Do I need health insurance?

This is a question that often seems strange to us Europeans who have grown up in societies with advanced social health programmes, but is a very real cause for concern for Americans who are thinking of sailing off into the horizon.

Imagine you have grown up in a country where the government taxes vegetables 1000% – where a carrot costs $10 and a veggie stir-fry could easily run to $100.  On top of that imagine if that same government and media also managed to convince you that vegetables elsewhere in the world were sub-standard and even dangerous to consume. What do you imagine would be the first question you asked people who left your country and traveled abroad to live on a boat?  Probably something like “how do you eat?”,  “where do you get your vegetables?”” How do you afford to live?” or something like that.

I  mention this because we (along with many European sailors) are often perplexed by, and sometimes a little dismissive of, the attention our American cousins seem to focus on the subject of health insurance.  For those that don’t understand why this is, under no circumstances should you get sick in the US.

US citizens have been so grossly overcharged for so long for health care that they have come to accept it as normal. Furthermore, the American medical machine tries to justify this by claiming to be (contrary to the figures) far superior to anywhere else.  Years of this propaganda have had their effect – many American sailors we meet have policies that involve immediate repatriation to the US should they become ill, which suggests that at least some have bought the idea that health care outside the US is sub-standard or even dangerous.

The good news is that health care around the world is a lot better than many have been lead to believe, often better than the US and much better than any of our parents had anywhere.

In my 20+ years of being on the move, I have been treated in Kenya (malaria), Uganda (dengue fever)  Malawi (wisdom teeth), Zimbabwe (facial and rib trauma), UK (head trauma and dengue), Spain (leg trauma), Mexico (kidney infection), and now Fiji (dentistry).  Some of these treatments required several days in a hospital bed – others over a week.

Self treatment can cure most things and is very economical. Our entire medical kit pictured here cost less than $50 and was available on prescription once we paid for a Doctor's consultation to help define our on board needs. The consultation cost $4

Self treatment can cure most minor things and is very economical. Our entire drug cabinet pictured here cost less than $50 and was available on prescription once we paid for a doctor’s consultation to help define our on board needs. The consultation and prescription cost $4

All the treatments I have received have been exemplary. I paid cash for all of them and added up together they come to less than $1500.  In the same period, the average American would have spent at least $69,000 in premiums (or just shy of $175,000 for a family policy).

When my (then) girlfriend fell down the stairs at Flagler beach (Florida) and chipped a bone, the bill came $16,000 and the service was no better than anywhere else in the world. When I did more or less the same thing in Spain, the bill was just over 100 Euros. Most sea gypsies we have met will relate similar experiences.

Jasna and I are both confessed Americanphiles.  With the exception of the occasional evangelical bore, we always hit it off with the Yanks and it seems a shame that the unecessary  fear of getting sick or injured whilst uninsured and abroad seems to be holding so many of them back from joining us out here on the big blue.

Sailing is a healthy lifestyle and your health (and chances of survival) will improve immeasurably just by eating well, living with less stress and not driving every day. So if the fear of not being insured is stopping you realising your dream, worry not. If you can shut out the voices of the ‘what if’ brigade and stop wondering why nobody else is paying $10 for a carrot, you will be a lot closer to reality, health and happiness than the fantastically over-insured, over fed and over stressed.




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Homemade fruit bars

bananasAs I already mentioned several times, the biggest problem cruisers have in the Marquesas islands is how to eat all the bananas they have aboard before they go bad. I already wrote a post with many recipes which you can find here.

Since then I found a new excellent use which I am going to share with you. The idea is not mine, I found it in the great book Sailing The Farm.

I will show you how to make your own fruit bars.

I love making them and Rick loves eating them on long passages (if I hide them very well, otherwise they disappear in the first day…).

But before I explain the process, let me give you 6 reasons why you should make your own fruit bars instead of buying them.

