05/08/2013, Ua Pou
We are now anchored at the island of Ua Pou (pronounced Oo-ah Pow). Our purpose here? Staging for the crossing to the Tuamotus islands. Ua Pou is one of the closest Marquasan islands to the Tuamotu island chain and although it is only 25 miles closer, it is, well... closer. We will only have 475 miles to sail rather than 500. Ua Pou is also pretty cool. At first, when we thought the pronunciation was Wah Poo (Whoo hoo!), the name lended itself to several bad Junior High poo jokes. Luckily we discovered the correct pronunciation (Oo-ah Pow - Wow!) and the poo puns didn't last. What this island really has is some serious material for penis jokes. Whaaaat? Well, look at the opening photo! Fatu Hiva has nothing on these guys in the pointy pinnacle department.
Ua Pou has the most dramatic remnant volcanic necks I've ever seen and all on the scale of Wyoming's Devils Tower. The tallest peak is over 4,000 feet in elevation. Typically, these tall peaks are shrouded in clouds. Upon our approach to the island, Mother Nature playfully lifted her skirts and showed us all she had been hiding. Or riding, or - oh forget it.
Perhaps it's Father Nature in charge here on Ua Pou, but whatever, the effects of Orographic Lift were suspended for a brief moment as we approached the island, allowing us to snap the opening photo for this post. For most of our time here, however, the upper peaks have been shrouded in clouds with only brief moments of clearing.
The only real problem with Ua Pou is that for the moment the wind is all poo between here and the Tuamotu islands - which is where we want to sail to next. If the winds were blowing, we would have left for the Tuamotus several days ago as we are all provisioned up with fuel and food for the crossing. We're ready to go! We've had a great sailing tour here in the Marquesas but it's time to experience some South Pacific atolls. Unfortunately, we now face the possibility of the cruising sailors' nightmare: having to get somewhere in time to meet up with friends who are flying in.
Cindy and Dennis Peterson (who came to Baja last year and helped us cross the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan) are flying into the Tuamotu island of Fakarava on May 17th to meet us and help us sail on to Tahiti. At the same time, Erlin will be catching the plane to Papeete for his flight home to Seattle via Hawaii.
Theoretically, sailing to Fakarava in a timely fashion should be easy. Given decent winds, the crossing from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus should take less than 4 days. Even if we leave Ua Pou as late as the 12th, we should be quite timely - assuming good wind. At the moment, forecasts show no real wind until the 10th. To us, that's cutting it rather fine, but it still works. We're just very thankful that when we put our sailing schedule together six months ago, we built in time for possible weather delays. Turns out it was - and always is - a good idea to build some "weather days". Even in the South Pacific.
The fabulous anchorages of Nuka Hiva just keep getting more fabulous. Or in French, fabuluex (the "x" is silent, your upper lip curling up snootily for best effect). Fantastique also comes to mind. (French spelling - pronounced with long "ahhs" and "steeck" the ending). Fawntahsteek!
We are anchored at Baie Hakatea and spent yesterday hiking up and back to the waterfall at the head of the Hakaui valley. Fabuleux! The outing starts on a beach called Daniels, named for Daniel and his wife Antoinette who lived here for over 60 years, but who recently passed away. Rumor has it that this beach was also the site for one of the camps in the fourth "Survivor" series. Perhaps one of the shows fans can confirm this for us, never having much watched the show ourselves. But I would choose this beach for a camp. The beach is isolated and primitive, yet with a decent power boat the film crew could commute back to the main city around the corner in under 20 minutes and spend their nights in air-conditioned comfort.
In an odd irony, Nuku Hiva was discovered by Polynesians who settled the island and quickly divided into two tribes. Warfare between them continued for centuries. Is Survivor is a parody of Polynesian history?
