Thursday 2nd June 2011 – Day 10

It's been pretty calm sailing since we left the Galapagos. The winds have been averaging around 10–12 knots most days; equating to about 3-4 knots boat speed. This morning the wind died off to around 6–8 knots and the seas smoothed over. The sails started banging and our speed dropped even more. We weren't going anywhere quick … or slow for that matter. We doused the main and the head sail and ran up our brightly coloured pashmina, sorry spinnaker, and settled in for a slow day.

We did some washing and cleaning and in a way it was nice to chill out with a book and flat seas for a little while. While the seas had never been rough, it was nice to not be rolling at all. We all felt much more relaxed and refreshed. After lunch Nick and Chelsea inflated the ski tube and we towed them behind “Connect4” for a little while as Cheryl and I curled up in the cockpit and devoured chapter after chapter of our latest books.

Friday 3rd June 2011 – Day 11

The wind picked up last night and so did “Connect4”. After a dismal sailing day yesterday, it was nice to be moving again. We've had 20-25 knots of wind from the ESE and have been moving along at 6-8knots for the last 24 hours – Nice! We're getting near the half way mark and it feels good to be travelling at a half decent speed.

There's a point that we passed earlier today which lies at 8oS 112oW which is stated to be the furthest distance from land anywhere in the world. Pretty awesome – and a little scary to think about. We didn't sail through that point, but passed about 100NM to the north - but it was still amazing to think that we're about much as far away from land as we can ever be anywhere in the world.

The seas have picked up a bit now and we're bouncing and rolling around more, but still racing along at a good speed, so we're happy.

Saturday 4th June 2011 – Day 12

We've just passed the half way mark! YAY!!! It'll be nice to start counting down the miles, rather than counting up for a change, however it's been a pretty full on last 36 hours and so we're not feeling too much like celebrating. Last night the winds picked up and so did the seas. These aren't in themselves a problem, however we've been getting hit by squalls that come up out of nowhere and last anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes. They hit with little warning and along with a wind angle change the wind strength went from 15 knots straight up to 30-35 knots. We got hit with our first squall as I was in the cockpit with Cheryl, doing a hand over, before going to bed for the first sleep of the night. Cheryl was a little worried about what our plan of action would be in the even we got hit by a squall, so we were talking over what sails we would reef first, how and when, when all of a sudden the wind went from 15knots up to 20knots. It hovered there a few seconds before increasing again. After about 30 seconds the wind was howling at near 35knots true and Cheryl and I were scrambling up on deck to reduce sail – just as we'd discussed a few minutes earlier. At the end, when “Connect4” was reefed down all snug, we climbed back into the cockpit, wet and ruffled. “So, do you understand what we're going to do now baby?”

Throughout the rest of the night we got hit by 4 more squalls that brought with them higher winds and rain. “Connect4” stayed reefed down and we held a good course despite the conditions.

Our “Half Way Party” consisted of pizza, choc chip cookies, popcorn and lemonade. The adults treated themselves to a small “Rum and Coke” each, then we played a game or Rummiking.

Sunday 5th June 2011 – Day 13

Well the last few days haven't been too nice for us on “Connect4”. We've had some rough weather, but through it all, we've made some good distance. While it's uncomfortable to be bouncing and racing along, we can't deny that it's a fast sail.

The satellite phone has been a joy to have now that we've got our Xgate email software working. It's so nice to be able to send emails back home to our family to let them know where we are and that we're ok. Perhaps it's selfish but to be honest, the thing I'm enjoying the most, what I look forward to the most, is receiving emails from home and from friends. It's so nice to hear what's happening as they share their life with us. Sometimes I feel so far away and so isolated from them. I know that when we get back home we'll pick up here we left off with friendships and with family; we've moved many times before and we know that there's no gap in friendships with true friends.

The thing that I miss the most though is being a part of their everyday life. We're off having a fantastic adventure, enjoying our days exploring and sailing, living the dream, but for our friends, their everyday life continues and friends are a special part of everyday life. Perhaps that's why I look forward to receiving those special emails while we're away. It's not the same as a Friday or Saturday night's dinner and game of cards, but in it's own way, I look forward to it as it means we're thought of by our family and friends and we're remembered. Just receiving an email that my niece Emily “passed her driver's license” or that our good friend Michelle in Hong Kong is “going sailing with Jessica tonight” is priceless to us and Cheryl and we read and re-read each email many times over, savouring every word.

Saturday 11th June 2011 – Day 19

It's about midnight and I'm curled up under a towel, in the cockpit, typing away as I keep a keen eye on “Connect4”. For the last 36hrs or so we've had some large lumpy seas and with it winds of up to 30kts. The grib files said we should only be getting around 18kts, so somewhere, somebody's got it wrong. On the upside, despite the tiring conditions “Connect4” has finally lost some weight and with the stronger winds, she's really been picking up her skirt and flying. Clocking off the miles faster than at any other stage and with only 542NM to go (as of my last look) we've finally turned our sights toward landfall and I estimate that we'll get in somewhere between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon next week depending on the speeds we can average.

