Happy ending

How would you like the end of your trip to be? Give me ten days of sailing in light winds and calm sea, beautiful sunsets, whales, birds and good fishing.

At the beginning of the passage the fact that we had very little wind was making me impatient. Motoring is not much fun and anyway we were not carrying enough fuel to cover those 1000 miles from Tonga to Opua in New Zealand.

The forecast was giving light winds and no risk of low pressure for at least the following ten days, meaning that we were not in a rush to arrive. At times there was no wind at all and the sea looked like a mirror, so we dropped the sails and waited for the slightest breeze to come to hoist back the spinnaker or the big genoa.

That is when I became fully conscious that this was going to be the last long passage of our trip, and that I’d better relax and enjoy, so I did.

The calm sea makes it easier to spot any sea life and we saw whales and plenty of different types of birds. The fishing was very good too, we had to become creative about different ways of cooking tuna, we even dried some of it in the sun to keep it for the next day.

All the way we could feel that we were heading South, the days got longer and the temperature colder, we had to fetch back thick sleeping bags, jackets and socks.

As soon as we entered NZ territorial waters we contacted the port authority on VHF and were received with a happy: “Welcome to New Zealand”. A year and a half and about 13,000 nautical miles later we had reached our destination.

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Tonga

We arrived in Vavau, Tonga, after having been bashing around in 30 knots of wind on the last two days of sailing. Fortunately, the waves almost disappeared on the lee side of the island, and we entered the well protected harbour shortly after sunrise.

Tonga is formed of four island groups of which Vavau is the second from the North. With well protected anchorages, it is a very popular charter and yachting base. Once moored in Neiafu, the capital, it was hard to imagine that the wind was really blowing out there.

By now, we have a pretty well established routine when we arrive in a new place after a long passage: clearance, shopping for fruits and vegetables, shower, cold beer, laundry, internet. When all this was done, we moved on to a quieter anchorage not far from Neiafu, Port Murelle.

The weather was grey and rainy. So we spent most of the time underwater, checking out some caves along the shore. Gaspar also took the chance to make good progress at drawing the storyboard for the comic and painting a watercolour for yacht Love, our anchor neighbours.

A week or so later the wind calmed down a bit and so we went on an overnight sail to the island of Nomuka Iki, in the Haapai group, roughly 80 miles to the South. This small island is divided in two, the South side is home to many cows, chickens, pigs and horses and one caretaker, whereas on the North side there is what looks like a summer camp, but no one was there when we went ashore. We walked around to find beautiful beaches and many papaya trees.

The snorkelling there was fantastic with so much live coral and plenty of colourful fishes and squid, as well as black tipped reef sharks, who stuck around the boat after we cleaned the fish Gaspar had catched for lunch.

A couple of days later we set off to Nuku Alofa, the capital of Tonga, where we have been preparing the boat for the passage to New Zealand. We are at anchor in front of Pangaimotu island, home to the Big Mama Yacht Club, together with another 15 boats or so, all about to sail on the same route as us. The main subjects of conversation amongst cruisers are weather and passage planning. If the wind stays as forecasted we will set off tomorrow morning on a 1000 mile trip to Opua, NZ, with a possible stop at Minerva Reef, a reef in the middle of the ocean.

Finally, the good news of the week are that the book “Cirrus en Voyage” will be re-printed by its author and previous owner of Cirrus, Maud Atamaniuk. In it, Maud illustrates their adventures sailing Cirrus in the North Sea and accross the Atlantic. If you are interested, you can get a copy on her website: http://www.cirrus-en-voyage.com. We already got ours onboard and are working hard on the second part of the story, Cirrus en Voyage II 😉.

Huahine

Tomorrow we are leaving French Polynesia to sail towards Tonga, and this makes us both quite sad. We have spent an amazing time in this country of islands of which there are still too many that we haven’t visited. We feel very fortunate to have been at anchor surrounded by incredibly beautiful landscapes, to have met a lot of friendly people and experienced a different culture.

