Friday, February 28, 2014

Marquesas - Tuamotus: Day 5 - Almost There

Time: 1730UTC, COG 270T, SOG 3.0kts, Distance Remaining: 18nm

The squalls have disappeared with most of the wind and we have had some lovely night skies and beautiful tourist weather. The 2 foot following seas - with regular waves for a change - make life aboard Irie very comfortable and allow us to do whatever we feel for. It's almost like being at anchor.
:-) Just jumping in the ocean is still not recommended. Even though we only move at about 3 knots (yes, we managed to keep this magic speed up), with the spinnaker in place, there is no way for one person to turn the boat around if the other accidentally lets go and stays behind in the water. For
the last 24 hours, the trip has been slow, but quite enjoyable and we are almost there. Thank Axel for our spinnaker!

Apataki, like all atolls - islands consisting of a lagoon surrounded by motus (low laying islets) - with passes ("entrances"), cannot, or better, should not be entered at just any time of the day. It would be foolish and reckless to attempt this at night, what with all the reefs, wrecks, narrow passes and lack of navigation aids, but even during the day, one has to time it right. The tides are not the problem in the passes; the currents are... Because all the water has to come into the lagoon during flood and leave the
same way during ebb, through narrow entrances, the current at those times - taking up most of the day - can be as strong as 10 knots! The best time to enter or leave the lagoon for a sailboat is therefore right around slack tide, which happens every six hours. Of course, the South Pacific being the South Pacific, still a frontier is many ways, there is no reliable or accurate information to be found, and cruisers use something called the "current guestimator".

Because Irie could not make the afternoon slack tide yesterday (Thursday) and we did not want to enter the lagoon at night, we had to "stay out" for an extra 18 hours to make the first slack tide on Friday. The wind being very light (3-5 knots) made us put that time to good use with a leisurely
sail. Entering an atoll is a new experience for Mark and I. We hope for good light and gentle waters. At least the wind should not cause any issues. In a few hours we will find out how well this "guestimator" works!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Marquesas - Tuamotus: Day 4 - No Wind

Time: 1740UTC, COG 230T, SOG 3.0kts, Distance Remaining: 89nm

When we left Ua Pou on Sunday, we knew the wind would become lighter towards the end of the trip. That's why we needed to make some decent progress the first couple of days, and why we were disappointed we didn't. But, it can always get worse... the wind could die. Totally. Not something we expected.

After a pretty crappy night, we took the mainsail down and put the spinnaker up at first light (5:30am). The wind was light, but - by then - we were happy to do 3 knots. Most of the squalls went around us, until the one at noon. It was a big and nasty one, messing with the wind direction, creating
contrary winds, and dumping a lot of rain. Down came the spinnaker and on the engines. The massive cloud refused to move and we became trapped in it, until we decided to slow the boat down, so it could get ahead and leave us alone. That done, the bright sun came back.

The sky turned blue - not another cloud to be seen - and the ocean had an ever deeper hue of blue. It was hot. And... there was no wind. The squalls had taken it all with them. The prediction was still for 10 knots of wind, but instead there was zero. Nothing. Not a hint of breeze. The spinnaker hung limp on the foredeck and had to be taken down. Irie was floating on the calm water and it was quiet. No rushing of the waves, no spinning of the wind generator, no creaking of the lines, no whooshing of the sails. We were done!

Since the forecast called for ever lighter winds, this was not a good sign. We still had 130 miles to go and had come to terms with not getting there in four days. What we couldn't come to terms with was not getting there at all! We drifted for a few hours. Then, we turned the engines on. It was loud, super-hot and smelly. A sense of despair came over us. Motoring for 25 hours would empty the fuel tank, wear the engines down tremendously - and us even more - and would get us to the Apataki lagoon about 17 hours too soon. Off went the engines, and peace returned.

