It Is Not Always Plain Sailing….

While it may look like we are having a fantastic time during covid-19, looks can be deceiving. I will share our last month here in Tahiti.

As we prepared to leave for Fiji, the number of covid-19 cases in French Polynesia, mainly Tahiti had risen to over 1000 a day. The population in French Polynesia is about 280 000, so not particularly big. France has provided the Pfizer vaccine as well as JJ which is readily available, but only 30% of the population have chosen to do it. We did get the vaccine and do everything we can to keep everyone on board safe and also those that we spend time with, its part of being a community.

To go to Fiji we are required to get pre-approval which requires us all to have a covid test, get the results, get approval to visit Fiji from Fiji navy, check out of French Polynesia with immigration and sail away all within 72 hours of having the test, a very tough requirement. So we set off Monday morning to visit our agent in French Polynesia, Tahiti Crew to start the checkout process. After finally completing all of the paperwork, which took a long time we set off on the 5 km walk to a new testing centre which reopened that morning. The main covid testing clinic has been inundated with people getting tested, so much so that the queues were around the corner and down 3 blocks of the center. So the five of us set off and arrived just before 10 am only to discover they had already run out of test kits. We returned to our agent, Tahiti Crew and asked for a suggestion on what to do. Taheni tells us just call Sarah at the main center when you get there and she will take you to get it done. (That would have been useful to have told us prior to the 12 km walk)

The kids are tired and grumpy at this stage and the prospect of another 10 km walk does not thrill anybody. So we decided to catch a taxi which we have been avoiding for the past 18 months because of the covid risk. Arriving at the center we are met with a huge queue as was expected full of sick looking people. Sarah tells us to come straight to the front where we are led to an entrance for well people. It makes sense otherwise you would have covid after waiting 2 hours in a line. The test is done quickly and we return to the boat to wait. And wait. And wait.

Wednesday we had to return to Tahiti Crew to have the border police check us out of the country before returning to the boat to wait some more. Finally we got the results, all negative, back that afternoon (48 hours later after they were done) and sent them off to our Fiji agent. We prepared the boat for a Thursday morning departure while waiting for confirmation from our Fiji agent that it had all been approved and we could leave.

Thursday morning came and we still had not heard from Jo our agent. So we decided to head to Fiji. A couple of hours later we had a verbal confirmation we were good to come but as many of the staff had Covid the paperwork would take another day or two. Things were going great, we were headed on a track to Bora Bora, not to stop but to get a better wind angle. About 6 hours into our trip and Andrew and Tristan started opening and closing things in the cockpit and we all eventually headed upstairs to see what was going on.

Andrew explained to us all that the rudder was making a thumping noise. It was the first time that we had been on this particular tack since before we left Mexico, there was also quite a big swell which was not helping things. The problem being that we could change tack and continue on to Fiji and we might get there fine or the rudder could snap. There is nearly 2000 nm and 15 days ahead of us still and that’s a long way.

Andrew made a call to Tahiti Crew to see if we could possibly turn around and they said as we still had a two days left on our visa it would be fine. We deliberated for another half an hour and decided to turn back. Max and Ava were relieved. We stopped in Moorea at about 10 pm for the night as you can’t get into the Tahiti anchorage after 6 pm and got up at 5 am to go back.

And so starts the next round of paperwork at Tahiti Crew. Andrew had to get a marina to write a letter explaining we would need a month to get new rudder bearings made. We had to get passport photos and fill in paperwork for the high commission to ask for a month visa extension and then we had to go back to the boat to wait. At this stage Tahiti had implemented weekend lockdowns to try to curtail the rising covid infections.

Tuesday we were back to be checked in with the border police, who were not very happy with us. Tahiti Crew raced our paperwork down to the high commission and we were back in the waiting game. Nearly two weeks later we still don’t have a visa extension and official permission to be here in Tahiti.

Returning to the boat Andrew, Tristan and Max dropped the rudder to look at it. Andrew called a good friend Mark Edwards who built his own 50 foot boat who we cruised with in 2012/12 in Asia to ask for advice. Andrew also reached out to Greg Christie who is a shipwright and did the original work on our boat 12 years ago. Luckily New Zealand had just gone in to lockdown and Mark had plenty of time on his hands to help. He gave Andrew advice on things to test on the rudder to try to identify the problem.

Tristan with the rudder before the tests began.

Eventually it was decided after all the tests including Tristan bouncing on the end of the rudder when it was situated like a seesaw that the rudder stock had become detached from the inside of the rudder. Andrew went in search for someone trustworthy with experience in cutting open our rudder to repair it. Interestingly enough after an Australian boat gave them a name of a guy, Nicholas who a New Zealand boat had just used and who we were supposed to be going to Fiji with.

