07/01/2008, The Tuamotu Atolls
We set out from Takapoto at 3AM to ensure that we would reach Toau in good light even if the wind was not up. It was a very dark night with no moon. The crew did a great job of raising the main in difficult conditions. We were in the lee of Takapoto but the wind was around 15 to 20 knots and with one engine it was impossible to keep the bow up for long before the wind blew it off to port. Driving to windward to keep steerage way was not an option with the reefy island there. We made three trips around in circles before the huge main was up.
We made pretty good time but the seas were again pretty lumpy once we were out of the lee of the island. It is an 80 mile trek to Toau from Takapoto and Swingin' on a Star was making 9 knots or more. The wind lightened up halfway through the sail and the seas came down for it, also because we were behind Aratika atoll, though it was 20 miles out.
Toau, unlike Takaroa and Takapoto, is not surrounded by motus. It is more a circular reef with a motu here and there. It is a beautiful atoll as well though. We dropped the sails as we approached the false pass that forms the anchorage and fired up the one engine. I had a little trepidation here because strong currents in passes are standard fair. Once cruising guide said there were strong currents here and one said no current at all. If there was strong current, skating around with one engine would not be optimal.
The closest tide station is Manihi, not forever away but not next door either. The atolls vary a fair amount in their flow times due to conditions. We didn't have any luck radioing for local advise so we crept up looking carefully for tidal rips or standing waves. The pass was well marked and flat. We entered and found no current at all. It was perfect.
Inside there are moorings which are preferred. The first one we approached had no pendant we could see so we anchored. We wanted to get out of the way because Szel, a Sun Deer 64, was coming in behind us and we didn't want to be a hazard. The bottom is 50 or 60 feet in the north part and the trades set you back nicely.
Twelve people live on the adjacent motu. Some of them came out to say hello. They were so kind and friendly. There is a restaurant here but it was closed tonight because the main lady was out doing some work with black pearls they are growing in the lagoon.
We all took a little snorkel and checked our anchor as well as Szel's mooring. All was well and we invited Karnen and Guy over for drinks. It was another lovely evening in paradise. We were sad to have to leave for Papeete tomorrow and promised ourselves to come back.
230 miles to Papeete!
Nobu says: "This anchorage is so calm and the temperature is perfect. I slept outside until 3:30AM. The people are so nice as well"
Hideko says: "The list of perfect anchorages is getting longer..."
06/30/2008, South Pacific
Today was pretty nice sailing. Seas were still a little big and the wind was stronger than predicted at about 20 knots but we were moving along at about 10 knots and not slamming too much. There were still squalls in the area and a couple hit us but we double reefed the main and jib to slow down and let a really big one pass in front of us. It was making its way west across Takaroa as we approached.
Takaroa was beautiful. We sailed into the lee of Takaroa and the seas went from 10 feet to 0 feet but the wind stayed in the 15-20 zone. It was perfect sailing! We left one reef in the main to keep the speed down so that we could cruise close to shore and enjoy the view.
The Tuamotus are steep to. The edges of the islands are lined with reefs that dry at low tide and after that they drop off rapidly to several thousand feet. The bottom is also often all coral. We searched for sand spots along the coast looking for a lunch hookup but didn't find any. We also tried the supposed temporary anchorage near the pass but didn't really like that spot either. It was not pretty (kind of industrial compared to the untouched beauty of the rest of the island) and the concrete quay had a big freighter on it.
Takapoto is just 5 miles south of Takaroa so we continued on. We cruised Takapoto also and found it just as lovely. There are two villages on Takapoto and no pass. This supposedly make the lagoon even better for pearl oyster production. There is an anchorage marked off the northern most of the two villages but we found a spot a little north of that to anchor.
We anchored in 40 feet and put out 200, which had us laying back into 150 feet of water. It is tricky anchoring in the lee of these atolls. It is very hard to find a sand spot and even if you do settled conditions are a must.
Our anchorage was amazing. We jumped in for a snorkel and marveled at the 100' visibility and amazing coral everywhere. Nobu saw a black tipped shark and a green moray free diving. It was a refreshing swim in the sapphire 84 degree water. I checked the starboard prop to make sure that it wasn't going anywhere soon and it looked good.
Hideko made dinner and we enjoied some wonderful oranges from Fatu Hiva for desert. When the sun set the anchorage was as wonderful as by day. Only the water lapping on the reef and more stars than I have ever seen.
Nobu says: "I had a great time free diving in the wonderful coral"
Hideko says: "I thought we left paradise in Fatu Hiva but here we are again!"
06/29/2008, South Pacific
After a first day of non stop squalls with 12 knots or 25 knots of wind and messy seas, day two turned out to be 25 knots all day with some big steep waves rolling through early afternoon. Nothing concerning but no fun for the crew. Fortunately things cooled off this afternoon late and the seas are now a more comfortably shaped 8-10' and the wind is 20 or less. We double reefed the main and jib last night to keep conditions sleepable on board (sort of worked). Have made about 9 knots all day with the double reef setup. Rolled out the full jib in the late afternoon and just took the main up to reef one for the night. Looks like it will be a beautiful night's sail.
We have decided to do a lunch stop at Takaroa atoll instead of Toau. Takaroa is the northern most atoll and often a first landfall for those heading down from the Marquesas. The passes into most of the atoll lagoons have big currents as the tidal flow for the entire lagoon squeezes through the passes. With one prop in play we decided to anchor outside and Takaroa has a nice spot for that near the town supposedly. We should be there by noon just in time for snorkeling and a light lunch. Then we will be off for Tahiti again with the hope of arriving in the afternoon on the 2nd.
