Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Passage Making: Marquesas to Tuamotus

Following on the heels of my last post, I'm surprising even myself to say that I wholly enjoy passage making. We are into Day 2 of a 4-day passage from 'Ua Pou in the Marquesas Islands to Makemo Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. There is something about the simplicity of life while crossing the open ocean that I am, somehow, able to embrace. Perhaps it's that there are so many things we cannot do given the movement of the boat, or it's the fact that there's nowhere to go, but spending time with my family this way is one of my favorites. We can focus on homeschooling without the need to run here or there, and we can all read together after dinner sipping warm licorice tea.

It does take a couple of days to get into the routine. I still have a headache from crazy sleep schedules, and my stomach will continue to feel a bit nauseated until my sea legs get under me. But the time is peaceful, and the sound of the wind and the rolling waves is comforting. I am finally getting a chance to really learn to sail and Michael is a patient teacher.

There are four 'buddy' boats out here. Ceilydh, Brittania and Piko all left 'Ua Pou within an hour of us, and after spending several weeks together in the Marquesas, we're all heading to the same atoll. Although we are all still, more or less, within VHF radio range of each other, we check in over the Single Sideband radio at 10 a.m. to see how the night went and to get everyone's location. We discuss weather reports and what's for dinner. And we help solve each other's problems: one boat found a cockroach and found water had leaked into their rudder post, another had water come in one of their portholes and onto their bed and we wanted advice on how to furl in our asymmetrical sail more efficiently. There is also a South Pacific Cruisers' Net at 5 p.m. that we all check into.

Our menu is not nearly as exciting as it was during our 19.5 day crossing from Mexico, but we're still doing well, eating lots of salads and fresh fruit while we still can. There is not a whole lot of that in the Tuamotus, we understand. Tonight on my night watch I am baking rye bread and muffins to surprise the kids in the morning.

Once again somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

At 5/31/2011 11:05 (utc) our position was 12°26.46'S 141°47.38'W

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living on the Edge

It's not uncommon, based on my unscientific poll, for women to feel 'on the edge' while cruising. It's not the adventure type of living on the edge, but rather the type that has you ridiculously happy and fulfilled one moment and then completely anxious or snappy or melancholy the next.  There's no reason to feel low, and I'm sure it's tough for many to feel my pain.  But it's still an interesting phenomenon from strictly a psychology perspective.

I do wonder why I am not on a constant 'happy ride'.  After all, I'm in paradise, with my family, traveling and experiencing incredible things.  As I've mentioned before, though, it's hard work.  Just going to the grocery store is a full day event.  And things break.  All the time.  And there's dirt everywhere.  All the time.  And it's been raining - no, pouring torrentially - for the last few days, and the wind is gusting to such an extent that it has overturned dinghies in our anchorage. And I'm just plain tired of it.  I have never felt like such an inadequate housekeeper as now. 

One theory is that, as cruisers, we stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones every day.  At first, it's exhilarating, knowing you can get through it.  But after a while it's simply exhausting.  I'd love to get off for just a few days - take a shower with hot water and not worry about how much I'm using, and not have to press the shower pump button to get the water to go down the drain.  I'd like to live in a clean house without sunscreen fingerprints and oily salt. I'd like to be able to go for lunch with my girlfriends for something other than raw fish in coconut milk.  I'd like to be able to wake up in the middle of the night in a storm and not worry about whether our anchor is dragging or our hatches are closed or if there's a leak somewhere that will cause ugly mold to appear.  I'd like to be able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever I feel like eating, and for only a regular week's worth of produce - and not worry that it will have to last me for 4 weeks.  I want a kitchen that fits more than one person in it.  I want space.  I'd like to be able to send my kids to school and let the teachers worry about whether they are developing academically as they should be.  I want to feel dry and clean.  I want to have all my laundry done at one time.  I want to be able to relax.  I want some familiarity.  This newness is driving me, well, over the edge.

Still on 'Ua Pou, setting out this afternoon for Makemo Atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago

A Day in the Life, including Marquesan Massage


IMG_1113One of the benefits of staying in any one place for a longer duration is that you get to become part of the local fabric for a relative drop in time. Our weather delay has allowed us to now know Jerome, Marguerite,  Xavier, and Rosita by name.  We’ve also come to know ‘Ua Pou as perhaps the friendliest of the islands.  We’ve been invited to several local events.  On two occasions we’ve been invited into vehicles to be shown the lay of the town (one of them was in a police car with the local Gendarme / Police).  Our friend Krister (s/v Brittania) has been invited surfing and offered wave after to wave in friendship. We’ve been gifted so much fruit that we don’t know what to do with it all.


