Big Pacific 2

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Tue 17 Jul 2007 00:46

It is pouring with rain, sheeting down out of a dark grey sky with visibility no further than the breakwater end.  The rain comes in waves, or pulses as I think the weather men on the telly have taken to calling them.  It could be Falmouth or Fowey in August.  We are supposed to be going in to see the gendarme to check into French Polynesia but it means a row to the steps which are awash with the swell and a walk of an undulating mile.  He closes at 1100.  I think I will write a blog and try the gendarme tomorrow. 


We arrived here at 1700 on Bastille Day after twenty-one days at sea.  No record but a satisfactory passage free from serious incidents or malfunctions.  We are now nine and a half hours behind UTC.


When we finally left Santa Cruz at 1600 on the Saturday we were hot and tired.  There had been so much to see ashore and to do on the boat that it had taken us a day longer to tidy up and get ready for sea than we had anticipated.  Our two Australian mates had left two days earlier.  As soon as it got dark one of the g.p.s units failed and shortly afterwards, for the first time ever, the electronic chart plotting software locked up completely and failed to deliver even after repeated re-bootings.  I managed to fix the g.p.s (a poor connection) but we were loath to play with the computer while tired and in the dark so we got out the back-up paper chart and felt our way cautiously out of the islands with their strong currents.  In the morning Mags, feeling braver, re-installed the programme and after that we had few problems. 


We did suffer from chafe which we had been looking for on every long passage but had, so far, largely avoided.  The temporary lashing holding the mains’l clew down to the boom wore through.  One genoa sheet gave way having parted at the knot attaching it to the sail.  The preventer, holding the boom out and preventing an involuntary gybe, began to wear.  On carrying out a controlled gybe the stainless steel shackle connecting the mainsheet to the traveller burst apart.  These were relatively minor incidents although, what with one d--- thing leading to another, it took us over an hour to sort out the mainsheet at 0100 on a pitch-black night.  Our very worst moment however came when we ran out of pre-paid minutes for the sat-phone on a Friday evening.  How were we to pay for more minutes if we could not contact our supplier?  We found we could made a free-phone call to the air-time wholesaler who obligingly e-mailed the retailer who called us on Sunday afternoon and by Monday morning we were back in business and ready to receive your very welcome e-mails again.


The best feature of the trip was the twice daily “sked” on the HF radio.  By the time we joined in there were three boats, our two Aussie friends on Y-Not and Orpailleur and Cameron, another Aussie on Timella the 1970s bilge-keeler referred to in a previous blog.  We rapidly overhauled Timella, gradually caught Y-Not and kept station about three hundred miles astern of Orpailleur.  The result was we had good contact all the way across and with the help of a little programme we were able to plot the positions of our friends twice a day with all the distances covered and directions sailed.  It was a comforting safety feature and a bit of fun which helped pass the time.  Timella left a day before us and after a fortnight was over a thousand miles astern, struggling with very light winds.  They are planning to sail direct to Fiji and we have the greatest admiration for their patience and fortitude.


We were invited to a get together last night on a luxurious 47ft catamaran, French built and sailed by three American men.  We are 10 boats in the anchorage and all were invited.  Among the twenty-five guests were some interesting people.  ….A young Israeli single hander on a Halburg-Rassy 42 (very similar to JJ Moon) told me he was on his second time round.  I raised my eyebrows.  “The previous time was non-stop via the capes (Good Hope, the Horn etc) from Plymouth to Plymouth in 207 days”.  I asked whether he was the first Israeli to do this and whether he was famous at home.  He said he thought he was the first but had not publicised the voyage; he had done it for his own satisfaction.  South–west of the Scillies he was “buzzed” by an RAF Nimrod who called him up on VHF.  Who was he?  Where was he going?  He replied that he was the S/Y Girafa 205 days out of Plymouth, sailing round the World non-stop, bound for Plymouth.  The airmen were very nice to him!  ….A small boat anchored just astern of us is sailed solo by a young Norwegian anthropologist.  He has given up the academic world to live the simple and spiritual life at sea.  He left Norway in 2003 and goes home every now and again to earn a little money but now he does this by teaching sailing or carrying out yacht deliveries.  He thinks of himself as a tradesman and prefers to earn money by practising those skills.  His boat is twenty years old of a sophisticated design but organised very simply with the minimum of things to go wrong.  ….A young French couple (very attractive people!) sold a small Contest and built a large catamaran with the proceeds.  Naturally, it is very basic and they live on a shoestring.  With no fridge they catch as much fresh food as they can by spear fishing with a snorkel.  They are anchored outside the breakwater because they have only one engine and are not very manœuvrable in confined waters. Headed for New Zealand where they hope to find work they need to learn English first and are spending some time each day on academic study. We get the impression that it is all quite hard going.  The variety of people and their boats is most stimulating.


As for Hiva-Oa, THIS IS IT.  This is the real McCoy; a genuine south-sea island with thick green vegetation of widely varied tone and texture from the tops of the craggy volcanic hills, often cloud covered, down to the high water line.  It does not matter a bit that the mobile phones work here, that the people drive plenty of cars and the food in the restaurants is just like it is in “real” France.  This is what we came for and there is a great feeling of satisfaction and pleasure at being here.