Last weekend sailing

Sailing down the island – it gets shallow!

I can’t believe our sailing trip is really ending and we will soon be sailing to Tahiti — a 120nm sail to our last port of call. It will be a massive shock to our system to move back onto land and to part with our beloved gorgeous yacht Kathryn del Fuego.

We spent our last weekend aboard back in Avea bay, such a lovely peaceful beach spot. We’ve made friends with a Belgium family on the island and took their family sailing with us to Avea bay. Once anchored Russell soon set up the spinnaker pole swing and the children had great fun swinging and jumping into the sea.

We took the dinghy round the headland and let the children enjoy boogie boarding on the small inner waves. The outer waves are for the professionals only, unless you like crashing into shallow coral!

We finished the perfect day with our last sailing BBQ on the beach together with the essential marshmallow roasting.

A great weekend with wonderful company. We will be sad to leave the island of Huahine.

Felix wakeboarding behind the dinghy on a boogie board!

Making pareo, feeding sacred eels and climbing to see ancient morea..

We switched transport from sea to road for a rare day in a car (I can’t quite remember when we last drove one) to explore inland the islands and motu’s of Huahine. Time to close the workbooks and go for a school trip instead.

It’s a stunning mountainous island of lush green volcanic peaks running down to aquamarine blue water.

We enjoyed a very cultural day ranging from meeting a local artist, who miraculously sold ice-cream too, to a shell collector and ancient Marae and much more between.

We went to our first museum in eons which was inside a rebuilt traditional chief’s hut and learnt about the local archeological excavations and marae.

A walk through the jungle took us to marae on top of a hill – how they got the stones here was mind boggling.

We saw traditional stone fish traps still used today and visited sacred eels in the river which were as thick as your thigh with piercing blue eyes. We fed them our leftover baguette which they promptly demolished. A sightly eerie sight.

We went across the bridge to Huahine Iti (great excitement to see a civil engineering structure- we’ve not seen a bridge in practically a year!) — and this one was pretty tiny!!

We stopped in Parea to see how they made ‘pareo’, the basic article of clothing for all Polynesians. Women wear pareo (aka sarong) as a skirt, dress or towel and men wear them as shorts/skirt thing too. Natalie, a French woman married to a Tahitian, was so friendly to us (there have been no tourists here for months) and happily explained the whole process.

She kindly let us all have a go painting the pareo she was working on.

Of course we then decided to buy it as it depicted the manta rays we’d seen so many of. She also dedicated the pareo to our trip and so it is signed and written to the Hall family. A great momento from another magical day in this gorgeous island.

Dedicated to the Hall family 2021

Huahine Iti and meeting the guardian of Teapaa beach

Huahine is made up of two islands, Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti and at the point they meet is a lovely small beach at Point Teapaa. We met 64 year-old Suki who is the appointed guardian of the beach and greets everyone who arrives with a wonderful welcoming smile.

We asked to be able to have a BBQ to celebrate Chloe’s birthday and he made it super special for us all. He picked and brought us breadfruit to cook in the fire and special coconuts to make “pain coco”. He then patiently taught us how to make everything. First we we were shown how to make plates and bowls by weaving green palm fronds.

Soon after we were sent to pick certain leaves in particular sizes for cooking the pain coco in. Then we went hunting for coconuts which we hacked through and then cut open and grated in the Polynesian way with a sharp tooth serrated prong thing attached to a wooden paddle which you sit on. There is nothing very elegant about doing this but it works very well.

The rough husk of the coconut was then hit repeatedly until it made a flat mesh which was washed in the sea.

You take a handful of the freshly grated coconut (collected in your newly made bowl) and wring it in your bashed flat coconut husk mesh. The coconut milk pours out through your fingers and into a bowl of self raising flour (all kindly provided by Suki). Suki then appeared with a ‘special’ coconut (not one we could find on the beach apparently) and once opened poured some of its liquid into the mixture, to add the “sucre”, aka sugar he explained. The dough was then kneeded and made into small patties placed between two tree leaves.

