At first, there were three.

BioTrek, Ticket to Ride and Jamala: two catamarans and one monohull. The only boats here enjoying the peace and quiet of Hirifa’s beautifully calm anchorage. The only noise we could hear was water rushing against the windward reef and the gently lapping waves on the leeward beach.

We paddle-boarded, snorkelled, and walked along the beach. And got together onboard Jamala to share salty sea dog stories and enjoy food, drinks and each other’s company.

Neighbours to the left

Neighbours to the right

All was just as it should be in a secluded tropical paradise.

But then, the unwanted party started.

Big boys and their toys


The triffids on the public beach are sun shades for visitors on the superyacht Lonian. Its support vessel, Hodor, arrived the day before the mothership arrived so the crew could set this up. The bar and sound system necessary to create an ambience in this otherwise unspoiled atoll might not be apparent in the photograph. One of the locals here reminded them that this isn’t Ibiza.



Hodor, at 66 metres, is described as the world’s largest floating toy box. Strapped to the top and stuffed into the bowels of Hodor are a 7.3-metre catamaran RIB, a nine-metre landing craft, a race boat, nine jet skis, four ATVs, four trail motorcycles, a Hobie cat, two laser dinghies and an Aurora-3 submarine – and a large selection of smaller floating toys including foilers, sea scooters, kayaks and scuba equipment. And if things go wrong on a dive, there’s a hyperbaric chamber to help unbend you.

On the other hand, we have two paddle boards, masks, snorkels, diving fins, dive tanks and a dinghy. None of which generate much in the way of clattering racket.

Fortunately, by Christmas Eve, the superyacht and its toy box left, and several smaller boats arrived, each carrying crew from France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the US. We met most of them on the beach on Christmas Day at a get-together arranged by Maria, Mary Grace on Ticket to Ride, and Lisa on BioTrek.

Sweden and Norway


More Norwegians – a Brit and a Canadian

And representatives from France

Christmas Day evening, Maria and I had dinner onboard BioTrek, with the crew from Ticket to Ride. And later, after returning to Jamala, we lay on the deck watching the stars in the crystal clear sky.

And the next day, we looked at the weather for a trip to the Gambier.

Sail to the Gambiers

Our plan A was to sail back to the Marquesas and then look for a weather window to go to the Gambier. But we spotted an unusual period of NE wind developing that would allow us to sail directly from Fakarava to the Gambiers in one tack. That pattern firmed up over the next few days on both the GFS and ECMWF weather models. And on New Year’s Eve, it looked good enough to get us there without hitting strong winds or having to motor. So, we lifted the anchor and headed out of Fakarava’s south pass for the 500-plus mile trip southeast.

So, New Year celebrations were a bit muted this year. Maria got up just after midnight to wish each other Happy New Year, then went back to bed while I continued my watch until 2 am.

Pre New Year resting.

The winds proved to be as predicted. There wasn’t much power in the squalls, and we carried full sail until the last couple of days when we rolled in the mainsail and continued under genoa and mizzen alone.

The French Navy

The trip wasn’t without its moments. Near Hao, we heard a call on the VHF radio from a French Warship. “Sailing vessel white sails course 120 degrees 10 knots.” There’s no way that could be us, we thought. If we were doing 10 knots, those white sails wouldn’t be flying.

I replied anyway and handled his questions: boat name, last port of call, our destination, and no – we hadn’t seen anything suspicious.

A few minutes later, we heard: “Sailing vessel white sails course 120 degrees 10 knots.” I replied again. He said, “It’s not you.” Fair enough.

Another few minutes went by. “Sailing vessel white sails course 118 degrees 10 knots, distance five nautical miles in front.” I ignored that because I’d already been told it wasn’t me.

But then his course changed towards us.

I checked on the radar for any other vessels around. None. So I called to ask if he could see us on the AIS. His response was to go through the same questions as before. Again I spelt our boat name, told him our last port of call, where we were going – and that we hadn’t seen anything suspicious. It was like a speeded-up version of Groundhog Day. Either he had a bad memory – or we English people all sound the same.

Buy cheap, buy twice.

I should have suspected something was off when the shopkeeper started sniggering away to himself when I bought that fishing reel in Tahiti. But, at least he gave me a good discount on the rod.

About halfway to the Gambier, we hooked a fish – the reel screaming as the fish took off in the opposite direction to where we were heading. Unfortunately, the clutch on the reel, designed to increase the friction and slow the rate at which the line comes off, had as much grip as a limp handshake. So, we reached the end of the line very quickly. The knot at the end of the line held for a few seconds and then broke with a loud bang. The line, lure, and fish disappeared into the distance, leaving us with an empty reel and no dinner.

At least I have retained my record of zero fish landed. A friend is bringing me a new, quality fishing reel from France.

Arrival at the Gambiers

On 5th January, after five days and 537 nautical miles at sea, we arrived at the entrance to the Gambier.

The pass wasn’t an issue as far as current is concerned because the water around the Gambier rushes in and leaks out from several places, not just the west pass. The real butt-tightener was the clear water. The colours alternating between light turquoise and almost black gave the impression that we’d clunk the keel on a rock.

Stressfully clear water

But there is plenty of depth, just like it says on the charts. Fortunately, the pearl farm floats are well out of the way of the channel, and we made it to the main anchorage in Mangareva without any issues.

Mangareva in the distance – pearl farm in between.

The Gambier is famous for producing black pearls, and it’s big business. Below is a photograph showing the pearl farm installations around Mangareva to give an impression of how big the industry is.

Pearl farm installations

Pearl farm installations

So, that’s it for getting here. The next post will be a summary of our few weeks exploring the Gambier islands.