Andrew talked to Nicholas and took our rudder in to get a price to get it repaired. Nicholas said he could do it and it would take a week, so Andrew left it with him. Nicholas kindly sent us updates and photos as the work progressed.

Stage 1 of the rudder:

The rudder cut open.

Stage 2: rudder repairs

Fibre glassing to reinforce the inside of the rudder.

Stage 3: Making the rudder whole again

Fibre glassing the rudder back together again.

Image 1: filling the empty space inside the rudder with new foam. Image 2: Sanding back the new fibre glassing.

The finished rudder!!!!

On the day we took the rudder for repair French Polynesia announced a 17 day lockdown was to start . We spent 4 months in lockdown in Mexico last year where we could only move between our boat and 15 meters of beach. This time the rules in Tahiti said no beach, snorkelling or water sports allowed. If you want to leave the boat you have to complete the mandatory paperwork with one of four reasons as to why you are out and about. There moving your boat, no inter-island travel and you are allowed to exercise for one hour within 1 km of your home with the necessary paperwork. Lockdown is hard on anyone, on a 15 meter boat of which there is about 5 meters of walking space it can be miserable. We are about 5 nm from shore where we are anchored. Needless to say the kids have been off once to help bring the rudder back to the boat and Andrew and I have had to trips to the shops for food.

This morning 9 days later we got our rudder!!!!!!!! After a couple of hours of Tristan in the water getting the rudder back in its spot and Max & Andrew doing stuff to it we have it installed.

Max with the rudder after getting it back to the boat.

Getting the rudder back in the water.

The spot where the rudder post had to go back into the boat.

We are ready to go to Fiji! Unfortunately we are waiting on Tahiti Crew to find out if the police will allow us to go as they haven’t completed our inward paperwork yet and if Fiji will require us to go through the whole covid testing again. But we are ready and anxious to get out of here.

Controller’s Bay and a Hike to Tiki Paeke – 22/5/2021

After a quick top-up of baguettes and fresh fruit and vegetables, we finally left Taiohae behind and headed for Controllers Bay.  We anchored off the second lobe of the three in the bay before heading ashore.  Tristan, Andrew, and I decided to explore the town while it was high tide and went up the river for a walk. 

The view as you dinghy up the river.

The village of Taipivai is set in the lush valley of Taipivai which was once home to a formidable and feared tripe called Taipi.  When Merman Melville, the author of Moby Dick jumped ship off a whaling boat, he became a voluntary prisoner of the tribe for 4 weeks.  At the time of him imprisonment the tribe was known to have been cannibals, but Melville was well looked after during his stay and would later write the novel Typee about his experiences there.

We did not see any formidable tribe members only a quiet sleepy town, with the occasional passing car and one local collecting mangoes from his tree, the only other visible inhabitants were the four-legged variety: horses and dogs.  We did see a site with tikis and pae pae but the entrance gates were securely locked.  After looking at all the fruiting trees, noni, bananas, Pamplemousses, lemons and limes we returned to the boat.

By the time we had finished lunch we were radioed by Distant Star with a weather report of unfavourable winds in the coming days.  We decided to do the hike to the waterfall and tikis in the afternoon so that we were ready to head to Anaho Bay in the morning before conditions worsened.  We decided to risk it and go upriver even though the tide would be changing. It was a challenging river entrance with the tide and current, but we eventually docked the dinghies and were ready for the hike, except the tour guide (me) left her phone, with the map for the hike behind on the charger, failure number 1!

Distance Star brave the surf and outgoing tide to go up the river.

We bumped into Charisma and Alexis, Seth, Klein, and Leif joined us for our hike to the waterfall.  We figured how hard could it be to find, both sites are off the main road. The teen boys took it in turns of giving Leif a piggyback ride on the hike.  After 30 minutes walking on a slight incline, I flagged a passing local car for the waterfall and tiki directions.  The waterfall is straight ahead, and the tiki site was at his house, which we had already passed.  Mmmm what to do?

View of the valley on our hike

I flagged the next passing car, and we were told the waterfall was a 4-hour hike.  We quickly realised that Andrew and I wouldn’t make it, and neither would Leif (3 years old) or Kline (6 years old).  So, we inquired about the Tiki site and were told to go back 500 metres and look for the yellow house and it was an hour uphill.

