The last few hours in Tonga and we spend it in front of the computer. Hehehe.
Nah – not really. We will putter down to the main wharf and clear out of Tonga alright but tonight we’ll still spend one more night around the corner in a quiet anchorage. Tomorrow during the day, we’ll set sails and go to Fiji.
So here are some more pictures for you, taken in the ‘main town’ of Vavau: Neiafu.
Also we’ll be without internet of course and have only our SSB connection. But we should be back online beginning next week when we arrive in SavuSavu.
Finally an action post for the sailors that read our blog.
On our way towards Tonga we ran into a front / through. As the thing really looked weird on our weather maps we prepared ourselfes for the worst – and pretty much got it. Luckily for us, the storm hit during daylight which is a lot less freightening than having strong winds in the pitch black night. Lucky for you too as you get some scary pictures (and maybe a video later on).
The front was clearly visible in the morning after breakfast and when it hit, the wind turned 180 degrees and increased to about 40 knots at which it stayed pretty much all day. After a few hours, the sea picked up and nearing the end of the storm we had waves reaching well above five meters. Despite the rough seas we still did 4-5 knots, going against the wind with the main and genoa in the third reef.
Slightly further south it was even worse. We heard of yachts that encountered more than 50 knots of wind just 50 miles south of our position.
The damage: one genoa sheet was nearly shaved through and again we made lots of water. The most of it in the lazarette but not as much as previously in the living quarters. The sunbrella cover of our Genoa was already slightly damaged from all the flapping during the light wind sailing and the storm did some additional damage. But it’s already down and we gave it to the local sailmaker to re-stitch it. It should be fine again in one or two days. We had to use the autopilot for a few minutes while we put in another reef. Although it usually keeps the course quite well it managed to do a jibe (!!) while we were sailing on the wind. A jibe with 40 knots is not very nice and it tore out the stopper of the track of the main sheet. But that I can also repair easily. The culprit seems to be a faulty connection on the autopilot computer – a common fault, we learned. I’ll look into that during the next days too.
Compared to the other boats that came into harbour during the next days, we did pretty well. Other boats had their sails completely torn, blocks destroyed, hailyards snapped, etc. I don’t like cleaning the boat after an incident like that but if that’s all – I can live with it. And of course we will again improve and try to stop some more leaks that we found on hatches, vents, etc.
After more than one year in french Polynesia it’s time. Time to leave and time to sail again. In a few minutes we’ll be heading out to sea again. The journey is about 1300nm and should take something in between 10 to 14 days. Oooou yeah !!
Slowly it’s getting embarassing. Every time I announce new plans I gotta revise them only days later. Well… we only wanted to be in Bora Bora for one night and to clear out. But while we were underway a low pressure system has developed right here above these islands and we won’t have any wind during the next days.
To reach Vanuatu in time we would have needed stable wind conditions all the way and even without that low it would have been quite tight. So we again changed our plans, stick around here until the weekend and then we’ll sail towards Tonga. I guess the change is not for the worst as it somehow felt wrong to skip past those beautiful islands.
Of course we also discuss what we’ll gonna do for the Cyclone season but I guess it’s too early to write about it. You know…. plans can change…
After a night with a lot of wind and rain, the weather seems to be getting nicer and we’re setting out on our next voyage. Towards Vanuatu with a short stopover in Bora Bora to clear out of french Polynesia. It’s another long journey that awaits us: about 2500nm(~5000km) towards Port Vila, Vanuatu. As usual we’ll be reading our emails daily via shortwave radio and the satellite phone we’ll turn on every day in the morning for an hour or so.
The dinghy is on deck, everything prepared, the tanks are full… Now we’re having lunch and then we’re off.
There still seems to be a confusion about our situation right now. We’ve NOT stopped sailing. I’m in Europe for three weeks to get things organized and to visit my family and friends. End of May I’ll be back in the South Pacific and we’ll set sail towards Suvarov and Tonga.
I don’t want to write about Europe right now. I’ve started getting my thoughts on paper but it’s so crazy, the life here has so little to do with the life we live in Polynesia, it’s really hard to even find things to compare. But I’m 100% happy to be with my family again and it feels good to see all friends after two years. Speaking of: there’s someone weaiting for me, I’ve gotta go.
At 20:55h local time I arrived in Berlin. At the gate, I got picked up by Stephi, Gibor and Wolfgang who immediately shipped the ramaining me to the next bar where we had some beers and shared the first stories. At 01:30am I fell into a soft, not moving bed and passed out. The mobile phone woke me up twelve hours later and now I gotta go out into the cold city and try to get my bearings. Where’s the sea ??
