Sydney – a dream has come true

We have had a good passage so far… except the last one or two days, where we had strong current against us and increasing winds. Everyone was looking forward to arrive in Sydney and finally after seven days we could see the city lights in the distance…

We knew that we would arrive at night and were told by the Australian Border Force to grab the quarantine buoy in Watson’s Bay and then come to Neutral Bay for clearance the next morning. It was a short night… we were too excited to go to sleep and of course had to celebrate our arrival.

Next morning we motored towards Neutral Bay (which is before the Harbour Bridge) but we could simply not resist doing an extra loop passing the Opera House and going under the Harbour Bridge. There were a lot of “Aaaaah’s” and “Ooohs” until Marco saw a black speed boat coming with a few very official looking guys on board. ” I think they are coming to us” So we turned down the music and put on our serious faces. It actually was the Australian Border Force. ” We were looking for you! We were waiting for you in Neutral Bay!” one of them said. “Aha… Neutral Bay is in that direction? Ok… we are coming right away!” André said. The officer just smiled and said “See you there in 20 minutes!” Of course they knew that we knew were Neutral Bay was….

After the usual clearance procedures we were waiting for the biosecurity check. After about two hours a guy came to our boat, he looked at our Swiss flag and took a picture. Then he greeted in Swiss German and came on board. He introduced himself as Franz Odermatt from Stans in Switzerland. He immigrated 20 years ago as a baker. Of course he spotted the Nespresso machine and accepted with a smile our offer for a coffee. It was strange to sail all that way to Sydney and then be checked by someone speaking strong Swiss dialect from Central Switzerland. After having paid 400 Australian Dollars for a large bag of rubbish, we were ready to go… Sydney here we come.

For the first three nights we had booked a berth in Rushcutter’s Bay Marina but then we wanted to move to a more affordable place. We soon realized that Sydney is not very cruiser friendly. There are just a few anchorages – but all too shallow for us . There are some pink buoys, where you are allowed to stay 24 hours, but how do you want to go sightseeing in town, when there is no dinghy dock around? To make a long story short – after about one week and three Mirabella harbour cruises, André found an affordable mooring in Cammeray marina. It is run by Calvin, a very friendly and helpful guy, who had done a similar sailing adventure with his family. Jaël and Amina made friends with two local geese, who came to our boat every morning.

We had a wonderful time in Sydney! We celebrated André’s birthday, did a lot of sightseeing and caught up with friends from André’s Sydney time. Dean and Karen, who have two daughters of similar age as Jaël and Amina were of course the perfect match. We had a pleasant Sunday sail to Watson’s bay with them, celebrated Emily’s birthday together, enjoyed a delicious dinner in Dean and Karen’s favourite Libanese restaurant and visited them at their home. Some other friends, Tim and Rachelle, who learned sailing in Sydney Harbour together with André back in the old days, flew to Sydney to visit us. We spent a beautiful weekend in Manly beach with them. And to make things even better, our BAJKA friends flew to Sydney as well and we visited Taronga Zoo together.

Getting ready for the passage to Sydney

After an early wake up call we got on the bus to Christchurch Airport and took our flight to Auckland. From there we took the bus downtown to the Central Bus station and changed there to the bus, which would bring us to Opua in a 4 hours drive. It was a long journey with a lot of luggage – we still carried all the stuff from our Switzerland holiday with us – but Jaël and Amina did extremely well.

Mirabella was still in the shed but we wanted to be back on time to see how she looked like and to be able to react if there were any problems. Therefore we had booked an AirBnB in Opua just a little bit uphill from the school. Our hosts Terry and Jocelyn gave us a warm welcome with cool drinks on their beautiful terrace. The kids felt at home immediately… there was a trampoline and a huge box of lego on the terrace and Terry had put fresh corn on the cob and chocolates in our fridge… what else could they wish for!

Next day it was time to go and have a look at Mirabella… wow… what a beauty she was again! The guys from Bluefix had done a fantastic job! Now just the antifouling had to be done and then she would look like new. André decided that this was the right place to do it properly and scratch and sand first all the 20 layers of old antifouling off. A gruesome job. To reduce the costs he worked on it as well.

