Time to hunker down, the Mara'amu is coming!
19 July 2019
With our new crew Neil and Alex onboard, we were eager start the next 3 weeks island hopping all the way to Bora Bora.
Mo'orea was just a few hours sail from Tahiti. Here we enjoyed snorkelling, horse riding through the pineapple plantations and we had a unforgettable experience swimming with Sting Rays and Black Tipped Sharks that were literally around our ankles!
Best laid plans are often marred by the weather and unfortunately the forecast was now showing very strong winds to come. We had already seen a change in the wind strength and the sky was no longer clear but overcast with heavy rain clouds.
We made the decision to move onto Hauhine, just a night sail before being stuck in Mo'orea. The forecast was 20 knots of wind and the sea conditions good enough to have a reasonably comfortable passage.
We wanted Neil and Alex to experience a calm passage, to enjoy star gazing without light pollution and the magic of phosphorescence that sparkles as the boat moves through the water BUT of course we had the complete opposite and with a horrible swell hitting us on the beam we all ended up feeling queasy! We were glad when daylight came and Hauhine was on the horizon.
We anchored near the main town and waited for the Mara'amu to come. The Mara'amu are strong winds caused by a massive high pressure coming from New Zealand accelerating the normal trade winds. And sure enough it arrived that night. With a constant 30 knots and gusts of over 40 knots howling through we were having to constantly check that the anchor wasn't dragging. The winds sound twice as bad at night meaning Bill and I were up and down like yoyo's and then bleary eyed in the morning. It's a little disconcerting to think that 10 tonnes is secured by a 25 kilo anchor dug into the sand but Bill tells me there is much more to the equation than just that, and sure enough our sturdy Rocnor anchor kept us safe. We had one day with a lull but basically were hunkered down for five days. Trips ashore were wet, swimming off the boat not recommended but our hardy crew weren't put off and still enjoyed a dip holding tightly onto hand ropes. It was a time for reading and games and we're now all pretty shrewd Monopoly Card players!
We hired bikes on our one dry day and discovered the charm of Hauhine holding onto it's Polynesian heritage and if the sun had shone would probably have been my favourite Society island.
At last the winds abated and we quickly lifted the anchor to make the short sail to Tahaa skipping Raiatea. We had one of our best snorkels in Tahaa at the Coral Gardens off the very exclusive resort on the Tautau motu. Unfortunately the day we planned to hike on Tahaa it poured and we decided there was no point in going if you can't see the view! Twice we tried to eat out but the restaurants were closed and the exclusive resort was fully booked. Tahaa turned out to be just too sleepy but Chez Krabat managed to muster up yet another tasty meal. Neil and Alex proved to be brilliant in the galley, sharing the cooking and baking us some heavenly cake.
Hooray at last the sun was back, time to up anchor. Bora Bora here we come.....
Tahiti, Society Islands
05 July 2019
It's not all sunshine in paradise!
We are constantly weather watching and the theme seems to be that predicted winds are either lighter or stronger than forecast. During our crossing to Tahiti we encountered constant winds of up to 30 knots which were not expected. Of course they had to hit at night and it was a little scary having to turn the boat to wind in the pitch dark to reef in the main sail. It was also raining, so a long night watch tucked under the spray hood.
The sun was shining by morning and the tall mountains of Tahiti were in sight. We were now in the Society Islands, islands surrounded by barrier reef where surfers flock to ride the huge waves. Once through the pass we anchored in the calm waters of the lagoon just outside Taina Marina.
Tahiti is the most densely populated and the commercial centre for French Polynesia. Tourists tend to fly into Tahiti but then take a plane or ferry to other islands. Our senses where soon hit with the hustle and bustle of busy Tahiti. The noise of the busy coastal road, the marina with its restaurants and bars full of people and we were anchored in the locals playground with jet skies and water skiers etc buzzing by. We couldn't wait to stock up with goodies from the huge Carrefour supermarket just 5 minutes walk away. We were back in civilisation!
We arrived in Tahiti on the 12th June, nine days earlier than we had originally planned and the gods must have known something? No sooner was the anchor down maintenance jobs popped their ugly heads up. This involved a week of catching the local bus and traipsing around Papeete's industrial estates sourcing supplies. Our main failure was our boat batteries. In Tahiti I think you can get almost anything but whether it's in stock is another story. We could not wait a month for batteries to be shipped in so had no choice but to walk miles to find someone that stocked two 150Ah/12v batteries in the correct dimensions for our boat. Pacific Self Energy came to our rescue but of course at a cost!
