Ahe is a small atoll between Manihi and Rangiroa, just an overnight sail from Rangiroa. We waited for a weather window so that it wasn’t an uncomfortable long beat to windward. With no ideal conditions forecast, we settled for a period of no wind, meaning an overnight motor sail for 14 hours. We left the anchorage in Rangiroa at 15:14 and left the pass at 15:45. With a knot of outgoing tide we were through quickly and easily with flat(ish) water. One of the resident bottlenose dolphins came to say a bon voyage and we hoisted the main and were clear by 16:15. In this case Lesley said the anticipation of a rough and bouncy pass was worse than the main event!

The passage was relatively uneventful with no fish caught. However, there was a stunning night sky with shooting starts and some brilliant phosphorescence in the water. We did a four hour watch each and Derek on his second watch caught some rain showers that we had otherwise been able to dodge during the night. We arrived at the Passe Tiareroa into Ahe at 6:30am and it was such a flat and easy entry to the lagoon that he didn’t even bother to wake Lesley!

Ahe Map
Simple Ahe Map

Ahe is known for fishing and pearls. We were told that there are 25 pearl farms here and certainly there are hundreds of pearl buoys around the atoll. We headed up the western side of the lagoon to where our friends Russ and Lisa on Uproar were anchored. After settling in and buoying our anchor chain, a first for us. We caught up on sleep and when we woke Uproar had gone – was it something we said!

Ahe is approximately 14 by 17 miles at its widest parts, with a well marked channel along the west side. Supply boats come here once every two weeks. If our timing had been right we could have clambered aboard to buy fruit and veg directly from the ship. The two restaurants we went to, get their supplies delivered directly from the ship to their beach! Before GPS this atoll was the mid stopping point between the Marquesas and Tahiti, since it is on the northern edge, and navigating through the middle of the Tuamotus at night prior to GPS was dangerous. Now it seems that not many yachts venture here. We were told that there were less than 20 this year but that is more than last year.

We explored a small area of the atoll which still has the original trees that would have been growing here before the clearing and planting of coconut palms for copra production. You could imagine the whole atoll being covered in the trees and ferns that were in this small wooded area.

Original Forested Area

Pension Raita (www.chez-raita.com) has set up some tables and chairs here that can be used for having a BBQ ashore. Great to be able to sit and watch the small black tip reef shark pups swimming around in the shallows. On the way back we found what seemed to be a cleaning station for the sharks with approximately eight sharks of varying sizes swimming circles in a small shallow reef area. They all had a shoal of tiny yellow fish around their mouths.

Dinghy quietly at rest by the Beach

The next day, we headed across the lagoon to two private mooring buoys off another pension to join Lisa and Russ from Uproar. It transpired that they had moved when the wind dropped as they were starting to swing towards the reef and it became uncomfortably shallow.

The distance across the lagoon is only about 10 miles but it is riddled with the pinnacle shaped bommies, shallow reefs and pearl farm buoys. We kept a sharp look out for the buoys but even when we located and watched them it was imperative to have Lesley standing at the bow. There was never just one buoy. If you spotted one there were more, slightly submerged and strung together, presumably holding the ropes for oysters. They were a ghostly green below the surface so not easily seen. We backed off several to try and go around the last one in the chain but did manage to get over one line with the drive in neutral and drifting along very slowly under our momentum.

Watching the boats from Cocoperle Lodge

The small resort, Cocoperle Lodge run by Frank and his wife Francine was delightful and we had a very nice dinner with their guests and Uproar. They let us know about various areas of the atoll to explore and could not have been more friendly.

Christmas Decorations Ahe Style

We spent several days on their mooring buoy in light winds and explored by dinghy from there, visiting a small pool area called the La Source where the sea breaks over at high tides, some coral gardens and some pink sand bars.

We walked on the outside of the reef for about 30 minutes from Pension Chez Raita to try and find the turtle nesting site. We think we located a small area of sand where they could haul ashore without going over the rim of the reef but there was little evidence to support that they were currently nesting at night. It was a great walk for shell collecting though and we also arranged to come back the next evening for dinner.

Collecting Shells!

Raita and her family were most welcoming and even prepared chicken for Derek instead of the fish menu of oysters and grouper that the rest of us had! We were entertained by the family singing and playing local instruments.

The Band
The Band!

Both restaurants were good, and different to each other but both were excellent hosts and made for wonderful evenings, a real treat from the hot galley onboard.

We have learnt some Polynesian phrases as we are always greeted when ashore with friendly smiles and ‘Ia oraana’ Meaning, good day or hello.

Thank you is MAURURO
Goodbye is I – NANA
Please is EE (EH-EH)
Lots of love is TE AROHA IARAHI
How is it going is EAHA TE HURU
Very well, thank you is MAITAI ROA, MAURURU
Cheers – Mauruuru

In true cruisers style we shared meals, stories, knowledge and CPN charts and films! Lesley also gave Derek a haircut and trimmed Lisa’s long curly hair, which was a first for her.

We discovered a Gecko on board. Really not sure how he got there unless a bird dropped him on deck. Lisa named him Gaylord the Gecko! Apparently it’s Norman French origin meaning joyful or high spirited. Well so long as he eats a good number of mosquitos he can stay.

Gaylord checking out the boat

We had also had a worrying night on the mooring buoy when the wind changed direction. We were very close to the pinnacle of a bommie that just clipped the rudder on one occasion. We watched it for over an hour by torch light as we swung like a pendulum across it. Luckily the wind died a bit and shifted slightly, the tide came up a bit, so that we could get some sleep.

The next day we said good bye to Uproar; they were leaving to get to another atoll to meet a friend flying in for Christmas. She was also bringing with her a new control panel for our solar panels which had broken. So actually ‘au revoie’ until later. We decided to move to the village and explore an area we had been told about near there, travelling across the atoll, again dodging shallows and pearl buoys. To add to the tension the light was poor because of a slowly approaching squall. We were accompanied by the sound of distant thunder and just as we made the sanctuary of the marked channel the heavens opened.

We circled the protected area between the reef and the concrete wharf by the village called Tenukupara, but didn’t find a big enough area for Ocean Blue between the bommies and coral to anchor there. We picked a patch further out away from the village and channel.

From here it was a 2 mile dinghy ride to an area in the south east corner of the atoll where there is a lagoon, within a lagoon. There is a reef separating another deep water area. This was interesting as the colours were more green than blue with shades from turquoise to emerald with an interesting lime coloured band. We think it was mostly influenced by depth but probably also the reflection and type of bottom substance.