So it took a little longer than we thought and thanks to Terry and Jocelyn, who are the most generous and friendly people you could imagine, we could extend our stay. Terry helped us out whenever we needed a ride to Paihia or Kerikeri. He took us to beautiful Matauri bay on a Sunday, baked a cake with the girls and invited us often to join one of his deliciuosly cooked dinners on the beautiful terrace.

Finally, after about two weeks, Mirabella got out of the shed, got her mast back on and we could move on the boat again. We were all happy to be back in our floating home and unpack our bags. Since beginning of December we had been living out of them. Jaël and Amina had to be very patient until they could unpack the lego they had got for Christmas. You can imagine what they did first…

The following days we spent getting Mirabella back into ship shape. André sent the anchor chain to Whangarei to regalvanize it, as some parts were a bit rusty and we got a custom made welded reinforcement for our pushpitt, as it had always been a bit wobbly since we had upgraded from a 6 PS to a 20 PS motor.

Camilla, who wanted to join us for the passage to Sydney, arrived and helped us with the boatjobs. Marco, who originally wanted to visit us in Sydney, flew to New Zealand instead, to join us for the passage as well…. quite an adventurous thing for someone without sailing experience. In between last provisioning and boatjobs we also enjoyed more beautiful hikes and celebrated Waitangi day on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. We invited Terry and Jocelyn for dinner on our boat and Jaël and Amina were very proud to finally show them our boat.

Towards the end of February there was finally a good weather window for the passage to Sydney but – our anchor chain was still in Whangarei… The weather window would not last much longer. If we waited until the chain got delivered to Opua we would not be able to leave on time and would have to wait for another window. So we asked Terry , if he could drive André to Whangarei. Although he had a lot of work he drove André to Whangarei to pick up the anchor chain. Thank you Terry! The 28th of February we checked out of New Zealand. Jocelyn, her mom Hine and Terry came down to the marina to say goodbye . They brought us cakes, grapes and a Kiwi bag full of chips etc.

Bye bye New Zealand – this was one of the hardest goodbyes. We have been to many beautiful places on our journey, but this was different. Thank you to all the friendly people we have met, especially in the marina, in Opua school and in Paihia Waitangi Kindergarten. Thank you for making New Zealand such a special place! We will be back one day!

Beach cleaning mission
Ready to go…

More landlegs… touring the South Island

Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook

After two days in Auckland we flew to Christchurch. We had booked a beautiful Airbnb in New Brighton. It was the perfect choice to relax a little bit after the eventful weeks in Switzerland and the long flight back to New Zealand. It was a tiny little house with a small garden (with BBQ). Within short walking distance there was the beach and a huge playground with waterplays. Amina and Jaël of course loved it!

Then our two weeks campervan trip began… Amina and Jaël had been longing for this already for a long time. Especially because we would meet our friends (and former neighbours) Barbara and Michi with her two girls Flurina and Seraina, both best friends of Jaël and Amina. They were on a sabbatical and had already spent three months touring Australia. In January they were now flying to New Zealand, to explore the South and North Island for the following three months. The plan was to meet them near Akaroa a few days later and then cruise together for about a week until we would have to head back to Christchchurch.

But the first few days we were on our own. We wanted to visit Hanmer Springs. On the way we passed the vinery Waiau River Estate and we could not resist… we enjoyed a glass of Sauvignon blanc and stayed there over night between the grapevines.

Next day we drove to Hanmer Springs. We stopped at a fantastic camping ground with beautiful walks through the woods just nearby. The Hanmer Springs Thermal bath is beautifully set in a park. There are different rock pools with different water temperatures, a kids pool with waterslides and also a kids area with watergames. You can even picnic on the green. This thermal bath was very different from the ones we knew in Switzerland, where it is usually more an “adult’s only” thing.

We continued to Kaikoura where we were hoping to see some seals. Just when we were having a sundowner at the wharf, enjoying the spectacular view over the bay a guy pulled in with his motor boat. André took the lines and helped him and we started talking. Gary had worked for many years as a ski teacher in Verbier. He offered to take us out with his boat the next morning to see the seals. We arranged to meet at nine o’clock the next day and helped him to get the motorboat out of the water on his trailer. Just before he left, he asked if we had had dinner already. We said “no” and he grabbed a fish out of his cooler and gave it to us. How generous! We had a delicious dinner and saw the seals from very close the next day. We were even invited for coffee at Gary’s place after the boat trip. Thank you Gary and Lynn! You completely made our day!

