time he was so excited to have the company. Now Fritz is 79 years old and likes to receive visitors in the morning to share his rum and coffee.
He was really happy for the visit and before we left he insisted on giving us German sausages, bacon, breadfruit, grapefruit and bananas; we are very grateful again for his hospitality

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Fritz has been keeping a log of all the yachties that have ever visited him; he pulled out the original log book and there we were on the 2nd page!

IMG_4738My memory of the Cathedral was a bit more glamorous however no less impressive this time.

I attended the Sunday morning service to take in the sights and “record” the magical Polynesian music…and pray

The Cathedral stands as a monument to a shameful time in history when Honore Laval, a Jesuit priest in 1834 converted and dominated Maputeoa. He set stringent rules and forced the locals to erect the coral stone church. In the process he caused the death of over 5,000 people, eliminated the will of the people to survive and destroyed an entire culture!
Oyster Farming is the primary income on Gambier

We didn’t get to visit an oyster farm this time however, we did visit a local artist carving oyster shells and pearls. Stunning

Local Holiday / Fitness Day Event included “sports competitions” ping-pong, Petanque, volleyball, relay race and a tug of war with canoes

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Martin, Adrien, Pierre and Garth hiked up Mount Duff, also called Auorotini in the Mangarevan language- Elevation 441 meters of steep mud trails and strong winds

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Ile Mangareva-Gambier

blog statue.JPGNewly erected statue in town

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Now off to Fakarava in the Tuamotu island group 740 miles NW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter Bay’s Marina was the only game on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal to get canal clearance papers, have the boat measured and take on our crew and provisions. The marina’s anchorage was extremely rough for 5 days; we all felt a bit seasick in the anchorage. We decided to take a break from Shelter Bay’s “rolly” anchorage and headed East for a few days to Portobelo

A few hours sail East to Portobelo  home to ancient Spanish forts and the final resting place of Sir Francis Drake

See the source image

 

 

So much history and exploration opportunities: ‘more forts”, kayaking and hiking

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Shenemere would have been a direct hit

Much of the outermost fortress was dismantled to build the Panama Canal and many of the larger stones were used in the construction of the Panama Canal-  Locks

legend is that after Francis Drake died of dysentery in 1596, he was buried at sea in a lead coffin near Portobelo Bay

The colorful side of Portobelo

IMG_4284$3.00 bus ride to Colon

Elizabeth’s keen eye found this local bar serving micro- brews

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All smiles as we explore the mangrove channels of Portobelo in search of the fresh water river

Back to Shelter Bay #Marinacomforts #pool #docks #socialhours #easy

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Gotta love this…Elizabeth with the “Ship Faced” cozy for her Guinness 🙂

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Potluck Dinner at Shelter Bay Marina. Julie, Martin and Ingrid flew into Panama to assist with the Panama Canal transit (4 line handlers are required for each boat): Julie and Martin on S/V Shenemere and Ingrid (flew in from Vancouver) , Helen and Michael (all the way from Ireland) on S/V Irwinish

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20 years ago Martin and I transited the Panama Canal on Topaz. This picture is our attempt to recreate the memory on Shenemere 

IMG_4400Real close

ship in cannel lol

Too close…image from social media of what not to do!

 

 

 

 

So many ships that simply seemed too close

Proost!! to the line handles… Fantastic Job Pierre, Martin and Julie!

Martin driving the two boats through the canal and Shenemere as seen from the next lockpacific side

We made it to the Pacific side!

Panama Canal Time lapsed video of our two-day transit

Rising 85 feet above the surface of one ocean, and then descending again to be gently floated on another one. 3 sets of locks on the first day. We stayed the night moored to a bouy in the Gatun Lake and transit the lake the next day to complete the second set of locks where we ultimately popped out on the Pacific side

 

 

Time lapsed video of the entire two-day canal transit condensed down to a few minute

the after party

Canal Transit after party around Balboa Yacht Club: Michael, Helen, Elizabeth, Pierre, Adrien, Susan, Ingrid, Julie, Dutchboy, Garth and Martin

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Casa de Proost celebration in Panama Cities Old Town “Casco Viejo” the historic district of Panama City settled in 1673 and has seen a recent surge in development

Julie and Martins Air B&B was a 5 star apartment nestled between the old and the newly “gentrified”casa de Proost 2

No we did not sink!

‘Casco Viejo” the historic district of Panama City

Soon after the French launched the construction of the Panama Canal in 1881, its workers started dying from malaria and yellow fever. Within eight years, over 20,000 Frenchmen had perished. This obelisk is a monument to them.

The famous San Francisco de Asís Church is impressive and the local fish market is a must see if you visit Panama. Viva Panama!

On the Pacific side

French Polynesia here we come 🙂

 

 

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