IMG_1116It was just another one of those great who-knows-what-will-show-up-around-the-corner moments.  The day began with a wonderful morning spent at the local high school’s annual open house with dance performances, displays of the students’ work, and a general fair-like atmosphere.  We then visited the local Mayor’s office to view an exhibit of traditional costumes.  We were greeted by the barefooted 2nd Vice-Mayor, Rosita, who, it turns out, made all the costumes herself.  They were intricate and beautiful, made out of the traditional fabrics of coconut and breadfruit tree fibers, beaded with seeds and shells, and adorned with feathers and dyes.   Rosita told us stories of how she learned to prepare breadfruit from her grandmother, and she also showed us how a shell was used to peel cucumbers – all fascinating tidbits of Marquesan culture. 


Because Michael had pulled his back out a few days ago, we decided to ask Rosita if she knew of a massage therapist who could help him.  The one person she could think of did not have a phone, so she left the room to ask the police to go and fetch him. Given our own experience being toured around by the local police, it seems that ‘official business’ includes many out-of-the-ordinary tasks. 


We weren’t sure what was going to happen, or where the massage would take place.  Rosita soon assured us that there was a room at the back of the government offices with a bed that we could use.  Arnold Schwarzenegger, step aside. 


Ten minutes later, in walks a 400-pound ragged looking man with a bushy beard, torn and faded clothing, and dirtier finger- and toenails than I have ever seen.  He was our man.  We followed Rosita into the back room, Michael was told to lie down, and this man proceeded to pour massage (?) oil all over Michael’s back.  For 20 minutes he worked Michael’s lower back, and ended with squeezing two limes and rubbing those in.  The price for this service?  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.  He would not take a single franc. 


Tonight we will attend the island’s annual Fete de Mere (Mother’s Day) festivities.  It seems that everyone on the island will be there as this is a really big deal here.  The organizers have been preparing for days now. A fellow cruiser brought over the 8-piece band last night from Nuku Hiva. The price for the evening seemed steep to us (about $80 for the family) but it seems that the locals save up for this event, so how can we miss it? 


We hope to leave for the Tuamotus tomorrow afternoon, when this nasty weather is supposed to have passed.  The wait has clearly not been all that bad.



Hakahau Bay, ‘Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands

When the Aranui is in Town




Hakahau is a small anchorage by any stretch, but when there are twelve boats anchored inside, all trying to get behind the breakwater for protection, it gets a little too cozy for comfort.  We are all anchored bow and stern, which means that in addition to the regular anchor at our bow, we have an anchor setting the back of our boat to provide for a few things: First, it prevents us from swinging, which is essential for a small anchorage if you don’t want to play bumper boats.  Second, it keeps our bow into the swell which creates more comfortable living.  Having a bow and stern anchor also allows for boats to be closer than  they otherwise would be to their neighbors. However, as we sit out this weather of 30-35 knot winds, it is essential that both anchors are set.  Unfortunately, there are always a couple of boats that ‘drag’ because their anchors haven’t been properly set, and usually boats with anchors that get tangled in other boats’ anchor chains.  We never know until we raise our anchor how smoothly it will go.


The pattern of boats changes somewhat when the Aranui comes to town.  The Aranui is a 300+ foot (102 metre) cargo ship out of Tahiti that services the islands of the Marquesas and the Tuomotus.  The remarkable thing about it in my opinion is that it is also a somewhat basic cruiseship for up to 200 passengers for the 14 day round trip, allowing them to see the islands that they would have trouble getting to without a boat.  The Aranui is the Marquesan lifeline as it carries supplies, even cars sometimes, to their islands.  You will always notice that the stores are much better stocked just after the Aranui has been in port. It is amazing, though, that a ship of this size makes a stop here in little Hakahau Bay.


We were informed by the Gendarme (the French police) that the Aranui was arriving the next day and that our boat was parked too far forward.  We would have to move.  Rather than re-anchor, we decided to let out more chain to allow us to drop back 30 feet and then we re-set our stern anchor.  Our neighbors behind us on Brittania kindly obliged and they moved back too. We went back to the Gendarme to get confirmation that we had moved back enough. 


