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The Journey Begins

‘For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.’ Jean-Paul Sartre.

These are the stories of our little family and our many adventures, most will be written by me and some by my children Oliver, 12 and Elizabeth, 9. Some of these explorations have already happened and I will try to recount the bits most memorable to me while others are yet to begin. We have been lucky enough to travel to a few wonderful and exciting places as a family I hope you enjoy our tales and get inspired to pick up a map and plan your own incredible trip.

Dugi Otock, Zadar, Croatia
Azure blues, Dugi Otock, Zadar, Croatia 2017

We also love to adventure at home in the UK and live in the most awesome place called Cornwall. For those who know it you will know why I am so in love with this place. It has over 300 miles of coastline, from rugged cliffs that drop a couple of hundred meters into the wild Atlantic, to sheltered bays, sandy beaches and estuaries, Cornwall really does have it all if you love the sea. I grew up here in a tucked away village called Cawsand. As a child I spent my time in, on, under or next to the sea, so much so that it has become a vital and very important part of my life. I grew up on the beach learning to swim and sail and row, I spent hours exploring rock pools and fishing with my friends.

Because my Dad was a teacher and had long summers to fill, my parents would take my brother and I off on sailing adventures in the Mediterranean among other places. I am sure I will write about these child hood expeditions as I am keen to remember them now. For me it is these adventures and growing up in Cornwall that influence my parenting choices. I want to incorporate as much learning and exploration into Oli and Lizzy’s lives as possible. They are already very independent little people who have been able to pitch their own tents since before they could read and write. They help me with almost everything around the house and we make choices together on almost all day to day things.

One thing we all feel very strongly on is the environment in which we live, I in particular spend rather a lot of my time helping to clean beaches, survey marine life or rescue marine mammals. The children are a big part of this and I make sure they get the opportunity to do their bit also. We all take a responsible view on plastics and live by the moto refuse, reuse, recycle when it comes to single use items. While Oli and Liz were little I completed a degree in Marine Science and Environmental Resource Management, this was not just a learning journey for me but also the kids. They came on beach surveys and field trips and spent many hours with me in the library and even some lectures. I like to think this has mostly positively impacted their lives, I hope so any way. I should also quietly mention that I am also vegan.

I don’t want to make this first post too much of an epic, I just want to dabble a little into what you might expect from Love Sea Adventure. I love to take pictures so I want these to tell much of the stories on here. These days I tend to spend rather a lot of my time under the sea with a scuba set on my back or snorkelling with the children so I imagine the odd photo might incorporate this. Happy Reading………

 

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The importance of finding some time.

Going to the South Pacific and living on a boat for 3 months is without a doubt life changing. However for me it wasn’t just about the destination and the places we visited. It was about spending time with the children and my parents. It was about collecting memories with the people I love, in the most beautiful place. The journey was not just physical but also within me.

We sailed to different islands and met so many good people, all contributing to our experiences. I cherished the opportunity to spend so much time with the kids, we learnt so much more about each other compared to the usual eb and flow of day to day living. Work, school, clubs, cooking, Mummy’s conservation stuff, housework and the rest. I think we spend so much time being focused on our daily tasks and getting to the end of the day that it is all too easy to miss out on the journey.

This can be just like sailing, when we go from place to place we assume the purpose of a voyage is the port we are heading for. Whether your end point is a lovely anchorage with swaying palm trees and sheltered turquoise ocean or a warm cosy sofa after a hard day’s work. Sometimes we just need to step back and appreciate what is in front of us. While sailing there is almost always time to enjoy the journey, unlike the usual hustle and bustle of a working day were time is a precious commodity, when at sea even with a breeze gently filling your sails it takes a while to get to where you are going. Time to talk to each other, time to read, time to sleep, time to think about almost everything, or just switch off and stare up at the stars while keeping watch for the odd thunder cloud or another boat.

I find living on the sea is when I am most at peace and having my family there to share experiences and have time to really be together made this trip priceless. To get the time off I had to make a massive and difficult choice to walk away from the familiar and venture into a brand new life when we returned.

Since arriving in Cawsand it seems I have been non stop but I have been able to find the time to appreciate the smaller things, a sleepy morning cuddle while watching the sun rise or cooking a meal together. Dancing around the living room in our pj’s or just falling asleep on the sofa in front of a film.