We're into our 20th day at sea and it's funny, but it doesn't seem like we've been at sea that long. You just get into a bit of a routine of life on the ocean that seems to consist of eating, sleeping, watch taking and schooling for the children. At night, provided I've been sleeping ok, I come alive a little bit more and, for me at least, it's nice to have some space and quiet. Some time for me, where I can sit and think, some space to do whatever I want and a chance to go raiding the galley to see what chocolate treat Cheryl has hidden in the depths of the bilges somewhere, hoping I won't find!

A little while ago we passed a point, that for me, made me feel very alone. There's a point in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere around 8 degrees south, 112 degrees west that marks the spot where a person is farthest from land, anywhere on this planet. Think about it, we were the farthest away from land as we could possibly get while we are still on Earth. That's a long way from help if anything should go wrong!

Fortunately for us, we've had a great sail and haven't had any breakages or problems. Well, nothing too monumental anyway. The second or third day out, the hose fitting that joins the salt water flush to the back of the toilet bowl snapped off and since I didn't think to keep a spare (in hind sight I can't believe I could ever have thought of setting off to sea without a spare screw in toilet bowl hose fitting – how remiss of me!) we've been having to flush the toilet by holding the hose end into the bowl of the toilet. The only other breakage was when the top lip of the large plastic flour storage bin snapped. I've tried repairing it with some two part epoxy, but it's still a work in progress at this point in time.

We've heard on our radio net “Pacific Reef Runners” of some other boats that have had a lot more trouble. “Evelyn” a fellow Australia boat got hit by a squall a couple of days out of the Galapagos and snapped their inner stays on their mast rigging. Since that point, they had to sail the rest of the way across the Pacific with a jury rigged mast and a much reduced sail plan. As if that wasn't bad enough, a little while later their autopilot broke and they had to hand steer the last 2000NM to the Marquesas. Their crossing ended up taking 31 days. Some other friends onboard “Galileāwho left a couple of days before we did, lost their rudder. Fortunately, they were a catamaran so could continue with only one rudder, but it was still a scary event.

The biggest issue we've been facing has been monitoring chaffing. With the amount of sailing on one tack, when sails might not get adjusted for days on end, any small amount of rubbing has to be watched closely. I noticed a couple of days ago that the sheet for my port side main sail traveller was chaffing on the back of the bimini frame and had worn through the outer protection of the rope. While it didn't affect the integrity of the rope, if it hadn't been noticed in time it would have eventually failed, possibly with some nasty consequences.

Sunday 12th June 2011 – Day 20

The wind has eased a bit and it's making for a much more enjoyable sail. We're still making good time, but we're just not getting thrown about all over the place like we were before.

I used to read blogs of other sailors and I'd marvelled at the content they put into their stories when they visited places and did new things, but I was always a bit disappointed when they came to detailing what happened on their big ocean crossings; you know the ones everyone is nervous about. Well now we've just about completed the Pacific crossing, the longest crossing in the world, I now know why. The reason is that nothing happens! Day rolls into day and you just get along with wasting time while “Connect4” makes her way steadily across the ocean. Perhaps “wasting time” is the wrong choice of words, because we've all been busy reading books, playing games doing school work; not to mention the obligatory sleeping and eating and watch keeping. Back home I might read a novel every 3-4 months, but I've read four in the last 20 days. Back home I was fairly narrow in my selection of books I'd read, but since we've been on this passage I've been reading almost anything I can get my hands on. So far I've read “Book of Days”, a bit of a chick diary story written by the author that wrote “PS I love you”, “The Bourne Legacy”, “The Smoke Jumper” and “The Circumnavigators”, which tells the sometimes harrowing stories of the early explorers who circumnavigated the globe. Particularly interesting was the history of the Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the first man credited with completing a full circumnavigation, even though he was killed by natives in the Philippines and never made it back home. Before Magellan set out on his attempted circumnavigation, he fell in with Rui Faleiro, an astrologer, a mathematician and a mad man. Specifically Faleiro believed that he'd cracked the major problem facing all Renaissance cosmographers; calculation of longitude. Equipped with Faleiro's navigational aids Magellan set off confident that he could easily venture across unknown seas and lay bare their secrets. One of the “discoveries” that Faleiro convinced Magellan of was that no great distance between the newly discovered America and the Spice Islands. In this Faleiro was very wrong - For Magellan and more than half his crew it would prove fatal. After 18 months at sea, and after overcoming many hardships including hunger, mutiny and storms he finally achieved his first objective, to find a channel connecting the Atlantic with the “South Sea” and on 27th November he came out into the Pacific Ocean after transiting the channel now called The Straits of Magellan. Taking Faleiro's advice that “no great distance lay between the Americas and the Spice Islands”, Magellan and his men set off across the Pacific totally unprepared for the nightmare ahead. Magellan's fleet travelled over 9,000NM in three months and eight days, never once making landfall. Due to chance and the SE trade winds, the voyagers missed Easter Island, Pitcairn, the Society Islands, the Marquesas, the Carolines, the Gilbert Islands and the thousand and one other atols and volcanic ridges thrust up from the floor of the Pacific. The crossing was a nightmare! Men died from scurvy, malnutrition and sheer exhaustion – and they were the lucky ones. Their shipmates drank stagnant water and ate sawdust and boiled up bits of leather when they could get anything at all. The further west they sailed, the more the fact was established that the European geographers' calculations about the width of the Pacific were wildly inaccurate. On 6 March 1521, Magellan's ship Concepcion spotted land; the island of Guam in Micronesia.

