The Marquesas III
Tuahata Island, Hana Moe Noa Bay, April 22
The morning started as usual. I was up at 5:30, drinking a swiss mocha and doing chores/reading. I was sitting in the cockpit when Cory, from Rutea, paddled up in a kayak and said "you wanna go swim with some rays?"
My mind, suddenly filled with excitement, could only think of 2 words to blurt out - "Fuck yeah!"
I dove down below and grabbed my snorkeling gear while yelling at Yuka to wake up and did she want to come? Bleary eyed she said yes, of course she wanted to come and stumblingly threw on a bikini.
We hopped in our dingy and paddled over to where Cory was waiting about 200 meters from the boat. She was looking a little dejected. "I've been watching them for a half hour, but when I got back here, they were gone!"
Oh well! Let's snorkel the point instead, which we did for the next 45 minutes or so. While we were paddling back to the boat for some breakfast, Cory looks up and says "Hey, there they are!" She had seen the ends of their "wings" above the surface. So, breakfast forgotten again, we padded over, went over the side and were instantly surrounded by gorgeous 4 to 6 foot Manta Rays! They were everywhere! 8 or 9 of them. Swimming slowly by with their mouths wide open, gathering plankton.
We stayed in the water mesmerized and watching these graceful creatures for the next 2 hours, totally enthralled by their silent dancing and unable to pull ourselves away..... We were in 50 feet of water, and could easily see the bottom. I kept hoping to see more sharks, but none came by. An incredible morning to remember..... Thanks Cory!
The Marquesas II
We left Hiva Oa on the 14th and set sail for Fatu Hiva. An uphill sail of 50 miles. The wind was a steady 15 knots and we were as close hauled as we could be. A bit uncomfortable, but excellent sailing! We were loving it. Then, about an hour into the trip, I was down below and I heard what sounded like a gunshot from above. I ran upstairs and found the headsail flogging away with no sheets attached! We had blown the clew! SHIT!
So we furled that and watched our speed cut in half. Oh well! I turned on the engine and we motor sailed with the main up.
Awhile later I thought I'd try changing the headsail. So I went up onto the heaving foredeck and started to get everything ready for the change. It was rough up there. We came down off a wave and I slid over about a foot and smashed my foot into a cleat, breaking one of my toes.... I looked down and saw one of my toes going off at a 45 degree angle, and decided maybe I didn't really want to change that sail after all... I started wiggling and flexing my toes and thankfully it snapped back into place.
3 hours later I heard a big rrrrrrrrrrrip! Looked up and found the mainsail had blown a seam just below the second reef! SHIT AGAIN!! I went up and put in a double reef and watched our speed dwindle even further. Oh well!
We limped (especially me!) into Fatu Hiva just as the sun was setting. I was just finishing up setting the anchor when Norm from Sara Jean called out and pointed to the setting sun. I turned around and was struck by the most intense and beautiful sunset! I stopped everything and just stood on deck in rapture.... A bumpy, sail ripping, toe popping, slow passage forgotten.... It was just us, Merkava, and the most intense raw beauty imaginable.... Awesome.....
PS - Beth and Norm just happened to have a sail sewing machine on board Sara Jean and kindly offered to help with the ripped mainsail. So the following day, we hauled it over to Sara Jean and while Norm, Yuka, and I wrestled the sail into the right place, Beth valiantly sewed it back together.
Well, we're here in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. Paradise! Really.
The first thing that struck me was the smell of the land. A rich, heady, exotic, and fruit filled blast of land when we were about 5 miles out.
It seems everything that grows on these islands has some kind of exotic fruit hanging from it. There's Mango's in profusion, Papaya's, Guayaba, Peti, and a fruit called Noni that smells like urine and is used to treat cuts and scrapes.
Then there's Durian that Yuka doesn't like but I think if OK, just a little chewy, like fruity bubble gum, and breadfruit that these islands are so famous for. It's a fruit, but with the consistency of a soft bread. It's a staple here and when you pick it from the tree, it bleeds a sticky milk from the top.
Everywhere you look is tropical jungle and "lush" is a word totally lacking in potency to describe it. Especially after being at sea for so long. It overpowers the senses in the most uplifting way. I just want to sit and breath for awhile......
But I don't because there's so much to do. You might be tempted to think that living this life, with no one to answer to, no "job" to wake up for and no bills stacking up, that boredom is always just one step away. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and our lives have been chock full since we got here.
And almost all of it's fun in a sweaty, and exotic kind of way. EVERYTHING you do, is sweaty. I mean, if you move, you sweat. And if there is no breeze, you sweat even if you're as immobile as sitting monk in prayer.
So I decided to arrange the "jobs" I had to do, in an order so as to reduce the gallons of sweat I produced in a day to a manageable level. ANYTHING that involves any strenuous movements, is relegated to the 5am to 8am or the 7pm to 8pm shifts. Anything that has to happen in-between those times is interspersed with scrubbing the bottom as getting in the water is the one respite from the intense, humid, and relentless heat.
