Marquesas, French Polynesia
10 July 2013
Cap'n Al Donatto
Marquesas, Fatu Hiva
Thursday, June 13th
A couple of hours after sunrise, I can see what looks like the outline of an island just over the horizon. Is this another LSD trip or the real thing? Above this shadow are all these tall puffy clouds, last seen over the peaks of Galapagos. I take a look at the chart plotter, take a look at the chart, and pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming - all things considered I'm heading for the northern tip of Fatu Hiva. Just like I wanted to. Then I get a call on the VHF from s/v Ithaca wanting to know if I have a visual on them. Don't see any sails anywhere. Then they say they are just passing by the rock. What freaking rock? I don't see any freaking rocks on my chart plotter. So I zoom in and there it is right in front of me. Reminds me of hitting the reef on the way to Roatan. I'm going to have to remember to zoom in when I get closer to land to get a more detail area of the sea. Anyway at that distance they are just beyond the horizon about 2 hours in front of me. I ask them to reserve me an anchor spot.
I forgot to get the exact coordinates from Phil as to where he is anchored, but it won't be hard to find him, there is only one good overnight anchorage there. But when I get to that small anchorage, over a dozen yachts are already at anchor. Besides several yachts that were in the Galapagos with me there is Voyager a German flag vessel that was my neighbor in Shelter Bay. Then I spot Silhouette on the AIS and head his way. Drop the anchor behind him, but ended up being too close to another boat. Pull it back up and drop 2 more times before I was satisfied I wouldn't swing and bump into another boat. Then Phil came over with a bottle of Mailbu, we had a toast, swap sea tails about the crossing, but for some reason I'm not sleepy or tired and sure don't feel like taking a shower. I just spent 22 days at sea and I'm already beginning to miss it. There isn't much in my life to compare it to. While at sea I just couldn't wait to reach land - now on land I just can't wait to put out to sea again. Go figure?
Friday and it's time to go stretch the legs and get those muscles moving again. Time to go and see what all the hoopla of French Polynesia is about. So me and Phil take a short walk into the village. Besides being the most photographic anchorage in the Pacific there isn't much to see, or I just don't know where to look. Then we hear that the cruise ship is coming to town. Well not really a cruise ship, a cargo ship that rent cabins to paying passengers so they can visit the smaller, less inhibit islands of the Marquesas. The only other way to get here is by small ferry or private yacht. No place to put a runway on this island.
First they unload the passengers then they start unloading the cargo. A slow process since the ship cannot make it into the harbor, so they use a few small barges and a few smaller boats. They are also exporting a bunch of bananas, coconuts, and other fruits.
The locals also put on a demonstration of some of the things you can do to a coconut for the tourist off the cruise ship. We just blended in. Then they put on a dance show for all of us tourist. (see pics and video).
Since this anchorage is on the cover of so many Cruising magazines we took a dinghy tour of the anchorage trying to get that perfect photo shot. But the Sun was from the wrong direction or the clouds were in the way or I just don't know how to get that perfect shot. But I got what I got. Then Phil suggested that we take a walk to the waterfall or a hike to the mountain top. I said let's do both. After he quit laughing at such a dumb suggestion we decided on the waterfall with Ana and Colin from s/v Ithaca. After following the trail thru the rainforest we were rewarded with a marvelous view of one of the tallest falls in French Polynesia. Well after that hike and being stuck in a boat for over 3 weeks we just had to jump in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Damn was that water cold, even for Ana and Colin who were from Scotland and are used to swimming in worst conditions. First bath I had since leaving Texas - very refreshing. Phil chicken out, said he didn't bring any swimming trunks, or he didn't want to catch a cold.
We tried to talk one of the locals into giving us a ride to the mountain top, but they wanted too much money, so off we go by foot. Not really a hike, it's a concrete road all the way, but boy was it steep. I hadn't realized I was in such poor physical condition. I had to stop every mile to take a break, least I slip and break my neck. Along the way we stop and got a drink of water from the Fountain of youth or Virgin Mary. The water just seeps thru the crevices of the rocks and collect at the base of the statue. When we reach the top we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding ocean and the anchorage below us. Now French Polynesia is revealing its hidden beauty.