No matter how many nice places we have already seen, each time we arrive in a new anchorage we find the view stunning. Want a room with a view? Go and live on a boat.

And because very often images say more than words, here are a few photos of Huahine, our last stop in French Polynesia.

Two months in the Marquesas is not enough

This was our feeling when we left that magic place, to the point that we thought about changing our plan and spending the season in there instead of going all the way to New Zealand this year. In the end we told ourselves that life is long and we will come back one day with more time to spend. Hopefully it will not have changed too much.

The Marquesas is the most windward archipielago of French Polynesia. It belongs to France since 1842 and so people speak French as well as Marquesian. It is formed by 10 (of which 6 inhabited) islands of abrupt shape, giant mountains coming out of the sea. Everywhere there are traces of a huge ancient civilization, and many tikis (engraved religious figures) and paepaes (house foundations) can be found in what now is the middle of the nature. Europeans, starting by the Spanish, came and brought sickness and the mission to convert the locals to christianism. Nowadays the mayority of Marquesians are christian and there is a church in every little village.

In two months we only visited two islands: Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou – WHAT!? You missed Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva?? – We didn’t go all the way to the famous bay simply because along this trip we have realized that not having that much time, we prefer to stop in fewer places and stay as long as we can to take the most out of them. We were just so happy in Anaho (Nuku Hiva) that we spent more than month in there, instead of being in a rush to check out every single anchorage in the Marquesas. We will visit Fatu Hiva next time we come.

What I loved about this place is of course the incredibly beautiful landscapes, but above everything I enjoyed the easy contact with the locals, who were happy to share with us a culture that they are very proud of. We started meeting Marquesians from the day we arrived, and they were so welcoming and nice to us that at first we were a little overwhelmed, not knowing how to react or what to give in exchange for their hospitality. Our conclusion after encountering some different people is that they are just proud of being good hosts, and the best way we found to thank them for their hospitality was to invite them to the boat, to cook for them once in a while and to spend time with them just sharing the moment, partying with them or working with them. In the end we made some good friends who it has been difficult to say goodbye to. 

We spent a specially good time in Anaho, a well protected bay in the North of Nuku Hiva. A couple we know from Bilbao, Marta and Rafa, lived five months in there on their boat Freya. We just mentioned their names and we were instantly invited for lunch (kai kai) at a local family’s house. From that day they hosted us with open arms. There was also a very good vibe in between the boats at the anchorage. We met Vero and Javi on their boat Lydia (the relationship became intimate when Gaspar blocked the toilet on their boat) and a Californian/French family on their boat Baloo. Inga and Peter also spent some days in the bay and we even had our friends Ben and Margaux onboard for a week. All this made for a very special time in the bay. 

The local lifestyle made us think about the complicated profit driven lives we carry out in Europe, and how often we worry about the future, about what is going to happen next. In the places we have been in the Marquesas they carry out a simple life, they live in the present and no one is ever hungry, for they know how to find their food in the nature and if you can’t hunt, fish, or plant vegetables, you will be fully supported by your family or your neighbours. As soon as you get out of the main villages you find completely open houses. Doors and walls are not very popular in here. It is a safe place and sharing is part of the marquesian culture. 

The main income of most families comes from making the copra, picking coconuts and getting the “meat” out, letting it dry and stocking it in 25 kg bags, which are sold to the cargo ship that brings them to Tahiti, where many different coconut based products are made. 

Marquesians don’t seem to need a lot of money for everyday’s life, but unfortunately many locals love drinking and alcohol and tobacco are two of the few things they spend their earnings on (healthcare and education are covered by the French social care system). Before we left Panama we read that alcohol and cigarettes were good exchange items but having seen how a local friend downed a bottle of rum in less than an hour, I don’t think this is a good idea at all. Instead, I now know that we should have brought fishing gear, knives or machetes, ropes, outdoor gear, diving gear, backpacks. That makes for a much nicer present and will make them happier in the long term. 

