Although we really enjoyed Hiva Oa, the water in the anchorage at Tahauku bay was dark and impenetrable --- not in any way inviting for swimming or cleaning the bottom of the boat. We were eager to get going. On Tuesday morning, the trip to Hanamoenoa bay on Tahuata island took less than two hours. The winds were very light, so it was motoring all the way --- a huge change from the long passage. On the way through Bordelais Pass, we were accompanied by a school of dolphin, leaping and cavorting about the bow. Tane got some more great shots that we should be able to post when we get to Nuku Hiva. Coming into Hanamoenoa bay, we found ourselves in a school of manta rays, so while I circled in the boat, Tane and Sal went swimming with them. The number of boats in this little bay has ranged from a low of around 10 to a high of 15. A little crowded by some measures, but we're enjoying meeting many new people. Eric and Susan Hiscock, famous cruisers who wrote many books, rated this bay as one of the top three in all of Polynesia, and it is indeed special. The water is very clear, the beach is pure white sand backed by coconut palms, and the green clad mountains soar in the background. There is a great deal of coral on the rocks, and a dazzling parade of colorful reef fish.
We've spent our time visiting, having visitors, snorkeling, walking the beach, kayaking, and just lolling about enjoying the weather and the scenery. It hasn't rained since we've been here, which is in marked contrast to the anchorage just five miles away, where it rained several times each day. During yesterday's snorkeling trip, a lone manta ray circled us repeatedly, and then came in directly so we could see right into its wide mouth. It was accompanied by a remora, a fish with a sucker on top of its head that allows it to attach itself to larger animals like mantas and sharks. It wasn't attached, but swam within an inch of the manta's underside, matching every move.
This morning we took the dinghy a couple of miles up the island to Vaitahu bay, where there's a small settlement. The primary mission was to buy baguettes, but we also came away with a bunch of bananas and 10 huge mangoes. The scenery at Vaitahu is even more spectacular---the mountains are highest just above the village, and they were completely clear of clouds so we were able to see them in their full glory. The village is as clean as Atuona, and the roads very well maintained. Again, people were driving very new vehicles. There are only a few miles of roads, so it seems they must be a status symbol here as well. How they manage to bring the vehicles ashore at the wharf is a mystery---it must be quite a sight to see. The ferry that comes each day definitely isn't large enough to carry a car.
We're now beginning to feel that we're really in Polynesia now. It's certainly living up to advance billing!
Our plan is leave for the island of Ua Huka tomorrow evening. It will be an overnight passage. After a few days there, we'll move the 20 miles to Fatu Hiva which is the main center of the Marquesas islands.
Trip log: 450 nautical miles (About 3,100 to go).
Having a poke at pleasurable prose with passionate purple passages (Tane):
As I awoke on the third morning I ascended the creaky companionway steps to be greeted by oppressive heat that seemingly radiated from every surface. Squinting out at the flat calm of the world's region of tropical convergence I understood the desolation and despair of the doldrums that the Ancient Mariner so aptly described. Scorching sun, unbearable heat, no relief of breeze, and glassy calm sea stretching endlessly in all directions into the horizon. "Water, water everywhere nor a drop to drink." Oh shit, I forgot! We have a water maker...how the times have changed!
Every evening has been a picture-perfect, postcard sunset, ending each day with a still serenity and exquisite brilliance. As the sun curves and falls imperceptibly, sinking low toward the horizon of blue on blue, it fades from radiant glowing white to dull crimson, igniting the waves into dancing triangles of red and orange and yellow. And, at the decline of the day the serenity becomes less brilliant but more profound as the stars slowly unveil themselves and deliver tranquility and humble awe towards the true vastness of the universe. The stars at sea, unspoiled by any light of civilization, seem to flicker and sparkle like I have never before seen. When first I laid eyes on the planet of Mercury I thought I had sighted a plane, and even for a minute entertained the idea of a UFO, as it was emitting such an intense and vivid strobing green and red light. Above the dazzling celestial body the luminous arch of the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon, vibrant and clear, almost drowning out the well known and comforting constellations of Orion, the Dippers and the Southern Cross.
Tane has promised to try his hand at more PP's as we pound passionately onward on our pacific passage.
The wind died overnight and we began motorsailing. It was at 2:30am when Sal was taking over the watch that I said nothing had appeared on the radar and demonstrated by turning it on. But wait --- there's a persistent speck about 6 miles out. Small, but really there. We went out on deck and sure enough, there was a white light faintly visible. So we have seen another boat, but never came close. Is this ships passing in the night, or do you have to be completely unaware for it to have the full force of meaning? There was nary a flash or peep from the AIS unit, and we came no closer.
This morning we're sailing in 2-9 knots of breeze from the south. The skies are clear and the sea is that glowing pale blue so loved by big game fishermen. There's a significant swell, up to 10 feet, coming from the south but very little chop, so we're moving smoothly through the water, rising and falling slowly as the big blue mountains pass under us.
