More Anambas, Please

Summer wasn’t over after all. We had a few more weeks of glorious sunshine (and the odd rainy day, I admit). The Anambas Islands really rate as one of the top places we’ve been to in our four years of cruising. It’s just the perfect combination of remote island life with deserted sandy beaches, numerous protected anchorages to choose from in ‘day-hop-distance’, crystal clear water with beautiful underwater marine life and friendly locals.

After our visit to Pulau Pahit where we saw turtles hatch (magical!) we went south of Tarempa to visit a few more islands where we hadn’t stopped yet. First one was Pulau Tina, just west of Memperuk Island.

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Pulau Tina in the sunshine

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same island, at sunset

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S/V Chantilly getting their toys out, to the delight of our boys

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surf dude

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aqua boy

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great snorkeling around Pulau Tina

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Next, we headed a few miles east to another small island called Telukbakau (try pronouncing that one), where we caught up with S/V Intrigue. It was just another perfect setting with a gorgeous beach; it would have been a crime not to have a beach fire at sunset on it.

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our friends on S/V Chantilly

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just another gorgeous beach to stop at

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it would have been a crime not to have a beach fire on this one

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always love a good sunset

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S/V Intrigue, S/V Chantilly and S/V Rehua

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palmtrees agains the pink evening sky

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pink rocks

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that rock just had to climbed

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next morning, time for some beach combing 

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S/V Rehua, S/V Chantilly and S/V Intrigue 

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sand everywhere

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going for a morning stroll

We continued further south and stopped off at Dikar Reef. It’s some of the most crystal-clear pristine water we’ve seen, reminding us of our time in French Polynesia… and we were all alone, anchored in 3 metres of water with nothing but turquoise water around us. It was like being anchored in the middle of giant swimming pool.

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approaching Dikar Reef, our next stop

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beautiful crystal-clear turquoise water

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anchored in 3 metres over sand

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Rehua’s shadow on the sand

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kids can’t wait to jump in

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‘Bora-Bora blue’

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some of the clearest water we’ve seen

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we especially put our swimsuits on for the picture 😉

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water as flat as pancake

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on our way out of the anchorage

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leaving Dikar reef

We continued further south to Pulau Airabu, passing a few villages along the way and even a cellphone tower that gave us a (very rare) quick boost of 4G.

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Pulau Airabu with cellphone tower

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typical Anambas-style village with stilted huts

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And then, our final stop, just south of Pulau Lintang. Another beach begging to have a beach fire on it, more fantastic snorkelling and lots of small islands dotted around the anchorage, waiting to be explored. We were sad to leave but it was time to head back to Nongsapoint…

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view from the cockpit near Pulau Lintang

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quick dip

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one more gorgeous sunset

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and one more fire on the beach

 

The End of Summer?

Well, of course there is no summer or winter here; we are in the tropics, very close to the equator in fact. There are, however, two very distinctive weather patterns: the NE monsoon and the SW monsoon. The first one runs roughly from November to May and the latter from June to October. Or thereabouts, because there is always a transitional period in between monsoons. And right now we are wondering whether that transitional period has started already? It’s mid-October and we have had a lot of rain in the last week. Which is great for the watertanks (especially as our watermaker broke down AGAIN – this time it’s the membrane that needs replacing). Not so great if it means being cooped inside a small boat all day with a family of four. So, it feels a bit like summer is over right now. It even feels chilly now that the temperature has dropped to about 28 degrees C (oh how we will ever manage to acclimatise to northern European weather again).

But enough complaining, the weather definitely hasn’t stopped us from enjoying these beautiful islands and the Anambas have continued to surprise us.

Our first week here was a lot of fun as we got to catch up with our Danish friends onboard S/V Tsonoqua. We met up near our favourite picture-perfect desert island, just north of the main town Tarempa. The sail from Batam to there had taken us just over 24 hours and was truly idyllic: calm seas, just enough wind to keep the sails up, full moon and to top it all off a pod of dolphins escorted and welcomed us to the islands. And crossing like that don’t happen often: I think I can count the amount of perfect crossings like that during the last four years on one hand.