We left the Marquesas with the boat full of food, including about 75kg of grapefruit, two huge banana regime, salted pig hunted in Anaho and a lot more presents. Most importantly, we left with with the feeling that we had learnt a lot of new interesting things, from how to make coconut milk to how to decorate everything with flowers and plants, how to fish lobster at night or how to ride a horse. Koutau nui Mahei, Teiki, Ludivine, Teaki, Heari, Dani, Arsens, Honore, Rani, David, Tive, Steven, Puhei, Jacob, Puaua, Tarona, Tahia, Kiha, Tapeta, Cristian, Diego, Gabriela, Sigi, Dayana, Moeaki, Alizee, Manuata, Areki, Samuel, Oveil, Aline, Heiau, Muhitupu, and all the others, THANK YOU.

Thank you Jordan, Claire and Javier for taking photos many of which I have used to illustrate this post.

Atlantic here we come!

We are off for 2520 nautical miles from El Hierro to Marie Galante in the Caribbean! Cirrus is full and crew’s spirits are high. It looks like we will have a pretty windy start, good to put everyone in the mood.

If you want to follow our progress you can do so in the following link: https://share.garmin.com/Cirrus. You can also send us messages from that link. We will read them with a lot of pleasure!!

That’s all for now, see you next year!! 

Thomas, Matteo, Gaspar and Rocio

La Palma, isla bonita

Sitting in front of the computer trying to write this post about La Palma I don’t even know where to start. There is a reason why they call it La isla bonita, and it has definitely overcome all our expectations.

If you are cruising on your sailboat around the Canaries, you shouldn’t miss Puerto de Tazacorte, a well protected half leisure/half fishing harbour on the West side of the island. The fishermen have been quite active since we arrived here and it is very impressive to see them coming with 130 kg yellow fin tuna (rabil). Leave your boat in the marina or at anchor (only with good weather) and walk around the banana plantations, visit the Sunday market in Argual and enjoy the sunset from one of the terraces in the village of Tazacorte.

If you like walking, this is also your island. With so many well signaled trails around forests and volcano crests, and one of the highest mountain in Spain (and second in Canary Islands) el Roque de los Muchachos, there are plenty of things to do!

One of the most beautiful routes we did was in the Caldera de Taburiente. We took the early morning bus from Tazacorte to Los Llanos, and we started walking from there to the Barranco de las Angustias, where there is a parking and also some taxis proposing to bring you up to Mirador de Los Brecitos. We opted to walk up there (about 6 km uphill) and from there down again to the Barranco, passing by the Taburiente campsite and the Cascada de Colores. In total we walked 26 km, and were quite happy to get a ride back to Tazacorte from the parking.

Another day we went to visit the northeast of the island, Los Sauces and Los Tilos. After three hours and twice changing bus, we arrived in Los Sauces. We would have liked to walk all the way to the cascades of Marcos y Cordero, but the path was closed that day. Instead we walked up to Mirador del Espigon Atravesado and then to Mirador de Barandas, it was really worth it for the stunning views. From there we walked down back to Los Sauces, where we took the bus back home.

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To visit the highest point of the island, el Roque de los Muchachos, we decided to rent a car. Following the advice of our friends in the marina, we started the day by going for a swim in el Charco Azul, some natural pools near Los Sauces. Then we drove on a small road passing by Barlovento all the way up to the 2426 m high Roque de los Muchachos, where we witnessed a very impressive sunset.

Our friend Matteo, who will sail with us accross the Atlantic joined us in Tazacorte and we did one more walk with him, the so called Ruta de los Volcanes, starting from the bus stop after the town of El Paso, up to the Refugio del Pilar, and then down to the town of Fuencaliente, in the South of the island, following the crests of the volcanoes. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy to fully appreciate the views, but it was still a very nice walk and we even found some mushrooms (Gaspar’s new favourite activity).