In the evening 15 or so canoeists were out paddling around in their priorgs or Vaa a’s and two of the men invited us to go and see their pearls if we were interested the following morning. After breakfast we went ashore to the building that had been indicated and spent a lovely time learning about the pearl seeding and harvest. Luckily for us one of the ladies spoke perfect English having been educated in the USA as her mother was from Seattle and her father Tahitian.

They have young oysters here that they sell to neighbouring atoll pearl farms as well as growing their own pearls. We saw the small ball of shell that they use to insert into the oyster, which is approx. 4mm in size. This is used to stimulate the oyster which coats it with nacre to form a pearl. They are inserted when the oyster is between nine months to a year and not harvested from the pearl for up to another 2 years. The baby oysters have to be lifted and taken off the fine netting that they start life on and transferred to long rope, approximately 100 per rope hang into the depth. When they are inserting the seed and making the transfer they can deal with 1000 oysters a day. The plastic tassels that we had seen on the beach are used to deter the sharks, turtles and rays from eating the oysters.

We looked through the different grades of pearls to make a selection for potentially buying but would have to wait until the men folk were back to negotiate a price. Each bag was marked with the workers name so they can keep track of who has been working on which rope of oysters and can monitor which techniques for inserting the seeds produces the better pearls. We also saw the very small natural pearls that are created by the oyster if no seed is retained. They are very small irregular chips by comparison. Lesley also learnt how to look after and clean pearls.

A fun morning and as we left we were given mangos, a pineapple and an avocado! We waited for the negotiation. After the days work had been completed the men came by Ocean Blue and we followed them ashore. As well as buying pearls we were also given a large bowl of fresh oysters. That was Lesley’s dinner sorted!

The pearl house
The Pearl House

We had wanted to go to the pearl house run by Patrick, but the area and dock looked unlikely for our boat and having bought from the village we felt we had probably done our pearl shopping, for the moment. We did anchor near the pass to wait for an incoming current and to snorkel the pass. Wow, it was worth the short wait, beautifully clear water and a stunning collecting of fish. A coral carpet, massive groupers and a sleeping shark. We timed our departure for an overnight sail to Fakarava to arrive at slack water for the pass there. However, it took us an hour and a half to get the anchor up, going backwards and forwards to unthread the 80 metres of chain from around the rocky bottom. The last 30 metres wouldn’t budge with this technique so Derek had to don his diving gear and go down to see what the problem was. The tip of the Rocna anchor had wedged itself into a small hole in the lava rock. Derek moved it a metre to sand and finned to the surface with a 3 min stop.

Back on board and showered again we were able to weigh the anchor without any further problems and got going. Our timing was good and Lesley steered Ocean Blue through the pass making it her first passage through an atoll at the helm.


Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus and one of the largest in the world. Approximately 43 NM long and 18 NM wide. The 240 islets string together in the ocean for more than 110 miles (177 km), completely encircling a deep lagoon

Several scuba diving operators will take you to dive the pass. Whales, manta rays, and sharks have been seen, as well as the resident pod of dolphins that stay here.

Picasso Fish

We took to regularly snorkelling off the motu Nuhi Nuhi by the Tiputa pass, known as the ‘aquarium’, which had an abundance of fish and colourful coral. There are also some informative markers there, under the water about the reef and fish!

Butterfly Fish

There are two main villages of Avatoru and Tiputa which offer several magasins (shops), selling pretty much everything you need for the day to day simple life are restocked twice a week when the supply ship has unloaded. There are also churches, craft centres, local restaurants(snack bars) and even a boulangerie.

The strong winds and torrential rain limited exploration for a few days. Work and boat jobs continued though, a rain canopy for the aft hatch so we can still keep it open at night and get some ventilation through our cabin was made, the wind scoop fixed, cookies cooked, software written and training courses updated!

The tour boats also come to the Blue Lagoon

With calmer weather we took a day trip to the blue lagoon. This is an area on the western side of the atoll where the shallows are a nursery for black tip reef sharks and the shallow water is gin clear.

Never far from a shark here!

With prevailing winds from the East and the Blue Lagoon on the West, you need unusual weather to make a stay there comfortable, since the chop builds and makes anchoring uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, especially at this time of year where we have frequent squalls with wind coming from many different directions. We took friends, Frank and Sophie from Anastasia for the day trip, leaving at 8 and returning by 5 to motor across the atoll in the well marked channel. A great day out and well worth the visit.

Beautiful clear shallow water

Our dinghy is our transport between the boat and the shore, or the boat and any other adventures we undertake. In most places we anchor every destination is reasonable distance away. Sometimes just a few hundred metres but often much further, sometimes a few miles. Recently the dinghy outboard motor has been playing up.

Miles of coastline to explore – but we need the dinghy

Modern fuels in most parts of the world are made with more and more ethanol content every year. Whilst there are some good environmental arguments for adding ethanol to petrol, it also has some nasty side effects, including eating fuel hoses, seals and other rubber stuff that were manufactured prior to the high ethanol content being used. Ethanol is also hygroscopic, whereas petrol is hydrophobic, or in simple terms Ethanol absorbs water and petrol repels it.

Therefore in the humid marine environments we live in, we get a lot more water in the fuel than is good for the engine. We use additives to minimise it, but after leaving the outboard for a while, invariably the water from the fuel will have caused some crud to form in the carburettor meaning the engine doesn’t want to idle and a quick stripdown and clean of the carburettor jets is needed. It is so frequent that Derek can do this now in less than 10 minutes!

Giant Clams abound the reefs

However the latest failures of the engine perplexed Derek for a good few weeks. The engine seemed to be running rich, using loads of fuel and cutting out at high revs. Even more strange was that the oil level rose and overflowed the dipstick! After sleeping on the problem, Derek identified it as a fuel pump problem. The rubber diaphragm had perished and the fuel was being pumped straight into the engine crankcase rather than the carburettor – not ideal!

That gave us a problem. We carry many many spares on board but not a fuel pump. There are virtually no chandleries or engine supplies in the atolls and an email to the Mercury dealer back in Tahiti got a quick answer stating it will be one to two months before they can obtain a new pump for us. Then we must organise it to be shipped to wherever we are somehow.

That’s a long time to wait and not go ashore or go and visit anything. Later that evening Derek proclaims:

‘Why do we need a pump anyway? We only need a pump if the petrol storage is lower than the carburettor. Gravity should do the job otherwise, that doesn’t break!’

