800 mile passage to Gambiers

After meeting so many cruisers who told us how gorgeous the Gambiers were — we decided we just couldn’t miss them out. Yes, try finding them on your world atlas… roughly middle of the Pacific Ocean about 22 degrees south of the equator. That tiny dot, that’s it. Unfortunately it did mean an 800 mile passage into the wind from the Marquesas islands to get there. We waited for a good weather window and headed southeast.

Full stalk of bananas and nets full of food

The passage started with bumpy seas and a strong opposing current but as time went by the wind changed and then stopped, completely. In fact over the seven day sail we had every configuration of wind strength and direction and associated sail set up, from fully reefed to spinnaker up, to stationary. We had limited fuel aboard so motoring straight through the lack-of-wind parts was not an option. Life took on a slower pace and we declared the KdF bakery open and made fresh bread, flapjack and a daily cake. We celebrated our halfway passage milestone with bacon and pesto pasta aka Paul’s Atlantic winning meal (rare expensive treat as you can’t really get bacon anywhere) and chocolate brownies. With 200 miles to go we had a Christmas music disco and a chess tournament. Try dancing on a moving deck in Christmas socks, how we didn’t go over the side I have no idea!

We also went through a large electrical storm for a day and night which was slightly hair raising. Seeing lightening hit the water 200 yards from your boat is rather worrying. Luckily we managed to get through it all unscathed albeit soaking wet. The windows look nice and clean now though! We also saw some amazing cloud formations, this one is massive, ~10miles high, perfect circle electrical storm cloud, that we’d unfortunately just sailed through.

Electrical storm cloud

We arrived in darkness in the wee small hours so drifted around till first light at 4am. The first sight of land after a long passage is always magical and add the rising sun at dawn to make a perfect welcome.

The Gambier islands are enclosed within a reef which protects it from ocean swell. We sailed slowly in, now very very low on fuel, seeing the reef very close to the boat on all sides. The channel was well marked and it was a surprise to see channel markers for once, they seem to barely exist in the Pacific. The water was stunning aquamarine and pearl farms where dotted everywhere. In fact the guide states that it’s harder to avoid the pearl farms than the coral!

Time to drop the anchor, rest and explore the land (and pearls)!

Safely anchored

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