Beautiful Kaikoura

On our way back to Christchurch we wanted to do a short lunch stop in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after we had stopped two cars pulled in: in the first car there was future crew Camilla, who will join us for the passage to Sydney. She had just seen us, as she was driving by in the opposite direction. The second car was a guy in a pickup. He got out of his car, laid under it and started some serious looking repair works. After a while he threw the drive shaft in his pickup. Apparently his four wheel drive car had now turned into a two wheel drive car only. Before the guy left again he asked us, if we like crayfish… grabbed in a big cool box and gave us a big crayfish. We fried it in the pan right away, there in the middle of nowhere.

We waited for Barbara, Michi and the girls on an idyllic camping ground on the peninsula of Akaroa. Amina and Jaël were completely excited… they had last seen their friends end of August 2017 a few days before we left Switzerland and now we where together in New Zealand. We had a wonderful evening all together.

We drove on a narrow small street to Akaroa the next day. There was a sign “Not suitable for campervans” at the beginning of the road. The road was quite curvy and steep. But the views on the peninsula were breathtaking! We just really hoped that no car would come from the other side as there was no room to cross. Luckily there was no other car and we made it to the bigger road without any problems. But after all we agreed with the sign: “definitely not suitable for campervans”.

Akaroa is a tidy little town with French colonial background. Today many street names and a bakery with delicious baguette remind of that historical background. As the forecast for the next day promised a lot of rain we decided to make some miles and head to Lake Tekapo.

View on lake Tekapo from the Mt John University Observatory

The scenery around Lake Tekapo is simply BEAUTIFUL! The turquoise color of the lake is spectacular. André and I walked up to the observatory and enjoyed the view while Jaël and Amina stayed with our friends on the campingground. We had a great time and would have loved to stay longer, but we had booked the campervan for two weeks only, so we continued to Lake Pukaki after two days. There we had to say goodbye to Barbara, Michi, Flurina and Seraina. As we wanted to see a little bit of the West Coast as well, we had to start heading back. Barbara and Michi had a much wider time frame as they booked the motor home for three months.

Two manpower watertaxi on Lake Pukaki

It was sad to go seperate ways again, but we were very thankful that it worked out so well and we were able to cruise together almost a week. On the way up the West coast we did a beautiful hike to the Fox Glacier and then continued to Hokitika and spectacular Arthur’s pass ( unfortunately with quite a bit of rain) back to Christchurch.

Fox Glacier

In Christchurch we gave back the motorhome and moved into an Airbnb and BAJKA was already waiting for us. Amina and Jaël were so happy to see their friends Nael and Iillian again. As BAJKA was already sold they were on a road trip now. The kids enjoyed the huge Margaret Mahy Playground together. Pretty much the best and biggest playground they had ever seen so far. And we enjoyed catching up with Ela and Lukas.

We all enjoyed our land trip in New Zealand. On each and every place we had stopped we could have stayed much longer. We have seen just a few places of this beautiful country – we had to make some choices. But the good thing about New Zealand is: whatever you choose, you will most likely meet friendly and open minded people and enjoy stunning sceneries. New Zealand… we will be back some day!

Landlegs… trip to Switzerland

After four hours bus ride through New Zealands beautiful North Island we arrived in Auckland. Since Panama we have not seen any city life at all. We checked in in our Air B&B and and the kids were completely excited! They had their own room with a big double bed, there was a wardrobe where they could hide in, there was a table and a small kitchen with a big fridge (with ice cubes in the freezer!) and a big bathroom with washing machine and a shower with endless warm water. You may wonder how this should be so exciting but for boat kids this is very exciting. They begged to eat dinner at our table in the Air B&B and not in a restaurant.

Next day we caught our flight to Zurich with a short stopover in Hongkong. Jaël and Amina were completely absorbed with the on board entertainment program. They were almost too busy to sleep…

We arrived in Zurich Airport very early in the morning and to our big surprise we got a warm welcome from our friend Lisa. What a beautiful surprise! She had to catch the train to go to back to Berne (it was a normal workday) but there was enough time to have a glass of Prosecco, coffee and a piece of this delicious “Welcome Mirabella” bread she had made for us.