Mon June 17th
Time to go; don't want to hang out here for too long. I haven't check-in yet and don't want to be caught by the officials. We raised our anchors in the morning. The Wind is being block by the big mountain so I keep motoring until I'm in the clear. Phil is trying to sail everywhere so as soon as he cleared the other boats at anchor off went his motor. While on the way I picked up a "Pan Pan" call on the VHF. Not quite a "May Day" call but the next worst thing. It was another single handler who had his forestay break on the way over from the Galapagos. He wanted me to notify his family and tell them why he hadn't reach land yet and not to worry; he still had some fuel left. Got his position, he was 40nm away from me and the VHF radio is only good for 25 miles most of the time. One of us got a good antenna. Phil didn't hear a thing. He was still behind the mountains maybe. Needless to say I reached Tahuata before him and since I didn't know where I was going I didn't start my motor until he caught up. Glad I did because where I was thinking of anchoring according to the charts and guide book wasn't where Phil intended to go. Phil had passed thru these islands a month before and was taking me to a few of his favorite spots. The anchorage he had in mind was a little away from town, just downhill from a local guy's house he befriended.
His friend's name is Taii. But don't look like he's home. We didn't actually go to his house because the landing is not a beach, it's a bitch; it has these gigantic boulders with big waves crashing all about. They would destroy a dinghy or at least put a few dents in it. We just look thru the binoculars and since we see nothing we assume no one is home. We took the dinghy to town instead. The French guy who was the self-appointed historian of the island wasn't home, so Phil done his best to give the same tour he got. Passed through the ancient part of the village with all these rock walls. Guessing it used to be houses or something like that. The big flat ones were used as the human sacrifice tables. If we looked close enough we could still see the scratches made by the blades. And right next to that was the modern day graveyard and church.
While walking thru town we hear someone calling us, or at least we think they are calling us because we are the only English speaking tourist around. We enter Matt's house. He is one of the local artists on the island. His specialty is rock carvings. But he is also interested in us. First thing he does is introduce me to Bob. Then we tell him our story and he tells us his. He asks if we were twins? We said no just brothers. But in his broken English he kept asking about twins. He showed us some of his carvings, either he's trying to sell something or he is just proud of his work. But he didn't once ask us to buy, but I'm sure if we offered he wouldn't have refuse, since some of the figurines already had a price tag on them. He usually takes them to Tahiti to sell. And they were not the cheap things you'll find at the tourist store with other things made from China. These were the real deal. His pride and joy was what he was working on at the time. A sword from a swordfish's bill. That thing will bring in a pretty penny once he's finish. After playing with Bob he got creative and began to give us a demonstration of his skills.
We continued our journey toward Taii's house but along the way we took a detour to see the Jesus statue overlooking the anchorage. No water fountain but the interesting thing was someone put a rock carving of a penis next to Jesus. We guessed that it was payback. When the missionaries came they destroyed most of the local statues because the original Polynesians were not shy of carving penises and virginas on their figurines, but the missionaries didn't like that so they broke them off. So someone place a penis next to Jesus, we just had to laugh. Then when we were reviewing the pics I had taken we could see why they kept insisting that we were twins. We had the same type of hat on along with the same WBSC t-shirt, same colored pants. The only thing different was the color of our backpacks. When you look at the pictures can you tell who is who? We gonna have to pay attention from now on on how we dress.
We made it to Taii's house, and just like we thought he wasn't home, so Phil took me into the rain forest to see the heliographs that haven't been restored by the anthropologist. Got a view of the real deal, covered in moss and the jungle. Mosquitoes just loved me that day. Going to have to remember to bring the bug spray.
On the way back we stopped at Taii's house. He was home this time. Taii is living the simple life. Something the hippies would envy. He graduated from college and had a job in Tahiti in the cement industry. Got tired of the rat race and move back unto his grandparents land. He lives off of what the land provides and the land provides plenty. Coconut trees everywhere. He collects them to sell and what he don't sell or eat, he feed to his hogs. Bananas a plenty, along with mango's which just happen to be over with. Fruits that I never heard of or seen. He also does a little cement work in town when someone needs it. Since it was late we just talked and talked and of course Bob was there.
Tomorrow he wants to take us to the other village to give us more fruit from his parent's house and property. So we put my Yamaha on Phil's dinghy and pick Taii off the rocks and off we go. 3 of us in the dinghy and on the plane. Made it there with no problems, long ride almost 2 miles. We stopped at his parents' house and he gives us something that looks like an upside down pear but red like an apple. Don't taste anything like the apples I'm use to having nor a pear. Then he loaded us down with other types of fruits. His sister actually had a mango tree that still had fruit on it. Now how did he climb to the top of that tree? Then on the way to somebody's lot we stopped at some friends of his. They were having problems getting the weedeater to start. Phil got busy working on it while I got busy playing with Bob. After repairing and adjusting the throttle cable it's working again. So is Bob. The sack I bought with us is now full. Can't put anything else in it. So we say our good-byes to everyone and back to the boats we go. Dinghy can't get on the plane this time with all that extra weight - goodies from paradise.
