Reunited back with Ondular

After a long time of dreaming and waiting for the moment to arrive, it was here and we were all packed and ready to go back to Ondular. We thought this time wouldn’t be that bad going back (weight wise), considering that we’d already lived on the boat for almost two years; what other things could we possibly bring back with us?… I was so wrong! Mick’s luggage was packed full of boat parts, fishing things etc, it was so heavy and we were stopped so many times on the way to Tahiti; they must have thought we were real weirdos. Who travels with a coffee grinder, a pressure cooker and 100 or more fishing hooks and lures? We were also carrying with us, 4 new boards and a stand up paddle. Quite a bit of weight.

Anyway, after almost two days of travel and 500 us dollars in overweight luggage down, we made it to Tahiti with all our belongings, that’s always a plus! We spent a couple of days in Tahiti, we rented a car and went around the island, checked the supermarkets for future food stocking and went to see a local insurer for our boat. We even went to check the port from where our cargo boat would be leaving the next day to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. We had booked this cargo boat called Hawaiki Nui months in advanced as we’d found out this was one of the only options to get to Raiatea from Tahiti to avoid the expensive airfares. It would take longer than a plane as it would travel  overnight but we were saving lots of money by doing that.

When we arrived to their local offices, there was a sign on the door that said something about jeudi (Thursday in French) but reading it quickly we thought it said that the office was closed today and will open again on Thursday. We left the premises very satisfied with ourselves, thinking that French wasn’t that hard after all and continued touring the island.

Next day came and we went early to the dock to leave all our luggage and have enough time to return the rental car. When we arrived, we saw that the office was still closed and read the message again, this time a bit more carefully and realised that it said that the normal trip to Raiatea was cancelled this Thursday and would resume back next week. We screamed, kicked and almost cried, felt pretty silly …what to do now? We went back to the hotel and asked a nice girl at the reception to help us calling all the other cargo boats or shuttles around. It seemed that there wasn’t any other boat going to Raiatea and that the Hawaiaki nui was our only option.

But then we found out we may have another shot with a different cargo boat called the Tapooro, that apparently didn’t take any passengers but maybe we could send our luggage with them and even see if they could fit us in somehow. We went to their office and found out that this trip they were travelling with diesel and gasoline so definitely no passengers but we were able to send our heavy luggage with them for 50 dollars then rushed to the only airline and managed to buy two tickets to Raiatea that afternoon. It wasn’t cheap but it got us there. We arrived around 6.30 pm and because we were supposed to arrive with the boat the following morning we had no accommodation booked for that night. We decided to rent a car and drove to the Carinage where Ondular was stored. We got a glimpse of the outside of Ondular and spent our first night in Raiatea sleeping in our tiny rental “the panda” outside the marina.

The next morning came and with light we were ready to open up Ondular and have a look inside of her to see in what condition it was in. We were happily surprised to see that all our hard work before leaving her, really paid off. There was a bit of mould especially in our front cabin but nothing like it could’ve been. So for the next few days we cleaned and cleaned and got our boat ready to be liveable again.

We spent the next two weeks in the boatyard, cleaning first and then fixing a few things that we thought were important to do before getting her back in the water , like the boom , setting all the sails and of course doing the antifoul.

Finally the day came when we were ready to do the splash in. Ondular was carefully picked up and put in the slip. We tried the engine but it didn’t start. Tried a few times and nothing happened and figured it might be the starter battery. Because they needed the space for another boat, they moved us and tied us to a stationary old ferry nearby and full of disappointment we left the starter battery charging all night to see what happened.  In hindsight it was the best possible outcome to be tied to the Ferry that night because we had time to test everything else that couldn’t be tested when out of the water, like the anchor , the toilet, etc and even though we weren’t quite ready yet, it felt so good to be back floating in the water.

To avoid making this post too long I’ll just name all the new problems we’ve encountered after storing our boat for over a year and being put back in the water.

The starter battery wasn’t really the problem, but it was actually fuel related and once the fuel got treated we were good to go.

The fridge wasn’t cooling, and the water maker wasn’t working properly: Mick thought of possible solutions and tried the water maker without the little pump that was failing, and it now seems to work fine. With the fridge, once we realised that the evaporator plate had several leaks, we had two options: order a new one from Papeete or try to fix the one we have. Which one do you think Mick chose?

