Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 30, 2018

Namibia Land Tour

I have a cousin called Joseph, nicknamed Yossi; he and his wife Esther are not just family – they are also good friends. When Yossi retired a few years ago, he bought a Toyota Land Cruiser equipped for camping in South Africa and started touring that continent.

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Gili and Esther

When they suggested that we join them for a trip in Namibia we quickly agreed. We rented a 4×4 camping equipped Nissan, roof tent included, to be collected in Windhoek airport and flew there via Johannesburg, reaching the place on May 4th.

The rental company, Britz, was not well prepared for the many customers who appeared that day and did not have the right car for us. They gave us a regular, not camping equipped one and promised to deliver a proper vehicle to Hobas, a few hundred kilometers to the south, where we planned to meet Yossi and Esther.

4.5.18 – Friday – On the way to Hobas I called the rental company a few times and it became clear that the replacement car would not arrive that evening, so instead of sleeping in a tent at the campsite we had to take a hotel, which the company promised to reimburse. The Canyon Roadside lodge was nice and comfy; around the place they kept old cars and motorcycles which in the arid climate did not rot. Some were kept inside the dining room, like this old Mercedes ambulance, which they said was in running order.

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5.5.18 – Saturday – The replacement car was brought in the morning. Inspection revealed that it was not up to the standard we ordered; a small fuel tank, missing items – like the cooking gas bottle, an air compressor and an in-operative fridge. The drivers received a list of all our complaints and we demanded to receive a proper car at the first opportunity.

Now it was time to start our trip. The highlight of the day was visiting the Fish River Canyon, a deep one meandering in the desert, reminiscent of the Israeli Negev but on a grander scale. After that we drove to Luderitz, a town I visited before on my two South Atlantic crossings.

6.5.18 – Sunday – In the morning we played tourists, visiting the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskoop and then drove north to a campsite in a remote place called Kanaan for the night. Some places were given biblical names by the Euyropean settlers: Rehoboth, Rosh Pina, gibeon etc. On our way we saw some animals; we drove close to an antelope walking along the side of the road and it started running in the same direction. I found myself accelerating to keep in pace and take its picture; as we reached 60 kph the antelope shifted to overdrive and surged ahead. I slowed down so as not to stress it too much.

another phenomenon was the weaver birds community nests, where each bird had its own home into which they were flying at great speed.

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Most of the roads in Namibia are compacted earth and many times have corrugated surface which make for a juddery ride, not so pleasant. Each moving car raises a cloud of fine dust, which finds its way into every corner of the car. The campsites are an orderly operations, areas for each car are numbered, there are toilets, showers and sometimes electricity. This was our first night in the roof tent, which we found to be very easy to erect and dismantle.

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The climate of Namibia is typical to a desert; hot during the day and cooling quickly as the sun goes down. We had to use three layers of covers and went to bed in our socks.

7.5.18 – Monday – Going on north we visited Schloss Duwisib, a bizarre castle in the middle of the bush, which a German military man built for his American wife at the beginning of the 20th century.

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Driving in the desert we found ourselves using the phrase :”In the middle of nowhere”  many times. You drive for hours with no human presence around and suddenly see a house or two and a herd of cows or goats. Some of the campsites are located in remote farms; in one we saw two young boys, eight and thirteen years old and immediately questions came up. Where do they go to school? do they have friends to play with?

We were surprised by the large number of tourists on camping cars like ours. Sometimes it was difficult to find space in the campsite we desired. Unable to find a place near the famous red dunes of the Namib Desert, we continued to a campsite 30 km north of Sesriem for the night.

8.5.18 – Tuesday – To enter the red dunes area of  you need a permit; then you drive along a good tarred road for 60 km to Sussusvlei, passing some magnificent reddish dunes on the way.

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At the end of the paved road you can go on in sand to the Dead Valley. With almost no experience in off road driving and although I used four wheel drive in low gear I got stuck in the sand. a park ranger came by, took the wheel, brought the car to a good parking spot and instructed me in the art of sand driving:”give it a lot of R.P.M”.

The Dead Valley is a pan left after an ancient lake disappeared, leaving dried trees, hundreds of years old; very impressive.

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After the briefing I got from the ranger the ride back through the sand was stressing but successful. We reached the Seisrem campsite in the early evening and met Salmon, the driver sent by Britz to bring us the new, proper replacement car.

More pictures and a few videos are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

9.5.18 – Wednesday – We drove a long way to Walvis Bay via a place called Solitaire, where the local grocer put a board with the rain statistics.

