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Sailing the Middle Pacific

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Leaving French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji were ahead for Inspiration.

Aitutaki clearly deserves its award of most beautiful lagoon in the World.  No large tourist infrastructure there.   The Atoll is the most authentic we visited so far in the Pacific.  A true jewel !  In addition, the Cook Islanders are extremely friendly and welcoming, which adds to the entire experience !

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The Vavau group of islands in Northern Kingdom of Tonga is well known to be great place for whale watching.  Despite us being late in the season, we were able to sight a couple of humpback whales while sailing in the channels between the islands.

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Inspiration then sailed on to Fiji.  Landing in SavusSavu was amazing.  This is a secret little paradise.   So much to explore in Fiji, we are only scratching the surface.

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Sailing the Leeward Islands

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After sailing the Tuamotus, Inspiration went on to the Leeward Islands:  Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora.

The Leeward islands all have their personal touch and feel.

Generally good trade winds but every sailor has to be careful about the Maramu (southerly wind) that can be strong and last up to 4 days in a row.

Almost time to leave French Polynesia and to go on to the Cook islands.

The coconut milk run continues…

 

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Inspired Interview by Newly Salted

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On May 27, 2017, Livia of “Newly Salted”(newlysalted.blogspot.ca) requested an Interview of the Inspired Crew at Inspiration Sailing.

Newly Salted: What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

Inspiration Sailing:  Just “fair winds”, “enjoy” or “good luck” and of course “see you soon”.  That is all I needed, really.  Actually got a lot of that from family and friends, so that was good.

NS: As you started cruising, what transition did you find most difficult?

IS:  That was pretty smooth.  Have been on boats so many times before, that I knew pretty much what to expect.  One difference is that when you embark a long term cruising project, you need to think about maintenance of the boat that much more than when you just sail for a few days or a couple of weeks.  If you want to cruise far, you need the boat to be properly maintained at all times.  The boat can really give you plenty of nautical miles if you take good care of it!

NS: What mistakes did you make before you started cruising?

IS:  There are so many resources available in the public domain to study in order to prepare a cruising project, that you should at least be avoiding basic mistakes.  So many individuals successfully sailed around the world before you even planned to do so:  learn from them and customize their advice to your specific project requirements.  In addition, the latest technology and equipment available on modern yachts make cruising life easier, safer and more comfortable.  But, seamanship remains an absolute requirement, of course.

NS: What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

IS: All aspects of it are pretty cool, really.  The idea of traveling around using the wind is exciting.  Discovering new places, new people, new cultures is exciting.  Especially when these places are preserved and stunning.  Cruising allows access to some of the last sanctuaries of our Planet.  That is a unique proposition.

NS: What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you did not find true?

IS: I actually found the cruising literature pretty accurate.  There are tons of good publications out there that are really helpful in preparing a cruising project.

NS: What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you find particularly accurate?

IS: “Just do it”.  Most seasoned cruisers actually say this no the new comers.  And that is very true.  I would add that this is important to have your own project:  do not try to exactly follow someone else’s footsteps. Having you own personal objectives and timeframe is essential for a successful project.

NS: Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

IS: I installed pretty much all I wanted on the boat before I started cruising.  I could have out more solar panels.  Not to state the obvious, ability to generate electricity (and water) is paramount for long term cruising projects.  You never have enough.  Redundancy is also important concept: having backups for all key equipment of the boat proves to be helpful if any failure happens at sea.

NS: What piece of gear would you leave on the dock next time?  Why?

IS: Any electric gear is typically more trouble than helpful.  As such, air conditioning, electric toilet, electric gadgets are to be left behind.  Simplicity is the secret of happy cruising.

NS: What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why ?

IS: Will move on to an entrepreneurial project.  My cruising project was a both a lifetime experience and a transition to a new professional project.  Life goes on.  I may be cruising again once I retire.  In the meantime, I will remember this lifetime experience until my last day.  Unforgettable memories!

NS: Tell us about the genesis of the Inspiration Sailing cruising project?

IS: The project was born in late 2015.  After 8 months of methodical preparation, I set sails on July 31, 2016 from South of France.  The stated objective is to reach Australia in about 13 months (i.e. by August 31, 2017) following the well-known sailing routes across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, West Indies, Panama, and the Pacific Ocean.

The idea is to discover some of the most beautiful parts of the world, while getting the full benefits of the trade wind, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars and the spectacle of marine life…and to share all of this with my crew members, as well as others via the project blog (www.inspirationsailing.com).

NS: Why did you decide to go cruising around the globe?

IS: I believe that in life there is a time to do things, a time to create, a time to produce, a time to be agitated, a time to be under pressure to perform and deliver results, a time for hard accomplishments.  But, there is also a time to stop doing, to watch, to observe, to contemplate, to meditate, to take attitude, to appreciate simple things such as the lights, colors, shapes of nature and the surrounding scenery…

From this time “out of time” which I refer to as “empty” time, we have an opportunity analyze the World from a different angle, generate new ideas, prepare for new projects, learn new skills, get ready for new challenges, with a renewed perspective over our life.