I am so grateful for those moments, although back in the real world with all the demands of a busy life I cannot stress how important it is to step back and take time out to look at and absorb the good things around us. Don’t just journey through your day, week, month without remembering to take a few deep breaths, really think about what is important to you and make a little time for whatever that might be. If I have learned one really important thing from our sailing adventure it is to be present, don’t rush through life, always make sure there is time to make wonderful memories, no matter how small and be grateful for it.

We are Home!

It has been a few weeks since the children and I returned from our adventures abroad and oh what a shock! From the moment our jet lagged bodies arrived at Heathrow it has been all go. Adjusting back to normal life has been really tough for me, the kids soon got back into school (slight delay for Oli) and have also gotten stuck into our incredible new life on the Rame Peninsular. I grew up here so coming home has been wonderful, seeing the children going out rowing in the gig has made me reminisce of my childhood here in Cawsand. Liz is dancing with the same lovely and super energetic teacher I had and she is so very happy. They have also both joined the local rugby club and are super keen to be a part of the team and do their very best. I really couldn’t be more proud or happy of what such wonderful and inspiring big little people they have become and I feel certain that coming here has been the right move. It will be even better once Mum and Dad get home, they are still sailing the high seas of the Pacific and will be returning via here there and everywhere.

For me it has been quite an adventure getting the kids settled, house hunting and also trying to work out what I am going to do. I have also felt a little low at times but only for a while and probably just because after a massive adventure like we have just had it does take a bit of getting used to normal life (and I haven’t yet established normal). It is a great thing to be surrounded by lovely familiar faces, some of whom I haven’t seen for years and some have always remained good friends. Getting into the sea nearly every day is so good, it did take a while to get used to the temperature difference however. I have also joined the gig club and getting out rowing has been fantastic, what a lovely group of ladies. Having the kayak sitting waiting on the beach is also brilliant, sneaky ealry morning paddles are becoming a thing!

You all know how keen I am on Marine Conservation and I am still very much involved with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and of course Rame Peninsula Beach Care. In addition to helping on the beach cleans I want to start a project in Cawsand Bay looking at life under the sea and why it is so important to protect what we have here. The whole area is a Marine Protected Area so it is super important we look after it. I think the best way to get folks involved and talking about any environmental issue is help them realise what we have and why it is so important. We are so lucky to live in this unique and beautiful spot!

Tahiti’s little sister (Moorea)

Although rather a while ago now, my amazing and brilliant Dad managed to fix the gearbox so no replacement was needed. What a relief after all that phoning around and trying to sort logistics and this and that – plus sourcing a new gearbox was not going to be an easy or quick task out here!

After a quick sail from Tahiti to Moorea (a few whale sightings enroute) we were just in time to meet my brother Charlie, Bianca and the children. They stayed at Sunset Beach on the North West Coast of Moorea. It is perfect for little kids as the sheltered shoreline stays shallow and sandy, surrounded by reef making a natural boundary. This is where we have spent most of the last few weeks with Larka anchored near by. There is lots to do in addition to play on the beach, Charlie went kite surfing and surfing, Bianca, Oli and I went diving, we all went on a 4 x 4 Island tour with Dad’s friend Franky Frank and the list goes on.

Sunset Beach is also very near a spot where there are many black tip sharks and sting rays. The tour boats feed them so when you get there the rays swim right up to you in the hope you have a snack for them. We did not feed them and enjoyed just watching these awesome creatures. I have mixed feelings on the impacts of feeding some wild animals, these included. However this is something that has happened for so long I wonder if the rays would survive if feeding stopped.

It was wonderful spending time with everyone, Freddy and Harry are at such a lovely age. It made Oliver and Liz seem huge and very grown up. However not too grown up that they didn’t spend hours playing with their younger cousins in the sea. It is such a shame they live so far away in Western Aus and that the kids can’t normally spend more time together.

As far as Moorea goes it really is an Island that has it all…. We have been here for nearly three weeks now and there has never been a dull moment.