Although the trek up the valley is billed as a waterfall hike, it has multiple attractions. Just up the beach and along the river are several small farms. Although one farmer we spoke with was loading up his doorless pickup with produce for delivery to town, the 7 or 8 small farms we passed along the way seemed more intent on subsistence farming, growing the produce for their own use. I've gone on and on in previous posts detailing the profusion of fruits grown in these valleys and here was no exception. The difference? A visually stunning setting.
Are you familiar with Mount Si in the North Bend area? Close to an area we call Bybee farm, Mount Si soars off the valley floor. Here in the Hakatea valley, the relief of Mount Si would qualify as flat - or perhaps a gentle slope. The farms in this valley have soaring 2,000 foot vertical cliffs as a backdrop. In fact, at one point up the valley, it looks like the mountains are leaning out over you. It is truly unbelievable and I hope that the photos we post in the galley adequately convey the effect.
On the opposite side of the farmland is a small river (or very large creek) flowing through the valley, providing water for irrigation and even power. Do you have a desire to engage in sustainable agriculture? It's been happening here for over 800 years - with occasional breaks for raids on the neighboring valleys - or defending yourself from raids by those same neighbors. All kidding aside, it's difficult to imagine a place more gifted in terms of soil, climate and available water.
Walking up the valley, the soil turns to volcanic rubble, the farms give way to jungle and the cliffs begin to close in from both sides. But the evidence of man remains ever-present. Not today's man, however. Around every corner are constructions by yesterday's man. Pae-pae, rectangular rock bases constructed as platforms for houses are still to be found. Trees now grow up through them, pushing the rocks apart and ruining what men built who knows how many eons ago. Much of the trail up to the water fall was built of rocks as a former road, wide enough for two people to pass side-by side complete with fills and tall rock walls built over creek beds to keep the trail reasonably level. In places, one actually walks alongside the old trail, as the vegetation has grown up through it, rendering it easier to walk alongside the old trail rather than on it. Totally fascinating and a little eerie.
The finale is the waterfall with not a lot of water but with a huge amount of fall and a dramatic closed-in canyon. Again, I hope the pictures do it justice, but it is so big and so in-your-face that it is impossible to fit it into a typical camera lens. We tried.
05/01/2013, Nuka Hiva
Orographic Lift. What a great word pairing, Orographic and Lift. Ahhh yes... Good old Orographic Lift. Say it out loud. Orographic Lift!
Although it may sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, these two words actually mean something. In the event you are not a weather junkie and unfamiliar with the term, let me explain. (I'm sure you were just waiting for this.)
Orographic lift is what mountains do to air. They lift it. Air can't very easily go around a mountain, probably not through it and for sure, not under. So, when air gets driven into a mountain by the wind, it goes up one side, over the top and down the other. Because the atmosphere cools about 3 to 5 degrees for every 1000 feet in elevation gain, wind-driven air gets cooled as it climbs up the mountain. It is in this forced cooling that the magic of rain making takes place. If the air being pushed up and over has any amount of moisture in it, the cooling condenses that moisture into big drops and produces rain. If the mountain is high enough or situated close enough to the poles (Seattle?) orographic lift creates snow.
Here in the Marquesas, the warm sea-level air has tons of water in it and that warm, wet air, when lifted up by a mountain makes rain very easily. And like Hawaii (or Seattle), it often rains on one side of the island (where lifting is taking place), but not so much on the other side. Think Eastern Washington, where the air is warming as it drops down after its ride over the mountains, perhaps even absorbing water rather than losing it. (Can you say "adiabatic heating" or "katabatic wind"? Good! We'll save that for a future post. Or not.)
Today we are anchored on the dry side of Nuka Hiva. What a difference! The previous three days we were anchored on the wet side. While it did not rain constantly on the wet side, it did rain off and on throughout the day and really let loose in the evenings when cooling is even more pronounced. Why be there, huddling in the rain? A big town. i.e. groceries, restaurants, propane (Butane, actually), diesel, rental cars, trinkets. And rain. Lots of rain.