The next morning, the pump was bypassed, the fuel can raised high and the starter chord pulled. Its not ideal, it does require a little use of the hand priming pump in the fuel line from time to time, but the engine runs, and we can at least get around until the new pump arrives. We have ordered one from the UK to be sent to Tahiti by DHL and then we will somehow hopefully get it sent on to wherever we are. Times like this make us eternally grateful to family back in the UK who can assist with shipping etc.

With the dinghy operational again, on Saturday we went ashore early, to get bread for breakfast and found a bustle of activity. There were small market stalls with clothes and fishing gear as well as dried snacks and general stores. The supply boat was also selling fresh fruit and vegetables directly on the quay. We purchased, mangoes, oranges, carrots and tomatoes but there were also cucumbers, limes, potatoes, onions and cabbage. The fridge was refilled!

With the wind forecast to drop and the arrival of a large cruise ship on Sunday, we decided to sail across the lagoon to the southeast corner for a few days away from the relative bustle of the village and a potential influx of tourists (its all relative!).

The area is called Tevare, Sables Rose and is famed for its pink sand. We had a light wind of 8-12 knots and had a glorious sail most of the way, before reverting to the engine for the last hour picking a somewhat torturous route through the bommies to the beautifully calm sheltered spot where we dropped anchor. Charts are somewhat lacking, within many of the atolls so Derek had his first go at producing a satellite image chart (something we had got used to using in the San Blas), so we tested its accuracy for bommies – very useful it was too, clearly showing all the shallow bommies that we encountered.

Anchored at Le Sables Rose

We stayed here for several days exploring the environment and enjoying the peace and quiet. Nature was close by, with the small bommie behind us being a nursery for juvenile fish. The flats to the pink sand banks had numerous black tip reef sharks and we saw eels and rays whilst walking through the shallows.

Pink sands of Le Sables Rose

On another excursion we we took the dinghy as far as we could, waded through a soft bottom to get to the coral shore and followed the cairns to reach the outer Pacific shore. This gave us a very clear appreciation of the dramatic underwater coastline. We stood just metres from the reef edge in the crashing waves, and could see that less than 30 metres away the reef dropped off to depth of thousands of kilometres almost vertically.

The edge of the reef

There are a few dwellings along the shore where the inhabitants produce copra and collect shells to sell. We were told that they didn’t live there permanently, just stayed to do the work then returned to the villages. The upshot of this is that there was virtually no light pollution at night. When the skies cleared all we could see was a myriad of stars in a perfectly black sky. We saw stars and constellations that we haven’t been able to see for quite a while.

We read in one of the guides that there was a tiny Motu (Nao Nao) about halfway back towards the village anchorage that had good diving, so we took the opportunity to stop off there on the way back and enjoyed a lovely shallow dive with a great array of colourful fish. This was followed by a clean of the hull before returning to the anchorage as dusk fell and the light faded.

Snorkeling the reefs

Knowing we would be leaving soon, we planned a quick shop for fresh bread, vegetables and fruit but found the shop had delayed its opening for a special event.  They were launching the European lottery ticket sales!  Free nibbles, ice cream and local dancing. Plus we could get our shopping!

Local Polynesian girls dance to celebrate the shop’s start of selling lottery tickets!

And today we move on. Rangiroa grew on us as we stayed here. Due to its size, the anchorages can be rather exposed. If the wind picks up and has any south in it, the main village anchorage gets lumpy but then there are other places to anchor on the southern side. However its not a short hop across the atoll and does require good light.

Rangiroa does has a lot to offer the cruiser.  The local hotel we anchored off (The Kia Ora) is welcoming and when we emailed them to ask, they were happy for us to drink at the bar and watch the Polynesian entertainment. There is even some wine production here and a tasting tour at the Dominique Auroy Estate which is nestled within a coconut grove. It produces three grape varieties.  We didn’t explore this but we saw the wines for sale in the local magasin.

We have enjoyed our time here but look forward to the next atoll, which if the wind is as forecast will be the much smaller Ahe, just an overnight sail away.

Back In the Tuamotus

After a few months back working, we are back onboard. The boat was safe and sound after it’s 4 month stay in the Papeete marina, and we spent nearly two weeks at anchor inside the reef in Tahiti, re-aclimatising to being back on board, cleaning the hull, re-provisioning and generally getting back into the liveaboard life.

By that time we were itching to move on, so after getting our duty free fuel from the marina we headed out, skirted around the island and headed towards the nearest of the Tuomotu atolls – Makeatea.  Large waves and a dreary sky were not an encouraging first sail.

Lesley soon felt the start of sea sickness and after putting a few things more securely, when to hibernate on the leeward settee below.

The boat seemed to love the conditions and with minimum sail we ploughed on through the night towards the atolls. As the wind backed, it became evident that we were not going to make our intended destination without an even more uncomfortable bash to windward so we decided on Tikehau instead – another 50 miles further but a much nicer sailing angle.

We arrived at lunchtime and took a look at the pass which seemed ok. A quick radio to see if any other boats could advise on the tidal stream and after a reassuring affirmation from another cruiser we went through. Perfect timing – a gentle outgoing current and flat water! We prefer to have slack water or current against us since its easier to slow down or even stop if the sight ahead looks unwelcoming, something that is very difficult is there is a current pushing you onward towards the dangers.

Once inside the atoll our world stopped pounding up and down and became more civilised. Lesley started to smile again and we followed the well marked Channel to the anchorage on the eastern side of the atoll, sheltered from the prevailing winds.

Days start quietly on Tikehau. From the sky, this graceful atoll looks like a crown of white and pink-sand beaches shimmering around the Tikehau Atoll lagoon making it almost too breathtaking to be true. Only about 500 Tahitians call this tranquil world home, generations of fishermen whose lives revolve around the sea. And, it’s a life of both peace and plenty. After a few days of just enjoying the peace and quiet, and continuing the never ending list of boat jobs, we took a dinghy ride with another boat to the Manta cleaning site – a place where Manta Rays congregate to be cleaned by remoras. We tied the dinghy to the buoy, donned the mask and flippers and jumped over to take a look. We were not disappointed – within minutes we were treated to a circling Manta ray, well over 2 metres across just metres below us. The water was not as clear as some places but it was an amazing sight and went on for about 30 minutes.

Manta Ray being cleaned by remoras

We had read about the ‘Eden Isle’, or ‘Garden of Eden’ where you could supposedly visit and obtain freshly grown vegetables so we up anchored and took a trip up the eastern side of the atoll. Once ashore we were welcomed by a taiwanese gentleman who gave us a tour of their island.

