Thursday, 21 November 2013

New Caledonia - Australia passage, 7/11 - 14/11

Nothing of interest lies between Noumea and Bundaberg. At least, we found nothing of interest on our voyage. Bruce, an ill-tempered whale who enjoys nothing more than broaching on top of small yachts, sunk under the water as we approached him, surprisingly good at making himself invisible for such a large animal. A rebel container capable of sinking the whole boat floated past 10 miles away, unbeknownst to us. A small band of pirates led by a large man called Darren was afoot, right in our pathway. He had changed his name to a more piratey 'Cut-throat Jack,' but it was him all the same. Apart from his crew of seven, his ship was home to a small cat named 'Mister' - a name which lacked imagination but was serviceable. If there had ever been a parrot, Mister had seen to it that he was properly disposed of. Old Cut-throat was heading right for us, but changed his course to avoid some squalls - just before our ship came into sight. A large school of flying fish, excited and ready to go on an adventure, rose above the water as one and would have landed on our deck if they had been positioned about 20 miles further to the West. But our ship was long gone by the time they made their escape. 

We saw none of this. We slept, we ate, we slept, we read, and we slept some more. The days passed quickly, all sunshine and pretty sunsets.

We trolled a line every day but caught nothing. There were no dolphins or anything else of interest to grace us with their presence. The most significant thing that has happened over the last seven days was that I was not sick. We were rocking and rolling with a nice breeze behind us for most of the trip, and I didn't even really get queasy. I still avoided throwing dance parties downstairs and was mostly sleeping in the aft berth or sitting in the cockpit on watch, but that is the nature of two handed sailing anyway. So that made the trip much more pleasant than previous offshore adventures, and is a promising sign for all trips in the future.

We both got through about a million books and I am grateful for the kindle. Though I suspect Garth has either lost his or is scared of losing it, because he's been working his way through our extensive paper library. I will start to worry when he has gone through everything else and pulls out the Spanish dictionary instead of going back to his electronic books.

Nothing much has broken for a change, which is exciting. The cleat for our spinnaker downhaul exploded when it became unhappy with the amount of pressure on it from our poled-out genoa. It literally exploded. There were bits of plastic everywhere. So that was annoying, but not tragic. Just another point to add to our long list of things to fix. And our navigation lights have stopped working again. But we were downwind for over a week, with the boat constantly rocking back and forth, so we're hoping the bulb has just jiggled loose like it did last time. We still had our steaming lights, although they can be confusing with our sails up, and back-up nav lights so we weren't too worried - they broke when we were only two days away from land. 

Our water supply packed it in just as we were leaving as well, but at least that wasn't new or horrifying. It wasn't even Mikes "temporary" repair to the bladder, although I admit that was our first assumption when we saw water everywhere. The bit that Mike fixed will certainly outlast the rest of it. The damned thing sprung another hole and we're sure it wasn't caused by the contraption holding the rest of it together, which is wrapped in rubber and has stupidly smooth edges. With just the two of us and only a week's journey ahead, we put a clamp on the damn thing and just didn't think about it. We had 50L in our small bladder and a heap of emergency 20L jugs in the cockpit, so we just decided that anything we got out of the broken one would be a bonus. The bilge pump has been going more than normal so it's certainly leaking, but it didn't run out. I also managed to snap the crumbling metal on the through hull that you have to open to fill the bladder, and there's a chance it no longer opens. So the whole water situation will need some fixing. It will give me an excuse to clean out the water pipes though, which are old and best described as icky.

I've decided that the most exciting part of any trip is in those last two days, when the VHF starts to crackle. At first it's just static, then broken messages, then constant chatter as we get closer and closer to our destination. We know we're almost there, but just before land comes into sight the VHF is solid confirmation that it won't be much longer. Everywhere I've ever lived there's that one landmark or area you pass on your way home from a long car trip that indicates you're almost there, almost at home and tucked up in bed after a warm shower - that's the noise on the VHF. 

Something scary did happen when we were two days out of Bundaberg though. Ships were popping up everywhere - I'd check the horizon carefully, twice. And then 10 minutes later I'd look up and there would be a giant cargo ship next to me, or a little fishing boat moving across my bow, or another giant cargo ship. They're not supposed to be that fast! Where are they coming from!? What are they doing!? Most of them have snuck up on me during the day, when we still keep an annoyingly careful watch with an alarm going off regularly to make sure we haven't forgotten to check the horizon. It's now been changed to 10 minute intervals instead of 20.

