Friday, August 31, 2012

Island Life

Probably the only Yacht Club in the world where none of the local members owns a Yacht!
I had been planning to leave for Tonga today, but late yesterday Bob sent me an email suggesting waiting a further 48 hours to let some unstable weather get out of the way. The sites I use to look for ideas on local weather seemed to suggest it would be OK to go today, and indeed this morning I see a french yacht with a family on board is preparing to head west. However, Bob is the "Guru" so I am staying a bit longer.  But everything is ready to go,and I was mentally ready to go today so its a bit of an anticlimactic feeling to be back at the Internet cafe when I had said I wouldnt be back yesterday! 

The moorings were calm and protected for most of the time Ive been here but some of the large ocean swell thats been building up is now curling round the top of the island and making everyone roll wildly. there are six empty spots today. One of the boats to arrive  inn the last couple of days was "Brio" a yacht whose skipper and partner I met on the dock at Uturoa. They arrived here via Aitutaki and Palmerston islands, rather than Suwarrow, all of which are Cook Islands. Speaking of Cook, I read yesterday that when Captain Cook landed in Niue it was at the spot immediately in front of Sapphire. He wasn't warmly received and left, naming Niue "Savage Island". 

The other day I motorcycled round the entire island. Several things stand out - probably the most obvious is the depopulation of every one of the villages I went through. I would say for every inhabited dwelling at least four are empty and in varying degrees of dilapidation. Some have their windows carefully boarded up, others have doors and windows swinging  in the breeze, others are collapsed and invaded by shrubbery and vines.

Another feature are the Graves. Polynesians dont segregate their dead into cemeteries but bury them on family land, often out the front of the house, and often with a fence and even a small roof over the site. Some have flowers and various  mementos and decorations lined up, and a number that I saw had colurful windmills turning in the wind. The oldest graves are marked by a pile of coral rocks and an edging of rock, newer ones were slabs of concrete with concrete headstones, and the most recent ones, modern headstones of polished granite with an inset photo of the departed.
A very old family burial ground
Old concrete grave
The Latest Style
The other noticeable feature of these tiny depopulated villages, is that they all have a MASSIVE Church. The one in Liku, a village of, I dont know maybe 100 people, would easily have contained a congregation of  twice that number. When I went to church in Makefu, counting the minister and his wife there were 12 people in a church that could have held 100- so a congregation of 10. Other than the Minister and a small boy there was only one other adult male apart from myself.  All the women wore hats. But something quite wonderful happened after the service : we chatted to a beautiful young woman with a four month old baby and discovered that I delivered her, by caesarean section in Auckland 20 years ago! I dont recall ever before meeting an adult that I last saw as a newborn baby! I said "My word, havent you changed!" ( yes i know, I can be devastatingly witty sometimes!)
The wild  pacific on the north eastern coast, from a cave near Mutulau
Traditional canoes still widely used, stored in the cave, above.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Niue Photos

Sapphire on Mooring No. 5 , Alofi

Actually, the Official Name of my boat, registered on the Australian Ships Register, is "Sapphire Breeze". It might be recalled that when I  left Australian waters in 2009, it was from Lord Howe Island and the Immigration/Customs/you-name it everything policeman on the island checked me out not realising, as I also had not realized that New South Wales registration - which was all I had at the time - was insufficient for boats heading into international waters. He informed me of this by email a few days later when I was well on the way to New Zealand. subsequently Ive fudged my registration somewhat and no-body in NZ or french Polynesia realized my rego "Papers" were for NSW not Australia.Meanwhile I was going through what turned out to be a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape trying to get the required documentation. It was only completed earlier this year, and I have her new name printed out on a huge vinyl sticker in the requred Font and size, but I wont put it on until I am returning to Australian waters again. No idea when that might be!
The Wharf and Dinghy Crane at Alfi, Niue Island.

Coming ashore is interesting as there is no dinghy "dock" or beach where you can leave your dinghy. You rig up a bridle and if the previous user has been considerate and left the hook out over water, you loop your bridle through the hook, clamber ashore up the steps and operate the electric crane to lift the dinghy up to the right height, you manually swing the crane in to the wharf and lower your dinghy onto the little flat trolley, and unload it before swinging the hook back out over the water and leaving the trolley nearby for the next person. My dinghy is bottom right.
Sapphire on her mooring at Alofi
Niue, locally known as "The Rock" is a "raised coral Atoll". It was originally, as all atolls are, a volcanic peak with a reef around it. Over millenia the peak shrank under the sea but the coral grew to keep its head above water as it were, and eventually it became a ring of coral with a vast lagoon of coral in the interior. As the mountain sank further the coral kept growing so eventually the "mountain" was hundreds of feet beneath a cone of coral with a lagoon at the top - a typical Atoll really. The next bit is what makes it interesting - the mountain moved up - or maybe the sea dropped ? - anyway the "Lagoon" dried out and eventually became forest, the island formed with steep cliffs and a drop off into the ocean right up against it, and the interior flat like a saucer! And thats Niue folks - solid coral thousands of feet thick,porous and riddled with coral caves and grottoes, no encircling reef, no lagoon.
Panorama of the moorings and the Island
Coral cave at Limu : Clear ocean water right up to the cliffs
Avaiki Cave : swam here many times with the kids in 1983
Looking north to Makapu Point
Taro plantation inland. The soil is thin and poor, and rocky.
The road that encircles the island: it was unsealed in 1983
Some of my "in laws" in Makefu : we are dressed up for Church
Taking the kids out to Sapphire. They loved it!
The new Hospital
The  new hospital is inland, well away from the threat of Cyclones. I went there yesterday and met the two local doctors, both from Tonga. The Hospital is well equipped and modern, and the only patient was a woman who had given birth the night before, without complications. It services a population 1500 people and anything serious thats not an emergency is sent to New Zealand, so I dont think its busy, ever. They asked me to stay or come back to work sometime as they often have trouble getting people to stay. I'm booked out for this year but will look into coming back for a while next year sometime. When I was here last time, we did a ward round each morning, and then because almost nobody had a car in 1983, we did what was known as the "Island Round" in  a Ford Transit van with a nurse.We drove round the whole Island, with a lunch stop at Liku on the eastern side. As we drove we looked for any house that had a red "flag" on a tree or post outside - it could be a towel or a pair of red underpants, anything red- signifying they wanted us to stop and see someone. Usually it was just someone needing more tablets or a check up, or their monthly injection for Rheumatic Fever.
These sea snakes are common, and harmless to humans- so they say!
I went snorkelling at Limu Pools.
Two yachts departing for Tonga late yesterday. I'll be following them in a couple of days