Cassandra, one of our "crew" for the crossing flew home from here day before yesterday, as the island of Nuka Hiva also has one of the two main airports in the island chain. Actually, she flew from here to Papeete, waited several hours for a flight to Hawaii, where she has a gig crewing (for actual pay!) on another boat for a few days. She will then fly home to Bellingham on Alaska Air. Note: The flight to Bellingham from Hawaii was about $200 non-stop. Crazy.
The airport on Nuka Hiva is on the dry side of the island, less than 10 miles from our previous anchorage on the wet side. That day, for multiple reasons, we decided to rent a car and drive Cassie to the airport. Only 10 miles to the airport on the map? Try an hour and half drive. Seriously. It may be only ten miles "as the crow flies", but not as the car drives.
Fortunately, we knew this going in - and have NO regrets. We got a fabulously scenic drive on crazy-twisty mountain roads. And a great primer on Orographic Lift. Wet and lush (with waterfalls) going up one side, dry and arid (with pine trees) going down the other side. Almost desert at the airport.
On a side note, I'm not sure why they bother to ship vehicles to these islands with 5 speed transmissions. 5th gear must be pristine. I was certainly never able to use it. Conversely, 1st and second gear must get trashed rather quickly, not to mention the clutch. Almost every vehicle here, including our rental, is a 4 door, mid-size, 4x4 pickup, manual transmission. Good choice. I never used the 4-wheel drive, but thought about it more than once.
After checking Cassie in at the ticket counter we struck up a conversation with one of the passengers that had just arrived on the twin engine turboprop Cassie was about to depart on. Actually, she struck up a conversation with us. She swung her large backpack to the floor and sat on the benches beside us where we were all seated and reminiscing about our crossing and saying our goodbyes. She asked if we knew how she might get to town - a legitimate question, given that there are no busses or taxis at this rather remote, tiny airstrip on the far side of the island. During the ensuing conversation, we discovered she had just spent the last three weeks as an intern at a pearl farm in the Tuamotus, our next stop. Interesting.
I could almost see the reflection of this tall, blond, 20-something lass from Holland in Erlin's eye as he looked at me and noted "Well, we do have an extra seat in the pickup now. What do you think?" Heh. Yeah, well I know what YOU think, but sure, why not. We offered her a ride back to town, which she readily accepted.
Actually, we kind of kidnapped her. At the top of the pass that leads down to town (and an hour from the airport), the road forks. Rather than going down to town, we took the fork to another mountain pass and another valley and another town. In all fairness, not going back directly was always our intent, hitchhiker or not. I'm not sure we were clear in advance about our plans but luckily, she was game.
We had read in our various guide books that there was a valley with a large archeological site and a good restaurant at the remote bay below where it is located. These two stops were our goal and what great stops they were. The archeological site at Hikokua was gigantic and based on size alone backs up the claim that huge numbers of people once lived on these islands. The restaurant, Chez Yvonne, was fabulous as advertised and open - a detail we worried about as we crept down the mountain towards the bay, fighting hard for every kilometer of forward progress, three-pointing through the unending switchbacks and getting rather hungry in the process. There are only about four restaurants on the entire island, so catching one open, especially one as remote at Chez Yvonne is kind of a big deal. It turned out to be open and had a surprising number of lunch customers.
Chez Yvonne is essentially a large open aired palaypa across the gravel road from the beach on Hatiheu bay. Quite the setting, but their "claim to fame" is baked-in-the-ground pork, smothered in a red rum sauce. The sides were pan fried tapioca and baked breadfruit. Really good! And the after-meal entertainment? Feeding leftovers to the large fresh-water eels swimming in the creek next to the restaurant. Our earlier feeding frenzy was nothing compared to the eel show. Wow.