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an idyllic 24 hour crossing from Batam to Anambas: calm seas, full moon, just enough wind, …

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…and dolphins!

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we arranged to meet our Danish friends at this desert island near Pulau Tenggiling 

We arrived early afternoon and once the anchor was dug into the sand, the kids couldn’t wait to hop into the dinghy, pick up their Danish friends and head to the beach for a catch up.

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happy to be reunited with their friends

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see ya later!

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private catch up on the beach

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and the parents onboard Rehua

We island hopped together and enjoyed some beautiful weather, fires on the beach and dinners together onboard.

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‘Pencil-dot Island’, there’s a story behind the name, I’m sure?

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kids are off to the beach

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having fun on the SUPs

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snorkeling action

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the anchorage in the sunshine

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and in the rain …

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sunset behind the palmtrees, seen from the cockpit

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next stop: Penjalin Island and ‘BBQ-beach’

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with the perfect plunge pool

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sundowners on the beach

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sausage-roll on a stick for dinner

There was one disappointing development in Moonrock Bay, one of our favourite anchorages. Since our last visit here, a few months ago, the construction of a resort has started there. Apparently, the entire island is now private and they plan to ban yachts and local fishermen from entering the lagoon. It’s a shame and I really object to these type of so-called eco resorts that are just an excuse to make yet another beautiful island accessible only to the rich in the name of marine environment protection. The entire Anambas are in fact a marine conservation area and some of these resorts pretend they are creating yet another level of protection, but, I wonder if it is just an excuse to keep everyone out and make their island and lagoon accessible only to the very few.

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stunning Moonrock Bay

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the kids on top of the rock

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obligatory family shot

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start of the construction works in Moonrock bay

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the company that apparently wants to ban yachts and locals from entering this lagoon (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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‘Hilton pool’ on the other side of Moonrock bay, perfect swimming pool water and there’s nobody around 😉

After our Danish friends had to leave for Malaysia, we spent a couple of nights anchored all alone in a lovely bay near ‘Sandspit Island’ before heading into Tarempa for some veggies and water. And, unbelievable but true, another kid boat was in town! A Swedish family this time. We also bumped into some Aussie friends on Chantilly and together spent a week hopping further around the islands.

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Chantilly, Galeforce and Rehua, anchored in front of Pahat Island

Our most remarkable experience in the last couple of weeks (probably one of the most amazing experiences in the last 4 years) was this one afternoon on Pahat Island. We had gone ashore to meet the local fishermen that were based there and it appeared there was some type of turtle sanctuary set up. All very basic and no visitor centre or information or anything like that, and with our limited Indonesian it was difficult to understand what was going on. Plenty of hand-gestures, a lot of smiling and nodding and eventually we understood that this one local guy was in charge to look after the island, and, that he was also looking after the turtle eggs that were dropped all over the island. He even marked the estimated hatching dates and showed us a bucket full of 4-day old baby turtles that he planned to release when they were 15 days old (not sure what the reasoning was behind this). A bit later on, he showed us the area where the turtle eggs were kept (behind a fence to protect them from other predators) and to our utter delight, one batch had just hatched that very afternoon. They were all crawling out of their hole, tiny newly born baby turtles all covered in sand. They were the cutest things I’ve ever seen. The local guy helped them to come up out of the sand and put them in a bucket to then release them a bit closer to the waterline. As soon as they were let out, they made a run for it and seeing all those hundreds of tiny turtles run into the water and swim away was just the most amazing spectactle I have ever witnessed. What a privilege to see this happen and how amazing nature is.