The story concludes: after nearly four years at sea, out of 265 men and five ships that set out, only 18 men and one ship made it back to Seville, Spain. Barefoot, haggard, most of them with their clothes in tatters, they slowly made their way up the harbour. An observer was quoted as saying that the men looked “more emancipated than any old worn out hack horse”. In Seville though these men were received as heroes – men who'd endured the unspeakable and seen the unimaginable, men with strange tales to tell to their wide-eyed neighbours. As for Ferdinand Magellan, he was forgotten. Neither in Portugal nor in Spain was there any interest in a man who had sailed “half-way” around the world.

As we sail across the Pacific Ocean, we at least know how far we have to go and where landfall is. At least we haven't been deceived that the distance is negligible.

Tuesday 14th June 2011 – Day 22

The chartplotter tells me that I've just 98.9NM to go to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas. We'll soon be slowing down so that we'll arrive tomorrow morning, in daylight. We're almost there!

How do I feel now it's almost over? Truthfully, I'm really not sure. I feel strangely numb. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep, or the fact that the days have all just rolled into each other, but I don't know how I feel. It certainly doesn't feel like we've been at sea for 22 days, but if you asked me to guess how long I've been at sea for I don't think I could give you a straight answer. Days have just been taken on as they come and we've just done what we've needed to in order to get through them the best way we can. We're tired and we're looking forward to getting more than three hours sleep in any one block, but we're not exhausted. The routine is such that if I suddenly had another week at sea, then I'd just do it. No emotion, no question. “Connect4” has borne us well and she's performed admirably without incident. The more we sail with her and the more we get to know her, the more impressed we are with her sea keeping abilities; her safety, her ability to take us where we need to go.

Over the last few days I've started thinking about and collating information to make a web page to advertise “Connect4” for sale. I don't really want to sell her, she's been my safety, my home, my adventure for the last year and a half, but I know that we'll need to sell her when we get back to Australia. My hope is that we can find somebody, another family, who'll love her as much as we do and who'll start their own sailing adventure with her. Ideally it would be nice to have a buyer lined up and waiting for us when we arrive in Australia, but we'll have to wait and see. Sadly, even if we could afford to keep her; I know she'd only sit in a marina for weeks on end, not being sailed more than a weekend here and there, and I couldn't have that. She's made to be sailed.

Wednesday 15th June 2011 – Day 23

After a night of heavily reefed sailing so that we wouldn't make landfall in the dark, the wind played one last mean trick on us and died on us 30NM out. We'd planned to make landfall around 6am, but when the wind dropped off to around 10knots, the best we could do was to get in around 10am even after we'd put our sails back up again. But landfall is landfall and we were ecstatic as we watched the sunrise illuminate the beautiful island of Fatu-Hiva and the colours and shapes of the island landscape formed before our eyes. As “Connect4” drew ever closer, we'd excitedly “ooohhh” and “aaaahhh” at every new ridge and tree and valley, looking for all intents and purposes like were discovering land for the very first time.

As we sailed around the northern tip of Fatu-Hiva we caught our first smell of land and it smelt sweet. We could make out the smell of the rich dark soil and of the fruit trees and the fresh water. It smelt like nothing you could imagine after 23 days at sea.

Coming around towards our anchorage we could see the giant stone obelisks rising out of the corners of the valley that gave the bay it's name. Originally the bay was called “Baie de Verges” which loosely translated means “Bay of Penises” because of the giant stone structures that do look remarkably like … well, penises. When the missionaries arrived and enquired of the name of the bay, they were horrified and hastened to add a redeeming 'i' to make the name “Baie de Vierges” or “Bay of Virgins”. Regardless of which name the bay is referred to by, the entrance was non the less spectacular.