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Photos : Suwarrow

Sailing Downwind to Suwarrow : A perfect day

Coming through the pass into the Lagoon at Suwarrow Atoll : Anchorage Island with yachts at anchor inside the lagoon
Anchorage Island : The "Jetty" on the left, Toms House hidden but through the trees in the middle
Ashore on Anchorage Island
Toms Memorial

Harry and "Ants" the caretakers processing a new arrival at Suwarrow
The reef at Low Tide, on the "pass" side of Anchorage Island Suwarrow
Sapphire beyond the "Jetty", Anchorage Island
"Panorama" of Anchorage Island
 I put my cap over the modified pillow case to keep the sun off after my wide brimmed straw hut blew into the ocean
Sapphire : Downwind to Suwarrow

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Sunset on the way to Niue
I learned yesterday that a rumour is going round that theres a woman on my boat who hasn’t come ashore.  I discovered this when a bloke at the yacht club asked me what was going on. I had to laugh – this is a problem that has beset me for years, that people who don’t know me when they hear my voice on the phone , mistake it for a womans voice. So they’ll say “Oh, I thought Dr MacFarlane was a man!”  And later when they meet me they might say “no it wasn’t you I was talking to, it was a woman”. So it happens on the VHF as well!

The other story that is going around about me is that years ago I worked in the Hospital here, and was married to a local woman and had a few children with her. And this one, believe it or not is true! This is why coming back here is so special for me.

My first wife was from a tiny village called Makefu, about 5 miles up the road from  Alofi, the main town. We met in New Zealand and came here with our young family for the last three months of my medical training, in 1983. I worked in a voluntary capacity at the tiny hospital, and it was a wonderful experience for all of us. The hospital has since been completely destroyed by massive waves in a hurricane – the hospital was in a beautiful location on top of 100 foot high  cliffs overlooking the ocean where we are now moored.  A nearby Hotel was also destroyed by these unbelievable waves which destroyed much of the infrastructure on the island in 2004.

In 1983, there was very little contact with the outside world and my radio couldn’t pick up Radio Australia for outside news. The only news I really wanted to hear was progress in the Americas Cup challenge that year. In the end I learned of John Bertrands “wing keel” victory over Dennis Connor when the Time Magazine appeared in the shop with a photo of Australia II on the cover. I think I still have that edition somewhere!

Yesterday, I came ashore after a great nights sleep and had a lovely shower and dropped all my rubbish off, and my Laundry, and then hired a motorbike, and headed for Makefu to visit my ex-inlaws, with whom, along with their sister I have managed to maintain friendly relations. Everyone was wonderfully welcoming and friendly. And last night I was invited back for dinner of traditional food and afterwards, live Rugby! The All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies 22:Nil – the last time the Wallabies completely failed to score against the All Blacks was 50 years ago, so it was a humiliation.

Ive noticed, coming south from Suwarrow that the nights were getting cooler, and daytime temperatures in Niue are around 25 C making it much more pleasant than the stifling heat and humidity of French Polynesia. I think I will be here for another 5 days or so – its great to be back.

( I am finding the Internet to be very slow most of the time, and I haven’t yet managed to upload any other photos than the one above, but I hope to soon)

Friday, August 24, 2012


Its really quite tricky timing your arrival for first thing in the morning because your schemes rely on the unreliable - the wind! Overnight we went slower and slower and i was up from about 4.30 when it was still dark with no moon. Eventually I could make out a low black shape ahead,.the north eastern tip of Niue on the Horizon and eventually the sun emerged with a wall of cloud and I could see the coral cliffs topped by thick bush rising a short distance to the great flat plateau that makes up most of the island. The wind abruptly increased, almost at the same moment that I decided I would have to motor the rest of the waty, but instead I had a wonderful fast sail across the northern coastline, round the corner and down the western side and into the bay where, in front of the main town Alofi, are 15 ocean moorings. I counted 14 boats - and counted again - yes I was to get the last one! I would have been especially annoyed if there were none because late the evening before, I noticed a yacht behind me when I was deliberately going slow and I spoke to them on the VHF Radio - he said they would go straight in and pick up a mooring in the dark - and they got the 14th one. I finally rolled away the head sail and flaked the main, then turned on to motor the last half mile - at which moment a whale lunged out of the water 200 yards ahead of me, giving me an amazing shock, and then it proceeded to beat the water with it smassive pectoral fins, so I made a wide detour around it, as it finally disappeared. A fantastic welcome!

Customs and Immigration ask the yachties to bring their Papers ashore, which I did - such as they were : well really just the receipt for my $60 from Suwarrow - and they picked me up from the Niue Yacht club, a really friendly little bar and social club on the main - and only street. When I started to explain my sad story the guy put up his hand and said youre in serious trouble, this was simply not good enough, youre supposed to be the skipper and all the proper penalties will be applied, unless I would prefer to leave immediately. What I didnt find out till a bit later was this guy already knew exactly who I was and that I had some significant connections to the island, and he was just pulling my leg! He ran me back to the Internet Cafe and I downloaded the things he needed - and kept a copy for myself - and I went to the Bank to get some money to pay a fine, and by about 2pm it was all done, I had my clearance and my Passport stamped and I was no longer on the run!

I then had a nice lunch of salad and fish, and NZ Beer at a Cafe called "The Crazy Uga" - (Uga is pronounced Unga - the "U" is "oo" as in "book") then I wandered briefly through the few little shops and the tourist info placeand came back to the boat for an early night.

More about life in Niue tomorrow.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Closing in