We found the correct driveway and after asking a few of the neighbours we found the very overgrown pathway.  It was a bit of a hike uphill but nothing like the hike up to the observation point we had done two days previous.  Ashe and Kahlil led the way and found the overgrown tiki site.

The site dates to the 16th century and consists of several platforms and is home to a few largish tikis. The tikis have suffered years of erosion and their features are somewhat ambiguous. The Paeke Me’ae was excavated and restored in the 1950s by American archaeologists, to extract the ruins from the forest.  The path does not look like it is used very often and the site itself was very overgrown with grass.

Most of our group at the bottom platform

I had recalled that there were at least three platforms however we could only see two.  The first platform is on your left as you enter the site and is surrounded by several deteriorating tikis.  We took a few photos and some of the teens went to look at the mango tree while the rest explored the site further.

The teens exploring the bottom terrace or recovering from the hike uphill.

On the right-hand side are two joined upper platforms, the terraces are slowly collapsing at the edges.  There are three tikis embedded in the walls, one of which is missing its head and the other two remain standing sentries amongst the walls. 

Ashe and Leif as we explored the 2nd and 3rd platforms of the site.

This prompted part of our group (Ashe, Ilo, Alexis and Klein) to go in search for the fourth platform.  While waiting down lower the kids plucked a couple of mangoes from the tree on the site to eat and entertained themselves.  Finally, Ilo returned and when asked where the others were, he replied he traded the women and children with the cannibals (known to have inhabited the island a long time ago) which provided much amusement.  Eventually, everyone reunited with the platform still unaccounted for.  Now that I have my phone, I realise that the fourth platform was in fact the slope of the mountain.  Mmm, I guess that phone would have been handy after all.

Andrew among the tikis.

The kids had well and truly grown tired of the site and we started heading downhill.  Within a few minutes of leaving the site, there was a huge thud behind me.  I turned around and took a few minutes to comprehend what had happened.  Ilo had been hit on the head by a coconut which had fallen from an extremely tall coconut tree and the thud was it hitting his head.  I am still not sure how he was still standing.  Everyone promptly asked if he was okay and were told it wasn’t that heavy.  Ilo picked up the coconut and I held it, it felt plenty heavy to me and falling from that height I think he was a very lucky person.  A lot of teenage male pride entered and Ilo insisted to his very worried mum that he was okay and set off downhill.  Ilo bravely carried on and hid how painful the incident was.  It is very easy to understand how people have died from incidents like that.  I will admit I would not have been as calm or been able to carry on like he did.  Just to reassure you, he is okay.  He did have blurry vision, had a headache, and couldn’t remember exactly how he got back but he is okay.  Ilo is one tough teen! (Wild boy Ilo)

Ilo with the offending coconut

Just to finish of the trip, they say things happen in threes, well it is true.  It turns out that it is true that you can only go up the river during high tide.  Our return trip meant we did get stuck on the bottom, multiple times and did involve us all disembarking and pulling the dinghy at one point, and Alexis did suggest I should get a photo, in between her laughter at the situation.  We finally reached the entrance to the river where everyone went ashore and Tristan and Max rowed our dinghy, Luka rowed Distance Star and Chris and some local kids moved Charisma through the entrance and then it was all hands-on as we had to manoeuvre dinghies through the surf to return to our boats.

Everyone scrambling to remove the shoes to help push the dinghy over the shallows. Tristan and Max rowed the dinghy to the river mouth.

I guess you cannot say sailing is not an adventure!

Here is an interesting fact on the Marquesas.  It is believed that the Marquesas had a population of about 80 000 prior to the arrival on Europeans.  By 1926 the population had been ravaged by European diseases and only 2 094 survived, 9 of which inhabited the Taipivai valley we just visited.

Do I recommend the hike and anchorage?  The anchorage does have two taps to get fresh water, and it is a calm anchorage compared to Taiohae.  It has several small magasins (supermarkets) and as long as you go up the river to the dock during high tide you should be alright.  However, if you are on a 3-month visa to French Polynesia I would probably skip this bay.  The hike was okay, but the archaeological site wasn’t in the best shape and the trail is not well maintained, but part of the charm is in managing to find it.

Nuku Hiva

Passage and Arrival

Why are we choosing to cross the Pacific during COVID-19? There is a list of reasons the most important being its our only choice. Australia’s restriction of 15 people per flight – and at a cost of $8000 pp and up – has made it impossible to get back without sailing.  The world is heading to requiring vaccines to be able to travel which is not available in Mexico for Australians. Combined with the risk of catching Covid in Mexico with our pre-existing conditions, we made the decision to go.