The first ship we saw was when I was on watch at night. I had been straining my eyes into the darkness all night, looking for a flicker of a light and staring skeptically at dull stars close to the horizon. I looked up at around 1am and there was a huge, blinding white light heading straight for me. I did not need to strain to see it. I wanted to put on sunglasses. There were no running lights, or if they were on they were overrun by the mass amounts of white. There were no mastheads breaking the boat up into sections so I could at least see if it was on an angle. It was just a ball of white ahead of me - I couldn't see how far away it was, what it was it where it was going. Not ok. I turned a few degrees to starboard, hoping to pass it port to port but unable to tell which way it was actually going - I thought it was straight on but if it was coming towards me at a slight angle I might have been just moving further into its path. Just as I was about to radio them it turned and I could see the outline of the boat around the bright light at the back. Boats shouldn't be close enough for me to see the outline of their cabin. Although it was so bright it was a bit like looking into the sun and it was hard to see much. I had thought it was a cruise ship the way it was lit up, which would make it far away enough for me to be worrying, but not close enough to start panicking. But I lined it up with a fixture as they turned away just to make sure we weren't going to collide, and it moved away very very fast. It had to be close to be moving across the horizon that fast. So that was alarming. I watched it disappear until it was just a glow on the horizon, which only took 15 minutes. It's supposed to take about 20 - 25 at fast speeds.

Then a panicked voice came on over the VHF. It was another sailing vessel almost the same size as us, calling for the ship to come in on the radio. They were about to be run over and the ship wasn't communicating with them at all. The skippers voice got shakier and more desperate as the ship got closer, and we listened with bated breath - there wasn't anything we could do. We contacted them when they asked for anybody who could hear their transmission - probably to make sure their radio was working. After a while they started calling out for a fishing vessel instead of just 'big ship'... So they must have been close enough to make out fishing gear.

All I could think to do was a mayday relay in case there was anybody on shore who could contact the vessel, but the ship finally came in on the VHF. After they'd gone past the yacht, only just missing it. The poor guys did a 360 to avoid the ship, and said they had been within 8 yards of being struck. I could hear the skippers voice shaking over the radio. The response from the fishing vessel at nearly killing them? "Yeah, sorry about that mate." When the skipper managed to calmly suggest they rethink their watch schedules the kid on the fishing boat just replied "Yeah, it's hard to see you out there." Which made me think a lot about what I would have done aside from turning on every light and shining a torch on the sails. That wouldn't even help if they're not actually looking. It was impossible to see which way they were going so it was impossible to know where to turn - the lights were SO bright and they were moving SO fast. Perhaps if his eyesight is that bad a parachute flare aimed at the wheelhouse would help.

The kid said he saw them and that he'd been watching out, which I guess is the standard response required in order to later claim it wasn't his fault. If he'd actually been around he would have seen and heard them, and hopefully wouldn't have almost run them down. I'm guessing they just had the radar turned on and were doing whatever the hell young boys do on a fishing boat just leaving port. That was another alarming thing - they said the yacht hadn't shown up on their radar. How the hell do we know if we're showing up on their radar or not!? You chuck a cylinder of metal up in the rigging and just hope that it's metaly enough to get picked up? That's scary. I've always just thought that the radar reflector was there and it had to work. What if it doesn't? We were going to invest in an AIS when we got to Australia, which tells you where all the big ships are. Maybe that would be best to do sooner rather than later...

So that was pretty horrifying, even second hand. We always keep a good watch and we have a 20 minute alarm set up 24 hours a day. But on that last night it changed to 10 minutes, and our noisemaker and spare flares were carefully pulled out of their respective hiding places and placed on top of everything near the nav station. What we need are small fireworks and a slingshot. That would wake them up. 

We got the boat tidier than its been in a long time for Australian customs - everything was scrubbed and dusted and packed away neatly. It looks new again! We'll see how long it lasts...

