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Sunday, August 30, 2009

more Hapatoni, Tahuata

We can't seem to tear ourselves away from this charming village, especially since the arrival on Thursday of friends, Ed and Nila on the catamaran Quixotic. It's nice to be around other English speakers again, even if they are determined to try and teach us how to play bridge! Friday night Nila cooked a five star dinner of wahoo cordon bleu, mushroom rice pilaf, and a cucumber cabbage salad. Even after that huge meal we managed to polish off a pan of brownies that I brought for dessert. John and Nila got all the good cards for bridge so Ed and I didn't have too much to do. Which was a good thing because I discovered that I really don't have a talent for keeping track of the bids let alone which cards have been played!

Thursday morning we took another hike, this time up the switchback road out the south end of the village. This is an early morning hike because the sun hits that end of the village first and it's straight up all the way to the top of the ridge (which itself reminded us of Na Pali on Kauai). The view from the ridge is of a few buildings on a grassy slope in an unprotected bay, with Fatu Hiva off in the distance. We could see Quixotic sailing way off in the distance about half way between the two islands. We felt the heat already beginning to radiate from the grasses and rocks on the return trip, and we were happy to be headed back downhill. This road is lined with banana and papaya plants just like the road to Vaitahu, but is less forested and not as shady.

Before our hike we had dropped off a few things at the house of Rose and Frederick. Only their daughter was home but we gave her a plastic cat litter bucket (these are actually usually well-received because they come with lids), a can of mosquito spray we don't use, and an extra wrist splint (from when I had tendonitis) for their small health clinic. On our way back down the hill into the village we saw someone up in the pamplemousse tree by their house. We returned to the dinghy to get Ziggy's grass pan hoping to find a patch of grass to take back for him, and were approached by a teenage boy carrying a big shopping bag of pamplemousse. He turned out to be Giovanni, Rose's son, and we assume the fruit was an exchange for our "gifts." We asked him about the grass and he led us to a nice green patch in the part of the landscaping along the quay. I'm not sure an adult would have selected that spot but it's behind a bush and hopefully the grass will grow back quickly to cover the 1' square dirt scar! Ziggy was very happy to have some fresh grass to munch on, but we had a surprise as creatures began to crawl out of the red dirt that evening. Our first clue that something was stirring was the sight of Ziggy sitting very still outside the box staring intently into the grass. We had to evacuate a couple of black beetles and several worms, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we didn't bring any fleas aboard with the dirt!

I was feeling a bit guilty because we cut down a stalk of bananas from alongside the road during our north ridge hike without asking permission first. So Friday morning I made two dozen cupcakes and we all went in to the village for Ed and Nila's first look around. Quite by chance a small tour boat from Atuona had arrived with half a dozen tourists and some of the locals had their handicrafts out on display, giving us another opportunity to see their work. John and I headed down to the small school at the north end of the village where we met the children as their morning class ended (they only appear to have school for half the day). There were 10 little ones (about kindergarten age) and two teachers, but no older children. So I took the rest of the cupcakes around to whoever happened to be out (mostly carvers), and Frederick, who was in his wood shop. He suggested I take the rest of the cupcakes to Rose and the kids at their house so I went all the way back towards the quay where they live. And there in the carport I saw a dead pig being cleaned by two men. Early that morning I had asked John if he heard dogs barking in the hills above the anchorage, which was unusual since we only ever hear roosters and an occasional car go by. Not a minute after that we heard the sound of gun shots, and some more barking. So we figured there had been a pig hunt, and here was the result. Rose's mother was overseeing the work from a folding chair and she took a cupcake too.

We had another good snorkel on Thursday and saw two small lion fish in addition to the big one hanging out along the same rock ledge where we first saw him. The sky was nice and clear for a change so everything was in sunlight, though the water clarity was a bit murkier than before. Friday was very windy and a small group of spinner dolphins came into the bay and hung out in the anchorage. They spent another day with us yesterday and, since we stayed on the boat all day, we had lots of opportunities to catch sight of them leaping out of the water and spinning in the air. What a treat!

Linda and John

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hapatoni, Tahuata

Not wanting to crash the Aranui 3 BBQ lunch at Hapatoni, we ate our own lunch on Nakia and then took the dinghy to the concrete quay (where there is no fresh water faucet). In spite of the slippery launch ramp we pulled the dinghy out of the water, but for subsequent visits we brought a stern line and tied it off to the quay. We were pleased to find tables of handicrafts lined up along the road in front of the BBQ site. The work here is quite different, with not only wood carving but also bone, and combinations of wood and sword fish bills. They are also noted for combination wood and stone carvings, but we saw none of these on display. The work is all very similar, but one young man's items stood out from the rest and we asked his name and the location of his house in order to pay him a visit the next day. We took a short walk down the road to visit the small church and the archeological site above the cemetery. I enjoyed gawking at the tourists since we don't see many other Westerner's with all the cruiser's being out ahead of us.

