05/14/2012, Marquesas-Fatu Hiva-Bay of Virgins
The fellow sailors we meet are quite the group of interesting folk. The single handers traveling in small boats (as small as 30 ft) alone at sea for up to 46 days. A very international group from throughout Europe and the USA. Families with small children, young sailors in their 20s, couple s that have sold everything and are living their dreams. We all share a common harbor and bond with the journeys we have taken to arrive at this harbor. These cruisers that have visited Fatu Hiva all told us we just could not miss the Island.
So we changed our plans, pulled up anchor and headed out at 1AM arriving in the Bay of Virgins Harbor at high noon!! WOW. Its reputation stands, the most beautiful anchorage in all the South Pacific. This is paradise, beyond words. As we sit in the bay we are surrounded by green lush towering peaks. The mountains are a combination of tropical green and pillars of rocks that at times form canyons that are luring us to go hike. Our dinner entertainment is the mountain goats that with their young are somehow jumping around on these solid rock peaks . Mere specks at the top. Fatu Hiva is a place that forms a lasting memory that will remain forever.
The lure drew us in. We dingied to shore and walked through the village. Around 20 homes with lots of children laughing and playing on a Sunday afternoon. We continued on out of town climbing the mountain through thick tropical vegetation with towering peaks staring down upon us. Mango trees, coconut trees, banana trees. We take a foot path to the left which leads up a steep muddy trail to a 200 foot waterfall crashing down into a cool deep freshwater pool. Ahhhh the refreshment of a freshwater swim!! Ahhh the South Pacific. As the sailors say, dont wait, just go now!
05/12/2012, Marquesas-Hiva Oa-Atuona
Well finally getting things back to normal. You may have read yesterday was a holiday and the town was closed for business, like checking into the country and shopping, internet, phone service. We just hung out, here, there, every where. We had our appointment at 0900 to see the Gendarme/police to check in Wednesday. Well Tuesday we got a ride back to the dingy dock from our soon to be island tour guide. Since most people know each other on the island she requested we get our agent to change our appointment to 0730 so she could give us a tour of the island. Things just got better. Check in was painless, we meet two other couples checking in who were cruising in their boats from the UK. We asked them to join us for our tour. That brought the tour which was charged per car down to a very reasonable price per person. So after getting every one together off we went. So picture this, we all have seen pictures of the South Pacific: palm trees blowing in the ocean breezes, crystal clear water, deep blue skies, we get to this island after 27 days at sea with wide open blue skies, blue clear ocean to an anchorage filled with boats almost to capacity, anchoring on top of each other, muddy water (there is a stream with rain runoff), overcast skies, rain (some times 2 hr down pours) every two hours and a society were they take two hour mid day lunches then close up shop at 1600 hr or don't open at all. Now off we go with a Polynesian woman, Mary Jo in a 4-wheel drive Ford, open pickup bed with bench seats for all. She is in charge, and I mean in charge. She goes ripping up the hills and curves as if this were LeMons. We are getting tossed around a bit, then the pavement ends. The road turns to gravel and pot holes are getting bigger. She slows slightly but we don't care, we have finally found paradise. The palms became banana plants, the canopy above became trees that look like the banyan trees of the African plains with flat tops, breadfruit trees, and pine forests. We stop to view wild goats on the steep hill sides, moving and jumping from boulder to steep ledges with ease ones we are afraid to look over. After each hair pin turn we are greeted by another awesome view. Be it a lush valley or another awe inspiring view of mountains or bays and beaches better then the magazine pictures. Remember we are on this one lane, two track deep rutted dirt washed out road. Then another 4-wheel vehicle approaches. Mary Jo no stop she explains, they pass within inches and exchange words we don't understand but can image. Same every where, ya think? The road is now right along the edge of the mountain side, like the goats we saw earlier, we dare not look down, Mary Jo just drives along, now she too is concentrating not to get too close. We have seen breath taking sights, some local remote villages with 5 to 10 families and historic Tiki ritual sites. Now we get treated to a real Polynesian lunch in a remote village. Things like Poi (banana something, very good), cuddlefish salad, goat stew, beef stew, rice all very good (better if one doesn't know what it is). Then it was time to return to Atuona 3 hrs over same bumpy road. We were mainly quiet on the return trip, we had stomachs and eyes filled by the natural wonderment. We finished by taking a hike thru the forest/jungle to a little hidden smiling Tiki, funny even the old Polynesians had a sense of humor, eye glasses or those alien eyes. Our trip was ending, views now were fogged in and it started to pour rain.. We were back at the boat and reality.