The slightest wisp of air was felt. A smile returned to our faces. The spinnaker showed her colors and - at 3 knots - we moved forward again. How happy one can be with such a small commodity as 5 knots of wind! And that is what it has been blowing ("fluttering" might be a more appropriate word
here) since last night: 2 - 5 knots. Irie is sailing towards Apataki at barely 2 knots an hour. We still have about 100 miles to go and need to do an average of 3 knots to make it there by tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Marquesas - Tuamotus: Day 3 - From Fun to Frustration

Time: 1735UTC, COG 214T, SOG 4.0kts, Distance Remaining: 162nm

The first two days of a longer voyage are always the hardest. You have to get used to constantly being in motion, having to hold on to something at all times and staying up half of the night. All you really want to do is sleep; there is not much interest in anything else and the night shifts take forever. On day three some kind of routine has been established and you feel more inclined to do something productive, like taking a shower, making more fruit salad, or fish, for example.

From the moment the sun came up, we flew our spinnaker (colorful light air sail), while being able to keep the main sail in place. We managed to maintain five knots of speed in ten knots of wind and stayed on course. Not bad! It was a lovely day with sunshine and blue skies, void of squalls. The
sea was as comfortable as it gets, while still being "sailable" and we both enjoyed the ride. We did have to run the engine for a bit to charge the batteries, a necessary evil, but easier than rigging our little generator up.

In the afternoon, Irie drove through a big school of tuna. We did hook one: a fat and tasty yellow fin! But, from the moment we hauled him aboard, he got off the hook. No sushi for us - what a shame and disappointment. Luckily, we still had other food, which we cooked ahead of time. And, lots
of fruit, of course. :-)

Because of the light winds, we wanted to fly the spinnaker as long as possible during the day. Just as I finished up the dishes and we were ready to take the sail down, a squall surprised us with some wind and lots of rain; the exact situation you try to avoid when the spinnaker is in place (and the reason we take it down at night)... With fluky winds, it might end up in the water, where you can run over it, or in heavy winds, it might rip. In this case, we saved it from dipping in the salty ocean and managed to take it down. Everything - us included - was soaking wet, and enjoying turned into annoying.

The wind never restored itself and with the jib instead of the spinnaker we lost speed regardless. During Mark's shift, we moved 10° off course at 4 knots. At midnight, it was my turn at the helm and I was welcomed by a radar screen cluttered with squalls. One rainstorm after the other arrived, sucking out the little wind we had. For hours I sat in the rain and wished for the wind to come back. Floating on an ocean doing less than 2 knots is frustrating to say the least. Not only are you not making any progress, but - no matter how calm the sea - the incessantly flapping sails and erratically banging rigging would drive the most patient person crazy! Plus, no sleep for the person off watch either.

Finally, some breeze arrived, albeit 50° more northerly than predicted, which had us sailing 35° off course. Not something we could make up easily. I watched the phenomenon for another hour and then decided to get rid of the jib all together and adjust course. We had lost enough time and ground. And that's where we are at right now: sailing along at 3 knots and still 15° off course. When the sun wakes up at 6am, we will hang our spinnaker out to dry, if it is not too squally. The mainsail will have to come down and then there's hoping for another fun sail and making Apataki in time...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Marquesas - Tuamotus: Day 2 - All about Wind

Time: 1735UTC, COG 220T, SOG 6.0kts, Distance Remaining: 276nm

We had to ask our fellow traveler to leave. He spent the night on one of our solar panels and was still cleaning his feathers there, when the sun rose higher and higher. Any shadow on the panel - even the one of a bird - restricts its input greatly and we need all the electricity we can get. The wind generator is hardly doing anything in this kind of breeze. Yes, we should have charged those boat batteries before we left...

Today, the wind was lighter than predicted, but its angle being 30° off - in the "wrong direction" (more behind us) - had bigger consequences for our speed. We did manage to keep both sails up, but moved slowly towards our destination. We have always said "It's better to have a comfortable trip that takes a bit longer, than a fast and bumpy one!" On this journey, however, if we don't make it in four days and six hours, we will have to "stay out" another 16 hours. I will explain why in another blog. It might be time to fly that spinnaker when the sun comes up!