 

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the turtles are off (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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cute little guy (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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a helping hand to get them into the water

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the cutest thing I’ve ever seen

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hundreds of tiny turtles running into the sea

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the beach at Pahat Island

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this little guy is 4 days old and will be released when he’s 15 days old

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messing around with the camera

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hovering on the beach

It also made me very sad to think how many of these cute little creatures won’t survive for very long. Some will get eaten, but worse, some will get trapped in plastic rubbish that is floating around everywhere. It’s a huge problem and we’ve seen many beautiful beaches just drowned in plastic. Check out this new BBC documentary called “Drowning in Plastic”. It’s so sad to see how much damage plastic is doing to our oceans and the animals in it.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bmbn47

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the Anambas have amazing snorkeling, this was taken at Sandspit Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marina Life

We’ve spent the last few weeks in Nongsapoint marina in Batam, Indonesia. A great place to do some boat maintenance. Seathan fixed our water maker and fitted our engines with new fuel injectors and we are good to go again. We also got stuck into the new school year and caught up as we had a bit of a break last month while we were in the Anambas. And of course we also met up with a few yachties, made some new friends and shared a few beers at happy hour in the marina bar (aka NPM prison bar) 😇.

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Nongsapoint marina, Batam, Indonesia

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New parts arrived. Yay!

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Fitting the new fuel injectors

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The marina at low tide

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Quite a few super yachts in this marina!

While we were waiting for parts to arrive, we made a couple of quick trips into Singapore (very handy to have the fast ferry into Singapore next door to the marina). And it wasn’t just to do the tourist thing. I met up with some old colleagues to start asking around about job opportunities. After four years of traveling, it might be time to start looking at doing some work again 😬. We’ll see what transpires. In the meantime, we plan to take one more trip to the Anambas. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for a little while as there’s not much internet out there 😊.

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Singapore getting ready for the GP earlier this month

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View from the National Gallery’s rooftop

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Bars along Boat Quay

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Skyline at night

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Quick day trip into Singapore, to renew our monthly visas

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AC units around the back of the restaurants. Can’t be doing much good to the environment.

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Boat Quay

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exploring town

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Raffles is everywhere

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Can we go back now?

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Back at the marina, just in time for a late afternoon dip in the pool.

A Well Kept Secret…

Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone and keep it a secret. The Anambas are just too good to be true. One of the best cruising grounds we’ve come across; Indonesia has totally exceeded our expectations, yet again. It would be such a shame if these islands got inundated with tourists. Right now, they are difficult to reach and there’s hardly any infrastructure. The people are friendly, the islands remote and unspoilt and there are so many good anchorages to choose from, all within close ‘day-hop distance’ of each other. The snorkelling and diving is superb and we’ve also had beautiful dry and breezy weather. It truly doesn’t get much better than this.

one of the many perfect desert islands we anchored next to

turquoise water, sandy beaches, life is perfect

Moonrock bay, one of our favourite anchorages

this rock is called ‘Moonrock” because it reflects the moonlight at night

hike to the top of the rock

view over the bay with Rehua on the left

Moonrock bay

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beautiful diving and snorkeling, plenty of healthy corals

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The weather’s been so perfect but, in fact, we’ve been wishing for rain since our water-maker broke down a few weeks ago. A couple of worn out check valve o-rings which, apparently, are very specialist replacement parts and, despite Seathan’s best efforts in re-constructing them from other materials, impossible to replace. So we’ve become four salty sea dogs… Luckily, we were able to fill up with water at a small resort near Tarempa where we anchored stern-to and filled up with drinkable rainwater (which we filtered before putting it into our tanks).

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anchored and tied stern-to and filling up with water 

The water-maker isn’t the only problem, unfortunately. We noticed the voltage of our house batteries dropping unusually low during the night and when Seathan checked the batteries he realised one cell was completely ‘dead’. He had to remove two batteries and we now operate at half the capacity. It means we can’t last as long as usual on stored battery power and need to run the generator or the engines more frequently, especially at night when the solar panels aren’t producing energy. We’ve had our house batteries for nearly four years, so they’ve had a good run and we were expecting having to replace them sometime soon. So not the end of the world, but just a little inconvenience until we get them replaced.

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trying out the local mode of transport

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he’s a natural

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this local fisherman was keen to trade some fish for an old dive mask

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fish for dinner

We didn’t want to let these inconveniences distract us from enjoying these beautiful surroundings. To make life even better, we bumped into a couple of kid boats! We spent a few days with S/V Marrant, a French family with two small kids onboard and had a few lovely evenings on the beach together.