We found a Motu with a great restaurant ( the best fries on earth!). On one occasion the kids and I ventured over, drawn in by the very loud music and we joined a party with a super good DJ. It was fab sitting on a tiny island with loads of happy strangers partying and having a great time…. it reminded me that I won’t have been to one festival this year!!! Not that I was complaining…… Sat by the sea, feet in water, beer in hand, hanging out with my favourite little people (they did not have beer)in the shade of a coconut tree.

The girls also escaped for a night and went to a nearby hotel for a Polynesian evening. Lots more dancing and some amazing local food, oh and cocktails of course!! Bianca, Mum, Lizzy and I had a great time!!

The two weeks went by super fast and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. I love spending time as a family! Especially in this tropical paradise I am sure the kids will never forget it! We all miss our Aussie family tremendously…… perhaps a visit to Aus will be the next adventure??

Tahiti Tahiti Tahiti

Our exhillerating sail back from Tuamotu Islands was super fast. I was sad to say good bye to Fakarava but we needed to get back to Moorea to meet my brother Charlie and his lovely family who are coming in a few days. We are all very excited to be spending a few weeks together in such a wonderfull place, he has two younger boys, Harry and Freddy, Oli and Liz cannot wait to hang out with their little cousins. Mum and Dad’s peace and quiet will be truely ruined by all their Grandchildren in one place – something they are very happy about I suspect.

On the way back we didnt really use the engine as the wind was so perfect. We averaged 5 or 6 knots with the breeze blowing 15 from behind. As we approached Tahiti on the third day it became apparent that we would not make our final destination on the West Coast so we decided to pull into Matavia Bay in the North. This rather famous spot is where Captian Cook first pulled up and built his observitory for the alignment of Venus many years ago. This was supposed to be an opportunity to take some important measurements that would aid navigation greatly, however it didnt work with their inacurate instruments although in theory it would have if they had the right kit from more modern times. The spit of land that surrounds Matavia Bay is now known as Venus Point and has a lighthouse marking Tahiti’s most Northerly headland. The sand on the Northern side is black unlike the white coral sands on the rest of the Island. I could visualise what it must have been like all that time ago for Cook and his men, arriving at this foreign land with the shores lined with exotic Tahitians waiting to welcome the sailors to their island. How unbeleivably different it must of been to anything they could have imagined during their months at sea.

As we entered the pass to get into the protected lagoon in the bay our engine wouldn’t work. Dad attempted a few tricks but nothing would put it into gear. We very quickly decided to keep the sails up and brave the pass with no engine – well if Cook could do it then surely we could?? The wind had dropped considerably and was now on the nose so we had to sail into the wind again. The water was flat which helped Oli on the deck looking out for shallow spots. I trimmed the sails and Dad skillfully sailed us safely in past the shallow coral reef. We quickly found a spot to anchor and dropped the sails.

It was sad because as we came in there were lots if spinner dolphins playing, if our engine had worked I am sure we could have enjoyed watching them more. Instead we had to really concentrate on the job at hand. They are incredible animals and often hang around on the entrances to the lagoons where fish are plenty.

After a good night’s sleep we got up early to get on our way. After a quick check of the engine ( incase it had magically fixed itself during the night) we hoisted the sails, then the anchor and sailed back out of the pass to finish the last 20 miles of the trip where Mum and Liz awaited our arrival. For most of it the wind was blowing us right where we wanted to go but the last mile or so before the next pass into the lagoon at Taina it dropped. With no engine we hooked the dinghy up alongside and started up the outboard. We lashed the tiller into the middle and turned it to half power. This was just enough to push Larka at about 2/3 knots and as long as there was no current in the pass we would be fine getting in. We were in luck – no current! However there were more spinner dolphins waiting to tease us as we couldn’t stop to watch and enjoy them yet again. This time they were surfing and swimming with some lucky snorkellers and surfers who happened to be in the right place at the right time. We sadly passed them by as our trusty dinghy with its little engine pushed our rediculously heavy yacht into the pass, up the channel and on to the anchorage…. good little boat!

It wasn’t until today that Adrian, the engineer told us we need a new gear box! So we are here for a few days I reckon.

