Looking back. One year on…

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On a crisp and fresh Friday morning in late June 2014 we are standing on the platform of the tiny train station in Taynuilt, under the imposing Ben Cruachan in the Scottish highlands with the last of our belongings: four big suitcases and one inflatable SUP. Seathan’s uncle Lorne is here to see us off: big hugs, kisses, a few tears but most of all an exhilarating feeling of excitement and trepidation. We are finally on our way!

On the train we admire the landscape and start talking to a lovely American couple who are touring Scotland. They sense our excitement and start asking questions. Where are we off to? We’re heading to Marmaris in Turkey, on a one-way trip around the world! Woohoo. Doesn’t get much crazier than that. Our stress levels built up during the busy preceding six months (selling our house, organising storage, taking the kids out of school, wrapping up our jobs and saying goodbye to all our friends and family) start dropping. The kids share our enthusiasm. They had no trouble saying their goodbyes. Perhaps they just don’t have a sense of time yet and don’t realise three years away is a long time? They were a little sad leaving our house but apart from that they take this whole adventure extremely well and they just go with the flow. They just seem happy to be with us.

At Glasgow airport the check-in staff are friendly and when they find out we don’t have return tickets and are off on this crazy adventure they check-in all our oversized and extra bags at no additional cost. Phew. We put up with loud Scots on their package holiday to Marmaris and are happy to step off the plane and head towards our new home: our 44 foot catamaran. It has taken us a while to find the right boat and we have flown across Europe during our selection process in search of a monohull and eventually a catamaran. We settled on the Antares 44: a true live-aboard with plenty of safety features and good resale opportunity.

We spend a month in the marina in Marmaris to get Rehua ready for the big seas. We head out once to a nearby island to test run everything and share a few fun days with Australian Paul and his two boys. It’s a relief to get out of the marina where the extreme midday heath (40+ degrees) can be immobilizing. We get a visit from London friends who are on holiday in Turkey. The kids make great use of the marina swimming pool and Aeneas does his first solo swim. The Turkish are friendly people, the food is delicious and affordable, and the marina has great facilities (including free Wi-Fi: little do we know at that point how challenging getting online will become). We are itching to get going. And finally, once all the paperwork is in order, the rigging has been checked, the engines re-built, a new sunshade fitted, and the boat is well provisioned, we drop the lines from the pontoon late July and are waved off by a charming South African/Austrian couple we met during our stay in the marina.

We love the Med. We sail from one gorgeous Greek island to the next, eating delicious fish, goat and salads (the kids stick to fish and chips). We stop in Athens and go through the Corinth Canal, a very narrow and high canal of only a few miles long, and halt in Cephalonia where we meet Joseph and Anne on board Zimbabalooba and spend a few days with London friends who are holidaying on the island. We leave Greece for Italy and complete our first multiday passage. We eat pizza, admire the volcanoes and sail our way along the Sicilian coast, the Aeolian Islands and onwards to Sardinia and then the Balearics. We take a little pause in Mahon to do some more work to the boat, catch up with my brother who visits us in Mallorca and are welcomed by Belgian friends in Ibiza. We don’t see many other kid boats or long term cruisers until we reach Gibraltar early November where we meet Taff Tumas. We will end up sailing with them for the next 6 months and spend some fantastic times with Sandra, Stef and Noeé.

Our eight-day crossing to the Canaries is extremely rough. Another yacht loses a crewmember overboard and several other yachts have to take shelter in a harbour just south of Casablanca. We have enough sea room and make it through a heavy night and then continue to Las Palmas where we take a few weeks to get Rehua ready for the Atlantic crossing and catch up with Seathan’s mum who visits us. 

On Christmas day we are in the middle of the Atlantic and the kids are delighted Santa has found our boat and dropped some presents. We stop in Mindelo in the Cape Verdes and experience a change in culture: there is a definite African atmosphere. We love it. We are awestruck by the magnificent landscapes of Santo Antao. We celebrate New Year with our friends from Taff Tumas and then head over to the Caribbean. It’s a rough 15-day passage. The wind stays in the high twenties and early thirties and the waves are big. We get used to it and we like the speed. Three days before our arrival our steering mechanism breaks and we have to hand steer with the emergency tiller. Tyrii steps up as a valuable crewmember and helps with sail changes, manoeuvres and navigation. We are very happy to set foot ashore in Bequia, just before nightfall, where we are welcomed by Seathan’s uncle Lorne and his wife Anne who happen to be holidaying there.

We island hop our way through St Vincent and the Grenadines and then to Grenada and onwards along the coast of Venezuela. We stop in Islas de Aves and are in paradise. The most stunning snorkelling, cosy campfires on the beach, remarkable wildlife, … We meet Gert whose boat is sinking and escort him back to Curaçao where he can get repairs done. He’s a life long cruiser and we enjoy his company for a few days before continuing to Aruba and then San Blas where we meet Robbie and Nev on Blade Runner II. 