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swimming off the back of boat with our friends from S/V Marrant

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surfing behind the dinghy

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dinner on the beach

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Laura’s gutting the fish

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cooking in progress

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nothing better than a fire at night

Then our friend Taffy turned up on S/V Intrigue with a British family onboard and two girls (11 and 12). We spent the next week with Intrigue and had a ball, discovering new anchorages, snorkelling spots, fires on the beach, sundowners onboard and of course lots of games for the kids.

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Taffy on the bow of S/V Intrigue

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Mandariau bay

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beautiful snorkeling and diving

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Together, we also stopped of at Nongkat Island where we met Dhany, who is from Jakarta and was educated in Australia, and, who recently set up a stunning small resort just north of Tarempa. We brought our food ashore and Dhany cooked it all for us while we enjoyed a few beers in his very smart beach bar overlooking a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise lagoon. The next morning, Dhany took the kids on his weekly turtle rescue mission. Turtles get caught in the fishing nets and the kids got to help release them. Special memories.

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S/V Intrigue

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onboard S/V Intrigue with the owner, guests and crew

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Dhany’s beach bar on Nongkat island

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such a charmer

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view from the bar

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barman for the night

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dinner is served

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kids having fun

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beers with the boys

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turtle rescue trip

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We did a few more gorgeous anchorages including the remote and uninhabited Pendjalin Islands with more amazing snorkeling , rock climbing and some fun afternoons and evenings on the beach.

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‘sugarcube island’

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beautiful rocky islands

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‘coconut boules’ on the beach

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aka coconut petanque

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fun afternoon

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who’s winning?

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expert rock climber

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fire is started

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the bar is set up

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evening ambiance

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kids’ fire

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great snorkeling spot with Rehua and Intrigue anchored in the background

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Eventually we had to nip back into Tarempa, the main town, in search of fresh produce and also a doctor as Aeneas had developed a nasty rash the night before, which we suspected was a reaction to the antibiotics he had been taken to cure an ear infection and some coral cuts on his leg. The local doctor confirmed our diagnosis but there was not much he could do apart from giving us paracetamol and antihistamines. The facilities were so basic that he didn’t even have any tools to check his ears with. They wouldn’t take any payment for the medication and we had to insist we wanted to make a small donation to the hospital. Aeneas responded well to the antihistamines and fully recovered a couple of days later. Phew.

And then it was time to clear out. Our month in paradise was up. We followed the instructions and went to Immigration first, where two very friendly officials were sitting in a small office watching loud music videos. A few stamps and five minutes later we walked across the road to Customs. This took a little bit longer as they had to go online to update our details (there’s hardly any internet in the Anambas, only in Tarempa there is a smidge and it is very slow). Third stop: Quarantaine. Bit strange to have to go and see Quarantine on the way out of a country but never mind. Somehow, we got shown into the wrong building and ended up in the health department where we were given a complete health check-up. An hour and a half later (and many forms and questionnaires) we walked out with four very official looking documents declaring us fit and healthy. Final stop: the Harbour Master. At this stage, the kids were getting tired and hungry and we were keen to get back to the boat.

“Where is your document from Quarantaine?” the Harbour Master asked.

When I pointed him to the four very official looking pieces of paper he laughed and said: “No, no, that’s from a different Health Department. You went to the wrong building. We need a different piece of paper.”

He noticed that we were close to losing patience and immediately suggested: “No problem, I will take you on my motorbike and we will get the right document. Don’t worry, it will only take five minutes.”

Huge sigh of relief. The kids and I waited in the office and as they watched two of the staff’s children play GTA on the office computers, I chatted to the shipping agent, who also worked in the Harbour Master office and wanted to know where we were from and where we had been. Seathan returned shortly after and we got our final clearance documents and were good to go. Bye bye Tarempa. I have a feeling we may be back.

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Durian anyone?

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looking for the Immigration office

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at the Health Department, this is how they measured his height

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full health check-up

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at the Harbour Master’s office

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kids all dressed up for a religious festival

A few final stops on the way out of the Anambas. One more afternoon on the beach, one more snorkeling trip and one more gorgeous sunrise. Can’t wait to come back.