Last time we visited these rather unique and enchanting islands I regretted not spending more time on Tahiti itself. We sailed to Moorea, Huaine, Ta’aa, Raitea and the famous Bora Bora exploring both above and below the surface of their pristine turquoise seas. On the islands themselves we ventured into most of the main villages and harbours, occasionally hiking in the lush green mountains. By the time it was time to go home we saved little time to explore Tahiti itself. We did however get the chance to hang out in the main town Papeete before our flight. I remember mostly from this the vibrant indoor market which sells everything you could imagine but mostly fruit, veg and the famous Tahitian Pearls.

Hopefully we will be able to spend the next few days exploring this Island more, while we wait for a new/fix the gear box. Today the plan is to do some bus hopping yippee!!

I have also booked a dive tomorrow with a local company to a place called White Valley, this is the spot where I am most likely to see Tiger Sharks without the aid of chumming and feeding (other firms do this). I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed for a sighting although I am a little nervous as they can grow pretty big compared to your average reef shark which I have so far encountered. Apparently they are also quite interactive with divers??? It is a slightly deeper dive so Oli is not joining me on this one. Once we get to Moorea I will introduce him to the Lemon Sharks over there, they are also pretty impressive animals but smaller.

It is great to see Lizzy again after a few days apart. I always miss her so very much. It seems as if life was tough with Nanny at the backpackers on a beach in a tropical paradise for a few days, hmmm…….

Dad has spent the past two days hanging out with the engine and trying to be patient with it. I wish I could help more but quite simply do not have a clue. I am pretty sure it is now just a waiting game for a gear box, once we find one, and fitting it should be straight forward. I really do hope so.

I can’t WAIT to see the Aussie crew now….. Nanny agrees!

Goodbye Fakarava! Back to Tahiti.

We have just had three weeks in Fakarava paradise, sailing, diving, snorkelling, exploring and diving some more. It is now time to go back to another paradise, Tahiti. I am sad to be going but look forward to the much easier sail with the trade winds and currents in our favour. Liz and Mum have just jumped on the plane and will meet us there. I am cramming in a last bit of diving before Oli, Dad and I leave tomorrow morning with the outgoing tide. The North Pass in Fakarava is much bigger and deeper than the South Pass. This means much more water flows through it so timing is important as it can be rather turbulent. This goes for diving also and I have been joining guided dives here as our trusty dinghy is a little small for the powerful water between this pass (We used it often in the South Pass). It is also much deeper so diving for Oli is not possible. There are huge gatherings of fish and sharks in this pass although not in quite the same number as the South Pass it is still very impressive to the extent of which I have never seen!

I would recommend anyone who can get here to do so, it is amazing and very worth while if you like sharks! A return flight from Tahiti is about £120-£150 And accommodation varies but some pensions are excellent value for F.polynesia, nothing is cheap here though.

The kids hired bikes the other day and went off exploring on their own. It seems very safe with little or no crime and every one has a smile on their face. Oli and Liz have made many friends with boat kids and locals alike.

The South Pass is my favourite spot it is so utterly remote however the whole island is mind-blowingly beautiful.

The vis can be cloudy if you snorkel away from the passes but it is still 20 metres or so. In and near the passes I have never seen such clarity before, especially on an incoming tide. I am going to miss this island!

My next post will be from Tahiti!

Simply the BEST diving on this planet!

Unlike my last entry this is going to be short and sweet….. very sweet!

We have had the MOST amazing few days diving Fakarava’s South Pass. Oli and I have been swept through the pass a fair few times now and it never gets boring underwater here. It is simply one of the most mind blowingly incredible dives I have ever done. As you drop in between the breakers on the outer edge of the reef the incoming tide sucks you in through the pass where there is an abundance and huge variety off fish and pristine coral with water clarity as good as it could ever be. As you are whisked along there are often walls of grey sharks all casually swimming into the current in a very calm, almost sleep like state. The dive ends as the current sweeps you up onto a shallow reef where the tide is at it’s strongest. This is known as the Magic Carpet Ride, and feels like you are flying over a beautiful garden of coral. It is so shallow that we have also snorkelled this numerous times with Mum and Dad and Liz. There is plenty to see as you are pushed through, almost back to where Larka is moored. In addition to the mob of grey sharks on the pass we also see other species such as black tips, nurse sharks and silver tips in the lagoon in amongst the corals. They never seem aggressive and swim on by minding their own business. However the other day on a night dive the grey sharks were very interested and buzzed me a couple of times. Then while snorkelling a few evenings later the grey sharks again seemed very interested, so much so I thought it best to go back to the boat. I feel much happier in the water with sharks at night in scuba! They swim on the edge of your light beam lighting their eyes up like a fox. I am looking forward to another night dive with them soon.