We are actually anchored in a smaller lobe of the bay to the north of Hapatoni called Hanatefau, just off a small shack above the beach. We dropped in 50' on a sandy bottom and other than a couple of wickedly gusty first nights, we're enjoying this anchorage. It's the first place we haven't had to put out the rocker stopper, and we're the only ones here (all the inhabited houses are down in the village about half a mile away). When we first got in the water to snorkel it seemed very boring until we found the big rock. This proved very interesting with many fish and urchins. John always goes in for a closer look than I do and when he finally figured out where to look for cowries, we started seeing them everywhere. It's like an Easter egg hunt and makes things more interesting. He's only been able to find one empty shell intact (at Hanamoenoa), and we still can't bring ourselves to take a live one. I spotted a small octopus, but only because I saw it free swimming before it plastered itself against the rock and became nearly invisible. Yesterday John pointed out a stone fish glued under a ledge, looking just like part of the rock. He reminded me to be very careful where I put my hands if I want to hold on to the rock anywhere (As if! I try to make a point of not touching anything!). Minutes later he motioned me over to see our first ever lion fish, one of the most poisonous spiny reef fish. Boy, that got my adrenalin going. It too was hiding under a ledge, but when we made a later pass of the area it had swum out, still against the rock, and was in its head down, spines pointed out towards us, defense posture. It clearly didn't like us being in the area and we were happy to leave it alone. We continue to be surprised by new and colorful reef fish, and there's even a small sea turtle popping up in the anchorage occasionally.

We visited the village Monday morning with all our trading gear to look for our favorite carver. But it turned out he was away at the other village for the day so we were out of luck. There were two older men carving small, decorative, wood paddles outside and we stopped to admire their work. We decided to take another look at other people's work and were shown various items, but we still didn't see anything that we had to have. As beautifully executed as the work is here, personally I prefer the more colorful crafts of Mexico and South America. But we're staying here for awhile so we may have another opportunity to find something we like.

Yesterday morning we took a three hour round trip hike on the rocky dirt road between Hapatoni and Vaitahu. We got as far as a ridge to the north of our anchorage from which we could see the descent down into the valley to Vaitahu. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs and we enjoyed looking at all the trees and plants, and a very few birds (including wild chickens). For this shore excursion we took the dinghy to the boulder beach and set it out with a stern anchor. We thought it was going to be a difficult landing but somehow everything went well and no one got soaked or hurt, which always makes for a successful trip.

The geocities web site is shutting down soon so we're not sure our location link is still working. If is it is still coming up, I made a mistake in the last blog and entered our current location instead of the anchorage at Vaitahu.

Linda and John

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vaitahu, Tahuata

We spent three nights anchored at Vaitahu, the largest village on Tahuata. It's nice to look at from the boat but the two potential dinghy landings pose their individual problems. The concrete quay requires a stern anchor with a lot of rode and a long bow line to tie off to a creosote lamp post. (Clean looking water is available from two faucets on the quay.) Or there's a tiny bit of sandy beach where a stream runs into the center of the bay. If you have good dinghy wheels you can make it over some rocks and up the steep cement launch ramp there. Both landings are difficult if there's any swell running into the bay, and good timing is important. We used each method once and, though we didn't have any problems, there are easier places to visit.

The best part of our decision to leave the beautiful beach at Hanamoenoa for Vaitahu on Thursday was the surprising arrival of the Aranui 3 just before sunset. We had read about the original Aranui in our edition of the Lonely Planet guide, which briefly mentions this sister ship launched in 2002. It's a combination cargo/cruise ship and puts the Galapagos cargo rust buckets to shame. Immediately after dropping anchor the two cranes on the foredeck went into action lowering flat boats with twin outboards to ferry cargo to the concrete quay. To our amazement the first item onto a boat was a brand new Toyota Hilux truck. When the barge got to the quay a front loader pressed its shovel down on the barge to hold it steady. A man got in the truck, we could see tail lights go on, and it inched forward out of it's open container. After a few swells went by one of the hard-hat crew shouted at the driver to go for it, and other shouts rose up from the crowd which had gathered on the quay to watch the proceedings (I counted 20 4-wheel drive vehicles which appeared above the quay after the Aranui 3 set its anchor). The truck made it safely to shore and the proud new owner drove it away. Next we saw a small sport fisher come around the point headed for the ship. It waited until a crane was free and then it hooked up four points of a chain hoist and was lifted up onto the foredeck of the ship! The rest of the evening's cargo was building materials which were unloaded by the front loader and set on the quay. On the ship itself we could see several well-dressed tourists taking photos from the upper balconies, but no one went ashore. The next morning the Aranui 3 was gone.

We went for a walk on shore to see if anyone wanted to do some trading. The only person who approached us was Jean, who was happy to walk us around the yards of his extended family to find some fruit. We really only wanted pamplemousse but he didn't have much that was ripe so he also gave us a couple each of green mangoes, green avocado, oranges, something that looks like a persimmon, bananas, and something that looks like a bright red, shiny little apple which tastes more like a pear. I found out that he is married with two daughters so I brought out my little bag of cosmetics which was all we'd happened to bring with us. He didn't want the little mirror, the mascara, or the nail polish, but he took all three of my sample perfumes (my last ones!), and ran back to his house to get us three drumstick and thigh hunks of frozen chicken (which were too big to be locally raised) and two heads of something like chard, even though we had been protesting well before then that he had already given us enough. As we made our goodbyes he asked if we would be returning next year, and suggested that perhaps we might like to bring him a bottle of whiskey in exchange for his generosity.