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anchorage near Pulau Ayam, Jemaja

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human pyramid

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sundowners on the beach

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another gorgeous sunset

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and a beautiful sunrise

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bye bye Anambas, we’ll be back!

Paradise Found!

I’ll be honest. Six months ago, I had never heard of the Anambas Islands. This remote and isolated island group, located roughly halfway between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo in the South China Sea, is most definitely off the beaten track. It’s only very recently being opened up for tourism. Yachts didn’t use to come here because the area was plagued with piracy. The Indonesian navy started patrolling the islands a couple of years ago and it’s now considered safe. Hotels are still few and far between; we noticed a few backpacker-type places in the main town and there is one luxury upscale resort that started running less than a year ago. So, perfect timing for us to discover these islands.

For the first time in a very long time we also had some friends visiting us from Belgium and we were so glad we made it through the Malacca strait, just in time for them to join us to the Anambas Islands.

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Off on a 24hr sail

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Lots to catch up on…

The crossing from Batam took 24 hours and was extremely pleasant downwind sailing. Such a difference from the hard slog that was the Malacca Strait! During the first part of the night, we were kept very busy keeping clear of all the traffic in the South China Sea. We had a few very friendly VHF conversations with some of the big container ships who politely notified us that they would cross our stern or, another one, wanted to pass us on our starboard side and please could we keep our course.

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Early morning visitor

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In need of a little rest…

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Land Ho!

We saw land early morning and arrived in our first anchorage just before lunch. We found a gorgeous spot to drop the anchor, next to a desert island and spent the afternoon swimming, snorkeling, walking along the beach and gathering wood for a campfire. Doesn’t get much better than that!

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Approaching our first stop in the Anambas

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Turquoise water, yay!

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Let’s dig

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Desert beach

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Happy campers

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They never get tired of this one

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Chat chat chat

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building a campfire

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obligatory family shot with Rehua

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firemaster

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beautiful evening

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A few more stunning anchorages followed. More turquoise water, great snorkeling and a dinghy trip up the river in between the mangroves. We had a few days of cloudy weather and some rain, but that didn’t spoil the fun. Yes, yes, yes; this is exactly what we were looking for and we found it. It’s good to be back in Indonesia!

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another gorgeous anchorage

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anchor down and let’s jump in

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desert island

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good snorkelling 

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staghorn corals

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visibility wasn’t the best but corals were nice

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interesting plants

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dinghy trip up the river in between the mangroves

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Just chillin’

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Tyrii gives Nadine a SUP lesson

After a week of remote locations we headed into Terampa, the main town, to drop our guests off who were catching a ferry back. We had a wonderful week together, special memories we will never forget and were so happy to share.

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Terampa, the main town in the Anambas

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Colourful houses

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View from the Chinese temple

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Exploring town

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Happy local boys

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At the fish market

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great variety

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Lots of market stalls with fresh produce

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Stocking up on some fresh stuff

Now, where are all those other kid boats and let’s go explore some more remote anchorages. There are too many to choose from and we only have a few weeks left!

The Malacca Strait (again)

Our second transit through the Malacca Strait and, again, we were too late in the season. We took much longer than planned to antifoul the boat and were further delayed waiting for engine parts (held up by customs in KL for 2 weeks). Anyway, we eventually managed to escape Rebak and headed to Kuah, Langkawi to clear out and provision before heading south. The SW Monsoon was well established and it promised to be a long hard slog. And so it was.

Day 1: Kuah, Langkawi to Penang (60NM)

We decided to try and avoid night sailing. There are too many floating fishing nets and logs and, frankly, if you can stop for the night and get some sleep, why not? It’s just more civilised. We left Kuah at the crack of dawn, had breakfast en route and motor-sailed to Penang, 70NM down the track. It was a relatively calm day and we had the sails up most of the way. We dropped anchor just outside Straits Quay Marina before dusk but decided to lift it again an hour later to move to the Junk Anchorage, a few miles further south. The first anchorage had become untenable due to an uncomfortable swell. A quick dinner and we all hit our beds early.