That puff that appeared as I was finishing writing yesterday was in fact the wind coming back! It eventually settled in from the South at about 14 knots and has remained like that ever since, except for going South West during the night and trying to get my yacht to head for "Caliope Reef ; Breaks" it says on the chart. So with that nice little pause yesterday we are moving along sweetly again and should see land at first light. Today has been your stock standard sort of sailing the Pacific kind of day, a small swell so the ride is comfortable and dry, too hot in the sun, no other signs anywhere of human existence, and we did 85nm from noon yesterday to noon today. Ive finished my last tomato but have a couple of oranges left, after that theres no fresh food, though I did briefly have another fish on the line a couple of hours ago. I think we were going a bit too slowly at the time to make it anything but easy for the fish to get off the lure, as I hadnt even got my gloves on to start pulling him in when with a splash I saw his pectoral fins flash out of the water one more time and he was gone. I would have kept that one for Niue. With the boat all dried, its amazing how much salt is encrusting all the surfaces outside - I saw a shower coming close and hoped we would get a dousing but it moved past. Right now we have 50 miles to go!.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Well I wont be in Niue tomorrow evening as I had been hoping - maybe the following one if I'm lucky! And thats because we've been hunted down by that light wind we had been hoping to avoid. Early this morning before light, I noticed we were making "only" 5 knots - I had been getting quite used to seeing speed all in the 6's and even the odd 7 point something - but oh what would I give right now to be doing five! I PRAY for 5, even 4 would do! But I am not so disappointed - in fact its been a great day of solitude and quiet and rest and contemplation as I wait for decent wind to return. I am resisting the urge to be impatient and anxious about deadlines and ETA's, and I am not going to spoil the opportunity to just look at the amazing sea which was leaping all about the place a day or two ago and now is smooth and calm, or to look at the sky and hear only the water gurglling past or the occasional slap of the sail by switching on the motor and ruining everything with noise and smell and heat. I am just going to let nature happen - or is that a bit too Zen? Probably if this continues too long I will suddenly not give a stuff about Zen and make a run for it!! The boat is drying out and getting some fresh air through the hatch, and Ive done a little reading but mostly just sat outside out of the sun and fiddled with the sheets and the Hydrovane and tried to keep us moving forward gently, watching for the rippled water telling me a puff is coming, enjoying a little surge to 4 knots occasionally and then slipping back to 3 or less. For a few hours this morning there really was no wind , but this afternoon the slightest of breezes keeps giving me hope - and then taking it away again. Our 24 hour run to noon was about 115 nm but the next 24 hour run might be only 60! And as I write we surge forward at 4.3 knots - maybe this is the wind finally returning - but Ive been saying that to myself all day long! Niue is only 133 nm away - cant see anything yet!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dead Mouse

The mouse was dead this morning which meant life was going to be difficult. More specifically, it wouldn't "left Click" Fortunately after taking out the batterries and leaving it open to dry out and left clicking it about 1000 times it worked properly again. It had a couple of drops of splash onto it yesterday afternoon, so I had a lucky escape!

I wasnt really complaining yesterday. But if all I am going to do is write and say how far Ive gone and how far there is left to go I think that would be a bit tedious. I was simply trying to convey a sense of what its actually like doing this, because in many minds I am sure, Sailing the South Pacific conjures up images of the Good Life, an idyllic free and carefree existence of romantic voyages and places. Well it is actually - but only sort of, or some of the time and it beats being stuck in rush hour traffic and working 9 to 5... But there are times when its really no fun at all. Like yesterday - but today was different.
Overnight the wind dropped a little, and during the morning even more, and the sea state settled as well so we have a great day of sailing today, with all sail out for some of the time this afternoon but I have just taken in the first reef on the main again, wind creeping up towards 18 knots. Earlier it was 12. The companionway is right open and Ive had my pillow in the sun all day, there has only been one big splash today and that was this morning, so the drips have stopped, and Ive been back outside under the dodger reading. This was of course a bit premature as the forecast was for winds to settle from tomorrow, but I'm quite happy with this!I had a can of "Van Camps Pork and Beans" for lunch - on the tin it says "Feeding families since 1861" Its the third or fourth can Ive eaten and I still havent seen the Pork. The nearest thing to pork was a tiny cube of white fat! Tonight I will cook pasta and empty into it a tin of pasta sauce and a can of salmon. I usually have some biscuits and a few sweets after that. Other than one coffee per day, I drink water or water with a tiny amount of cordial flavouring in it, and I have some dried fruit and nuts, plus crackers with jam - and cheese which finished today - and an orange every day as well. Before oranges I had pears, and I have one tomato left.

My book "Shalimar the Clown" by Salman Rushdie is nearly finished. It is absolutely gut wrenching. It had me in real tears today. I am going to need debriefing after Ive finished it I think. Are his books all like this?

At 2.30 ( which is Time to see the Dentist) I noticed there were 260nm to go and we were 260nm from Suwarrow - Half way! If conditions stay as they are for 48 hours we will be in Niue on wednesday afternoon (Thursday in Oz and NZ) I'm just hoping we dont get slowed down enough to not quite make it before dark as then I would have to wait all night out on the ocean somewhere. I'm not looking forward to the hassles with immigration but I am sure they can be sorted. But I am quite excitied about being on Niue because it has a very special and important place in my heart.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Killing time

Well not much has chnaged as we continue on port in "fresh" winds - around 22 knots - and 2m to 3m seas which are quite short so theres a bit of dropping off one wave or slamming into the next, and the odd wave that crashes onto the port side with quite a thud sending water slashing up over everything, dripping off the back of the dodger, finding its way inside dripping on most things in small annoying amounts hat over time render most things damp or wet, making the floor slippery, filling up thr rubbish tin in sodden Kitchen Towels that I user to mop up with. I have two rolls left and then if thats not enough an excess of toilet paper I could use as well. But this, at least the weather and the conditions is what was forecast and its got asnother 24 hours to run at least. Pity about the leaking - some from before have definitely not returned - well yet! - but its barely tolerable when dry but when damp, and also sweating hot because the hatches are all shut - well it becomes a kind of private hell, a sort of self inflicted torture with painful ribs from leaning as I am now against the desk to brace myself, with painful shins that have cracked agains surfaces makin g involuntary lunges for a hand hold when unexpectedly thrown left trying to go right, with painful elbows and hips and kness that have been used to brace one hard part against another to free hands for getting food or water. SO I lie in my sea berth which so far has remained dry and I'm watching the little storage space behind it which last year filled with water and soaked my bedding, and it is only moist so far. I lie in my sea berth and stare at the clock, shut my eyes for half an hour and look at it again and the hands have only moved five minutes, I lie in my sea berth and look at the hand held GPS which syas we've got 76 hours to reach destination, and then it says theres 81 hours to reach destination because we hit a speed bump and got thrown round bit and got put off our stride, I lie in my sea berth and look at the drips and the water streaming across the window and the hatch above my head, and when it clears I see a few clouds or a bit of blue sky and I look at the clock again : five more minutes...I lie in the sea berth with sweat all over my body making the sheet damp and the pillow like dough , its just tolerable, but its only for 79 , no 77, no 78, or is 75 more hours and I look at the clock again.. And so it goes. And this is called sailing and having fun...this is the hard bit that makes getting there so good. And right now we have 369 to go. Current position is 165.01W 15 03S, at 0230 UTC.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hard Work alrigh