We went into the marina for a couple of days before Neil and Alex arrived from New Zealand. With shore power the boat had the luxury of a thorough vacuum and with a water supply a good scrub of the decks.
We were now ready for our visitors who were flying in on 23rd June and at last free to do some touristy things.
With a hired car the four of us took the coast road down to Tahiti Iti the smaller island connected by an isthmus. Every August a world surfing competition is held at Teahupoo to ride the 8 meter waves. We took a small boat tour out to the wave, although not 8 meters that day it was still exciting to be bobbing on the edge of these huge waves.
The next day we drove into Papeete which you either love or hate. It's busy and chaotic not particularly pretty but I suppose we'd grown used to it so were happy showing Neil and Alex around. I just love the women that cheer the town up with their brightly flowered headdresses, the older women in particular taking great pride in wearing them. Just about every other shop is selling the beautiful black Tahitian pearls.
We drove on to Venus Point where Captain James Cook came to study how far the sun was from the earth by some calculation involving Venus? (I'm sure google will explain it).
There are no white sandy beaches in Tahiti so we were ready to move on. Next stop Mo'orea......
Tuamotuas, French Polynesia
03 July 2019
After sitting for days in the Marquesas waiting for some wind we finally departed on 30th May for the Tuamotuas. We were excited, looking forward to some great snorkelling in the crystal clear lagoon waters, anchoring in calm water and visiting a pearl farm. The Tuamotuas waters produce the best black pearls in the world. The Tuamotuas are atolls, basically low lying rings of barrier reefs that once surrounded an island, connected by palm tree motus (land/islands). It was once called the Dangerous Archipelago avoided by yachts on account of their treacherous currents and lurking reefs in the days without radar, GPS and plotters. Even with all the electronic devices onboard, negotiating the passes into the lagoons is still a difficult operation because of the strong currents and entering should only be considered at slack water. Once inside the lagoon a constant watch is needed to avoid hitting the columns of coral heads (aka Bommies) which are difficult to see unless the sun is behind or overhead. For novices like ourselves we chose our first atoll carefully and headed for Kauehi (we can't pronounce it either) considered to be one of the easiest to enter and navigate. We had no difficulties entering the pass and with Bill at the helm and me at the bow Bommie watching, we headed down to the south anchorage. It was a beautiful uninhabited area where we chilled out for a couple of days. We then navigated our way up to the north end of the atoll and anchored off the village. Life on this island must be tough, it is very remote and with no natural springs, rain water is collected. There were a couple of small shops with basic items only, no fresh fruit or veg. In such a small community there is probably only one doctor/nurse and certainly no vets. The Polynesian people were extremely friendly but I did get upset at the number of freely roaming emaciated dogs but I suppose with no vets there is no control over breeding. Our next atoll was Fakarava, and in contrast to Kauehi, is much larger being 17 miles long, more sophisticated with a couple of good restaurants catering for the diving enthusiasts who flock here for its pristine waters. We watched with our jaws on the floor as local children paddling in the waters with large reef sharks would suddenly grab a shark and hitch a free ride! After that we decided not to be afraid of any future shark encounters and were really looking forward to drift snorkelling in the south pass. Alas we never got to experience the amazing snorkelling, nor a visit to the pearl farm on Fakarava as the weather forecast wasn't looking good. We had to be in Tahiti for the 21st of June as Neil and Alex were flying out to join us. We had to leave immediately before the strong winds came in otherwise we may be stuck in Fakarava and not get to Tahiti in time for our visitors.
Although our time in the Tuamotuas was brief, just 7 days, we are glad to have experienced them and we must console ourselves that there will be excellent snorkelling still to come.
On the chart picture, the yellow is land and green is reef.
I will post some photos at a later date.
Marquesas, French Polynesia
28 May 2019
The Marquesas islands jut up dramatically from the sea and are sculpted with razor-edged ridges. Follow your eye down and you’ll see emerald green forests while the small hamlets and villages sit peacefully at the base of these soaring mountains. The islands are so fertile that coconuts, mangoes, bananas, pamplemouse, breadfruit and cashew trees grow in just about everyone’s garden.