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They had a mere 58 mm of rain in 2013, 0.5 mm last February (how did they measure it?). April was relatively good.

Walvis Bay is the second largest city in the country – 85000 people; we found out that the hotel we booked on the web was actually in Swakopmund, 30 km to the north. It was nice to spoil ourselves in a hotel room and go to a good restaurant (Kucki’s).

10.5.18 – Thursday – We drove back to Walvis bay to see the lagoon, where hundreds of birds, flamingos and pelicans found their habitat.

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We wanted to go to Pelican Point and Sandwich Bay but the road conditions were too bad and we did not want to take a chance and get stuck in sand or rising tide so we gave it up. Getting groceries on the way is very limited so we did some shopping at the excellent Spar supermarket for the next few days.

11.5.18 – Friday – Our morning destination was the Cape cross Seal reserve which is located on the Skeleton Coast, where many ships found their end in olden days. The place is amazing in more than one way; you see thousands of seals on shore and in the water, the noise and the stench are overpowering. I asked at the office whether they had an estimate for the number of seals in the area and the answer was a staggering two hundred and fifty thousand!

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We drove on to a magical place called Spitzkoppe, a cluster of mountains rising from the desert flat surface. The view there is really breathtaking.

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More pictures and a few videos are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

12.5.18 – Saturday – After a few hours in Spitzkoppe we left on the way to Brandberg, an area dominated by a 2573 meters high mountain where there are ancient paintings and rock engravings dating from 2000 –5000 years ago. On the way we passed by several stalls that tribe people put up to lure tourists and make some money selling trinkets they make. It was the first time I saw Himba and Herero tribes women.

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Himba Lady

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Herero Women

At first I thought they dressed the way they did just to attract the tourists, I was to learn later that it was their day to day attire.

The rock art was very interesting.

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The figure above was called “The White Lady” in the past but now it is believed to be a depiction of a male shaman.

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13.5.18 – Sunday – We went to another site of rock art and a dry ravine they call “Organ pipes” due to the shape of the rocks on its bank.

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Next we drove to Aba Huab in the Damara tribe area and spend the night in its campsite.

14.5.18 – Monday – The Damara tribe have what they call a “Live Museum” where they show elements of their traditional life, lighting fire, song and dance, traditional medicine and so on. Although very touristic and a bit artificial it was interesting; we had a lady guide that spoke very good English and had a great sense of humor. This tribe’s language uses the “click” sound which she demonstrated time and again.

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I asked her what she wore at home after work; she smiled and confessed she wore regular clothes.

For the night we drove on to Palmwag, where in addition to a nice lodge they had a good campsite.

15.5.18 – Tuesday – Near Palmwag there is a large conservancy area about which one of the guide books says is suitable only for experienced 4×4 enthusiasts with good navigational  skills. We decided we fit that description, bought a permit and went for a four hours drive in there. The driving conditions, apart from just a few spots, was not too complicated. We saw a few animals and I gained some more experience in off road driving. Eighty kilometers to the north the small settlement of Warmquelle and the Ongongo campsite waited. Reaching Ongongo on a 6 km bad road was difficult but the place was located on a stream with a waterfall a few steps away. I was surprised to see a turtle diving in the waterfall’s pool. Water also meant bugs; we were “attacked” by a swarm of them during dinner time and got rid of them only when we put out the light where we sat and placed lamps some distance away. Being in a sort of gorge it was relatively warm during the night which was a blessing.

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16.5.18 – Wednesday – After short visit to Sesfontein, with its old German fort turned a fancy lodge that seemed to be empty, we continued to Opuwo, the main town in the region. On the way we observed many termite “towers”, sometimes filling a large tract of land.

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Opuwo is a hive of activity, a mélange of modern and tribal dressed people; it is amazing to see Himba women in a modern supermarket or in the line for the ATM next to a miniskirt clad girl.

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If you enlarge the picture you will find the girl on the right is holding a cellphone in her right hand…

Opuwo has one high class lodge – the Opuwo Country hotel; they also have a campsite in which we stayed.

17.5.18 – Thursday – We left Opuwo for Epupa falls on the border with Angola. Since there was a lot of rain at the end of April we expected the possibility of road damages. We learned to respect the following road sign which indicated a steep descent into a river bed where sometimes big potholes were hiding and if not careful they made the car fly up in the air and reconnect with the road with a big bang.

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That part of the country was absolutely not a desert, there were a lot of trees, including Baobabs.