Lunch was followed by a stroll along the bay front and a visit to a one-room museum, ala the one-room school house museum on Stuart Island in the San Juan's. Yvonne sent along someone with a key to open it up for us. The museum, loaded with archeological items from the area told us an important fact: We need to learn French! Great visual displays with tons of information, but none of us could read a thing. Darn.
After a bit more walking and visual feasting on the dry (!!!) bay front, we loaded back into the pickup for our twisty drive to the wet side. Upon our return, we dropped our hitchhiker off at a local pension (in a downpour) parked our pickup back at the dock (in a downpour) and waited for a (brief) clearing to take our dingy back to Double Diamond. Now dark, we got back in time to put away the dinghy, escape inside before another downpour let loose and marvel at the wonders of Orographic Lift.
04/28/2013, Nuka Hiva
So much happening. So little time to write it all down.
Actually, that's not entirely true. There is time to write it all down if I will just take the time out from go, go, go. Our crew member Erlin has been doing a great job of keeping up-to-date and he has given me permission to re-post his latest entry below. I would encourage our readers to also visit his blog at www.svventured.com He recently posted some great photos, in addition to his written updates.
Melody has also added and updated photos in the gallery.
We have been visiting anchorages faster than I can write about them. Not that this is a horrible problem to have, but I'm sure it is tough on my readers who are expecting frequent updates. We are now in our 4th anchorage since I last posted. So, onto the details!
We finally managed to quit staring at the scenery at Hanavave Bay (the aforementioned Bay of Virgins) and took the dinghy ashore for some exploring. The town spread back from the water, with small side streets branching off the main street running up the valley away from the water. This appears to be a very typical layout for the towns, a central cement street in the middle of the town. As far as I can tell, they do not use the concept of city blocks in in their towns. And has also proved the norm, the town was clean and well kept. Sure, you can find a bit of litter if you look for it, but the villages are tidy and many of the houses have landscaped yards. Somehow I had it in my mind that there would just be clearings in the jungle with a home in the middle of them, but most houses have both decorative and fruit bearing plants in the yard. Another surprise is the amount of newer 4wd vehicles, mostly Toyota and Mazda pickups with the occasional Range Rover thrown in. While my island tour on dirt roads and the frequency of rainfall explain the 4wd, the recent vintage and amount of vehicles is unexpected.
I made these observations as we hiked up to a waterfall, which while quite high was more of a water running down a mossy cliff than an actual waterfall. Probably more interesting to us than the waterfall were the fresh water prawns and eel that we saw in the pool at the base of cliff. The eel was probably 18 inches long, and not as shy as expected. Melody dipped a waterproof camera underwater to take a picture and it swam towards her, and later caught Cassie off guard by slithering over her foot which was actually out of the water.
Once we exited the jungle we continued to walk up the valley on the paved road. The next village lay 10 miles away by road, and the word in the anchorage was to hire a local dinghy to take us the 3 miles via water to the village and hike back, as the road gains elevation at a more gentle rate in that direction. But since no one seemed eager to test their French, we just started walking towards the town of Omoa and quickly found out what a more aggressive elevation gain meant. Burning quads. Still, our relentless climb soon brought us views of the town we had walked through, followed by the anchorage and even Hiva Oa in the distance. We finally walked out to a radio tower on one of the ridges and felt like that was enough of an accomplishment and turned back. Shortly after a pickup truck drove by heading the same direction, slowed and stopped and after an exchange of Bon Jours, we climbed in the back in part because the driver seemed to expect us to, and in part because walking down a steep hill isn't really much easier than walking up.
After a pretty sound night's sleep on all our parts, we headed to Omao by boat the next morning. Apparently some construction has been done since our guide book had been written as we were warned of a difficult beach landing so we were happy to find a breakwater and easy dinghy landing, actually quite modern with solar powered street lights. We were looking for the local craft, cloth made out of bark named Tapas. Our timing was a little off since we were there on a Sunday in a predominantly Catholic community, but after a little asking around some women led us to a house and the handicrafts started appearing. I think several of the women went to their homes to bring some samples of their work in hopes of a sale. While I found a couple kitties with some beautiful markings a bit more interesting, some of the Tapas and hand carved bowls and Tikis were worth viewing. The Tapas have patterns, similar to the Marquesian tattoos, some abstract and some with recognizable items such as dolphins or sharks.
