Our Time in the Marquesas
April 11, 2012, 5:55 pm, Baie Taoihae, Nuku Hiva French Polynesia
The rest of our time in Hiva Oa was fantastic. We stayed on the island for longer than expected because we wanted to welcome the last boat (Peat Smoke) into the harbor which had a difficult sail and ended up arriving almost one week later. There were quite a few other boats that also stayed and when Peat Smoke arrived we blew our fog horns and air horns. We made a big production and then quickly helped them anchor. Then we all went aboard their boat with drinks in hand.
We also took a tour of the island with a local woman, Mary Jo, who drove us around. The roads were quite rustic and the ride was very bumpy. We stopped along the tour to see several sites of stone tiki's. The views were incredible and we went to the home of a friend of Mary Jo's for lunch. All locally grown and raised food. Absolutely delicious. We were also able to purchase some of the fruit - their grapefruit is huge and tastes a bit of lime.
Our last day before we left we went to the grocery store for provisions. The stores had quite a bit of food which we were surprised by. It was just very expensive. I paid $8 for a box of Kellogg's cereal. Yikes!!! We also went to the Paul Gauguin museum. He lives and died on Hiva Oa and is buried in the local cemetery. The museum also had a replica of his "House of Pleasure." He was a very talented but controversial man. I encourage you to Google him.
From Hiva Oa we went to the small island of Tahuata. The bay had the most beautiful blue water that we have ever seen. The water was so clear that we could see our anchor in the sand 25 feet on the bottom. We had 2 sharks and 2 manta rays visit us. We went there to clean the bottom of the boat which was full of gunk and barnacles from the long passage. We had a wooden kitchen tool to scrape the barnacles and sponges to scrub off the green gunk. It was not pleasant and became a worse job when I got out of the water and realized that I had been stung by multiple jelly fish. I counted about fifty stings on seven different places on my body. Very itchy. Mark didn't get stung and apparently he didn't because he has hair on his body. I told Mark that either I couldn't clean the bottom of the boat again or I was going to grow the hair out on my legs. I was able to find some jelly fish ointment in the medical kit and it has become my new beauty routine along with the Neosporin for all of my cuts and scrapes.
We stayed in Tahuata for three nights and had the anchorage to ourselves the last night. It was our own little paradise.
The next island we went to was Oa Pou. Our time there was a bit traumatic. The first morning we saw several of the boats boarded by the Coast Guard/French Customs. Luckily they did not board our boat but in talking with other boats they searched the entire boat for undeclared alcohol and illegal drugs. They are concerned about the amount of alcohol people bring into the Marquesas because locals will try to barter their goods for alcohol. The Coast Guard warned us not to participate in this type of exchange.
We quickly went to shore when we determined the officials went back to their main boat. We were having a discussion about whether to tie the dinghy to the dock or land it on the beach, when we were caught unexpectedly by a big wave. The dinghy filled with water and I went overboard. We were both very wet and sandy but decided to walk through the town in this horrible condition because we were planning on leaving the island in just a few hours. On shore Mark got blisters on his feet and was trying to walk on the hot pavement without burning his feet - not easy. And then he stumbled a bit and broke the strap on our backpack. In the end we decided to get back to the safety of the boat and pull up anchor asap.
We arrived in Nuku Hiva on Good Friday which made things a bit difficult. The locals take much more time off for holidays and many things were closed. We were able to arrange to fill our fuel tank which we were warned was incredibly challenging. We had the crew from Southern Cross help us - two people on board with us and Kathy on land doing the paperwork for the fuel, catching the lines and paying for the fuel. The dock was a huge cement dock to which you needed to back your stern up to. We needed to what's called Med moor which means drop an anchor about 200 feet from the dock and back our stern toward the dock and throw two lines off our stern and tie them to the dock. It can work well but the water was so deep that our anchor did not set. So basically I held the boat off the dock with the motor while we filled the fuel tank. The swells were quite large so our boat bobbed up and down during the entire process. We even had to throw a line ashore and tie the fuel hose to it to then pull it on board. Many of the other boats ended up hitting the dock and damaging dinghy motors, wind vanes and chipping fiberglass. With Southern Cross's help we went through the process undamaged. We long for a floating dock with rubber rails in a protected anchorage. From what we hear, we may be waiting quite a while.
Our dinghy motor has not been working since being on Hiva Oa due to water getting into the engine. Mark spent the next day trying to fix it while Kathy from Southern Cross and I went into town to explore. When I returned to the boat Mark was almost down emptying the oil from the dinghy and replacing it. He also changed the spark plugs and cleaned the entire engine. I helped him drop the dinghy in the water and it started on the first try. He did a victory lap and everyone on Southern Cross cheered him on and they sounded their fog horn for him. These fixes become incredible victories and causes for huge celebration.