Anchoring proved to be a bit tricky in the small bay. We had around five or six attempts at anchoring in different places, but the soft shale bottom was very poor holding and we kept pulling out the anchor each time we backed up on it. We'd get it bitten in and think it was holding, but then as we backed up to test it, invariably it would slip through the sand and shale and lose the precarious hold it once had. After around an hour and a half of anchoring practice, we finally got the anchor to hold. We'd been advised to anchor on the southern side of the bay, but it was nearly full and the only vacant places had poor holding, so we moved to the northern side of the bay where we finally found a patch of good holding.

Eager to test out our legs on land, we packed some water and went ashore for a 3 hour hike through the mountains to a waterfall. The walk was amazing. The countryside was so green and lush and the sights and smells was awesome. Mind you, after 23 days on a small boat, a walk around a sand pit would have brought “Ohhhs” and “Aahhhs” from us all.

Our legs were threatening to go on strike as we walked up the steep hills, but the walk there was breathtaking (in more ways than one). When we got to the waterfall, we stripped down to our bathers and jumped in. The water was cold, but refreshing and we revelled in the sensation.

After a swim and a dry off we wandered back through the village where we met a few locals who gave us bananas, mangoes and grapefruit as a welcome to their island. Later that night the locals were rehearsing for the 14th July celebrations, so Cheryl, Chelsea and Nick went ashore to watch the dancing and music. Unfortunately I had to stay on “Connect4” as the wind had picked up and our selected anchorage was right in the main funnel for the winds which howled down through the gully. When the wind gusted down, “Connect4” was turned sideways by the vortex and then blown sideways towards the rocks. This was very disconcerting.

With no reprieve from the wind we were faced with a) re-anchoring in the dark in dubious holding b) keeping a night watch and motoring away from the rocks when we got blown too close or c) leaving the anchorage. On the verge of tears at the prospect of an overnight sail to Hiva-Oa, after the expectation of our first full night's sleep in 23 nights, we decided to set sail around 10pm and made the overnight trip to Atuona on Hiva-Oa.

Thursday 16th June 2011

With heavy hearts and a cloud of disappointment hanging over us, we sailed all night and arrived early this morning in Atuona Bay on the island of Hiva-Oa. We knew it was the right choice to leave Fatu-Hiva and certainly the safest choice for “Connect4” but this never quite made up for the fact that our first night of solid sleep after crossing the Pacific was denied us. Atuona Bay was hidden behind a breakwater and although it was crowded, the anchorage was calm, shallow and provided good holding.

Sunday 19th June 2011

We got up early this morning and walked the two miles into town. In town we went to a church that we'd found in our Lonely Planet guide. We had a choice of two, one Catholic and one Protestant. Always being one to prefer the rebellious break away group, we went to the Protestant church. The whole service was in Marquesan, and while we didn't understand a single word of it, it was beautiful to listed to everyone singing in their local language. Once again, we were the “whities” and stood out like sore thumbs as all the little children turned around to stare at us and our “white”faces.

After finally checking into the Marquesas; you see, when we went to the offices on Friday, we were told that they were all out of the official sign in paperwork, so regretfully they couldn't clear us into the country, but if we waited until Sunday then the plane would bring down some more forms from Nuku-Hiva and we could be cleared in. With clearance done, we went back to “Connect4” and took down our yellow “Q” flag – we were now officially allowed to be here and go ashore. It's so nice to be legal!

After lunch, we departed Atuona Bay and motor sailed the 7NM to the island of Tahuata where we nestled into a beautiful sandy bay on the north western corner. Chelsea and Nick got to catch up with their friends Callum and Jessica, from the catamaran “Karinya” and us adults got a chance to sit and have a chat with other adults as we watched the sun go down on another day in paradise. This really is a great life – we are so privileged.

Wednesday 22th June 2011

We woke up early this morning and quickly got dressed in our bathers and snorkelling gear, then quietly hopped into the dingy and motored to the far side of the bay. We'd been told by some other cruisers that a school of manta rays often come into the bay early in the morning to feed and that if we wanted to we could go snorkelling with them. Swimming with dolphins is an amazing experience that we'd done a couple of times, the most memorable of which was when we were in the Sea of Corinth and got to swim with a pod of approximately 100 dolphins, including their babies. In the Galapagos, we even got to swim with some giant sea turtles, so the chance to swim with some manta rays was a possibility too good to pass up. On the far side of the bay we slowly motored in large circles looking for the tips of their wings to break the water and betray their position. After a few minutes of searching we saw the first “fin” slice through the water and we held our breath, unsure if it was a Manta Ray or a shark. A second wing-tip broke the surface a little closer to our boat and when we saw the white underside of his belly we were certain that it was a Manta Ray. We dropped the dingy anchor on a nearby reef and then we all jumped into the water and swam around in the early morning light searching for the rays.