Drying Sea Salt

The ‘prophet’, Elijah Hong, from Taiwan and leader of a sect called the NTC (New Testament Church) traveled around to search for a place to start their Eden project. There are also similar settlements in South Africa and California. When he came to Tikehau he said that he felt that God meant that this was the place. They then purchased a motu in 1997 and have lived off the land using natures resources and ‘farming as they did in the beginning.’

Healthy piglets

We were given a tour with fascinating explanations and ate cherries, mulberries and a variety of different leaves, that we would not have been able to differentiate from weeds. We were given aubergine, chili peppers, lettuces and basil. They also had vanilla growing and made their own sea salt as well as keeping chickens and pigs. We also purchased a cute pearl necklace and some rough pearls.

Vanilla growing

After another tough day, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the bay we opted to head back down the atoll to the village, where we went ashore, had a wonder around, bought bread, onions and ice creams, grabbed a bit of wifi from the post office and stretched our legs.

Fresh cherries

We left Tikehau early the next morning, to head for the largest atoll in the Tuamotus, and the second largest atoll in the world; Rangiroa.

We were lucky that our timing on both passes worked out well – no waiting around and flat water. Once inside Rangiroa, we headed for the anchorage where we have been ever since. The weather has not been great – very wet and squally, so we have yet to go ashore. However it is set to dry up later today, so fingers crossed.

Exploring Galapagos

San Cristobal

San Cristobal, our island of arrival is the fifth largest island of the 19 main islands that make up the Galápagos Islands archipelago, which were discovered accidentally in 1535 and are part of Ecuador. It has the second largest population.

Charles Darwin visited the islands on the Beagle in 1835 and his observations of finches there, influenced his theory of evolution and the origins of species.

A replica of the Beagle on the seafront

The main town in San Cristobal is like most Caribbean towns with a Spanish influence. There is a great market for local produce and plenty of small tiendas for other goods. A good selection of restaurants, our favourite being Galápagos Dreams, which served a great steak and burgers served on a piece of volcanic rock!

There were several small hotels and other accommodation and we were able to buy a local mobile SIM card and data.

The centre for interpretation is well worth a visit, turn left at the end of the ferry pier and follow the walkway around the coast and then the road.

Just past a modern looking university building is the centre. It’s free and provides a good overview of the islands history, biology and development. At the back of the centre is a pathway that you follow up a hill, cerro de las tijeretas, (frigate bird hill) for a good view into the next bay and back to the anchorage. We took our snorkel and fins as further on there are steps into the sea where you can take a swim. There were some fish and sea lions willing to play near the steps but visibility below the water was poor due to the high surf. There were also marina iguanas and a variety of birds, other reptiles and insects. If you take the alternative route back along the beach, playa Baquerizo, you can swim in the bay. This area has iguanas nesting all along the beach and more sea lions and crabs. All this was free!

A Sally Lightfoot Crab

We took a taxi, a local pickup truck, across the islands to see the tortoise (tortuga, in Spanish) conservation centre and El Junco Lagoon for the volcano crater rim hike. $60. The lagoon is a freshwater lake approximately 700 meters above sea level. The frigate birds were great to watch soaring over the lake. The health of the Miconia bush is an indication of the water retention in the area. Apart from the taxi fare there were no other costs here either.

A massive tortoise at the breeding centre

The tortoise breeding centre opened in 2002 to protect and increase the numbers in the wild. These animals were used as food in the past and their number were greatly reduced to the point of extinction. The breeding centre is repopulating the natural environment in the north of the island. Apparently the tortoises are slightly different on each of the islands.

Baby tortoises at the breeding centre

We took a dive tour to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) where there are sharks. Being new to diving Lesley was unsure of how she would feel faced with the sharks but it was worth it to dive and see hammerhead, white tip and Galápagos Sharks. We did this with Wreck Bay dive centre at $150pp which included 2 dives, lunch and a rest/exploring a different beach. We also saw a huge fin whale, more sea lions and a good variety of fish. It was only intimidating when several sharks were swimming towards us in a confined area between the rocks, otherwise an awesome experience.

Time for a quick break on a secluded beach after a morning’s diving

For those seeking something other than nature viewing, there was also apparently a good beach for surfing on San Cristobal!


We made an early start as it was an 80 NM sail to Isabela. Wreck bay San Cristobal is an easy anchorage to leave in the dark which meant we could arrive in daylight the other end. You still have to check out before leaving, arranged through our agent via email and it cost $8 for the zarpe. It was given to us by the water taxi driver as we returned to our boat, an hour after emailing our agent!

Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago and still has five active super volcanos. Sierra Negra last erupted in 2005. Volcano Wolf is the highest point in the Galápagos at 1707 metres.

The anchorage is protected by a group of rocks known as Torentella, although its really shallow the further you go in at low tide or with a high sun you can see the ‘boomies’ as you nudge your way in. As it was late afternoon we opted for a safer, although rolly, space further out wih the Galápagos cruise ships and a delivery boat from the mainland.

A selection of the small cruise ships serving the Galapagos

We watched this boat unload its cargo, fresh items first. Then other goods and eventually building supplies. Even new engines for one of the tour boats! Once this was done it started to be reloaded with waste items, rusting metal and an enormous quantity of glass bottles! It took over six days using the barges to transport goods from the boat to the island and looked inefficient, but got the job done.

6 days work to unload and load this supply ship

Unlike in San Cristobal, we were able to use our own dinghy to get ashore and leave it at the dock. The short walk into town revealed a touristy place with a lot of tour operators/booking agents, accommodation and restaurants. We had a quick look at the modern looking church with its stained glass windows depicting Galápagos animals. The beaches are white sand over volcanic black rock and have huge Pacific rollers breaking on the reef and beech. We tested one of the beach bars for a birthday burger for Derek at happy hour, it passed inspection!

We arranged a tour to include a horse ride and hike around the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano as a birthday treat. It was an early start and after a 30 minute drive to the national park we mounted the horses which we were very glad were doing the uphill climb for us!

Lesley’s mount for the day

There was plenty of opportunity to stop for photos and to take in the breathtaking view. Guava bushes and walnut trees lined the track initially. Derek was not impressed with the tuna roll for lunch but cheered up when he found I had packed some birthday cake!

And Derek’s

The crater is massive – 8 x 12km. We were able to walk through the barren ash/cinder coated areas with our guide close to the rim and where the latest eruption had been.

