Loading Map

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 16, late update

All's well on board. We just had a little sail handling to do at the end of my morning watch so I forgot to do an update.

340 miles to go to Hilo


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 15

A fast day, these NorthEast trade winds are really driving us along. the cockpit has gotten dryer over the last couple days and we can sit out for short periods without fear of getting soaked. We still take a healthy dollop now and again though so there's no star gazing at night. 4 more nights!

522 miles to Hilo


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 14

After the wind blew very hard in the afternoon I expected it to go crazy at night, but luckily it didn't and actually calmed down a little letting us sleep in relative peace. One more minor failure, I made a weather cloth for the starboard cockpit rail before we left Nuku Hiva. I used a piece of the old mainsail and even though the materials were not top of the line I thought it was well put together. The Pacific ocean feels otherwise as last night a wave broke against the cloth splitting the fabric where it attaches to the rail. Oh well, at least I didn't spend a lot of $$ on the silly thing.

660 miles to go to Hilo



Friday, November 27, 2009


John forgot to say the other part of the mantra which is, "This is the last Friday of this passage that we'll spend at sea!"

Although I've completely given up on my twice daily facial routine of cleansing and moisturizing, this afternoon I managed to heat up a can of pork and beans for lunch, cleaned out the cat litter box, and swept the carpets. It's amazing how much better we feel after we get some good sleep.

We talk to our Polish friend, Natazha, every evening at sunset on the HF radio. She is still a few hundred miles out from Honolulu to complete her single-handed circumnavigation. She's tired from pumping water out of her boat, and now her friends have asked her to slow down so she doesn't arrive too soon before the big party they have planned for her. Are they nuts?!

After John talks to Natazha he checks in to the Pacific Seafarer's net with our position and all our weather information. So I think the Yotreps (pangolin) site gets updated twice in a 24 hour period for those of you following along. I sure would love to see it, but I think we get taken off it as soon as we confirm our arrival.

Assuming the seas don't actually worsen as we get closer to the islands (which I fully expect them to, so that I can be pleasantly surprised if they don't), I think this is pretty close to the picture you see from an airplane flying over the Pacific. As in, "I sure wouldn't want to be sailing in a small boat out in THOSE seas!"


Day 13

It calmed down a little yesterday afternoon so I was able to get a bit more sleep, but it piped back up again in the night and hasn't let up at all yet today. The outhaul wire on the staysail boom broke at 1030 so we had a fire drill to get that repaired. we're back up and running again.

We have a mantra, every morning and evening we say the number of nights left at sea. Today it's 'Six more nights!'

799 miles to go to Hilo


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

John is tucked into the quarter berth, surrounded by pillows for padding and to try to keep from rolling, after cooking a delicious Turkey Day meal of instant stuffing mix and instant mashed potatoes. Since the stuffing and potatoes are my favorite part of the traditional dinner, I thought it was perfect. And I only had two pans to clean up afterwards!

We are indeed rocking, rolling, and going airborne occasionally (not fun, especially when you're on the toilet!). I woke up from my off watch to find John sitting on the floor reading. That was the most comfortable spot he could find! We're a little less sweaty now that the water and cabin temps are closer to 80 degrees. The good thing is that we're going fast and headed mostly straight towards Hilo now, so every mile counts. Being over halfway there and getting down to your last week of a passage is always a big morale boost.

Thanks to all our friends and family for sending their love and encouragement. We hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday filled with good food and laughter!


Day 12, Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday morning, after I'd all ready written the daily blog, we found the real North East trade winds. We started out in East-North-East winds to 20 knots with a reefed main and full jib. It got worse from there. By evening we were down to the second reef in the main (really a third reef, the remaining sail being so small) and just a little of the jib rolled out. Finally this morning we rolled up the jib entirely and put up the staysail. We've sailed in the Gulf of Tehuantepec in up to 35 knots of wind with this configuration (double reefed main and staysail) so we're hoping we don't have to go to anything smaller.