Oli is diving brilliantly, I am not sure what he will think of UK diving on his return home though.

Liz is spending most of her time in the water as a mermaid, this attracts quite a lot of attention as mermaids are not commonly seen in these parts.

Mum and Dad are both very happy snorkelling on this beautiful island. It is nearly as good as the diving.

We have also made some wonderful friends and fellow divers on an American boat named Aike, we will be sorry to say goodbye to Guy and Melissa but hope to meet up again in Moorea or another island. Our stay at the South Pass was made so much better to dive with them almost every day. Our meeting could.not have been better timed.

Here is a link to some more information on Fakarava.

https://greencoconutrun.com/2017/11/08/fakaravas-south-pass-aerial-photos/amp/

Fakarava here we come…. Ocean Sailing Adventures!

Travelling against the trade winds and ocean currents in difficult to navigate waters, the 250 miles (ish) from Moorea to Fakarava was unlikely to be an easy sail. It was an epic adventure, with mostly calm seas, we also had a few tropical squalls with high winds and giant waves thrown in for good measure. This is one sail none of us will forget. It has reminded me of why I love sailing – to travel to new, inaccessible places under your own steam on the ocean, close to nature. Being completely reliant on your boat and yourselves, solving the occasional problem and having the odd adrenalin hit along the way.

We had just hoisted our sails up and were headed out of the pass on Moorea’s reef when Mum and Liz overtook us on the giant high speed ferry headed to Tahiti. They were flying over to Fakarava as they were not keen to sail for three or four days. It was odd looking up at them, tiny dots on the top deck of the ship waving frantically. We watched as they sped out of sight. It took us a little longer to sail the channel from Moorea to Tahiti and although the latter seemed to fade into the distance quickly, it took another 12 hours or so before Tahiti disappeared. Even with some wind progress was slow going at first and after watching lights from the land all night, the next morning we could still just about make out Tahiti’s tall volcanic peaks on the horizon. We sailed into the wind for the next 4 days, tacking our way North East, further into the vast Pacific Ocean. All of you sailors out there will know that it is not possible to sail directly into the wind and that you have to go in a zig-zag pattern which can take a long time, especially if the swell is big. Sailors and their boats are always happier with the wind behind them. However it was what it was and we sailed with the wind and tide against us the entire way.

On the second day we settled into a nice light headwind and smaller seas, this hung around for 24 hours before increasing somewhat the following afternoon. We were all very happy and Larka was doing marvellously. Oli found his sea legs brilliantly and participated well with crewing jobs such as helping to tack (turn the boat), adjusting the sails and keeping a high spirit. I loved watching him learn new things as Dad taught him many important sailing skills, knots and whipping rope were a few. Oli is a ball of enthusiasm and picked things up well. He seems to be especially good at helming. I put this down to his years attending Helford River Children’s Sailing Trust learning to sail dinghies. Both he and Liz looked forward to this in Summer term when Cury School took them. The Trust provide free weekly sailing sessions to all the local schools. Both children have been very lucky to have had this available to them. When we get back to Cawsand we will join Cawsand Bay Sailing Club, this runs from the beach outside Mum and Dads house and is where I learned to sail. We have an old wooden Enterprise dinghy that we plan to do up over the winter and sail next year.