There is one item he hasn't given us yet - breadfruit. So when we dropped him off he insists that we take one. But we don't know how to cook it, so we ask him if he would show us how? We will bring some Mahi Mahi over for him to Barbeque and he'll supply the rest. So dinner for the next day is planned. Only one little problem. Taii's English is just as good as our French; or Phil's book and my pocket one word at a time electric translator. So the next morning we stop by the s/v Ithaca and invite them to dinner since Colin can speak a little French. They were getting ready to pickup anchor to move on to the next island and didn't know what to do. Carpe Diem. They change their minds and ask what they can bring. Something to drink would be nice. We all pile into Ithaca's dinghy and off to the rocks we go. It is a job getting out of the dinghy, over the rocks and onto land without getting wet. I got soaked, glad I didn't attempt to bring my camera. Everybody else got wet, except Colin. To save the dinghy he took it back offshore and dropped the anchor then swam back to the rocks where dry cloths was waiting.
Taii must have had the same idea for the language barrier; he invited a friend of his over who speaks English and French. The meal preparation was an experience in itself. The BBQ pit was some rocks with a grill on top and a wood fire below. Well before there was wood there was coconut husk. Another use for the versatile coconut. To cook the breadfruit all he done was just throw it in the fire. When it looked like a burnt piece of something it was ready. But not ready to eat, just ready to peel and take the meat out and mixed it up with something I can't remember, but it sure was good eating. The fish was season to perfection and put over the coals. He also made some poisson cru with the coconut Phil shredded and grated and then squeeze the oil out. Yet just another use for the versatile coconut. Bob showed up for the appetizer and then we ate till we almost burst and washed it down with the wine Ana brought. Then the rum started flowing. Well while we could still walk and swim, we decided to head for the boats. Sure wish someone was filming us trying to get back into the dinghy without hurting ourselves. We gave up on trying not to get wet. 5 of us wouldn't fit in the dinghy so 2 trips was planned. After the first circus act Taii's friend decided he didn't need to see a sailboat up close and headed back for the house. On board Ithaca more drinks and fun trying to communicate with our new friend. Pretty soon everybody was ready to retire to the bunks except Taii, so I invited him over to my boat. He wanted to listen to some Reggae and some country and western and play with Bob. Well 2 out of 3 ain't bad, and anyone who knows me know which one I didn't have. Well I manage to get him back to the rocks and me back to the boat without sinking. This will definitely go in the books as a night to remember - just too bad no pics. I'm going to have to get a shock and water proof camera for days like this.
I've been an illegal alien for over a week, now it's time to go check-in before the officials stop by and ask to see my papers. No green card Mon. I don't know what they do to illegals here and don't want to find out. So we departed late morning for a short sail over to Hiva Oa with Silhouette leading the way. I put the fishing lines out hoping to catch something, and hooked into something BIG, and it sure liked to fight. I got this big black thing next to the boat and Phil called me on the radio, wanted to know what I caught. Instead of finishing the job I started bragging to him about what I just caught, then this monster shake his head and spit out the hook. Damnit I just lost a yellow fin tuna. Phil had better luck, he got his into the boat. He was smart enough not to try and talk on the radio while he's fishing. Hope he shares.
We get to the anchorage and damn is it small. To fit 10 boats everyone throws out a stern anchor to keep the boats from swinging into each other. If any more boats comes in then they would have to anchor outside the breakwater and into the ocean swells next to the bigger yachts.
First thing in the morning I get in touch with the agent to do the check in dance. She takes all my papers and me to the Grandermaire's office and after filling out a few forms - I'm legal, well at least for 90 days.
In the anchorage there is this boat with his sail still up - ripped to threads. It's the same boat that I picked up the "Pan Pan" call from. He made it in safely but boy does he have a bunch of work to do before he can go sailing again. One of them tangs that holds the bow sprit down broke which made it impossible to get the jib sail down. And of course the wind was blowing pretty good when this happen and got stronger as the day went by. Nothing for him to do except watch the sails tear apart and hope the whole rig doesn't come falling down.
Spent the rest of the time here visiting some of the boats that I was in the Galapagos with and doing a few boat projects, like changing the oil in both engines and taking on more fuel and fixing this and that.
One evening neither one of us felt like cooking and the walk to town was very long so we decided to hike up this hill where the sign said there was a motel. Made it but they had no guest that evening so no one was cooking. Well we ask for a couple of beers and then two more to quench our thirst before climbing back down the hill. The owner came by and said his wife was cooking a little something for the family and the workers and would we like to join them. Duh! Sure, so we got something to eat and didn't have to cook it or clean up afterwards. And to top that off they gave us a ride back to the boats.