  1. you can make them EXACTLY the way you like them, with or without nuts, chocolate chips, seeds, etc.
  2. they are much fresher and therefore healthier
  3. they have no sugar (you may find organic sugarless bars in London or San Diego, but not in the Pacific islands…)
  4. they are cheap, almost free
  5. they can be a nice present to take ashore or to another boat
  6. it’s fun!



  • 10-15 very ripe bananas
  • 2 or 3 cups of oats
  • 2 limes (juice+zest)
  • honey and cinnamon to taste
  • 1 cup of sesame seeds
  • different types of dried fruit (sultanas, mangoes, papayas…) cut in small pieces

NOTE: This is just one example. But there are infinite other options, depending on your taste and what you happen to have in the galley at the time. Be creative!

  • Mix well (I use the blender, but if you don’t have one aboard, just mix very well by hand)
  • Cover a tray* with a sheet of grease-proof paper
  • Pour some of the mix on the tray and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon, about 4mm thick.
  • Put the tray somewhere on deck, where there is plenty of sunshine.
  • After several hours under the tropical sun, the mix should be dry enough to be turned over using two trays. (If the sun is not very strong and there is no wind, you may have to wait until the next day, but remember to store it down below overnight.)
  • After you turn the mix over, gently peel off the paper.
  • When dry enough, cut the mix into bars and let them dry a bit longer.

One day or two of drying should be enough if you plan to eat the fruit bars soon, but if you want to keep them longer, there should be absolutely no moisture trapped inside them.

The result should look more ore less like this:



* I use the trays from the dryer, which are perforated and therefore allow plenty of airflow under the mix. If you use normal trays, you may have to turn the bars over more often to dry both sides evenly.


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Calling a Spade, a Spade


If you have read our book you will know how we feel about spade (unsupported) rudders. We don’t like them and consider them a pretty bad idea for a voyaging boat. For those that haven’t read the book, a properly supported rudder is an essential facet of a voyaging boat. A spade rudder simply hangs down from the hull on a stainless steel shaft. This make them fantastically vulnerable to damage from collision with sea debris (floating logs, half submerged containers, dozing mermaids, etc.) and we go to great pains in our book to discourage all potential sea gypsies from buying this type of boat. (See picture).

A typical spade rudder

A typical spade rudder

Something we did not go into (and probably will in the next edition) is the added risk of “work hardening” on spade rudder shafts. We have all experienced work hardening in other areas of our lives. This is the process that allows us to break certain materials by repeated bending. Take a paper clip and straighten it out. Now bend it backwards and forwards. Pretty soon the paper clip will break at the point where you have been bending it. This is not because it has got softer, but because the point where all the “work” was being done actually got harder, and therefore more brittle and no longer able to bend as efficiently.

As is often the case in so many areas of life – that which cannot bend, breaks.

All rudders have to absorb large forces from the sea. That is a given. The problem the spade rudder has (being unsupported at the bottom) is that each time a wave rolls across it, the shaft flexes from one side to the other – just like the paper clip in the experiment – with the point doing the most work being where the shaft of the rudder exits the hull. Can you guess what happens?

You got it – work hardening at that point. Then failure.  (The much higher forces on the shaft of a spade rudder often exacerbate  any crevice or anodic corrosion that may pre-exist and often lead to a false diagnosis. Any type of rudder post can suffer crevice or anodic corrosion, but it is principally spade rudder posts that fail catastrophically as the added forces and lack of safety margin in construction tend to expose other faults more dramatically).

Funnily enough, I was just explaining this very process to a potential sea gypsy who contacted us after reading our book, when we heard that a boat had been towed into the local yard with rudder problems (we are currently in Fiji).

Being fantastically nosey about this kind of thing, I dashed over (all of 500 meters) to find out what had happened. I think the pictures tell the story (see below).

Spade Rudder sheared off.

Spade Rudder sheared off.

As you can see in the first picture, the rudder has gone. The whole thing is now resting in the silt 5 kilometres under the surface of the Pacific Ocean and will cost several thousand dollars to replace.


The shaft has sheared off

In the next picture, you can see that the shaft has snapped at precisely the place the principal of work hardening would predict.