After a couple of minutes we saw our first Manta Ray. A huge one! This magnificent creature would have been at least 2m from wing-tip to wing-tip and as he moved gracefully towards us, through the water, his wings were slowly flowing up and down like a bird flying in slow motion. As he swam towards us, out of the haze of the early morning ocean, his shape took form and we could see his vast mouth open, filtering the water for plankton as he passed within a metre of us. These animals were amazing to watch as first one, then two, then four, then five of them swam around us gracefully ploughing the ocean for food like a giant vacuum cleaner, we were in awe; It was such a privilege to be able to see them up close and in their natural habitat. They moved with giant sweeps of their

wings as they went in first one direction, then turned and came back, sucking great quantities of plankton filled water into their giant mouths as they swam majestically, and without fear of us.

I noticed that one Manta Ray in particular was a bit more curious of me than the others, especially when I was alone. A couple of times when I was snorkelling by myself, a little away from the others, I turned around to see a Manta Ray coming towards me from behind. As soon as I turned around to face him, he quickly changed direction to pass a metre or so away from me. This game happened a couple of times and I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd not turned around to face him. I briefly considered trying not to turn around, but couldn't quite handle the suspense of it all – after all, this ray was larger than I was.

We noticed that if we stayed still, then they would pass close enough for us to touch them. Cheryl got the award for the closest encounter with a Manta Ray after the three of us had hopped out of the water and back into the dinghy. She was floating in the water approximately ten metres from the dingy, watching a ray gracefully make a turn at the end of a “ploughing” run and head back towards her. Normally the rays get within a couple of metres of you, then turn and pass either under you or just to the side. This time the ray didn't change direction as he came closer and closer to Cheryl. Not knowing what to do, Cheryl put her arms by her sides and just hung there, floating, watching, wondering just how close he was going to get to her. The ray's giant mouth was getting closer and closer and the

width of his wings was wider than Cheryl was tall. At the very last moment, when he was almost eyeball-to-eyeball, he subtly dipped and passed under her with barely a couple of inches to spare. Cheryl put her hand out a little and gently ran her finger tips down the full length of his body as he glided by. Not that these creatures are used to being patted by humans, but he didn't flinch or seem perturbed at all by this contact. Cheryl on the other hand let out a short squeal through her snorkel as he approached her and it became obvious that he wasn't turning away.

Sunday 26th June 2011

One of the perils of travel is keeping finances in order. This is difficult most of the time and impossible at others When we first arrived in Hiva-Oa, we went to the bank to get some money out and discovered our travel account was empty. We thought we'd left some cash in the account when we exited the Galapagos but it was empty with the exception of about $10.00 which we quickly withdrew. We purchased some internet time and transferred money from our Australian account into our travel account via the web, but as it takes 2-3 days to get from one account to the other we were effectively stuck without cash until it came through.

Our agent who checked us into the Marquesas was gracious with our situation and agreed to let us pay her once our money came in. Thursday we left Tahuata and returned to Atuona in Hiva-Oa to settle our debts and to provision for the next leg of this journey.

While we were in Atuona we went into town one evening for a big gathering. The village was putting on a music festival and we all tramped into town to enjoy the atmosphere, the scenery and of course the music. The night was warm and balmy, as most nights seem to be in this part of the world. It was like the whole village had turned out for this major event as we gathered in the large town oval, sitting on the rock walls, sitting on the grass, or just milling around enjoying the evening. There were some small stalls splattered around the outside of the oval selling various different foods, so we chose some freshly cooked take away from the local vendors and took a seat next to some new friends from the yacht “Aldeberan” that we'd met when we came back in to the bay a couple of days earlier. One of the guys, Don, from “Aldeberan” was a sound technician and after word got around that the village had got a new sound desk, but didn't know how to set it up, Don jumped to the rescue. We all enjoyed the music and even the first time ever rendition of the Dire-Straits song “Walk of Life” which was performed in broken English. 10/10 for effort!

My take away was a container of hot chips and five skewers of “Bruccettee” which was basically cubes of lamb/beef. The meat was cooked over a nice open coal fire and tasted amazingly tender and fresh. We sat there listening to the music, enjoying the atmosphere and the food. Well … I enjoyed the food until I later found out that my skewers of meat weren't lamb or even beef, but rather skewers of goat's heart! Of all the dirty tricks to play on a western sailor, my evening was ruined!!!