The time in Switzerland passed very quickly. We visited our family and friends, spent a few beautiful days in Adelboden with my family in winter wonderland, went on a sledge run in Flumserberge, had Glühwein on the Christmas market and practiced our ice skating skills… we thoroughly enjoyed it. But of course it was also strange to be in all these familiar places without having our home. As our apartment is subrented while we are travelling we stayed most of the time in Küsnacht with André’s sister Karin.

Beautiful days in Adelboden
Winter Wonderland

On the 31st of December we took our flight to go back to New Zealand. It was not easy to say goodbye again not knowing when we would see our family and friends again but we were also looking forward to our next adventures.

New Zealand – Aotearoa

We made it – what a great feeling! New Zealand seemed so far away at the beginning of our journey – half around the globe – and now we were here. Unbelievable!

It was dark when we came closer to shore and there was a land breeze. It reminded me of the smell in the mountains in Switzerland on early summer evenings… a mixture of hay, damp earth and a tiny little bit of cow dung. Something just so completely different to all the places we have been before on our journey – but very much like home.

We arrived in Opua around 10 pm. We were on the early group, so we had to handle our lines by ourself. PELIZENO was the first boat of our ” Minerva Reef Club fleet” and had made it on time to be cleared in during the day. In the hours after our arrival more and more boats from the Minerva Reef Club fleet came in. It was a long night there on the quarantine dock… of course we had to celebrate our arrival in New Zealand and about every half hour there was another boat arriving… The rhum on Rougue flowed freely.

Next morning there were quiet a few boats there for customs to clear in but everything went very smooth and efficient. A friendly german speaking lady introduced herself as Monika and brought us a welcome bag with all kind of useful informations. We felt at home right away. There was a good atmosphere. In the Marina Cafe were many familiar faces . Some we had already met in French Polynesia others we knew from the Vavau Blue Water Festival in Tonga. It was so great to see so many of our friends.

To make things even better Jaël and Nael from BAJKA could start in Opua school on Friday already. We just had enough time to organise a lunchbox and black skirt and leggings for the uniform. The school was 10 min. walking distance up the hill… it simply could not be better.

There was no kindergarden in Opua but our new cruiser friends Kostya and Jenya from PONYO told us about Paihia Waitangi Kindergarten. Their daughter Michelle was enroled there and they planned to take her out to go cruising. So we tried our luck and Wil and her team were happy to enrol Amina the following week. We arranged to start slowly, as Amina had been around us all the time for the last year and was not used to be without us anymore. After a while trying we decided to bring her only in the mornings and that worked out very well. Wil, Dilmari and Mahina are doing a fantastic job there and Amina was very proud to go to Kindi.

Paihia Waitangi Kindergarden

While the kids were in school and kindergarden we started some major boat projects which had been on our to do list already for a while. Opua is certainly one of the best places for boat projects. Kiwis are very passionate sailors. Therefore you have a big chance of finding solutions for any problem you could come across on a sailboat. In addition we planned to have Mirabella repainted while we would fly to Switzerland in December and explore the South Island in a Campervan in January.

On the weekends we enjoyed beautiful hikes in the mangroves and rainforests full of fern trees. We did not see any kiwis but lots of beautiful birds like Fantails and singing Tuis. We just loved it. I think it is this mixture of stunning nature and the relaxed and friendly people that makes New Zealand so special. Wherever you go you have those special encounters with warmhearted people.

The Ponga trees (maori for fern trees) look like palm trees
View from Waitangi Treaty Grounds

We celebrated Jaël’s 7th birthday on 31.10. and all the boatkids went on a “trick or treat” tour on the numerous pontoons of the marina. On Naels Birthday two days later there was a Halloween party in school. There were always kids around in the marina and they loved to scooter around and play together. So we all enjoyed this time and almost got back our landlegs.

End of November Mirabella got hauled out and Paul, the rigger ( by the way the husband of Jaël’s teacher) took the mast down. Amina was very excited about it and told everyone in Kindi that she has to climb up a high ladder now to get on the boat.