Once the fire embers were right, the coco patties were cooked on a grill turning halfway. It appears that Suki has asbestos hands judging how he manages to pick up roasted breadfruit and coco pain with just a couple of thin leaves as token oven gloves.

Meanwhile Russell barbecued some burgers and I’d made some bread rolls so together we had a great feast and all the better for having made it from scratch including the plates!

Suki then set up a game where a coconut is put on a stick 20ft in the air and you take turns to underarm throw stakes and try to hit and stick into the coconut. Needless to say he can beat you in one flick whilst your stakes flail hopelessly. He also kindly let us all have a go in his outrigger canoe. As this is his only means of transport, which he canoes 3km each day and night to look after the beach it was very trusting of him. He is no whipper-snapper but is strong as an ox. His slightly rickety outrigger was super light and fast and it took me back to my Hong Kong days and the island paddle club. Russell took three strokes and promptly capsized! Unlike dragon boating, if you lean and reach out too far – you capsize. Even the kids had a go and had great fun paddling round the bay. It was so kind of Suki to let us use it.

The fire roasted breadfruit was a delicious smooth smoky taste. The pain coco were gorgeous, even if you are not a coconut fan, they taste a bit like a slightly sweet melt-in-your-mouth delicious scone. We will definitely be making them again!

Back on board we had the neighbouring boat over for drinks, homemade birthday cake and millionaires shortbread made with the last of our Bocas del Torra “chocolate boys” scrumptious dark chocolate.

Drinks in the water!

A great foodie day with wonderful Polynesian hospitality.

How do we top that for Russell’s 50th birthday in a few weeks?!

Huahine – open restaurants and a musical interlude

Land is easy to spot – look for the clouds: sailing towards Huahine

After months of sailing in idyllic and isolated Pacific atolls it is quite nice to be back in civilisation, albeit low key and not very busy as the borders to French Polynesia are still shut. But to find a) restaurants and b) they are open is rather exciting.

We’ve discovered the delights of happy hour in the yacht club in Fare and also in a lovely hotel in the south of the island in the gorgeous bay of Avea. A couple of great treats out.

Whilst eating in a tiny street market in Fare the next table started playing their musical instruments and Felix soon found himself an impromptu band member playing percussion with two spoons in the top of a beer bottle. Ingenious and even better they all sounded great. Such welcoming and friendly people.

We’ve made lovely friends with s/v September and together explored the local marae whilst hiking and seeing how they make ‘parae’ the locally painted sarongs.

Amelie also gave us a wonderful harp performance and taught the boys to play chopsticks on her travel harp. A great music lesson between her teaching them to play Risk and Catan and hours of fun playing board games.

The Avea bay is gorgeous with striking turquoise water, white sand beaches and a floating house in the middle. An ideal peaceful anchorage and a lovely place to spend Easter.

Sailing into the blue

Blues of the Pacific Ocean

The water colours vary around the island of Raiatea from the nutrient rich river water running down the high mountains into the sea to the water beside the coral reef reflecting off white sand. It makes for a kaleidoscope of blues which are spectacular, and even better to sail through.

Bizarrely we have sailed past a few houses in the sea, literally in the middle of nowhere. New COVID living?! Sea view anyone? (They are probably involved with Pearl farming but not that we saw many Pearl buoys to indicate as such).

We were also accompanied in the lagoon by a group of dolphins which was most unusual (normally too shallow and enclosed for them I suspect) but magical as always to have dolphins playing in our bow wave.

Time to drop the anchor, explore the motus and swim with the fish.

Tahua Marae Taputapuātea i Ōpōa Archeological site Raiatea

Standing stones

No, I can’t pronounce it either but it’s the most sacred site in French Polynesia and recently made a UNESCO world heritage site.

We anchored in a lovely bay called Hotopuu and walked around the headland to explore the marae. A short hike up the hill gave us a bird’s eye view of the ruins together with a great view of the aquamarine water surrounding the coral atoll.