We left Tenacatita, Mexico on April 13th with the prospect of light winds ahead. Why did we leave with that kind of forecast, you may ask? We didn’t have a lot of choice. We obtained our approval to go to French Polynesia back in December and since then the rules have changed considerably to the point that if you don’t make your dates within 7 days you have to reapply.  To avoid not being able to go to French Polynesia, we had to go.

This is the one passage we have really not been looking forward to in 11 years, with just the sheer length of what was awaiting ahead. We have successfully managed to find islands to stop at across our other ocean passages so that we had only spent 8 days at sea at a time. Unfortunately, this time the closest island is 2 800 nm away. 

The passage was boring and involved constant sail adjustments and/or course adjustments, lots of sail slapping due to the light winds and motoring at very low revs (we used 2.2 litres an hour of fuel we usually motor much faster and use a lot more diesel) As we approached the doldrums there were squalls, rain and lightning. Fun!

We have heard from friends who have done this journey, how great the fishing was, so we had very high expectations. Andrew and Tristan did catch three small tuna, but compared to our Indian Ocean crossing where we caught so many yellow fin tunas it was disappointing. We did see fishing boats and one got quite close, even though we were 9 days into our passage.  It looks like the Pacific Ocean has been overfished.

So, what did we do during the passage? Not school. We baked and cooked, everyone participated, and we ate really well, Max managed to gain 3 kg during the passage, but he is so skinny you would never know.  I read a lot, the kids watched movies, read, played computer games, and wrote. 

The single best entertainment for the kids though was the emails they received on the satellite phone. There was always so much excitement when the phone was checked as to see whom had received emails.  Heidi, Lucy, and Sally (Love and Luck) and Riley and Ada (Arena) emailed the kids daily sometimes several times a day sharing what was going on in their lives, providing encouragement and motivation. Likewise, I received many emails from Julie. So, a big thank you Love and Luck and Arena girls for all your emails, we will be there encouraging you guys along next year when you go across the Pacific.

We were travelling with Distance Star during the passage, so for a lot of the trip we were within radio contact and spoke several times a day to discuss weather, our route or just general chit chat.  When we didn’t have radio contact, we used the Iridium to message with each other. It was great to have someone so nearby, especially during the doldrums with the squalls.

The most excitement during the passage was when we had a booby sit on the bow of the boat.  He stayed with us for a few days and was named Bobby by Ava and Tristan. It would occasionally fly off, I assume to fish, but always came back. Even with rough seas Bobby stayed on. Eventually, by about day 12, Bobby decided to stretch his wings and go. Tristan was very disappointed not to have something to look at during his watches.

We finally got in on the 4th of May into Taiohae just before midnight and there were about 10 mast lights visible, it was a bit of a shock when we woke up to find about 40 boats in the anchorage. I guess not everyone bothers with their lights.

The rule for boats arriving in French Polynesia during COVID-19 is that if there is 5 or more people on board you must quarantine for 14 days or get a COVID-19 test. We had discussed the COVID-19 test option throughout the passage and for us it would cost about $1300 AU so we weren’t sure if we were going to do it or not.  As it happened on our first day there were two other boats that had nursing staff coming to their boats for the COVID-19 test and we decided we would do it too. Kevin, from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, thought we would get the results either on Friday or Monday. The negative results finally came in on Tuesday morning and then it had to go to another government department for approval before we were finally free to leave the boat on Wednesday afternoon after 8 days in quarantine. Was it worth the covid-19 test? Yes, the last 24 hours we were all grumpy and desperate to get off the boat. As I’m writing this on April 19th Distance Star have just finished their 14 days quarantine having missed getting a Covid-19 test by a couple of hours and I know how hard that quarantine was for those guys.

Our first 12 days in Taioa bay involved many sleepless nights, the bay has been rocky like La Cruz in Mexico. Thankfully, the last couple of days the anchorage has been flat, and we have been able to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Our first thought on arriving is ‘green’ after being in Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, for two years in the desert surrounded by brown. It is so nice to see green everywhere.

A huge thank you to Andrew who did a fantastic job ensuring we got there safely.  Also to Tristan, Max and Ava who changed the sails, did watches and helped with the cooking.  Stay tuned as we explore the Marquesas! 

This is the world’s largest Tiki, some also say the ugliest. Yes Tristan’s beard is new and Heidi and I are trying to convince him to shave it off.

