29 April 2017
Entering Figi. Connecting with Sammy and family. Church day invite. Family song.
French Poly to Figi
28 July 2016 | Vuda Point, Figi
Alba left in Vuda Point Marina Figi for the season dug in....
The road home
23 July 2014
All too soon we locked Albatross up for the last time for the next several months and made our way to shore. On the taxi ride over the island to the airport, we experienced 3 distinctly different climate zones as well as some-mind blowing views. From the harbor with its maritime humidity and lush foliage, we ascended to a volcanic rim, sparser vegetation but still green and drier, then into the volcanic plain [crater], again lush but dry. And finally descending again to sea level on the northwest and thus driest part of the island, arid, hot and scrubby ruled.
The flight to Papeete, with a stopover in Hiva Oa, took 4 hours. Very comfortable jet and stunning aerial view of the islands with their volcanic craters, valleys and spires, then the vast expanse of the Pacific again. In Papeete we opted for a motel close to the airport for 2 nights before returning to the U.S. Papeete was shocking in in its delivery of the best food on the planet. With more city than we had experienced during our trip we still found the people friendly and colorful. A visit to the Grand Marche downtown offered one more chance to shop before out flight home. (a work in progress the concept of home after you have been out at sea for 17days and on boat for 2 months). At last, on June 4 we boarded Air France’s Boing 777 for LAX which gave us the kind of airline service you used to get(minus the tech. perks)in the old days. So refreshing and filling. Two meals,complementary wine with meals, friendly helpful flight attendants, delicious [really] food, unlimited good coffee and individual TV monitors on seatbacks with a choice of about 70 movies. Nice welcome home.
Cruising the Marquesas
23 July 2014
Brian Bouch constant sparse clouds over the islands with sun
Landfall and some cruising
Seventeen days and 16 hours after leaving the Galapagos, covering 3060 nautical miles [about 3670 land miles], we rounded the northern tip of Fatu Hiva. Coming into its lee and sheltered from the tradewinds and accompanying swell, we were given the view of our lives. We dropped our hook in the well-protected anchorage of Baie de Vierges on Fatu Hiva, the closest of the Marquesan islands of French Polynesia to the Americas. Vierges is French for virgins—apparently Catholic missionaries changed it to that from Baie de Verges, meaning bay of phalluses. Words just don’t do it here. Stunningly beautiful volcanic spires [verges] rising up out of deep valleys bathed in deep lush greens. And all this after not seeing land for nearly 18 days. Simply mind-blowing. The small town of Hanavave played good host to the 4-6 cruising sailboats anchored there. Only one grocery open a few hours a day, no real restaurants but a Marquesan feast put on by one of the local families (Sergio and his wife--forgot her name-- who live at the end of the Artisan street), lots of talented craftspeople and lots of smiles. Desperate for some lower-body exercise, our first day ashore we all hiked up a winding steep road to the white cross which gave us an other worldly view of where we just came from. About 4 miles roundtrip—not bad after being at sea for 17 days. Brian pretty stoked to find his French returning after 45 years of barely using it. The locals weren’t much interested in selling their crafts, but trading was the order of the day. “Voulez-vous changer”? What they wanted was t-shirts, cordage [marine], fishing lures, alcohol, wood sculpting tools. A 3 hour trading session in Albatross’ cockpit, facilitated by shots of tequila, landed Brian an exquisite carved rosewood manta ray “ditty” box, in return for a coupla lures, 1/2 bottle of Cuban rum, some good used boat line and a few sculpting chisels [we were prepared]. And we discovered pamplemousse growing everywhere. A bit like grapefruit but sweeter and much bigger, one of them was practically lunch for two of us. Bananas grow in abundance and bunches of them are items for trade or simply given to us out of generosity. Good to give back by not bringing garbage ashore or having big expectations of major provisioning awhile visiting this incredible place.
Kym and Brian took a day excursion with Jean-Phillipe and Christine from their Amel 54 ketch to the town of Omoa about 12 miles up the coast. A quick trip in Serge’s fishing boat. Very different feeling here than in Hanavave. More orderly, manicured and a bit more reserved people. Lionel, a French expat who runs a small guesthouse, generously offered us the pick of his star apple tree, and his view of the local political scene. In the upcoming referendum for French Polynesia’s future, Omoa is for maintaining the French protectorate while Hanavave is more for complete independence. As the headmistress of the school in Omoa explained it, without France, education and healthcare in the islands are in serious trouble.