The view to the north

The ash was from the 2005 eruption and also the solidified lava flow from 2018. It was a well preserved area and was frighteningly large. should the whole thing erupt in the future it would have a devastating effect on South America.

The view looking clockwise around the rim

The next day, we went for a snorkel at the Conch de Perla, an area next to the dinghy dock accessed via a wooden broad walk to a lagoon area inside the reef. It’s a lovely protected area and we swam with the marine Iguanas and penguins as well as a sea lion and the usual fish. Unfortunately no sea horses.

A sizable iguana

The penguins are fun, they and some small black tip sharks swam around the boat as we cleaned the waterline to get rid of the Galápagos beard that had started to grow. Sea lions also had an inquisitive look at us.

You wouldn’t want to use that seat!

There is a small lake behind the town which was a little dried out but we did see one Flamingo in the distance. If we had gone further there is a much larger area where they are supposed to gather.

Talking to some of the other yachts we discovered that someone had managed to arrange fuel so we got the details and did the calculations deciding that it was a bit cheaper to pay slightly more for the fuel to be brought to the boat here rather than going back the 80:NM to San Cristobal. It would also reduce the journey to French Polynesia by half a day and give us more time to explore Isabela and Santa Cruz

Stepping over these creatures took a bit of getting used to

After chatting to some of the other cruisers we decided to do one more tour to Snorkel Los Tuneles which is a 40 minute small fast boat ride from Puerto Villamil.

Union Rocks

We past union rocks on the way which had penguins, blue footed boobies and a sea lion balanced on a ledge. They really do find all sorts of improbable places to sleep.

A Blue Footed Booby

The entrance to the tunnels area was expertly driven by the boats captain, negotiating the right wave to surf with and just the right amount of engine power. It made for an exhilarating ride.

Penguins greeted us as we worked in through the larva

The contrast is startling, after a few twists and turns, to then enter the protected and still area beyond the entrance was unreal. The landscape at the tunnels was formed by the very old lava flow.

Water streamed between the lava flows

Two different types of cactus grew with lichen and moss.

The bridge

The bridges are left after the erosion of the tunnels but you can imagine where they flowed into the sea. Blue footed boobies nest here whilst heron look for any small lizard or fish. The water was amazingly clear and still. This enormous turtle surfaced to say hello.

The turtles weren’t concerned by our presence

After a bit of exploring here we moved to a bay around the corner. The visibility was not as good but the marine life was extraordinary. As soon as we were in the water there were many enormous turtles feeding. There were so many throughout the trip you stopped taking photos of them! Watching them feed and surface and dive again, majestic in their underwater environment, utterly amazing.

Beautiful Turtles abound

The snorkel tour took us through the rocks and towards the sea where there was a ledge with a resting white tip shark but the highlight was seeing sea horses. So well camouflaged you would not see them unless they were pointed out to you!

Spot the Seahorse

After a quick lunch it was back to the anchorage but not before we had stopped to see some manta rays.

Santa Cruz

Our final Galapagos destination was Puerto Ayora in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz. It’s a rolly anchorage so its best to tuck as far into the shore as possible and use a stern anchor to hold the boat to the swell.

The town here is one of the larger towns we encountered in the Galapagos and we took the opportunity to re-provision at the handy supermarket just by the dock. On certain evenings one of the side streets is closed off and all the local restaurants spread tables out over the street and created a unique environment, where you could choose your seat then choose your vendor and the food was brought to you. If some of your party wanted food from one restaurant and some from another it was not a problem. We enjoyed a great evening here with friends that had just sailed in from Panama.

Just another obstacle when climbing the steps

We also visited the Charles Darwin research centre which had interesting displays depicting how the islands had changed over time and the contributions that visitors made arriving by different means – air, cruise ship and yacht. They really appeared to be trying to figure out how to make tourism successful and sustainable.

About 30 minutes walk along the coast from the dinghy dock is a canyon carved through the rock many thousand years ago and within it a pool where locals and tourists congregate to swim. It is well advertised so we decided to give it a go.

The pool in the canyon

It was fun, the sights from the top looking down into the canyon were interesting but it was a little busy really for our liking – we get rather spoilt being able to pick and choose our idyllic swimming sites!

Heading back towards the bay

It was a fitting end to our trip. An amazing few weeks in a place that is unique. We have been asked by many people whether it was worth the money, with the restrictions on where you can anchor and what you can do. For us the answer was an unmitigated yes. A once in a lifetime visit to a place that is apparently changing fast. Like many of the places we are visiting, tourists like us, are getting more frequent and the islands are having to adapt. We are told the Galapagos is very different to how it was just 20 years ago, so our advice to anyone interested in going there is to do it sooner rather than later. We are certainly glad we didn’t just sail past.

Arrival in Galapagos

After a little over four and a half days we arrived safely into San Cristobal, Galapagos with the vessel we had towed for 260 miles still attached on a short line.

The dock – occupied before we arrived!

Within an hour 13 officials had been on board and we were checked in and were free to explore the island.

We look forward to exploring the islands over the next few weeks.

Inland to Medellin

Flights from Santa Marta to Medellin are very reasonable and it is one of the major cities in Columbia with a notorious history, at one stage having the dubious title as the most dangerous city in the world..

For us it was a chance to see something of the interior of Columbia rather than just the coastline. It is now a much safer place to tour than in recent years.

Medellin city from one of the cable cars

One of the notorious residents of the city was Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria who was born in December 1949. He was raised in the city of Medellín and is thought to have begun his criminal career as a teenager, eventually becoming involved in many criminal activities running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes, fake lottery tickets, and stealing cars.

In the early 1970s, prior to entering the drug trade, Escobar acted as a thief and bodyguard, allegedly earning US $100,000 by kidnapping and holding a Medellín executive for ransom. He began working for Alvaro Prieto, a contraband smuggler who operated around Medellín, aiming to fulfil a childhood ambition to have COL $1 million by the time he was 22. Escobar is known to have had a bank deposit of COL $100 million (more than US $3 million), when he turned 26.

Street Art in Communa 13

Beginning in 1975, Pablo started developing his cocaine operation, flying out planes several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, along smuggling routes into the United States.

In May 1976, Escobar and several of his men were arrested and found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste, attempting to return to Medellín from Ecuador. He tried to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming a case against him. After many months of legal wrangling, he ordered the murder of the two arresting officers, and the case was later dropped. This began his pattern of dealing with the authorities, by either bribery or murder.

