Shenandoah’s late ‘Noughties’ itinerary took her to Central America and around the Pacific islands. It was an 18-month adventure before going in for a major refit in mid 2009. Here are some excerpts from Captain Gavin Reid’s log:
The sunny coasts of Belize and Honduras were the first leg of Shenandoah’s voyage. Entry into the most of the outer atolls was impossible, so the ship often had to lay outside the reef, hove-to under sail for days while the guests explored by tender. Friends on another super yacht heard about this and remarked, “Some boats have ‘Dynamic Positioning’, you guys have ‘Positioning’ – I thought that went out in the days of Capt Cook!” The wildlife in both countries was varied and unusual; sloths, toucans, monkeys and parrots…
“…I thought that went out in the days of Capt Cook!”
The San Blas Islands were the next leg of the voyage, leading into a passage through the Panama Canal with the owner and his guests. Then, on our way across the Pacific, came the Galalpagos where the crew met many locals of the four footed, two winged or aquatic variety.
After a majestic 14-day sail under spinnaker and Gollywobblers, the scent of rich loam and damp leaves drew Shenandoah to her next landfall. Nuku Hiva in the Marquises, a familiar stop for Shenandoah, was the most north-eastern island on the 6-week route west through French Polynesia. Landing in Nuku Hiva was a chance to revisit the picturesque waterfall, tranquil village and the glossy black sand beaches. A delightfully restful escape.
The Tuamotus are always a challenge for Shenandoah; narrow channels, fast currents and unmarked bombies make getting inside the atolls tricky – especially for a 54 m yacht with deep draft and no bow thruster. Many atolls such as Rangiroa and Fakarava were familiar transits from previous visits. More challenging were Apataki, Kauehi, and Makemo with look-outs aloft in the rig, tenders ahead in the water, and guests and crew at attention.
The reward for these passages on tenterhooks was the glassy waters of the inner atoll offering idyllic reflections of ship and sky. Diving was a daily activity in the Tuamotus and one of the top spots was, as always, the South pass of Fakarava. Flying through this pass on the incoming tide as hundreds of sharks waited patiently for their next hapless meal to pass by was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. Not to be outdone, the dolphins of Rangiroa escorted our divers amidst Manta rays and pelagic fish into her atoll at dawn.
“…the inevitable answer is ‘Next time around the world!’”
Continuing west, several weeks were spent taking in the scenic pleasures of Maupiti, Tahaa, Bora-Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and finally Moorea and Tahiti. A tour through French Polynesia is always a nostalgic voyage for Shenandoah. In many of the villages throughout French Polynesia, people who meet guests or crew share their memories of Shenandoah’s past visits and always enquire when she will be back. The inevitable answer is “Next time around the world!”
‘In September 2008 Shenandoah sailed to New Zealand, via another familiar favourite, Tonga, for some diving and whale watching. Then it was through the spectacular Marshall Islands for a feast of swimming, diving, snorkelling and sun bathing on completely untouched beaches.
Shenandoah then continued west into the Federated States of Micronesia – stopping first at the ruins of Nan Madol, an ancient stone complex built on the reef and often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’; then Truk Lagoon, a place with a reputation for danger. Here lay 34 sunken wrecks of the Japanese fleet from WWII in its lagoon, easily some of the most spectacular wreck diving in the world.
“…easily some of the most spectacular wreck diving in the world.”
Palau was reached in March 2009; possibly the most fascinating stop in the North Pacific with gorgeous geography and a culture that draws elements from the Pacific, Philippines and China. Palau has several larger islands surrounded by hundreds of small rock islands. The base of these tiny coral and stone islands has been eroded away over centuries so most of the islands appear to be grey mushrooms with bright green jungle caps. Beneath these corroded edges is a world of caves, corals and extraordinary sea life. One of the islands of Palau has a freshwater lake with a population of peculiar jellyfish that migrate around the lake following the progression of the sun. Swimming amongst this pulsing swarm of non-poisonous jellyfish in the hazy turquoise waters of the lake is a surreal glimpse into an alien world…