We proceeded to walk up the road through the village, wondering how close we were to the location of a hut Thor Heyerdahl had lived in for part of his time on Fatu Hiva. According to a hand drawn map of the island in the book he had only been about a mile and a half from the beach, and at about that range we found some stone platforms, possibly one of which their bamboo hut had been on. While his year on Fatu Hiva lacks true historical significance, it was interesting to speculate where he had been and how things were different now verses a mere 80 years ago. While the village of Omao is bigger now, with paved roads and 4×4 trucks, it still doesn't seem so far-fetched to wonder off to a private spot on the island, and live off the bounty of the land. While not every tree is dripping with fruit (as I had somewhat pictured), there appears to be no shortage trees bearing edible goodness. We had even seen the fresh water prawns he mentions eating, and the anchorages are teeming with fish. I'm happy living in a sailboat with relatively modern conveniences, but it is interesting to speculate. Apparently I'm not the only one, as the first season of Survivor was filmed in a bay here in the Marqueses we plan to visit in a few days.
Even though the guide book was wrong about dinghy landing, we decided to heed the advice about the anchorage not being stellar for an overnight stay, and headed for our next stop. Done with Fatu Hiva, we set sail for Baie Hanamoenoa on the island of Tahuata. As Fatu Hiva shrunk behind us, I couldn't help but think from a distance the island must appear much the same from this distance as it did when Thor Heyerdahl approached, and even further back when the islands were discovered by Europeans. Certainly the villages were different, but the outline of the islands has not been spoiled by condos, beach front resorts or other developments. Most towns seem to have only a store or two and no other real commercial establishments. Certainly life has changed radically on these islands since they received European explorers, but they are the least commercial place I've visited so far.
Our timing was a bit off and we had arrived at Hanamoenoa after dark. Luckily the last few nights the moon has been so bright we have been casting shadows on the deck, and we were able to use the moonlight and radar to find a place in a slightly crowded anchorage to park the boat for the night. It was a well-chosen spot as the next morning several large (6' across) Manta rays made slow circles on the surface near the boat. I spent time watching them in a mesmerized state and finally went to get the camera only to once again have my wildlife\camera theory proved true and did not see the Manta rays again after bringing the camera on deck. It also meant I didn't get a chance to swim with them.
We spent the day snorkeling and relaxing. From the shoreline, coral spread out on the bottom like urban sprawl, with multi colored fish darting every which way. Bella Star was anchored nearby so I had another chance to catch up, and we had the crew from Starship over for drinks to thank them for doing such a great job hosting the Pacific Puddle Jump SSB net while they were under passage. They revealed they had only used 45 gallons of fresh water on their 22 day passage. With three people on board. I think we've used that much in day, although owning a boat with no watermaker, I do feel guilty about that.
Finally the next morning I had another chance, and I wasn't going to hesitate this time. When I spotted the Manta rays, I jumped in and swam over. Of course - no Mantas in sight. So I just relaxed in the water and waited, and after about 10 minutes I was rewarded with a Manta swimming (flying?) slowly around me. It appeared to be feeding, along with several schools of fish in the area, and I just hung in the water and watched it slowly circle. Several times it would swim straight at me, always gracefully veering away, but still slightly unnerving to have an animal bigger than you on a collision course, with a mouth a foot across wide open. Eventually it swum off, leaving me with hopes of another encounter and a lifetime memory.
04/21/2013, 10 27'S:138 40'W, Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands
It's difficult to imagine a more beautiful and dramatic landscape than Hananvave Bay on Fatu Hiva. This place is right out of Avatar. I swear I even saw a sacred tree - maybe two.
