Saturday, 29 September 2007


It has been a year since Sally, my beautiful sister died. A year that still feels like yesterday, where every detail is remembered & remains so very painful & sad. We were a typical family; normal ups & downs, happy times & disagreements!! The three Roberts sisters who would stick together at school but argue like crazy at home!! Now it is different. Sally’s death has left a huge gap for each of us.

It was a hard decision to leave my family in January & it’s continued to be hard. So many times I have wanted to fly home for a hug or to give support to Mum, Dad & Gil. Inquest hearings in Kenya always seem to occur during passages at sea so awaiting news has been difficult. It’s been a really tough time as those of you close to the family are well aware. At times I know I’ve had it slightly easier, having escaped many of the painful processes at home but its also been so very, very hard not having my family close by & not always having the ability to call home when I have felt so incredibly homesick & sad.

I cannot thank my parents & Gil enough for the unfaltering & continuing support. They have encouraged me through both the happy & difficult times, didn’t mind if I called during the middle of the night & I suspect, have played down the tough circumstances at home. There have been moments when I wonder why I’m putting them through the extra worry & heartache. I know they are proud of me & trust Bobby to keep me safe. Bobby has kept his promise to them & kept me out of harm's way. He too has been incredible, providing me with the strongest of hugs during the low times & quietly understanding when I can’t sleep though the sad memories. I wouldn’t have made it this far from home without any of them.

It’s been a hard year for so many reasons but most of all I just miss my sister & wish so many things could have been different. I remember you Sally Clare Roberts with both smiles & tears. You would be happy to see my hair long - it always maddened you when I cut it! & I smile to myself knowing you would be mortified that the only make up I now own is mascara & even worse, it’s only been worn a handful of times! Your love for children always shone through. You had such big plans to return & assist the Kenyan school you visited shortly before you died. You would be so very proud of what is being achieved at the school in your memory & how they have benefited from so many peoples generosity. You would have teased Dad, researching the water project without the use of his “Which!” guides, but you would be so proud of him for ensuring the most reliable drinking water system is put in place for the children.

It sure is tough without you here & although a year has past, it hasn’t made it any easier. x

Friday, 28 September 2007


We have been thoroughly enjoying our time in the Kingdom of Tonga. As always time is our enemy & therefore decided to concentrate on exploring only the Vava’u Group of islands in northern Tonga. We are surrounded by islands, all within a days sail. Oh yes day sailing has made a come back & I’m loving it! Long passages at sea have been replaced by half a days sailing accompanied by a gin & tonic! It’s not just me that likes this area, our friendly humpback whales swim & play in these waters with their calves - although nothing will beat our experience back in Palmerston.

With the rush to make it to Australia before cyclone season still very much in the forefront of our minds we were unable to totally relax until Bobby made the decision to weather out the winds in Fiji. It’s not as bad as it sounds, yes Fiji is still very much in the cyclone area but he has booked Barraveigh into a marina which has taken measures to protect the boats should a hurricane come their way. The best bit of this decision (in my opinion!) is we only have one four day passage left to complete until our final destination for this season!! The down side is saying goodbye to all our friends with whom we have spent the last 6 months exploring island chains in the South Pacific. Most boats are heading to New Zealand & Australia for cyclone season.

With the brakes firmly & time now our friend we have unwound & taking our time to get to know Tonga’s beautiful islands.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Thank you all for your amazing emails after the “4 days of hell & 24 hours of even worse”. I especially loved the ones from family members telling me to fly home now! ; ) To put you all at ease a little, many fellow cruisers who are about to complete their circumnavigation have all said the trip from Bora Bora has been the worst they have experienced, it can only get better from here!

Your support & concerns mean a great deal. It is a real pick me up to log on & have such lovely messages, especially recently when the passages have been tough or if I’m feeling a little home sick. Sincere apologises if I haven’t replied or send a group email but it’s hard to keep on top of the emails - internet connections are pretty limited in the South Pacific & horrendously slow!

Hope to see as many of you as possible when I return home for a visit in December. Yep I’m coming home for a hot bath & to curl up on the sofa...& of course a few cocktails! ; )
We have arrived in Tonga after a 2 day passage during which we crossed the international dateline. Saturday 8th September 2007 never existed for us…..I’m lucky it wasn’t the 21st September (my birthday in case anyone had forgotten!).

Niue "the rock"

Our 2 day sail to Niue wasn’t as bad as the previous trip but hey nothing can be that bad! The seas were still pretty big & it was an uncomfortable trip. Heartbreaking to arrive at night & have to sail in circles awaiting sunrise to head into the anchorage!