Jaël’s 7th Birthday
Beautiful morning on the boatyard
Off we go… a lot of luggage and a long journey ahead of us

So we left Mirabella in Opua, ready for being moved into the shed for the repaint. We had packed all our warmest clothes for our Switzerland trip and Lukas from BAJKA gave us a lift on Sunday morning to the bus station. Four hours bus ride to Auckland and a long flight back home on the following day ahead of us.

Passage to New Zealand

Minerva Reef

Who would have thought that it would work out that well… there was this perfect weather window that allowed Karin to join us for the passage to New Zealand and to be on time for her flight back home. We never would have planned it that way – things just fell into place and worked out well.

Normally the passage from Tonga to New Zealand can be quite challenging as the weather forecast is usually not precise yet for the last few days on the day of departure. Therefore you might suddenly get some uncomfortable winds which were not yet predicted when leaving Tonga. Luckily there is Minerva Reef 350 nm off of Tonga and 800 nm off New Zealand. You can anchor there in the middle of nowhere , sheltered from the waves and wait, until you got a good forecast for the rest of the passage.

When leaving Ha’apai we were not sure yet if we would stop in Minerva Reef or not but strong wind and waves were building up and it seemed more pleasant to wait 3 nights in Minerva Reef until it would calm down a bit. So we anchored in this surreal place together with 10 other boats. Most of them we knew from the Vavau Bluewater Festival but also our cruising friends BAJKA and ROGUE were there.

Minerva Reef is probably the most weird and special place we ever anchored in. The wind was blowing with 25 knots but we were protected from the waves, even if we did not see any land. We spent our time with discussing the latest weather forecast, exploring the reef, baking cake, looking for some warmer clothes in the hidden treasures of the boat (as it was getting a bit chilly) and Jaël and Amina enjoyed some playtime with Nael and Ilian from BAJKA.

It is not so easy to see the reef, when you are out on the ocean
The kids enjoyed the extra playtime on Minerva reef
Our neighbours boat BAJKA
Beautiful sunset on Minerva reef
Loosing some energy
Baking chocolate cake…
Exploring the reef

On Wednesday everyone left (except one boat, which we tried to persuade that it will not get any better) as the forecast for the 800nm to go looked brilliant. We had a very good passage and arrived in Opua, Bay of Islands on Sunday night around 10 pm. It was a long night on the Quarantine dock as almost every 30 minutes there was another boat from our Minerva Reef cruising group arriving.

The following day we were astonished about how efficient, well organised and friendly everyone was. We can highly recommend Bay of Island Marina in Opua to anyone as a port of entry in New Zealand.

Land ahoy… New Zealand here we come!
Waiting for clearance on the quarantine dock next morning
Bay of Island Marina Opua

Kingdom of Tonga

After a good passage from Niue we anchored in a beautiful spot where INFINITY, ROGUE and MONKEY ISLAND were already waiting for us. We went on land to have some drinks together. ROGUE had already spent some time in Vava’u and was planning to move South the next day. Our plan was to clear in in Neiafu the next day and register us for the Vava’u Bluewater Festival as the weather forecast for the coming week did not look very promising. The whole following week would be rainy and very windy, so not really the right weather to check out the beautiful anchorages in the Vava’u island group.

As Tonga is one of the rare places where you are allowed to swim with humpback whales we where hoping to get a chance before the stormy weather aŕrives. Even for Karin who has seen a lot of underwater life this was something very special. There is of course no guarantee when you book the trip that you actually will be able to snorkel close to one of these beautiful mammals. We cruised around for quite a long time and on the first attempt the whale moved on too fast. But a little bit later we were lucky. Our guide gave us directions where to swim and we had the chance to see a mother whale with her calf just next to us… an unforgettable moment!

Swimming with the whales… beautiful….. but what if she moves now a little bit more towards us?

The cruising festival was a great thing. It was organised by a few local businesses together with New Zealands Customs , Bay of Islands and Whangarei Marina. It really made appetite for New Zealand! The organizers were all very friendly and helpful. The ladies from customs and biosecurity explained us what we had to exspect at the c-dock. They also distributed a documentation with all the necessary forms which was very useful.