As I am cruising around, new ideas and projects naturally come to my mind so that life after cruising is also taking shape as nautical miles go by.  As such, this project is becoming a complete life experience.

NS: How did you prepare for this cruising trip?

IS: I thought about this project in great details, very much professionally, in fact pretty much as you would think of a startup business.  All aspects have been analyzed thoroughly:  choice of the boat and equipment, crew selection, cruising itinerary and timing, cost and budget, personal objectives, life post cruising, etc.

Sailing across oceans is a serious enterprise and by no mean, I wanted to jump into the unknown.  I am not the type of person who goes at sea undercooked, so safety considerations were paramount.  This is a wonderful challenge to complete a long term cruising project and be safe.  This is also an absolute priority.

NS: Why did you call your cruising project “Inspiration”?

IS: The concept was to inspire the crew coming on board, as well as third parties following the trip.  Quite a few people actually dream about such a trip, but are unable to do it for multiple reasons.  I thought it was important to share this adventure with others, which is actually made easy by technology (should the Internet be available!)

At least one other person I know decided to buy his own boat and to prepare an ambitious family cruising project around the world following my footsteps.  A film maker approached me, as he would like to spend time on the boat to film a story.  The Newly Salted project initiated this interview…So Inspiration Sailing was not a bad name for the project after all.

I am pleased not only to realize a dream experience, but also to share it and to inspire to others the benefits of “empty” time.  That should be mandatory for everyone at least once in a lifetime!  Life is made of experiences and challenges.  Preparing my cruising project and executing it proved to be both exciting and rewarding so far: clearly a tremendously fulfilling experience.

NS: Where do you currently stand in this project?

IS: Sailing Yacht Inspiration is currently anchored in Huahine, French Polynesia with about 16,000 nautical miles under its keel, including 2 ocean crossings, since the project started.  I can say that we are approximately 75% of the way, but the good news is that the remainder of the trip across the Pacific is looking rather exciting!

Over the last 10 months or so, I validated a lot of the decisions made during project preparation.  Yet I keep learning every day and both the crew and the boat still have a long way to go (over 3,000 nautical miles left).  So the adventure continues and I feel that the best part of the trip is yet to come.

As of the time of this interview the project running on time and budget.  But I have to say that the overall experience has been well beyond expectations, which I could not know in advance!

IS: What did you learn along the way during your cruising time?

IS: Inherent with these types of projects, you will be faced with unforeseen situations, new types of problems that are only specific to the life at seas.  Take it as an opportunity to improve your problem solving skills.  There is always a solution, even though it may not be obvious at first sight.

One other aspect is expanding your knowledge to many different topics:  from celestial navigation to weather patterns and forecasting, from ocean wildlife to geology…   I learned that cruising around the world is pure luxury: luxury of a certain form of freedom.

Finally, crossing oceans is a test for your level of preparation.  You can only rely on yourself and your own decisions out there.   You need to be 100% autonomous for a few weeks in row, far away from the land.   You cannot cheat, you cannot lie, but you can only learn about yourself.

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Beauty of the Tuamotus

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After Sailing the Marquesas extensively, Inspiration sailed 500 nautical miles to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago.

Beautiful lagoon views and intense snorkeling activity were on the agenda.

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Makemo, Fakarava, Toau, Rangiroa: amazing spots !

Nature at its best.   We really felt like entering the last sanctuary.

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Now time to explore Tahiti and the Society islands !

Pacific Crossing and Cruising in Marquesas

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Inspiration left the Galapagos on March 17th, 2017 to sail over 3,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean to reach the Marquesas islands.

After 21 days of a nice downwind ride, Inspiration reached Atuona in the island of Hiva Oa, one of the main landing points for yachts arriving from Panama or the Galapagos.

Good and consistent trade winds helped the yacht sailing at decent speed all the way.  Great fishing allowed for the crew to be well fed too.

 

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Marquesians must be along the most welcoming people on earth and the crew enjoyed a great time in Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva.

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While Hiva Oa is known for being the final resting place of painter Gauguin and singer Jacques Brel.     Fatu Hiva features some of the most beautiful scenery in the archipelago.

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Next stop: Tuamotus.

First Taste of the Pacific: Panama Canal, Equator and the Galapagos

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Was definitely a busy few weeks aboard Inspiration.  After pampering the boat in Colon (Shelter Bay) in advance of the Pacific Ocean crossing, we went through the canal.  A 2-day experience where we went trough the Gatun and Miraflores locks and sailed the Gatun lake in between.  These locks were one of the greatest engineering works ever to be undertaken when they opened in 1914.