Got lots to see and a short time to see it all, and to make it to the next island, Ua Pou, doing day light hours we set sail late in the evening and arrived early in the morning. Only tried fishing in the evening and I caught 0, didn't even lose a lure. Since we arrived early and had nothing else to do we take a walk into town and came upon these out of site wood carvings someone made out of a tree trunk. That guy got skills, or a lot of time on his hands. We didn't feel like cooking so we were on a mission to find a restaurant. Got directions to the Pizza Hut. It look like it has been close for several years. Got directions to another place, just go up the hill, and not to far turn right, go down the hill a good bit and when you get to the crooked tree turn right go 5 houses down and the restaurant is on the left, maybe the right. Well we didn't see anything that looked like a restaurant so we ask the next person, he gave the same confusion directions and we got the same results. Then we meet up with another cruising couple on the same mission. After passing by the crooked tree we decided just to knock on the door and see if those outside tables were really a restaurant. It was, just no signs and the menu is I got this and that, what you want. Boy was it good.
We found out the quickest way to see all the best sites is to rent a car or hire a tour guide and since there wasn't any rental cars around we got a tour from this old expat in his little car. It actually got us to the other side and back. Nice views of the sea from the island.
Nice view of the island from the sea.
It's kind of a short sail to the next island Nuku Hiva so we get up early and head north. On the way I was greeted by some Manta rays. Wasn't as big as the ones in the Galapagos but they were putting on quite a show. Manage to get the camera and take a video but missed all the action. Oh well that's life. When we get there some of Phil's friends were anchored on the west side of the big bay so we drop anchor next to them. He went and visit and I went to sleep.
Phil's friends don't like crowds and was anchored on the opposite side of the bay from town and everybody else. I didn't like the idea of having to dinghy that far so we reanchored closer to town where all the action is. My anchor neighbors were a couple of youngsters from San Diego on Ichibon, who was really sailing on a budget, but they are cruising and not sitting at the dock talking about it. Justin came by and invited us to hear him and his girl play a few songs at the internet café/restaurant/bar. Also said he is looking for work. He had access to a sewing machine and my main sail cover/stack pack has a tear in it, now he got a job.
When we went to shore for the evening we did stop by for a few songs. He was asking for any request, no one answered, then he asked me what Steel Pulse song would I like to hear? A song came to mind but I couldn't remember the title, so I said something like "Life Without Music" just as he started playing "Roller Skates" the real name of the song I was thinking about and that was the only Steel Pulse song he knew. Mind reading or crooked mines think alike?
The locals were putting on a dance show down the road, so we went there for the rest of the evening. Big tent and food being served by several venders. We stop to eat at the one with the cute girls for waitress. Doing the dance show we notice the next vendor was selling lobster dinners. For the same price. Now we know where we are going to be eating tomorrow, the heck with the cute girls.
Mid morning Justin and Egor, the other young cruiser on a budget with the sewing machine, showed up with the repaired mainsail cover. It should last longer than a year now. They added extra material so the lines won't cut thru as quickly. Good job. Now Egor's wife is pregnant and just about ready to give birth so they rented a house for a few months until the baby is old enough to travel, maybe 3 months or so. With all the money they made off of me ($100) he said that they can now take their sweethearts out to dinner instead of eating out of a can. They will see us at the dance show tonight and treat their lady's to a lobster dinner. He also invited us over for tea in the morning and to meet Bob.
Well good news spread quickly, good cheap dinners and a dance show to go along with it. Almost every cruiser at the anchorage showed up. Also might be because tonight is the last night for the shows and the dinners. It was the same dance troupe, but a different style, think they said Tongan. One day I'll get the videos posted.
Again it's time to go, so little time and so much to see. Phil has been in the Marquesas for about 2 months now and is getting itchy to see the rest of French Polynesia before his visa runs out. Heck I would like to stay another month, but can't buddy boat unless you're traveling together. So the first thing we do is go have a little tea and a chat with Bob at Egor's house. Then back to the boats and put up everything for a long passage to the Tuamotus. Long - about 5 days. Nothing to it.