We sailed onwards, a stronger breeze enabling us to make great progress throughout the afternoon. The sun was beating down on the brilliant bright blue sea, I felt very happy. I was in my element, sailing with my Son and my Dad from one tropical paradise to another in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t have been more content and hoped Mum and Liz were having a good time back in Tahiti. Oli, Dad and I relaxed in the comfortable cockpit as Larka carried us forwards over the waves, autohelm on. We were well over half way and everything was going splendidly. I started to think the trip was going to be much more straight forward than I had thought, maybe upwind sailing wasn’t that bad? Suddenly a huge bang made us all jump to attention, it took a spit second to see what had happened. Our genoa, the sail at the front of the boat had broken free from it’s sheets (the ropes that control it) and was now beating furiously like a wild animal trying to escape. The sheet lie still on the deck with the large metal eye that fastens it on to the sail lying with it. The genoa is designed to take a massive load, helping to displace around 11 tonnes of boat through the water. Once this join was broken between the sail and rope it would take time and a professional sailmaker to fix. Neither of these were to hand at that moment so the sail was now useless and had to come down. If it continued to beat like it was it would rip to sheds. Luckily Dad had a spare, much older and lighter weight genoa tucked away in a locker. Sail changes on cruising boats are not a frequent occurrence and in a large sea with a good wind the task at hand was a little challenging, although it all went smoothly. We checked the autohelm and all three if us went up onto the foredeck. The first job was to fully unfurl (unroll) the huge flogging sail before dropping it onto the deck as fast as possible. Due to the increasing winds we did not have the entire sail out, this reduces a sails power. As we unrolled the huge piece of canvas out to its full extent the wild uncontrollable whipping increased substantially before quickly being subdued as we dropped the halliard and it fell to the deck. We then rolled it away, stowing it safely below before hoisting the older sail up the forestay and furling it up. We double checked we had attached the sheets correctly, went back to the cockpit, held our breath and gave the old sail a go. It worked really well and our boat speed started to increase as it helped our main sail to pull Larka through the water once more. It was a great success, we celebrated with a cup of tea!

Throughout the afternoon the cloud and wind increased further. We started to see larger clouds form with angry looking dark grey undersides and tall white fluffy tops. The larger clouds sometimes also had rain shadows develop beneath them making them look rather scary and not something you wanted to sail under if at all possible. These mini weather systems are common in the tropics and are caused by the warmer seas evaporating into pockets of cooler air. They are even more prevalent in the evenings when the air temp drops further. On occasion they even have thunder and lightning in them and provide quite a show at night. We didn’t see any of these on this trip however. Night time is obviously harder to spot the clouds so it is very important to reef the sails (make them smaller), this makes it safer when you do encounter some extra wind.

We didn’t have a watch system formally arranged but I would just goto bed early and get four or five hours sleep before swapping with Dad at around 2 am. Oli sometimes joined us for bits of the night. In the day we were mostly all awake with the exception of a few hours here or there. Dad is a professional cat napper and never needs much sleep. On that third night there was quite a bit of cloud around so I had to call Dad up three times as we were hit by squalls. None of them were very strong thankfully but non the less it is better to be ready than not.

The next day was wonderful, we were nearly there, expecting to arrive the following morning in time for slack water at the pass. The swell and wind dropped right down and we were joined by a mix of birds all diving and swooping across the sea catching small fish. It was a real feeding frenzy with larger fish (Bonito I think) also jumping out of the water. It is well known that where you get feeding birds there is an increased chance of seeing a whale or dolphins. It was not to be on this occasion but the birds and jumping fish were enough of a spectacle. We had various species of Boobies, Noddies and Turns, plus a few Gannets. Oli tried to catch a fish but despite his best efforts they were more interested in the real thing. Our companions stayed around nearly all day providing great entertainment, I have no idea if we were following them or for some reason their prey were sticking by the boat. It was great having them around though. The day ended with an astounding sunset, lots of building cloud lit up and illuminated a burnt orange colour as the sun sunk below the horizon. It was this cloud that was to keep Dad and I up for the rest of the night, taking only a short time to fill in. By the time it was dark we couldn’t see a single star, the sea had grown and the wind was up. It was going to be a long one!

Every night so far we had been lucky enough to get an incredible full moon. As well as very beautiful it was also practical revealing any approaching cloud a bit more easily. On this evening we very rarely saw the moon and mostly it was just pitch black. The first squall hit and we reduced the sail to a small triangle of the genoa. To get the main sail down I had to climb onto the foredeck, firmly attached by a harness. The sea was so rough that I am not ashamed to say I crawled on my hands and knees for some bits. Sail safely down I crawled back again as the boat was tossed around in the waves.

