Bodrum to Airlie Beach

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Hiva Oa, The Marquesas to Papeete, Tahiti

26 July 2010
Log reading 17,927 nautical miles
A dragon resting over the Bay of Virgins

Twenty five litres of diesel was all they could spare at Atuona due to a fuel strike in Tahiti. Fortunately we had plenty and only needed a top up. However, the fuel we got from Galapagos needed a lot of filtering through a funnel and our water and sludge separator was working overtime at the other end. I added this filter in Croatia and it has been very useful in preventing our normal filters from clogging up. A few mediocre vegetables were added to our pantry and off we went overnight to Fatu Hiva.

Either the gearbox or our Gori folding prop needed some attention because we could not get it into forward gear. So looking a little undignified, we exited the harbour in reverse. It took a few goes but eventually we were able to go forwards. Yet another warranty claim to eat into my fun time. Tahiti is the nearest place to get it fixed along with all the other problems.

We needed to go slowly in order to arrive at Hanavave in the morning but with 20 knot winds it was hard taming Fandango down. Finally, with nothing more than a headsail furled to a third on a close reach, she still made nearly four knots in two to three metre seas.

Hanavave or the Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva was windy but spectacular to say the least. One of the most scenic anchorages I have ever visited. Only from a boat can you truly appreciate the beauty of such places. Here the 3D impact of the wrinkled hills overlooking us was very Tolkien. Like giant green dragons, their steeply ridged backs curled around the rivers to form lush jungle valleys filled with hibiscus, palms and other leafy delights.

The village had the usual ugly one and two storey concrete buildings and the locals drove new cars presumably subsidised by the French government. Instead of lofty hotels by the stony beach, there was a green field and some goal posts. Edo was soon checking out when was the next game.

Apart from small amounts of copra, they didn't seem to do much. It is hard to see how the coconut products you buy in the supermarket can come from these dirty fragments drying in the sun. The chooks roamed around eating them and returning it in liquid form. The flies left their maggots for the rats and birds.

Well, into explore mode we went. Towering volcanic rubble had crashed from time to time on to the road that lead us out of the village. Then steep walks, a waterfall and views from the dragons' backs. Breathtaking!

During the evening the locals practised for their festivals, timed to coincide with Bastille Day. The beginners were in one class outside and the others were in a building that amplified the big drums throughout the village. It looked as if everyone who could wiggle their hips was there and they certainly worked hard for more than ninety minutes.

Not long after we left Hanavave, we stopped and dinghied ashore to pick up some baguettes from the village where they were made for this small island. We were blessed with steady winds that make sailing so much more enjoyable than the gusty conditions that take a toll on sails. A few days later we arrived at the pass to enter the Makemo lagoon. The current here can reach nine knots so some care is needed to enter at the right time. This would not be a good place for forward gear to fail.

Pouheva had the usual mess with concrete dwellings, a church and at least one old abandoned stone building from another time. However, this was party time and in the evenings groups of dancers competed. This was no practice but the full Monty complete with chief and grass skirts. Even the women's bras were covered with woven palm fronds. I note this because it is not that unusual to see a woman wearing a colossal bra like an outer garment. Apart from the crew off a couple of yachts, there were no tourists here. There was also no beer due, probably, to the same strike that was affecting everywhere.

Fandango took a trip along the inside of the lagoon to a picture postcard beach that was all ours. The sixteen nautical mile route was littered with small reefs and bommies (coral heads). The crew took it in turns to be hoisted half way up the mast to keep a look out.

We had a BBQ, flew a kite, walked and swam in the clear aquamarine water that changed shades as it got deeper. We played tennis and even raced hermit crabs that were everywhere, including your plate when you put it down. Fab was muttering that he wanted to build his dream beach hut here. Sad to think this will all be gone next century, along with thousands of other low lying islands.

The boat's beer supply was now dangerously low and so we headed back to the village to forage. I wished we could make beer like we made water. Thank goodness the crew didn't go a bundle for scotch. The prop was checked before heading off and was slow to engage but it did after a few goes. It worked fine again after going into neutral to get over lines laid for long distances at right angles to the shore. These were for farming the famous black pearls.

Still no repair of the town's wifi or supplies from Tahiti. However there was the World Cup Final on satellite TV and our hosts had a small cache of the amber fluid. Before the game we watched an almost total eclipse of the sun. The clouds did their best to hide the event but it could still be seen.

That afternoon we popped out on the slack tide and sailed off overnight to Fakarava, which has now become Fab's favourite swear word. We used radar to check the location of small atolls that kept you on your toes. It was a wet windy night and I had to put on my Santa suit (red coloured foul weather gear) to stand watch.

A big French flag was hoisted but Bastille Day turned out to be a non-event. We watched the school having a field day. The three legged race and tug-o-war were hotly contested.

This UNESCO atoll still burns plastic and other waste that wafts along the coast. Wifi was a joke here as well. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry and the shops, like everywhere in French Polynesia, open and close out of sync with each other, if they open at all.

We visited a pearl farm and the German owner was helpful and even supplied some beers whilst we fed the mosquitoes in the shade. Not many tourists here either.

It was time to go and with the headsail and reverse gear we made a clean exit. Two nights at sea and early the following morning we sighted Tahiti exactly where it should be. A huge cemetery made a good landmark on the green hills. We anchored in the lagoon off Marina Taina, a short distance from Papeete, where the busses run into town during the day but at night you have to get a rip-off taxi. The fares jump fifty percent, making them dearer than in Oz.

Along the waterfront, Papeete has some gardens and events into the early evening. But beware after the shops shutter-up around five or six. The area inland becomes the "dark" side of town. The occasional hooker, beggar or scary looking person permeate the shadows to be at your side. I wouldn't say you were in immediate danger but I wouldn't want to be here later into the night.

We met up with some friends from other boats and made more friends as the group grew in the evenings. Now in the marina waiting for our repaired gear box to be re-installed, amongst other things, we imbibed and made our own music. Fab on the Fandangophone (sax) Edo on Fandanguitar join others on guitar and drums to serenade the night ... until security turns up. Not a problem though and they left us alone on future nights.
Vessel Name: Fandango
Vessel Make/Model: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 39i (LOA 11.86m)
Hailing Port: Airlie Beach, Whitsundays (Registered Melbourne, Australia)
Crew: Andrew
About: See "Meet the Crew" in the Blog Locker
Extra: We like our grog but don't smoke.


Who: Andrew
Port: Airlie Beach, Whitsundays (Registered Melbourne, Australia)
There are more albums under Photo Gallery.Thank you to those who contributed photos.It was very hard deciding which ones of so many to show because of limited space available.