Aldeberan” are a crew of five young people and one dog. Four are New Yorkers, one is a Kiwi and the dog is just confused. We were told the dog “Raleigh” (aka Sir Walter) is an Australian Shepherd, however he's not like any dog we've ever seen before in Australia. In fact, although he's called an Australian Shepherd, the breed isn't even Australian. Hmmm! – everyone wants to be Australian! Andy, Carl, Don, Leslie and Lisa have all sold up, packed up and are moving to New Zealand to live there. Most normal people would relocate by aeroplane, but these guys have bought a yacht and decided to sail there. What a brilliant adventure.

Sunday was the highlight of our stay in Hiva-Oa when we went up to a horse ranch high in the mountains. We'd booked a half day trail ride and had been told that the scenery and the ride was amazing. Initially we were booked to go in the morning, but the morning dawned overcast and we were told that it had been raining heavily in the mountains and the trail was slippery. We were postponed until the afternoon, but told that if it didn't dry out, then our ride would be cancelled. We were all hoping the sun would come out and dry the trail.

The afternoon came and we were radioed to let us know that the ride was on. Chelsea and Cheryl were beside themselves with excitement. Me, personally more of a lover of horses from a distance, wasn't sure if this ride would be an enjoyable day out or a plod along a worn out trail on the back of an animal that might as well have been a cow. I was still in two minds about the ride when we got to the ranch and I met “Paco”, the native trail master. He didn't speak much English, but his wife helped translate what we needed to know. Paco was a short and stocky islander who oozed confidence around the horses and told us how he personally caught and broke the horse that Nick would be riding today, in the valley behind us.

The horses were saddled and brought to us and I was introduced to my Stallion “Cheyenne”. That's right, this novice, somewhat nervous guy was being given a stallion! I don't know too much about horses, but I'm fairly sure that giving a stallion to a novice is a bit like giving a supercharged motorbike to a 12 year old – it's gonna end in tears somewhere! My horse “Cheyenne” wasn't a tall horse by any stretch of the

imagination, but then again, none of our horses were. We were told that on the island, the horses are small, but still very strong and quite fast. At least I didn't have so far to fall!

Chelsea was given a gelding called “Paipu” while Nick was given a gelding called “Manavai”; named after the valley from which he was taken. Cheryl's horse was a stallion called “Tokoau” which means “West Wind” in Marquesan and the final words I was given was “make sure you keep your stallion away from the other stallions!”. Great advice I'm sure.

We set off down the trail with me bringing up the rear, enjoying the walk as I talked kindly to my stallion, convincing him that he should look after me and that in return I wouldn't eat him. The first thing I noticed very distinctly about my horse was that although he was spirited and wanted to do more than just walk, he was also very responsive – the slightest pressure on the reigns would make him turn and it took almost no pressure to make him do what I wanted, for everything but slowing down. Slowing down took a bit more effort. It would be my luck that I'd get the stallion who'd failed the “obeying the slow down instruction” lesson.

We walked along the trail between the trees and the lush bushes. The sun was shining between the canopy and it was a magical place to be. What an amazing way to see the island's high country. Cheyenne and I by this stage had come to a bit of an unspoken agreement. He'd obey my turn left and turn right instructions, and when he decided it was time for a bit more speed, I was to hold on to the saddle and not complain too loudly. It was a workable agreement, lets face it, not only was trying to pull back on the reigns when he was trotting or cantering awkward and unsettling, but it didn't really work. We were getting along much better.

Truth be known I was actually enjoying myself – I could almost even admit it to myself. It was nice riding a horse that wasn't the typical “trail horse”. It was nice being able to turn him where I wanted him to go and to feel him move beneath me. It was nice feeling that I had some semblance of control. In my limited horse riding career, all my other horses have been trail horses that have their position in the trail group and follow the tail in front. Giving them instructions is pretty much pointless, as they won't obey them, and if they do oblige you as soon as they step out of their comfort zone they get all upset and disorientated. With the exception of the “slow down” instruction, Cheyenne was very obedient.

We wandered down the trail to a small stream crossing where Paco was waiting for us. Cheryl and Nick had crossed the stream and were waiting on the far side while Chelsea was just beginning to enter the stream when I pulled up near her. Chelsea on Paipu walked into the middle of the stream but then her horse stopped and started splashing about, making mud and water fly everywhere. Although Cheyenne and I were waiting a little way back, we copped most of the muddy water as Paco yelled at Paipu and Chelsea tried to urge her horse across the stream.