Contrasting with the islands lushness is the physical relief. The island thrusts right up out of the water, rising in peaks several thousand feet high. If we found some of the peaks actually floating in the sky (a la Avatar), I would not be surprised. Melody comments that the anchorage reminds her of Princess Louisa Inlet or the anchorages of Desolation Sound with their backdrop of soaring peaks. Only this is the warm version. With palm trees.
In the book Fatu Hiva, Thor Heyerdahl (of Kon Tiki fame) documents and reminisces about his year here during the 1930's with his newly wed wife, Liv. His goal was to be a hippie and live off the grid, two terms yet to be invented. It's hard to imagine how a young man in his 20's could come up with a place like this in the 1930's. I mean, no Google Earth or a Wikipedia entry? Surprisingly, he did have access to a serious library on Polynesia in - of all places - his homeland of Norway. Even by today's standards, this place is rather remote, but his research told him it was perfect for what he had in mind. We all agree that it still is.
Ultimately, his plan to escape the trappings of the modern world failed, but not because of the physical nature of this place. It is lush and verdant beyond description. Tangles of fruit trees are growing everywhere. Bananas, mangoes, breadfruit, Pamplemouss (a huge, sweet grapefruit), limes, nori, coconut - the list is almost bewildering.
These fruits are not just growing in people's yards, either. We walked a mile or so back to a waterfall and fruit trees were growing in tangles everywhere along the trail. Remnants of an earlier civilization perhaps? We did see lots of old rock walls and former house platforms, even petroglyphs. Back in the 30's, Heyerdahl found the same thing, especially back in the valley where he tried (and failed) to make a home.
Heyerdahl blamed the locals for his failure. The locals seemed to blame Heyerdahl. I suspect the cause was unrelenting Norwegian work ethic meeting laid back Polynesian, the ultimate cultural mis-match. Although his book was written in the 70's as a memoir, it's not clear that Thor ever got the full meaning of hippie, even though he uses the term. In somewhat un-hippie fashion, he struck me as rather industrious in his adventure.
That said, laid-back Polynesian culture is not entirely in evidence here. Like the town of Atuona back on Hiva Oa, the majority of homes in the small village of Hananvave are neat, clean and tidy. The instrument of choice for taming the jungle? Gas powered weed eaters. We see them in use everywhere, often in fleets of two or three, trimming lawns and beating the jungle back from the edges of the roads.
Speaking of roads... They have them! Not I-5 or 405, of course, but all the streets are concrete. We walked several miles to a view point high above the anchorage and the majority of the way was a single lane, concrete track. The road is a link to the next town and goes over a high mountain pass. Like the town below, the road was neat, clean and in good repair, as are the vehicles here. How they get these vehicles to the island and unload them is a process we've yet to witness, but we've seen a couple dozen 4x4 Toyota 4-door pickups and the like, generally of newer vintage and in good repair.
To finish our hike up to ridge above the anchorage, we hitchhiked a ride down the mountain in the bed of one. Riding down dramatized just how steep the hike up was and based on our ride down, my guess is that replacement brake pads are in high demand here. One switchback was so tight, it required a three-point turn - and all on a nice, single lane, concrete strip. We thought briefly that a long-board skate board might be the ticket down but concluded that making the switchbacks would be tricky and would probably result in an airborne launch into a thousand foot drop.
This is also the first anchorage we've visited where boats from the United States are not predominant. Anchored here are sailboats from France, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. All the guidebooks said that once we left Mexico and arrived in French Polynesia, the anchorages would become less American and Canadian and more international in flavor. They're right. Our lack of decent French is about to get real. Perhaps both Melody and I will get a chance to polish up our high-school German.
Now the moment of truth for blogging: Finding time to write when your days are jam-packed.