We tried snorkeling the wall by the quay but it was a steep drop off to the deep bottom with not much of interest. It rained both Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday it rained off and on the entire day. We entertained ourselves with episodes of Battlestar Gallactica, movies, and reading, but it was a long day and I had made up my mind I wanted to leave on Sunday. Well it pays to stay flexible because what should reappear at dawn on Sunday but the Aranui 3! We immediately realized that this time the tourists would likely go ashore for services at the big Catholic church, and that tourists ashore would probably also mean handicrafts displayed for sale. So we kept a sharp eye on the ship's activity and when we saw people lining up on deck to board one of the landing barges at 0730 we threw on our church-going duds and jumped in the dinghy to hurry ashore. John made an expert landing on the beach and we hauled the dink up on the grass above the launch ramp. We blended pretty well into the crowd as they made their way to the church for services at 0800. As per any Catholic service there was an hour and 10 minutes of standing and sitting for both French and Marquesan prayers, readings, and sermon, interspersed with lovely singing by the predominantly female choir. The building itself is unique, built out of old ship's ballast stones with an open air wood ceiling. The rising sun back lit a large stained glass above the altar and I especially enjoyed the flower scented breezes and the sight of the cliffs and trees in the large gaps between the roof and the tops of the walls.

After the service we chatted with a New Zealand couple and a man from Idaho. They were loving the two-week cruise and said that although accommodations were basic, the food was fabulous, and they liked having a fixed itinerary where all shore excursions and activities were included (although obviously the sport fishing expeditions were extra). The only drawback is that their visits to each island are brief and it didn't sound as if they'd had much opportunity for swimming or snorkeling. We followed them to the crafts display but we weren't much interested in what was mostly jewelry. The tourists had mentioned that they were headed to Hapatoni next and, since that's where we'd intended to go too, we hurried back to Nakia to sail two miles along the coast to the next small village.

Linda and John


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Living off the land

Many cruisers take pride in being able to feed themselves from the bounty of the sea. Some take to the sea with a spear gun after fish, others look for shellfish and the most serious hunt lobster in among the rocks.

We here on NAKIA have taken this activity to the next level. Fish, clams and lobster being available and relatively inexpensive in local stores we've decided to hunt for things that are either unavailable or very expensive.

Yesterday we had success! Searching along the shallow water near the beach I spotted a familiar green shape among the rocks. Usually these tubular shaped shells are already evacuated, but this time the contents seemed undisturbed. I gathered my breath for the dive and swam into the depths, holding on the jagged rocks with my gloved left hand to steady myself in the serge I reached in to pull out a full bottle of heiniken! Imagine my joy at finding the cap still in place on this most valuable find (they are over $8 each in local stores).

The next challenge was to return to NAKIA with the catch. These things are quite slippery and sink like a rock so one false move on the part of the diver and the elusive prey will head back to the bottom. This is precisely what happened a few feet from NAKIA. When removing my gloves I lost track of the bottle for a second and it slipped out of my grasp!

NAKIA has become the home base to many fish, including one a very large snapper who checks out anything that happens to fall in the water for edibility. Imagine my horror as I watched the snapper stalk my prize and try to swallow it. Like I said, it's a BIG snapper. Thankfully he did not find the bottle to his taste and spit it back out.

Calling for my dive weights from the crew, I dove again to retrieve the bottle. This time I had to make it 25 feet to the bottom, rather then the 6 ft of water over the rock where it was originally found, but made the trip without incident and placed the catch securely in the refrigerator.

We await this evenings happy hour to test the spoils of our efforts.

P.S. for those of you wondering why I don't just bait a hook and throw it our for the snapper. The Marquesas are home ciguatera, a poison that builds up in large coral dwelling fish and can be deadly. Not knowing what is safe to eat and where its safe to fish we are not eating anything from the sea unless we find it encased in glass.

John and Linda

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We've been enjoying our stay here at Hanamoenoa even though the weather has steadily deteriorated a bit. This anchorage is on the leeward side of the island with golden grass on the hills and much drier and warmer air. I woke the first night to the scent of dry grasses instead of the lush foliage of Atuona. In fact when we entered the bay at Atuona at sunset last Friday there was a definite chill in the air, probably from the small river running down the valley into the bay. The warmth here makes for a nice change but our night time cabin temps don't get much below 78 F and we're up to around 84 F during the day. Our first day here was calm and clear but we've had successively cloudier and breezier days, culminating in brief, heavy showers and lots of gusty wind beginning at sunset last night with no sign of letting up this morning.

Which is disappointing because the snorkeling here is fabulous. We definitely need to get a new fish book because, other than a few old friends like the sargent majors, moorish idols, golden puffers, parrot fish, and black spiny urchins, everywhere we turn there is a fish we don't recognize. Not to mention all the different kinds of coral, sponges, and what I think must be a sea star that looks like a small throw pillow and comes in at least a couple of color variations. It could be a sponge, but you can just make out the five points on the pillow and the edges are smooth and even, not irregular like a sponge. Everything is absolutely beautiful, even the duller colored fish. On two of our swims back to the boat from the reefs we've spotted an enormous stingray with maybe a four foot wing span hunkered down on the sandy bottom. We've snorkeled every day, both sides of the bay and it's better than anything we've ever seen. But with the windier and wetter weather the water clarity has dropped and we haven't had as much sunlight through the clouds to help cut through the murk. We're anchored over sand but it must not be very deep over the rock because the anchor hasn't completely buried itself. But even on a somewhat short scope (125' in 25' of water) to avoid scraping our chain on a nearby exposed rock we haven't budged an inch.

