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Day 1,546 - Baie de Cook, Moorea (17° 28S 149° 48W)
09:01hrs - August 23rd 2011
It's My Turn

I am writing this blog from within a hammock, swinging gently in the breeze…

For those that don't know me, I’m Alastair Jackson, one of the nephews of the wonderful Neville and Catherine Hockley. After passing my Common Entrance with 2 A’s and 6 B’s, my lovely mother allowed me to fly solo to Tahiti to visit Neville and Catherine.

To a 13 year old boy from London, travelling half way around the world was a scary thought. What if I get lost? What if I miss my flight? But I made it to the Tahitian airport where I was soon picked up by Neville and Catherine and taken to Marina Taine where Dream Time was anchored.

Usually, after a 26 hour flight, the first thing on your mind is sleep – and lots of it! But that’s not what you spend your time on Dream Time doing. You get up eagerly, prepared to embrace the wonders and excitement that the world will throw at you. We (Neville and I) jumped into the dingy to go snorkeling. Now this may sound a little embarrassing, but the only time I’ve ever snorkeled in my life was in a swimming pool, so the prospect of swimming in the sea was incredible. I tried, without success, to roll properly out of the dingy into the water. So funny was the attempt that Neville was in fits of giggles for some time later. The highlight of the snorkeling was definitely the eagle rays. We saw six of them at once in formation and at another time, saw two feeding together. I managed to swim directly above them. It was absolutely beautiful. How they glide so majestically just above the sand. An experience that I will never forget.

I believe that the best day of all (although it was VERY hard to choose) was the 16th of August. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the air was cool, and the perfectly clear water was sparkling in the sun. We saw a Spotted Eagle Ray swimming under Dream Time. Just off the coast of Moorea is a place where you can feed sting rays. We didn’t have any fish with us so we decided to go out with the dingy and spear gun to get some fresh fish for the sting rays. Neville was an expert and got them nearly every time, although when I tried I didn’t get a single one! After we had caught three fish we headed back to the boat to get rid of the bones. The sting rays absolutely loved the fish. They swarmed all over me and Neville. This was only the second time I’d ever seen or swam with sting rays, and I was stroking and at some points, even hugging sting rays. Have you ever felt a sting ray? Their skin is so soft and feels just like soft velvet. But it turned out that the sting rays weren’t the only ones who loved the fish. Soon enough there were a dozen black tipped sharks and three of them were circling me! I know that I should’ve been, but at the time I wasn’t scared at all. So confident was I, that I started chasing them! Chasing sharks! What was I thinking? Thankfully I stopped before I annoyed them too much, but wow! I had just swam with sharks!

Possibly the best thing about this trip has been the new experiences, the things I’ve seen and done over the last three weeks: Firstly, the journey. I never thought I’d fly half way around the world at thirteen; this was the first time I’d ever snorkeled in the sea before; first time I’ve ever had tropical pancakes (coconut and banana); first time I’ve ever seen and swam with rays and sharks; first time eating breadfruit; I cleaned a ship’s hull (This was not that enjoyable); I saw a shooting star; I saw a turtle; I nearly saw a whale; I saw dolphins: I slept in a hammock, used a spear gun, fell from a coconut tree, saw Polynesian dancers. The list goes on. But as all things come to pass, this finally did too. But I wasn't sorry, for this had been the experience of a lifetime.

 
 







 


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Day 1,540 - Passe Taotoi, Moorea (17° 29S 149° 54W)
11:27hrs - August 17th 2011
Tahiti Time!

We have been back in the Society Islands for 2 weeks now and I’m beginning to remember  why it was we decided to sail ‘uphill’ all the way from New Zealand to come back.  It’s all so lovely and just as gorgeous as it was last time we stopped here on our way across the Pacific in 2009, and having been away from warm tropical islands for much too long, it’s good to be back.

We arrived in Tahiti on a clear warm Tuesday morning and motored through the Passe Taapuna where early bird surfers were taking advantage of the quiet waves. We made our way straight to Marina Taina where we quickly organized for our forestay repair in time for the imminent arrival of our nephew Alastair.   That done, along with mountains of accumulated laundry and restocking the boat after months away from supplies, we were ready for our visiting dignitary. 

Alastair, age 13, showed up after his first solo flight (from London to Paris to Los Angeles  to Tahiti) in astonishingly good shape. Other than a minor case of sleepiness early on he has been full of endless questions, long jokes, funny stories and complicated games all while wearing full snorkel gear in case
of a sudden desire to leap off the boat to see what is going on in the water below.  He has been reading about captain Cook, practicing essential sailing knots, scrubbing the hull and snoozing for extended periods in the hammock.