One of the highlights of the festival was the visit of Hosea Primary School where the children did some beautiful singing and dancing performances. After a delicious local lunch (made by the kids parents) the kids could play together. The kids playground looked a little bit different… one of the biggest attractions was an old car with a broken window. You would never find that on a playground in Switzerland..

And of course there were also some regattas. First there was the Friday race. Light winds – perfect for us. The whole BAJKA crew was on boat. Lukas, who sailed for Switzerland at the Olympics in Sydney 2000 was our secret weapon… and we won! There was a party in the evening where we saw our friends from CHASING STARS and TODAY again who were just about to leave for Fidji. It was a fun night and great to see them again.

Next regatta was the Wednesday race… there was a lot of wind and we got slightly beaten by our challenger ZENSATION, who was second in the first race. We had a bit more healing than usual and parts of the crew were busy downstairs with bailing out the water which entered through the sink because we had forgotten to close the seacocks. What a beginners mistake…. But Lukas and André stayed calm and the finish was very tight. We were second in the monohull category and won 5 days in the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua, New Zealand for the cleanest hull – as one can see on the pictures below ;-).The last regatta was the weekly Friday race again… this time with no women and no kids on board but also with no wind and no luck ;-). All in all these races were good fun for us and it was particularly interesting to share Lukas’ knowledge and experience.

Regatta at the Blue water festival

After the cruising festival we said goodbye to INFINITY who headed towards Fidji and sailed further south to the Ha’apai Island group. We first thought that we are just staying for a short stop over and then continue towards Nuku’alofa to drop Karin off but then a perfect weather window for New Zealand started to develop! Who would have thought, that Karin would join us for this passage! We anchored on a beautiful remote island together with BAIJKA and PELIZENO, had a beautiful walk around the island on my Birthday and got ready for the passage. We would have loved to stay a bit longer, but the weather window was just too good… we could not expect anythinģ better. Goodbye Tonga – New Zealand here we come!

Niue

Once you have managed to haul out your dinghy at the pier you will discover beautiful Niue with the most friendly people you can imagine. The only place we have been so far, where you do not even have to stretch your arm out to get a ride…

You probably do not know where Niue is . To be honest we did not know much about it either. We were looking for a place where Karin could join us after her diving trip on the “French Polynesian Master” and Tonga turned out to be too complicated. So the plan was that she would meet us in Niue.

Niue is a small island in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Tonga. It has an area of 260 square kilometres and a coastline of 64 km. It is one of the world’s largest coral island. Niue is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. There are about 1600 people living on the island.

BAJKA was already waiting for us in Alofi. As we haven’t seen them since Fakarava we were looking forward to catch up with them. INFINITY had arrived just a few hours before us. We had left Maupelia together and had stayed in contact on the passage. On a windless day we even managed to meet for a swim in the middle of nowhere. We wanted the kids to have some fun in the water together as we knew that the rest of the passage was going to be very windy and rainy. Karin had arrived already a day before us in Niue and had booked a room in a hotel.

The haul out lift for the dinghy was a bit unusual at the beginning but we got used to it quickly and Jaël and Amina were quite excited about this new procedure. Clearing in was very easy and uncomplicated.

Niue is known for whale watching and diving. There are beautiful caves and chasms waiting to be explored and the water is very clear. The people are very friendly and as soon as they see you walking along the street they offer you a lift. No matter you want it or not.

We hired a car and drove together with INFINITY in moderate speed (driving zigzag around the holes in the road) to the Avaiki Cave. It was a picture perfect scenery and we enjoyed a refreshing swim in the cristal clear turquoise water. Afterwards we continued to Talava Arches and had a snorkel later on in the beautiful Limu pools.

The next day we went diving and it was spectacular. Quite adventurous for a new born PADI Open water diver but all went well. We had the opportunity to dive in a cave and in a chasm. This was something completely different! We saw plenty of water snakes which we have not seen in French Polynesia at all. The visibility was outstanding. Niue is a lone island in the pacific and, being a coral island, it does not have much soil and runoff. This are key ingrediences for world class visibility.