This poor sailor is also facing a bill of $7000 for the tow into Fiji, and a couple of thousand for the boatyard. Had he been further offshore, the tow could have cost several times that. If he had been offshore in bad weather, the cost may not have been calculable in dollars.

Spade rudders are cheap to produce and fit. Manufacturers tell us that they are also a good idea and produce all kinds of spurious figures and twisted logic to convince us that what they want to sell us is what we want to buy.

Regardless of what the salesmen and racing crowd say, there is no possible way a spade rudder is stronger than a supported rudder. The numbers simply don’t add up any better than the numbers for building a house without foundations. Find me a qualified engineer that will say any different in writing and I will show you someone who is working for the yachting industry.

But while uninformed sailors continue to buy spade-ruddered boats for their marble counter tops and en-suite bathrooms, this is what the manufacturers will continue to produce.   And who can blame them? They have to sell boats in a very competitive environment and new sailors don’t give a hoot about the rudder.

It is up to us to demand sea-worthiness in yacht design by rejecting unsound practices – no matter how nice the cockpit cushions are or how large the aft cabin is.

Rejecting spade rudders is a good place to start.

Fair Winds,

Rick and Jasna

PS Has anyone else got any spade rudder horror stories? We would like  to hear them -especially if you have photos.


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We are on the telly!!!



Dear Friends.

If you can stand our faces for almost one hour, than check out Ben Fogle’s tv program New Lives in the Wild

on Channel 5 on August 10th at 9pm (London time).

If you miss it, UK viewers can see it later on the Channel 5 website  Viewers outside the UK can see it here 


Below you can find some news about us in the English media:

TalkTalk: Ben heads to French Polynesia in the South Pacific to spend time with British expat Rick and his girlfriend Jasna, who live a nomadic life on their yacht, sailing around the waters of the archipelago they have made their home. Ben builds hammocks, rigs sails, spears fish for dinner, freedives to drop anchor, experiences rough seas and learns how the couple use the islands to support their transient lifestyle, washing clothes in rivers and shopping for essentials by kayak

Whatsontv: Lucky Ben ends this run in French Polynesia to meet Londoner Rick, who lives on a 36ft boat sailing the Pacific with girlfriend Jasna. The scenery is just stunning and the ocean-loving couple are the picture of contentment. Both say they were born with itchy feet and live for the moment, sailing around beautiful islands and doing a bit of work where they can to buy the barest of essentials. Ben tries to find a few hardships in their idyllic life, but Rick and Jasna were meant to live exactly as they are – footloose and fancy free on the ocean waves.


Click HERE to see the trailer.



Rick and Jasna

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Get a copy of Get Real!

‘Don’t even think of buying a boat until you have read this book’. – Tom Cunliffe (legendary sailor and author of The Complete Yachtmaster).

Calypso’s recent appearance on Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild introduced the idea of budget sailing to a whole new audience – an audience who may have never considered the possibility that such a dream could be made a reality, on such a small amount of money. This book is for them and for any experienced sailors who want to cast off the yoke of consumerist yachting and get back to what really matters at sea. 

The book  is available in digital or paperback format on Amazon.  It is currently available in English, German and Portuguese, with French and Spanish coming soon.  Links are below:

In the USA:

In the UK:

In Australia:

In Canada:

Other languages: (otras idiomas, andere Sprachen)




For Spanish speaker in the USA (Para hispanohablantes en EE. UU.)   click here

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Sailing over lemons

Before I became a wandering sea gypsy, I owned a farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain where I trained Andalucian horses.

horseShortly after I bought the place, Chris Stewart the former drummer of the rock group Genesis, published a book about life in the Alpujarra. Unbeknownst to me, he had given up the life of a professional musician and settled in a sleepy town in the Alpujarra mountains to become a sheep farmer and journeyman shearer. His book is called Driving Over Lemons and is actually quite a good read. It sold like crystal-meth and put the Alpujarra Mountains firmly on the mental landscape of the largely British audience who bought it. The Brits seemed to identify with the idea of giving up the madness of life in the UK for a simpler existence amongst the good people of the Alpujarra, and quite a few of them arrived looking for their own mountain escape. What was less apparent in the book was that Mr Stewart’s farm was not actually in the mountains at all, but at the base of the mountains near a town called Orgiva (the biggest town in the region).