Sorry but this will be brief. We departed Suwarrow at 10.30 but then to head for Niue we had to skirt up and around the top of the Atoll . By 12 (2200hrs UTC) we were passing the southern tip and heasding for Niue in boisterous conditions. The wind is sitting round 22 knots and as predicted gusting to near 30, the sea is correspondingly busy shall we say with 2 - 3m swell and cop with waves everywhere. We are on port beam reaach so the wind and the sea is coming to us from the side, occasionally slamming us and sending water all over he boat and the cockpit has had a few inches sloshing round on occasion. Inevitably under these conditions there are leaks again - they are demoralising not threatening just require attention to keep thigd from becoming soaked. This is the sort of sailing where al you can do is hang on tight in some secure spot and just endure the ordeal, its not really fun but physical and tiring. Apparently Ive got two days of this to put up with. So I am not going to write more, or reply to emails today but I still like to get them. Right now the boat is at 163 33W 13 28 S.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

An extra Day in Paradise

I had planned to leave Suwarrow Atoll today, Friday but Bob McDavitt suggested that by delaying 24 hours I would avoid a forecast period of a day or two with no wind when I was closer to Niue, so I stayed here for another day. I would like to stay here for a month to be honest, because its such a beautiful place there are many places to explore with a snorkel and the people Ive been meeting are all so interesting and friendly. But five other yachts left today, three for Niue and the others for Tonga and Samoa. The yachts heading to Niue will be there sooner than I would, and so probably wont have the windless days to contend with, but even if they did, they would have plenty of diesel on board and no qualms about motoring. My diesel supply is limited and so I try not to use the motor. I would rather have an extra day here than a day motoring or just flopping around in the ocean. Wouldn't anyone?

Today Ive snorkeled with the mantas again, been ashore for a sleep in the hammock under the coconut trees , and Ive been enjoying reading "Shalimar the Clown" a novel by Salman Rushdie. This evening I went ashore again and had a drink and snacks around a fire with some of the other cruisers, but now , back on the boat, I have left my last footprint in the sands of Suwarrow. Tomorrow its back to work heading 530 nm south west to Niue in 20 knots forecast winds so it will be an energetic sail in such wind, a beam reach in 2 to 3 meter seas. I should be there next Thursday.

In the morning I'll haul the dinghy out at first light when hopefully the breeze will be a little less than it is right now, then after breakfast when its had some time to dry I'll roll it up and stow it then I should be on my way, probably with the main sail up but motoring till I am in clear water out in the Pacific Ocean again.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Pot Luck

I probably should have gone snorkelling yesterday when it was so calm but I hadnt expected the strong winds to return so soon. Today the Lagoon was a sea of whitecaps beyond the lee of the island, and few squalls with heavy rain blew across in the morning. I didnt want to go anywhere snorkelling on my own so I watched to see if anyone else was going out with the intention of following anyone who did, but everyone stayed aboard today, or else went ashore to stretch their legs. I was visited by Chris, a Norwegian sailor that I had a long friendly chat with on the island yesterday, not long after he and another norwegian guy had sailed in from Bora Bora after six days on their red hulled sloop. Chris was interested in how Sapphire was set up for solo sailing, as eventually he plans to sail on his own as well.

After he left I noticed a lot of activity aboard Morning Cloud a white ketch that left New Zealand six years ago and is close to completing a circumnavigation ( When Yachties talk of a circumnavigation they are talking about sailing right round the world) I had met Selwyn her skipper at a "Pot Luck" dinner - more about this later - around the camp fire on the beach the previous evening. He was a remarkably unflappable older guy with weathered brown skin and thin wiry legs where every sinew and muscle could be seen like on an anatomy model. The engine on Morning Cloud had broken down just before arriving at Suwarrow, so he negotiated his way in under sail. Most of us these days tend to drop all sail and use the engine to negotiate tricky unknown passes, and to find anchorages and moorings but Selwyn had no choice and obviously made it in OK. Now after a couple of weeks he was leaving after being unable to repair the motor, and he was heading for Tonga and New Zealand. He was obviously a very skilled sailor and I watched as they raised the anchor and sailed off through the moored boats, tacked a couple of times and then turned for the pass. The wind was strong and the ketch was heeled well over and moving at quite a pace as he dodged the reefs near the pass and headed out to sea. I guessed it would be a rare sight to see a yacht sailing out of the pass, so it was a useful lesson to see what good sailing can accomplish without the use of an engine.

The "pot Luck" Dinner seems to be a cruising yacht tradition, wherein yachties gathered in an isloated place such as this, meet on the beach for dinner, everyone bringing what they would havbe been cooking that night anyway, or maybe a little more, and all the food is shred around. Bruce came by and said there was a "Pot Luck" dinner tonight, he had some fish to cook so I should come too but just bring rice. So I went ashore later with some extra juice and some biscuits as well as the rice and when I showed it to Bruce he said "Youre supposed to have cooked it!" I had never been to a pot luck before! So I went back out t the boat and cooked a big pot of rice and took it back. Later I realised Bruce should also have told me to bring a plate and a knife and fork and a cup!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Island

Last night after my tea, Bruce came back and invited me aboard his Tayana 37 for a drink and to play cards. Their friends Danny and Angela from another yacht were also there and we had Tang Orange drink with a dash of rum while playing a card game that none of us knew but for which Marcelle had received the rules from a friend. So we had a great time, and when I got back to Sapphire I slept for more than six hours without moving.

Today has been an almost perfect day here at Suwarrow Atoll : very light wind, almost no cloud and a pristine lagoon and Island, and scattered islets on the distant horizon. I rose as it got light and before it got hot pulled out the dinghy and pumped it up on the fordeck, launched it with the help of the spinnaker halyard and attached the Outboard. I then had my coffee and cereal and fruit - my standard breakfast - and then just after Nine the two custodians of the island came out in the tinny to clear me in. This was when I discovered the second thing I had forgotten to bring with me when I returned to Sapphire exactly two weeks ago ; the first was the Battery charger for my Camera. I discovered it missing in Raiatea- the only solution was to buy another camera, a far inferior one but a camera at least, in Uturoa. The other thing I left behind were all my "Ships Papers" which of course the wardens needed to see. "There has never been a yacht here with no papers before" I was told, and as I listened to myself trying to explain what had happened and why I had no papers, I thought "My story sounds dodgy even to me" - clearing from Bora Bora and getting halfway to Suwarrow and then going back, putting the boat on the market and going to work in Australia and then changing my mind after three weeks and coming back, no permanent address anywhere, planning to leave in 48 hours, a Kiwi but I work in Australia but no permanent job, no partner and on the stern you could see where the name had recently been erased.....Lucky I had my Passport with the stamps in it!