05/08/2012, Marquesas-Hiva Oa-Atuona
I know what you are thinking, we are just laying around on beautiful white sandy beaches in the South Pacific, palm trees swaying in the wind, drinking tropical drinks and working on our tan. Couldn't be the furthest form the truth. Today was re-provision, re-fuel day so off we go, jerry cans in hand.
Getting supplies on a remote island is quite the experience. Here in Hiva Oa a supply ship comes in once a week, weather permitting, to resupply the island, this means everything, food, butane, diesel, gasoline.......The ship, named the Taporo IX, about 150-200 feet long comes in on Thursday. Quite the sight. The dock has been empty and quiet since we arrived, but come Thursday, all hell breaks loose. It seems like everyone on the island has something on the ship. After berthing along side the dock wall, the crew goes into action, there are two cranes lifting refrigerated units of the deck, while forklifts from inside the hull start driving out pallet upon pallet of supplies. We see pallets of water, Heineken, butane. Barrels of diesel and gasoline. It is a madhouse of activity. About 5:00pm after off loading their cargo, the Taporo shoves off, and it is a ghost town, the docks are empty, people have all vanished---Until next Thursday, then it starts all over again!
After consulting with other cruisers, we find out that in order to obtain more than 20 liters of diesel you buy it directly from the cargo ship, in 200 liter drums, so off we go. We find 2 other boats that want to split the barrel, so everyone gets about 15-20 gallons. We are not alone, the locals are doing the same. ship's crew fills the barrel, and then put it on a stand so it is on its side, with a valve and a hose we proceed to fill up all the jerry cans. Task completed! Oh, shoot, now we have to lug them back to the boat.
To obtain gasoline for the generator and outboard motor, there is a Mobil station near the commercial dock, they open at 8:00, yea right! The cars and trucks start lining up to obtain their 20 liters of the precious commodity. We are about number three in line. Well after watching a over a 100 cars and trucks get fuel, and after much smiling and Si'l vous plait's, it is our turn to get 20 liters per person, task done, darn, now we need to lug these back to the boat.
Nest task--reprovision fresh foods. The good news!! Supply ship means fresh food and supplies at the markets. Off we go into town to finish the last items before heading off to Fatu Hiva. Wouldn't you know it, raining like cats and dogs, sheets of water coming down. Should we go to the market or lay on the beach today :) Surprisingly, the markets are well stocked, fresh apples from Washington State, other frits and veggies, fresh eggs........most everything we wanted, except for maybe that maple syrup for pancakes and french toast. The re-provisioning goes well, after dropping about $250 for 4 bags of groceries, oh, and a case of Hinano, task done. Damnit, we got to lug this all down to the boat to, not from the dock, but from town a 45 minute walk away. Luckily, the tiki's were shinithough ng on us, as our friends on the Mason 44 Bob and Linda got a taxi, and were willing to share the right.
These cruisers are a pretty hardy group of people.
Maybe tomorrow we'll lay on the beach, yea right!!
05/07/2012, Marquesas-Hiva Oa-Atuona
Got settled into the anchorage here in Atuona after getting the boat squared away, and catching up on our sleep. A nice anchorage, a bit rolly, room for about 30 or so boats. There look to be about 25 right now. All very friendly. We have boats from US, UK, Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Bermuda that we have seen so far. Met lots of the other cruisers, a very friendly group--I think all the cruisers are. We all converge on this small dot in the Pacific with the same dreams of sailing to the S Pacific, all having to check into Polynesia here, get visas, re-fuel......
Hiva Oa is a very rugged, volcanic island, there are maybe 3 roads on the island. We are anchored near the town of Atuona, which is a 40 minute walk to town. The town has a population of 1500, and the island about 2500. We are anchored on the south side of the island, the roads take you to the north and east sides, were there are 2 other towns, as well as a couple small villages along the way. We are planning a 4WD tour tomorrow to the east end of the island.
