The Marquesas - this group of islands thrust violently into existence through volcanic action can best be described as majestic, magnificent and imposing, but sparsely populated with a total population of around 10,000 and named by a Spanish explorer in 1595. It is now two weeks since we arrived at Atuona (the second largest town in the Marquesas') on Hiva Oa. The anchorage at Atuona is behind a breakwater, where all yachts also deploy a stern anchor due to limited space, and 3k's from the town.
Local performers at Atuona one night
The anchorage is subject to swell so after clearing in with the local Gendarmerie (very friendly) we headed a few miles to the SW to the nearby island of Tahuata, the following day, and anchored in Baie Hapatoni named by Eric Hiscock as one of the three best bays in the Pacific - and indeed it was!
The church in Eric's bay
A beautiful village of around 300 people, traded a few beers for some fruit and a meal of squid and back to the boat to start cleaning off the green paddock that appears to grow just above the waterline on all boats that transit the Pacific.
Easy to see why Eric liked this bay
After a couple of nights at different anchorages we returned to Atuona so that Dawnielle could disembark the following day to fly back to New Zealand and also had Richard and Pippy arrive on Matelot - a great job for them completing the passage two handed in 18 days and with the boat in good shape. Ironically in the small supermarket we found Molenburg toast sliced bread - from New Zealand - we bought up of course.
Atuona is the burial place for two famous people - Jacques Brel the Belgian born, French singer (described as the French equivalent of Bob Dylan) who sailed to Hiva Oa in 1975 on his 62ft yacht, Askoy II with his mistress Maddly and daughter France. He died of cancer at the age of 49 in 1978. His music is well known in the western world through the Broadway Show, "Jacques Brel Is Alive & Well and Living In Paris" which has been performed in two seasons in Auckland in recent years. If you want a look check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8lWkNnhJB0 - very theatrical.
Jacques Brel grave, Atuona
Also Paul Gauguin the French post-impressionist artist who abandoned France and after several years in Papeete settled in Atuona in 1901 where he lived until he died in 1903 at the age of 55. Many of his paintings are on display and are authorised copies of the originals - the work funded by the French Atomic Energy Commission, somewhat ironic given Mururoa is nearby in the Tuamotu's.
Pam at entrance to Gauguin museum
Gauguin's "Girl With The Fan"
Paul Gauguin effigy in his studio at Atuona
Herman Melville, the American novelist, jumped ship in the Marquesas and lived among the locals and wrote his famous novel Typee here and then later wrote Moby Dick. These islands are among the most remote in the world and the aura of mystique and majesty clearly has had a lasting influence on those who have stumbled across these beautiful islands and spent some time here, including Robert Louis Stevenson, who sailed through in 1888.
We hired John (one of two local taxi drivers) for a day and we drove for two hours to the end of the only road which was mostly a track!
Tiki's in oldest village on Hiva Oa.
The tourist route
The road weaves around the coast
After Atuona we had a great 70 mile reach NE to the island of Ua-Pou and anchored in the bay at Hakahau (the third largest town in the Marquesas with a population of a little over 2,000).
The foreshore Hakahau
The entrance to the bay is dominated by four basalt pillars the highest of which is 1,230 metres above sea level and the highest point in the Marquesas. The town was delightful, the gardens around the houses tropical and colourful and we found Clare's, the only restaurant in town, a good place for a local dinner!!
What we could see of the basalt peaks
From Ua-Pou it was then a fast 25 mile northerly sail to Anse Hakatea on Nuku Hiva, the largest island in the Marquesas. There were several other yachts in the bay and it was spectacularly surrounded by high peaks - such that our Iridium Go satphone could not pick up any satellites! From here it is a two hour walk to the third highest waterfall in the world passing through again another beautiful small village - compared with other Pacific island villages these are immaculate and the occupants are obviously very proud of their environment.
At anchor Anse Hakatea
After a couple of nights here, including drinks aboard Jenny (an Ocean Cruising Club roving ambassador - we are also OCC members) where we discovered many mutual cruising friends, we motored around to Taiohae the "capital" of the Marquesas and found about 60 yachts at anchor.
Closing in on Hakatea under genaker
We caught up with Alan and Nathaniel off Taya, for a few beers, who we had crossed paths with 2,000 miles out. Around the bay we also learned of many of the problems yachts have faced on the passage from Panama. One boat sunk, at least two lost rudders, one had their rig tied off with rope (but still standing) and another (a kiwi boat) had a chain plate failure (and thus a 32 day passage), so our smaller issues paled into insignificance.
One hlghlight was coming into the bay and seeing M5 (formerly Mirabella 5) the largest sloop in the world complete with a seaplane on the after deck!
M5 at anchor
Looking down onto Baie Taiohae
We are now returning to Auckland for a few weeks and will return late June to push onto the Tuamotu's and Tahiti.
They are always beautiful
In the interim Yannick will stay on board and look after a few maintenance matters while we are away. Great to have Pat on board again for yet another ocean passage with us and he now heads back to the Med to spend a few months on Antares.
Cheers for now
Pam & Keith