We took a long dinghy ride on Saturday to explore the nearby bays. There are a couple of nice blow holes but we didn't find any anchorage that we liked better than this one. We went as far as the village at Vaitahu to check out the landing possibilities there. The large swell makes the shore landing at the launch ramp in the middle of the bay look dicey. Over on the northern side of the bay the swell doesn't seem as extreme at the concrete wharf with steps carved into the side. We'll take Nakia over there during the next calm weather window to see if we can do some trading for carvings. We inventoried our rum supply and think we can part with one of our big bottles of Abuela if we can find a carver who's willing to make a trade.

I mentioned before that we haven't had any problems with bugs yet. It's true we haven't seen anything biting except for a few mosquitos at the cascade in Fatu Hiva, and a lot of mosquitos at the ti'i site in Hiva Oa. But everywhere we go we are investigated by some kind of large yellow/orange wasp. They occasionally fly into the cabin and are easily encouraged back outside without getting agressive. Having had a bad sting under his chin in his first encounter with something similar in Mexico, Ziggy stays out of their way and I've even seen him take cover in the cockpit well to avoid one.

Wind Weaver moved to another anchorage on Sunday to be replaced by a French family yesterday, but that boat left this morning and now we have the anchorage to ourselves again. Other than glimpses of a few goats and even a horse on the ridge, we haven't seen anyone on shore. A small boat stopped to load the copra drying in the building above the beach(that's all it turned out to be), and the scent still lingers in the air as you walk by it. There are a few lime trees accessible but no pamplemousse or bananas. As beautiful as this beach is we were surprised that no families arrived over the weekend to enjoy it, as they surely would have in Mexico or Panama. We found evidence of beach fire rings on shore and several pencil urchins appear to have been harvested for a meal, but those could have been taken by cruisers as much as by locals. A friend told us this joke about French cruisers, "When the tide is out, the table is set!"

Linda and John

Friday, August 14, 2009

Out of Atuona

We finally extricated ourselves from the bright lights and fresh baguettes of Hiva Oa today by making a short hop (10 nm) to an anchorage on neighboring Ile Tahuata. We're now at an unoccupied (except for our friends on Wind Weaver) small bay with a steep white sand beach backed by palm trees, a barbed wire fence, and a blue sign with "Propriete Prive - Tabu" (I can't type the accents over the "e"s) in white letters at the entrance to the buildings. It will take a walk on the beach to see exactly what the buildings are for, but they look a little primitive through the binoculars. The water is a beautiful blue green, and John could see the anchor lay over on the sand in 25'. I can't wait to go snorkeling. There's a nice breeze blowing and a little swell rolling in, but not enough to put out the rocker stopper yet.

On Tuesday we made a follow up trip into town to fax our paperwork for the new main sail to FedEx in Papeete. We were shocked that the cost of a four page fax was 980 CFP when it only cost around 475 CFP to airmail a CD to an address in Australia. We made the obligatory visit to the Gauguin and Brel grave sites in the local cemetery, but balked at the 600 CFP per person charge to enter the Gauguin exhibit at the Cultural Center (plus another 500 CFP to see the Brel exhibit) in town. Instead we spent our francs on brie, baguettes, beignets, and croissants and had a picnic lunch in the big square (tohua). We walked back to the short-cut trail down to the beach where we'd left the dinghy this time, making the walk into town half as long as it is to leave from the wharf.

We met Ed and Neela on the catamaran Quixotic and exchanged happy hours first on their boat Tuesday and then on Nakia Wednesday evening. We agreed to share a half day rental of a four-wheel drive Suzuki Samurai ($80 USD) on Thursday to visit the Iipona ti'i (tiki) site at Puamau, a two hour road trip which puts both Lombard St. and the Hana Highway to shame. Most of the road is unpaved switchbacks with several ongoing improvement projects (including a snazzy European style cement roundabout). Ed gave us an E ticket ride with lots of stops for pictures, and we really enjoyed the open air experience of the Samurai. With the top off the back seat I could look up at the amazing trees and smell the change from tropical jungle to pine forest as we gained altitude. By 2 PM when we arrived in Puamau the magasin was closed but four ladies were playing cards at the snack shop where we stopped for a Coke and to ask directions. We payed our 300 CFP per person entrance fee and continued on up the road to the site.

This was our first visit to an archeological site and it's sure to have spoiled us for others since, according to our Lonely Planet guide, this is one of the finest to be found "in the Marquesas, if not all of French Polynesia." It was multi-levels of grass and stone with a grouping of the five most important figures on the top platforms. The landscaping surrounding the site and in between the levels was lovely and we took many pictures which will eventually make it on to our Picasa link. Puamau also boasts a big sandy beach and is another charming village, all the more so for being in such a remote location.

We made it back to Atuona with time to spare on the car rental and decided to take the turn into the Tehueto Petroglyph site. This turned out to be an overgrown jungle version of a "road" including muddy spots and green plants brushing the sides of the car. After passing a house with a barking dog, we came to a fork in the road and took the direction with the most recent tire tracks visible (left), but finally called it quits before having to cross some seriously deep water. The papaya trees along the way were loaded with fruit but we resisted temptation, and headed back out to the paved road to get home before sunset.