horse2Nevertheless, armed with the proceeds from their expensive flats in Notting Hill, the Brits arrived in the mountains and started buying up the little mountain farms that had been long abandoned. Prices went up and the land began to be cared for again.   All well and good. The only problem is that lemons don’t grow in the mountains because it is not hot enough. They grow well enough where Chris Stewart had his farm, but his farm is almost at sea level, despite the impression given by the book. Yet lemons were what the new arrivals had fixated upon and that is what they must have. So, many new arrivals planted lemons and oranges and grapes. Nothing grew of course. A total waste of time, hard work and money (one guy even tried to plant palm trees at 2000 feet above sea level because that is what he associated with luxury).   Some new farmers gave up, all were a little disillusioned.

fruit6What has all this got to do with sailing? Well, quite a lot actually because much the same pattern occurs amongst new sailors. Bombarded by images of rich men lying on shiny white yachts, surrounded by bikinis and interesting cocktails, it is not surprising that even the most level-headed person comes to suspect that pampered luxury is at least partially the point of life at sea. Many believe it to be the only point. So off they go, trying to make their boat like a little luxury apartment – big cabins with large windows, watermakers, generators, fast dinghies, air conditioning, washing machines, ice-makers, electric winches and all the paraphernalia it takes to run and repair them in the belief that this will bring them happiness. They are of course, amply assisted in developing this view by the companies that profit from the sale of such things.

boatIf you have never owned a boat, it is important to understand that despite being several times more expensive than their domestic equivalent, things on boats break down about a hundred times as often as on land, due to the shaking around they get and the constant exposure to salt. If you buy a freezer for your home, you can pretty much plug it in and forget it for the rest of your life. Not on a boat.   Not only will it break down way earlier than even a pessimist would expect, it will cost five times as much to repair and involve a lot of mucking about importing parts, employing costly, ’marine’ technicians (whose only qualification over a normal technician is often that he is prepared to come to your boat). Now multiply this headache by all the complicated things on your boat and you will soon be spending all your time working on it (or paying someone else to), chasing down spare parts, fighting with corrupt customs officials (or paying whatever they ask) and pretty soon, you will become totally stressed with the whole thing or be back at work earning money to pay your bills and repeating the obligatory mantra of the terminally disillusioned, “you have to be rich to own a yacht”

So, what is the answer?

You guessed it. Raspberries!

Raspberries are a fruit that have certain demands if they are to grow to be nice and sweet. They need a certain type of soil, they like a bit of frost in the mornings and need quite a bit of water. In other words, they are particularly suited to life in the Alpujarra mountains because we have more water than we can use (being the first stop for the melting snow of the Sierra Nevada), we have the occasional frosty morning and the right kind of soil. Furthermore, as Spain is generally quite dry, the few places that can grow raspberries can also command a decent price for them.

By looking around at what the local people were growing and perhaps more importantly, what they were not, many Brits who came to the Alpujarra in the wake of Driving Over Lemons could have avoided a lot of hardship, wastage and disillusionment. By observing reality and reacting to it, rather than trying to strenuously bend reality to fit their fantasies, a negative experience of struggle could have become a positive and rewarding cascade of increasing achievement and satisfaction. Many Brits returned to the UK saying that farming in the Alpujarra was impossible or too difficult, too steep, too cold, or any kind of external explanation. The real culprit of course, as in so many things, was the human mind and its inability to detach itself from its own fixations. We believe that the image in our mind is the one we must ‘achieve’. Encouraged by corporate ideology and western management training ethos, we set our ‘goals’ and must now doggedly pursue them, whatever the cost, to be ‘successful’ and massage our egos.