Atuona is a one street town, but no stoplight, just a yield in the center, where the Gendarmarie is located. There are 3 little markets, the post office, a bank, hardware store, as well as a cafe and we think 2 or 3 restaurants. The markets, surprisingly are pretty well stocked, as well as the hardware store. The supply ship comes in on Thursday each week, so we are looking forward to seeing it come in and resupply the island. Oh and it looks like there are 2 resorts/hotels, a Pearl Resort, and one other a ways away.
It is a holiday today, Armistice Day, so not everything is open. We stopped at the cafe, and the first thing I got was an Orangina, reminded me of my days working for Club Med. The locals are very friendly and helpful. We used a yacht agent to help w/ the formalities, but closed today, so we will check in tomorrow before our tour of the island.
We walked down by the school, there is a big soccer/football field, as in Europe, and other parts of the world, soccer is the sportif no. 1. Pete said he watched a match and listened to some polynesian music on one of his walkabouts. Paul too has been exploring the town, doing the ship's fact finding mission to find the provisions we will need before we set sail for one of the other islands.
As we are in the tropics, it rains everyday, usually just a 20 minute shower, but we were reminded not to leave the hatches and ports open when we go to town, or you come back to a wet surprise. They keep things nice and cool, but also wake you up at 2am to shut all the ports, only to re-open them shortly after. But we are in paradise, no problem here.
05/07/2012, Anchored in Hiva Oa
Sailing along in a nice breeze of 15-20 knots with a furled jib only, and still making 6.5 knots. With the almost full moon rising, we expected to spot the island of Hiva Oa sometime in the night. Paul had first watch, 8-12am, nothing yet. I had the second watch 12-4.
You could faintly make out a dark shadow on the horizon in the general direction, but no confirmation, but the fragrances of the islands were in there air, we knew we were close. Pete came on at 4am, between the two of we determined we were indeed looking at the island. Land Ho!!! 4:30am The island rose out of the sea as we continued toward the east end. As the first light appeared, gradually the dark, black mass became a towering lush green tropical island. It was 7am, we progressed around the east end of the island, a rugged coastline, with no lights or beacons at all. I can only imagine how the original explorers felt as the came upon these gems in the middle of the Pacific after possibly months at sea. We continued to round the east end, waves crashing on the steep cliffs. The anchorage at Atuona is about 11 miles due west.
Majestic!! That is the best word to describe the view. The mountains are so lush and green. The elevations is approx. 3000+ feet high. It is obvious a large part of the island has never seen human footprints because of the steep rugged terrain. Tropical rain clouds shrouded the peaks, I'm sure they remain in rain clouds most of the year.
Atuona is the main town on the island, the anchorage is in a bay just to the west of there. From the sea the bay is a sharp right turn from the open ocean, so you really don't see it until you actually are upon it. At 10:30am we entered the anchorage to find around 20 sailboats anchored snugly together. We were the new kids on the block!!
There were flags from Norway, Australia, Bermuda, U.S., Germany, France to name a few, a blend of the many countries all anchored in paradise. Most of the boats were anchored bow to stern, so we quietly motored around to find a place to drop our hook(it was only about 8am local time).
Dropped anchored, shut down navigation equipment. We made it!! Pardon Monsieur, ou et la Baquettes?
05/07/2012, 30 miles from Hiva Oa
We all keep conning the horizon, looking for a glimpse of land. As we near the islands we have seen a lot more bird activity, as well as dolphins. The water has remained about 94-95 degrees, but the air temperature has been a pleasant 85 degrees or so, with the nice 12 knot trade winds, sunset dinner was perfect.
Yesterday, w/ Cinco de Mayo, we celebrated with Tamales, Rice and refrieds, no cole slaw, but Tecate beer and of course a snoot of the good tequila. Our provisions our holding up very well. We have used up almost all the fresh produce, but really had it most of the way. I think we lost 2 watermelons, what a shame, as they were so sweet to munch into as we crossed the equator. We still have Salmon, Steaks, Roasts, and Chicken, as well as tons of pasta, canned and boxed stuff to get us to Papeete, where the re-provisioning would be done. The Marquesas and Tuamotus probably won't have a great selection of food stuffs.
We expect to be in Atuona by 10am tomorrow, check in, and then go searching for ice cream (glace) and a baquette and frommage. We've also been reviewing the cruising guides to determine which anchorages we would like to visit, as well as check out the island via 4WD....
Next blog, Land Ho!