Linda and John


Monday, August 10, 2009

Atuona, Hiva Oa

This morning, after learning that a taxi for four people would cost 300CFP per person, we made the 45 minute walk into town from the anchorage with Eric and Daphne from Wind Weaver. They stopped at the post office to do some internet while we went straight to the gendarmerie to complete our check-in formalities. We gave the English speaking policeman copies of our bond exemption letters from Latitude 38 and filled out two forms, and he gave us back the original Customs Declaration form for us to mail to Tahiti. No money changed hands and John is still shaking his head at how simple and completely painless it was. We owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Turpin of Latitude 38 and Michel Alcon, Director of the Tahiti Yacht Club, for arranging the bond exemption for all pre-registered Puddle Jump boats. This saved us the huge headache of setting aside funds (up to $2,000 per person) to cover the normal cost of airfare back to your home country in the event that the French need to kick you out of Polynesia. We are now officially in the country and have only to show our copy of the Customs Declaration form to the local gendarme at each island we visit.

Then we were off to the bank to get some CFPs to pay for the stamp to mail the form. The ATM issued my 10,000 CFP withdrawal in one 10,000 CFP note and when we went inside the bank to change it to smaller denominations there was a huge long line with no telling where it began or ended (people were just lining the walls). So we headed off to the magasins (tiendas) in the off chance that they would break our big bill on a small purchase. We carefully selected two 454 g. tins of New Zealand butter (223 CFP ea.), two 1 Kg. boxes of flour (136 CFP ea.), two chocolate croissants (130 CFP ea.), two chocolate beignets (145 CFP ea.), and two 29" baguettes (64 CFP ea.). The clerk rang it all up and didn't bat an eye when I handed him the 10,000 note! That would never happen in Latin America. We met up with again with Eric and Daphne who said, oh, that wasn't the biggest store with the most selection, so we decided to try breaking another big bill which John had pulled from the ATM. This time we bought garlic and packets of crackers and cookies for a grand total of 1,274 CFP, and the clerk broke another 10,000 CFP note. This is a great country!

By this time we were starving and after scarfing down the croissants and beignets, they were so good I had to go back and get more for tomorrow's breakfast. Then we stopped at one of the vegetable trucks we'd passed on the street and finally hit sticker shock. 1,400 CFP for two cabbages, six tomatoes, and six green peppers. We don't know what the breakdown was so maybe there's something we'll have to avoid (the tomatoes?) next time. And forget about buying fruit anywhere - they all have it growing on trees in their yards.

Our last stop was the post office to buy the stamp to mail the Customs form to Papeete but, it being a Monday, there was another huge long indeterminate line. Since we were loaded down with purchases we decided to return tomorrow to complete that chore and do some sightseeing. The walk back to the anchorage seemed much longer with all the stuff we were carrying in shopping bags. Not having planned to do so much shopping we hadn't brought a backpack with us. And apparently there's a new rule/law that either prohibits picking up hitchhikers and/or carrying people in the bed of a truck, because no one stopped to offer us a ride in either direction. By the time we got back to the boat we were so hungry that we ate an entire baguette with two of our new tomatoes and some cheese!

I've been very impressed by how well dressed the locals are. I noticed in Fatu Hiva that the men and boys were mostly wearing nice board shorts, and some of the women dancers were wearing expensive looking workout tops. I don't feel we stand out here like we did in Latin America where there is so much extreme poverty. Except for the kids asking for candy and pens in Hana Vave we haven't been approached by anyone asking for anything, even out on the boat which is especially nice. And we are still loving the warm days and cool nights. Last night we had a good boat wash and even collected a few liters of rain water. So far we haven't been bothered by any bugs other than the orange wasps that like to explore the boat, but even Ziggy knows to stay away from those now.

Linda and John

Sunday, August 09, 2009

At rest in Hiva Oa

I was in such a hurry to write about everything that had been keeping us busy that I completely forgot to describe our surroundings. Of course it's absolutely stunning! I'm sure all you have to do is Google Fatu Hiva and you'll see pictures. We haven't been to Kauai in years but it reminds us of the Na Pali coast there. Green, green, green, and steep cliffs with deep gorges. It was always a shock to look up from the boat at the anchorage in Hana Vave and see the gorgeous rock formations and the cliff sides which are kept well manicured by dozens of free range goats. I don't think we've woken up to the sound of goats bleating since Agua Verde in Baja. There was a beautiful "window" between the rocks of a view way back into a golden colored valley well beyond the village. From the boat we could see the soccer field, the one room health center, and the rip-rap breakwater protecting the concrete wharf and launch ramp. The rest of the village is set up along both sides of a road which parallels a small river leading up a hill and into the valley.

The houses are surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers, and you see pamplemousse (like an oversized grapefruit), bananas, mango (the trees were loaded with unripe fruit) and citron (they get yellow like lemons, but they're exactly like Mexican limes) everywhere. Curiously we didn't notice any breadfruit trees until we went to Omoa where they were plentiful. No-ni bushes are cultivated as a crop (the fruit is harvested for some medicinal purpose), and we saw (and smelled) coconut being dried on racks for export as copra. I also saw a few bushes with cute baby pineapples the size of pears growing on them.

