First of all, and just in case you may have missed our news in the last blog, Pipistrelle has completed her circumnavigation! Here she is at anchor in Grenada.
On 2nd June 2010 we sailed from Prickly Bay, Grenada on what would become our round the globe journey. Almost 6 years and 35,000nm later, we dropped anchor early on 5th April 2016 in nearly the same spot. We feel immensely privileged to have cruised to so many different destinations, marvelled at the wonders of nature and wildlife, met and appreciated people from different cultures and enjoyed the company of likeminded cruisers along the way.
To sum up our voyage succinctly is challenging but here goes …
After Grenada our first cruising grounds were the beautiful and largely unspoilt Venezuelan Islands of Los Testigos, where we witnessed what turned out to be the first of many David Attenborough-esque moments when under cover of darkness, a leatherback turtle laid her eggs on a beach. More remote islands followed including Los Roques. We were fortunate enough to explore when it was still relatively safe – six years later it is not. Then on to the ABC island of Bonaire for the most fantastic snorkelling and diving, from where we commuted frequently to Curacao – a short day passage. From Aruba we set sail for the 16th century city of Cartagena, Colombia where we took part in Independence Day celebrations in November before heading towards Kuna Yala, or the beautiful San Blas islands. Arriving in the east, we worked our way westwards through the chain, spent Christmas and New Year at Panamarina before going back through some of the islands again, they and the Kuna Indians were just so unique. Then making the hop to Shelter Bay Marina, on the Colon side of the Panama Canal, brought decision time…
We made the right choice!
Transiting the Panama Canal in February 2011 was a highlight in itself and descending into the Pacific was an auspicious moment in our lives. We had heard we would have the best sailing ever crossing the ocean that makes up a quarter of the world’s water. We did. From the Las Perlas to the Darwinian Galapagos where we cruised for three weeks and on to the majestic Marquesas, we were enthralled, despite having an uncomfortable couple of days in our first experience of the ITCZ. With the aim of reaching New Zealand by the beginning of November, we were on a schedule to follow the trade winds. Time enjoying anchorages and culture of the Marquesas and Society Islands of French Polynesia with its beautiful and varied topography, snorkelling with a manta ray in the remote island of Suwarrow, the northern Cook Islands, discovering Western Samoa with its Robert Louis Stevenson associations and then on to Niuatoputapu. Here on the northernmost island of the Kingdom of Tonga, with the local population and other cruisers we commemorated the second anniversary of a devastating tsunami and participated in the annual church feast.
A brisk sail south took us to the Vava’u group with its marvellous anchorages, snorkelling and diving spots and then we began watching the weather for THAT window to head south from the Tropics, to Opua. Two southern summers centred on North Island in New Zealand sailing around the Bay of Islands, Whangarei and Great Barrier Island together with the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland were unforgettable experiences. We have wonderful memories of this marvellous country and it would not have taken much for us to become harbour-bound there, simply heading north again for the NZ winters.
But in 2013 we left for Vanuatu, where we witnessed eruptions at the active volcano of Mount Yasur, watched a land diving spectacle at Pentecost, sailed to the uninhabited Huon Reef, the Louisiades (Papua New Guinea), and via the Torres Strait to Saumlaki in Indonesia. From there we sailed westwards through the islands to Nusa Tenggara, went diving off Labuanbajo, saw the dragons of Komodo, enjoyed song and dance on Bali, stopped in Java to visit the ancient site of Borobudur, got up close and personal to orang-utan in Kumai, Borneo, and then sailed on via Jahor Bahru for the bright city lights of Singapore. The island of Penang provided a fascinating ‘stopover’ for a few days before we headed on as far as Rebak Marina in Langkawi.
2014 saw us based around Langkawi and Phuket, from where we explored the impressive Hongs of Phang Nga Bay, the Krabi area, as well as the beautiful Similan Islands. It was also our opportunity to go travelling in South East Asia for a month while Pipistrelle was safe in Yacht Haven Marina.
In January 2015 we slipped the lines once more and set sail across the Indian Ocean stopping firstly in Sri Lanka, then working our way through the aquarium of the Maldives where we were struck by lightning for the third time in our voyage, putting us behind schedule while repairs/replacements were done in Gan on Addu Atoll, the southernmost of the chain. Then on to deserted Chagos, and from there a challenging passage to the Seychelles. Our toughest, roughest ride ever followed to Madagascar where cruising the northwest coast is sublime and where fishing, lemurs and chameleons made up for the trials of the previous days at sea. Then from Nosy Bé through the Mozambique Channel to Durban, South Africa. Finally to Simons Town in December, where we enjoyed wine-tasting excursions in the Cape Town and Stellenbosch areas before embarking on a fascinating self-drive land safari in Namibia to round off the year.
So to this year. Mid-January, we departed Simons Town and sailed the South Atlantic from South Africa via the remote British outpost of St Helena to Jacaré, near Cabedelo, northeast Brazil. After a longer than expected sojourn of about 3 weeks there (we could not resist travelling for two of them), we sailed for the Iles du Salut off French Guiana (of Papillon fame) and on to Grenada where – amazingly – we closed the loop and in only two and a half months had sailed 6,000nm.
We just need to point Pipistrelle towards the UK again now, from where we set off at the end of May 2008. But that’s for another year.
And now for a well earned sundowner …