On the anchorage we could even see whales right behind Mirabella. Once Jaël and Amina were with BAJKA in the dinghy and saw one very close. Humpback whales in the southern hemisphere spend the summer feeding down in the waters around Antarctica and thèn spend the winter migrating north past New Zealand to the tropical South Pacific for breeding – most commonly around Niue and Tonga.

We were really positively surprised by this small island and would warmly recommend it to other cruisers. For us time had come to say goodbye , next stop was Tonga, where we possibly would meet ROGUE and CHASING STARS again.

Talava Arches
Limu Pools
Avaiki Cave
Talava Arches

Society Islands Part 2 – Maupiti & Maupelia

Beautiful Maupiti

After Bora Bora we were not ready to say goodbye to French Polynesia. The time we spent here had begun so magical in Fatu Hiva and it did not feel right for us to end it in Bora Bora the pure opposite of Fatu Hiva. All those exclusive luxury resorts, private beaches and the commercial village of Vaiape with innumerous pearl stores that was not French Polynesia how we loved it! Maupiti, the smaller and less touristy sister Island has been on our list since we arrived in the Pacific and we absolutely wanted to go there.

The challenge with Maupiti is just that the pass to get into the lagoon is a bit tricky. It is only possible to get through in calm and settled conditions and therefore one can easily get stuck in there for a while as you have to wait until the weather is calm.

We were completely aware of that risk. There are for sure worse places to get stuck in… So we motored all the way from Bora Bora because there was no wind and thought that the pass will be ok but as we arrived there the entrance did not look very inviting – actually it was a bit frightening. Do we really wanna go through these waves ? Maybe better turn around and go back to Bora Bora I first thought…. but then André took the helm and I just concentrated on the ideal line on the GPS and yelled at him when he had to turn more port or starboard.

The waves were breaking on either side of Mirabella at the reef entrance. For some time we even didn’t see the break in the reef at all and it looked like we are just going straight onto the rocks. The current was very strong and the Yanmar diesel was working overtime.
After some time we left the breaking waves to port and starboard and only the 4kts current was against us. Things calmed down. But we needed to keep the concentration level up. There were still a number of coral bommies between us and the anchorage. And coral bommies are the top boat killer in places like French Polynesia.

Somehow we managed this too and found ourselves in the beautiful lagoon of Maupiti. What a paradise!

Maupiti is quite different to most of the other Society Islands. Since the reef pass is so difficult to manage no regular passenger ferry goes to Maupiti. The only way to get to the island is a flight from Tahiti or by private boat transfer. This limits the economy and tourism. There are no overwater bungalows or international hotel chains in Maupiti. No speed boats zipping across the lagoon so that the tourists can make the most out of their relaxing holiday. Most tourism is low key in private small boutique hotels. With owners as host.

We really enjoyed exploring Maupiti. We took our kayaks, paddeled around the entire island and discovered some of the most beautiful beaches in French Polynesia. We met Heinarii with her son Tamatea and daughter Clélia who lives on the most beautiful motu with a dream island beach. We hired bicycles and rounded the island on land. And we jogged around too. We hiked up the very steep path all the way to the top of Maupiti. The view over the lagoon and the Pacific was priceless. Although the track was really adventurous and borderline for André with Amina in the backpack…

After nearly two weeks the weather and the waves calmed down sufficiently so that we could leave this beautiful place. We planned to sail to Maupelia, the most western island of French Polynesia…

Sunset in Maupelia

Maupelia is sparsly populated. Maybe some 20 people live here. We are not really sure, the motu we stayed on had no population so we haven’t really seen anyone. We consider it as one of the most stunning atoll. The reef entrance is challenging but managable. The water quality is breathtaking. The fish and sharks are plentiful, the corals are super healthy and nearly no one lives here. Everything is literally untouched.

We stayed there with Infinity and Monkey Island, two kid boats and it was South Seas Paradise dream come true. Jeremy from Infinity and André went spearfishing in the lagoon and returned with a large bucket full of fish. Jeremy speared most fish as he was fearless despite the sharks. In Fakarava André lost his speared fish to the sharks and he was now a bit more cautious. Well at least that was the excuse…

The afternoon and evenings we spend on the beach, with bonfire to grill the fish, playing kids on the beach and surreal sunsets. This place is unreal. We cleaned the hull under water as preparation for the next passage. For the full two hours that we were cleaning we could see the fish and sharks swim below us. It was magnificent, like cleaning the hull in an aquarium.