Xxx Monique

edit: This was the boat after Customs went through it... Sigh.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

New Caledonia, Noumea - 7/11/13

The last few days have been magical. We went back to the kiting island for three nights, anchored next to a reef and went snorkeling. Almost immediately we came across a big turtle, just sitting on the seabed looking up at us. He was nicely camouflaged amongst the coral and sand and he almost went unnoticed as we swam past. He eventually got bored of staring at us and wandered off, so I dove down and swam near him for a while. Turtles aren't really that slow! I could only just keep up with him and I had flippers on. So that was definitely the highlight of our day - I've seen lots of turtles before, but I've never stumbled across any while I was swimming. It was really special sharing his little space underwater - he was only a meter or two underneath us. I wanted to pat him, but kept thinking about the turtles we used to rescue from the road when I was a child. They would wander away from the creek and sit on the warm concrete, blissfully happy in the sunshine. My mother used to carry a thick sack in the trunk which she would dump over their heads like she was kidnapping them, and they would swing around widely trying to take a chunk out of her hand while she carried them back to the creek. And this one was much bigger, even though his big dopey face looked like the only thing he wanted to put in his mouth was sea grass.

The reef was interesting, but different from the ones in Fiji. Where we were there were patches of coral with sand in between them, whereas in Fiji the reefs were mostly big long chunks of coral risen above the seabed - there was often a wall of reef where it started and it was obviously separate from the rest of the ocean. We saw a few new things, including some huge clams with purple teeth. I realize they're not actually teeth, but one of them kept opening and slamming shut like he was munching on the water. And there wasn't a single star fish, which was the only thing you were guaranteed to see if you stuck your head under any water in Fiji. The fish in New Caledonia were different too, with lots of much larger reef fish swimming around instead of the thousands of tiny fish we came across in Fiji. It was a bit surreal when the reef ended - there was sea grass for as far as we could see. It was like looking at a field, except it was underwater. I'm sure the turtles love it though, and we kept a keen eye open in case there were more.

Garth saw another one when we were sailing, but I was reading and missed it completely. I only looked up in time to see a dark shadow disappear under the water. He said it was as wide as our dinghy, and was quite adamant about it. It was just floating along on the surface when we went by.

Garth got a really good afternoon of kiting in, which was awesome. The island had no waves around it, with nice winds and long stretches of beach. It only had seagrass under the water, no coral, and it was a pretty perfect place for kiting. No wonder there had been so many kiters there when we first arrived. He had only ever really been kiting on the beach and snow before, so it was the first time he'd really gotten going on the water which was exciting. He happily zoomed up and down for a few hours, loving every second. I've never tried kiting in the water before either but I'm much more of a beginner than him so I had a go at dragging along on my stomach without the board. It was kind of like body boarding without the board or the waves, and it was awesome fun. Although I refuse to do it again without booties - I stood on a heap of sea cucumbers, got spiked by something painful and later on had to dig a chunk of shell out of Garth's foot. So we need booties.

I'm trying to get the food situation under control for this next passage. I'm useless under way because of the whole seasick situation, which means Garth does all the cooking. Except he decides he couldn't be bothered and then we don't eat. So this time before we left I spent a day cooking up a storm. It's still hard for him to heat up food underway, but at least it should be easier than whipping something up from scratch. We've got a few servings of tuna sauce to go over pasta and something resembling Annabelle's pie burgers in filo pastry because that's the only kind of pastry they seem to sell in Noumea. I made a heap of Hawaiian triangles with the pastry as well, and two containers of undressed coleslaw because that's the only kind of salad I could think to make ahead of time. So we have enough food for the whole trip and if we catch a fish we'll just eat two cooked meals a day instead of one. Hopefully that will make life easier. We're actually organised for once!

Also, if anybody is interested (Mark!) the eyes I painted on the bow are still there, and they're pretty much the best things ever. When we're anchored and there's a wake or a few waves, the eyes bob up and down in the water, all red and awesome. When we're coming in from shore on the dinghy they really stand out - our boat is definitely staring down all the scary things out there and keeping us safe. I think they'll actually stay on longer than the rest of the antifoul... I did not skimp on the paint!

Xxx Monique

[Video - Garth kiting 1]

[Video - Garth kiting 2]

[Video - Garth kiting 3]

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

New Caledonia, Noumea - 4/11/13

We woke up yesterday to the gentle sounds of French music, the kind you would be serenaded with in a fancy restaurant, and a small child calling out 'papa, papa.' Noumea is just so sweet. Very few people actually speak English, and I can't help but giggle every time somebody lets out a string of French. I really can't help myself - there's just something so charming about the French language that I love. It was a real novelty for a while, wandering around in a foreign country where nobody understands what we're saying. We've got an English/French dictionary, which makes life slightly easier, but trying to explain that you'd like to buy a spring to go inside a winch is almost impossible, even with the aid of pictures and some solitary translated words. 