It was a long old night but also really exciting, rough weather sailing involves having to think things through a bit. As each squall past we had a chance to rest, taking it in turns to snooze or have a cup of tea. It seemed like forever but the Sun finally rose and revealed land on either side. These islands are not like the towering green slopes of Tahiti and Moorea. The Tuamotus are low lying atolls that can only be seen a few miles away. Most edges have submerged jagged reef where waves break over the top. A few palm tree lined motus are dotted randomly along them. Each atoll has a large shallow lagoon in the middle, outside the reef the sea bed drops steeply away to over 1000 metres. The gap between the two island we sailed between (one of which was Fakarava) was about 5 miles wide and 10 miles up. We had to tack our way along. As the channel narrowed the waves grew further, squeezing through the gap. They were absolutely massive and very mixed in direction. The morning progressed slowly but we finally made it to the final tack before the pass. We could see the first navigation buoy with our weary but excited eyes and had everything crossed. It should be turning slack low water anytime soon, the point where the tide turns at low water before the sea comes back in. If conditions were right we should simply be able to slip between the reef into the lagoon. However passes are unpredictable and you sometimes find huge standing waves where calm water should be. The boat was sailing exceptionally well into the big swell and we were very nearly there, or so we thought. Just five miles off the pass now the wind increased, not by just a little. A very different cloud pattern was forming in the sky and the wind accelerated exponentially. Every wave soon had white water on it and the boat started to strain with the power filling the sails, even with the let out and lugged (spilling the wind) We could not believe our bad luck, we barely had time to drop the sails and turn away from the wind before near gale force winds were beating down on us. It was so strong that we were sure we could never beat into it even just for five miles. This happened so very quickly and we were all so disappointed and not quite sure what to do. We decided to hove too while we worked out our options (stop the boat). The South pass was a near 30 mile back track around the West of the Island. We could try that but there was no guarantee we could get in there either. What was that pass going to be like? It then dawned on me that if we didn’t get in by tomorrow Mum and Liz would arrive with us not there and we had no way of getting a message to them to give a change of plan or even to say we were ok. The thought of the worry this would cause made us reassess our options. Could we just motor the last five miles into the wind and waves and see if the North Pass was do able? A wave of stubborness set over me, wanted to atleast try, Dad agreed. However, would we make it in time before the tide changed and the pass became inaccessible once more? What if the wind had created problems at the pass? There were so many what if’s to consider but in my experience it is better try these things if you can still do it safely. We didn’t have to go I to the pass once there, just take a look.

When Dad bought Larka a few years ago the main sail only had two reefing points to shrink the sail. He made the call to spend the money to put a third reef in as an extra safety measure. It is actually unusual to not have this on a main sail. This third reef had never been used but today is was essential. Without the tiny main sail and the trusty engine we would likely never have made it to the pass but we did. The waves were huge and the wind was so very strong, I was so impressed how Larka powered through and still made progress. It was a race against time to get to the pass. As the miles slowly counted down I looked through the binoculars, trying to see the patch of safe water we needed to enter Fakarava’s lagoon. As we reached the last half a mile the coastline we were following turned a slight corner. The swell quickly dropped away and we could see dive boats in the pass (these areas of high energy water attract sharks and other marine life making for some of the best diving in the world). Between us and the dive boats was calm water we could enter the atoll and had made it safely in. We were relieved, Larka had done so well in the last few days but especially those last five miles. She is not a new boat and powering her through like that was not ideal but it had worked. With special thanks to her engine and that third reef!

The last five miles were simple in the lagoon and we sipped at a celebratory cup of tea. Once at the anchorage we jumped in the sea, cooked a massive meal and had a well deserved beer (juice for Oli). I then slept for the rest of the afternoon. Oli and Dad managed a trip ashore. What an adventure, we were buzzing!

Mum and Liz have now joined us, they had their own adventures!! ( Liz is drafting her blog as we speak). We have spent the past day comparing notes and telling tales. Together once more we are all loving this breathtakingly beautiful place, I can’t wait to go diving. We are off to the famous South Pass today, there is a small channel through the middle of the atoll. Along the way we hope to stop a few nights at some deserted motus. Already another adventure is starting…….