Prom 28/2/2021

How did the Prom idea come about? Well living on a boat and being home-schooled, especially during Covid-19 means that you miss out on special events like Prom and it was something Heidi was a little disappointed about. So the kids came up with the idea of having their own prom. I will admit I was somewhat reluctant with the idea because it seemed like a lot of work and money to create prom dresses, fortunately, the material is pretty cheap in Mexico and we had plenty of time to create dresses. What we didn’t have or what we couldn’t find was patterns to create the dresses. Believe it or not, all four dresses came from the same pattern cut from one of Heidi’s dresses. The girls did find photos of prom dresses and Julie and I adapted the pattern we had to make them work. I was somewhat lucky as I have only one girl, so I had only one dress that had to be created, Julie had a far greater challenge in creating three unique dresses. I’m very proud of all the kids for their creativity and persistence to create their dresses, ties, and corsages. We have had quite a few fun afternoons filled with laughter while working on their dresses.


By around 5:30 pm, we all met up on Love and Luck. We brought over sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches, both of which, Willie, Love and Luck’s dog tasted, when no one was looking. Within 10 minutes of the boys arriving, we were posing for professional-looking pictures. We posed for pictures on the bow of Love and Luck and when the sun had descended slightly and the tourist boats had departed the island, we snuck onto the dock for a few more photos.

When the photos were finally completed, we returned to Love and Luck and enjoyed a wonderful pasta dish for dinner. After dinner, we went to the bow of Love and Luck, where Julie had set up some coloured lights and blasted music loudly (or as loud as the little speaker would go) out playing a motor boat that had similar music. We danced, played games and posed for silly pictures throughout the night, leaving at near to midnight. Thus ended the wonderful prom night.

The always talented, smart, and kind girls off Love and Luck; Heid, Lucy, and Sally who looked stunning in their creations.


We had planned to do a prom maybe two-ish months ago and bought the material from a fabric store in La Paz after the girls and I discussed the style and colour dresses we wanted. Throughout the next two months, mum and I worked on my dress and we would go over to Love and Luck occasionally to see how the girls were doing.

We were all so excited for prom. We’d planned out our make-up, our nails, our hair. And when I went over to get ready there was a bit of a rush, but it was a lot of fun. I’ll admit we all panicked a bit when the time came for us to all take photos.

Thankfully mum was there to be our personal photographer to take our awesome, pretty, and silly pictures. I had such a lovely evening with all my prom dates (Lucy, Sally, and Max), what with all the dancing and singing and squealing. There’s no one I would have rather stayed up till nearly midnight tripping, spilling food, waltzing, and doing karaoke with.

This fun loving group of girls looked beautiful!

Some family photos. Ava was very pleased with her dress.

We have been so fortunate to have travelled with this amazing family for the past two years.


I’d been instructed by the girls to wear a skinny tie, so that was the first step for prom, for me. That, combined with a new, respectable haircut courtesy of Lucy, a sunflower boutonniere from Heidi, some tie-tying lessons from Dad, a button-down shirt, and my Vans, I was feeling pretty spiffy. Everyone looked so amazing and had worked very hard on their dresses and ties. After several poses on the bow of Love and Luck, I drove all of the kids (including Mum) to shore to take photos on the jetty. With corona still rampant in Mexico, we had to wait until everybody had left the beach for the day before we could get some mask-less pictures, in the soft light thanks to Mum’s keen eye.

Tristan and Heidi. The necklace that Heidi wore is actually Julie’s and she wore it to her prom with Mark, how cool is that.

We returned to the boat and had a little trouble when Lucy took an accidental swim climbing back into the boat, though she handled it like a trooper. Dinner was followed by dancing on the deck under colourful lights to BTS, Shawn Mendes, and Black Pink. I spent most of the time slow-dancing with my girlfriend and good bud Heidi, and everybody there had lots of fun dancing, singing loudly, and chatting away. It wasn’t until half-past eleven that Mum and Dad finally dragged us away.

Most teens faced with falling in the water in their prom dress that they spent weeks making would be devastated and their night ruined. Not Lucy, she continued smiling, no tears, and went and changed into another dress and enjoyed the rest of her evening.

I thought I would end the post on a funny note, they say you should never work with kids or animals, in this case, the kids (teens) were great, it was poor Willie who was another matter. When people left the room or fell in the water, Willie used the distraction to steal the finger food, not only that but he also decided to pee whilst we were in the middle of taking the photos, he did look suitably embarrassed when everyone burst out laughing. It was a little hard to find privacy with 10 people everywhere, wasn’t it Willie.