We haven't been able to eat at a restaurant, which is kind of annoying. We wander in, look at the menu out of habit, then wander out again when we remember we don't speak French. We could ask somebody, but I can't exactly get them to translate the whole menu in order to see if they have anything we want. The other day I felt like a cold drink - a slushy, or an iced tea or a smoothie or something refreshing. We went past a cafe that seemed to sell desserts, and I could see them making a milkshake, but I couldn't really ask 'do you have anything not milky?' So we kept walking. Maybe it would help if we actually knew what we wanted.

There's usually somebody around that understands at least a bit of English though - we found a little pastry shop yesterday filled with delicious looking things. 'English?' I asked the shopkeeper. 'Non non non' she said, emphatically shaking her head and looking slightly annoyed. So I just stood there staring at all the pretty little treats. They were like presents, all wrapped up and decorated so nicely, but I had no idea what was inside them. Eventually another customer came in - he spoke broken English and was very enthusiastic about all the desserts, so was happy to help. I picked out a little round thing in the end. 'Chocolate, Oui Oui! Very good!' was the description. It turned out to be a little cake, and was indeed very good.

The people here are lovely. They're all so chilled out and friendly, but I get the sense that some of them are slightly irritated that I don't speak the language. I don't even know a little, which would get me by. I've figured out that if I want one of something, I just grunt. I think my pronunciation is pretty accurate for that at least. I can't even say the words in the dictionary, I just point to them. I wish I had come across even a little bit of French in my lifetime - I understand 'Merci,' and 'oui,' but that's about it. 

On our first day here a cruise ship was in town, and we were looking through the market stalls for a replacement wedding ring for Garth. The prices were all in AUD, and we asked how much it was in the local currency. Garth did some quick math and figured out that she wanted even more in Pacific Francs than the AUD worked out to be. We somehow managed to casually tell her that we were staying on a yacht and not with the cruise ship - the price immediately dropped in half and she ended up chatting to us for about ten minutes. So the people are obviously more hospitable to yachties than to all the regular tourists - the French do love their yachts. 

The marina here is really lovely - it's quite fancy without feeling too posh. The people are nice, there's free wifi and the vege market is next door - pretty much all my requirements for a good stay. There's a little fairground next to the vege market, that seems to only run at night. It just has rides for little kids but the kidliwinks were all having a blast. It was lit up with so many flashing lights - a little section of the night shining  brightly through the darkness. It was a little bit surreal, peering into this tiny haven of fluorescent fun. 

The edge of the marina is lined with soft coral. The part that's usually rocks and garbage and concrete is packed full of beautiful fish and bright colours, underneath crystal clear water. That's pretty special. The coral continues along next to the walkway as you leave, so you can wander along looking down at all the pretty things - we haven't been snorkeling yet, but we hardly need to.

There's a little cafe right outside the marina. On Friday night they had a live band playing and the music drifted out through the night, bringing with it suggestions of fun and cocktails. The people inside were lively, dancing to the music and having a blast. When we eventually heard the band stop at 10pm, there was a muttering from the confused patrons. And then they started singing without the aid of background music, getting louder and more enthusiastic as they went along. We could hear the guys from the band come onto the mic a few times, telling them that it really was closing time and they had to go. But the singing and dancing continued on for a while - they didn't want the evening to end. They weren't drunk or rowdy, just collectively having a good time. And that pretty much sums up the general attitude here - everyone appears to just be enjoying life. 

Which probably has something to do with the food. There are SO many cheeses and types of bread. The vegetable market is half fruit and vegetables, half pastry stalls. There's a huge variety of sweet, dense bread, kind of like croissants. It's a bit strange having a sandwich on sweet bread, but it was the only bready looking thing we could find without a sugary glaze on top. Then there's the pastries - so many pastries. They're all filled with something, or sprinkled with something... The apple parcels are my favourite so far, along with the chocolate croissants. Garth is loving the mass amounts of doughnuts. Then there's the cabinets of pretty little desserts - all tiny and extravagant, covered in cream or fruit or icing and filled with various exciting things. I was trying to be good at first - I thought I'd just have one treat. And then I decided that it would be unfair to the French if I didn't at least try one of everything... I haven't moved onto the desserts yet, because they're expensive and decadent, but I think I'll get a little tray before we go. 