He snorkels everywhere, almost saw a whale and actually swam with stingrays and chased black tip sharks. In fact he has just came back from an recon dinghy ride with Uncle Nev and is telling me about
an 8 foot Sandbar shark he spotted swimming under the inflatable!! Yikes, don’t they eat people?
Anyway everyone still appears to be in one piece so it seems to have been a successful expedition!

Well we still have lots still to do so I'm going to get back to having fun with Alastair, hope you enjoy the photos, we’ll keep them coming.





     
 


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Day 1,537 - Passe Taotoi, Moorea (17° 29S 149° 54W)
12:42hrs - August 14th 2011
Back In Business

I'm relieved to report that our rig has finally been repaired! The broken stainless steel forestay, which snapped cleanly below the upper swage fitting mid passage from New Zealand to French Polynesia,
very nearly costing us the mast, has been replaced, and with the headsail flying for the first time in
almost three months, we have set off under full sail for Tahiti's sister island of Moorea.

It seems the old forestay broke because it was only 8mm in diameter rather than the 10mm to match
our upper shrouds and backstay, and this, along with perhaps a bad crimp that may have pinched the wire, caused the failure. So we have installed a new 10mm forestay, toggle, swageless Sta-Lok eye
end fittings, pins, and are back in business.

Tahiti Yacht Accessories (tel: +689 74 10 02) supplied the hardware and manpower to help us make the repairs, so if you ever find yourself in French Polynesia, and in need of a little help, give Michel a call and he'll be happy to assist. Thanks Michel - I owe you a Hinano!

Here's what we did:

1. Unlashed headsail / furler from lifelines & unfurled on the dock
2. Removed headsail
3. Cut new forestay to length & fitted lower Sta-Lok eye, turnbuckle & toggle (swageless fittings
    are ideal for running repairs as no special tools, equipment or skills are required to fit)
4. Raised the forestay & furler system using headsail halyard
5. Connected new toggle and pin to mast head
6. Connected new toggle and pin to bowsprit & tensioned





 


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Day 1,529 - Marina Taina, Tahiti (17° 34S 149° 37W)
17:58hrs - August 6th 2011
Surf's Up!

More than likely I will never surf a giant wave. In fact just standing on a board to ride a gentle roller is challenging enough for me. But today I got close enough to a famous reef break to at least feel its power, to look down its face and to watch it break in an avalanche of whitewater over a shallow reef. And it was totally gnarly.

We're back in Tahiti - the gentle trades blew us all the way to Tahiti Nui and into Taapuna Pass by
Marina Taine, and after a combined 28 days at sea and 2,973 nautical miles, we made it back to
French Polynesia!

We've spend the day touring the island with Emily, who will be leaving Dream Time today to make room for our intrepid nephew, Alistair, who arrives from London tonight. We drove around the western perimeter road, out of the hustle surrounding Papeete, and down to the quiet coastline of Tahiti Iti, an area less visited by tourists, but famous amongst surfers.

Teahupoo is a freak of nature - a reef pass that provides professional surfers with one of the most challenging and unique rides in the world. Where the combination of deep open southern swell colliding with a solid vertical wall of coral, one that arcs around the coastline, results in the most sudden, dramatic and powerful hydraulics imaginable - where the ocean seems to fall away, and where just 1-2 meter swell, which we had today, become waves of unimaginable density and power.

Our surf shuttle driver, Michael, took us out to the very edge of the break where we hovered in the tiny dory just a boat length away, sometimes on the very crest of giants, and watched professional surfers practice for the Billabong surf competition that starts tomorrow.

For 40 minutes we watched half a dozen surfers catch waves that seemed impossible to ride.
We witnessed some spectacular wipeouts, and even a broken board - a common problem in Teahupoo. The vertical wall of water, a drop that can reach a perilous 30 feet, allows for only a very small margin
of error - the reef under the break, even smaller. Many Teahupoo surfers wear scars across their back from landing in a trough that is often just a foot or two above coral.

Michael apologized for the small size of the surf, but we sat memorized, enraptured in a way that that
can often only be felt when witnessing the raw power and force of nature.

 

We're excited (and just a little relieved) to be back in French Polynesia - to have a rig still in tact after
losing our forestay mid-passage from New Zealand (we have arranged to make repairs next week),
but after steaming through these islands in just 4 months during our 2009 Pacific transit, we knew we
had to come back, and we may stay for up to 2 years - Dream Time is allowed to spend 24 months in French Polynesia, longer if she is hauled-out, and with our European passports, Catherine and I can
stay indefinitely.

