April 4, 2018

The nickname for the Tuamotus, most likely pegged by early visitors, as they are low, with dangerous reefs all around.  Without modern navigation tools and radar, a ship could easily run into these islands at night and have no warning that they are even there!

 Dan and Steve

Lucky for us, with a chartplotter and radar, we arrived unscathed in Makemo, one of the less populated atolls in this island group in French Polynesia noted for uncharted reefs and difficult passes.  The churning pass was well marked, deep and a good example of the others to come. Navigating the unmarked passage through the lagoon required the Captain in the spreaders to read the water color and our trusty headsets in use. Barely populated, Makemo was an atoll of deserted beaches and fabulous snorkeling and a great intro to the wild wonders of the Tuamotus.

Fakarava, Rangiroa and little Tua were some of the others we visited, with spectacular diving and snorkeling on all of them.  We dove the passes with Nitrox due to the remoteness (recompression facility was far away in Pape’ete) which reinforced how wild these islands really are.  Sharks, Manta Rays and Dolphins were just some of the rich marine life of the Tuamotus. No wonder these islands are so popular with divers!

Each island had a settlement or two, with some restaurants and stores, totally dependent on the supply ships and in some cases, planes.  Seems that the economy is mostly tourism, with cruise ships visiting some of the bigger atolls, however France subsidizes all of French Polynesia.  

A few pearl farms are still in existence and we got the lowdown on the process with a lovely tour, demonstration and of course some purchases! The black, blue, green and multicolor pearls are unique to French Polynesia and make a great way to remember the magic of the South Pacific.



May 6, 2018

When one pictures a South Pacific Island, any one of the Society Islands will fit the frame.  Tahiti, Mo’orea, BoraBora, Raiatea, Huahine, Taha’a are all mountainous, lush and dramatic with turquoise water, reefs and waterfalls.  Alora arrived from the Tuamotus after a 30 hour sail to Opunohu Bay in Mo’orea, where Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed and I am sure any other film requiring South Pacific scenery. 

 We spent a few days there with some other WARC boats and then moved to Cooks Bay for a day or two to tour the island and celebrate Steve’s birthday. 

On to Pape’ete in Tahiti for a taste of the biggest city in French Polynesia, where you can get pretty much anything for the boat and the crew…except internet, of course.  We sampled the local cuisine in several restaurants, provisioned at the marvelous Carrefour and moved on to Raiatea, the spiritual center of the Society Islands with a sister island Taha’a, known for vanilla farming, in the same reef.

A dive on a wreck literally at the lands edge and another just outside the reef was the opening act of a week of deserted anchorages in beautiful bays in Raiatea and Taha’a.  A dinghy ride up a river, a visit to the Marae Taputapuatea, the biggest in all of French Polynesia and a magical drift snorkel in the Coral Gardens on Taha’a were some of the highlights of our time sailing these storied islands.

Our new crew, Brian and Shelley Stork arrive tomorrow and sadly, Dan and Debby Hoyt, who have been aboard since end of January, will leave in a few days.  I, for one, will seriously miss them as Dan does everything that I, as so-called first mate, will now be required to do!

When you spend every day for three months with people it is a big change when they leave.  We hope they will return in the Fall or Winter to continue the adventure and make my life easy again!



March 28, 2018

The idea of sailing the South Pacific always starts with the arrival in the Marquesas.

Like the Crosby, Stills, Nash song Southern Cross,” sailing a reach before the following sun” is pretty much spot on.  I happily signed off the passage and spent a month back home, catching up and enjoying? the last gasps of winter. Sadly, while I was home, our dear cousin, Dr. Frank Essis, died suddenly at just 44 years old.  He was not just a relative, but a friend and avid sailor who helped us on several passages, gave us a crash course in surgery and was excited to follow our progress. He and his family planned to join us in Fiji in July.  His passing reminds us how lucky we are to be following our dream.

Although the cloud of the sad news was with them, as the passage was already underway, Steve, Dan and Phil had the classic Coconut Milk Run, other than a chafed halyard and sail in the water fire drill just a day out from landfall.  Happily, sixteen days and a 12 hours later, Alora was safe at anchor in Hiva Oa, the most eastward of the Marquesas and first in Class A again!

Flying back to meet the boat was no easy task, PHL to LAX, then Air Tahiti to Pape’ete and another three hours BACK east to Nuka Hiva.  I wonder if maybe the passage would have been easier!


A quick tour of Nuka Hiva including a waterfall hike, traditional dance show and romantic dinner was all we had time for before off to the Tuamotus.  That’s what I get for jumping ship!



Changing Oceans – The Panama Canal

We arrived at the Caribbean side of the Canal after a short sail from the spectacular San Blas Islands and spent a week waiting for our transit date of February 1st.

A highlight of our stay was a visit to the Embera Indian Village, far up the Chagres River.  After a lengthy taxi ride and then dugout canoes to the headwaters, we arrived to where about 150 people live in isolation, continuing the traditional ways of their ancestors.  The food, the clothing and the culture was unlike anything we have experienced.  With no modern conveniences, everything is grown, hunted and made by hand.  The children are educated in the village and go off to the city as young teens to complete their education.  I am guessing that many do not return! Most shocking for me was the age of the parents, some looked barely 14 years old and yet all seemed happy to have made the choice to live this way.