As there were no drug cartels then, and only a few drug barons in Peru, Pablo would buy the cocaine paste, which would then be refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tyres, Soon, the demand for cocaine increased, and Escobar organised more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California, and other parts of the country developing a new trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, an island called Norman’s Cay about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of the Florida coast. We had visited here when we’re in the Bahamas! Escobar and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the island, which included a 1 kilometre airstrip, a harbour, a hotel, houses, boats, and aircraft, and they built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine.

Nightlife in current day Medellin

From 1978 to 1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. With the enormous profits generated by this route, Escobar was soon able to purchase 7.7 square miles of land in Antioquia for several million dollars, on which he built the Hacienda Nápoles. The luxury house he created contained a zoo, a lake, a sculpture garden, a private bullring, and other diversions for his family and the cartel.

At one point it was estimated that 70 to 80 tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the United States every month. In the mid-1980s, the Medellín Cartel was shipping as much as 11 tons per flight in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Escobar was 51,000 pounds mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat. Roberto Escobar, his brother, also claimed that, in addition to using planes, two small submarines were used to transport the massive loads.

Escobar was the official representative of the Colombian government for the swearing-in of Felipe González in Spain. He quickly became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Spain. The production process was also altered, with coca from Bolivia and Peru replacing the coca from Colombia, which was beginning to be seen as substandard quality than the coca from the neighbouring countries. It is alleged that Escobar backed the 1985 storming of the Colombian Supreme Court by left-wing guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement, also known as M-19. The siege, a retaliation motivated by the Supreme Court studying the constitutionality of Colombia’s extradition treaty with the U.S., resulted in the murders of half the judges on the court. M-19 were paid to break into the Palace and burn all papers and files on a group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the U.S. by the Colombian government. Hostages were also taken for negotiation of their release, thus helping to prevent the extradition.

View from the top of Peñol Rock

During the height of its operations, the Medellín Cartel brought in more than US $70 million per day (roughly $26 billion in a year). Smuggling 15 tons of cocaine per day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States, the cartel spent over US $1,000 per week purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash, storing most of it in their warehouses. Ten percent of the cash had to be written off per year because of “spoilage”, due to rats creeping in and nibbling on the bills they could reach.

When questioned about the essence of the cocaine business, Escobar replied with “the business is simple: you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back.”

In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of approaching US $3 billion while his Medellín Cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. It is commonly believed that Escobar was the principal financier behind Medellín’s Atlético Nacional, which won South America’s most prestigious football tournament, in 1989.

While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín. He was a natural at public relations, and he worked to create goodwill among the poor of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring children’s football teams.

He worked hard to cultivate his Robin Hood image, and frequently distributed money through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the locals of the towns that he frequented. Some people from Medellín often helped Escobar avoid police capture by serving as lookouts, hiding information from authorities, or doing whatever else they could to protect him.

The Colombian cartels’ continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fuelled by Escobar’s giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died as a result.

Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar and convinced him to surrender and cease all criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity. Declaring an end to a series of previous violent acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar surrendered to Colombian authorities in 1991. Before he gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens to the United States had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. This act was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar and other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly in passing the law. Escobar was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral, which featured a football pitch, giant doll house, bar, jacuzzi and waterfall. Accounts of Escobar’s continued criminal activities while in prison began to surface in the media, which prompted the government to attempt to move him to a more conventional jail 1992. Escobar’s influence allowed him to discover the plan in advance and make a successful escape, spending the remainder of his life evading the police.

Following Escobar’s escape, the United States joined the manhunt for Escobar. They trained and advised a special Colombian police task force known as the Search Bloc, which had been created to locate Escobar. Later, as the conflict between Escobar and the governments of the United States and Colombia dragged on, and as the numbers of Escobar’s enemies grew, a vigilante group known as the”People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar”) was formed. They carried out a bloody campaign, fuelled by vengeance, in which more than 300 of Escobar’s associates, his lawyer and relatives were slain, and a large amount of the Medellín cartel’s property was destroyed.

After becoming wealthy, Escobar created or bought numerous residences and safe houses, Escobar also owned a home in Florida and a massive Caribbean getaway on Isla Grande, the largest comprising Islas del Rosario, located about 22 miles from Cartagena.

Just one of Escobar’s many past residences – left untouched since his death

16 months after his escape, Pablo Escobar died in a shootout on 2 December 1993, amid another of Escobar’s attempts to elude capture he was hiding in Los Olivos, a middle-class barrio in Medellín. He was shot and killed by Colombian National Police whilst trying to escape. Soon after Escobar’s death and the subsequent fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel, the cocaine market became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel until the mid-1990s when its leaders were either killed or captured by the Colombian government.

We were interested to learn more about what it was like during this period. The people we spoke to preferred to not give notoriety to Escobar, as they felt this was funding his family.

The cathedral

Medellin had much to offer, it is build in a valley and expands up many hillsides. To help residents get to work, various transport systems have been built, including cable cars and escalators. It was fascinating to ride them and explore the different regions of the city.

The escalators in Comuna 13 – helping residents return to work after a hard day

After a couple of days exploring metropolitan Medellin we ended by heading out to Guatapé (Pueblo de Zocalos), home to the magnificent Peñol Rock (La Piedra del Peñol) on a 12-hour tour.

Peñol Rock

As well as ascending the 742 steps leading to the summit, we visited traditional villages such as Guarne and Marinilla, and enjoyed a sightseeing cruise on Lake Guatape.

Colourful Guatape

Many of the houses are painted brightly often with scenes depicting the trade of the inhabitants

The zocalos (paintings) often depicted the trade of the inhabitants

Curacao – The OCC Suzie Too rally begins

Our friends, Steve and Fiona on Supertramp kindly offered us a lift to Williamstrade to do the check in (a relatively simple process but one that involved different offices on different sides of the water), which saved us an all day trip on the bus and meant we also had time for a trip to Island Water World, Budget Marine and the hardware store – bonus!

Anchorage ‘C’, our home for the week

Lesley’s daughter and a friend visited us and enjoyed a few days of sun and relaxation with us. With many rally participants already there, the social activities had started  and we joined in the noodling and SUP (Stand Up Paddle board) yoga exercise groups.

A short walk from the dock there was great snorkeling at the Tug Boat Bay and under the fort, and we even managed to test out the new dive gear we had brought out from England.