They werent happy. I was embarrassed and apologetic but there was nothing I could do about it. I paid my $60 and they took what details they could and said they would check with Bora Bora but it would take several days. Apparently they contact Head Office in Rarotonga with the information and it is their job to follow it up. "But I want to go on Friday" I said. And they replied that it was up to me but if I left I wouldnt have clearance and they would issue a Report to all Ports of Entry in the South Pacific that David MacFarlane and Sapphire have left without Customs Clearance from the Cook Islands. My God, I started to feel like a criminal on the run.. In one way, it all seemed absurd overkill - even way out here, the long sticky tentacles of Bureaucracy were unrelenting, but then again they had a job to do. And it was my fault for having stupidly forgotten to bring back the folder with all my papers in it. Normally I would leave all that sort of thing on the boat but I had taken everything off the boat when it was "For Sale" In the end instead of blowing a gasket I told myself "Its just Paperwork - what the Hell, it will get sorted eventually" So I shall sail on Friday if the weather is right, clearance or not and go through the whole embarrassing mess when I get to Niue. At least there I will have access to the Internet and can download my Australian Registration, and hopefully sort it all out without too much fuss!

After they departed I went ashore to explore the island, which is about a mile long and 200 yards wide. It is covered from shore to shore in coconut palms and dense undergrowh. I tied my dinghy to the "Jetty" which is a 10 yard finger of rocks with a narrow mostly broken concrete path along the top of it. I am not sure if Tom Neale built it but he certainly repaired it numerous times because it is often wrecked in the cyclone season. Its a very rudimentary structure. On the island, and invisibly hidden away a few meteres inland is a collection of huts and shacks, the newest of which looks quite recent, almost Chalet in style with an elevated second story and an open area underneath. Signed and fading Flags of many nations, along with T-Shirts and various other mementoes of yachts passing through are stapled to the beams supporting the floor above, and theres a large old table and an old bed and some shelving in this open plan sort of Office/ Living area for the custodians. They dont use the upstairs part because its too hot. The whole place looks like a ramshackle sort of camp site. The building said to be Tom Neales "Shack" is sadly run down but obviously also over the years has had various additions and alterations so its impossible to be sure whats original. In one of the rooms theres a Book Exchange - there were lots of paperbacks in German and other non-english languages, but of the many in English none caught my eye. Just outside, by the path from the beach to the shack a concrete statue representing Tom Neale and an engraved slab of concrete crudely recording his life and dreams for Suwarrow are the only obvious evidence or reference to his years here. When I asked one of the custodians about him he shrugged saying it was a "pakeha" (white fellas ) story, nothing to do with him or Rarotonga.

The custodians, Harry and Anthony ("Ants") had to cook on an open fire, had no electricity, and were more or less camped out in this semi derelict compound. I later heard that when they were dropped off here for their six month spell, which ends in December, most of their belongings had not been loaded, the gas for their cooker and various other basics were left in Rarotonga, and though promises were made to promptly resupply still nothing has happened. Apparently even the Satellite Phone is barely useable, so maybe my Criminal Behaviors wont be broadcast to the entire South Pacific after all!

I continued past the buildings and emerged on the other side of the island, the side facing the Pass into the lagoon that faces the prevailing wind. A jumble of broken coral sloped down to the reef and the ocean beyond, The tide was low so I walked out onto the reef and inspected marine life in the pools - it was fascinating to look at pristine wilderness, sea slugs everywhere, live coral, tiny fishes and coloured algae. But it was searingly hot in the bright sun so I steadily fossicked my way around the island till I got back to the are near the jetty. Several large hammocks were permanently erected between various coconut palms so I climbed inot one had my lunch and did some reading. There was no-one else on the beach but dinghies could be seen in the distance as yachties went diving and snorkelling and swimming at various recommended spots. It was quite wonderful resting in the shade there.


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

At Anchor: Suwarrow Atoll

I didnt get my timing quite right so I didnt drop anchor till right on Noon. The night had been long and almost sleepless, though I tried to sleep while we were hove to for about 8 hours but I was too nervous. At 2.30am I realised the wind had dropped and so ended up putting out all sail and we continued at reasonable pace on a broad reach. Ideally the Pole should have been out but I felt too tired by 4 am when I realized it would help, but didn't fancy balancing on the foredeck with the pole in the dark so eventually I continued with just the main up. My first sighting of the Atoll was about an hour after dawn, a row of what looked like stubble on the horison which gradually enlarged into a small coconut palm covered islet. I thought at first this was my Target but later another row of stubble emerged to the north of the first one and this eventually materialised into Anchorage Island. In between them was a string of tiny islets, some with a few palms on, some with masses of birds circling and wheeling abaout them, all linked by the white line of the surf on the reef, whose roar became apparent as I drew slowly closer. The reduced wind slowed me down and initially it frustrated me but then when I realised it meant that conditions on arrival at the Pass into the Lagoon would be ideal, I just waited and enjoyed the moment. Nevertheless after taking down the mainsail and starting the motor I felt nervous as we headed in with guidance from the GPS and Charlies Charts and the Mark One Eyeball. In fact it was quite straightforward. As we turned into the lagoon and the shelter of Anchorage Island I was surprised to find a dozen yachts tucked away in there - they had been not been visible on my approach and I had begun to wonder if I would be on my own. I motored slowly around the area where they were all anchored and chose a spot that seemed like the Box Seat : right in front of the Jetty and beach where Tom Neale had lived, in 8m of water on sand and a little more out of the wind than anywhere else.

I dropped anchor and sat at the bow waiting to see if it was holding - a shark swam past - and then an inflatable dinghy with two people approached - I had only been there two minutes! I thought maybe they were going to tell me I couldnt anchor there - but no, the guy, Bruce and his partner Marlene just wanted to make me welcome - they were from the nearest boat. They were about to go snorkelling with Manta Rays! Would I like to come? I said of course I would but needed to stay with the boat for a while to make sure the anchor was set - whereupon Bruce leapt into the water and swam across to inspect my anchor - "No" he called back, "its on coral and upside down" And the he helped me move it to a beautiful sandy spot close by, and watched it set and bury itself as I reversed back from it, and then I grabbed some biscuits and had a huge drink of water and off we went to snorkel with Manta Rays! I couldnt believe my luck - these people were so helpful and friendly.

I had been amazed by the Manta Ray I swam with at Bora Bora but here, we found five! It was spectacular! We swam with them for an hour and a half in wonderful clear warm water as they gracefully circled coral mounds and turned back and back again to scoop up food with open mouths. The biggest must have been ten feet or more from wingtip to wingtip, and all jet black. At one point all five were in a line following each other around and around in a circle like a dance - it was majestic.