Niue was discovered by Captain Cook in 1774. It is a coral island with limestone rising steeply out of the sea at over 30 meters. It is a diver’s playground with numerous caverns, caves, arches, chimneys. Teamed with the crystal clear waters & amazing visibility to 70 meters other divers couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately the injury prone Bobby managed to get a badly infected insect bite that just grew & grew. He was treated by a doctor & fellow yachtie but it got so bad Bobby eventually headed to the islands hospital. They cut it open so it was now a huge crater, prescribed huge antibiotics & told him to remain out of the water. Not an easy request to follow when you live on a boat! & diving was a definite no, no!

Luckily there was plenty to explore around the island. Bobby patiently sat watching whilst I snorkelled in the various breathtaking spots around the island. Despite having no yachts Niue had a small Yacht Club, everyone’s social meeting place with the huge plus that served the best ice cream I have had since my last pot of Ben & Jerrys in England! As always the people here were friendly & inviting, they couldn’t do enough to help. With no buses on the island hitchhiking was the only option. The local people would go out of their way to take us to where we needed to go even if wasn’t where they were heading.

We waited out a bad weather front with help from another boats DVD collection & continued to tune into the South Pacific Net on the SSB (boats under sail check in twice a day giving their location & weather conditions on the radio). s/v Journey lost her head stay in the terrible conditions & was getting hit by huge waves. They were concerned her mast would come down & would therefore not be able to use the radio to call for assistance. Bobby & I woke through the night checking in with them on the hour, recording their position in case the worst should happen, updating them on weather & the layout of the anchorage. We knew what it was like to be out there & wanted to do all we could to help. Cruisers never fail to rise to the challenge to help each other even if they have never met & I still get a lump in my throat each time.

a "whale" of a time

Our friendly whale that welcomed us to Palmerston remained in the anchorage. She spent the following night next to our boat. Whales sleep on the surface which is why it is so easy to run into them when you are at sea. She slept soundly whilst less than a meter from Barraveigh, who from underneath looks very much like a whale herself! We sat on deck in the early hours of the morning watching her & hoping that she would move away. She slowly floated to the bow at which point we got nervous. She could easily break the chain or pull our anchor (which was wedged on a coral shelf) causing us to drift. At this point Bobby begun speaking “whale” to her, think Doris from Nemo – it was hard to keep a straight face!! As she completed her circle around the boat she lightly bumped us, causing her to startle & dive…only minor issue, it was right next to the rudder, one touch by a huge humpback whale could be disaster. We held our breath until she reappeared & swam away.

But wait it gets better! She continued to hang around the anchorage remaining on the surface the majority of the time. We soon found out why as we quietly dropped into the water next to her. Our friendly whale was pregnant & it seemed she was in labour. She was curious & swam closer, checking us out. We stood our ground, remaining totally still, concerned that if we moved she would see us as a threat. We were within touching distance. It is the most incredible experience, a once in a lifetime. So breathtaking it is hard to put into words, all I can say is check out the photos.

“Our whale” gave birth to her calf in the anchorage during the night. She took a victory lap around boats to show us yachties her baby. We all stood on deck clapping & cheering.

Palmerston Atoll

We were awoken from our deep sleep by an unrecognisable noise. Looking out of the bedroom port hole a humpback whale (3 meters from the boat) was giving us a personal welcome to Palmerston! This place was going to be magical.Unable to leave the boat until we were checked by customs & immigration we set to work on making repairs & putting the boat back into order.

Palmerston has a unique history. William Masters (an English guy) settled on the deserted island with 3 wives from the local islands with whom he had 26 children. The island is divided into 3 sections for the 3 families, they even have 3 separate graveyards!

In 2007 the island remains occupied by only the Masters Family. 68 family members live on the island & many more are living on nearby islands & in New Zealand. There are strict rules regarding intermarriage but there were more stutters & squint eyes than is average amongst 68 people.

It really is an amazing place & takes a while to get your head around the fact that everyone is related, sometimes even twice. Can any of you imagine living on an island with only your extended families?? An island for the Roberts Family…..members of the extended Roberts family I will leave it up to you to decide if it would be a good thing or not!! ; )

The different families compete to “host” you. We will admit to being sceptical, wondering what they wanted in return. The truth is they just want your friendship & company. They never asked for any money or goods but on hearing that their supply boat had been delayed (it arrives once every 3 months & it is presently it is 3 months overdue – no supplies for the last 6 months!) I emptied our cupboards of what we could spare & Bobby handed over fuel. Other “yachties” (this is what they call us!) were able to assist with repairs to generators, electrics etc. Daniela (s/v Iataia), an architect, spent an entire day drawing up the plans for a house whilst her husband calculated the materials required.

The families ferried us to & from the island where they fed us, sharing the supplies of food we had given them, gave us tours of the island, played volleyball & took us fishing. The head of our host family, Edward, was the islands policeman & yes he has had to arrest family members! They were generous in everyway possible way & we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Masters family.