The marae are places of ceremonial worship. When they were built the priest would allocate each family an amount of paving they needed to provide. These stones are massive and look very heavy, so it must have been quite a feat for them to be built in their time.

The boys loved climbing the large the banyan tree and even found an unregistered geocache in its branches – what are the chance of that! Another great land day whilst 30kts of wind still howled at sea (and anchor).

We then sailed round into the south of the island to get some respite from the easterly winds.

Protected anchorage

Valley of Faaroa – Apoomau River, Raiatea

Tiny island enroute

With the wind howling we sailed to Raiatea and took ‘shelter’ in the valley of Faaroa. It was still blowing up to 30kts so although we had limited waves inside the reef and valley, it was pretty windy. But as the borders are still shut the yacht charter company here is having to store all their un-rented catamarans — unfortunately this means many of the anchorages are full and the mooring buoys taken where they have dumped their boats.

Dumped charter catamarans fill anchorages

Never mind we headed elsewhere. At the head of the valley lies the Apoomau river which is the only navigable river in French Polynesia. We anchored and decided to explore further by rowing up the river.

The river was very peaceful with the birds singing away. We rowed up to a small and very well maintained botanical garden. It was slightly surreal seeing manicured paths, mown lawns and neat picnic benches after the wild jungle of the river banks.

A perfect spot for a picnic lunch though admiring the beautiful tropical flowers.

Back on the river we got chatting to André who was working on a farm beside the river. He kindly offered us fruit and we happily went with him round the farm (although picture semi chaotic jungle rather than ‘farm’) picking bananas, rambutans, coconuts, avocado, guava, papaya, cucumbers and even green beans. We were so delighted and rowed the mile back carefully balancing all our hoards of goodies and five people in a small inflatable dinghy!

Paddling back full of fruit
Sheltering from the rain

Later we spotted André paddling his battered outrigger and fishing in the river head near our anchored yacht. We quickly sorted out some spare fishing gear and paddled over to give it to him. Delighted, he promptly gave us fish – still alive. We are not going to go hungry in this valley!

La Pirogue Api private island, Tahaa – Society Islands

As we sailed to our new anchorage a large manta ray swam past us and shortly afterwards we saw a turtle scurry past too. The water is so clear that you can see everything so clearly, it’s beautiful. Great for avoiding coral bommies too!

We picked up a mooring outside the small ‘La Pirogue Api’ private island and promptly went snorkelling to find the manta and turtles. We weren’t disappointed and spent a lovely half an hour snorkelling with the most graceful huge manta ray. As we swam back to the boat we saw a few small turtles and sting rays amongst the coral and fish. A great welcome to another gorgeous motu in Tahaa.

The hotel was unfortunately closed as French Polynesia still has its borders shut, but we enjoyed the gorgeous anchorage for a few days and explored the small islands around before heading to Haamene bay to stock up on much needed food. We also managed to eat out at Hisbiscus bay restaurant, which was a real treat, the most tasty fresh grilled fish with vegetables (rarely seen lately!) and kindly used their great WiFi!

Tautau Coral Gardens – motu on western Tahaa, Society Islands

All the hotels, resorts and charter yachts are closed due to a COVID shutdown, so life in the lagoon is very quiet (not that there are many resorts anyway).

We’ve been exploring the motu’s around the west of Tahaa (motu’s are the small islands around the edge of the reef).

This motu is called Tautau and it’s right beside the coral gardens, which are great for a drift snorkel through the pass at vast speed! We snorkelled the pass a few times so that we could actually see the fish and coral as the first half of the pass goes in an instant as the current rapidly carries you through.

It’s stunning here and I know I keep using that word, but it really is. The blues of the ocean and sky, contrasting with the greens of the palm and coconut trees together with white sand make it all utterly breathtaking. I’m not sure any of the photos really do it justice. The Pacific islands really are landfalls of paradise.