The evaporator plate has an aluminium tube which was the one that had suffered from electrolysis and was full of leaks. Mick being Mick, decided to replace that tube with a copper one and joined it to the plate using fyber glass and later on fusing it properly. We are still in the process of fixing our fridge but I can honestly say that we can survive just fine without one. Our lives would definitely be a bit fancier with one and the fridge saga isn’t over yet but we’ve made sure to not only be stuck here trying to fix everything without enjoying ourselves.

Of course, there have been some frustrating times trying to sort all these different boat problems when we were so eager to go out and explore.  Being out here in a tiny French speaking island adds to the difficulties, especially if our level of French is saying good-morning and good-afternoon not even at the right time of the day sometimes. But anyway google-translate is our new best friend and we are using duolingo to try and get better at it as we go along. There’s still hope for us and we are definitely learning to be more self-reliant, to persevere and to work on our patience big time.

I guess this is life on a boat. There’s a lot of hard work and it can be really testing at times but that’s what makes the good times even better. I have to say, the Pacific is showing to be so much more challenging than any other place we’ve cruised before. Now that I think back on our time in the Caribbean or Panama and Ecuador how easy it was, everyone spoke English or Spanish, there were all kinds of shops and access to parts and things all around, the cruising books made everything so easy; you knew where to anchor, how to anchor, what to expect, most navigation was straight forward and apart from strong winds there wasn’t much to worry about.

Here is a completely different story; shallow waters filled with coral heads so no more relying only on the charts but keeping a close look on the depth sounder and using our eyes to spot corals and show the way.  A weather, that as our new friend Tom described it, is nothing short of schizophrenic , one minute is calm, the next is stormy then rainy, then sunny, windy, calm.. And in general it feels like a more explorational kind of cruising; it’s not all given to us in extensively researched cruising guides but it’s more dependent on us, where we decide to anchor and how to navigate certain areas. So yes, definitely more challenging.

So far I can tell you I’ve been so very happy to be back on Ondular, the closeness to nature, the sunsets, the rocking while sleeping, the underwater world, the quietness and other days I’ve missed land so much, the safety, the stability, the known.  But what is life without a bit of challenges? They say difficult and unease times are what makes us stronger. Welcome to a new season on Ondular. We hope you enjoy our tales and join us on another go at living free in the sea.







The adventure continues on

Having no set plan or any schedule to follow, gives us a great sense of freedom and plenty of opportunities to choose from. There are some anchorages that we know we want to see, we have cruising guide books that show us which anchorages are better than others, so we make a choice and once we get there we see how we feel and that determines how long will stay in the place.

From Deep bay in Antigua we sailed to Falmouth Harbour. We decided to go there because of the volunteering opportunity that I mentioned on our last post. It was convenient to be anchored there as it was close to the school where we were going to help for a few days and it was also one of the anchorages we really wanted to see.

Falmouth is a great anchorage, calm, protected, with a few beaches to go to and lots of facilities around; restaurants, shops and a nice feel of being in a small town. We also ran into other cruisers that we had met before in St Maarten and we had a few very sociable days. We had a couple sundowners’ sessions with Robert and Carla, Canadians from “Moody Mistress”, Charly, singlehanded American from “My way” and Janis and Don from Texas, sailing aboard “Plane at Sea”.

We also did a few hikes in the area. Falmouth Harbour is right next to English Harbour, which is another great anchorage and still has the remains of what is called Nelson’s Dockyard, which was Britain’s main naval station in the Lesser Antilles.  It’s a great area to go and explore, with old buildings and much of the structure still remaining. You also get a great opportunity to have a sneaky beak at the amazing classic sailing boats that anchor here. So we did a few walks along the dockyard and to the old Fort Berkely point, as well as another longer one all the way back to Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbour with spectacular views.

On a Thursday night we walked all the way to Shirley Heights with Robert and Carla and we had dinner at the top. This place gets crazy crowded on Sundays when they have their famous parties but we decided to go on Thursdays because they still have the live bands on and the barbecue but they don’t have their cover charge and it’s a bit more comfortable with just a few groups of people. It’s an amazing place to see the sunset and to view down onto English and Falmouth Harbour and they usually have a steel and a reggae band. It was a great night out.

We ended up staying a whole week in Falmouth but I didn’t want to leave before meeting a great artist that I got to know through Facebook, Jennifer Meranto. I first contacted Jennifer because she’s very involved with beach clean-ups of the area and she also creates art out of materials found on the clean-ups. We decided to meet up for a coffee and it was so great to actually meet someone as passionate and as dedicated as her with plastic pollution and creating change in her community. If you ever want to check her artwork and her projects please visit her facebook page called Adoptacoastline.