In most of the anchorages in the Marquesas you have to set a stern anchor to keep your bow pointing into the swells. Only this time the wind switched to the North and the stern anchor became the main anchor, but the bow is still facing the swells. The problem with this is that stern anchor becomes buried deep into the mud. Phil's technique to retrieve his stern anchor is to get in the dinghy and pull it up, only he wasn't having any luck, it was stuck. And on top of that it was raining. Boy he sure must be in a hurry to go somewhere. Steve from Almacantar was already in his SCUBA gear, he had to dive on his anchor also, came by and ask if we needed any help. He went down on Phil's anchor and said it wasn't foul on anything, just buried deep into the mud. But he manage to get it free and ask me please don't ask him to go get mind. My technique is to tie a trip line on the anchor (also let other boaters know where my anchor is located). Then I back the boat up by easing out the bow anchor rode while at the same time pulling in the stern anchor rode. Usually the stern anchor pull free before I can get close to it. If not I use the trip line to pull it backwards. But not this time. Colin from Itacha was assisting me with his dinghy, he was trying his best to pull the anchor out backwards, but no luck. I then put the rode onto the jib sheet winch and began cranking. It took awhile but the mud finally gave up and gave me back my anchor. And I didn't have to get wet to do it, but I was beginning to wonder what was going to break first, mud, line, chain, or anchor?
Now that the hard part was over with we could take our time and get the boat ready for 5 days at sea. Finish cooking a few things, and put the dinghy on deck. And when the weather cleared a little off we go to sea. A late start buy what the heck, we got a long way to go.
July 1st - 5th.
Weather is what we expected, winds out of the NE between 15 and 20kts. Rain squalls all over the place. Phil managed to miss them or they wanted to come and mess with me more. Or instead of trying to go around them or try to outrun them I just go thru them. On the 4th of July I was bless with a firework display way out in the South Pacific. Or was that a lighting storm with all the wind and rain to go with it.
Manage to catch one big MahiMahi about a day from landfall. Since I was so close to land and the seas were ruff, I decided to wait until the anchor is down before trying to clean that thing.
We arrived late evening on Friday the 5th. I wasn't paying attention to my Speed Over Ground and was going into a strong current. I had to turn on the engine and put full rpm's on to make it thru the pass before the tide change directions. Phil was a few hours ahead of me and reported current in the pass not that bad. When I got there it wasn't bad but low tide was just starting. I was able to make only 3kts SOG at full speed. If I had arrive a few hours later I would be going backwards because the outgoing current can get up to 7kts sometimes. Got to the anchorage and tried three times before I could get a good anchor spot.
Clean the fish and while throwing head and guts over board all these sharks showed up to feed. Well don't think I'm going to be taking a swim anytime soon, or sure won't do that while someone is cleaning fish.
About 9pm someone came on the VHF #16 and notifying everyone by screaming into the microphone that there was a boat drifting through the anchorage. I take a look outside and see nothing, and then she says it's not drifting anymore, it hit the rocks. Now what's going thru my mind is why would someone leave their boat unattended in 25kts of wind in this anchorage? Several cruisers took off in their dinghy's to go investigate and/or help. Ours were still on deck, so it was nothing that we could do. One guy was bringing a big pump, another one was bringing another anchor, but no owners to be found. Report from the rescuers - nothing they could do, there is a huge hole under the waterline and the boat is full of water. They moved everything they could to the highest part of the boat and headed back home until daylight. Then around 11pm someone come up on the radio and ask if anyone seen their boat? It wasn't where they left it. I'm sure they didn't sleep well that night, and not because they didn't have a place to sleep. Story was they were out to dinner celebrating something. Opps!
Next morning we watch all the activity with the sunken boat from our boats. Then we decided to go get a closer look and see if they needed any help. Help they didn't need, a miracle would be nice and I'm fresh out. Instead of just getting in the way we took a walk around the island. Found a dive shop but they were too busy trying to float that boat. I guess if you're going to sink, sink right behind the dive shop. So we go find the other dive shop and reserve a dive. We heard that one of the best drift dives in the world is to ride that strong current thru the pass. But the winds were too high which made it unsafe for the boat. Well maybe next time. We did make a couple of dives on the outside of the reef near the pass which was pretty cool. But we didn't get to see them big sharks hanging out at the pass waiting for a meal.
We didn't feel like cooking, again, so we stop by the restaurant near the dive shop next to the sunken boat. Only the boat is not sunken anymore. They manage to patch the hole enough so they could pump the water out, and then they towed the boat over to the wharf where they finish the patch job. For the reward the boat owner was taking everyone out to dinner at the restaurant. The manager mention the only reason we couldn't eat there was because he was out of food. Big party took it all. I mention I had a fresh caught Mahi Mahi that I would give him if he would cook us some. He did and we ate all we could.
We had planned on staying here for at least two or three weeks, but the weather report does not look good for the next month. So while there is a break in the weather for the next couple of days we decided to haul it out of here while we can. If not tomorrow we might have to stay until next month. Why the rush? We suppose to meet up with my brother and his wife, Aaron and Goldie in Tahiti next month. On the evening of the 9th of July we sat sail for Tahiti. Should only be a little 3 day passage.