The next day when the Aranui was viewed on the horizon, it seemed like the entire town was abuzz.  The artisans take their places in the small covered market, the drummers and bands play traditional Marquesan tunes, the people who are waiting to get across to another island are ready at the quay, and the empty cargo containers are waiting to be loaded up.  We viewed the boat’s arrival into the bay from an internet cafĂ© up on a hill, but realized that something was awry when the Aranui let off 5 short horn sounds, indicating a problem.  We decided to call the ship using our VHF and were told by the captain we’d need to move.  Oy.  We told him we’d be back at our boat in about 10 minutes as we were on shore and proceeded to run down the hill and into our dinghy as we saw this 300 foot ship coming straight at us.  Michael maneuvered around it and hustled us to our boat, which was surrounded by the Aranui’s own barge vessels.  A couple of men had already boarded our boat and opened the anchor locker to see what they could do to raise our anchor.  In the meantime, the ship went right past us, creating an ominous shadow over our much smaller vessel.  Obviously, they were fine without us moving as they used bow thrusters and rope the size of a large tree trunk to haul their stern into the quay.


Michael and I decided it would be best to speak to the captain ourselves, to confirm that we still needed to move, given that there were no problems getting the ship docked. We dinghied back to the quay and boarded the Aranui, as its passengers were getting off for a few hours of sight seeing. We were escorted up to the bridge deck and left there alone for a couple of minutes before the captain arrived.  You’d never know we were in the post-9/11 era, that’s for sure.  The captain’s concern was that his motors would suck up our chain as they were backing up, something neither of us wanted.  We devised that the Aranui would hail us over the VHF 15 minutes before departure so that we could lift our anchor at the last minute, hover for only a short while until the Aranui left the bay, and then re-anchor in our original spot. This was the easiest solution given how tight the anchorage was already. 


All went as planned, and we managed to keep our spot behind the breakwater just as several of the other boats re-anchored to fill in the void in front of the quay that had been required for the Aranui’s arrival. We finally breathed easier the next day when we could confirm that our anchors were in fact properly set once again. [Michael and our friend Krister on board Brittania surprised each other at 3 a.m. when they were both up checking their anchors at the same time, naked – one of those priceless cruising moments.]


The whole exercise, involving a day and a half anchoring or worrying about our anchors, was just another example of how boat management, often unexpected, regularly takes up a good chunk of your day out here in paradise.  Not that I’m complaining…




Hakahau Bay, ‘Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Still on Ua Pou

Just a quick update. We had hoped to leave Ua Pou for the Tuamotos this past Tuesday but the weather forecast was such that we decided to delay a few days. At this point, we hope to leave on Saturday to make the 3 - 4 day passage. We will update more soon.

on Ua Pou in the Marquises, French Polynesia
At 5/25/2011 21:54 (utc) our position was 09°21.50'S 140°02.83'W

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moving On - Nuku Hiva to Ou Pou

We've just arrived at our second and last island of Les Iles de Marquises, Oua Pou (pronounced Wah Pooh), where we'll be for only the next day or two before moving on to the Tuamotu Archipelago. The approach to Oua Pou seriously puts the 'awe' in awesome, with its towering spires and surprising location for its double runway airport lodged between slopes of exhilarating volcanic cliffs (I wish I could post photos). We're in the Bay of Hakahau, which is home to the third largest town in the Marquesas Islands - and we hear there is an internet cafe with fast internet - HEAVEN. We'll spend the day tomorrow exploring: picking up a baguette or two (we hear they're gone by 7 a.m.), possibly catching a Church service at 8 a.m. (like the good Jewish folk that we are), spending some time at the internet cafe (which may actually take up the remainder of the day since it would be our first true connection since leaving Mexico on April 10), and possibly doing a hike.

We just spent the last two days in Daniel's Bay on Nuku Hiva, also known locally as Hakatea Bay, which was made famous by the TV series Survivor, filmed here in the 2002 season. Again, if I could post photos, you'd see the 350 m (about 1100 feet) Vaipo Waterfall (third highest in the world) that was the opening scene of the show. Notwithstanding we got eaten alive even with highly toxic double strength mosquito repellant (I have 58 bites on my upper back alone), the two hour hike was gorgeous, running along the old royal highway of bygone days, traversing the strong flowing river sometimes up to mid-thigh, and winding through topography that varied from dense jungle to fig tree forests to open fields. At the very end, there is a warning sign not to enter during rainy season (we're at its tail end) due to falling rocks, but then there is a bucket of generously placed hard hats which we willingly donned in order to approach the crux of the chasm of majestic towering walls through a field of yellow flowers and green grasses. It was simply breathtaking. While there was a pool that many have dipped in, we opted not to given its olive green color. We ventured into the spray of the falls, the full view of which we couldn't actually see from so close. Notably I did not get lost on the way back, but we did get to chat with several of the tatoo-laden locals donning pigs teeth as necklaces and goat bones in their ears. We left the trail with their generous offerings of pamplemousse, limes and green papaya.