Reaching Epupa revealed an incredible vista of river split into many streams and falls spreading over a large area. (See video number 61 on the pictures link). We entered the Epupa Falls Lodge and were tempted to take a bungalow right on the river bank instead of the planned campsite. We walked to the river where local kids were playing in pools very close to raging water and goats were roaming all over the place.

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It took a while to get used to the noise  of running water; it did not disturb my falling asleep that night at all.

18.5.18 – Friday – Before leaving Epupa we drove beyond the river entrance to the falls area to a place reputed to be a crocodile viewing point; we saw no crocs but did see a lot of monkeys. They were very fearful of us, hid uphill and on trees and I could only take one blurred picture from the distance to be able to identify them as Vervet monkeys.

We drove back to Opuwo in preparation for our next day trip to Etosha park.

19-22.5.18 – Saturday – Tuesday – “Etosha” according to one of the guide books, is translated as “Place of Mirages”.

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This is not an island; it is an area of the huge pan, more than 6000 square kilometers, located on the eastern part of that park. It is probably a lake that dried out millions of years ago, leaving a whitish silvery surface reflected by the sun in a bewildering way.

Driving on the park’s roads you can see many animals of all kinds. There are campsites and lodges in the park, usually near waterholes where one can watch the animals and birds. We spent three full days driving from Galton gate in the west to Namutoni in the east and each day was one of discovery and wonder. The most amazing site was the waterhole of Okaukuejo, where during the night we had a magnificent show of elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other animals and heard lions roaring in the distance.

Here are some pictures of what we saw, you can see many more at the dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

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23.5.18 – Wednesday – That was the end of our trip; we left the Etosha park to drive 560 kilometers to Windhoek, from where we were to fly home via Johannesburg. It was a fantastic trip; the views, the fauna and people were amazing. Namibia is a big country and attractions are far from each other; that demanded that we drive long distances. We did about 4000 kilometers on roads that were mostly unpaved but somehow got used to it so no complaints. We are already contemplating joining Yossi and Esther again…

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Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 19, 2018

“Two Oceans” is for Sale!

18.4.18 -  This is what I wrote in the February 2018 post: “Flying back to the boat was accompanied this time with mixed feelings. The trip from Nuku Hiva to Israel took four days and both of us, Gili and I, came to the conclusion that we were not comfortable with such long distances. The original plan I made at the end of 2016 for the Pacific voyage called for staying in Polynesia during 2017 and 2018, then in 2019 – with me reaching the ripe age of 77 – sail to Australia and sell the boat. Now the idea of trying to sell her in Tahiti this year (there is a yacht brokerage here: Raiatea-yacht.com) and perhaps buying a cat in the Med has crept into our minds.”

During my stay in the Marquesas I got in touch with the Raiatea-Yacht brokerage, gave them the particulars of the boat and signed an agreement with them. On April 10th, just before embarking on the long flights back home, I visited their office in Taina marina near Papeete and spoke to Melodie Akad who runs their office over there. They are going to put our boat on their web-site and on Yachtworld.com and try to sell her. The plan is to put the boat in one of the marinas in Tahiti in July – we’re not sure where yet.

The agreement is that I can sell the boat directly, so if anybody is interested – do get in touch. (roughsoda@gmail.com).  For the boat’s particulars look at the “the boat” section right below the picture on the home page. Asking price is 180K U.S$.

As I wrote before – this is done with mixed feelings but maybe it’s time to do it…

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Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 10, 2018

With Michael Ben Eli in the Marquesas

30.3.18 – Friday – I saw the airplane on the approach to Hiva Oa Jaques Brel airport. My more or less trusted taxi driver Frida was supposed to pick up my joining crew there – Michael Ben-Eli. Michael sailed with me from Raiatea in the Society Islands to Pago Pago in 2010. More information about this interesting man can be found on www.sustainabilitylabs.org. Michael came on board and organized his stuff. We decided not to rush things on the first day and just stayed on the boat.

31.3.18 – Saturday – I walked with Michael to Atuona to see the place and do the obligatory visit to the cemetery and the graves of Paul Gaugin and Jaques Brel. All in all it was a long walk and we cancelled our plan to hike to the petroglyphs in the afternoon. Instead we upped anchor and sailed to Hanamoenoa in Tahuata. Swimming in the clear water of that bay seemed more inviting than sweating on the jungle trail. The gentle, jib only sail was pleasant and relaxing and Michael adopted his favorite pose for such conditions.

