04/18/2010, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Ile Marquises
Today we're taking it slow, before our departure this evening for Fatu Hiva (which one of our dieting friends says sounds like an eating disorder) for an overnight passage, arriving tomorrow morning.
Despite my intention of sleeping in today, for the first time in a month, I was unable to get much past 6am. It gets light very early in this time zone, and that, coupled with my early watch schedule for the last 3 weeks has me awake at first light, which is fine. The coolest, quietest time of day is the morning, and I'm relishing that first few hours of the day. So Allan and I had some toasted baguette and jam and watched the harbor begin to stir, saw a few little manta rays jumping in the water, and planned our itinerary for the next few weeks.
We have a total of 90 days in French Polynesia and then we are evicted, no possibility of extending the visa, get out. So our drop-dead date is July 13th, with a plan to be in Papeete by mid-June for a Puddle Jump Celebration. Between now and July 13th, we want to see the Marquesas, the Tuomotus, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, plus a few other selected islands, and our plan needs to get us the Western border of French Polynesia by that end date. So we've got a tentative plan, and we'll see how it goes.
After breakfast I spent a little time socializing via my kayak -- paddled over to Secret Agent Man and chatted with Eric and his crew mate Liz, who had cooked up some breadfruit for us because we hadn't tried it before -- or if we had, we couldn't remember if we liked it or not -- turns out we like it. Tasted like a french fry. Who doesn't like a french fry?
Also visited with Coup de Soleil, which means "sunburn." Andre and Martin hail from French Canada and to them, the word "sunburn" has a positive connotation, and was a great name for the boat they spent years building in the cool north. (Of course, the day they launched it, it was pouring rain.) We will probably not cross paths with them again until Tahiti. Last night we joined them and Rod and Elisabeth from Proximity for a great meal out at a local restaurant, probably one of our last meals out for months. There is a dish they make around here called Poisson Cru, a Polynesian version of ceviche; raw fish in lime and coconut with finely shredded carrots and cucumbers, and it's scrumptious. I didn't have that. I had the curried shrimp, which was also scrumptious.
Our un-anchoring might be a bit challenging tonight, since the boats in this harbor do so much dancing around that our stern anchor line is tangled with the bow line of the guy behind us. The picture above is an amusing depiction of the path our boat took during the 10 or so re-anchoring evolutions we've had in the last few days. Greg says it looks like Timmy got a hold of the black crayon and found a blank wall to scribble on.
So we're bound for the Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva, then some nice snorkeling spots on Tahuata, north to Ua Pou ("wha-poo") and then a week or so in Nuku Hiva, and will hope to get some spectacular photos for the blog. We will not have Internet access for a week or so, which means we'll be posting the blurb via HF radio and won't be able to include a photo. Photo journal to follow when we get to Nuku Hiva.
04/17/2010, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Ile Marquises
We're making slow progress in resetting our ocean-crossed selves, marveling at the green and staggeringly beautiful South Pacific landscape, feeling the fine black volcanic earth beneath our feet, and feeling sort of time warped and out-of-body.
The first few days have been filled with the things that make life what it is no matter how exotic your circumstances might seem -- finding the laundry lady, cleaning the boat, washing the deck with water collected from shore in the Orange Home Depot 5-gallon buckets, getting diesel fuel via the dingy in 5 gallon jugs, trying to figure out Internet access for the next 3 months, learning about the local customs and currency, throwing out the last of the less-than-desirable food items, and exploring the new realm for fresh provisions.
We discovered pamplemousse -- giant sweet grapefruit, scrumptious and delicious, and one of the few items available here that is actually affordable. Affordable has become a big word, and a goal, since the Polynesian Franc doesn't go far around here. The money is large -- the bills don't fit in your wallet, and the coins pull your pants down from the weight in your pockets. But it's also small -- it takes a lot of it to buy a cup of coffee, never mind fruits, vegetables, and cheeses, many of which are imported.
We've made a trip to town every day so far, looking forward to the exercise of the 3km walk each way. But the Marquisians are so dang friendly and generous with space in their cars that they keep stopping and offering us rides. And when it's hot and humid and their pickup is air conditioned, it's hard to say no. They don't want money, either, they just pick you up as a courtesy, or so it seems to me with my rose-colored glasses. So we've only actually walked all the way from town to the harbor once.