Our friends on Matajusi (the first two letters of his four children's names) instructed us about all the meat eating opportunities that were available to us. Silvio traded with the locals for a leg of goat and a leg of pig. They also fished for fresh-water shrimp at the waterfall using a large piece of fabric. They lured the shrimp on top of the fabric with coconut meat and then scooped them out of the water. Finally, Silvio bought a live rooster off of some kids who'd been hanging around during the tiki trading session with John (which as it turns out might have been stolen property since another group of kids told us it didn't belong to the kids who sold it). He carried it back to the boat in a plastic grocery bag where it was dispatched, plucked, gutted, and put into the dinner pot. We declined their invitation to dinner, not so much because we didn't want to eat rooster, but more because dinner didn't get started until well after 8 PM. I always find it interesting that most cruisers are so into the hunter gatherer thing because, other than catching the occasional fish, we're perfectly happy with the food we've stocked on the boat, and are practically vegetarians without all the soy and tofu!

As John wrote, we had a fabulous sail from Fatu Hiva to Hiva Oa in spite of having to leave in such a hurry. We motored the first hour and then had a great breeze and a lot of favorable current to get here before sunset. There are only four other cruising boats in the anchorage, including Gabian, who came the same day as us from Fatu Hiva, and Wind Weaver, who we last saw in the Galapagos. The unknown boats are the only ones with stern anchors out. The swell hasn't been too bad, but John finally put the rocker stopper out today to help cut down the roll a bit. Since technically we're in "quarantine" until we get checked in with Immigration and the rest of the officials, we've confined ourselves to the boat and only make short trips to the wharf area to do laundry and take showers. There's an easy stone and mud launch ramp by the outrigger canoe club that we use to wheel the dinghy out of the water. There's an open shower right there, and across from the "visitor's center" (which is rarely open according to our friends) is an enclosed shower with a tiled outdoor counter with a faucet (for fish cleaning?) with plenty of (only slight muddy) fresh running water where we've done two buckets of laundry each day. We shower on shore because the water in the anchorage is a little muddy looking, and because it's nice to get under lots of free fresh water when we have the chance!

Tomorrow we'll take care of the business of checking in and see what the town has to offer. This is still a small place with only a couple of thousand people so we're not looking for much in the way of entertainment or shopping. I'm looking forward to trying the local bread and maybe some cheese. We aren't in love with eating pamplemousse yet (I was expecting something like a sweet grapefruit, but they're like big mild lemons) - maybe we just haven't gotten a really good one. Once we get checked in and do some internet, weather permitting, we'll probably take off for a prettier place, though this has been a nice opportunity to sit tight and catch our breath.

Linda and John


Saturday, August 08, 2009

The (French) tribe has spoken

We got booted out of paradise yesterday. When we went in to rinse some laundry at the faucet by the boat ramp the local cop was at the dock. He immediately asked or our passports and when we couldn't produce them (they were on NAKIA) he asked if we'd arrived directly from California or if we'd been to Atuona.

We said we'd come from the Galapagos and that we had not been to Atuona, but that we have visas which we received in Panama. He said arriving in Fatu Hiva without going first to Atuona a was 'no good' and that we needed to leave, now. Linda quickly finished our laundry while I went back to the boat to get a cable which I'd hoped would help the family with the broken computers. I took the cable past the cop to make sure it was ok to take to the family (also to make sure he knew that we're not a total drain on the village) before I walked up the road to try. Unfortunately the cable didn't do the trick, but I handed it over to the girl anyway using my other two words of French; "Por vous" and then high tailing it back to NAKIA so we could set sail for Atuona.

Luckily we had a fast run and arrived just before dark.

Now we get to experience some of the city life in the Marquesas, unfortunately town is a 2.5 mile walk from the anchorage.

John and Linda

Fatu Hiva

C'est superb!! Just as I thought, we've been running practically non-stop since our arrival Monday morning and we collapse at the end of the day with something to eat and maybe a DVD to relax with. We spent our first day making the transition from being at sea to being at anchor, switching things from one berth to another, and cleaning things that hadn't been touched in three weeks. After a quick afternoon nap we jumped in the water to scrub the hull which was coated in slime from the boot stripe to within a foot of the bulwarks. The water is a fabulous 81 degrees, silky smooth, and still the deep blue color of the sea. Big puffer fish came to investigate the gooseneck barnacles John liberated from the hull, and we've seen parrot fish from the boat.

Tuesday we made the obligatory hike to a nearby waterfall to swim in the deep large pool below what is now barely a splashing cascade down a sheer wall of rock. We ate a quick lunch and walked back to the last house on the road before it turns into a dirt track to the falls. We had admired the lemon trees there and thought maybe we could trade something of ours for un sac des citrons. The grandmother didn't want the nail polish I'd carried with us and asked for parfum instead. We ended by agreeing to take the lemons with us that day and returning with perfume and lipstick the next day.