We went back to Jolly Harbour to clear out and buy some provisions and on Tuesday 8 April we sailed to Deshais in Guadeloupe. This was our first proper downwind sail aboard Ondular and it was awesome. The boat was recording speeds of 6 and 7 knots, sometimes even 8 and that is amazing for our little boat! So we had a great sail, no tacking, no jibing, just sliding down and arrived to Deshais sooner than what we expected,  which is also rare for us hahaha.

It’s good to be back into French territory, especially for the baguettes for lunch. We spent a few days in Deshais because we were lucky enough to coordinate with our friend Keith, English fellow that bought his boat at the same time as us on the BVI. We hadn’t seen him for four months so this time, his girlfriend Samina was with him and we got to catch up and exchange stories from our adventures.

We’ve come to realize that there is a kind of black market going on between cruisers. One of the most wanted items on the list is “movie exchanges”; we actually had to buy a new hard drive so we could store all the movies that we kept getting from our new cruising friends. Another very useful and wanted item on the cruisers’ black market is “wifi passwords exchange”; that is like the gold of the black market! Keith got plenty of passwords and movies to share with us and we did too.

It was great seeing Keith and meeting Samina. Keith was on his way to Antigua where Samina will take a plane back to the UK and he will meet up with some friends flying from America and the UK to sail the boat back to UK sometime in May. Hopefully we’ll get to see Keith some other time along the way.

From Deshais we did a day stop in Pigeon Island which is Jacques Costeau Marine Park and it’s great for snorkelling. From there, we sailed all the way to Gosier which was a long and difficult sail. The first part of the journey, because we were on the lee of the island and Guadeloupe has some big mountains we kept getting this changing wind, from 5 knots to 35 knots and from all different directions so the first part we motor sailed.

Then when we hit the end of the island and had to go east, the swell started to get bigger and the wind was straight on the nose. After maybe an hour of very uncomfortable motor sailing against it all, we could finally sail and we had a great run until we hit the fish trap area. We had read about this in the cruising guide, an area of the journey, where as Chris Doyle described it“Fish traps are everywhere, usually two tied together by a floating line. Since this is open sea with sizeable waves, they are not easy to spot. Those missing their home video games will find avoiding these much more enthralling than Pac Man”. And we definitely had that, it was like playing some kind of stressful game and screaming at each other “I see one, do you see it?” ,like this probably 40 times but luckily, we missed them all and we made it to Gosier before sunset.

We were trying to catch a swell and this area of the south coast of Guadeloupe can get some waves. Gosier has a little island called Ilet du Gosier surrounded by reef. There was a little wave breaking on the right side of the island and we surfed it for a couple of hours. It was fun and the best thing was surfing it all to ourselves.

The following day we kept sailing east to Petit Havre, another anchorage that could have waves. We were the only boat anchored there, it was an interesting anchorage protected by reefs and near to a beautiful beach. We surfed that afternoon and the next morning. It was a fun left but the setting was amazing and it felt so good to actually sail to the surf and get it right. The swell was dying off so we decided to keep moving this time to Marie Galante an island part of Guadelupe but 18 miles south.

We spent the first night at St Louis a quiet little town and this morning after checking the internet we decided to sail north to Anse Canot, which is a beautiful bay full of palm trees and white sand. We try to sail as much as possible and although it was only a couple of miles away we had the wind straight on the nose so we had to do a few tacks and avoid a few fish traps on the way.

After 40 minutes we were there, the beautiful white sand beach, perfect setting, we had dropped the sails, I turned around to check that no lines were on the way and turned the engine on. I turned back again, nothing, I looked to the bow, nothing, I screamed: We’ve lost the dinghy!!!!!! Minutes of panic, Mick holds the wheel turned the boat around, I grabbed the binoculars and started looking for the dinghy, phew, there it was, probably 2 miles away floating peacefully but away from us. We managed to get there on time, avoid all the fish traps again and saved our little dinghy. How lucky!

Time is flying away. Is not that we have a set schedule but we have to keep moving because of hurricane season and also because we want to be in Panama at the right time to catch some surf. So we’ll keep moving and see what we find on our way. Next stop is Isle de Saintes for the weekend and probably Dominica sometime next week with a new northerly swell headed that way. The adventure continues on..