This is also the land of the Tiki which are strange looking stone carvings. Most are modern and have no religious meaning anymore as the Polynesians were converted to Catholicism centuries ago. The Tikis are from the distant Polynesian past when it was thought they held the souls of their ancestors. The Polynesians were also tribal and war like and any prisoners were made a human sacrifice to feed the Tiki souls.
Tattoos are very evident and again part of Polynesian culture, most of being of traditional design and symbols. Sadly much Polynesian history, which was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, was lost when European settlers brought disease wiping out 95% of the native population. The Catholic Church also banned tattooing, traditional dancing and many other aspects of ancient traditional life (although I can understand their disgust at human sacrifice and the odd bit of cannibalism!)
While on the island of Fatu Hiva we sought out the home of the local carver, Mark and his wife Blondie as we were on the hunt for a wooden Tiki. We were keen to buy the genuine article (not imitation imported from Indonesia or China which filter the markets in Tahiti). Mark was indeed a skilled craftsman and we fell in love with a large Tiki he had made from a beautiful hard wood. However the price shocked us, 120,000 FPF which is approximately £850. We didn’t have the cash nor were we wanting to pay this much. Mark’s Tikis are in homes all over the world so he was pretty savvy as to the market value. However I did buy a tiny Tiki to hang around my neck made of shell but also left with a huge free bunch of bananas, half a dozen pamplemouse and dried bananas beautifully wrapped in banana leaf. The necklace wasn’t expensive so I felt I was walking away with his profit but we have found the Marquesans to be genuinely generous people towards the few tourists who venture here.
Sadly we are still on the lookout for a Tiki and haven’t seen one nearly as nice as Mark’s but we’ll keep looking.
We are now waiting for a weather window to sail the 500 nautical miles to the Tuamotus islands. There is currently very little wind but fingers crossed the wind will pick up by the end of the week. Have a look at the picture gallery as we have been very privileged to experience the amazingly unspoilt beauty of the Marquesas.
10 May 2019
After 19 days at sea we finally made landfall on the Island of Hiva Oa on the afternoon of Tuesday 7th May 2019.
Hiva Oa belongs to a group of islands in the Marquesas. The Marquesas belonging to a group of five archipelagos in French Polynesia.
The tall mountainous islands were a feast to the eyes after looking at nothing but the mesmerising rise and fall of the ocean for these last few weeks. Our passage had passed relatively quickly and without any major incidents but sleep deprivation was beginning to creep in and we had definitely had enough of being at sea.
We met a German couple who told us it had taken them 40 days to sail directly from Panama (only another 800 miles on top of the 3000 miles) so we realised we had actually crossed in very good time. I would have gone stir crazy if at sea for all that time, although on a positive may have arrived slim and trim as we wouldn’t have had any food apart from rice and beans!
Thankfully our new petrol outboard motor, having been shipped from Tahiti, was waiting for us to collect from the local yacht services. Such a relief as we seem to be jinxing outboards as the one we were borrowing from A Capella of Belfast has decided to die too.
After a leisurely 30 minute walk from the fishing bay, we strolled into the town of Atuona. You definitely get a feel of French sophistication but despite this there still remains a strong link to Polynesian culture with the local cultural centre having many tikis in the grounds.
We were delighted to find French wine, cheese, canard, banquettes etc in the shops to delight our taste buds that have been feeling a little deprived for awhile. O think we’re going to enjoy these beautiful islands.
Galapagos to Marquesas day 17
06 May 2019
Day 17 and still at sea, but thankfully just over 200 miles left to go.
In the last couple of days the winds have been light making progress annoying slow. We're both eager to make landfall and the thought it might take another day is frustrating to say the least. The light winds cause the boat to roll in the swell and the sails flap and bang making it noisy and uncomfortable. We're still aiming to make the Marqueses for Tuesday 7th May but must arrive in daylight no later than 17:00. The thought of an extra night watch is too much, so will use the engine to make up speed if necessary.
During this passage we have had to adjust our clocks four times and are now 10.5 hours behind the UK.
Amazingly we still have some fresh fruit and veg after all this time, apples, oranges, lemons, onions, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. No fresh meat, our little freezer is empty but I still have about eight jars of canned meat (which I made in the pressure cooker before we left). Had the rod out for the last couple of days but no bites, probably going too slow.
We're both ploughing through the books which is nice as donât usually get the time to read much at home. Scrabble has been great for passing the hours but alas Bill always beats me and he can't help looking smug even though he says he isn't!
Keep your fingers crossed we arrive sooner rather than later!