Now, I have grown lemons and I have grown raspberries and there is really very little difference between the two – they are both rewarding to grow and the same lifestyle can be achieved by growing either if the conditions are right. There is absolutely no point in forcing the issue and stamping your feet like a petulant child because you can’t have lemons if the conditions are not right for them. Ignore that voice in your head – it is only the rather laughable belief that `you can do anything if you put your mind to it’ that is constantly repeated by inane marketing executives and Nike commercials.

The same goes for sailing. Unhappy will be the sailor who tries to manipulate the reality of the sea to fit the image in his mind. If you can ditch the idea that you simply must have a floating apartment with all the toys of home, the joy of the sailing life will be yours. Ignore this advice and you will be constantly paying, fitting, repairing – paying, fitting, repairing. And if you work really hard, you may have one great moment when nothing needs fixing and you sit down, satisfied. One small, island of peace before something else breaks down and the whole nasty cycle starts up again.

Forget growing lemons simply because that is the image you have had planted in your mind and look what reality is trying to communicate to you. Divest yourself of the idea that pampered luxury is your goal or even desirable. Get rid of all the stupid, complicated devices that eat your time and consume your cash and your soul. Learn to live simply and you will receive all the gifts that the sailing lifestyle is holding in its outstretched hands.




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Timing the atoll passes

The islands of the Tuamotu group are coral atolls.



They look like rings of coral with a calm lagoon inside them. Some of this “rings” are complete circles and therefore it is impossible to enter.

Some others have one, two or three openings called passes.

The current in these passes is usually fairly strong, because of the enormous amount of water that exits/enters the lagoon between the low and the hide tide.

In some atolls these current can reach 9 knots, making it pretty much impassable and very dangerous.

Fakarava South Pass

Calypso anchored at Fakarava South Pass

If the water is coming against you, you’d have to push your engine very hard to get any forwarding. But if the current is rushing the same way as you, then it is even worse. Your boat will fly across the pass like down a river and you will have absolutely no steering. The sea will decide where to send you. Maybe it will spit you out in the ocean, but maybe it will throw you on the reef. And you will not be able to do absolutely nothing.
So it is very important to plan your entry at a favourable time, the best time of course being slack water at the change of tides. We have heard tons of terrifying stories from people that ignored this basic rule (overheating engines, boats on the reef, …). And still we keep meeting people that have no idea of the tidal times and seem not to care too much. Ignorance is bliss…

Slack water at Makemo North Pass

Slack water at Makemo North Pass

I am not writing for those people, but for the sailors that are coming in our wake and take the sea with the due respect. The first step is to accept that perfect timing is more important than your needs and desires. If you arrive two hours to late, you will simply have to heave-to for four hours until the next change of tides or even sail on to another destination. When you accept that, you are half way there. To be all the way there you need to know the time of slack water. We learned that this is not as easy as it sounds.
So far we travelled 14 times in and out of the Tuamotu atolls. Fourteen passes. So you would assume that by now we got them. Well, I have to tell you, I thought so too. Until today.

Let me explain.
Last year, being our first experience, I collected tidal information from many different sources: nautical guides, the internet, different computer software, our chartplotter… I also tried to use the Tidal Guestimator by The Soggy Paws.


About 3kn of incoming current at Makemo

After comparing the reality and the tides from all this sources, I decided to trust the SHOM website. The problem is that they give information only for the main atolls. For the others you have to guess based on the distance from it. But nevertheless, last year we found them spot on. We used the time in Fakarava to enter Kauehi, Fakarava South and Fakarava North. Arrived at the pass one hour early, waited until the pass looked good, entered with almost no current. No problem. Easy peasy.
This season we felt pretty confident. But our feeling was based on last year’s damn good luck. This year we had different experiences. We approached both Raroia and Makemo based on Makemo times (SHOM) and all 4 times were very hairy. The difference was about two hours from official times.