Last night the winds were easily over 25 knots in the gusts and probably over 30 in the squalls. We are on a beam reach which means the wind and waves come directly at the side of the boat. It's rough. This is probably as rough as we'd ever had it at sea, including the times going down the California Coast. Those trips were better, actually, because we were going with the wind and waves instead of across them. The cockpit is totally uninhabitable, every few minutes a wave breaks against the side of the boat sending spray and sometimes solid water cascading over the cabin top. We still go outside, every 15 minutes, to take a look around and make sure there's nothing about to run us down. Strangely, during these brief times on deck the waves mesmerize me to the point that I have to remind myself to stop looking at the waves and start looking for ships.

So, what could we possibly have to be thankful for? Why NAKIA, of course. Our sturdy little house of 18 years is handling everything the sea can put to her and keeping us safe and dry, if not comfortable, down below. There are many other things to be thankful for, but today, that one tops the list.

I'm sure everyone wants to know about the turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams and pumpkin pie I'm going to cook for our T-Day meal. Sorry to disappoint, but we're making due with an extra large helping of Pepperedge Farm stuffing cooked on the stove (boil water, add stuffing, eat) and some pumpkin bread Linda made before we left and we've had in the freezer for today's festivities.


940 miles to go to Hilo


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 11

Rain. Lots of rain and no wind, unless it's a brief spurt of 25 kts caused by, you guessed it, rain.

Some time in the afternoon yesterday we saw a shower coming and thought: "Oh boy, we can take a little bath". We did, sitting under the water running off the mainsail to get a good rinse. Only when we were done bathing, the rain didn't stop.

I've had to go on deck several times to take in sails or adjust things and have been doing it au natural. If you don't want to get your clothes wet, don't wear any clothes, I always say. It's a good thing that the rain is about 80 degrees F otherwise I might get cold.

1080 miles to go to Hilo


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 10

After motoring for 14 hours we finally got some wind last night. The sky is still cloudy and there are more squalls now but at least we've turned the corner and are heading directly toward Hilo instead of going North. The North East trade winds are still blowing 25 knots to our North, but that is forecast to ease off on Wednesday (we hope).

It's not a bad ride now, we're broad reaching with the Jib polled out to leeward (turbo jib) in 12-15 knots of East wind.

Pass me a MaiTai, Don.*

1185 miles to go



Don Anderson, the weather man on the Mexico Amigo Net, used to boast about drinking MaiTai's sailing downwind at 7 knots in his Valiant 40 SUMMER PASSAGE.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 9

Light winds are causing us to motor a lot, but we're still making progress. We seemed to have crossed out of the southern portion of the ITCZ and are starting to feel a little EastNorthEast wind. But it's fickle and there are still a lot of big clouds around so I don't imagine we'll be clear for a couple days yet.

One nice thing happened last night, right after midnight the sky cleared completely and we saw Polaris, the North Star, for the first time since leaving Costa Rica in May 2008. We should have been able to see it last year in Panama but the skys were never clear enough.

I understand there's been some problem with our position reports to YOTREPS, I'm looking into it, but for now here's the back up too.


1287 miles to Hilo



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 8, a touch of the ITCZ

We had to motor for 14 hours last night when the wind died. The cloudes were thick and there was lots of rain but no squalls, so that was good as the boat is clean again (at least until the next time it get rough).

We're back to sailing now, but I don't expect it to last long


Another good book

Just finished reading "On Mexican Time" by Tony Cohan, another great gift from my sister. His literary style of writing took a bit of getting used to (especially after Troost's breezy casual voice), and I occasionally stopped dead in my tracks over descriptions like, "Looking up into the space becalms me." But he definitely captures the spirit of living in Mexico and it was interesting to see our own observations experienced 15-20 years earlier. I guess some things never change. The book really grew on me mid-way through, and I ended up liking it very much. I think it's a must read for anyone who's lived (and remodeled their own SolCasa!) or traveled extensively in Mexico.

In fact it's made me a little melancholy for Mexico. The reason I started it before the passage is because we had back burner hopes of making this passage twice as long by heading for Manzanillo instead of for Hilo. We considered it long and hard; even did the food inventory with it in mind (enough meals for two months? Yes!); but it all depended on the southerlies holding, and they didn't. Bob on Taisho departed Nuku Hiva on 10/20 and should still be working his way there, but we were too late to catch any favorable winds for making that passage feasible. We miss our Mexico friends and the great life there, but that will have to wait for another few years. Oh, and if our track looks like we're headed too far to the east for Hawaii, that's because Randy, a Pacific Seafarer's net controller out of Hilo, advises that we'll appreciate all the easting we can get when we get close to the island and those NE trades intensify. I can hardly wait...