When the weather window was right, we sailed on to Niue. And everyday since, André asks himself if he can ever go spearfishing in such a beautiful lagoon again…

The kids of Infinity, Monkey Island and Mirabella playing by the beach

Society Islands Part 1 – Tahiti & Bora Bora

Papeete on Tahiti was our first town since Panama. Some people say it is loud and noisy but for a change we liked it. Especially the lively market hall and the square with the roulottes restaurants, where you could get all kind of different street food for little money.

It was a pleasure for us to welcome Loni again and of course Jaël and Amina where very excited to see her. They enjoyed strolling around with her in the beautiful park along the waterside and of course had to try out all the playgrounds. We haven’t come across any playground since Panama – if you don’t count the beautiful beaches with hermit crabs and a thousand other things to discover. Being in a big marina after sailing several months in remote places means also having a big to-do-list waiting to be done. So while the kids were enjoying Papeete’s playgrounds we were busy working us through our list.

We managed to get some tickets for the last day at the Heiva which is Tahiti’s biggest festival. Amina fell asleep after a while but Jaël enjoyed the show together with Alyssa and her sisters from CHASING STARS. We were deeply impressed by the dance performances and the beautiful costumes.

Just when we were done with all our jobs we heard that the diving boat FRENCH POLINESIA MASTER will come to Papeete the next day. Our former crew Marine worked there as a dive master and so we decided to stay and meet her for probably the last time. Mauro was also in Papeete so we invited both for a farewell dinner on Mirabella. It was a good evening and the kids really enjoyed to see them both again.

Next day we finally set sails for Moorea which was only about a 3 hours sail away. As it was her day off Marine decided to join us and return to Tahiti with the evening ferry.

The Society Islands are the ideal combination of Marquesas and Tuamotus. They have beautiful green hills and mountains like the Marquesas and lagoons with turquoise clear water and palm trees like the Tuamotus. Moorea’s scenery is stunning and together with CHASING STARS we enjoyed the beautiful pineapple plantation walk. I never tasted pineapple as good as the ones I bought in Moorea. They were simply delicious. Next day we visited the Rotui juice factory which was also for the kids very interesting to see.

We lifted the anchor and joined INFINITY at the Tiki anchorage near the place where you could pet the sting rays.

After beeing almost four weeks with us Loni had to fly back home. It was so nice to have her again with us on Mirabella. We all enjoyed her company. She took the ferry to Papeete and we left Moorea for Raiatea, where ROGUE was already waiting for us.

In Raiatea we made a river tour with our dinghy together with Josh and the ROGUE boys. A local guy overtook us in a kajak and asked if we would like to buy some fruit. He asked us to follow him and gave us a tour through the whole plantation. He showed us all sort of different fruits, climbed up the trees to pick them and let us taste. It was so interesting and you could see that he was really proud of it. On our way back it was pouring and we were completely wet when we got back on our boat. What a beautiful excursion!

Later that afternoon the weather cleared up and we changed to a beautiful anchorage in the shelter of a small uninhabited palm tree island. It was an idyllic place for a swim the next morning. We continued North and anchored in Taha’a close to a beautiful coral garden where we could snorkel with the current. A perfect snorkel spot for the kids and we had a lot of fun together with CHASING STARS and ROGUE.

The next day we were invited to Mana’s Birthday party, a nice guy André met on his jogging tour, while we were visiting a pearlfarm and a rhum distillerie. Mana celebrated his birthday on the small island were we were ancored nearby. He surprised us all with a spectacular firedance!

Bora Bora


No doubt Bora Bora’s scenery is stunning ! It wasn’t all for us though. One secluded resort after another and all was a bit of a closed society. When André wanted to check out one of the resort to have a drink at the bar he was politely but firmly asked to move on…

We also discovered rowing the dinghy. We hit a coral head and the dinghy propeller was damaged, so for a while it was all back to rowing…

After a while, we once more said Goodbye to CHASING STARS an ROGUE. They continued to sail to Suvarov and we wanted to stop in Maupiti.