Day 2: Penang to Pangkor (70NM)

We had set the alarm for 5am and left the anchorage before sunrise. The few extra hours could mean we might get to Pangkor before dark. And we did. Just. We anchored in a bay on the northeastern side next to a fish farm and were happy to put our heads on our pillows.

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One of the two bridges we went under in Penang

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One of the reasons we don’t like to sail at night: floating logs

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Sunset at anchor

Day 3: Pangkor to Pangkor

Unfortunately some engine problems meant a late start. Seathan managed to fix the engine and we took off late morning. We motored along the coast of Pangkor and into the Malacca Strait. After half an hour of slamming into 20 knots of wind and making very little progress, Seathan decided to turn back. It was uncomfortable, we were burning a lot of diesel and we were hardly making any ground. After making a 180 turn, the ride was comfortable and fast. If only we were heading north. We promised ourselves we would make the transit during the correct season next time. We’ll see… We found somewhere to anchor just outside Pangkor marina, had a lovely roast pork dinner and a little rest.

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A mosque on Pangkor island

Day 4: Pangkor to Klang (90NM)

Luckily, the wind died down overnight and we left Pangkor before dawn at 5am. It was going to be our longest day yet to cover the 90NM to Port Klang. We got in just after dark and anchored somewhere up the river, in Port Klang. The area is very industrial and within close proximity to KL. Not the most picturesque anchorage, but it was fine for the night.

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Approaching Port Klang at dusk

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Early morning and it’s busy already in Port Klang

Day 5: Klang to Port Dickson (50NM)

We left early again and arrived in Port Dickson mid-afternoon. We stopped in a marina this time, to make it easier to do repairs and order new starter batteries for our engines. Unfortunately it was Sunday, so nothing was open and we had to wait another day to get hold of them. Two nights in the marina wasn’t so bad, especially as our friends on ‘Tsonoqua II’ were there and we had a lovely time catching up. The kids spent most of the time in the pool with their friends and I took the opportunity to top up on provisions and do some laundry. Seathan fixed the engines, filled up with diesel and replaced the shaft seals and we left at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.

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Rehua in Port Dickson marina

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Dinner with fire show in Port Dickson marina with our friends from ‘Tsonoqua II’

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Fixing the engine

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A spot of laundry with my little helper

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The kids enjoyed the pool in Port Dickson marina

 

Day 6: Port Dickson to Pulau Besar (40NM)

We could have covered more miles but getting all the way to Pulau Pisang would have been too much. Pulau Besar, aka the water islands, are a pretty anchorage and the islands were once frequented by many ships because of their natural water source. These days it’s a place of worship for Indian muslims who consider this ghost-town-like-island to be a very spiritual place. We didn’t see anyone and spent a quiet night at anchor.

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It’s always busy in the Strait

Day 7: Pulau Bessar to Pulau Pisang (70NM)

Another loooong day. Fortunately, the sailing angles were much better now as we were easting; we had 14 to 18 knots just forward of the beam and enjoyed a very comfortable sail, making good ground. We dropped anchor as the sun was setting and enjoyed a sundowner, feeling relieved that our transit was nearly complete. Just one leg left through the busy Singapore Strait.

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Anchor down as the sun is setting 

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moon rise over Pulau Pisang

 

Day 8: Pulau Pisang to Nongsapoint, Batam (55NM)

Our last day was, indeed, a busy one. There’s a lot of traffic around Singapore and we had to cross the transit lane. I didn’t see much of it as I was down below cleaning the boat, getting it ready for our friends who would come onboard in the evening. I popped my head up a few times to look at the massive ships and to see what was going on when we were chased down by the Singapore Coastguard (twice). The first time they ordered us to head east in the west going transit lane. Seriously? It meant we were illegally easting in the westbound traffic, but we couldn’t argue with the coastguard. They followed us for at least 30 minutes and then turned around. A few hours later, another Singaporean coastguard called us on the radio to ask all our details: Where did we come from? How many people on board? Where were we heading? They were friendly enough and wished us a safe onward journey before throwing some impressive doughnuts to the delight of the boys. We crossed the transit lane at the correct junction and headed for Batam, Indonesia.