It's with a little trepidation that we return to the States (even Hawaii) with the boat. It's one thing to visit for one or two weeks (which I love), but I'm frankly nervous about living there for a few months. It's going to be difficult to avoid the siren calls of fast food, marinas, television, Trader Joe's, cell phone internet (!), laundromats, and shopping malls. Will our budget fall victim to the consumer culture of America? I'm hoping we can remember we're cruisers first, consumers second. Hopefully we can pretend we're just visitors to yet another country and thereby avoid getting sucked back into our old gotta-have-the-latest-gadget lives.

Oh, I doubt it. Just thinking about all the magical possibilities gives me an adrenalin rush. But at least we'll approach it with good intentions!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 7

Again, not much to report. The waves were pretty big this morning which isn't that much of a problem usually but in this case they were coming from 3 different directions making for a bumpy ride. Then all of a sudden around 1000 local they all lined up from the south and things got smooth again.

1425 miles to Hilo


Friday, November 20, 2009

Waxing Poetic

Well, I've also been doing my share of poetic rhapsodizing - unfortunately it's all in my head in the middle of night watches, and it never makes it into the computer! Am happy John shared the truly joyful part of the otherwise long, unending, monotony of a passage. I know we have friends who love the passage making part of cruising, but I truly don't know how they do it. When I'm off watch all I want to do is crawl into that lovely hot box we call the quarter berth where I can stretch out and let the waves roll me from side to side in between our padding of spinnaker, drifter, two Freebags (small bean bag "chairs"), and five pillows. With a specially constructed breeze diverter at the dorade vent (John used a sheet of paper and some blue tape to make the breeze funnel towards us) and a fan, I manage to stay comfortable. Unfortunately John runs at higher temps than I do and last night I got to slide onto a sweaty bunk after he got up. But he's been keeping things nice and neat in the cockpit, he gets all the gear set up and torn down for our deck showers, AND he shares litter box duties, so I have it pretty good.

When I'm on watch it's all I can do to grab something to eat and drink in between the 15 minute horizon checks we do (for ships and weather). On my 0400-0700 watch I've been eating a little dry granola with my tea (I refuse to drink the instant coffee John drinks on passages). On my 1200-1700 watch the last couple of days went like this: first hour - hard boiled egg; second hour - half a pamplemousse; third hour - crackers and hummus; fourth hour - dry roasted peanuts; fifth hour - bag of Raisinets. We get our 1/2 cup peanut ration on odd days of the week; Weds and Sat I open a new package of cheese (little ones); and Thurs and Sun I pull a portion of corn or pumpkin bread out of the freezer. Those are all our treats in addition to whatever else we feel like having. But we have not cooked or shared a meal so far on this passage. Personally, it's easier on my stomach to spread small snacks out rather than eating an actual meal. Plus who's going to cook it? I'm not even reading much or listening to pod casts. There's just too many interruptions ("Is that cloud going to turn into a rain squall?" "Is that a ship on the horizon and is it headed our way?" "Is that 10 degree course shift permanent or just a temporary fickle wind?" "Is that jump from 5.5 knots to 6.3 knots too much wind, and how long is it going to last?" "Should I wake John to let him know about any of these things?" YES!!)

And yes, it's still hot and sweaty here at the equator. Of course the boat is all closed up except for the companionway hatch, and day time temps are usually 85 and humid down below. Last night I saw 82 at midnight but I forgot to check it again at 0400 to see if it was any cooler. I can't say we're looking forward to the rougher windier sailing of the northern latitudes, but I think we may actually relish the cooler temps (so sue me if I complain about that when we get there!).


Day 6

We crossed the equator this morning, at about 0920 local. Neptune came aboard for a drink of rum and to throw around a couple of confetti filled eggs we've had on board since Mexico. It was quite a party.

The wind continues to shift into the South East making it more downwind for us, a nice ride wind wise but more roll makes it harder to sleep.

Next hurdle, the ITCZ.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 4 & 5

Conditions have been up and down. Last night was the first night that it didn't get rougher after dark. We both slept very well for a change.