Our meals have been pretty French so far - our first night here we had a French stick, ham and cheese. Although I made Garth eat a carrot as well. Last night we just had wine with cheese and crackers, so I think we're doing well. We've been eating big lunches - there's a delicious take away place in town which is easier for us - we can just point to what we want. We tried asking what was in the food, but the lady just replied in French. And then she'd repeat the French word very slowly when we didn't understand. Everything there is good, so we've decided it doesn't matter what's inside - it's fun being surprised!

I also managed to find me a coconut at the vege market. They have stacks of them which they cut open and stick a straw in for you. Yes! They're not the huge green kind we had in Fiji, but they're not ripe yet either so the juice is refreshing and delicious.

Our provisions for our next trip are going to involve kidney beans, tinned tomatoes, cheese and bread. That's it. We're done with food. Garth tried to send me to the supermarket yesterday but I legitimately couldn't find it, and everything was closed anyway. So we'll try again today. It was probably too dangerous leaving me on my own anyway... I want all the French food. 

We went for a walk on Saturday, unintentionally. There were just weird fittings at the marina instead of taps, so we couldn't plug the hose into them. We went in search of a hardware store but the only one open was really, really far away - we spent the whole day walking around. But it was really pretty and we got to see a bit of the real city instead of just the centre of town. There were beautiful little streets, people walking around with bread sticks, and I found an awesome Tarzan tree with vines hanging down everywhere. Garth refused to swing on it with me because he's a buzzkill.

Just when my legs were about to collapse, Garth decided we were going to climb up a steep hill. I had no desire to walk any more, especially in an upwards direction, but I had promised to follow my husband off cliffs on our wedding day, so up the hill we went. The view was spectacular. You could see the ocean in almost all directions, with all the little houses nestled in amongst the hills. It looked like the city should have cobblestone streets. It has beautiful stone walls instead, which isn't that far off.

The city centre is beautiful too, with massive trees everywhere. The parks are filled with them, and they have to be really ancient - the trunks are huge. The shops are all so quaint - they have stacks of fake flowers outside them, lining the streets. I'm not sure if they were for the holiday on Friday or if they're always there, but it's beautiful. Everybody is walking around carrying bunches of flowers - the shops appear to work in the same way as a florist. You pick which ones you want and arrange them in a bunch with some greenery, and they no longer look fake. They even wrap them up properly with pretty paper.

There's not much else to say about Noumea - all we've done is walk and eat. Which has been marvelous. We anchored at an island very close to the city last night so Garth could go kiting. There's a resort here but it seems to be a hotspot for kiters - we could see at least 20 kites from the boat at any given time, it was crazy. So we went to go ashore quite late in the afternoon to launch his new kite, but the dinghy started playing up and we had to row back. Which was unfortunate, but we had both wine and cheese onboard and the sun was about to set by the time we got back, so it wasn't a bad way to spend the evening. 

We have to go back into town today to do the immigration paperwork, and hopefully we'll come back here tonight. Garth wants to keep going to Australia, so we'll probably leave tomorrow or the next day. There's not a lot of wind on the cards, but we should still get there. I want to grab a souvenir before we leave and stock up on pastries, and then we should be good to go. Once the boat looks less like a cyclone hit it.

Xxx Monique 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Fiji - New Caledonia passage, 25/10 - 1/11

We arrived in Noumea this morning amidst a sticky mess of pineapple as I desperately tried to eat the last two before bio security took them away. I succeeded, but only just. 7 days, 9 pineapples. Mission accomplished. 

I feel obligated to say something about our passage from Fiji to New Caledonia, seeing as it was our first run offshore with just the two of us. But there's really not much to say. Nothing broke. I was only sick once, and even managed to help prepare food and read a book without feeling ill. For the most part we had blue skies, the wind up our backside and a cool breeze blowing on us as we lay under the shade cover all day. It was pleasant. We went through a few squalls but I have conveniently blocked out the memory of sitting around in the rain for a few days, cold and wet. Although I'm not sure what to call the cold now after living in New Zealand - regular cold needs a different name, because the two cannot be compared.