When you sail, it is all about the wind. Forget the rain in squalls. Sure, it is wet and inconvenient, but it is the wind in them that messes things up. The same goes for waves and swell. The sea would be dead calm if it isn't for the wind. The harder it blows, the more uncomfortable the ocean becomes and the choppier the anchorages get. The wind decides how fast you sail and where you can go. And, how comfortable the ride is.

I realize the weather is not always perfect in the Caribbean, but at least the predictions are pretty accurate and the wind consistent. Often, we arrived at our destination quicker than planned and the trips were straightforward. That might have had something to do with the fact that we never had the wind behind us going up and down the island chain, but, nevertheless, unobstructed by land, the wind was reliable. Downwind sailing is easier, but slower, and we have been looking forward to it on this ocean.

The wind can be your friend, your enemy or your acquaintance. When we plan our trips, it is based on the wind promising to be our best friend, if not a good friend. That's why we leave when we leave! Once at sea, reality kicks in and the wind becomes more of an acquaintance. It pushes us along and is
friendly enough to help us out, but it doesn't go out of its way or really cares about us getting there fast or direct. At some intervals it becomes our enemy, working against us with annoying shifts, becoming fluky or dropping out altogether. Or by going crazy, blowing hard and kicking up the seas. Luckily that doesn't happen too often and - knock on wood - real storms have stayed away.

As for tonight, the wind seems to have freshened a bit. It appears to do so after the sun is down and we hope to make up some speed during these twelve hours. After a few squalls, I am settling into my nightly routine. In the Caribbean, a squall meant shortening sail and picking up speed. Here in the Pacific, a squall causes wind shifts and then sucks up everything, leaving the boat bobbing aimlessly, sails flogging, boom banging, until the previous conditions resume. Usually.

All our fruit has turned yellow. Maybe I should have specified our preference of unripe fruit when asking for it? No scurvy for us, and if someone would like to share our 70 ripe bananas, 4 full-size papayas, 8 sweet and juicy grapefruits or 10 massive mangoes, you know where to find them: about halfway between Ua Pou and Apataki!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Marquesas to Tuamotus - Day 1: Slow Start

Time: 1735UTC, COG 220T, SOG 5.3kts, Distance Remaining: 411nm

As a side note I want to apologize for the crappy quality of the photos in the previous blog (I will improve them in the future) and for the old location status "Ua Pou" to the right. Blame the lack of (decent) internet in our last anchorage. We are underway now and Mark will update our position on the map daily.

The weather looked promising when we lifted anchor in Hakamaii, Ua Pou around 8am this morning. While the villagers went to church, I hauled Mark up the mast to check the rigging and by the time the service finished, we were underway. The land effect kept our progress to a minimum for quite some time. A massive pod of dolphins sent us off towards the Tuamotus. Floating in the water, swimming back and forth, they got slightly bored with our idleness in the water, but they didn't give up. When we finally gained some speed, so did they. It was a sight to behold.

Ua Pou became smaller, while the distance to the atoll of Apataki slowly shortened. By 1pm the last island of the Marquesas was gone, swallowed up by the clouds. We were all alone in the big, wide ocean. We checked the instruments. We adjusted them. We checked the sails. We adjusted them. We ate fruit. Lots of fruit. As usual at sea, we need to consume bananas as quickly as possible. They are turning yellow as we speak! When the sun makes us drowsy, we take a nap.