In Portobello (Panama) we celebrate Tyrii’s tenth birthday with a party on board Rehua: chocolate cake, kids games and dancing on the aft deck for the adults later on. Not bad. We meet Toucan who will become our travel buddies and Tinkerbel, another kid boat with two lovely girls on board, Luna and Nika. We spend a week in Shelter Bay marina and then go through the canal together with Taff Tumas. On the other side we say goodbye to Taff Tumas who stay in Panama and we head to Galapagos.

The sail to Galapagos is frustrating, there is little wind and a strong counter current and it takes us ten days. We stop in Santa Cruz and Isabella and are surprised by the amount of tourism. The place remains very special though and being able to observe the unique wildlife is a once in a lifetime experience. The kids are thrilled to meet two other kids boats and spend the last few days swimming with penguins and playing with their new mates. 

We leave together with Toucan and remain in VHF contact nearly all the way. Having a buddy boat adds some security and it’s nice to have someone to chat to and compare sail plans and weather forecasts with. Eighteen days later we see the high mountains of Fatu Hiva looming in the early morning sky. It’s a glorious sight and one never to be forgotten. We are all four ecstatic about seeing land and can’t wait to get ashore. There are no restaurants and only one small shop (and we can’t get the local currency so we can’t buy anything). The locals are friendly and helpful and we obtain some fruit and veg in exchange for a bottle of wine. The grapefruit are out of this world and the most delicious we ever tasted. 

We continue to the next island and have a big reunion party on board Blade Runner with Tinkerbel and Toucan. What fun! Then it is onwards to Hiva Oa where we see Alkira and Skyus, the two other kids boats we met in Isabella. We pay homage to Brel and Gauguin and sail to Nuku Hiva, the biggest island of the Marquesas. Seathan fits a new water-maker membrane and we are ready for our passage to the Tuamotus.

And here we are: in Raroia, probably the most idyllic stop on our trip so far. This atol in the Tuamotus is one stunning lagoon surrounded by a strip of land and palm trees. The locals have welcomed us into their village and tonight we are invited to see the end of school year show in the local school. We are here with two other boats: Toucan and Nelly Rose. We had a few sundowners on board Toucan last night and Di treated the kids to a movie. This morning the boys are fishing off the stern before we start school. Seathan is going shark diving with Di, Bruce and Pim (Tyrii says he wants to go too but he doesn’t have a tank). This afternoon we will go snorkelling with the kids. 

We miss our families and our friends as we are a long way away from home but we are enjoying every minute. We feel much closer as a family and of course there are some ups and downs but overall we get on great. We’ve made some fantastic new friends, seen some amazing places and had unforgettable experiences. And we are ready for more. Bring it on!

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Off to the Tuamotus

The weather forecast looks good and it’s time to say goodbye to the Marquesas and head to the Tuamotus. Our water maker is fitted with a new membrane and working a dream producing 40 litres an hour of the purest most delicious drinking water! Woohoo! Luckily Seathan had all the tools onboard required and the job was done in a few hours. Our old membrane was producing maximum 30 litres an hour and the quality started going downhill a few weeks ago. So this is great news! And I guess worth the extra import, export and shipping costs! To celebrate that and our upcoming departure we had a few leaving drinks last night with fellow cruisers whilst enjoying the local music festival in the little port. It’s the first time we really feel part of the cruising community. Now that we’re in the Pacific there’s only long term cruisers around and everyone is doing similar voyages. Apart from cruisers there aren’t any other tourists around either. It’s interesting to meet so many new people from so many different nationalities, different age groups, different backgrounds. 

It will probably be a while until we find wifi again so we will make sure to update our other blog regularly (we can do this using our satellite phone connection). Wifi has been very patchy ever since we left Panama. It’s amazing how we got so used to always having fast connections and I never imagined it would be so hard to get online … Uploading pictures sometimes takes hours, app updates or video Skype calls are challenging to say the least and downloading the new Shaun the Sheep movie isn’t even worth trying (even though I did try). I guess none of that is important… And we certainly have a lot more technology available than cruisers had a few years ago. We will just have to keep enjoying the weather, the sailing and paradise which is all around us 🙂

For position and other updates while we are “offline” check out http://blog.mailasail.com/rehua

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

We’ve been in Nuku Hiva for over a week now and it feels good to take a little pause somewhere. We’ve been getting on with some schoolwork, exploring the sights ashore and catching up with friends. We’ve also been waiting for delivery of a new membrane for our water maker which we ordered from the U.S. and got shipped here. The cost of shipping was about 100 USD but we really need this part. We found out subsequently that there is an additional import and export tax to pay as well. This adds another 300 USD to the cost! Crazy as the actual value of the membrane is just 200 USD. The only advantage is that we don’t have to pay the local tax as we are a ship in transit. Ha! So our advice to other cruisers: don’t get anything delivered to French Polynesia!!! 