So with so much time to explore, sail, and perhaps surf, who knows, maybe there is a chance for me
to catch that perfect wave after all?





   
 


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Day 1,528 - Marina Taina, Tahiti (17° 34S 149° 37W)
16:47hrs - August 5th 2011
Untitled

I waved goodbye to Catherine and Neville as they stood on the pier in Opua marina. We had become friends in the weeks leading up to my ever postponed departure and I wasn't to see them again until
their own arrival in Raivavae, where we shared the experience of a quiet island during a vibrant festival.

Dream Time offered me an opportunity that many cruisers wouldn't, that is, to sail a passage on board their boat, their little home. There are many risks with taking on new crew; mainly, you are responsible
for them, and they for you.
After two months on my previous yacht I knew it well, the precise system of ‘step and grabs’ to get from any number points to any number of others. To learn the idiosyncrasies of individual boats takes time. You learn exactly how much to dip your head, or slide the companion way hatch, or where to hold when brushing your teeth. As a guest on Dream Time (and one of the first) I tried my hardest to be considerate of all the particulars, because mistakes on a boat can be sometimes be expensive and painful.

For all of you who want to know about the arguments behind the scenes… sorry to disappoint, they don’t. Actually they make it all look rather easy, no not easy, dam right enjoyable. Neville and Catherine are two people whom childhood hasn't forgotten. Their energy was apparent from the very beginning, it was magnetizing, putting my supposed youthful (24) years slightly to shame. Their sense of humor is extremely amusing and I would find myself laughing out loud at the conversation leaking up on deck
from below.

To make space for an extra person onboard when an established system is firmly in place takes time
and energy, they made light of this, but I know that they have put themselves on the line. So as I sit here
in Dream Time's dark cockpit behind the red glow of the instruments, I say a silent thank you to my
friends sleeping below and add it quietly to the stack of gratitude I hope to show them, one day, and
even though my passage on Dream Time is nearly over, I know my passion for sailing has just begun.

Thank you.





 


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Day 1,524 - En route to Tahiti (18° 50S 149° 23W)
11:21hrs - August 1st 2011
Welcome Aboard!

We're sailing in just 7 knots of trade winds on a calm sea, barely covering 3 nautical miles an hour,
and loving every mellow, gentle minute of it.

It feels good to be on a 'normal' passage again, one where the total distance, wind and sea conditions
are all served in agreeable and comfortable proportions. In fact this passage, when compared to our
gale-ridden, mountainous seas and broken forestay sail from New Zealand, could even be considered
a tad dull. But that's just fine with us. Our only excitement is whether or not we will run out of cooking propane before we reach Tahiti, which now hides just 89 miles over our horizon.

Since we left Raivavae three days ago we've sailed on a single starboard tack, and until last night had trade winds filling our main and cutter sail at a steady 15-20 knots. Our broken forestay and headsail, which we will repair in Tahiti, remain lashed to our starboard lifelines. But while this passage has been blissfully uneventful, it will be a most memorable one for Catherine and I, because for the first time since we left New York over 4 years ago, we have crew!

Our crew is Emily - an adventurous, world traveling, backpacking rock climber who we met in New Zealand just a month before we set sail from Opua. After spending six months touring New Zealand and scaling mountains, Emily, who when she's not exploring the world lives in England, decided to try sailing oceans for a while instead. She found herself a position on a 50 foot Sweden racer/cruiser, which as luck would have it, was also sailing to Raivavae, and after an exciting 3 week passage on a triple-spreader yacht with electric winches, hydraulic furling sails and a complex network of sheets, deck blocks and clutches - enough to make even a seasoned sailor a little confused, wanted a more traditional cruising experience, and asked to join Dream Time to Tahiti.

Now ordinarily we would never consider taking on crew - we value our limited space and privacy far more than the advantages of having a spare set of hands on the boat. But if you ever meet Emily, you'll know why we relented. Emily, who is 24, is a really lovely and genuine person who is a pleasure to know. She's easy going, impossibly friendly and cheery (even at 0300 in the morning during her night watch), eager to learn and to muck in (without having to ask), and the fact that she's lived in a small van for the better part of half a year, means that she's no stranger to living without a few of life's creature comforts - basically, she meets all the requirements for being ideal crew.

Our night watches, now with three sets of eyes, has been broken into a far more civilized 3 hours on / 6 hours off routine, which when compared to our usual marathon 5 hours sessions, is a luxury. So we'd like to officially welcome aboard Emily, we're glad our paths crossed, and you're welcome to sail with
us again anytime!