A few hours into the trip, the weather did its own Pacific thing again: it changed without any reason. The wind speed dropped five knots and later on even ten (!) knots, the direction became less favorable. At one point, it shifted 60°! All of a sudden we couldn't stay on course anymore. Our speed dropped from an expected 6 knots to 5.5 (required to get there in four days), to 5 and less. By 4pm we were sailing under main sail only and barely doing 3 knots. Half a knot of that was current. Now what? And, today was supposed to be our fastest day, since the wind speed is predicted to go

We hoped for more wind. We asked for more wind. We screamed for more wind. All the while wondering how the breeze could be so inconsistent and unpredictable on this ocean. There were no squalls nearby and we were far from the equator! Our only explanation were the gray clouds in the area or a weather system further away. By 6:30pm, my bedtime, our situation had improved some and we were sailing under full sails again. A boobie (brown and white seabird) landed on the solar panels and joined us for the ride.

Fast forward six hours. Irie is cruising along at more than five knots. The wind keeps fluctuating a bit, there are some squalls around and a skinny moon tries to pop out. Wherever not obscured by clouds, the stars twinkly. Our winged hitchhiker is still here, taking a nap, and so is Mark. We are comfortably sailing for now, so no complaints! :-)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marquesas to Tuamotus, Starting off

Time: 1845UTC, COG 225T, SOG 5.5kts, Distance Remaining: 534nm

We are on our way. Large pod of dolphins said goodbye as we leave the

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Time of Gifts and Goodbyes

(By email)
Knowing that a weather window to sail to the Tuamotus was available, Mark and I moved on from Ua Pou’s capital Hakahau to another anchorage along the island’s west coast. We would stage from there for the four day trip to the atoll of Apataki, 530 miles SW of Ua Pou.  Irie tucked her nose into the bay of Hakahetau, from where the famous “cathedral” peaks offer a spectacular sight during cloudless days, but, we decided to skip the town and sail onwards. The anchorage of Vaieho looked very peaceful and comfortable. Nobody lives on the shores of this tranquil bay, but the presence of five other sailboats (a lot of the cruising families came from Taiohae, Nuku Hiva to Ua Pou this week, because their kids had off from school) encouraged us further south.
Hakahetau Bay

Our destination was the remote village of Hakamaii, beckoning from a tiny valley. We dropped anchor in the clearest water we have seen in the Marquesas (I saw the bottom in 33 feet of water) and were satisfied with the picturesque surroundings of this small bay. Only then, did we read in a few cruising guides about Ua Pou’s anchorages. We learned that most boats prefer Vaieho and that barely anyone stops here, because it is usually too rolly. Mark and I were in luck, however, since the weather has been very benign with little wind and hardly any swell. Taking the dinghy to shore was another adventure… There is no breakwater, no beach and no dock. We took the engine off – required for the passage to the Tuamotus anyway – and rowed ashore. There, some nice person usually greeted us and helped us pull our little boat out of the foamy water and onto the rocks. An action that was one time wetter than another…
The village of Hakamaii

Other than the peaceful and pretty location, the draw of this village is the friendliness of the people. Yesterday, we were invited into one house for some coffee and a whole bunch of food was put on the table. We had just eaten breakfast, however. The friendly lady of the house gave us a baguette she had picked up in another village earlier and wasn’t happy until we left with a bag full of ripe mangoes. At another place, we traded a water toy we had no use for on Irie, for a wheelbarrow and bags full of fruit: two stacks of bananas, pamplemousses, limes, and papayas. We hope it doesn’t all ripen at once, because we would like to provide some of the islanders in the Tuamotus with these goodies, which are unavailable there. While I write this, the local kids are laughing and playing in the water with the toy. On the way back to the dinghy, another family offered us the use of their internet so we could check the weather and emails for a last time.
The necessary vitamins for the sail trip and upon arrival in the Tuamotus

Today, during a little walk on shore to take pictures (I forgot my camera yesterday), we were offered some breadfruit and more mangoes. When we learned that Eric, this friendly Marquesan offering the fruit, was a stone sculpture, we followed him to his main house to see his art. He uses the local “flower stones” (which can be found on one certain beach in Ua Pou) to create animals and objects of different sizes. The big ones were amazingly made and unaffordable. Out of nowhere, he decided to give us a small turtle as a gift, and later – when we temporarily split up – he handed me a small pestle made of the same kind of stone as well. To top it up, he wanted us to come back and pick up some freshly caught goat and peppers as well, after our walk. Such hospitality and generosity is very humbling and rare in our western world! We invited him over to Irie to repay our respects and offer him a few gifts, before we finished up preparing the boat for another big journey tomorrow. There couldn’t have been a better place to end our stay in the Marquesas and say goodbye to its unique inhabitants and scenery.
View of Ua Pou along the north shore

Obelisk in the water at Vaieho Bay. From afar it looks like a tiki!