Every once in a while over the past few years while we've been cruising something happens to make me think to myself, "Man, I love my life!" This hadn't happened for some time, even our time in the Marquesas didn't bring an experience sufficient to invoke this valued sentiment. It's strange, the things that will do it: a sunset, a good nap, a ray jumping, and enjoying a drink with friends are all things that have brought it out.

The other night it was a shearwater. My first memory of these birds is from our days in the Farallon Patrol. The 'Bird People', as we came to refer to the scientists who went out to the Farallones to study birds, would glue their binoculars to their eyes as soon as we cleared point Bonita and start their cries: "Oohh, there's a pink footed shearwater!", "Ooo, there's a brown footed shearwater!", "Myyy, there's a yellow bellied, sap sucking, purple footed shearwater!" (or whatever). Yeah ok, they're cool I suppose, but I'm not going to go cross-eyed trying to see two tiny feet at the back of a wheeling bird. They're just great flyers to me.

Well, this shearwater that got me thinking about how great it is to be alive was doing just what shearwaters are good at. Cutting over the tops of the waves, banking back high in the air, and then diving back into the wave troughs. I came up on deck to do a horizon scan and said "Wow, that is cool," and once again I love my life.

1610 miles to go to Hilo



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 3

Great sailing yesterday afternoon in light winds just forward of the beam. Of course that all changed last night when it piped up to about 20 kts and got rough. It's been that way since about 10pm local and we expect it to continue like this for the next few days.

Other then that, all's well.

1809 miles to go.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 2, Monday?

I think this is our third day after two nights so it must be Monday. All is well on board and we're sailing which is always the best thing. The first day and night were a bit strenuous as we had islands and shoals to avoid, and John was kept busy tacking. He also got a nice downpour during his early night watch. The wind hasn't been from the direction he was expecting, and we've had to sail hard on what we have, hoping that we tack at the right times. At first we were going east with too much south in it, and now we're going north with relatively less west in it, so we'll have to be happy with that until the forecasted shift occurs.

We're eating well when we feel like it. Ziggy is in passage groove - eat, sleep, sleep, sleep, eat, sleep, etc. He showed signs of wanting a play session this morning but after some wild eyed stabs at it he gave up and fell asleep. We've seen large flying fish during the day, and fortunately none are landing on the boat at night.

No interesting wildlife to report so far. Nice starry skies at night since we have no moon. John saw a fireball of a shooting star last night. Days are sunny with puffy clouds and a little haze by afternoon.

Nice to finally be headed for the equator instead of the Galapagos! Thanks for the emails from friends and family.


1894 miles to go to Hilo

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marquesas to Hawaii, Day 1

Contrary winds are keeping us from making any progress North, so we're settling for going East in hopes the wind will shift and send us on our way.

See here for our position:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Off and Running

Okay, barring any unexpected surprises we should be departing Nuku Hiva for Hawaii Saturday morning after we stow the dinghy, rocker stopper, and stern anchor. We received our new forestay late Thursday afternoon and had the old one removed and the new one installed (including the roller furler) in only two hours this morning. Then another half hour to get the furling line attached and the jib up. Not bad!

We celebrated by taking Eric and Daphne of Windweaver out for a lunch splurge of burgers, fries, and ice cream at a roadside van with seating on little stools in the shade of a tree overlooking the bay ($62 US!). Eric helped John with a small sail reinforcement as well as with the forestay replacement today, plus we discovered an extra 10,000 franc note that we had mistaken for a 1,000.

John will be posting our daily noon positions via Yotreps and we'll be checking in to the Pacific Seafarer's Net in the evenings beginning on Saturday, November 14. The passage should take 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, so stay tuned to this channel!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Waiting for parts

We continue to wait for our forestay replacement which arrived in Papeete a week ago Wednesday and is supposed to get here "any day now." There's a daily plane from Papeete to Nuku Hiva but, with limited space/weight, our package is low priority. The really bad part is that it doesn't get from the NH airport to us here in the village until around sunset which completely shoots the day of arrival, meaning we can't get anything done until the day after it arrives.