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We reached the bay at midday, had lunch, a rest and a swim ashore. The plan for tomorrow is to sail to Fatu Hiva.

1.4.18 – Sunday – At about 0630 we were out of the bay, motored to the north-east of Tahuata and then turned south-east to Fatu Hiva. We trolled a line, this time a 100 pound test, in the hope of not losing the fish caught, as was the case in the last few occasions. It did not take long to get a strike but again the fish got away; it must have been a big one because the ring connecting the hook to the lure opened.

The wind was not very strong so I decided to raise the full main. As I  finished hoisting it up, I noticed that we lost a shackle of a pulley in the mainsheet system. I tried replacing it with the sail up but that was impossible. We had to roll the jib, lower the main, tie the boom to both sides of the boat and then I could fix it. By that time, a two masts monohull was slowly passing us in the same direction. I tried unsuccessfully to catch up but going close-hauled is not the best point of sail for us and the other one turned out to be an Amel Super Maramu – a 54 foot boat.

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In 2011 I sailed as crew with my friends Miri and Zulu from Cape town to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, so I know this boat to be fast and comfortable.(Zulu sailed with me from Ecuador to French Polynesia last year).

We got another strike, sailing at close to 7 knots. Here I made a mistake – instead of just releasing the main, perhaps turning upwind a bit, I decided, maybe after being so impressed with the heave to thing, to do just that. The boat stopped and the fish pulled the rod strongly, bent the rod holder and before disappearing stuck the fishing line to something under the boat – keel or rudder. I succeeded releasing the line by turning into the wind and when I took the lure out I found that again the connecting ring opened almost to a straight line. I re-rigged the lure with a heavier ring and hook; still optimistic.

We entered the Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva and it took two tries to find a good anchoring point; fearing dragging in the strong gusts the bay is famous for I lowered two anchors in tandem. All of this was hard work and I really felt tired. In addition the shut down solenoid of the starboard engine refused to work – again. I was too tired to dismantle it and investigate; instead I tied a line to pull it manually. We went ashore to let Michael see the village. A guy named Jonathan gave us grapefruit and bananas for a promise of some rope.

2.4.18 – Monday – Just after breakfast I heard a voice calling from the outside. An aluminum boat drew near our stern, in it were two women and a man who threw me a rope and explained he had a problem with his outboard motor. He asked whether I could give him some tools as he wanted to try and revive his Yamaha 25 H.P. I gave him whatever he needed.

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The man named Mark succeeded eventually to start his motor, thanked us and was on his way. We were to meet him later on shore to find out that his success was short-lived and that he had to disembark the ladies somewhere before their final destination – Omoa – to where many people went for the arrival of the supply – cruise ship Aranui 5.

We went ashore to go to the waterfall. As always it was a nice hike; Michael found a friend on the way; they both seemed happy to see each other.

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On the way back to the village we saw a man extracting the coconut meat from the nut. I actually have never seen it done at close range.

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The man, who said his name was John, was very friendly and we had a nice talk. On to the dinghy, which due to the ebbing tide was now very low from the dock. I went down into it but Michael, less experienced in the vagaries of dinghies, let go of the dock the moment his feet hit the dinghy’s bottom, the dinghy moved, he lost his balance and found himself in the water. Luckily his phone was in a water-tight bag and no damage was done.

Back at the boat I found out to my chagrin that Two Oceans has moved back a bit and was now too close to our Amel neighbor. No choice but to re-anchor, which with two anchors in tandem is never fun. Aranui 5 came to the anchorage, sending loads of passengers ashore. We decided not to mingle and stayed on the boat.

3.4.18 – Tuesday – In preparation to leave for Tahuata, I started the starboard engine and as usual looked to ascertain that water was coming out of the exhaust; no water! It was perfect just yesterday! I entered the engine room, found the water pump belt not tight enough and did the necessary thing. Out to start the engine – the starter does not turn! What’s going on here? I started the engine by bypassing the starter solenoid using a big screwdriver, fiddled a bit with the wires and tried starting the normal way – it worked.

We lifted our anchors, that was relatively easy for a change and went out. Sailing with the wind from our quarter was much nicer than close-hauled; in five hours we covered the 37 miles to the south point of Tahuata and then motored another 5 miles to the Hanatefau anchorage near Hapatoni village, where six boats occupied the best anchoring points in the bay. We were a bit close to a Catana catamaran which I met in quite a few islands and watched our distance continuously. The problem in this bay is that the wind goes round and round and so do the yachts – but not always in coordination. After dinner we suddenly drifted towards one another in an unacceptable way. since the Catana was there first we were supposed to move and so we did, going to deeper water further away.