Our first sunset in a long time! The joy of being anchored on the west side of an island.

Yes, the pamplemousses (grapefruit) are big here!

Cleaning Irie’s bottom once more. Every week!

Fishermen from Hakamaii in an outrigger canoe

The river in Hakamaii, dividing the village in two

Temple in Hakamaii

Irie in Hakamaii Bay

Ready to launch the dinghy again?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hakahau in Ua Pou

The road and the trail to the cross on the hill slowly sloped up. It was an easy, albeit sweaty, hike to the top; a perfect one to try out our new sandals. A massive blister aside, it felt great to do something interesting and active again. The view of the bay, the village and the surrounding hills was nice, but the famous “spires” of Ua Pou, the peaks of some mountains, stayed hidden in the clouds. After being in Hakahau for six days, they barely "peaked" out once.

A Marquesan village is not complete without a breezy church and its skilfully engraved woodwork. The cemetery in the back was cute as well. Mark and I walked a bit more throughout the town, but didn’t find any other sights. Having come to a stopping point workwise and after a very frustrating day of toilet repairs, it is time to move on. Practicing my new hobby, which is called “resting”, the perfect thing to do when the boat wobbles up and down and when the heat and humidity is getting a bit too much, will therefore be put on hold until further notice as well. Let’s go sailing and exploring!

Anaho Bay in Ua Pou

The bay and anchorage of Hakahau

Hidden peaks of Ua Pou, seen from the cross

Church of Hakahau

Interior of the church, where openings under the roof provide fresh air

Hakahau cemetery

Irie, about the be alone in the bay

Tiki spigot with potable water, near the primary school in the village

Proud to introduce: our new - bright white - toilet pump!

The spires, almost totally visible on day six in the bay

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bye Bye Taiohae and Nuku Hiva

At last, we managed to pull ourselves loose – quite literally since the anchor was buried well after the last 1.5 months – from Taiohae, Nuku Hiva’s capital. It’s not that we didn’t want to leave earlier (believe me, we did!), it’s that we still needed to do things to allow our departure. Like scraping and cleaning Irie’s bottom for three days and getting nauseous while doing so. What a dirty mess that was; the green beards flowing and sticking with the boat bouncing up and down, the barnacles being stubborn to let go of their hold. We also had to buy some more vegetables, probably the last ones for a while, and continue some online duties.

When we were ready to leave, it rained. All day and night. Just like the weeks prior. The following day, Nuku Hiva entrapped in clouds, a sight we were used to; the sky looked bluer off shore. The wind predictions were on the high side, but we would put two reefs in and let the east winds push us to our destination. The reduced sails did their job, but the wind came from the southeast instead, so there we had to go again… upwind! It was a wet and quite boisterous ride, Irie flying and jumping along at 6-7 knots. We reached Ua Pou, 27 miles south of Nuku Hiva, fast and in time for lunch, and hoped for some rain to clean the decks. This is our sixth and last Marquesan island before we continue on.

As seems to be customary in this archipelago, Hakahau is another choppy harbor with inconvenient shore access. Once again, we are living on a hobby horse, attached to two anchors to limit swinging room (with the gusty winds we are always worried to hit our neighbors) and to be faced into the swell. We are bouncing up and down, being pushed back and forth between the two rodes. Once again, it takes us a while to try some different configurations to leave the dinghy safely for our excursions onshore. The people are friendly, the church yard has pamplemousse and breadfruit, the locals practice rowing in their outriggers every day and we have discovered the biggest, most modern store of all of the Marquesas. Now the reports of stocking up in Ua Pou before heading to the Tuamotus make sense! It is exactly what we plan to do, after obtaining butane (a half a day’s event), focusing on more work stuff and checking out the view from the top of a hill.