But Wednesday morning, after John finished defrosting the freezer, Chantal swam over to ask if we wanted to go to Omoa for the day on their big catamaran. We dropped everything to go with them since the Omoa anchorage is not suitable for overnight, and is not a place we'd be comfortable taking Nakia. It only took half an hour to motor the three miles, and Etienne set the anchor in sand in nine meters of water. What wind there was came from the west into the bay and pushed the boat back into the swell rolling to the beach instead of holding it out more offshore. But after making sure the boat wasn't going to go anywhere we took the dinghy to the brand new concrete landing behind a new breakwater at the opposite side of the bay from the old landing where the swell breaks on the steps. Then it was into town for a walk around. Chantal and Etienne had heard of a restaurant in town so we went off in search of Pension Chez Lionel all the while stopping to chat with the locals. Lionel wasn't set up to serve food without prior arrangements but he sat us down with a bottle of water and had a long chat with Chantal. I understood that he's lived there for 36 years but the French was too fast for me and I soon zoned out to watch the thin cats and dogs instead. On our way back to the boat Chantal hunted down the woman with the key to the museum so we could see their collection of wood carvings. I think I understood that the really valuable things are kept elsewhere but we saw some lovely pieces. People were working on the big grassy area between the museum and the bay preparing for a festival in December. It had been a long day by now but as we were almost back to the wharf we heard a hammering sound and Chantal went to investigate with us tagging along behind her. At the back of a house a woman was beating bark to make tapa cloth. She had some already out drying and she brought out finished pieces for us to see. Starting at 5,000 CFP (about $50) and more they were too expensive for us, and besides we didn't have any local currency yet. But Chantal found one she liked enough to buy, and we appreciated having the opportunity to see the work in progress. We arrived back in Hana Vave in time for a sunset swim, exhausted but happy to have been able to see the much larger village at Omoa.

We spent a couple of hours watching a pair of humpback whales right in the anchorage Thursday morning. At first we thought there was just one big whale which would spout 3-4 times before submerging without fluking. But then Big Momma emerged and we realized that the big whale must be an older calf because mom was huge. She only did a couple of spouts to every two spouting periods of the smaller whale so we didn't get to see as much of her, but she was quite impressive. No one was up yet on the other two boats to see when the calf swam right down the side of Nakia but we were shocked at the sight of the white underside of the whale gliding by beneath the surface of the water! At this point John decided you only live once and grabbed his snorkeling gear to get in the water. He was prudent enough to stay by Nakia and not try to swim out to them, and he was richly rewarded when both of them swam close enough behind Nakia for him to see them go by him. They exited the bay soon afterwards and we were thrilled to have had an opportunity for such an up close and personal experience.

By this time Silvio and Lilia on Matajusi (from Brazil) were up and gave us a call on the radio to say that the drums we heard on shore meant that a dance rehearsal was in progress and it would be worthwhile for us to go in and watch. So we dropped everything to go ashore with the camera for a wonderful treat. A group of men playing drums of various sizes accompanied (mostly young) men and women rehearsing traditional dances. Even as they laughed at their mistakes, it was thrilling for us to have this first glimpse of local culture being handed down to the next generation.

We returned to the boat to gather up our trade goods determined to "purchase" tapa and tikis. Silvio had told us that only there in Hana Vave would we be able to trade for handicrafts, because people in the larger villages everywhere else wanted cash. While John went off with Silvio and Lilia I hiked back up the long hill to pay for our lemons. I gave the grandmother a couple of half empty cologne samples and let her choose one old lipstick out of three. When I asked which one she wanted she indicated all three, but I limited it to one and she chose the one with the shiny silver case even though it had the least amount of lipstick remaining in the tube. I was hoping she'd throw in some more lemons since I'd kept my promise and trudged all the way back out to her house, but she was a more shrewd bargainer than I was. (In Omoa a man gave us pamplemousse, lemons, and bananas just as part of stopping to chat with him and his family.)

On my way back to find John I searched for Teresa, a woman who sold tapa to friends of ours during their visit. At the second "house with a big hedge" I found her and she invited me in to see her work. It was not the same high quality as the woman in Omoa, but Teresa was willing to exchange for it and we began the long process of deciding what it was worth. Unfortunately I don't have what most of the women seem to want which is perfume (full sized preferred), scented lotions, blue or green mascara, and lipstick (not gloss). She ended up choosing two DVDs (her teenage son had a say in those), one old lipstick, one new nail polish (dark blue), and two new tubes of Chapstick (strawberry and cherry flavored). I have no idea what the actual price of the tapa was but I selected a medium sized turtle on a reddish brown cloth. I wasn't so much interested in the tapa as in the experience of trading for it, especially if we won't have many opportunities for this in other places. I hooked up with John who had made out like a bandit. He walked away with three carved wood tikis in exchange for some old rope. Again, I'm not sure what we'll do with them, but he had a great time making the trade.

A man stopped to ask us for help with his broken laptops. John took a look and found one that booted up with no video (after the daughter had sprayed it with WD-40) and another one that wouldn't respond at all. He reseated a couple of the cable connections of the first one but no luck. The man will have to take them to Papeete for further testing. On our way back to the dinghy we arranged for a trade of pamplemousse for bonbons with two boys. While John went back to the boat to drop off the tikis and get some water I waited at the wharf for the boys to return with the fruit. When they finally came into view it looked like they were empty handed but they told me to follow them back to the church. I felt like I was connecting with my "dealer" when they pulled the bag of fruit out from behind a corner of the stone wall surrounding the church yard, and it was only then that I realized they had probably not picked these from trees belonging to their families, and that they didn't want to be seen bringing them to me in front of all the people who gathered by the water in the late afternoons to swim and hang out. They didn't recognize the M&Ms I gave them, but once they started eating them they gave me the universal thumbs up sign of approval.