By 2.30 I was back on the boat. I tidied up and put the sail cover on, had some food and drink, filled out my Log and now the Blog. Ive had very little sleep in the last 36 hours but its been a most wonderful day. So I do feel a little tired - but very pleased to be here, and on reflection, to have had a trouble free trip to at last reach Suwarrow. Its unlike any other place I have been to. Its a good feeling!

Tomorrow I shall get the dinghy out and go ashore.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So Close...

In the 24 hours till noon today we made 112 miles - I am deliberately trying to slow down so since late yesterday have only had a reefed mainsail out, and now its down to 2 reefs but still Sapphire is too fast! We need to slow down so that we arent approaching Suwarrow in the dark - a potentially dangerous "lee shore" which is to say, a shore which wind and waves will blow the boat onto if I am not careful - hence the need to approach it in daylight. I was never going to be able to get there by nightfall tonight, so it will be daybreak tomorrow. GPS tells us exactly where we are all the time but sometimes islands and rocks and reefs are not where they are supposed to be - hence the need to rely on the tried and true Mark One Eyeball - but it is non-functional at night. Ive been trying to work out the best approach and have decided to heave-to in about an hour - we will be 50nm from Suwarrow - and I shall wait 6 or 7 hours before setting off again, planning to be about 10 miles off at daybreak. High tide is about 7.30 so it all works in nicely...but I am quite nervous . Charlie's Charts says "Several large coral heads extend across part of the passage near Northeast reef....Entry should only be made in good weather with calm seas because the seas break over the shoal with any swell causing turbulence in the entrance..." And of course out here there are no Beacons or Buoys or Marks to guide you in. I am hoping there will be some other yachts there - it would be nice to have some company, but I believe a caretaker lives there in the sailing season so he at least must be an interesting fellow.

There have been several showers of rain today interspersed with bright sunshine, but otherwise the steady tradwind conditions are more or less as before. Overnight a ship of some sort went by in the opposite direction with lots of bright lights but I couldn't make out a red Port navigation light, and the ship didnt show up on the AIS. I spotted it at one of my regular checks way off the port bow but it quickly disappeared behind - I just wished it had been day time because it would have been nice to look at something other than sea and sky for a change. Somehow I think the vessel was a trawler or some sort of large fishing boat. A light I saw another night thinking it was a ship turned out to be a star low on the Horizon. And also, yes Melva theres a new moon rising and not far from it an incredibly bright object, a Planet I suspect, quite amazing early in the morning.

One last thing : Youre reading this so obviously the SailMail programme on my computer worked OK but I had some trouble earlier and wondered if I was going to be able to get it to work. If it does malfunction and be unfixable it will mean I cant send messages to the Blog or send emails. This could happen tomorrow or at any time in the next few weeks awhile I am on board. And you will be left wondering what is going on : the answer is that he most likely thing thats happened is that I am fine and the computer is playing up. Please do not ring authorities or Search and rescue or whoever you can think of if a Blog Post doesnt happen or I do not reply to your email. Just wait patiently and eventually I will get back to you but it might be a week or two. My next port of call will be Niue Island, 5 days sail away, where there is internet, and after that, Tonga, a further 2 or 3 days sail. Stay calm everyone, the Boat and I are doing fine.

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Monday, August 13, 2012


Ive been meaning to write about bird life out here, and have extra reason to do so now, as one of them, after multiple unsuccesful attempts managed to land on the Targa frame last evening. I should know the names of the birds but I dont - this one is the large brown one that is commonest out here, and usually when they appear thay do a couple of turns and swoop past the boat a few times craning their necks down to look, and then they carry on. Last evenng one kept coming back and initially tried to land on the mast, then briefly settled on the starboard spreader, and finally on the targa frame at the end away from the Air breeze wind generator which was only turning slowly as it isnt active at present - (the solar cell keeps the battery topped up effortlessly) I thought it was quite cute to have a passenger and some company but the bird ignored me. It stayed all night in that one spot and disappeared at first light. And then I disovered the shit all over the Targa canopy, and it wasnt cute any more!. I scrubbed it all off and threw a few buckets of water over everything, managing to get a face full of it when I got my timing all wrong, but in future I shall discourage passengers.

I gybed to starboard not long after I posted the blog yesterday and an hour ago gybed back. I also pulled the headsail in as we are going to arrive at Suwarrow in the dark tomorrow night otherwise so I have decided to slow down a bit. AT noon we had 180nm to go. The sea is a bit bigger today, some 3 metre waves and the wind a little stronger, up to 22 knots. I hope this trend doesnt continue as it could make it too dangerous to attempt to enter the lagoon at Suwarrow, in which case I will just have to take a photo and sail on to Niue or Tonga. That would be hard to take!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Past Half Way

I remembered other reasons why I like sailing at night - for a start the absence of the burning sun is a relief, and even in shade during the day there is an intense glare reflecting off the water. In the dark one also gets to see phosphorescence in the bow wave and wake of the boat, and it may only be scattered luminous occasional beads of blue , like last night, or it can appear almost like illuminated smoke streaming back in the water, quite amazing to watch. And even more amazing to watch at night, especially when there are no clouds and no moon as last night, is the night sky, the constellations and shooting stars, the milky way more intense and dramatic in such a clean and black night.

So to today - well we have left behind the place I turned back from six weeks ago and continue to make good progress in close to exactly the right direction, and we are well over half way to Suwarrow Atoll. The wind has remained steady but is predicted to move towards the SE and ESE, so at some point I will need to gybe to starboard. There have been several times today when I thought the change was happening but then we have swung back onto track so I am still waiting. I haven't needed to change anything at all for about 48 hours! At noon today our 24hour run was a new world record for Sapphire, 136nm, and at this rate we are going to be arriving in the middle of the night in just over 2 days time : tomorrow or probably Monday I will have to slow down so we can arrive in the morning on Tuesday local time.

I had a "proper" meal last night ; boiled rice and a tin of Stew which had meat carrots peas and potatoes, plus lots of gravy. I chopped up some celery which is the only Greens I have on board and mixed that in to try and make it a bit more nutritious. Cleaning the pots afterwards I noticed the gravy made the bristles on the dish mop bright orange! And today Ive had biscuits and cheese and fresh tomato and various other snacks an nibbles, but tonight will cook pasta or maybe have Baked beans…

I have started reading again, using my Kindle , a life of Elizabeth the First, the "Virgin Queen", and its fascinating - her father was Henry VIIIth, her mother Anne Boelyn - who had her head chopped off when Henry tired of her, there was Plague and famine, the Spanish Armada, Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and all sorts of intrigue, treason and heresy, hangings, beheadings, confinements to the Tower…incredible stuff. Somehow I was never introduced to history in my school days so I am trying to catch up.