Arriving in Ua Pou

Hakahau anchorage

Daily rowing practice

Massive breadfruit tree and lime trees (in the back) near the village cemetery

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marquesan Tattoos

Tattoos have been popular all over Polynesia for ages, but in the Marquesas it was at its most refined. Men were, unlike on other islands, often tattooed entirely, including the skull, which was kept shaved, or on more sensitive parts such as the eyelids or tongue. Even now, we frequently meet a local guy ashore in Taiohae (Nuku Hiva), who has his head covered with tattoos. The most frequently chosen body parts were the earlobes and the space behind the ears, the lower back, legs and arms. Something we still notice around us. There are more than 400 diverse and ancient designs and the main source of inspiration is the tiki, representing both divinity and the original human. In the Marquesan language tattooing is patu’I te tiki, literally “hitting the tiki”.

The mythological meaning of tattoo is one of astatic value and sexual attractiveness, but it is not the only one. Beyond the decorative aspect, tattooing spoke of the passage from childhood to adulthood. In the Marquesas Islands it was also a mark of identification, of belonging to a group and a protective barrier against evil influences. Now, Marquesans – after being banned of living according to their culture for a long time thanks to the missionaries (until 1975!) – get a tattoo to be handsome, to help the rebirth of an old custom and to prove their courage.

Marquesan tattoos are intricate, beautiful and unique. Not two are the same and each one has a personal preference and story. It is safe to say that almost every adult in the islands has at least one tattoo and the craft is performed well. Many tattooists are often off island, working in Tahiti, on other islands or in Europe, and are well-regarded internationally. Because of its Marquesan roots, their originality and their appeal, many cruisers also get a tattoo while visiting the islands.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Air Tahiti Monopoly – Suck it Up!

Flying internationally has never caused me any grief in regards to baggage allowance. Sure, the days of being able to bring two 25kg (50 lbs) free bags with you as checked luggage are mostly over, but any respectable airline carrying you over an ocean, allows their passengers to check one bag of 25kg (50 lbs) for free, no problem, even if it is packed to the brim. Flying from and back to Tahiti – through the US and the UK – therefore did not prove to be a worry or a hassle on Air France, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. The issue on my way back home arose for the last leg Nuku Hiva – Tahiti.

The checked baggage allowance on Air Tahiti (to Tahiti and elsewhere within French Polynesia) is a mere 10 kg (20 lbs)! Yes, we are talking about the luggage which is being stowed in the bowel of the airplane. If you prove that you have a connecting international flight within days of arriving in Tahiti, you buy a return ticket and you arrange for your file to be adjusted in the computer, Air Tahiti allows you to check 20 kg (40 lbs) of luggage. Much better, but… still 5 kg or 10 lbs less than what every visitor to the islands bring from home or what they assume is allowed. When I made all my arrangements for the trip to Tahiti in Nuku Hiva, nobody mentioned anything about carry-ons.

The flights from Belgium to Tahiti were long; the lay-overs as well. By the time I wanted to check in with Air Tahiti for my last leg of the journey, I was tired. While the previous check-ins and flights went smooth, with no issues in regards to my big duffel bag, my regular sized carry-on and my laptop bag, at the desk of Air Tahiti, in the airport of Faaa (Tahiti), I came to a stop. And, so did other tourists. My duffel bag weighed 22 kg (44 lbs), so 2 kg or 4 lbs too much. Then, the employee wanted to see my carry-on, which fits in the normal overhead bins of other airplanes. Without blinking, she told me this item was not allowed in the cabin of the plane (even though I left Nuku Hiva with it in the cabin of the same Air Tahiti plane) and that I had to check it. On top of the restricted size for this flight, the allowed weight for a carry-on is... 3 kg (6 lbs)! Mine weighed 18 kg (36 lbs). With a blank face, she told me I owed her the equivalent of $160 in overweight charges!