On Fatu hiva we met several cruisers who we would encounter again and again in various ports where we anchored –it forms sort of a seagoing community. Many are from Europe and crossed the Atlantic, spending some time in the Caribbean before transiting the Panama Canal and heading to the Galapagos. Didier is a retired French doctor who single-handed much of the trip, but on his lightweight modern 38 ft racing sailboat, was glad to eventually take Ella And Charlie aboard for passage to Tahiti. Kym and Brian had changed their itinerary in favor of spending more time cruising in the Marquesas and leaving Tahiti for a later time. We’d leave Albatross at anchor in Nuku Hiva under the watchful eye of an American expat running a yacht service there, instead of sailing another 1000 miles to Tahiti then Raietea where she'd be going on the hard at $450/mo. Raietea was the less expensive option to $1400/mo for a marina berth in Tahiti. Another couple we befriended hailed from England and were a year at sea on their 48 foot aluminum cutter (made in the Ukraine) with their 7 year old son and 5yr old twin boys. As David put it “with young kids aboard this trip is not about sailing”. Brian dispensed some medicine and advice for some shipboard problems to this seagoing family. Another day we hiked up trails through lush tropical forests to a swimming hole at the base of a 100 ft waterfall, enjoying our first Pamplemousse.
After a few days at Baie de Vierges we weighed anchor and set sail for Hiva Oa to formally check in to French Polynesia. An overnight stop off the village of Hapatoni on Tahuata island brought us the sounds of a children’s choir harmonizing in preparation for a church holiday the following day. After a walk along the town’s one street in the morning, some Yoga on a grassy knoll overlooking the bay helped get some of the kinks out. Moving on to Hiva Oa, we were “instructed" to dock by our agent , pre-arranged thru the PPJ network. The dock was Med-moor style, and the projecting wooden dock was ill-suited for our boat with Monitor wind-vane attached to the stern. Ella, in attempting to step onto it with a line from the stern, lost her footing and grabbed the satellite phone antenna mast attached to the stern rail. It rotated down with her as we were closing with the dock, leaving her dangling between boat and dock in a space rapidly getting smaller. Quickly putting the transmission in forward and gunning the engine allowed Brian to prevent pancaking her between boat and dock , and she escaped with some superficial lacerations on her shin. As we learned later, all the cruising boats here simply anchor and dinghy ashore, which we ultimately did. Our agent took us into town to the local gendarmerie who cleared us in but only after some red tape involving the missing crewmember [Wes] who departed in the Galapagos. We did some major provisioning here and discovered Tahitian beer at $20 usd for a six pack!
Back on the boat for the 60 mile overnight run to Ua Pou [pr. wah poo] we actually had a deadline as there was a much-announced “party” happening there with a band, artisans displaying crafts, food etc. As we were running low on fuel in one of our two tanks, Brian made a mental note to switch to the other one but alas was too late. While motoring, the engine sputtered and died. Air was sucked into the fuel line, along with some serious sludge and there was no getting it restarted. We entered Hakahau bay in light winds astern, engineless, and anchored in the unusual and slightly unnerving fashion of letting it drop while sailing. We dropped the mainsail and as the anchor grabbed and dug in, the boat spun around to face the wind and we adjusted chain length and set a stern anchor(for the first of many times at this anchorage). Perfectly executed. Then followed many hours of Brian and Charlie trying to clear the fuel line and get the engine started,--- altogether unsuccessful. As we were in a part of the anchorage that was relatively exposed, as the swell built(3 to 5 ft), sleeping on board became increasingly difficult to due to the bucking and rolling. We discussed pulling up anchor to head to a calmer section of the bay under sail but determined it wasn’t a good option. After a couple of nights brainstorming on how to eradicate the air from the fuel lines(after fuel filter changes and other tactics failed)the skipper of the power yacht Argo in the harbor offered to use his rigid inflatable with 40 hp engine to tow us to calmer waters. Luck was with us as well in the morning when Roger, a retired Quebecois engineer, dinghied over from his sailboat and helped me bypass the lift pump which is where the blockage in the fuel line seemed to have settled. We used a hand bulb siphon to draw fuel up from the good tank and finally got her started. Yes indeed --combined brainstorming and helping hands once again saved the day. Still not at 100% but startable and runnable after some RPM tweaking. Feeling a bit lighter and grateful for kind hearts, we left in the dingy for our first trip to town in 2 days . Up the 1/2 mile path we found Ti Piero, a restaurant run by an expat. French Navy man where we experienced a feast of local delicacies, prix fix, while our French and Marquesan dining neighbors celebrated the local Mothers Day. Each mother was adorned with a floral crown and served lobster. As the beer flowed, the political talk got wilder and more---French?