Yeee, in only three days I’ll be back from where we started. Somehow crazy. We spent two years trying to get here to the other end of the world and on Monday I’ll hop into a plane and 46 hours later I am in Berlin. But the decision to go on really short notice also meant a little work. As we’re still not finished with the boat(s) we spent the week in Tahiti. The Suvarov moored to a buoy close to the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas, we exchanged anchors and chains. Now our trusty bow anchor is back with us and the slightly older chain with the ‘Brake’ anchor is on the Rancho. Both items we might sell next week. The old Liferaft is underway to Raiatea where it will be given to it’s new owner, the wind generator now powers a french boat that’s underway towards New Caledonia. The remains of our rig went on shore where Jerry will later transform it into an arch (?) for the Pukuri.
The evenings I spent on the internet looking for spare parts and stuff we need, organizing the trip and trying to get in touch with friends. Oh I hope, somehow I could manage to see them all. So anyway, my schedule is Berlin for the first days, then to my family in Austria. The third week of May I should be back in Berlin from where I leave on the 21st towards our home in French Polynesia.
Trying to catch up with my blog posts, I wanted to share a few pictures Lorenz took, when we were diving with the Rays a little further down to the NW-tip of Moorea. There’s not much to say, so I’ll stop writing and you can enjoy the pics:
To get some distance to what happened and because it’s Loana’s 12th birthday, we decided to take the ferry to the neighbor island of Moorea. Jean Claude, whom we helped evacuate his yacht two weeks earlier, invited us to spend a weekend with his family.
The trip with the speed ferry only takes a little more than half an hour and we get picked up by car. The ride along the coastline has some magnificent views and we soon enter cook bay and continue towards the center of the island. Here we pick up the birthday girl and her sister Heilani who spent the day at a horse ranch. The energy of the soon to be 12 year old seems to be endless as we first drop her off at the jazz dance class before we finally get to their beautiful little house. The garden is typical for the area and has mangos, papayas, bananas and of course cocos and underneath all that green we see chicken and rabbits enjoying themselves. The weekend on the ‘countryside’ is a perfect change for us as we finally stop thinking about the Rancho Relaxo but have endless talks or (try) to repair an old motorcycle.
The time passes rapidly and sunday in the evening we’re back in Tahiti. Monday morning we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by the amazing number of TWO austrian ships: The ‘Chi’ arrived from the Tuamotus and the ‘Optimist’ came back from Moorea to do some last minute repairs before finally leaving for Fiji.
We’ve talked to many people, asked for prices and looked at used masts but it seems to be a fact: The Rancho Relaxo can not be repaired by us. We have tried to be as objective as possible but in the end that’s really difficult. The Rancho Relaxo is not just an object but our home and we had many thrilling and beautiful moments together. Saying good bye will be incredibly hard but a repair would cost us more than we could expect to ever get back by later selling the boat. After all we try to see the positive side of this: The market for used boats is really bad right now and we’re what you could call at the end of the world. So it is right here that we have actually good chances to find a new yacht. This and the financing of this new boat is what we were focussing the last days. And in both areas there have been extremely positive developments !
It seems quite surreal but only two weeks ago we were on the reef and thought that we would loose everything. Now it seems as if we will continue our journey with a new boat in the next year. This is possible because we have the support of both our families and they not just approve of our lifestyle but encourage us to finish what we started. Many friends helped us and want us to continue our journey. And that is exactly what we will do, although it will not be with the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas – and it will mean more work for us in the future. But that should not take the fun out of it and we are extremely happy about these amazing developments of the last days !!
To avoid mental meltdown after staying on the boat for too long, Zac and me got out to climb a mountain. The Mont Aorai with its 2070m should be a very beautiful hike and it has two huts in convenient locations to spend a night there.
So we took the bus around midday and arrived at Pirae at 13h. We walked past the village and asked our way through towards the Belvedere, a small restaurant at 700m where the actual trail will start.
It took us quite some time to get there and the walk on the paved road was quite exhausting but once on the trail I removed the shoes and we finally walk through nature. One of the better things is to walk barefoot and feel the moist, stony, muddy ground. The beginning of the trail follows along the side of a valley until it reaches the ridge on which it stays for quite some while. Actually most part of the trail is right ON the ridge with both sides being quite steep and usually leading a few hundered meters down.
Just before nightfall we reached the first hut on 1400m and we had a nice dinner with Couscous, vegetables, soup and coffee. The night was chilly and windy and we were glad that the backpack Zac got from the SY Ustupu would fit perfectly into the empty windowframe. That way it was much more comfortable and after having fun with our headlamps and the long-exposure mode of the camera, we slept until eight in the morning.
On the second day we continued our way up through the clouds and a wild, dripping wet rainforest full of fern trees and with everything covered with moss and lichen (old man’s beard). The air is damp and completely saturated and the scene might change on the next corner after which we might find ourselves out of the clouds and surrounded with pine trees and walking on dry grass.
After a short stop at the hut on 1800m we leave our backpacks and continue towards the summit. The path gets slightly more difficult and we reach the peak shortly after midday. A little snack and a few photos later we’re already on our way down where we soon again find ourselves surrounded by the clouds. Unfortunately those are now over-saturated and it starts to rain around us. It will continue to be wet until we reach the end of the footpath.