Just because this is my life right now, I started to give different jobs, different "quantities of sweat" ratings. It seems to help. For example, a walk into the main town at say 10am is about 3 liters. The same walk at noon, would get a rating of 5, for 5 liters of sweat of course. Filling the diesel tanks from the jerry cans, at 1pm, got a rating of .5 Gathering mangoes, 3pm, 1.2. Anything I have to do inside the boat after about 9am I simply double the rating. I actually lost 4 pounds just checking the oil level!
Other than leaking, and obviously going a little "balmy" because of it, we've made some incredible new friends and spend much of our time hanging out with them. We go on long walks and explore the islands, snorkel together, and get together on each other's boats for drinks and dinners.
There seems to be one universal reason that people go cruising, and that's to relax. I mean friggin get relaxed..... Shed the accumulated stresses of living in this day and age that have been building up for years.....
So everyone takes that into consideration. No one is running around trying to get everything done in a day. It's definitely a slower pace of life, and I'm loving it.
This was my first ocean crossing and it was a BIG one! We spent 25 days at sea going from Manzanillo Mexico, to the island of Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas. We did 2986 miles, which ranks it as the longest ocean crossing in the world.
It was all I had hoped for and then some. We had almost no wind for the first 4 days, which was kind of nice as it gave us time to acclimate ourselves to our new world.
Here's a bit from my journal for that time.
"We've tried to sail as much as possible and the time so far can be described as motoring, then listening to the sails slat and chafe, then motoring again. But we've enjoyed it so far. It's really beautiful out here. Saw our 1st shark today. Just a fin and tail gliding along about 100 feet from the boat. I saw him from the bow while we were watching about 40 dolphins play in Merkava's bow wave....."
Then the wind started to build on day 4. By day 5 we had truly hit the trade winds and were roaring along at 6 to 7 knots in about 15 knots of wind on a very broad reach. Perfect sailing! For the next 9 days we didn't have to touch the sails except to fiddle! Amazing!
At 6 degrees North Latitude we started loosing the wind which we had come to love so much and it was getting HOT! OMG! During the day I'd go looking for the coolest spot on the boat, usually the forward stateroom with the dingy over the hatch blocking out the sun and a cool breeze blowing through. We motored, and sailed off and on for the next 7 days till we caught the south east trade winds at 4 degrees south.
We crossed the Equator on April 4th at 9:11pm, day 18. We had thought we'd swim across the equator, but it was a very DARK night, and there was still some wind, so we got the ladder down and had a good dunk instead, scared to let go of the ladder and be lost in the inky blackness. We did some dancing in the cockpit to celebrate, and gave an offering of nice cold beer to Neptune. (I didn't think it was polite for him to drink alone, so I had some too!) I then recited an ancient passage I had found that said since we had stopped and paid our respects, that Neptune now blessed our voyage. It was cool! Now we were in the southern hemisphere!
At 1:50am on April 11 I could just make out a dark silhouette in the distance. LAND! It was the island of Hiva Oa. There wasn't a light to be seen. No lighthouses or towns... Not even a house with a reading light on..... Just this darkness on the horizon where there wasn't a second ago.... It was a very cool, magic sort of feeling after spending so long with nothing but ocean around us....
When we got to about 5 miles off the coast, we got our first scent of land. A rich, humid, and exotic smell that was intoxicating to drink in... The Marquesas are covered in jungle and fruit trees and are very alive with vegetation.
We pulled into the small and cramped anchorage at Atuona at 8:17am and were met with a dilemma. There was no room for us! I had never seen a more filled anchorage in my life! But after circling around, we managed to find one spot in about 10 feet of water. I felt like a sardine, just put in the can! The only thing that made it possible was that everyone had a stern anchor out. Norm from Sara Jean, another Vancouver boat, came over in his dingy and dropped our stern anchor for us.
Then we both just sat in the cockpit and looked around like gaping baby magpies waiting for their momma to return to the nest. I mean, mouth open, not really believing we were here, staring! And as we both sat, drinking in the exquisite views and scents of our new world, we thought of all the days at sea, and all the stages we had gone through to get here.
The months of prep in Vancouver before setting off. The scary passage down the coast of Oregon and northern California... More work in San Diego, then still more in Puerta Vallarta..... The long, hot provisioning trips for food in Mexico, making lists, checking them off, making more..... All the new friends we had made along the way... Then the trepidation/excitement we felt in Manzanillo before setting off.... The days of slatting sails and no wind, the trade wind days, the shark, the dolphins, the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that were highlights of our days.... The nights so filled with stars I found it hard to believe I was still a part of the same world...
Then, Norm came back with his wife Beth, and we had a beer. A nice, super cold, well earned beer to celebrate being here.... I raised a toast to Steve Tremblay as promised for giving me so much help and advice before leaving Vancouver. Then, we got our dingy into the water, rowed to shore, and went for a nice, long, walk in our cool new world....