On Easter morning eight of us made it to the 8:00 am service at the Catholic Church. The primary religion in the Marquesas is Catholic. The service was almost entirely in the native Marquesian language with only the Bible readings in French. We did have a bulletin and several of us made every attempt to follow along. The music was beautiful with only a drum to accompany the singing. Many of the congregants, both men and women, were dressed all in white. Everyone who attended found the service very memorable.
While on Nuku Hiva we visited a nearby bay for a hike to a water fall. Nine of us went over to the bay on s/v (sailing vessel) Zoe. By the time we got to the beach for the hike it was later in the afternoon so we weren't able to hike the whole way. We did get to a lookout point where we had a magnificent view of the waterfall. The walk was beautiful. Homes along the way had incredibly groomed lawns with a plethora of flora and fruit trees. There were horses, dogs, cats and goats along the walk. We also needed to hike through a cold water river. Amazing. When we got back to the beach we were picked up and brought to s/v Matilda to drinks. Heather was playing the song "At Last" as we arrived! What a great day.
Steven and Kathy from Southern Cross called us the next day from the Pearl Lodge stating that we needed to get up to the Lodge and join them. They said that a car from the Lodge would pick us up at the dinghy dock in ½ an hour. We scrambled to get ready and arrived at the Lodge for a swim. The infinity pool overlooked the bay. We all swam and drank wine for the afternoon and then decided to stay for dinner. The dinner was magnificent and we asked to see the chef after the meal. He came out and we were surprised to see that he was the gentleman who picked us up at the dinghy dock. He also drove us all back to the dinghy dock. It was an amazing afternoon/evening with great friends from Southern Cross and Zoe.
We provisioned today and are on our way to the Tuamotu islands. We will be sailing along with Southern Cross and Zoe with two other boats on the way tomorrow. It will be a 500 mile sail which will take 3.5 days. We are a bit discouraged to hear that other boats that are making the trip now do not have wind. Our GPS tracking system that updates the World ARC web site (Yellow Brick Tracking) stopped working a few days ago. It started to report that we were heading back to the Galapagos. Don't worry we are not turning around. We will update the World ARC website daily as best we can from the boat. But we are heading southwest from here.
We are currently sitting at Henry's café called Café Vaeaki on the dock finishing the blog posts. They have been our gracious hosts for a barbeque, a breakfast birthday party and many other meals. We cannot recommend their food and hospitality enough. The photo gallery has been updated with all the photos of the Marquesas Islands. Enjoy!
Paradise Found, at last
March 27, 2012, 11:52 am, Baie Tahauka, Hiva-Oa French Polynesia
We arrived at Tahauka Bay in Hiva-Oa on Saturday, March 24 at 5:41pm eastern time (1:11pm local) almost 21 days since we left the Galapagos. The picture above is a portion of the bay showing At Last and some of the World ARC fleet. Overall, we feel very good about the trip. Janet keeps commenting about how much she likes the long passages but she was glad to see the island rise above the horizon at dawn that morning. We spent most of the last three days motoring with the engine due to lack of wind so this part of the trip was relatively uneventful. The main excitement was waking up in the main cabin and realizing I was sleeping with a fish. The flying fish must have a contest to see who can find the smallest opening in a boat and try shooting the gap like Jordan shooting a 3-pointer with nothing but net.
We arrived just in time for a massive down pour in the bay where the World ARC fleet is anchored. But the skies cleared also just in time for the islanders to host a formal ceremony welcoming the fleet to Hiva-Oa. The festivities included very authentic Polynesian dancing by a local dance troupe and a feast of native fruits, breads, vegetables and other delicacies. Toward the end the dance troupe got the entire fleet to join them in the dancing.
Most of the fleet spent Sunday at a Bed and Breakfast nearby owned by Alex, a Frenchman, where we listened all day to a local band playing native music. It was more like a jam session of ukuleles, guitars and other instruments. I plan to post a video on the internet when I can. We enjoyed a huge barbeque, Polynesian style and the party lasted from 11:00 am till the wee hours in the next morning for some of the younger in the fleet. This was just what the crews needed after such a long trip.
Monday was a day spent shuttling fuel in jerry cans from the dock to our boat, and a trip to town for grocery shopping and a visit to the stores (two) to see what is available. Today we will spend time doing laundry, cleaning the boat, and taking time to celebrate a birthday in the fleet at Alex's again.