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On the radio to the Singapore Coastguard

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They kept following us for at least half an hour

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Lots of traffic

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Our friends were waiting on the dock as we motored into Nongsapoint marina around 4pm. As soon as the lines were secured, I jumped ashore. I hadn’t seen my dear friend Nadine for 4 years and we stood and hugged and shed a few tears. It was so good to see them and I was so glad we made it just in time. Well, one day late actually, but that’s not bad at all.

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presents from Belgium

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Ready for the Anamabas!

For the first time we didn’t do the Indonesian formalities ourselves as the marina staff in Nongsapoint took care of it all. The whole process (immigration, customs, harbourmaster and quarantine) was taking care of in less than an hour and we didn’t even have to leave our boat. It would normally take us one to two days and a lot of running around, taxis and hassle. So for the price of USD 50, I would say that was totally worth it.

A final day of preparations: servicing the engines and the generator, a few more provisions and some laundry, and we were ready to leave in search of remote turquoise anchorages. We left Nongsapoint after breakfast on Saturday morning, ready for, what should hopefully be, a comfortable 24h downwind sail to the Anamabas Islands. Yay!

Rebak Reflections

I can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we leave the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and head towards the Malacca Strait. The last few days have been hectic, to say the least. Rehua is full to the brim with provisions and we’re ready for our next adventure.

While Seathan is navigating his way through the many fishing nets and the kids take horizontal positions with their kindles, I have some time to ponder the last couple of months. We spent two months in Rebak, a long time to be just in one place and it certainly was frustrating at times. We were on the hard for half that time and that was much longer than originally planned. But, ask any sailor and they will all tell you, you never know what you’ll find once you take your boat out of the water…

Instead of a quick paint job, we ended up doing a complete overhaul and took it all the way back. We then discovered a few repairs were needed too. In Malaysia everything takes time, there’s no rushing things. Add in a few rainy days, the fact that it was Ramadan, parts being held up by Customs in KL, and you end up two months later.

I was very unhappy while we were stuck on the hard, but in hindsight it wasn’t that bad after all. The facilities at Rebak are pretty amazing: a clean yard, a good chandlery, a yachties’ cafe and restaurant, a great swimming pool (part of a luxury resort that yachties are welcome to use) and an entire private island for the kids to roam around on – with beaches, walking tracks, bicycle trails, tennis courts and lots of interesting wildlife. Best of all: other kids to play and hang out with. The mornings were reserved for school, but in the afternoons we usually didn’t see the kids until they got hungry near dinner time. I got to do yoga on land (as opposed to on the foredeck) most afternoons with my friend Kate and go for a cool-down dip afterwards. Friday nights were spent sipping happy hour cocktails in the beach bar, some of us playing the guitar and singing a few songs. Not such a bad life. We made a lot of new friends during our time in Rebak and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again with many of them.

But, I have to admit, it is great to feel the wind in my hair again as we set sail for our first overnight stop in Penang. We’ve got roughly 600NM of busy Malacca Strait and South China Sea to tackle until we reach the Anambas Islands, where we’ve arranged to meet some very dear friends. I know, I know. Never arrange to meet somewhere, in case the weather gods don’t cooperate. Don’t worry, we won’t take any crazy risks and our friends are flexible and prepared to change destination at the last minute, if necessary. Hopefully it won’t be and we can spend some time in turquoise water soon…

Bye bye Rebak Island

Quick stop in Kuah to provision and clear out

Early start and breakfast en route

Four Years Ago

It all started after a sailing holiday in Croatia, late October 2013. A little taste of cruising life, and what it could be like. We flew back into Heathrow airport and as we circled over London, both Seathan and I questioned what we were getting back to. The daily grind. The long hours in the office. The mortgage payments. The private school fees we were considering. The next step on the career ladder. What was the point of it all? We hardly spent time as a family, the kids were growing up so fast. At four and nine years old, they were the perfect age to take sailing. We had several sailing holidays since they were little, but now it somehow all made perfect sense.