Shipwrecks and Seahorses – January 2021

After a few days in Barra de Navidad, we ventured further south to Santiago Bay just north of Manzillo, Mexico’s largest port. Shortly after leaving Barra, while Andrew and Tristan eagerly watched the playful humpback whales, they spotted an equally interesting shipwreck, ‘Los Llanitos.’

It looks somewhat smaller in the photo compared to seeing it first-hand

Los Llanitos ran aground on Punta Graham on the 23rd of October 2015, when caught in 165 mph winds during the category 5 hurricane Patricia. The 223-metre bulk carrier was carrying over 11,000 litres of oil and diesel, which have since been salvaged. While the ship was lost, the 27 crew members were rescued by helicopter, all escaping uninjured. The shipwreck has since split in two and its fate remains undecided; initial plans to refloat and scuttle the boat in a nearby location have been abandoned.

I was particularly keen to visit Santiago Bay as it has a large shipwreck, the ‘San Luciano‘ in relatively shallow water. It turns out that this shipwreck has an interesting and long history. Initial research led me to believe it sunk in a hurricane in 1959 but in fact, she actually hit submerged rocks in 1965.

The San Luciano, formerly known as Argyll, was constructed in England in 1892 as a dry cargo ship powered by coal and was later converted to an oil tanker with a capacity to hold 30,000 barrels of oil in 1903. In 1920, she was transferred to the Compagnie du Boleo of Paris, which, interestingly enough, is the same company that established the mine and town of Santa Rosalia, which I wrote a post on back in October. While the boat was registered in Panama, the crew and home port was Santa Rosalia and it was at this time the boat was renamed San Luciano. She was sold in 1955 to Compañía Minera de Santa Rosalia, of Mexico City, and converted to a dry-cargo carrier. She transported manganese ore and some copper ore to smelters in Tacoma, Washington and returned with shipments of bricks, oil and lumber.

This is a photo of the Argyll before its conversion to an oil tanker. Photo courtesy of Aquatic Sports Adventure

It was on August 6, 1965, that San Luciano hit a submerged rock at Punta Hermanos, Tenacatita, about 60 km from Manzanillo. There was damage to the bow and rocks tore into the forward cargo holds, flooding the engine room’s bulkhead. Fast thinking by the Captain, Romero Ortiz, enabled the vessel to continue to sail to Manzanillo by flooding the rear ballast tanks to balance the vessel. The ship then anchored in Santiago Bay where a diver determined that there was too much damage to repair and she was sold to a scrap salvage operation.

While some might consider her fate terrible, at the time she was the oldest active steamship on the Pacific Coast and for over 50 years she has continued life mostly below the water where swimmers, snorkellers, and divers can explore not only the shipwreck but also the many sea creatures (octopuses, eels, fish, seahorses, turtles, nudibranchs, shrimp, pufferfish and boxfish) which call her home.

Photo of the San Luciano after the conversion when its masts were removed, courtesy of Manzillo Sun
A very cool aerial photo that really gives you perspective on how big the wreck is. Photo courtesy of Aquatic Sports Adventure

I’m going to start by thanking Tristan for not only diving with me but letting me incorporate some of the photos he has taken into the blog.

Shipwreck Dive 1 – 28/1/2021

Tristan and I did our first dive in 3 years; I can’t believe it has been 3 years since we were in Bonaire. Normally everything you want to see in Mexico is in shallow water, so we just snorkel, but after having read that there are seahorses sometimes seen on the wreck we were keen to be able to stay down longer and find one.

Tristan snapping a selfie of the two of us

Along the side of the wreck, there are openings where the metal has broken away allowing you to find passage into it. We entered one of the gaps and immediately spotted a large wheel, not the steering wheel. Just behind the wheel was a turtle, not sure what type it was but Tristan, camera in hand, went after it. I turned my head and in my peripheral spotted a seahorse, I had to do a double take because I couldn’t believe it and yes it was still there and still a seahorse. I tried shouting at Tristan to no avail and eventually swam after him and grabbed his leg and redirected him to the seahorse. It was so amazing. We had made a goal a couple of days ago that this year we would find a seahorse and lo and behold it is there.

So the seahorse turned out to be very shy and when Tristan approached with the camera she turned his back on him or turned her head away or would tuck her head in. Eventually, after 20 or so snaps Tristan went off looking elsewhere, and I snagged the camera. I sat at the bottom watching the seahorse and snapping away. She eventually got bored with my intrusion and released the piece of coral she held with her tail, drifted a couple of feet, and then re-hooked her tail. She did this a couple of times moving further away.