Snorkeling in the passes is always an amazing experience

The scariest exit was in Makemo North where instead of the expected slight incoming tide we found 6 knots of outgoing tide. By the time we realised that, it was too late. Rick tried to turn the boat around to return to the anchorage but there was no way of doing it. We were flying sideways towards the pass. At that point he looked at me and said:
“Well, we don’t have much choice, one way or the other, we are getting out of here.” He pushed on the throttle to get some steerage and Calypso reached her record speed of 10.2 knots. Twenty seconds later, we were out. Speechless, but safe. With many new gray hair.
After an easy overnight sail we arrived to Tahanea. This time I found the tides for this atoll in the charplotter. We approached slowly to check the conditions and found the flattest pass ever. Our chartplotter was spot on! I was happy. The next day (yesterday) I wanted to do a drift snorkel. So we approached the middle pass at what the charplotter gave as low tide, but the current was already coming in at 2-3 knots.
“The official tidal times are about 30 minutes late” was our conclusion.
So today we approached the west pass for a drift snorkel about half an hour before the official low tide, hoping to get the first hour of the incoming tide. WROONG! We were just entering the pass with the dinghy, when we realized that the current is still very strong and outgoing! There was a moment of terror when the outboard gave up and I already saw us drifting all the way to Tahiti. But Rick managed to fix the problem and got us out of there as quickly as possible (it still felt veery long).
We waited and waited but the low tide did not come. Finally we gave up and returned to the boat. We kept observing the nearby middle pass from the boat and noticed slack water at 15.30.

The Makemo Southeast Pass

The Makemo Southeast Pass

The confusing things are this:
a) all the official tidal information agreed that low water today is around noon;
b) yesterday the low water was at 11.00 and the difference from one day to the other is usually less than one hour;
c) today we did not have very strong winds or big swell that might have greatly affected the tidal flow.
You may be asking what is the lesson learned. Well, the thing is… I DON’T KNOW.
For now we decided to keep observation of the pass as our main tactic. We will simply patiently wait until the pass looks good.

But in the meantime, if any of you have any suggestions or knowledge that we are missing, please, we are all ears!

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Spending the cyclone season in the South Pacific

I am writing a quick note because of the large number of concerned emails we are getting these days regarding Pam, the big cyclone that hit Vanuatu.

Cyclone Pam, photo by

Cyclone Pam, photo by

We are far away and the cyclone did not affect us at all. The islands of Vanuatu got hit very badly and our thoughts are with them. If anyone wants to help, donations to are a good choice. DONATE HERE

The danger of cyclones is the reason that we spent almost 6 months in the Marquesas islands which are NOT in the cyclone zone. After losing two great friends in the Cyclone Odile we decided not to take the risk and did the effort of sailing almost 1000 miles upwind, but it was totally worth it!

This was our tactic:P1320709

In november we took advantage of some southerly winds and sailed to Fakarava.  This is the easy part.

Fakarava is a wonderful place to wait for a good weather window, but if you have time you can also get to Makemo and/or Raroia and gain some more easting. If you leave yourself enough time, you have a good chance that some SE or NW will come to your help. We left on the back of a big low and had 5 days of NW. We had to dodge a few squalls, but managed to reach Fatu Hiva in one tack. It took us seven days.


Landfall in Fatu Hiva

After that, we had 6 months of lovely easy sailing between islands, enjoying the South Pacific sunshine without worrying about cyclones.

While Tahiti and all the islands west of it had lots of bad weather, we had a total of about 10 days of rain in 6 months. Staying here it was like standing in the sunshine on the top of a high mountain and looking down at the bad weather in the valley.

We had lovely weather, we kept sailing around the islands and made many good friends. We love the Marquesans and it will be hard to leave them.


Christmas Day in Hanamoenoa bay (Tahuata) – Calypso was the only boat there…

New Year's Party

New Year’s Party

So if anyone is thinking about where to spend the summer after the sailing season is over, we would highly recommend Fetua Enana – The Islands of the People.

But now is almost April and we are ready to start a new sailing season in the South Pacific. Don’t ask where are we going because, as always, we don’t know!