I have been leaning on Charlie's Charts of French Polynesia a lot lately. It is a great cruising guide for the area with lots of useful info. I also like the Guide to Cruising and Tourism in French Polynesia. I sold it to some folks in need in Fatu Hiva though so I have to pick up a new copy in Pateete.
150 miles to Takaroa!
Nobu says: "Tomorrow I will see my first atoll and lagoon!"
Hideko says: "zzzzz (catching up on sleep)"
06/28/2008, South Pacific
We left Fatu Hiva this morning bound for Tahiti with a possible stop in Toau. There is a false pass on the NW side of Toau that looks like a nice anchorage and we may try it if we get there during daylight in nice conditions.
We have been in constant squalls today so the sailing has been no fun. We are making good progress though and expect to be at Toau the day after tomorrow and Tahiti by the 2nd or 3rd of July.
Nobu says: "First time in big winds on Swingin' on a Star, she handles it very well."
Hideko says: "Sad to leave Fatu Hiva, but excited to see our friends."
Today we are getting the boat ready to sail for Papeete to meet our friends Pablo and Louise. It is a 700 mile hop so we need to leave today or tomorrow morning to arrive on the 2nd of July. We are sorry to leave the Marquesas so soon and plan to come back this trip. Organizing flights for Pablo and Louise to the Marquesas was not something we could do from Fatu Hiva and if we had sailed to Nuku Hiva we may or may not have been successful in getting them a flight there. We also don't want to waste a lot of time on their travel because they only have a week and a half.
Nobu and I cleaned up the broken battens to ensure the mainsail isn't damaged until we can get the battens replaced. This is a little bit tricky with the batcars but not too bad. We also cleaned up and stowed everything aboard.
I took Hideko in this morning to get Baguettes in the dinghy. Hideko went into town and I stayed on the quay. After a while another local boat came in. I helped the guy tie up and he asked me if I was here for the Baguettes. Seems he has the cruisers pegged. I said yes and he said the truck had already gone by. He asked how many we had aboard and I said trois. He then reached in his backpack and gave me a big baguette and said that should be enough for three. I said merci beaucoup but it was far from expressing the extent of my gratitude. We secretly dropped off a bottle of rum in his boat later in the day.
Hideko was walking around with a bathroom scale to give to the old man who so kindly gave us all of the bananas yesterday. She had three offers to trade things for the scale. If you have something you don't want it is quite likely that you can trade it here. These people have no use for your money however. Hideko did catch up with the bread lady and purchased 10 baguettes to pass around the anchorage. One of the boats gave us some grapefruits, which we were trying to come by anyway. Some Finnish folks gave us some yummy crackers from Finland. All in all is was a good morning's haul.
Later in the day we shared a coffee with with Jo from Sea Bright. We met Dave, Jo and their lovely daughter Beth in Shelter Bay, Panama, so it was nice to see them again here in paradise.
It has been a lovely stay here and we are a little sad to leave. However we're very excited to see our friends for the first time in almost two years. Tahiti here we come.
Nobu says: "I have been sleeping so well here in Fatu Hiva, it is nice to be at anchor."
Hideko says: "It was worth getting up at 6:30 for those baguettes!"
We hiked around Fatu Hiva today. The town is pretty small and we walked through most of the village quickly. Many of the people smiled and said hello as we passed. Unlike the Caribbean no one here is looking for money or trying to sell you something. An old mad gave us a huge bunch of bananas and would accept no payment. The people are simply wonderful and many the world over could learn from their kind unassuming demeanor. They are truly happy in their paradise.
We took various roads up into the hills. We explored farms and trails, hills and valleys, but never caught sight of the elusive waterfall. It hasn't rained much lately so there may no be one at present. It was a challenging hike regardless and we got some great exercise over the several hours afoot.
We tried to find eggs but couldn't locate any. Vegetables are also hard to come by. Fruits, in particular the huge sweet grapefruits, are easy to come by. From what we have found perfume is the high value trading item, that and rum. Buy a case of $3 a bottle rum in Panama and you will have all the fruit you want.
Nobu says: "We walked through the jungle with no trails today!"
Hideko says: "People here are so wonderful, they do kind things for you without expecting anything in return. It makes you want to pass the kindness it on."
We are still using the HF radio to post blog updates (and do everything else). This prohibits posting pictures which is a shame because this place is indescribable. We will post a picture for each day as soon as we get to a WiFi or shore based internet outlet.
Fatu Hiva is pretty isolated as places go. There is no airport (and certainly no place to put one). A water shuttle runs to Hiva Oa and there is a road between the two towns with a few four wheelers plying it (2 hours one way). I have not met anyone who has made the hike to the other town. A couple of guys we talked to walked for five hours and felt like they were just past half way so they turned back. Fatu Hiva does have a phone or three though and, of course, you can get fresh French Baguettes. These are truly amazing and you could not get better in Paris.
We cleaned the entire boat up today and Nobu did the entire water line (thanks Nobu!!). It wasn't too bad but things do get in a state after a two week rambunctious passage.
Late in the afternoon we went diving on the south side of the bay. It was pretty nice with good vis and a wide variety of fish. The sheer cliffs run straight down to the bottom at about 80 feet. Huge boulders near the point provide shelter for massive schools of grunts and the like.
We wrapped up the day with a nice dinner and watched Mutiny on the Bounty (the 1935 best picture version). It was perfect.
Nobu says: "Today was my first time to try to catch Lobster spear fishing!"
Hideko says: "I can't describe how beautiful Fatu Hiva is above and below the water."