I complained. Other tourists did as well, after the first shock of this unwelcome news, but all paid the required fees, rather promptly. I did not. I tried all the arguments I could find – how unfair this is to someone who arrived on connecting flights allowing this luggage arrangement, how it was not an issue on the leg TO Tahiti, how none-obese people should not have to suffer from the adjusted luggage allowance limits conducted every three years and getting 5 kg (10 lbs) less each time, how the weight issue must not be much of an issue if you can get everything on the plane anyway, as long as you pay huge amounts of money for it, how – if weight was such a problem – they should weigh passengers AND their luggage together and come up with a total allowance (South Pacific people are known to be relatively heavy)  - to no avail.

Appalled by the ridiculous and mandatory fee, I uttered again how expensive the plane ticket was to begin with (over $700 for a three hour flight) and that the overweight charge really was a lot of money. Then, the woman at the desk mentioned that I could try to check my carry-on bag as cargo. Time was running out, but I managed to find the freight department and – to make a crazy expensive story a tad less expensive – shipped my carry-on as “cargo” with the same plane for about $110. I could have sent the luggage on the next day’s flight for about $60, but… then all the chocolaty contents would have melted! The plane from Tahiti to Nuku Hiva carried about 20 passengers, spread out over 70 seats, bringing the empty seat – paying passenger ratio to 3:1 …

When there is no competition or customer consideration, companies like Air Tahiti can charge what they want and take advantage of every chance to do so! My recommendation for cruisers wanting to fly to their home countries or for guests to come visit, is to wait until the boat is in Tahiti.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Good to be Home

The distance can hardly be longer. On previous arrivals in and departures from Belgium, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to catch a plane and reach my destination “just like that”. This time, it took a bit longer and involved a tad more effort and endurance, but guess what? It is possible and “not just like that” I am back on Irie, in the South Pacific.

The contrast could not be bigger. The climate is hot and humid instead of cold and dry, the people speak French and Marquesan, instead of Dutch, I am wearing a bikini instead of a coat, hat, scarf and gloves, my world is in constant motion, instead of comfortable and stable, I am doing laundry by hand, preparing my own food and cleaning my own surroundings, instead of being taken care of by my parents, food is basic instead of glorious, choices are limited instead of overwhelming, and posting this blog will take about an hour, instead of a few minutes! Ah, the joys of living on a remote patch of salt water. :-)

I enjoyed being with friends and family, feasting on pastries and moving about in comfort for the three weeks I was in Belgium. But, it went way too quick and more hectic than ever. The fact that I had been derived of conveniences, like good internet and the availability of boat parts, certain food items and household stuff for so long (resulting in a lot of research, running around, shopping and days on the internet) and the decision to get my health checked thoroughly definitely had something to do with my “lack of time” for more fun and relaxing activities. So, “just like that”, my time in Belgium came to an end and three days later, after a quick stop in Tahiti, I found myself back on Irie and in the company of my wonderful and happy-to-see-me husband. It’s good to be home!

Visit with Rosy and Yanou (and Peter) in Merelbeke

The first time ever that aunt Liesbet was present on Lena's birthday

Happy 5th birthday, Lena!

Oma and Liesbet at the birthday party

Coloring with Lena at my parents' house

An abundance of good company and good food at Griet and Wim's place

Which ingredient is absent on Irie? All of them!

Brussels waffle with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream

My favorite Sunday breakfast (and afternoon snack)

Belgium from the air

Los Angeles from the air

Tahiti from the ground

The island of Moorea seen from Taina Marina 

Practice for canoe races in Papeete, Tahiti

Sunset over Moorea

Hiva Oa from the air

Nuku Hiva from the air - Almost home!