The people here are delightful. There is a sweet small-town feel but with a subtle level of sophistication. The streets are clean and well-maintained. The buildings are not falling down. The trees are groomed. And, as I've previously mentioned, there's ice cream. And baguette. Baguette everywhere. In fact, come to think of it, maybe it's the baguette that gives it that sophisticated edge. Oh, and canned butter from New Zealand. Very sophisticated.
Around the corner from the bank is the Municipal Police Station, which is not on the sophisticated list but definitely tops the charming list. At 20 x 20, a squat Polynesian building on short stilts with pampas grass woven walls, it's unlikely there's a jail in there -- or anything else that would imply that much crime occurs around here. Everyone seems happy. There are lots of new cars. In fact, there are no old cars. There's hibiscus blooming everywhere in every color, and some sort of deep purple berry or fruit that has ripened, fallen to the ground and is fermenting -- I imagine there are a lot of plastered birds flapping around. The fruit is edible, Allan had some, and said it was quite good. He didn't get plastered. We saw some people whacking breadfruit down from a large tree in town near the post office today, and walking across the street and selling them. There are colorful chickens scratching everywhere, with roosters crowing day and night. Life seems rather easy, and quite peaceful.
We've caught up with some of the stories from other cruisers on their crossings. We were extremely blessed. We had very little drama, no bad weather, no major equipment failures, no injuries, and no bad crew experiences. Two of the boats that left Puerto Valletta for the Marquises had medical evacuations for serious injuries, one in almost the middle of the Pacific. Several people had to turn back due to equipment failures. Some had issues that they were able to deal with en route and are now looking for bits and pieces to cobble things back together for a few more months. There's really not much here; we are in a small-town part of the Pacific, nothing until Tahiti for major repairs or parts. In these situations cruisers help each other in very dedicated ways.
Allan has become the Anchor Diving Guy in the harbor, happily diving down to check or untangle people's anchors. He went in the water no less than 3 times today on anchor-related matters. He got his experience from our own issues in the first few days, in which we had to reset our bow or stern anchor about 10 times. Several of those times he then jumped in with mask and snorkel to check the set on the bottom.
We're not alone in this harbor in having anchoring trouble; dragged anchors and boats coming in contact with other boats happens on a daily basis.
Yesterday we reset one or both of the anchors numerous times whenever we felt we were getting too close to our neighbors. The other night after dark Allan had to dive on the anchor with an underwater flashlight to free the anchor which had become ensnared in a mass of chicken wire. He jumped in, we saw the glow of his light as he swam to the bottom, freed the anchor with one hand and was back on the boat in less than a minute.
There is a shower on shore near the cement dingy landing, and "laundry facilities" that consist of a flat tiled counter with a drain hole and a faucet. We have become quite enamored of the experience, which has turned into an afternoon treat. After a long, hot day we dingy ashore with our Orange Home Depot 5-gallon bucket full of dirty laundry and take turns showering in the outdoor cement-walled shower, which has only one temperature: "P" for perfect. The water that gushes out from the faucet above your head has the strength and volume of a small waterfall, it feels marvelous. Meanwhile the other person does laundry on the tiled shelf under the tree in the Orange Home Depot 5-gallon bucket. We dry off a bit and dingy back to the boat in our bathing suits and hang the clean clothes on the life lines.
The bugs we assumed would be waiting for us in organized bug armies have not materialized, we have seen only large benign wasps flying about in slow motion, checking things out and seeming not to notice us at all. They are mainly enthralled with all the shiny stainless steel on board, go figure.
So that's the account of our first few days on land. The air is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the people are nice, the baguette is great, the bugs are absent, and the scenery is lush: we couldn't ask for a more hospitable welcome to the South Pacific.
Ps. Allan is working on updating the photo gallery with pictures from our crossing. Our Internet access is very slow, so it may take a little while.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We're here! It took 22 days, 10 cabbages, 33 watches, 22 cooked meals, 5 buckets of laundry, a crunched middle toe, some shin bruises and a few head bonks, but we made it.