One thing's for sure: We are no longer in dry, dusty Mexico. Really, we are in Hawaii. Of course, the real Hawaii is 2,100 miles north of here, but the land and the climate are very similar. Perhaps you are already aware of this (I was not), but the original Hawaiian people are direct descendants of the Marquesans. Even though they are separated by time and distance, if you speak the Marquesas language, they say you can understand Hawaiian.
Although these islands are geologically older than Hawaii and no longer volcanically active, they are volcanic in origin. Like Hawaii, the evidence of lava and volcanism is everywhere. The steep eroded mountains are very Hawaiian. The plants and trees are Hawaiian.
I have only found two real differences. No, make that three. First: No stink eye. The locals here are welcoming and friendly, unlike my experiences in Hawaii where there are places non-locals are definitely not welcome and you get that look. Number Two: Tattoos. Unlike anything I've ever seen and right out of National Geographic. Three: Fresh Baguettes. Everywhere. This is definitely FRENCH Polynesia, adding an additional cultural twist not found in Hawaii.
We took a long (perhaps too long) car tour of the island yesterday with an English speaking Marquesan drivr/guide. We've got nothing on these guys in the twisty mountain road department back home in the Cascades. Holy Moly. We rarely got out of second gear going up or down (and around and around), but sights at the ridge tops were fantastic and the settlements in the valleys opening to the ocean were idyllic. One interesting fact (at least for me): more than 90% of the electricity on the island is hydroelectric. Even in little valleys where only one of two families might be living, growing coconuts and fishing for a living, there were small hydroworks providing power. We haven't seen it yet, but clearly it rains here and they are putting these steep mountainsides to work.
We returned from our day trip to find an anchorage stuffed with boats. At least 10 additional boats came in during the day yesterday and this place is becoming wall-to-wall sail boats. Even our guide was stunned. The spring migration to Polynesia is in full swing.
The fun part of all these arrivals is visiting our new, "old friends" - other sailors and sailing couples that we have met during the past two years of traveling to and through Mexico. After dropping Erlin off with his newly arrived "old friends" on Bella Star, we went around in our dinghy saying hello to Tom and Kim on Exit Strategy, Chris and Anne-Marie on Starship and shared a glass of sparkling Australian Shiraz with Andy and Debra on Murar's Dream. We felt like the Welcome Wagon -and it was fun! Even for Rather Socially Awkward me. Chances are there will be a big cocktail hour on shore tomorrow and the real reunion-ing will begin.
The new arrivals will spend the morning checking in with the Gendarme's as we did two days ago. Maybe all day, given the crowd! For us, the check-in was a total non-event. I suspect it is because we used the services of an agent who, for $200, provided all the paperwork. This might sound expensive, but consider that for this fee they provided a bond that guarantees each of us will leave French Polynesia. With this agent-guaranteed bond in hand we avoid the requirement of presenting to the authorities an actual pre-purchased airplane ticket home for each of us - about $6,000 worth of plane tickets. It's pretty clear that we are welcome to come visit French Polynesia, but these folks are dead serious about not letting anyone stay.
Regarding check-in, there was no search of the boat and they seem unconcerned about any of the food or liquor we declared - and we declared (ready for it?) a boat-load. Of course, we being from the United States, they queried us closely about guns, but again no search.
My only real disappointment with the whole check-in process is that they did not give one hoot about our Zarpe, an official check-out document that we jumped through serious hoops in Mexico to procure. Remember the heavily armed Mexican police official who came on-board before our departure? That was all about getting our Zarpe. All that effort and nobody here seemed to care one bit about it. Oh well. Perhaps as we become more experienced at this, I will become more jaded, but for now I'm still in the "it-pays-to-play-by-the-rules" camp when it comes to departing and entering foreign counties via private boat.
Today's main activity will involve vegetables. Our guide clued us in to where the veggie truck parks in the morning, selling fresh fruits and veggies. We plan to ride our bikes in and see what we can haul back. Wish us luck!