With engine life restored, and thus a bit less nervous about continuing to cruise in the week we had left, we departed early next morning for the 30 mile trip to Nuku Hiva. Charlie and Ella had left 2 days earlier with Didier, so it was just the two of us. Close reaching for the first time since northern Mexico, we were reminded what it’s like to heel over and take some serious spray into the cockpit. As we sailed into the very calm Comptroller Bay on the southeast end of Nuku Hiva, we saw the one other boat at anchor there, “Kismet”, a Hans Christian 34 out of Massachusetts with New Zealander Grant doing a long delivery to Thailand for the boat’s owner, stationed there on a megayacht. With a coupla of young guys as crew for this leg, we had encountered them earlier in Fatu Hiva on the path heading to the waterfall. With both of our dinghies pulled up on the beach, we walked into the town of Taipivai to see what was cooking. Reasoning to return with more light the next day (as there were Tiki ruins in the wild to see) we returned to the beach at dusk to find our dinghy lines [good quality Dacron] stolen. Nice that the dinghy anchor was still there and that the dinghy had been pulled up above the high water line . We surmised they were very considerate thieves , but decided to take the dinghy upriver to the main part of town next time! That night Grant and the boys invited us for a beach cookout where they prepared freshly caught local fish that looked like flying fish but actually jumped out of the surf onto the beach at low tide. Pastis [anise-based French liqueur], drums, guitars and some local weed made for a dreamy tropical evening. In the morning we weighed anchor and headed for the north shore of the island. After a brisk upwind romp, we turned westward and sledded into Hateheu Bay. This had to be one of the most ideal anchorages yet. Good sand holding ground, very little swell and lots of room for visiting yachts. After securing Albatross we dinghied ashore and found ourselves at Chez Yvonne, the local highly recommended restaurant (locals say she is Loco for charging so much). As Yvonne served up a goat curry to die for, and a mixed seafood plate to match, I translated [French-English] for an American yachtie who had driven over from Taiohae and was excitedly showing Yvonne pictures he had taken 30 years ago while visiting Hateheu on his yacht. This was a great place to chill for a few days, as we’d soon be ending our cruise.. A hike up over a pass to Anahoa Bay on the “mango run”, so called because of the abundance of mango trees dropping fruit along the way. Yummy. And Kym discovered that the little red beads showing up in locally-made necklaces and bracelets were also a feature of this walk, dropping in clusters or still attached to the branches that dropped with them. They made their calling and maybe a hundred or so found their way into our packs. Anahoa Bay has been called by some cruisers one of the most beautiful anchorages in French Polynesia. There are coral ledges making for good diving and , unusual for this area, white sand beaches. Best Yoga Beach! Back in Hatiheu we hired a local guide for a half day exploration of a major archeological site at Hikokua. (a mile or so walk from the main drag). It’s been excavated and extensively restored(although a lot of the petroglyphs are covered with moss), and Alfonse, our guide, had many stories and anecdotes to fill the time. Simple conversation led to the understanding of culture there thru Alfonses' story. He was born in Hateheu, has four kids all living in France or Papeete(very common that most of the younger generations leave the island perhaps returning at a much older age), and after becoming an international bowling champion and instructor, returned to the quiet life of Hateheu, population around 200. Along the way we passed his sisters house and were gifted with fresh star fruit from her tree. You won't find fruit for sale anywhere as all the locals have their own trees. Taking fruit from trees without permission is very taboo. Maybe Ok to take one that has fallen in the road in front of you as you walk by. On the way back we stopped at the local museum and viewed some historic patterns of tattoo artistry as well as some gorgeous wooden ceremonial carvings .
We discovered that Nuku Hiva is an island of horses. Seeing them tethered in peoples yards, walking with owners mounted---these were well-cared for animals, handsome and groomed, grazing on the lush vegetation. Our taxi driver informed that his and many families have at least one or a few horses. They are not working animals per se but seemed more like pets or members of the family, plus around-island transportation.
With a few days left before our flight to Papeete, Tahiti, we headed back east and south to round up into Taiohae, the major port on Nuku Hiva and the Marquesas. Dropping anchor for the last time, close to the shore near Kevin Ellis' 'Yachts Services' office and dinghy landing dock, we set Alba for her stay. We met up with Kevin, an American who abandoned his cruising life several years ago after meeting the woman of his dreams in Nuku Hiva. Now married and with kids, he runs a yacht service, performing mechanical and sail repairs for visiting yachts and, most importantly for us, a baby-sitting service for boats at anchor. As there are no marinas in the Marquesas, this allowed us to leave Albatross in good hands at anchor until we could get back. Time to scrub the hull above the waterline(which had accumulated a surprising amount of growth), do some major cleaning above and belowdecks , pull off canvas, jib and staysail for storage and a bit of sailcover repair, and stow spinnaker, dinghy and kayak below or ashore with kevin. . Taking off the dodger and losing one front panel in rain storm I learned my lesson about leaving nothing unsecured! Time for some last minute shopping for gifts in the local artisan cooperative where quality and price were unmatched. And some hangin time to take in the cruiser scene. They gather at the local café for free Wifi on the waterfront as their international gang of kids on razor scooters and skateboards play tag and keepaway nightly till the darkness comes.