Another highlight of our stay in Tazacorte was the people that we have met, most of whom are on other boats or just travelling the island by van. It looks like we will be crossing the Atlantic at the same time as the French boat Soheila, of similar size of Cirrus. We will try to stay in contact with her crew Guillaume and Marine as much as possible during the crossing.

Finally, Sailing vs Plastic is Jorge’s project. He is from Mallorca and he is sailing from Holland to New Zealand with the mission of making people more conscious about how much plastic we use on our everyday life. Travelling on a sailboat, it is very worrying how much plastic we see floating around and also it becomes very evident how much plastic wrapping is used by supermarkets and shops, because we have to carry our waste until the next port. Jorge’s project is very interesting and needed, and we will stay in contact with him along the trip and try to help him with this cause as much as possible. If you want to know more about his project, here is his website: http://www.sailingvsplastic.org

Today we are sailing to El Hierro, where we will meet the fourth member of the crew, Thomas. We expect to set sail from there to the Caribbean next Wednesday or Thursday. For now, that is all about the isla bonita! Somebody would really like to live in this place…

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Cirrus loves sailing – Lisboa to la Graciosa

We arrived in La Graciosa on the 6th of October after five days of really cool sailing. The first three days the north easterly wind was quite strong so we tested Cirrus’ downwind potential, under spinnaker but also with the jib poled out. Like this we reached a speed of 9.2 knots yiiihhaaaa!!

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Lunch and dinner were sorted as we caught one mahi-mahi after another.
The wind started to calm down on the fourth day and so did the sea… we managed to keep the spinnaker up for a while despite the light wind, but the wind pilot Giorgio doesn’t like it light so we had to hand helm until the night arrived.

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We decided to turn on the engine at night and leave Polentxo, our new autopilot, do the job, because doing one man watch and helming is not that fun (you need your hands to cook some instant noodles!)
The wind picked up a little bit from the south west the day after, so we sailed upwind until we started seeing some volcanoes coming out the water… The Canaries!

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Hundreds of dolphins accompanied us until el Rio, the stretch of water between Lanzarote and La Graciosa. We tacked up the strait and dropped the sails by the entrance of the port of Caleta de Sebo.
Well done Cirrus, you have safely brought us to paradise.

Portugal

I am now writing from the island of La Graciosa, in Canarias, where we arrived a few days ago after five days of sailing from Lisboa.
The trip has somehow slowed down a little bit since we left the waters of Galicia, with its million places to stop, there are so many beautiful moorings and little ports in there that one would need at least a whole summer to explore them all.
Once in Portugal, there are not as many places to stop along its West coast, making us stay in fewer places for longer time. This is pretty cool, because we keep on crossing the same boats that are also going South like us, and we have made a few friends, like our Viking friends from Norway, Inga and Peter, on their Hallberg Rassy 38 Miti are now in Las Palmas and Charlotte and Magnus on their Ovni 39 Aluminati are somewhere in the South of Portugal.


Our first stop was Leixoes, a commercial harbour near the town of Porto. The sailing from Baiona was…foggy… and it was not really sailing, it was more like motoring by night under the fog in a “field” of fishing pots. My face says it all in this picture, at “sunrise” approaching Leixoes. To make it worse, the autopilot had stopped working, so we had to helm under engine, clearly not my favourite activity.

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Fortunately, we were about to meet my parents and sister, who had come to visit us in Porto, so my “angriness” disappeared pretty quickly.
We were very lucky to find a spot in the marina, which was otherwise full, advantages of having a small boat! It was also possible to anchor in the port, but with my family coming to visit, we thought it was easier to walk in and out the boat.
Porto is just beautiful, really worth the visit, here are some photos taken by my sister Lucia.