The islands are breath taking, the people are very friendly and we can already tell that we are going to have quite an experience here. By the way, this port is the second largest and busiest in the Marquesas. There are only four boats here that are not with the ARC. It will feel like we have these islands to ourselves for the next two months except for Tahiti where there are more tourists.
We finally have some internet access and will be contacting our friends and family, catching up on email and updating the blog more regularly now. We will post the photos of the passage and our time here in Hiva-Oa to the gallery before we leave to visit the next island in the Marquesas on Friday.
PS; These are some stats for those who are interested. Our track shows we traveled 3,056 nautical miles through the water in 484 hrs averaging 6.3 knots. 822 nm of those miles were spent using the engine for 124 hours averaging 6.6 knots (speed over ground) and using .75 & 1.1 gals/hour at 1800 & 2000 rpm. We averaged 152nm/day and on our best day sailing we made 180 nm. At the time of our arrival, there were 10 other boats behind us. At the current time, there are still three boats that have not arrived and one is not expected till Friday.
Injuries and equipment failures for the passage. For Mark: a broken toe and 2nd degree rope burns on one hand from releasing the spinnaker sheet too quickly under load. (I should have worn my gloves). Nothing other than a tiny burn on a wrist from the galley stove for Janet. For At Last: a spinnaker halyard that almost chaffed trough but was lowered just in time before the spinnaker went into the ocean, some very concerning squeaks with the rudder post and steering gears that need attention, and of course the broken autopilot bolt that is still requiring us to tighten every eight hours of use. We are working with Dockside Electronics and Hellier Yacht Sales in Connecticut, USA to help us ship some parts to resolve the autopilot problems. For the rest of the fleet, equipment failures include a broken shroud, a broken forestay, broken jib foil, several blown spinnakers (at least 5, I believe), several broken spinnaker halyards resulting in spinnakers landing in the ocean, failed electronics and GPS units, autopilot problems, a cracked rudder post support bracket where the rudder passes thru the hull, blown fan belts, and more. I hope the World ARC fleet, who keeps a record of the equipment failures, publishes this information for the benefit of others who will do this trip someday.
You Can Not Get There From Here
March 20, 2012, 5:14 pm, 09 34.6'S:129 33.6'W, Still in The Middle of the Pacific Ocean
I apologize in advance for the sailing jargon/lingo in this blog but I cannot help it because I am really into sailing lately. We have been on the water for more than 16 days now. We have another 4-5 days to go but for each of the last 4-5 days, we have had 4-5 more days to go. Reason being, the winds are gradually dying a little more each day. So we are going slower and slower. Right now we are sailing, so to speak, in 8 knots of wind doing 4 knots only because we have a 1 knot current pushing us to the Marquesas. Thank you Neptune!
To keep the sails from loudly flogging/flapping due to the rolling waves, we have headed up wind and then down wind and are zigzagging our way along. This does not help the progress but it gives us a moment of quiet to sleep. The forecast is for the wind to continue to die down for the next several days. We are waiting for the last possible moment to turn on the engine in order to conserve fuel. We just received an email from WARC Rally Control that the dockside fuel station in Hiva-Oa will not have any fuel for the fleet upon our arrival. The nearest port to get fuel is another 100 miles north west. Talk about testing our light wind sailing patience (not skill).
We do a sail change at the end of almost every shift (every three hours) hoping to find some way to make the boat go faster. But we are not all that successful. We put as much sail out as we can as you can see from the picture above, where we have the jib, stay sail and the main sail deployed. Right now we are flying the spinnaker and jib together. Last night at 3 am a squall came up from behind me and I was soo thankful to have 12-15 knot winds push the boat along for thirty minutes. Normally one would try to dodge the squalls. We look forward to them.
Otherwise, life is good aboard At Last. Janet is really becoming quite the sailing chef and that does a lot to keep our spirits up. She made an apple, raisin and cinnamon cake yesterday. It is all gone now. Our daily routine is sleep, tighten the autopilot bolt that is still giving us trouble, do laundry, cook, sweat, shower, and eat. Oh, I forgot about sailing the boat. The sun is really intense here and it is hot!! The lack of wind makes the boat all that much hotter below.
I thought of a comparison for the trip that everyone might relate to. Imagine traveling with one other person from Juneau, Alaska to Miami, Florida in a minivan doing only 7 miles per hour. You are not able to stop at all and have to cook, bath, steer and change the oil and tires while underway. That is pretty much the picture.
We look forward to getting to the Marquesas and getting access to email and skype to catch up with everyone. Till then....wish for us wind, any kind will do.