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The gates separating the chambers in each flight of locks must hold back a considerable weight of water, and must be both reliable and strong enough to withstand accidents, as the failure of a gate could unleash a catastrophic flood of water downstream.  These gates are of enormous size, ranging from 47 to 82 ft (14.33 to 24.99 m) high, depending on position, and are 7 ft (2.13 m) thick.

Once safely arrived in the Pacific, and after crossing the famous bridge of the Americas, we stopped in Balboa for a couple of days waiting for good winds to take us to the Galapagos via the Perlas islands.

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Did not take long before we caught a yellow fin tuna, then two, and a third one !

Decent winds took us to the Equator at a good speed.  Great downwind run, and the current helped too.

But the wind then died and we had to motor up between the Equator and the Galapagos.

The Galapagos are definitely worth seeing.  And these islands are a perfect place to rest before sailing on to the Marquesas.

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Hablas Espanol ?

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Inspiration is already pretty much half way to her trip after reaching Panama !  Yet, we have to continue our journey across the Panama canal to reach the Pacific ocean !  Many more miles are to be sailed.

On one hand we feel proud to have sailed 10,000+ nautical miles in 7 months to reach Panama from France via the Mediterranean, the Atlantic ocean and the Caribbean sea.

On the other hand, there is a greater challenge ahead: an attempt to sail across the Pacific ocean, simply the largest body of water on the Planet, to reach either New Zealand or Australia by September 2017.

Navigation was rather rough through the infamous Cabo de la Vela.  Probably some of the worst sailing conditions we had on our trip so far.  But Inspiration did well in these adverse conditions and safely brought the crew on to discover Cartagena de Indias.

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Cartagena features the beautiful Ciudad Vieja, as well as great people food and culture.   So much happened in that city over the centuries.  Was great to learn about History of this part of the Caribbean.

We were told about the Tintipan island, south of Cartagena, and decided to stop by on our way to San Blas islands.

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We met with the Kunas in San Blas who are unbelievable sailors and fishermen.  These islands are truly stunning and need to be protected.  We decided to do intense snorkeling there, despite the presence of sea crocodiles…

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Back to school (boat preparation) in Colon: hull cleaning, rig check, engine maintenance, provisioning, laundry, etc…We hopefully are ready for the Pacific Ocean !

Pirates of the Caribbeans (Episode 2)

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After exploring the Northern part of the Caribbeans up to Antigua, Inspiration sailed back to Saint Lucia and headed South towards Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.   Sailing the Grenadines was truly enjoyable.  Unbelievable colors and and infinite beaches…Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Palm island: looks like we covered it well.

Inspiration then sailed on to Grenada via Carriacou followed by Saint George’s.

Nice passage to Bonaire passing by Los Roques.  Bonaire did not disappoint us when it comes to underwater scenery.  If only we could have identified all the species we saw in these pristine waters!

Short stop in Curacao was enjoyable: little Amsterdam in the Caribbeans I guess.

Inspiration is now moving to South America: next stop is Cartagena.  But that will be another story.

 

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Pirates of the Caribbeans (Episode 1)

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After completing the ARC+2016 in Saint Lucia, Inspiration decided to sail North towards Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe (including Les Saintes and Marie Galante) and Antigua.

Strong winds, heavy seas in the channels and brutal squalls were on the menu during December, but this did not prevent us from enjoying the great landscapes of the islands.

Each of these islands are so close geographically and yet so unique and different from each others.  History is also present everywhere…especially the epic naval battles between the French and the English.

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More to come about our Caribbean sailing as we head South !

 

 

Sailing the Atlantic Islands and Across to the Caribbeans

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SY Inspiration sailed about 4,000 nautical miles from the Azores to reach the Caribbeans via Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.

It felt almost like winter when we left the Azores on October 15th and has to deal with a low pressure system giving us strong winds and disorganized sea state.  Sailing conditions improved as we approached Madeira.  This then was summer again…but not counting on squally weather building just as we were about to leave for a “short”sail to Las Palmas.   Pretty unpleasant passage with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 40 knots.   Oh well, at least we had a few things to repair in Las Palmas…

Preparing the ARC+ 2016 was intense as we had only a week to sort everything out.  But we did it and left Las Palmas on November 12 to sail down to Mindelo, Cape Verde.  1,000 nautical miles down the coast of Mauritania with strong trade winds pushing us.   Great sailing conditions and fast passage !

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Short stop in Mindelo gave us the opportunity to visit the island and get the boat ready to cross the Atlantic to Saint Lucia. 2,100 nautical miles in very inconsistent trade winds.  This was slow, but at least we could enjoy great sunsets !

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Forgot to mention fishing.  Good news is that there are (still) quite a few fishes in the middle of the ocean and they can definitely feed a crew.

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That is it: we are now in the Caribbeans and a new chapter of our sailing adventures can begin !