With Chelsea across the little stream it was my turn. We walked into the water and Paco told me to keep him going. I urged him on as I felt him want to stop and play in the middle of the stream, but what happened next I wasn't ready for. As soon as we cleared the stream Cheyenne took off up the hill at a fast pace. He just leaped out of the stream and as if touching land on the other side was his queue to run and he took off up the hill like a cat out of a bag. It took me all my effort to hang on as we made our way rapidly up this rutted and bumpy track. At the top, he finally listened to me and pulled up behind the other horses who had also taken off up the hill at a trot – something I'd not noticed while I was crossing the stream. Given credit to Cheyenne, he was very sure footed and negotiated the rutted track with confidence, which in turn gave me confidence that he wasn't likely to slip on the muddy track

At the top of the mountain, we came to a clearing where we all stopped and hopped off the horses for a well earned rest. It felt nice to have my feet on land again. The view was majestic and really did take your breath away. The mountains were raggedly tall, with deep ravines between them. As I looked around I was struck with the beauty and the timelessness of the island - this is a land that would have looked pretty much just the same 500 years ago as it did now; majestic, vivid, alive. It was such a privilege to be alive, standing in such a magical place. Through a little break in the mountains, I could see all the way back down to the bay where “Connect4” was anchored, a small dot in the middle of the blue. We could see the

ocean behind, and we could gaze across the giant mighty Pacific Ocean, seeing where we'd come from and where we were yet to go.

From the mountain top, we rode carefully down towards the island's airstrip. Getting a little more confident with Cheyenne, I trotted past the little group to the front of the trail next to Cheryl. I was feeling so good about myself and the fact that I'd pulled out from the back of the pack and Cheyenne and I had trotted to the front and reigned back in to a walk, that I was beaming as I looked over at Cheryl, only to have her say “Did you mean to do that or did he just do it?” We walked down a little gradient and around the back of the airstrip where we could see a wide trail cut into the hill on the far side of the field. Paco had told Cheryl she could gallop across the back of the strip and up the hill so she was fast disappearing in a small cloud of dust as her horse ran at full speed up the track. I heard a voice calling to me from a little way behind; it was Paco and he was yelling “Gallop … Gallop … kick him … kick him!” I wasn't sure if this was what I really wanted but I gave Cheyenne a little reign and before I could kick him he was off. We were bouncing along in a fast trot but I could still hear Paco yelling “Gallop … kick him!”. You reach a point where it's now or never … a kind of a “do or die” moment, like jumping off a cliff. Between our bounces, I held my balance just long enough to release my death grip on Cheyenne's midriff and with a quick deft movement I abandoned better judgement, threw all semblance of caution to the wind and gave him a swift solid kick with my legs. We took off at a gallop and the world grew smoother. No longer were we bouncing and lurching, but now Cheyenne's head was forward, his stride was smooth and fast and we were galloping across the dirt plain and up the hill. The feeling was exhilarating as the trees and bushes flew by us at incredible speed. Beneath me I was aware of Cheyenne's heavy breathing as he laboured like an athlete sucking the sweet air into his lungs, I could feel the strong muscles of his legs and abdomen moving in a rhythmic motion of contraction and expansion as his legs galloped us across the open ground. It was an amazing feeling to move so fast, so freely. All too soon it was over; Cheyenne's breathing becoming more and more laboured as his stride started to slow, the exertions of the gallop up the hill with my weight on his back taking it's toll. We pulled up to a slow walk near the top of the hill where I joined Cheryl and we excitedly exchanged stories of our gallop up the hill with animated words and gestures. What a beautiful day.

The ride back to the ranch was relaxing and uneventful but non the less breathtaking. I was feeling more confident on my stallion and Cheyenne and I had come to a revised arrangement where he would mostly slow down when I asked him to. Nick was loving the ride and had been let off his halter and lead rope that Paco had started him on and was now riding his own horse proper. Chelsea though was the most excited of everyone after Paco swapped horses with her and she was now riding Paco's stallion.

Back at the ranch, we helped rub down the horses before retiring to the house for home made lemon and pomplemouse lemonade. All in all, it was a great day and one that we'll treasure for many years to come.

Now one thing I failed to mention about our day was the start. It wasn't a good one. You see the first trip ashore when we thought we were going to go horse riding was a bit of a catastrophe. We took our poor old dinghy to the rickety old jetty and we were running late. Because the prevailing swell in Atuona Bay is one that tends to push the dinghy's onto the jetty, where they quickly get ground into oblivion on the sharp concrete and the rusty nails that protrude like the spines on a porcupine, we took a small stern anchor ashore to hold the dinghy away from the jetty. Now the trick with the stern anchor is to throw it out as you're approaching the jetty, timing it perfectly so that you only just reach the jetty. With the stern line tight, you quickly jump out and then the dinghy gets pulled back away from the jetty and you tie off the bow line. Sounds simple, except this time it fell in a heap. We were about ½ a metre too far away from the jetty! Now just for a minute, picture this scenario. Cheryl was standing up at the bow, line in hand ready to step off as soon as she could. I gunned the outboard and motored forward the last little bit, pulling the stern line tight. Unfortunately, as we later discovered, the stern anchor was snagged on something much stronger than itself and as soon as the stern line went tight, the dinghy stopped dead in it's tracks and Cheryl stepped straight over the front of the dinghy and into the water. This in itself is bad as now we're not only late, but Cheryl's wearing a nice tide mark around the middle of her chest and her clothes are soaked and needs to change. Worst though is that she's wearing the camera bag that has both her still camera and the video camera in it and it's just been submerged! This is truly bad, both our camera's have just been dunked in salt water.