We arrived at about 9am (ship's time; Hiva Oa time it was 7:30am) and were greeted by the enthusiastic waves of our friends Gordon and Sherry from Serenity, who guided us to a nice spot next to them, then proceeded to share all the ins and outs of the town: the bank, the exchange rate, the formalities of checking in with the Gendarme, how much lunch costs, (a lot!) where to do laundry and so on. Then Andre and Martin dropped by with a fresh baguette (very welcome snack food, indeed!) and more advice. ` We spent the day learning how to walk again. It was odd. I felt the motion for a few hours, like a slight earthquake beneath my feet., it was a bit disconcerting. It's a 3km hike to the town of Hiva Oa, a clean, quiet little South Pacific town with all the necessities, including ice cream. Checking in with the Gendarme was a simple matter, in part because Tahiti Yacht Agents handled a lot of the paperwork in advance, and partly because he was a genuinely nice guy. Recently relocated from his home in France to the Gendarmarie in Hiva Oa, where he is 12 time zones from his grown kids, he was still getting used to life in the Marquises. We practiced our French with him, and Greg -- who took actual French in high school -- wowed him so much that he dropped his efforts to speak English and directed his full-speed French at Greg, who hung in there amazingly well.
So we did all the usual things you do when you're in a new, remote country: get money, marvel at how colorful it is and wonder why ours is so dull, check in with the officials, and eat lunch at Snack Make Make. We wandered through town a little, but like many places around the world, the entire place shuts down between 11 and 2, so we found ourselves face to face with a lot of locked doors, in the hottest part of the afternoon.
Eventually things opened back up, we got some ice cream, a few necessities for dinner, and walked back.
It's beautiful here, and it's humid. We'll spend a few days here and get our bearings and wait for Rod and Elisabeth on Proximity,, then sail around the Marquises Islands (the French spelling) from bottom to top for a few weeks. We're sort of in denial that we're here, that we completed this huge endeavor, that the boat isn't moving anymore. And it's a bit odd to think that when I finish writing this I won't have to go right to bed to be ready for my 3:45am wakeup call for my watch. Or that the reason we can't see the sunset is because it's obscured by, uh, what is that hard stuff with the green palm trees all over it? Oh, land! Land -- gorgeous, tall striking shots of lush land with clouds on top -- land with dirt and bugs. Land that we are anxious to explore.
April 13, 2010
Did the last day drag by, like a slow, sweltery eternity? Yes, uh, I mean no, but it was agonizingly slow. The wind is totally playing games with us -- the nearer we get, the less it blows. It it weren't for the 2 knot ocean current we've been riding since the equator, we'd be even slower. So we're dragging along, riding the current, going about 3-4 knots, which is really okay ... as you might remember, we have to drag our feet anyhow to get in after the sun comes up. But we are awfully tired of this woggeling! Slap slap, thrash, toss. Puhlease.
Like everyday, we got some stuff done: Tiffany finished her sewing project, Greg has perfected his ukulele song, Allan and I spent a good deal of time organizing photos and files on the computers, and making lists of things to do in Atuona.
Beyond that, there's not much to say except as I write we are 66.88 miles from Atuona. 66.87 ... 66.86 ...
Monday, April 12, 2010
Today was a big, big day on this boat, a happy day. Today we threw out the cabbage! It was freeing, maybe not like a 60's undergarment burning party, but a great satisfaction. It was still edible, barely, but had no redeeming value. Nothing left nutritionally, very little flavor. To our credit we did have a few cabbage- containing meals in the last few days, so we tried, but we were ready to cast off the bonds of cabbage and we are better for it.
We're inside the 200 mile marker, and still moving a bit too fast for a daylight arrival. The irony of trying to eke out a knot or two here and there along an almost 3000 mile route and then arriving too soon and having to slow down!
The French lessons continue, Allan spent quite a bit of time today with the French for Cruisers book and I'm discovering he's fun to learn a new language with, because he looks for rules and patterns. And he says "Oh I get it!" a lot. Me, I just try to memorize and get the pronunciation right. We did more research on the islands as well. Did you know that the Marquesas are UTC + 9.5 hours? It's the 5 part that's funny, I've never been anywhere where the time zone was half an hour different from the next one over.
So we just woggled along some more today, with the sea coming from two different directions and forming little spouts where they crashed together. Sometimes these little spouts jump right into the cockpit or through a small window, just a quick spritz. It's actually hilarious, like the sea is playing a little squirt gun game, like a child. We ignored it all for the most part and got things done, like valiant soldiers. Tiff had the sewing machine out today, she's working on a backpack. It's tough to sew when the boat keeps lurching, and the machine keeps launching, but we set the machine on the salon floor in the center of the boat, the most stable place, albeit a bit of an inconvenient sewing position. Helps to be flexible.
So. Tomorrow is our last full day. We are READY!