Right now at 0200 UTC we are at 158 49W, 15.17S 272 nm from Suwarrow

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Saturday, August 11, 2012


Its friday here, my third day at sea and I am slowly settling in to the rhythms of the ocean - or, less poetically my nausea is almost gone and I have eaten some small meals - some rice and tomato, as well as a few lollies, a fresh pear and my cereal with UHT Milk and coffee for breakfast.
I had lots of amazing dreams last night in my numerous naps, one of which was nearly 4 hours long. But every time I woke and checked, we were on track, the wind was steady and boat speeds was around 5.5knots. And no lights on any horison. Actually I look forward to the night - firstly because you can sleep, and that really helps to pass the time, but also because you cant see anything and so theres less to worry about. I suppose for some it might work the other way. I am not worried about damaging any ships that might get in the way as I have only ever seen a ship out here once and that was close to Land. I have a device on the mast thats supposed to enhance the radar reflection of Sapphire, and make her more visible to ships, and I have regulation lights on, and whenever I am up I check, and of course all day long I scan the horison : Nothing. I realise of course that boats do get run down by ships, and close to land I use my AIS receiver to help warn me if there are any. But out here in the Pacific? I am sure people will disagree but it seems about as likely as being taken out by a car coming through a red light in Town when you have Green and are driving through the intersection - we've all seen the Police Videos on TV of people driving through lights when chased, and crashing into innocent drivers - it happens but which of us hesitates to drive through when we have Green?

At noon every day I work out our position and mark it on the paper chart. Todays plot was 1 nm from where I was at noon on Wednesday 22nd June! I thought the waves looked familiar - and the birds too! Our 24 hour run was 122nm and we were 436 nm from Suwarrow. The wind fluctuates a little in strength and direction but esentially its SSE and 14 to 20 knots, so at times were are almost surfing down the odd wave at over 7 knots and mostly today we have been doing about 6.5 with all the headsail poled out to port and the Main to starboard with one reef still in. The Bolts on the Hydrovane seem to be rock solid but I noticed the threaded pin closing the U Bolt attaching the Mainsheet block to the end of the Boom had completely unscrewed itself and was just waiting for a nudge to let it all go. I fixed that without incident.

OK well thats it for Today. We roll west, and all is good.
Position Right Now at o2.00 UTC ( 4pm polynesian time, 2 pm NZ and 12 noon SYdney) is 156 29W and 15 56 S

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Friday, August 10, 2012

One day at a time

Well in the first 24 hours we made a world record equalling 129nm.- so just over 5 knots average and it was quite easy as far as the sea state and the boat are concerned. Over night I slept reasonably, waking to check things every 2 hours - I didnt have to adjust anything for 14 hours but today the wind has moved a little from S to SSE and strength fluctuated but not much - its mainly been 14 - 18 knots and the sea acceptable with about half to a meter swell and a bit of chop, nothing to complain about, the odd splash here and there - actually when I first got up this am I felt surprisingly good and ate too much for breakfast - cereal and a container of diced fruit and coffee. Since then Ive had a bit of celery and a couple of biscuits and lots to drink but nothing else interests me yet. This horrible nausea gets me down, I remember it from last trip and it eventually went but so far it hasn't settled. I tried to spew thinking that might help but I couldnt bring anything up. I tried the Pregnant mums remedy of dry bread and sips of fluid - that helped a little - but I just have to wait it out I think and then my appetite will return.

Right now we are about 25nm SE of Motu One but will clear it easily so there shouldnt be any dramas like there were 6 weeks ago when we came past it going in the opposite direction, but I will check again in a few hours. We went past an island called Mopihaa but it was too small to see about 20 miles south a few hours ago, so there has been nothing to see today other than a few birds, a couple of which tried to land on top of he mast. So no other yachts or ships - which is the usual experience out here. So I just sit in the cockpit looking t the horizon and waiting for the sick feeling to go. I cant read, I just have to think, and I feel disinclined to do anything. HOwever I have made a sort of balaclava out of an old pillowcase so my neck and sides of my face are protected from the sun, and Ive poled the headsail out and we rolling and squirming our way west. Its not really fun yet..

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

On my way

THis is not going to be a big post because its hard enough writing ina rolling boat but my stomach will need a day or two to settle in to this rolling downwind motion
I sailed out of the Lagoon at Raiatea, through Pass Rautoanui, at 9.30am. I stayed the night tied to the dock in Uturoa, having not enough time after shopping to get oput to sea last evening. I slept nervously and uncomfortably, anxious about setting out once more. I dont know what other sailors feel before a big trip but I suffer and feel tense, not excited.

Its now just after 5 pm and we've covered 42nm since the pass, and for the third time this year I am saioling past Isle Maupiti - the nearest point is 5nm away of the starboard bow. So we are making close to 6 knots in 15-20 knots of wind just off the port beam. Suwarrow is 658nm away. Ive already reduced sail , I could go a little faster with more stress for me and the boat but I am not in a hurry really. Its going to takae 6 or 7 days to get there if there are no unexpected incidents.So far all sytems are functioning normally and of course the Hydrovane is once again doing the steering . Theres been quite a lot of sunshine, but now theres cloud and I much prefer cloud. That will do for now. I shall have some mmore water and maybe a peanut butter sandwich for tea -m yes I did remember to get some this time - and I have a small loaf of bread but that will get stale fast so I shall eat it soon.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Take two...

Uturoa Dock : To read about the yacht behind the Catamaran go to
Right now the 50 tonne travel lift is lumbering about the yard clearing a path for Sapphire to head back to the water. We’ve been boxed in by other yachts because yachts for sale seem to stay here a long time, so get pushed back into the corners. Already “Sargaco” has been launched – Ive had time to get to know her Skipper, Alex from Brazil and his partner from Paris – as they have been replacing the rudder that was lost a month ago between here and the Tuomotus.
Bomb Proof I  expect
But Sapphires auxiliary rudder, the Hydrovane is  very firmly reattached – it looks like over kill to be honest, so I am not expecting any more trouble in that department.