Diving and Snorkeling was stunning around Tugboat Bay

Derek installed the solar panels and two wind generators on the arch, connecting everything to give us fantastic power production. He also enjoyed building the stainless ladder and Bimini tightrope, to enable main sail preparation and packing away – just like a big boy’s Mechano set. The design was inspired by Suzie Too when we met them in Martinique last season.

We enjoyed a range of Suzie Too socials including the quiz night (but didn’t excel in our knowledge of the island) and a great beach bbq and dinner at the Boca 19 resort. The information session was good and it was great to meet the manager of Shelter Bay marina in Panama that we will be visiting, and hear how our friends Caroline and Bill are getting on there.

One of the many Suzie Too social events

After a shopping trip for some fresh groceries we were ready for checking out. This was made so much easier by having customs and immigration at the resort rather than having to trek into town. Just one of many benefits tirelessly organised by Susie.

Refueling for the next part of the trip should have been a simple procedure but had a little surprise in store. Whilst waiting for the fuel dock to empty, we were close to the shallows just drifting. When we got close, we tried to motor clear only to find that the engine, which was running smoothly on idle refused to increase revs and power us away. Luckily engaging reverse allowed the revs to reluctantly increase and we avoided the shoals but we had to re-anchor to establish the cause.

It transpires the problem was the refurbished alternator we fitted in Trinidad. It produces a huge amount of power at low revs but also a lot of drag on the engine. Since the batteries were fairly low, it was trying to develop maximum electricity and the engine did not have the power to overcome the drag on idle. Luckily we have a sophisticated regulator so we were able to throttle the output a little which meant the engine could rev freely. A simple but unexpected fix that could have caused a nasty situation.

All fixed, we left for Santa Cruz, a bay on the western side of the island ready for an early departure to Aruba the next day.

Sadly we didn’t get to explore much on the island, but we did manage to get all our parts fitted and attended some great social events, and met new rally friends.


We woke at 5:30 and left the anchorage at Santa Cruz, following the earlier departures. We followed the trail of navigation lights, like ants in a row to our next destination, Oranjestad, in the dutch island of Aruba.

The wind was initially too light to sail but once we cleared the land and the sun came up we popped Pippa the parasailor up and away we went. A comfortable average of 8.9 and hitting 10 knots surfing down the waves. We were overtaking other boats and loving the sail to the southern tip of the island.

On arrival at the designated check in port we were turned away at the entrance and told to sail back upwind to a different port to check in there – rather frustrating.

By the time we beat back other boats had already docked to proceed with check in. The paperwork had to be collected from all the boats and driven to the main offices. We rafted up and joined the wait. Eventually the documentation was completed and we sailed back to the anchorage, right under the runway and by the cruise terminal.

The busy anchorage by the runway and close to the cruise terminal

After a couple of days we decided to find a quieter anchorage in the north of the island. Not however before we went as a large group to see the excellent film Bohemian Rhapsody at the local cinema.

In the northern anchorage we spent a few days diving and exploring the lighthouse and catching up with other rally participants.

A walk to the lighthouse with friends

We returned to the runway anchorage for check out. Much smoother as paperwork was collected for all of the boats, processed and returned without us needing to go alongside their awful docks – geared up for commercial ships not yachts.

From here, the next stop was to be Santa Marta in Columbia, with an overnight stop scheduled in the bay of Ensenada Huaritcheru, just around the Cabo de la Vela.

Back on the boat in Trinidad

So we both made it back on the planned date leaving England on the 14 October. The airlines were fantastic, accommodating all of our extra luggage, even if one bag did follow on the next flight from Tobago to us! By the time we had our car hire the bag had arrived so no big drama, just a worrying hour as it happened to be the case containing the most valuable boat parts.

Customs glanced through the cases in Tobago and we had to present ourselves at the office in Chaguaramas for the official paperwork for ‘yacht in transit’ status to be formally concluded for all of our parts.

We arrived early evening and managed to find a ladder and haul everything up the 20 foot to the deck.

Its a long way up. when the boat is on the hard

We were relieved to find the boat in good condition, no obvious mould or bug infestations. We headed to Zanzibar restaurant for food and then sleep.

For the next  25 days it was a grueling schedule of work to put the boat back together and prepare her for sailing. It was disappointing to find the work we had commissioned before leaving had not progressed in our absence. This we had read about so we started to chase up the contractors. In the end our delay was down to waiting for the solar panels and wind generators to arrive. We were able to track the cargo ship across the Atlantic and down the Caribbean chain of islands. We even identified it anchored in the bay behind us waiting to go into Port of Spain to unload. Once the ship had docked it took several days to get unstuffed and for our parcels to be released. In total 11 days from docking.

It was complicated by the fact that the value exceeded a certain figure and so normally a clearing agent is required. However, depending on who you ask, the value is irrelevant for yacht in transit. The conclusion was we needed an agent which we commissioned, and after all the hassles they arrived at customs to be told they weren’t needed! We finally got the goods anyway so were happy to be able to leave.

Our list of jobs got longer rather than shorter as we discovered new priorities whilst checking through everything. We were told that the boat bilge pump had been pumping out a lot of water when it rained. When it rains in Trinidad it is torrential, causing flash flooding in some areas and even a landslide over the road into the city. This is fairly normal for this time of year here, however this year was worse with prolonged periods of rain and devastating flooding where businesses and homes were completely flooded. We discovered the stanchions were leaking very badly, one of the reasons for our varnish work deteriorating in places.

We delayed our launch for a week to get through the below waterline jobs and to try and get the arch fitted on land (which didn’t happen!)

The arch is carried along the dock to the boat prior to fitting

Working in the 30 plus degree heat is energy sapping and we were so glad of the portable air conditioning unit keeping the interior of the boat cool. This became our workshop.

Mitchell Roberts, from West Coast Fabrications tests out the new arch he has just fitted

The watermaker was fitted with its new pump and membranes but once we launched and tested it the circuit board blew a chip and we needed a replacement from America. There is a great freight forwarder called Ezone which we used to import the part. As we waited for the arrival of our new solar panels and wind generators we used them for several additional items.

Happiness for Lesley – huge washing machines 50m from the boat

One of the jobs we needed to do was to replace the bolts that were fitted to the reinforcing plate for our skeg (the protrusion that supports the rudder). This was rebuilt by Princess Yachts (who built our boat), when we bought her, and for some ridiculous reason, they used mild steel bolts. Steel rusts, and we could see a slight movement on the plate so we dismantled the rear cabin, emptied the lazarette and extracted the bolts. There really was not much left of them – shame on Princess Yachts for such cost cutting, it could have led to a much worse situation, had we not noticed.