We're starting to settle in to the watch routine. We're using a watch system of 2 hours on, four hours off -- it's really wonderful to have three people rather than just two (or even one-- we always ask the single handers how they organize their nights).
French lessons have started in earnest. In retrospect, we should have installed the software on two computers. We can't do it now as it has to be activated over the internet.
We're a little over two days from 9S 90W (that's latitude 9 degrees south and longitude 90 degrees west, quite possibly the original middle of nowhere) where we expect to pick up the trade winds. On the net this morning, a boat at 8S 100W reported 20 knot trade winds, was sailing at 9 knots, and had covered 230 nautical miles in the last 24 hours. Our first three days have been 105, 115, and 130. Today, with the wind taking a holiday, we won't be close to the best. We're salivating at the thought of 200 mile days. Of course, the ride will be more interesting --- right now, everything is very stable and smooth.
So far, apart from one of our ghost gulls that I found flying like a kite from one of the lines, nothing has tried our lures. The Humboldt current is supposed to contain something near 20% of all the world's sea life, but little of it is around us.
We had our last salad yesterday. Meals will involve less and less fresh food until we're down to none at all. Hard tack, anyone?
Passage log: 323 nautical miles
Bob McDavitt (NZ met service) advised us to avoid a strong north-going current at 85 west, so we tacked to the east for about 25 miles yesterday evening, then came back on course. Our current waypoint is 9S 90W --- this is the start of the real trade wind part of the passage. It's currently 428 nautical miles (about 3 days sailing) from our current position. There is an extension of the ITCZ (with squalls, rain, and calms --- the doldrums) that angles from north to south just to the west of the Galapagos. The squalls are between 3S and 4S and between 85 30W and 90W. Our current path should take us to the south of them.
(Sal- the NZ service - which we found advertised in a weather book we purchased recently - has been fantastic ... you pay some and they give you all sorts of weather, current and routing info so you can work out the optimium way to go through this l-o-n-g passage (one of the longest between anywhere and anywhere)... we never had to pay much attention to currents until we came to the Panama and Humbolt current (strong current going N from Antartica coming up the Sth Am coast. Parts of the current are up to 10 knots against you.... we've been able to avoid all that. Rog has the computer all set up to monitor set and drift (direction and speed). Right now we seem to have about a knot with us... that's a lot over 30 days... about 24 nautical miles per day. - just a comment for the novice... back to Rog... oh another thing for foodies - we are on our last day of salad... next coleslaw for a few more days and then onto "Just Tomatoes" and Suprise (NZ) dried veggies - fruit and veggies don't last worth a dam out here!)
We have seen no other boats (fishing or ships) for nearly two days now. We are currently just at the outer edge of the Peruvian 200 mile limit, just south of the Ecuador/Peru ocean area line. We'll be clear in a few hours.
It was another beautiful evening and sunset. Our "ghosts" gathered in a flock on the downwind side of the boat and then started trying to catch the lures. Tane and I tried to capture a photo of the gulls with the setting sun as a background---I think we got at least one good one. The gulls make a strange chirping squeaky sound. The flock seemed bigger last night, and the always surprise with their ghostly flashes of white in the darkness.
The wind died down to 5 knots as night fell, so we started motor sailing. By early morning, we had 10-12 knots and were doing 6-7 knots sailing.
This morning there was a flying fish and two small squid on the deck. How do squid end up on deck? Are they attracted to the navigation lights and then splash up onto the deck? Or to the birds catch them, then miscalculate and drop them when they have to avoid the sails or rigging wires?
A school of skipjacks has been around us for several hours now. They're chasing flying fish and something smaller. They leap right out of the water and tumble in the air in their efforts to chase prey. Regularly, a large school of flying fish takes flight just ahead of us. It seems the skipjacks are taking advantage of the boat --- the flying fish and smaller fish are surprised by the boat and flee right into the mouths of the circling skipjacks. Now we just need a few sailfish and marlin circling for the skipjacks. So... there are two groups taking advantage of our passage. Sal - Skipjack meat is very dark red... we don't to eat it - other do. R & T have the lures out for the big fish that may feed on them... so far no bites. I don't participate in any of the fishing... just the eating.
The sailing conditions are the best we've ever seen. The swells are small and there is very little chop. Our course takes as parallel to the chop, so there's very little resistance. Although Tane saw a little rain on the radar in the dark early morning, none of it has fallen on us. The popcorn trade wind clouds are back again.
This seems to be the year of microphone problems. First, we had to replace our main VHF radio because of bad microphone. Now the microphone on our SSB (Single Side Band---the "big" short wave radio) is giving problems. We can't check into the nets, although the radio itself is working fine as we can hear everything and can transmit and receive emails (the email transmission is computer controlled, bypassing the microphone transmit switch). Oh well! So we can't chat to other sailboats on the way, but we can email our positions to the Pacific Net so that the sailing community knows where we are each day. The closest other sailboat seems to be about 200 miles. We will be asking Bruce McLelland, a NZ boat guest if he can bring one to the Marquesas when he joins us in a month.