4.4.18 – Wednesday – Early as usual, I went out to the cockpit at 0620 and saw a big pod of dolphins very close to us. Jumping into action, I went into the water with mask, fins and the GoPro. I swam and dived with them for more than half an hour and even succeeded in taking a decent video of few of them underwater. You can see it on https://youtu.be/8c0K1xnqZVo.

After breakfast we went ashore for a hike. Michael liked a house overlooking the Hapatoni bay we saw while arriving; as we came near it, the owner, a white haired gentleman, invited us to come in and take a look. His name was Paul, originally from France, married to a local woman.

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The view from their porch was spectacular. We continued walking on the same road Gili and I walked in November, I even remembered the place where we found papaya and pamplemousse and entered it again, but alas – no papayas today. We continued towards the shack on the beach opposite our anchorage. This time the owner was there, he greeted us warmly:”welcome to my paradise”. He said his name was Te’ee.  and when Michael mentioned he wanted a drinking coconut, he practically ran up a coconut palm, threw down two nuts and expertly opened them for us with his machete. He also insisted that we take some fresh basil.

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Te’ee seemed to be an excitable fellow; he told us he lived there by himself, no wife, for six years. I donated something for him and we turned back to the village. Once we got there I approached a house in which garden I spotted two breadfruit trees. I asked the man there whether he could give us one fruit and he agreed. The fruit was high up the tree and to get it he lifted his ten years old daughter to the roof of a shack below the tree, gave her a long pole with a hook at its end which she positioned around the stalk. A strong pull and the thing was in my hand. Dominique, that was the man’s name, took me over to another tree and picked a big fruit that one could make juice from. I think it is called jackfruit, but am not sure. I thanked Dominique and later in the afternoon brought him a nice length of rope, which I found to be always in demand in the islands.

Back at the boat we spread our “catch of the day” on the table.

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5.4.18 – Thursday – With 65 miles to go to Ua Pou, we started moving at 0600. Again, the starboard starter needed a few taps before agreeing to turn and start the engine. For the first 20 miles we had to motor with both engines – no wind at all. Then the forecasted wind appeared and gave us 6.5 knots SOG and a nice, comfortable ride. When reaching the destination I tried starting the starboard engine but this time tapping was not good enough and I had to bypass the solenoid to start. I’ll ask Kevin to take both starters out and send them for service when I leave next week. We entered Ua Pou Hakahau bay and found a nice anchoring spot, dropping at 5 meters and going back to rest at 3 meters deep sandy bottom.

6.4.18 – Friday – Time to go to Nuku Hiva, but the starboard engine took its time starting, making strange noises in the process and even emitting some smoke. Out of the bay we sailed at good speed with the wind from 60 – 80 degrees at 16-20 knots. I decided to keep the starboard engine running all the way, not wanting to go through the bypass starting procedure. Five miles to the Taiohae bay entrance the reel sang. Together with Michael we slowed the boat down, bringing our catch to then stern and gaffing it aboard. It was an eight kilograms skipjack tuna, not my favorite, but – finally a fish!

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It was certainly too big for our needs, after all we were flying out on Monday, so I had an idea. After anchoring I looked at the shore with my binoculars and saw that the fish mongers were still there. I took then dinghy to the dock and suggested a deal to one of them. “You take the fish and give me just one kilogram”. The man quickly worked on the fish, saving me the trouble and giving me a piece good enough for two meals for the two of us.

In the afternoon I dinghied ashore to  pick up Kevin and my new chain. We took the anchor out and motored to an area we could let the boat drift. We then put the old chain on deck. Then I came to the bow with the dinghy and the new chain and Kevin fed it into the locker; he connected it to the anchor and then, with Michael helping, transferred the old chain to the dinghy. This was done quickly and efficiently, with Kevin orchestrating the operation.

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  Now for the  (relatively) bad news. Kevin did the bypass start on the starboard engine and thought that if we went out sailing, starting it would not be assured. I wanted to take Michael to Anahu bay but clearly it was time to stop and repair. Michael arranged a day excursion in the island for tomorrow so his time would be well spent.

This brings the current voyage to its end; we’ve been to beautiful places and met interesting people. We’ll  be back in June to sail to the Tuamotus and Tahiti.

Until then – Adios from Miki and Michael on “Two Oceans” in Nuku Hiva.

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