We returned with Silvio and Lilia to a house with wood carvings native to Tahuata. As we watched Silvio pulling out his trade goods we realized that the pieces were way out of our "price" range unless we were willing to give up a large bottle of rum (what they all ask for first). Silvio ended up getting the best wood and bone carving for a large bottle of wine, a new pair of $100 sunglasses, and a $100 bill. We thought that was a pretty high price to pay, but then the artist wasn't really interested in the wine or the sunglasses in the first place.

We returned to the boat drop dead tired after another long day in paradise, hoping to spend a couple of more days unwinding before heading off to Hiva Oa for our official check-in. The weather has been fabulous with sunny days and cool nights (74 F). After being at sea we don't notice the minimal swell in the anchorage at all, but the weather has also been especially calm after our first day which was very gusty. We are thrilled to be here and are enjoying every minute!

Linda and John

Monday, August 03, 2009

At anchor, Fatu Hiva

We dropped anchor this morning in the very scenic Bay of Virgins at the island of Fatu Hiva, Marquesas.

Here are some statistics:

Total distance sailed: 3026
Total distance as routed: 3012
Time: 21 days 23 hours (551 hours)
Average speed 5.49 knots.
Engine hours logged 4 (1.5 motoring, 2.5 charging batteries)
Sea water temperature range: 74.7o F in San Cristobal to 81.3o F in Fatu Hiva
Fish caught: 1, female Dorado

We didn't have any real failures, other then the self-steering line chafing through and some chafe on the jib sheets where the pole rubs on them. The self-steering line hardly counts, considering I've had a replacement line on hand since 2004 and have been waiting for it to fail before I replaced it.

One of my first thoughts this morning as we approached the anchorage: "That really wasn't that hard". I guess now I have something with which to compare other voyages.




Sunday, August 02, 2009

Passage Notes

Since we'll probably hit the ground running when we make landfall tomorrow I'd better send off some final thoughts on the passage before we get too busy.

The weather this past week has been mostly sunny with varying degrees of white fluffy clouds. No more of the very gray days that we had off and on during the first two weeks, and no sight of rain from any of the clouds. I think it's very unusual that we never had a downpour, but maybe that's a factor in leaving later in the season. Except for the potentially high winds, we would love to have a good boat wash from a rain squall at this point. We never tire of gazing at the brilliant blue ocean waves but it will be nice to smell something green again (Ziggy's grass is completely dead now, but he still enjoys laying on the dirt - with a mesh screen over it to keep him clean). We've been surprised by how irregular the swell patterns have been on this trip. Or more accurately, by all the different directions they come from. It's certainly not been the big smooth rolling seas that I imagined. Instead it seems choppy and sharp, and all over the place. But since we weren't headed into it, I'm not complaining!

We have been incredibly fortunate to have made excellent progress with consistent wind the entire way. Yes, John was kept busy reefing and unreefing more than he would have liked, but we always had a good sailing breeze. Our Cape Horn wind vane did a wonderful job steering for us, and we never had to use the auto-pilot. We were also lucky to have escaped major gear failures during the passage. After the horror stories about equipment failures we've heard from other people I was prepared for the worst even though I don't know how I would have dealt with it!

Oh, and that shark we saw yesterday? John was being facetious about not being able to identify it because he didn't catch it. It was so close that the dorsal and tail fins clearly broke the surface of the water, and it was a white-tipped shark. Again I had to ask myself, what were the chances of us both being on deck to see that go by?!

Our long term plans at this point are to cruise the Marquesas, and perhaps the Tuamotus until October/November; spend this year's southern hemisphere cyclone season in Hawaii; return to French Polynesia in March; and cruise the islands next year leading to spending the 2010 cyclone season in the Marshall Islands. That's as long term as we can get for the moment, and of course it's all subject to change depending on how we like things down here. Everyone assures us we will love it, and I hope they're right!


Day 21

127 nm made good, all sailing. 105 miles to go.

The last two tomatoes went bad yesterday. They probably should have lasted longer but they were in a bowl that was also used to hold coffee cups (to keep them from flying all over the place, the cups and the tomatoes). The theory is that the cups damaged the tomatoes and hastened their rot.

Yesterday afternoon Linda and I were both on deck and saw a shark swim by about 20 feet from NAKIA. We estimate it was about 5 feet in length. We didn't have any fishing gear out at the moment so there was no chance of catching it to make a positive identification.

We've had to slow down a little, target speed is 5.0 knots, to get in right at sunrise tomorrow morning. We'll see.



Saturday, August 01, 2009

Day 20

134 nm made good, all sailing. 232 miles to go.

As I said yesterday the wind had gone light and we were sailing with full main and jib. Later yesterday afternoon the wind was even lighter and the mainsail was really banging. I was trying to sleep so I got the bright idea to put up the drifter in its 'double headsail' configuration. This is where there are two headsails set on the furler. It's a great light air downwind rig.

So I got out the sheet for the drifter, the drifter itself, put both reefs back in the main (a full main will blanket the drifter because its set behind the main), rigged the sheet and halyard on the drifter and hoisted it on up. Cool, we're doing 5 knots in less then 10 knots of wind and no more banging. The best thing was it only took 20 minutes to finish everything off.

I went to sleep only to be woken up two and a half hours later by the sound of water flying by outside. The wind was back up and we were going about 6.5 knots. Back out on deck and take down the drifter, then reef the jib. So much for a nice light air finish to this passage...