Here's something I wrote to friends last Saturday:

"Our parts should be here "any day now" so we're scrambling to check things off the to-do list. We've scrubbed the slime off the bottom and polished the prop; I made two quarts of granola out of the last of our oats; John put another patch on the dinghy to keep it from deflating when it gets stored up on the foredeck for the passage; we have bran muffin batter in the fridge waiting to be baked right before we go; yesterday we officially checked out with the gendarmes (they seem pretty relaxed about when you actually depart); the freezer got its monthly defrosting; this morning I made a 13x9 pan of pumpkin bread and one of corn bread to cut into thirds and put in the freezer (that is, until we catch a fish!); John topped off our diesel and filled a couple of extra jerry jugs this morning (we've only burned 15 gallons of fuel since departing the Galapagos!); I went into deep storage under the Pullman berth to dig out our last Costco-sized can of dry roasted peanuts and 32 packets of Raisinets; John's out on deck sanding the soles of our deck shoes to get them grippy again; and most of our shopping is completed. We would like to get some free mangos and bananas if we can find a generous soul (I found a nice pamplemousse tree in front of a government office and asked permission to take some); there's more cooking to be done (rice, pasta, hard-boiled eggs, etc.); we'll get one small jerry jug of gasoline to run the generator for charging batteries while we're sailing; and we need to top off our water tanks. Of course this is all in addition to replacing the forestay when the new one actually arrives!"

Of course since then I've baked the bran muffins and John has baked bread and we're eating those plus the rice he cooked. So we'll need to do some of it all over again before we leave! But the good thing is that it continues to periodically dump rain either during the day or over night, keeping our water tanks full of good drinking water. Yesterday was our first all sunny day in awhile, we had rain last night, and it looks like another sunny day today.

Then it will just be a matter of getting some wind to take us out of here. John's been watching the weather closely especially since a young Polish woman (Natasza on Tanasza Polska) left for Hawaii last Sunday. She is completing a two year single-handed circumnavigation. She has SSB but no HAM to check-in to the Pacific Seafarers Net so we have a sked to keep in touch with her along the way. She had a rough first few days but the winds have calmed down a little now.

We're not exactly looking forward to another long passage, but we're anxious to end this waiting game and get cruising again.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hanging out in Taiohae

I forgot to mention in my last Taiohae post that all the anchoring and re-anchoring was over and done with by 8 AM! We get up early here to enjoy the cool mornings.

We really struggled with the no-no bugs over in the west anchorage, so much so that we moved back to the quay side on Friday. They are very small and hard to see unless they hit the light just right. They also fly erratically and fast making them almost impossible to catch. I've yet to see one land on me, and I don't seem to feel them biting me so I can't even kill them then. And for every bug I do manage to smash or spray, I see two more. Very frustrating, and the big bites are like hot flames of itching for at least 24 hours. John got so eaten up when he went in to rinse the laundry the last time that one morning I wore my lycra jellyfish suit (like a dive skin which fully covers your entire body - except feet, hands, neck and head - in a zip up onesie) to shore to take my turn rinsing laundry. I'm sure the locals driving by wondered about my colorful get-up, but I didn't care. That worked except that I did nothing to protect my head and ended up with three bites along my part, one on my ear, one on my eyebrow, and one right in the inside corner of the same eye. My poor eye was a little swollen for two days. To top it off John read that there are two kinds of no-nos. Black ones on land and white ones on the beach and out to the boat. I think I saw the black ones at the water spigot, and it's the white ones that were driving us crazy on the boat. [Actually, since I wrote this a week ago, I've come to believe that what we thought were the white no-nos are just some tan fruit fly like bug. I've been free of no-no bites since we moved, even though we still see the tan bugs on the boat. It's most frustrating not being able to identify - and kill - the no-nos! We're religious about wearing bug spray on shore now...]

Last Monday we had lunch with the South African and French couple we met in the Galapagos. One plate of fried fish with fried bananas and one plate of BBQ'd chicken (drumstick) with kind of a potato salad on the side cost us 1700 CFPs. The CFP has dropped from 84 to about 79 to the dollar since we arrived, but John was just happy to be off the boat and not cooking for a change.