Nuku Hiva is the main island in the Marquesas and has the best choice in fruit and veg we’ve seen in a long time. We will be stocking up on provisions here before heading to the Tuamotus in a few days where fresh produce is quite scarce we’ve been told. Niku Hiva somehow reminds us of Scotland and New Zealand with its imposing green mountains and dramatic scenery. The sail to the Tuomutus is about 500NM and should take us about 4 days and we are looking forward to some turquoise water, white sandy beaches and evening campfires on the beach! 

 

the anchorage in Taiohae, Niku Hiva

  

dramatic scenery

  

there’s even a cathedral in Taiohae

  

cruising kids after a game of footie

  

cruising kids hanging in the local tree

 

school!

  

Hiva Oa, Marquesas

Ah Les Îles Marquises! Stunningly beautiful islands, so green and lush, mountainous and full of wildlife! These islands are as far away as you can get from any continent. There are thirteen islands in the archipelago of which six are inhabited. We spent three nights in Fatu Hiva and then sailed to Tahuata for a swim and a snorkel in Hana Moe Noa Bay where we also caught up with some friend boats including two kid boats and had a great time. Now we are in Hiva Oa where we cleared in on Friday at the local gendarmerie. Check in was easy (one form only), free of charge and the gendarmes were very friendly (they even commented I looked so much younger than my passport picture :-D). They also guessed we had stopped in Fatu Hiva but made no big deal about that. Normally you are required to clear in at Hiva Oa first before visiting Fatu Hiva but it would have made for a hard upwind sail back and most people stop at Fatu Hiva first. We bought some delicious fruit on Fatu Hiva from the villagers. We had no local money yet but the locals preferred trading anyway. They asked us for wine, rope, petrol, bullets (for hunting), perfume or clothing. We settled on a bottle of wine in return for a big box of fruit and veg and some eggs. The fruit was most delicious especially the grapefruit (pamplemousse) was the best we ever tasted (and it grows everywhere here!). Hiva Oa is more populated and here we have to pay for our fruit and veg. On Saturday we did a tour of this island and visited an ancient archeological site with various size tikis. Hiva Oa is the best known of the Marquesas thanks to Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel who both stayed here. Gauguin painted some of his most famous works here and died here in 1903.

Tomorrow we leave Hiva Oa and continue our tour of the Marquesas: we still want to visit Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou before heading to the Tuamotus.

Iipona site with tikis

Iipona site


Iipona site with collection of various size tikis

Iipona site with collection of various size tikis


Aeneas is not scared of this warrior tiki

Aeneas is not scared of this warrior tiki


Beautiful coastline

Beautiful coastline


North coast of Hiva Oa

North coast of Hiva Oa


Smiling tiki of Punaei. It is more than 2000 years old apparently!

Smiling tiki of Punaei. It is more than 2000 years old apparently!


Takauku bay

Takauku bay


Anchored in Hiva Oa

Anchored in Hiva Oa


Gauguin's resting place

Gauguin’s resting place


Jacques Brel's grave

Jacques Brel’s grave


Double rainbow on the way to Tahuata

Double rainbow on the way to Tahuata

Galapagos to Marquesas

18 days to cross 3000 NM is a great result and much faster than expected. It was also a lot more relaxed than our Atlantic crossing (which was very rough with big seas and a constant 25 to 30 knots). We had our spinnaker up for a few days but most of the way it was mainsail + genoa. We usually put one or two reefs in before sunset to allow for a quiet night with no sail changes required in the darkness. 

We left Galapagos on a Tuesday afternoon and one of the seals who had adopted our stern as his new home stayed on the boat until we were well clear of the coast. Very cute. The first few days were a bit bouncy with the swell from the Galapagos and the kids and I didn’t feel great but we got our sea legs back soon enough and enjoyed the rest of the trip. The days went by quickly and we read many books, the kids played with their toys, we had afternoon naps, ate lots of food, did some painting or colouring, tried fishing most days, … And we got used to the night shifts again too. They were split in 3 hours blocks between 8pm and 8am and we swapped every night (shifts 1 and 3 vs shifts 2 and 4) for some variety. The last 48 hours the wind picked up to around 25 knots (with peaks of 35) and the sea started building. But we didn’t mind because we were nearly there and getting there even faster. Finally, on Saturday morning we saw Fatu Hiva looming up in the distance as the sun was rising (it’s very weird by the way to see the sun moving from right to left now that we are in the Southern Hemisphere). It was a spectacular sunrise and we were taken aback by the height and rugged beauty of Fatu Hiva. We sailed along the west coast and dropped anchor in the bay of virgins between the high cliffs covered with lush green vegetation. The few other yachts at the anchorage were all welcoming us; they had also sailed a long way to get here. A bit later on our buddy boat Toucan arrived and a few arrival drinks were had! Then an early night and a good sleep (the first non interrupted 8 hours sleep since 18 days!). This morning we woke up all refreshed, cleaned the boat and then went to explore ashore. We walked up to a stunning waterfall and had a delicious swim (and a good workout for our legs as it was a 2 hour hike there and back). Everyone’s happy and it’s nice to be here!