Nuku Hiva was a dream. It's no wonder that the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson (in 1888 in Hatiheu)and Herman Melville (in 1842) fell in love with it. The latter jumped ship in Taiohae Bay and headed to Taipivai where he wrote about his experiences living with a ferocious and cannibalistic tribe in his 1846 book called "Typee". That's one of the books I'll download at that priceless internet cafe tomorrow.

Our friends aboard Ceilydh received their new rudder yesterday and hope to have it installed by the end of today, in order to be able to join us for our four day crossing to the Tuomotus early next week. It's always nice knowing that friends are out there in the open ocean with you.

Hakahau Bay, Oua Pou, Marquesas Islands
South 9 degrees, 21.995 minutes
West 140 degrees, 02.847 minutes

robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville
Gauguin and Jacques Brel
At 5/22/2011 04:17 (utc) our position was 09°21.50'S 140°02.83'W

Friday, May 20, 2011

In hindsight: Steps to Take Upon Losing an Anchor


Here we are back in Taiohae Bay and more anxious than ever about losing another anchor. We’re not the first cruisers to lose an anchor and we certainly won’t be the last, but it sure would be nice to know that we’ve taken our share from the anchor swallowing gods and therefore will not be visited again.
On the other hand, we know it could have been far worse. We’ve known boaters who have lost an anchor when it came loose from the chain so that only the anchor, or perhaps the anchor with only a bit of chain is left on the bottom of the anchorage.  Often times this occurs in a bad storm or in huge swell, and the boat is sent drifting. This can be a much more tenuous situation, especially if the boat is adrift while you’re sleeping (you could end up on the rocks in a short few moments), or while other boats in a busy anchorage are struggling to keep control in a severe storm (collisions are bound to happen).
Fortunately, and as you know from a previous post, this scenario is not what happened to us and we feel grateful for that.  Our anchor and chain were fine, but it was the rode, the rope part that attaches the chain to the boat,  that spliced right through to send the chain down in heaps to the ocean floor. And we saw it happen so we could address it right away. While I can’t say what we did was the absolute model to be followed if this should happen to you, it’s a good ‘think-through’ to consider in the event you should ever find yourself in a similar situation.  As you know, it all paid off in the end, and we are, once again, one with our anchor.
Steps to take:
1. Swear.
2. Quickly mark a waypoint on your navigational instruments.  We pressed the Man Overboard button, but only after about 30 seconds.  While this doesn’t sound like a long time, we had likely drifted about 30 feet from where the anchor chain had dropped. 
We also always mark a waypoint where the anchor gets dropped.  Between this marker and the one taken when the anchor rode was dropped, we were better able to figure out the general vicinity of where to look for the anchor.  In such a muddy bottom, our anchor was not clearly apparent as it had sunk a bit, so it was essential to locate the chain and/or rode.
3. Deploy a secondary anchor.  Although we ultimately ended up on a mooring ball, this option is not always available.  But even before we got permission to hook onto the ball, we quickly deployed our stern anchor which is always at the ready, with about 8 feet of chain and the rest rode, near the back of the boat.  Interestingly but not surprisingly, we also had a tough time raising it later.  We were clearly sitting in a lot of mud, but thankfully our friends helped us free that secondary anchor so that we could focus on finding our primary one.  This was done by having someone tugging on the anchor line from above water in the dinghy while someone else was below the waterline wriggling the anchor itself free from the mud. 
4.  Find a grapnel (a clawed anchor) and some weight (perhaps some chain attached to the grapnel), attach a long line to it, and use your dinghy to dredge the general area where you think the anchor is located.  It’s important to make sure that you have enough weight on the grapnel and that you are not traveling too fast or else the grapnel will not drag on the ocean floor but rather just get pulled through the water, completely wasting your time.  We know this from experience.
5. Be patient.  This could take hours or even days. We were fortunate to have had friends who were willing to help us with this as one can go crazy dredging in some obscure location where you think you’ll find the anchor or the chain or the rode. 
6.Be methodical.  Go back and forth in a pattern to make sure you don’t miss a spot.  And then go back on the same spot.
7. Find a diver, or dive the area yourself.  It’s easy to get disoriented under water, especially when the water is murky like in Taiohae Bay.  The thing to do is drop down the dinghy anchor and use this as the baseline for the diver.  The diver then takes a 3-6 foot rope and ties it around the anchor line, then searches that radius around the anchor line.  This too must be done methodically so that he/she begins again in the location immediately adjacent to the one just dove.  Here again, we were fortunate to have had two friends who were able to dive with Evergreen’s hookah(Evergreen’s Dennis, and Aeolus’ Yp), although there was a professional diver at the ready if we needed him.
8. Pray. It may just pay off.
-Barb, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
8 degrees 54.447 minutes South
140 degrees 06.032 minutes West
(our actual anchor waypoint)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A word on Sharks