That of course means that a big part of the hike downwards is quite slippery and gets very tricky as much of the ground is composed of red clay. But we reach the Belvedere just before sunset and are very lucky to get a ride down to the village. And as we already know the polynesian way, we’re not surprised as one of the guys who is riding with us in the back of the pickup truck offers to get us to the marina. He just has to get back home and get his own car. The local people are extremely friendly and helpful and are not shy to drive two dirty, sweaty aliens around the island.
All of the above photos were made by Zachary Shane Orion Lough. You can find more pictures on his website.
We’ve been planning to go camping for a long time. Usually it was me who’s against it, because our tent is actually way too big for us and I don’t like carrying around all that stuff for only one night out in the wild. But Gui wanted to go camping for her birthday, so I finally had to give in.
And it was a good decision ! The camping site was wild and lonesome – the beach of Puerto Chino is completely isolated and we had it all for ourselves. Only us, plenty of animals and the sea that smashed it’s waves onto the beach. The most beautiful music to fall asleep.
The kids had lots of fun with the white/grey sand and with the big waves that were fun to play with. We climbed the small hill nearby, searched the surroundings for animals and watched the pelicans feed their young ones.
On the way to the beach we climbed up the volcano and saw the lagoon in it’s crater and we visited the station where they care for the giant turtles. On the way back we stopped at a giant tree with a house in it’s twigs. – There is also another room down in between the roots. One has to climb down a ladder through a hole. The kids loved it ! – And we had a great weekend AND Gui could test her surf board. More pics on that in another blog post…
Gui’s father is in Panama City on behalf of the ILO and invites us for a visit. Of course we don’t hesitate and immediately leave the boiling hot marina. As the marina is on the north side of the american continent, we have to wait for the ‘Cap San Raphael’ to get through the Gatun lock and into the Atlantic ocean, as we wait in the Taxi. A surprise was that the bus wouldn’t go today as this monday was declared a bank holiday because a former president died. We were lucky and could share the cab with a nice canadian man who’s traveling to the airpoirt. Having arrived in Panama City, we enjoy the air conditioning in the hotel room and the kids are fascinated by the big TFT screen. – Two things quite uncommon for us sailors.
We pay a visit to a beauty saloon and the captain looses about 0.5kg of hair and looks like a human again. Viola also gets a haircut and her nails done and Gui enjoys a pedicure. Now we go back to the hotel and have a nice dinner together with Gui’s father.
Next day we start our search for a competent optican to get new optical sunglasses for me. The last pair, I got anew in the canaries but lost them while crossing the Atlantic ocean. As we’re already here, the kids also get their eyes tested and everything is ok !
The city itself we don’t like too much. Although we used to live in big cities the last years, right now we’re quite overwhelmed by the noise, the dirt and the stress in this city. Ok, we didn’t visit the nicer parts of Panama City but still, I’d rather do without air conditioning but hear the birds sing and the monkeys howl in the djungle, instead of the constant honking in the city. The traffic is actually quite amazing: Despite us being quite used to the latin american way of driving, the way the buses plow through the streets is still frightening. It’s a fight for every place at the traffic light and people in smaller cars better stay behind, otherwise they’ll loose…
Back in the marina, we meet Dieter and Silke from the Tamora, who felicitously prepare for their passage tomorrow. I’ll be on their ship as a line handler and Gui will go with the Kira on the same day. The kids will spend two days on the SY Mares in the mean time. Beside the Mares is a free space now: Laura Decker also took her SY Guppy into the Pacific. And I’m reading on the web that our friends from the Hitch-Hike-Heidi started their voyage back across the Atlantic. The Roede Orm reached the mainland of Europe again and the Chiloe is about 600nm away from Uruguay.
Another child’s dream has come true: Today Bruno with his five years drove his own car ! And this he did on streets with traffic and all that.
Well, we aren’t in the capital but still – Hhe drove very well and quite save. The other cars are cautious because the whole area around the marina is a big holiday-village with lots of golf cars driving around. So we got one of these electro-golfcars for ourselves and Bruno squeezed himself behind the stering wheel, replacing the captain and rode with us through the countryside and on the streets of ‘Casa de Campo’.
In the afternoon, Gui called us on the VHF. She left the marina at 04:30h in the morning to go to Santo Domingo where she received her visa for the U.S. (finally !) Thus Bruno drove us back to the marina, we picked up Gui and went to Alto de Chavón where we had a pizza and a beautiful view of the river. Of course he didn’t go straight but found a few ‘shortcuts’ through the field. Hehehe.
Oh .- and Altos de Chavón is actually not a real medieval village but was built in the 80ies. But still very nice.
Ah – and in the morning, the captain once more put on the diaper-shoes and cleaned the bilge. One of my favourite occupations.