I am eager to get going – living aboard in a Boatyard in the tropics is awful - and  once in the water I shall motor to the town and restock my food and fuel and then if there is time to get out into the ocean before dark I just might go. Ive  been in Raiatea far too long. My first day should get me  back past Maupiti, the second past Motu One and then another four or five days to Suvarov ( aka Suwarrow Atoll)
Shipyard views: get me out of here!
This will mean all contact  from now on is via Sailmail ( and there wont be any pictures till I get to Niue in about two to three weeks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Going Back

Dear Beatrice 
After thinking about this over night I have decided that I cannot sell Sapphire. I am sorry to disappoint you and Richard but the boat means too much to me and I am going to continue with my plan to return on Thursday to fix the Hydrovane and sail to Fiji. I apologise for this change of plan. Thank you for your help and interest in Sapphire.I am sure you will be able to find another nice boat for Richard. 
After sending this I felt as if a huge weight had just been lifted off my shoulders and I felt better than I had for weeks. And when I checked the FedEx tracking page, my Parcel had arrived in Raiatea, so things seemed to be working out for once.
I flew to NZ and stayed in Auckland 2 nights, then once again aboard Air Tahiti Nui flew back to Papeete, dragged my suitcase across the road to the Airport Motel then in the morning flew back to Raiatea and got to the boat at about 3pm., Thursday. There were no rude surprises or shocks – but then I had been gone only four weeks. In a couple of hours I had taken the Hydrovane off the stern and Dominic, the Boss at RCS looked at the new parts and we made a plan to get started on reattaching it in the morning.
On Friday – yesterday – we cleaned off the transom , removing the yellow and blue “Sapphire” sticker and closing all the old bolt holes with fiberglass. A new timber pad was shaped for the bottom bracket and much bigger backing plates made. The bottom bracket was reattached  temporarily and the new “A” bracket fitted using 5cm diameter PVC pipe as a guide to working out how long to make the arms from the supplied stainless steel tube. By days end – they knock off early on Friday – all that remained to be done was sanding back the fiberglass patches, a little painting and then the final fitting and reattachment of the Hydrovane with the Bolts I bought with me. This will be done on Monday, and we will relaunch on Tuesday. All I need to do then is motor back to Uturoa and restock with food and fuel, and I plan to leave for Suwarrow Atoll on Wednesday, local time, weather and everything else permitting.
A few hours before the bolt broke

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Offer

I decided that if I was going to go back, I would have to fix the Hydrovane properly, and according to the makers, the best solution was an “A” bracket – with two flanges to be attached to the transom instead of one, thus spreading the load – but it needed to be sent from the UK. In any event, a new owner would need that bracket anyway so I ordered and paid for it.
On Sapphire the A Bracket will be uppermost

I also phoned Jason, the guy who had done heaps of work on Sapphire before I left Australia in 2009, and he gave me the address of a supplier of quality 316 stainless bolts, so I could take some with me if I decided to return. Finally I booked my tickets but departure was still a week away and Sapphire was still on the market – I still had options.

And then, literally on the eve of my departure from Sydney for New Zealand and Papeete I received an email from the Broker : she had found a buyer and he was prepared to pay my asking price : this was news I had been wanting to hear a few weeks back but now, having  convinced myself she wasn’t going to sell soon and that I needed to return to rescue Sapphire from the Boatyard this news confused me completely. The buyer needed time to get a loan so I hastily  emailed back to say I would need a non refundable deposit in 48 hours as I would have to cancel all my flights and then lose the window of opportunity I had to restart my sailing adventure should the buyer not be able to raise the money. The Broker emailed back almost immediately and agreed to my demand.

So Sapphire was going to sell after all.
The Last Photo of Sapphire
I hardly slept that night. I wondered why  I had been made to wait till I reached the point of finally deciding I didn’t want her to sell before I was offered what I had been wanting for weeks before? I refuse to believe in a God or in Destiny but sometimes it feels as if ‘something” has you in its sights, is playing with your emotions and your  sanity, for some cruel purpose. But what?  I remembered that entire day in 2011 when I was bashing into wind and waves at 1 knot, drenched from head to toe heading in to Rurutu where all I thought about was getting off the boat and forgetting about her. I imagined how I would persuade someone, anyone, to take her off my hands the moment I stepped ashore and in my head I devised irresistible arguments against any objections that might be raised. I remembered those days returning to Raiatea after the bolts broke when I was hanging on the words of the broker who had said Sapphire would sell in  a day – it was exactly what I wanted. Sailing just seemed like a pointless struggle against things I had absolutely no control over and it was lonely and exhausting and I was sick of it and needed to get a life. In fact the boat was preventing me from having a life, it was like a millstone around my neck. I would get to Raiatea, the Boat would sell and I would be free. I could return to Australia or New Zealand, get work, get somewhere permanent to live, get all my stuff out of from where it had been stored the last few years and stop living out of a tiny suitcase, sleeping in a new bed every few days or weeks, and maybe even find a soul mate.

So here I was finally on the very edge of making all this possible – but instead of being excited, I was suddenly not so sure any more.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Observations and News

Art in the Orange Hospital
After leaving the boat I did the rounds of family and friends in New Zealand and Australia then signed up for a weeks work at Orange a small inland city in New South Wales, Australia. The hospital is brand new and quite a marvel of design and modernity, with wide clean corridors decorated with original artworks, computers screens in every room, the latest equipment in abundant supply and everything running efficiently and smoothly . A place like that must be  tremendously reassuring to the sick and the injured, but for women having babies, most of whom are perfectly healthy..- well I cant help wondering   how reassuring it can be when you feel fine and believe youre in perfect health to walk into a sterile room full of high tech equipment, a computer, a device for babies to be resuscitated on that must have cost more than an expensive modern car and  a bed that resembles something from a Space Shuttle?  

One of several Operating Rooms at Orange Hospital
I couldnt help being disappointed to note how many women were seriously overweight, how many smoked, and how many werent planning to breastfeed their babies. One woman swore repeatedly at me and demanded to see a doctor who knew what he was doing, when I wouldn't induce her labour a month early because she was sick of having to take painkillers for her back pain. 

And then the Olympics started. I heard the cost to the UK was 14 Billion pounds, and not withstanding the brilliant performances by Mr Bean, and by James Bond and the Queen this seemed an outrageous expense. At times I wished I had never been to Ethiopia, or at least could just forget about it - it seemed I couldn't enjoy living in the modern world anymore. Life in the "West" seemed to be characterized by extremes of excess and by a paradoxical lack of appreciation of how abundant it  is.
Images of Motta
I emailed Raiatea : Not a single person had enquired about Sapphire. I felt quite depressed about everything, about work, about the Boat, and about what I was going to do for the next three months till I returned to Darwin.  I re-read on my Kindle the story of Webb Chiles battle to sail solo round the world on his yacht "Egregious", the one he had to bale tons of water out of every day to keep it afloat. Eventually he succeeded and he became the first American to sail solo round the world via Cape Horn. Its a terrific read, and it reminded me how extraordinary it is just to be out there.....

By now my shoulder was completely normal again. I had two months with nothing to do and an unsold boat in French Polynesia that only needed a couple of bolts to be completely sea-worthy.
Images of Polynesia
I started to wonder if maybe I could go back...