Peake Yacht Services’ yard came highly recommended and did not disappoint. It has to be one of the best yards we have ever visited and certainly looked after us and the boat. They even have a shopping bus which runs on several days a week and can be booked for other trips like airport transfers and trips to customs etc.

It was a shame that we did not get to explore the island. Chaguaramas is fantastic for getting things done on the boat but is not a lovely Caribbean anchorage. The hard is hot and dusty with the accompanying noise of people working on boats from 7 until 6, with the ladder to negotiate regularly for practical events such as bathroom trips as well as work on the boat. After 11 days it was a relief to go back in the water.

We made friends with a cat that appeared to be abandoned.

The cat that became our friend

It greeted us every morning and evening with the hope of being adopted we thought. In the beginning it tried to follow Lesley back to the boat but got the message as she circled back to the buildings each time and eventually stopped following her.

The water around Chaguaramas is clear  but the colour of weak tea, there is so much debris, mostly man made, swirling around the bay including large pieces of bamboo and other tree trunks washed down after the flooding. As this is an area where the fishing boats offload their catch the is frequently a dead fish amongst the flotsam and jetsam. There is often a film of oil on the surface and a cloudy muddiness after the rains.

Chaguaramas bay

After launching, we stayed on the dock at Peakes for 10 nights before they needed the space and we moved to a buoy.

Transferring Ocean Blue from the low loader to the hoist

If there is space, you can stay on their dock for free for up to 5 nights after a launch – another great service they operate.

Peakes even has a small beach area outside the hotel area

Three days after moving to the buoy, we stowed the solar panels and wind generators, checked out and sailed the 420 miles straight to Curacao

For anyone visiting we can recommend the following:

  • Peake Yacht Services – haulout, storage ashore and chandlery
  • West Coast Fabrication (Mitchell Roberts) – Excellent stainless work
  • Chaguaramas Electrical Services (Krendol Bourne) – Excellent Alternator work and servicing
  • Trinidad Rigging (Jonas) – Efficient, friendly and fast rigging services

As mentioned above though, you need to keep chasing the trades as they are all busy and you won’t get to the front of the queue if you are several thousand miles away assuming the work will be done.

Bahamas – Eleuthera

We left the Abacos via the North Bar passage and sailed directly to Eleuthera entering via the Little Egg Island passage. We made good time and sailed most of the way in glorious sunshine doing 6.5-8 knots, champagne sailing we call it!

We anchored in Royal Harbour, a protected anchorage entered through a narrow cut between rocks, with several other boats and hurried off the next morning to get through the Current Passage at high tide and supposedly slack water.

Current Passage

Unfortunately we had 2 knots tide against us but we managed through without incident and arrived in Governors Harbour by the afternoon.

Passing through Current Passage, we saw one of the oldest existing mailboats, the Current Pride, still in operation, delivering food and goods to the Islands

The ‘Current Pride’ Mailboat

Governors Harbour is reputed to have very poor holding with a thin layer of sand over rock, but luckily for us the winds remained consistent in direction and the anchor held firm.

The aim of the dash to Eleuthera was to be there to collect the service parts for the Procon vane pump for the water maker. The delivery service provided by X-Press It to the islands is great, especially the communication about the progress of the package’s journey. Unfortunately it was delayed so we decided to have a change of scenery and move around the headland to Laughing Bird Cay. It was much nicer than being in a town by the dock and it was very protected from the East. We were able to paddle-board around the bay and to identify a good landing place for the dinghy to get access to the X-Press It shop for the next day’s delivery/collection. We also took a walk across to French Leave beach on the Atlantic side of the Island.

French Leave beach

After a beautiful day the clouds started to gather and obscured what had promised to be a wonderful sunset. A storm was brewing and although the wind direction should be taking it away it was clear that the thunder and lighting were increasing and the storm was circling. We went to bed to faint rumbles and the odd flash of light and woke to a squall and rain at 1:00 am. We did the naked dash around the boat closing windows and settled back into bed. Only 5 minutes later and the anchor watch alarm went off. The wind had completely turned and was now blowing us on to the shore. The lights of the restaurant that had previously looked charming now looked threateningly close. As the 30 knots squall blasted us and the rain poured the thunder and lighting were now overhead. With 30 cm under the keel we needed to move quickly in case the anchor dragged taking us closer to the rocks. Lesley quickly doned a waterproof jacket and life jacket and braved the weather to pull up the anchor while Derek did well to try and steer the boat into the wind and away from danger in the pitch black, with no visual reference. We re-anchored further out in the bay and monitored how we lay. Happy that we were far enough from the shore, Derek went back to bed whilst Lesley made a cup of tea and waited for her hair to dry! With minimal water usage currently Lesley should have had a midnight shower on deck!

The storm rumbled away but kept circling as did the boat as the wind swung 180 degrees regularly. At 3 am there was a power cut on shore and complete darkness apart from some very bright lights which were running on an emergency generator. Alarms then sounded everywhere once the power went back on. At 5 am the wind and storm came back again but the anchor and 50 m of chain held well!

In the morning the wind had gone and our parts had arrived. On the dinghy ride to the beach we saw two enormous rays. Derek set to rebuilding the pump.

The parts for the Procon Pump

Successfully making water again we decided to explore more of the coast and move to Ten Bay beach for the night. A beautiful beach with crystal clear water. We had a good sail and were accompanied into the bay by a large pod of dolphins.

In the morning the wind started to move more southerly and the anchorage got more rolly. Lesley was baking in the galley but started to feel seasick, so it was a clear indication that it was time to move, or was that the effects of her cooking?

A ray in the shallows

Rock Sound in South Eleuthera became our destination and a good departure point for heading for the Exumas when the wind eased. We spent another windy night at anchor and in the morning motored cautiously into towards the town. The guide book says that you can follow the furrows through the shallows ploughed by the mail ship that comes once a week! It wasn’t very complementary about the area. We found good provisioning and friendly people although clearly the economy currently looks in decline  with several boarded up and neglected properties. We were not able to stay long as we needed to get back out to deeper water and shelter from the strong westerly winds the next front was about to bring before the tide ebbed.

We had a relatively peaceful night despite the front that came through, anchored with at least 80 cm of water beneath the keel, which by now was quite unusual in the shallow waters of the Bahamas. In the morning, we set sail for what many describe as the jewel in the crown of the Bahamas – the Exumas.