We take turns with somebody always on watch for two hours at a time, sometimes three depending on how tired we are. So for the first day or so every two hours we would undress and sleep, then two hours later we would dress ourselves again and go on watch. It quickly became harder and harder to justify putting clothes on again. What was the point? So this is now a naked boat. Except for when it's sunny and the shade cover is rolled up, then we hide under every item of clothing we can find like two scared, ginger turtles.

Garth was getting literally eaten alive for the first few days of our trip and he ended up completely covered in huge red bites. I suspect because he wouldn't wear any clothes. He tried to rationalize them in every way possible - bed bugs, measles, fleas, sand flies breeding in the bilge, a contaminated blanket... But I'm sure they were just mosquitos. Mostly because I don't look like I have the Chicken Pox as well and we sleep in the same bed. He was adamant that somebody had sent some kind of plague after him, and almost started pouring bleach into various parts of the boat to kill the imaginary sand flies. Perhaps he's just too itchy to use logic again yet, but he will eventually remember that he's had his measles shot and that bed bugs attack everybody with an unbiased hatred for all people. 

Other than that it's been pretty uneventful. Our time is split between sleeping, reading and staring at a stubborn horizon, willing it to let go of whatever secrets it's hiding. If there's other boats around, we can't see them. The moon keeps startling me - it's not full but very bright, and comes up quite late. Every night without fail I'll be scanning the horizon and will have a moment of panic when I catch the bright glow out of the corner of my eye, thinking we're about to be run down by a giant ship. But it's always the moon.

We've decided that cooking underway is too hard, and we have officially quit. Even if we have something already prepared that just needs to be heated up, it's just impossible unless there's no wind at all. I don't know how Mike does it. I managed to cajole a few fancy meals out of Garth, but the rest of the time we've eaten whatever was easiest. We always over provision as well - from now on we're just buying fruit, some sausages, bread and cheese. Because there's already enough food on here to feed an army and we probably won't cook it anyway.
Garth burned his arm quite badly the other day, trying to save stuff from falling out of our little pantry as he was cooking. We don't have running water to spare, so he just jumped off the boat and trailed behind us off the ladder for about five minutes. That seemed to fix his poor arm and it looked ridiculously fun. The drag slowed us down a bit, but I don't think we'll bother heaving to for a swim next time when we can just hang off the back. 

I saw my first flying fish up close the other day. They're crazy! I always thought flying fish just jumped out of the water a lot, but they actually fly along above the surface. At first I thought they were crazy birds, splashing around in the water before flying around on top and then diving back in again. But they never came back to the surface. We've had a few land on the boat, and they do look kind of like little birds. I wish they were bigger so we could eat them - we haven't bothered fishing much on this trip.

We've really loved getting messages on the satellite phone, both for weather and entertainment. You can send texts to it for free, but we can't send them back without spending a fortune. So Dale has figured out how to communicate using texts on the phone and our free pre-set messages from the spot tracker. We can reply with yes or no, as well as an assortment of other things. So that's been really fun, and he's made a point of regularly entertaining us with random messages. It's really awesome communicating with our friends when we're in the middle of the ocean - it feels like we're not that far from civilization.

The VHF has been spitting out a lovely French drawl for the last day or so, which is exciting. I've got the French dictionary out but I'm sure everybody will speak English and ruin all my fun. My entire knowledge of the French language stems from the song 'Foux du Fafa' by The Flight of the Conchords, so English is probably a good thing seeing as the whole song is nonsense. Although I'm sure we will meander around having conversations with ourselves consisting entirely of 'baguette,' 'camembert' and 'croissant.'

We were due to arrive in Noumea at midnight last night, which was inconvenient. But the wind died anyway, so we just bobbed along slowly as we waited for morning. Occasionally going backwards or in circles. Which got us here this morning just within office hours, hopefully leaving most of the day for exploring depending on how long customs took. We considered motoring in order to get here a day earlier, but then realized it would cost us $200 in fuel. We contented ourselves with napping while we floated around in circles until the wind picked up. 

So we timed it perfectly and arrived at 9am. On a public holiday. Only we could plan a 4 day stopover and then arrive on the first day of a long weekend when all the official offices were closed. We're very lucky they didn't charge us a fortune to check in, and that they're letting us leave the boat at all before Monday. Crisis averted! Although the cheeky customs guy did ask in a thick French accent "Was there a cyclone inside the boat?" Perhaps we should tidy up before venturing out...

Xxx Monique