"A person that goes to sea for pleasure, would go to hell to pass the time."
This quote has been going through my head for the last couple of days now. It's because I'm living in a world that is never still. Usually the exact opposite - in the extreme. Take a grilled cheese sandwich for instance. (which I just had) Seems like a simple want in life. But the mere act of standing is difficult, well, pretty much impossible to do it in one spot, unless you have something indestructible to hang onto, and you've been working out lately.
So you go through the motions of going to the fridge to get some cheese and butter out, in a sort of jerking epileptic kind of goofy walk - think of a giraffe on Quaaludes - that really hurts if you get the timing of the waves wrong. If you DO get the timing right you only LOOK like you've got the balance of an 8 month old, BUT you are actually in as much control as possible.
So you manage to get the cheese out of the fridge, then, you look at the knife display. All six of them lined up razor sharp and you realize it hasn't even begun to get dangerous until now. To get the full scope of what I'm trying to describe here, imagine this. Have you ever seen popcorn being popped? Good. Now imagine jumping into the middle of the popping corn, only it's not corn, it's knives. Now you can see what was going through my mind while I looked the knife set.
Well, while this was all going through my head, Yuka came down from outside and asked what I was doing. And since she's just a tiny little thing, AND she does this sort of thing all the time, I kind of acted all nonchalant and said, "oh nothing, just making a sandwich" and summoning all the macho I had after 5 months in Mexico, I made a big grab for the smallest knife.
She was kind of watching me now with an odd little smile on her face. So quickly, while I still had my chest puffed out, I started to cut some cheese slices, all the while lurching, lunging, and side stepping to keep my balance on this roller coaster ride from hell that I had paid so dearly to be on..
Just another day in paradise..
Well, life has been fairly routine for the last week or so! Once we hit the trade winds on day 4, we've had 15 to 20 knots of wind the whole time. We pretty much just set the sails a week ago, and haven't done much to them since! How cool is that! We are going almost dead downwind now so the boat is rolling around a bunch. Doing ANYTHING is a bit of a chore, but we're pretty used to it now. You get used to having your legs splayed out anytime you stand - and many times when you're sitting too! We've been eating fresh tuna as much as we want. I've had fresh (like hours old) shashimi, avocado and tuna shashimi salad (a little weird but deeee licious!), and an incredible fried rice with tuna and veggies dish.... I'm getting spoiled out here.... Yesterday I woke up and there were tuna jumping all over the place. I've never seen anything like it. They were going after flying fish. The sea was just alive with them. SO! I put my line in and caught 4 before it was my turn to hit the bed. We had enough so I released them. We both love it out here. It's so cool to look out and see nothing but ocean... day after day... night after night...
Hi all! This is our 3rd night out on our trip from Manzanillo Mexico to the island of Hiva Oa in French Polynesia. Our voyage so far has been pretty calm... unfortunately. There hasn't been much wind at all and we've motored for 27 of the 54 hours we've been gone. We're getting a breath right now that's nudging us along at about 4 1/2 knots. Everything is quiet and peaceful out here. Yuka has been keeping herself busy sewing up some towels and beautifying the boat. Giving it a woman's touch and making it her own. I've been doing small jobs that always need doing on a boat, but mostly just relaxing, catching up on sleep, and enjoying being out here on this great big ocean. Check out the map on the right side. Hopefully it will show you where we are! Cheers for now, Mark n Yuka
It seems every Mexican anchorage has at least one hotel. And at every hotel, there is LOUD music played on the beach, through big, and broken, speakers. Till the wee hours of the morning.... Right in front of where you're anchored.... Nothing remote and primitive on this coast. But all the dance music you can shake a stick at. Which I did on a couple of occasions when it just got too damn much. Sometimes ya just gotta sleep! Un chuka un chaku un chaka un.... Only cuts it for a couple nights. After that it's "I'm gonna kill the sumbitch that's playing that terrible music....! BUT! Like everything else in this country.... You get used to it. You live with it.... You think, well, this is about as bad as my life gets right now... I guess it's not that bad.... Loud music and broken speakers is the extent of my worries right at this particular time, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. That's it. That's all I can possibly think of to complain about. Fuck.... Life IS actually grand right now! I guess if I really thought about it, I COULD find something to complain about.... Like..... Um....... Hang on a minute..... I'm thinking.... OH! I got it! I didn't catch a fish today! FUCK! I had my lines out all day..... Nothin'! FUCK! And then, when I had taken the lines in, and we were almost at the anchorage.... Already inside the bay..... A fucking tuna swims up to the boat, (he really did!) sticks out his tongue (ok, I don't know if he really did that)... But he seemed to be smiling as he swam off.... I could almost hear him saying.... Nananana! Didn't get me! Stupid fucking tuna.....