London is a great city – still my favourite city in the world – but, we were ready to kick it all into touch. We put our house on the market and started planning our escape. Four months later, I quit my job, Seathan wrapped up his business and planning was in full progress. It was hard finding the right boat. Seathan flew to Holland and France. We loved the Nordia 55, but felt it might be a bit big to handle on our own. We started looking at cats and liked the idea of the extra space, the shallow draft and the all-round comfortability. Not many catamarans are built for proper offshore sailing, so in the end we felt the only choice was between the Catana 521 and the Antares PDQ 44. The Catana felt too big and the decision was made. There was a three-year waiting list for a new Antares but there were two good second hand options available, one was located in Turkey.

We went to see it and liked it. It was the right boat for us. The last one built in Canada, beautifully finished woodwork inside, solid fixtures and fittings everywhere. She was well looked after by the previous owner who completed his circumnavigation, but she had been sitting on the hard for quite a while, so when we finally moved onboard in June 2014, there was a bit of work to be done to get her ready. We renamed her ‘Rehua’ after a Polynesian god, healer and protecter. The Pacific, after all, was our dream destination.

The last few months in London were hectic, to say the least. Trying to sell and get rid of stuff in a short time frame was tough, so we ended up putting quite a bit into storage. There were many farewell parties, barbecues and dinners. Saying goodbye is never easy but we were so excited and thrilled to be starting our crazy wonderful adventure and couldn’t wait to get going.

So here we are, four years later. How our lives have changed. To go sailing was the best decision we ever took, no doubt about that. We’ve seen so many amazing countries, experienced so many different cultures, met so many wonderful people. And we did it all together, as a family. It’s a pretty amazing experience. Yes, I miss my family and friends and I’m dying to meet my niece who is 18 months already. But leaving the boat behind or arranging a rendez-vous on the other side of the world isn’t that straightforward. And although it doesn’t fully compensate for that absence, the cruising community is truly amazing. The kids have made many friends along the way. We’ve met other families doing the same thing as us, older couples – who love adopting the kids for a bit, as they usually miss their own grandchildren,  young couples who want to see the world before they settle down, single handers out to explore the world or start a new life. It’s a wonderful bunch.

It hasn’t always been easy, there’s been rough weather and flat calms, frustrating weeks doing boat maintenance or waiting for critical new parts to arrive. Scary moments when we experienced a huge storm sailing from Gibraltar to the Canaries. And another one when we sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. But these moments are easily compensated by all the magic. And we don’t want it to end yet. Our three-year circumnavigation plan has long gone out of the window and we are now looking at how long we can stretch this adventure. We might stop and work somewhere for a while and then continue. There is still so much to explore.

Tyrii summed it up beautifully when he – as we were eyeball navigating our way through the lagoon in Raroia in the Tuamotus – stated: “The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” He was 10 years old at the time and I was so proud of him.

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Sailing Away, four years ago in Turkey

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“The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” Wise words from Tyrii aged 10 in Raroia, French Polynesia

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Coconut production line. Tuamotus, French Polynesia, 2015

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Kids making new friends in Tahiti, 2015

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Family picture in Bora Bora with Rehua anchored in the background, 2015

Splash 💦

Woohoo ! It’s splash day today! I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that is for us all. Before we head out to sea we have a week of projects and cleaning up jobs to do but we don’t mind that, at least we’re back in the water !

Get me out of here!

I’m hoping that writing a blog will make me feel better, maybe getting it off my chest will lift my spirits. I’m feeling down. Being on the hard for four weeks just does that to a person, ask any other cruiser and they’ll agree.

Up and down the ladder twenty times a day, then carefully moving around the boat, hoping the props will hold it in place. It’s hot, it’s humid, there are lots of mosquitoes, dust everywhere, sanding and grinding, fibreglass, paint,…

One more week and hopefully we can splash, I can’t wait. Any longer and I’m seriously considering selling her and flying out of here! I’m done with the fried food and everything that’s on the menu in the ‘Harddock café’. Done with the pool. Done with the whole private island thing. Done with the monkeys stealing things from under the boat. Done with the never ending public holidays during Ramadan time, where everything stops. Done with the inflexible attitude of the Malaysians, miles apart from the Thai ‘can-do’ approach.

So, there you go, rant over. I feel better already. ☺️