Here are a few of my favourite seahorse photos that I took today. Tristan and I are pretty sure this seahorse is actually female because it has a high coronet

Tristan, Andrew and I have been fortunate to see a yellow seahorse on a PADI dive in Thailand about 7 years ago, but pointed out by an instructor who visited it daily, so this was pretty exciting to find it ourselves. Funnily enough both Tristan and I had dreamed of seahorses the night before; premonition?

Tristan, with his super eyesight, spotted many nudibranchs, including a few he hasn’t seen before. It amazes me that he can find nudibranchs, some of them less than 1/2 cm long, especially when the water isn’t the clearest, but he does it.

These two photos were taken by Tristan of a sea slug, certainly prettier than your ordinary garden slug, its scientific name is Felimida baumann.

This cute little guy was actually large enough that when Tristan pointed it out and photographed it, even I could see it. It’s called an Agassiz’s Nudibranch

These two were photographed by Tristan, the first one is a pale anemone and the second is a commonly and easily found nudibranch called a red-tipped sea goddess.

The wreck has so many pufferfish and boxfish swimming openly and hanging out in groups under ledges of the wreck. There are different types of soft corals and worms. The dive was only 7 meters at the deepest, so we were able to stay down over an hour.

Here are a couple of long spine pufferfish that Tristan photographed during our dive

Shipwreck Dive 2 – 29/1/2020

We enjoyed the dive so much yesterday that we went again today; Andrew came along for a while too. Our dive began in search of Sammy the Seahorse where we last saw her, but alas she was nowhere to be seen. We continued around the wreck, where Tristan spotted quite a few nudibranchs, a couple that was new. Lots of pufferfish around and they are a little fugly (I thought this meant funny ugly, but my family has since informed me that that is NOT what fugly means. I’ll stick with my meaning though). They always look like they are smiling. I did see the biggest one I have ever seen about 75 cm.

Towards the end of our dive I convinced Tristan to go back to the seahorse spot and while I found either a sink or a toilet covered in coral and growth, Tristan found Sammy. She had moved deeper into the wreck and had wrapped her tail around one of the pipes. After Tristan had snapped some photos I got down onto the sand and snapped a few, but won’t bore you too much, I’ve selected my best three.

It turns out they are quite shy, and it is very difficult to get them to face you, isn’t she beautiful!

In yesterday’s photos you couldn’t see her variegated colour because we couldn’t see her tail properly, but today we could see clearly the reddish tail and orange body.

Sammy Seahorse is a Pacific Seahorse, also known as the giant seahorse or its scientific name is Hippocampus ingen. This seahorse inhabits coastal waters to a depth of 60 meters in calm waters on the western Pacific Coast from Peru to the Galápagos Islands to southern California. Their colour varies and includes red, orange, brown, yellow, green, and gold. Their size varies from 12 cm to 18 cm but has been found up to 30 cm long. I think we all know that males carry the babies in a pouch, but did you know they can carry up to 2000 eggs, of which only about 1% make it to adulthood?

This little nudibranch (sea slug) is tiny, about 0.75 cm, I couldn’t see it even with Tristan pointing it out as he photographed it. This one’s scientific name is Coryphellina marcusorum.

A few more of Tristan’s eclectic collection of underwater photos include a Christmas tree worm, jewelled eel, arrow crab, and the cute little goby.

Dive with the VanNinis

After our morning dive, Andrew refilled the tanks and then Tristan took Mark, Heidi and Sally for a dive on the wreck. Apparently the water clarity was appalling, but they were able to find the seahorse from the morning dive. Tristan also got a few cool nudibranch photos.

Tristan’s selfie of Heidi and himself.

The blue and orange guy is an Agassiz’s Nudibranch and the red and orange one is called a Felimida sphoni

Dive 3 – 31/1/2021

Tristan and I went out for another dive; this time we decided to swim along the top of the wreck and descend into some gaps in the deck. We spent a good 25 minutes not seeing a lot and while the water clarity wasn’t great, it was better than our last dive.

Tristan leading us into one of the many rooms throughout the ship

I followed Tristan down a corridor only to have me tell me to go back, which I did. I then proceeded to wait and wait for him, thinking I must have missed him, so I went back and looked down the corridor and couldn’t see him.

While waiting, I did see the largest nudibranch I have ever seen, probably about 7 cm, unfortunately, no camera to capture the moment. Finally, Tristan tugs my flipper gesticulating madly to go to the surface (6 meters up) as we ascend I’m frantically searching for sharks. Turns out as he had been turning around in the corridor he spotted an octopus and while he was photographing it another dived on it and was wrestling, luckily he captured it on video, unfortunately, I missed it. Tristan took me back to where he had seen the wrestling match, and we saw the original octopus curled in a ball.