We are enjoying having some quiet time here and making our own entertainment as there is barely anyone around.

The boys love being towed on the paddle board behind the dinghy, and Felix decided to dress up as a pirate and paddle across to conquer the neighbouring boat ‘Peregrine’, much to Micheal’s (single-hander) amusement.

Pirate Felix

Random Polynesian trivia; we went to a place called Faaaha on Tahaa, (and no, miraculously I’ve not made a spelling mistake) but the thing is, in the Polynesian language you sound out every ‘a’! It’s quite a job to pronounce the place, “Fah-ah-ah-ha” on “Tah-ah-ah” without sounding like you are singing the Sound of Music!

48” CC’ers – our advice on buying a yacht

We spent ages, years even, talking and deciding on what boat to get for our adventure. Once we set sail we found miraculously other families had made similar choices, so much so, we soon became part of a WhatsApp group called “48 CC” (48ft [long] and centre cockpit [yachts]) with our sailing friends.

Choosing the right boat for you is a personal decision but it is always a compromise on what you want regarding; space, speed, safety, affordability and great design. But a 48ft centre cockpit boat seemed to top all the families list. Our personal list of no-compromises-in-a-yacht include;

1. Centre cockpit (safety)

2. Straight spreaders (better for downwind sailing)

Straight spreaders
Downwind sails – main sail fully out due to straight spreaders, less damage/chaff to sail with straight spreaders

3. Large water and fuel tanks (essential for long cruising, we have 1000 litres of water and 700 litres of diesel aboard when full)

4. Powerful engine (110hp gets you out of trouble when needed)

5. A well designed and carefully built blue water cruiser —Boat Category A – Ocean

6. Cavernous storage for storing all the family fun essentials…bikes, scooters, paddle board, surf boards, buckets and spades along with all the spares, ropes, fuel, oil, cleaning products, games, school books, food….

A centre cockpit is key for safety and a secure feeling at sea with a young family (also when anchoring you can hear the person sorting the anchor with a centre cockpit as you are that bit nearer them which results in less shouting- always a good thing when trying to anchor!).

A comfortable cockpit with a decent foldaway table to eat at — is also a must. You spend so much time in your cockpit — sailing, eating, homeschooling and also entertaining, we chose one with high sides so you get decent back support too. A godsend, which I would never have thought was so important before I lived aboard a yacht.

Once we’d established our list of non-negotiables, we then looked for boats that met that criteria and went and saw them. Our personal list thus narrowed to the following type of boats;

Hallberg-Rassy, Contest, Oyster. Then it’s a case of finding one for sale in your price bracket and desired condition / age sometimes easier said than done! We knew we wanted new electronics/navigation and new rigging for our own peace of mind so we were happy to buy a boat and get the upgrading done. We also fitted a new generator and water maker for our cruising plans.

I can honestly say we’ve been delighted with our choice. A Hallberg-Rassy is a beautifully built boat, she’s kept us thoroughly safe in gales, storms, high seas and yet also sped speedily across oceans and long passages. We are the envy at anchorages as she is stable and doesn’t roll like the lighter yachts and we sleep like babies aboard. We came first in our group in the Arc 2019 rally across the Atlantic and fifth overall out of 200 boats (and we were family cruising not racing!) so she is both fast, sleek and sea worthy.

We were the envy of most with our 17 day speedy Pacific crossing too. She is safe, fast, beautifully designed and built by true craftsmanship. I’ve felt safe and secure with our young boys growing up aboard her and exploring the world. I am gutted that our sailing dream is slowly coming to an end but I know she will go on to make new dreams come true for someone else.

Until then we will keep cruising the Pacific to all the places still open (we’ve sailed over 14,000 nautical miles so far, not bad sea CV mileage for seven and nine year-old children) and we will keep living our dream. 😁😎⛵️⚓️🏝🐬🤿🐠🐟⛵️☀️🦈🎣🧜‍♀️🐡🐙🦑🦐

Sailing across the world as a family