Saturday we had a nice hike with the same friends and their two dogs on a well-maintained trail out to a point overlooking the bay. It was incredibly clear and sunny, but the trail is all in shaded woods (once you get to it from the dinghy landing; that was a hot return trip - the poor dogs were scurrying for any patch of shade and plopping down and panting). We even had an okay snorkel later in the day by taking the dinghy to the cove we had seen below us at the end of the trail. There wasn't as much organic matter in the water, but it still wasn't what we'd call clear. There were some nice fish and a few live cowries to see though. People keep telling us there are sharks in the bay (black-tips, and even reports of tigers and bulls), but we have yet to see one ourselves which is always a good thing.

Our friends on their way to Hawaii reported swelling of the skipper's foot, and they were worried that it might be a case of Elephantitis. I had read in at least one of the guide books that there is a mosquito carrying this disease in the Marquesas. I then read in another cruiser's blog that when they visited Nuku Hiva two years ago they were given a preventative drug at the hospital for free. I can tell you that Elephantitis is the last thing I wanted to be worried about right before a long passage so I walked up and took a number at the hospital first thing Monday morning! Well, an hour and a half wait later my understanding is that the drug is no longer available because there have been no cases of Elephantitis recorded here for some time. Whew! (And our friend's foot healed before they made landfall...)

We finally got around to reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost which my sister gave me earlier in the year for my birthday. Move over Bill Bryson! This a hilarious travel essay in the so-awful-it's-funny vein of a young couple's two year stint living in Kiribati. There are a few parallels to the cruising life, but we at least have our own self-contained home including a variety of good foods, clean water, electricity, and plumbing. I can't wait to pick up Troost's next book, Getting Stoned with Savages, about living in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Ziggy continues to catch big cockroaches (like they have in Hawaii) that fly out to the boat at night. We have to make sure all screens are in the hatches and portholes after we let him outside. Otherwise he'll jump back inside through the porthole and carry it down to the cabin sole where he can torment it without fear of it escaping him as easily as it might outside. This is a problem because he eventually needs to come back in later in the night to use his litter box, but he hasn't learned to meow to be let in. Instead he daintily paws at the screen which may be enough to wake John, but not me. Last night Ziggy was itching to be let outside so John went to bed and I lay down on the settee in the dark with the alarm clock set for 11 PM. As soon as I let him out he was on the hunt. He'd obviously heard the pitter patter of little roach feet. There was a short scuffle in the cockpit, and then I was amused to watch Ziggy circumnavigating the boat in a clockwise direction searching each port hole for a way inside the boat. He went around about 10 times, occasionally stopping for a little cockroach rumble in the cockpit well. One time I went to the companionway to see if he really had something and he was huffing a bit, with one end of the bug hanging out of his mouth. I finally fell asleep until the alarm woke me and, after checking to make sure he was roach free, I let him back in. This morning I found a smallish body on the port side deck and a leg on the starboard side (at least we are reassured that he's not eating them). Beats getting him a gym membership but I'm not sure I want to do that every night!


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Pardon me, can you change a $100 bill?

This is something that's been interesting me about French Polynesia for some time.

We get our local currency, as we have everywhere else we've been, at the ATM. We usually get 30,000 francs at a time, which given the current exchange rate is about $350 USD. Strangely, we have always been given three 10000 franc notes. The equivalent in the States would be three $100 bills. Can you imagine this happening in the States - how do you buy $20 worth of gas when the convenience store/gas station won't accept $50 bills much less $100 bills?

We initially waited in line at the bank to break the large bills into something more manageable. After all, we have been used to Latin America where it's common to go into a store (a real store, not some home/shop selling a few items), select $3.50 USD worth of stuff, present a $5 bill and be told: "No Cambio" (no change). You find yourself thinking "No change? How can you have a business and not have ANY change?"

The lines in the banks are long though, so more often we found ourselves cautiously pulling a 10000 franc note out of our wallets when it came time to pay to see if we could foist the large bills off on some unsuspecting shop owner. Initially we'd only do this if we had more than 3000 francs worth of goods. But after a while we'd pay with a 10000 franc note no matter how small our bill was.

Strangely, here in French Polynesia, it really isn't a problem. Go to the local grocery to get a couple baguettes and some butter (about 400 francs), slap a 10000 franc note on the counter, and voila, you get your change without even a blink. Have lunch at a local roach coach (about 1500 francs), pay with a 10000 franc note, and again you get your change without so much as a comment.

Between this most gracious attitude to large bills and the presence of leaf blowers it's clear that the Marquesas are part of the First World (TM).