Tristan excitedly photographed this octopus prior to a smaller one attacking it. Great pics!

Of course, when I took Tristan back to see my find of the giant nudibranch it was gone, which I found amazing since it was so big. Somehow the giant had managed to end up on the ground where Tristan then diligently photographed it.

Tristan’s fantastic video of the wrestling octopuses

This guy is enormous, well at least I thought so, Tristan said he has seen bigger. I would say it was about 7 cm long.

Near the nudibranch the wreck had ball sized holes in one of its walls, on close inspection we discovered different critters curled up in there, one of which was an octopus.

Tristan is fantastic with his close up photography, which can be a little creepy at times, especially when you realise the photo on the left is the octopus’s eye.

It was my turn for the camera and I used it to photograph some of the wreck which I keep forgetting to do. It is amazing how much of the wreck remains, there are ladders scattered throughout the rooms. Near where we have seen the seahorse is either a toilet or a sink, which do you think? Its a pretty cool wreck.

Toilet or sink, what do you think?

Tristan diving through the gaps in the wreck, ladders, and a wheel.

We fortunately got to see Sammy again today, spotted by Tristan about 10 meters away from her original location. For most of the time she hung upside down probably wishing we would go away.

Our little seahorse friend spent most of her time upside down, swaying with the current.

This photo was taken by Tristan; he likes to call the little white dots on her face freckles.
Seahorse seen on the San Luciano on the 31/1/2021

Dive 4

Happy 20th Birthday to our second eldest, Tristan.  He unfortunately didn’t get a lazy day sleeping in as we had another dive planned. 

We swam from the dinghy to the wreck where we approached a rather large heron sitting on a section of the wreck protruding from the water, he was unperturbed by us and casually watched as we descended. 

The Mexican tourist industry is alive during Covid-19 as can be seen by all the palapas, tables and chairs on the beach front.

We went to where we had seen the seahorse before, and I went in search for our friend, while Tristan looked for octopus.  I quickly located the seahorse, but have come to the conclusion that it is in fact a different one to the original one we saw, as it is much smaller.  I happily sat there snapping photos when I glanced at a piece of rope swinging nearby and noticed another seahorse.  The new seahorse completely camouflaged with its surroundings and looked a little greenish.  See if you can spot him.

A smaller female seahorse. The third photos is as she floats away.

I raced off to find Tristan who grabbed the camera to snap some photos of an octopus in a hole while I’m frantically holding up 2 fingers (and not in a rude way) trying to get him going in my direction.  Eventually he came and while I was snapping photos of the new seahorse I was able to get a few of Tristan looking at the smaller orange one.

Shooting directly into the light never ends well, but can you spot him?

The new one quickly grew bored and simply let go of the rope and relocated to a new spot where I sat and watched him.  We are pretty sure it is a ‘he’ as he has the pouch in the front and smaller coronet.  The pouch looked very full so perhaps he is carrying babies.

Doesn’t he camouflage well?

His bulging belly is very easy to see.

Eventually he moved on with me tailing him and although the photos of his travels are not great you can kind of see how he just floats with occasional tail movements until he reaches back to his rope.  To my surprise the orange seahorse was on the rope when he arrived and although the video is not great quality due to the direction of the light and low visibility in the water, it’s still pretty neat.  She didn’t stay long and quickly left him behind.

Photo 1: And he lets go. Photo 2: He rounds the corner. Photo 3: Traffic jam, near collision between the fish and the seahorse.

The two seahorses swinging on the rope in the current.

We pretty much spent our time with the seahorses and Tristan looking for nudibranchs.  Eventually my air was low so I went up.  Tristan followed the side of the ship back to the bow where he found another seahorse, which was a paler orange.

Pale Pacific Seahorse photographed by Tristan

It was a fantastic dive and I will admit we had been a bit sceptical whether other dive reports of 1 – 5 seahorses were correct.  I kinda thought they maybe have been swimming in circles and seeing the same one, but we have seen four different ones.  It makes me happy knowing there is more than one.

Tristan led all the kids for a snorkel on the wreck in the afternoon and found our male seahorse friend before everyone came back to our boat for birthday cake.  We went with the whole theme and the cake had a seahorse and nudibranchs, I think Tristan was pretty pleased. Max finished the day off by cooking potstickers and orange chicken for dinner.

The teens wore their newly tie-dyed t-shirts for the occasion.

I’m actually a little sad to leave tomorrow, seeing the seahorses each time we have dived has been amazing!!