We pulled Cheryl back into the dinghy and raced back to “Connect4” with the wet camera bag. Onboard, I quickly removed camera batteries and then tried my best to get the salt water cleaned out of both the cameras while Cheryl showered and got changed. The cameras were left to dry and we've got our fingers crossed that they'll survive their swim, but I'm not hopeful, knowing what salt water does to electronics.

Monday 27th June 2011

We said goodbye to Hiva-Oa and set off for the 530NM sail to Kauehi in the Tuamotus. The wind was on the beam and “Connect4” was making a good run in the conditions.

We've developed a leak in “Willie” our dinghy that seems to be getting worse. The hole is somewhere near the back of the dinghy, but I've not been able to locate it yet. I suspect it's happened during the Pacific crossing, probably from the dinghy swinging back and forward between the hulls as we spent 23 days on the high seas. I'll look at it soon, but for now we've resigned ourselves to pumping up a slightly soft dinghy most mornings.

Of the two cameras that went for a swim the other day in Atuona Bay; the still camera seems not too badly damaged. The screen is a little distorted and shaded around the edges, but apart from that it still seems to be functioning ok. The video camera though is playing up a little more. The playback function is broken, in that pressing the “play” button just won't work. We've taken to using the remote control unit to start the playback when we need to, so we're getting by.

Tuesday 28th June 2011

Today was Nick's 10th birthday and I feel suddenly old. Nick woke up at around 4:00am after a restless night's sleep. I let him come out to sit with me on watch for a little while as we stared out at the stars and found constellations. After 20 minutes his eyes started to close and he reluctantly left the comfort of my arms for his bed where he slept until around 5:30am before awaking again. He lay in bed until around 6am and was disappointed when I told him that although he could get up he couldn't open his birthday presents until Cheryl got up. It's tough turning 10 at sea.

For Nick's birthday he got a giant Nerf gun, something he first saw in the toy shop in Panama City and immediately needed. Ever since, he's been working out how he could save the money for the gun and how he could get back to Panama to buy it. Now he owns a giant gun, that fires little Nerf projectiles, nobody on “Connect4” is safe! Everywhere we turn, we're getting shot by Nick's “bullets”. Chelsea bought Nick a red kite with yellow flames which has also proven to be a favourite. Nick's been eagerly flying it off the stern of “Connect4” when were underway and loving the way it dips and dives in the turbulent wind that comes off our sails.

Since we're underway, it's kind of hard to do too much for a birthday, but we did let Nick choose what he wanted to eat. In our family, it's a tradition that the birthday person gets to chose a meal. Nick got to chose all three meals! For breakfast, we ate bacon and eggs (well ... eggs and fried Spam!), for lunch, spaghetti and pesto and for dinner, we had make-your-own-pizza. We also watched The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian, which was a movie Nick has been hanging out to watch for a couple of years, but we've always said he was too young to watch. After a full day of great food and good movies, the kids went to bed exhausted but happy and Cheryl and I, well, we got to go back to our 3 on 3 off watch for the night.

Wednesday 29th June 2011

We just had the best surprise anyone could have given us. Today when we downloaded our emails via the satellite phone, there was an email message from our best friend's David and Michelle telling us that they'd booked some holidays and confirmed some flights and are going to meet us in Fiji for a couple of weeks holiday with us. We haven't seen them in almost 18 months. We're so excited, we can't wipe the silly smiles off our faces. Besides Cheryl's mum, who came to join us for the Atlantic crossing, this will be the first friends we've had onboard from home. It's only been a couple of hours since we found out, but we're already planning where to sleep them and what activities we can do with them. We're thinking we'll take them onboard for a couple of nights and perhaps explore some of the outer deserted Fijian islands, before going to Musket Cove for a week or so. They'll stay in the island resort and we'll leave “Connect4” in the adjacent marina. We can play cards, we can explore the island and hang out together – we can't wait.

Now for those people back home that feel that our trip is all beer and skittles, we're posting this photo of Cheryl and her sewing day. She's been putting it off for as long as she can, but finally she's had to pull out the sewing machine and spend a day repairing all the clothes and flags that have been falling to bits over the last 8 months. So you think that sewing at home is pretty awkward? Sewing on a moving boat adds a while new level of complexity as things move and roll around. Sudden movements of “Connect4” sent the pin cushion sliding and made life tricky. However having said that, I'm sure we're not going to elicit the least bit of sympathy for our cause while we're sailing in so many beautiful places eh?