Fair winds to everyone

Jasna & Rick

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The Numbers of The Year 2014

Recently I analized our log book and this is what I discovered about last year:

Number of days of sailing: 86

This is more or less 25%, which means that we spent about a quarter of the last year on the water.

Number of nights Calypso Jasna Rick
– at anchor 283 (77%) 280 283
– on passage 50 (14%) 50 50
– in the boatyard 17 (5%) 0* 0*
– on a mooring 15 (4%) 32 32
– in a marina 0 (0%) 0 0
– on land 0 (0%) 3** 0

* In January we hauled out for 17 days. The boatyard did not allowed us to live aboard Calypso, so we moved on Luci which was on a mooring. Thanks again Tim and Meredith!!!

** In March I went to San Diego (to visit some marine stores and get Calypso even lower on her waterline) and stayed with a friend for 3 days, that’s why  only Rick has the record of NEVER SLEEPING ON LAND in 2014!

Number of nautical miles: 4696

Longest passage: 32 days (Mex – Poly)

Engine hours: 167 (about one third of that to come back to the Marquesas from Tahiti)

Used diesel: 270 liters – 70 gallons (we left Mexico with 77 gallons)

toau&tahiti 175


Number of islands: 10  (ONLY!?!?)

Number of different anchorages: 22

The majority (13) of this anchorages had no internet access and no shops.  So in 2014 we spent 139 days – 38% of the time in places with no shops, banks, internet or post office.  



Another interesting statistic is that we spent an average of 14 days in every anchorage.  Sounds about right…

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Anchoring in coral

The coral atolls are simply fantastic.

Fakarava in the Tuamo

Fakarava in the Tuamotus (French Polynesia)

Nobody can argue with that.

Well, except maybe your anchor chain.

While you will learn to love every fish and every view, your anchor chain will learn to hate every coral head and every wind shift. And on the other side, the coral head will learn to hate your chain very much.

In the Tuamotus is practically impossible to find a clear area where your anchor rode will not touch any coral. Even if you find it, the first wind shift will quickly change the situation.

So, let’s see what you get with anchoring in coral:

1) you will have to listen to the chain grinding on coral all day and all night

2) you can say goodbye to the galvanization on the chain

3) you will ruin most of the live coral around your boat

4) when you want to leave, you may have to spend hours unwrapping the chain from the coral heads

But the main thing is that it is also very dangerous. The chain can get very quickly wrapped and then suddenly you end up having a 1 to 1 scope. This means that in a blow your chain, snubber and anchor roller will be under too much load and may even break.

So, what can you do?

I read somewhere about this technique which I want to share with you. I am still experimenting but it looks really promising. You can use fenders or floats, each one on a separate piece of string.  When you let out the chain, you attach this floats to your chain every 15 or 20 ft.

This is how we do it:


The pendant

With the pennant I decide how much I want to lift the chain from the seabed. In this example I had the pennant secured to the bowsprit



DSC00649a DSC00654 DSC00661a


I spent many days in the water trying different ways of doing this. There is many variables – the size of your chain, the depth you are anchoring in, the height of the coral heads, the size of the floats, the lenght of the line between the chain and the floats ecc.  So it is not always the same.


If I have to make some changes, it is much easier if I have a pennant that goes from the fender through the chain (see the photo).  But I this works only on the last fender, the closest one to the boat.

The one rule I never break is that I never put a float on the first 50 ft of chain, which should always lie flat on the bottom (because of the angle on the anchor). It is not so hard to find a little space with no coral for this.


I also don’t like to tie the lines on the chain. In an emergency I want to be able to retrieve my anchor QUICKLY. I use small carabiners instead.

I know that most people sort out all this floats from the boat. But I always end up going in the water, checking with my mask, making changes and (get this) trying to dive down to the chain with the floats in my hand. It is very difficult and there is many better ways of doing it, but this game keeps me busy for hours on end. I just love pulling myself down on the chain, sitting on the bottom, exchanging a few bubbles with local fish and looking at my boat from down below.

I am half fish and I can’t help it.



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