After the family left, we sailed to Aveiro, 30 nautical miles of sunny spinnaker weather = The Dream. We anchored in Sao Jacinto, a village in the North of the Ria de Aveiro, amongst five or six more yachts. The bay of Sao Jacinto is in fact well protected, and there are not many of these anchorages in the West coast of Portugal. The village has all we wanted: a bakery, a bar and a super long sandy beach. So we stayed for a while. We also did a bit of tourism in the town of Aveiro,” the Portuguese Venice”.


When we left Aveiro, it was foggy again. We have read somewhere that there is 10% chance of the weather being foggy in summer in Portugal… surely somebody forgot the “not” in the sentence. The forecast was for some good NW wind coming in later during the day and so it did. It was pretty light though so we only dropped the anchor in Peniche the day after at dawn.
From Peniche, we sailed 6 miles to Isla Berlengha. We took a mooring buoy on the south east side of this spectacular island. The light forecast made us decide to spend the night in there, but we should have checked the waves forecast as well as the wind… after a bouncy night we saw that the swell had increased massively and despite being on the opposite side of the island, the waves were bouncing against the rocks. We left the mooring and surfed back to Peniche, where we anchored behind the pier, well protected from the waves.


The fog was yet going to accompany us to Cascais. This time at least, there was wind. After some hesitation, we turned the AIS (receptor) on and we decided to keep flying the spinnaker. Once in a while we blew the fog horn in case there was someone out there. We could not see more than 20 metres around the boat, and it was pretty scary when we heard the noise of an engine, but we never saw where it was coming from, probably a plane. Inga and Peter who were at anchor in Cascais sent us a picture of a clear day, but we were only 8 miles away and the fog was so dense that it looked unreal.
And suddenly, the sky cleared out and we left the curtain of fog behind, as we turned east into the river Tejo, what a relief! Feeling happy we turned the music on and we sailed into the bay of Cascais, just as the sun was setting down. We dropped the anchor and were received by our Norwegian friends on board Miti for a well appreciated glass of wine.
The anchorage in Cascais was full of other travelling boats, of all shapes and nationalities. It is very interesting to look at them and take new ideas for our own boat – and for our future boat as well 😉 – as it is also cool to watch the RC44 fleet getting ready to race – the two poles of sailing yachts in one place, amazing.


27th of September, Gaspar is turning old! To celebrate his birthday, we took the train to Lisboa and we explored the city with the excuse of fulfilling his favourite activity: visit pretty much all the “ferreterias” (tool shops) in the area. In the evening we went for a few beers with our friend EJ, who we met for the first time five years ago in the ARC. He showed us around some pretty cool boats that are being prepared for a race starting soon from Spain…
The next day we sailed up the river and saw the stunning city of Lisboa from the water. We were going to spend the next three days in the marina Parque das Naçoes, getting the boat ready for the trip down to Canarias. This marina was built for the Expo in 1998 and the place is quite surreal. We went out for a walk in the evening in what looked like a futuristic ghost town, we only started to see some people as we approached an area with glass windowed office blocks, people were working inside, we kept on walking and we found a massive shopping mall, and guess what, it was full of people. Fortunately, the area is nicer by day, there are many cool parks and buildings to look at and people are walking around in families and so on. The marina was also built for the Expo and for some strange reason, half of it dries out at low tide, so there are many empty pontoons; it makes you think whether this was the job of a group of politicians playing architects/engineers for a day? Despite all this, the other half of the marina is pretty good and so is its location, not in the center of Lisboa but pretty close by bus, next to the airport, and to a big supermarket that opens every day of the week, it fit our purpose perfectly.


With the mission of finding somebody out in Lisboa to recode our emergency PLB – which had to be done because we have changed the boat´s flag from French to British – we ended up exploring the city again, discovering some areas with not so many tourists. The job was finally done on the day by a company called Nautel.
My dad joined us on the 30th and with the boat ready and full of provisions, we set sail to the Canaries on the 1st of October. But that is another story.
Obrigado Portugal, you have exceeded all my expectations.