We transited the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side late afternoon which was perfectly magical, with the sun going down, the lights going on and the history of the greatest engineering feat of the 20th Century all around us.  As a total history nerd, I did my homework and read David McCullough’s book, The Panama Canal, so I knew the amazing story of the men and their machines that persisted and made it happen.

It is, by far, a highlight of my many years of sailing and one that I know I share with other sailors.  There is nothing like arriving in the Pacific Ocean knowing the only (easy) way home is to continue West.  And knowing that all of the South Pacific with so many exotic island nations awaits.  This is the stuff of dreams!




Reef & Molas – San Blas Magic

We made our approach early in the morning after having arrived late at night to avoid the risk of the many reefs surrounding all of the islands.  The sail here, as expected, was downwind and with little wind, a mixed blessing at best!

The San Blas Islands of Panama, named by the Spanish conquerors, are the land of the Guna people and run autonomously by them.  Known by the locals as Guna Yala, they are a string of reef strewn, low sand and coral islands seemingly lost in time and yet within 10 miles of the mainland.


The locals live on each island with a leader and congreso, get around in dugout canoes (albeit some with outboards) and sell fish, lobsters and molas to the yachties.  Navigation is tricky, as each island has much more reef than actual land!  We try to approach with the sun high in the sky, the Captain up the mast to see our way in, and hope that the chartplotter is accurate.  We wind our way into the most pristine, beautiful beaches we have ever seen, reminiscent of the Bahamas, but with a much more remote, foreign vibe.  No help here if you make a mistake as evidenced by the wrecks seen everywhere.  Good practice for the South Pacific!

                                                                        We visited only four of the many, many islands here and thoroughly enjoyed the step back in time.  Fascinating to experience a way of life so different than the fabricated priorities we find so important in modern life.  No internet, no phone service, no electricity, no problem.


And on to the Panama Canal…a marvel of modern engineering!



Bouncing Off South America

Santa Marta Colombia

The route from St. Lucia to Panama could easily skip Colombia, but it juts out in just the right place and the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains beckon sailors to visit.  Stopping is easy, convenient and well worth the time.

In visiting Santa Marta and Tairona National Park, we got our taste of Colombian culture in a quick, short week.  There were friendly people, inexpensive (and tasty) food, crazy and confusing money ($1.00 = 3000 Colombian pesos), street musicians (The Funky Band, check them out on Facebook), secluded beaches, challenging diving and some of the highest mountains in the Americas.

We have been gradually meeting all the other ARC boat crews who are as varied as the boats they sail.  Lucky for us we have our friend Erwin aboard who has been chatting up the competition participants and getting the lowdown about all the other boats and crew.  I expect by the other side of the Panama Canal we will all be fast friends as we experience this unique adventure together.

The World Arc sponsored some great tours including one to a famous centuries old coffee plantation where we bought some coffee that was organic and just about as local as you can get!  For $ 6.00 a pound, we stocked up on our Colombian coffee because where else would you stock up on coffee?

ALORA has been exceptional as expected with our only equipment issues being a faulty stove burner and a dead coffee maker. I guess we must make do with the Cappuccino machine!  If our only issues are appliances, we should definitely count our blessings!

So now we say goodbye to Colombia and South America and sail a mere 36 hours to the exotic land of Guna Yala, known as the San Blas Islands of Panama, to meet the Guna people and sail their lovely reef strewn archipelago before heading for Colon to prepare for our canal transit on the 1st.

It is all happening so fast!



Andiamo Alora!

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia 

 Lat 13.9N Lon 60.9W

Downright Surreal  ! Sitting in the various meetings and seminars arranged by the World ARC discussing places like Colombia, Galapagos and French Polynesia.

Our long-planned circumnavigation is starting FOR REAL!!

All the planning, provisioning and purchases are mostly behind us, now we will find out if our preparations were adequate and if the crew is as well found as ALORA.  The planning by the World ARC people is so detailed, I wonder how we have survived sailing the past decades with our own version of offshore preparedness !

Diane and Erwin Wanderer, friends and fellow CCA members, are aboard until the Pacific side of Panama and will be helping us sort out our various downwind sails with which we are somewhat unfamiliar.  And whenever there is more than one boat, there will invariably be a race and the World ARC is no exception.  With several Hylas yachts participating, we are counting on the Wanderers racing experience to get us to the finish line with as little embarrassment as possible.   Years of North and South sailing are not so conducive to spinnaker flying and Colombia is a full out downwind run to the West!  Needless to say, the upcoming trade wind passages in the Pacific will be quite the lesson for us.

Let the journey begin…





Islands In The Stream

So after a week in lovely Bermuda it is time to make the run for Antigua.  We have been watching the neighborhood here in St. Georges Harbor change every day, as yachts come and go based on their interpretation of the weather, their wait for parts or crew changes.

It is great fun to watch the yachts come in the cut, knowing all of them arrived after at least a three day passage from the States involving the legendary Gulf Stream.  Some years offer quite the drama if the weather has been rough, this year most have arrived unscathed, including us!

Always a treat for us, barring the long dinghy ride after dark, our good friend, Danny Little, hosted us for one of his famous (for us at least) pizza nights.  Reconnecting with Danny and Jo is one of the reasons we always stop in Bermuda on our way south.  Not to mention the perfect weather, mellow vibe and rum swizzles!

Looking forward to lots of audible books, knitting and I really need to get started on relearning to play my guitar.


Super glad to have our ready and able crew, Dan & Debby Hoyt, aboard for the rock and roll to Antigua!

L. Stel