It’s been a real treat to swim in the crystal clear white-sand-bottom coral-lined bay of Anaho, a picturesque paradise on the north side of Nuku Hiva.  And the treat is not just the eye candy.  We’ve been unable (or unwilling) to do any extensive swimming in Taiohae Bay, a black sand bay, known to be home to plenty of sharks and where we spent our first 13 days after making landfall.  Rumor has it that a local boy was bitten by a shark last year and died of his wounds.  Tempting fate is not on my ‘to do’ list.
However, as our friend and former navy diver Yp said when warned of the sharks by another cruiser while he was diving our anchor, sharks are everywhere in the ocean – especially in tropical waters.  This happens to be particularly true in the South Pacific, where apparently a ridiculously large percentage of the world’s shark population lives.  The fact is, if we want to truly experience the South Pacific, we have to get comfortable swimming in the water.  
Here is what our friend Caren Edwards (who cruised with her family for five years) said about overcoming our fear of swimming with sharks:
1. Get a good shark book (we have one) . Knowledge is power over our fears, so get to know the different kinds of sharks, which are the aggressive ones, and what their different behavior means. They show curiosity first, so there is plenty of time to get out of the water before they start showing agitation, arching or circling behavior which precede an attack.  Apparently, most of the sharks we will see on our trip will be reef sharks, both black or white tip, which are used to eating small reef fish.  This means that we are not their natural food so they may come to check us out but then they move on.
Caren has had first hand experience with this.  She was apparently a  ‘shark magnet’ on her many dives, snorkels and simple anchorage swims.  She told us of one instance when she came face to face with one, almost bumping into it, as she rounded a coral head. They took a look at each other and then each went on their opposite ways. 
2. Ask the locals.  Caren warns that other cruisers are often ignorant about sharks and give misinformation based on their fears and inexperience.  So in addition to learning from a reliable written or online source, it makes sense that the locals are a great source of knowledge about the sharks in their particular area.  They’ll know if any tiger sharks have been around, for example, and if so, it’s important to stay clear.  Simply do as the locals do.
It is interesting that the locals in Taiohae Bay do body surf and (semi-)surf when the breaking waves are big, notwithstanding last year’s fatal shark attack.  For us, the water just seems too murky to want to get in, so there’s little incentive to get past our shark fears.  
As for aggressive sharks, there are two places Caren warned us about.  One was on the crossing – there are oceanic deep water white tip sharks that are dangerous to swimmers, so she suggested having someone on shark watch if we were to go in the water.  Unfortunately, we forgot about this when we crossed the equator.  Truth is, we actually saw very little sea life on our crossing, let alone a shark.
The other place there are aggressive sharks is in the Marshall Islands which are north of the equator and no where near where we’ll be going. Apparently there were so many dead human bodies in the water during WWII that the sharks adapted and now think that humans are a plentiful source of food.  But even there, Caren says, her cruiser friends were able to dive and fend off the interested sharks with a Hawaiian sling shot. Which leads me to the next tip.
3. Have a Hawaiian sling shot handy while swimming in water with many sharks, although Caren and her family never actually had the need to use one. Hawaiian sling shots are used for spear fishing and they look like a long rod with a few sharp metal pokes at the end. Caren suggested finding them in Mexican fishing stores, but here we are without any.  We’ll have to do without.
4. Be calm when you see a shark.  It’s important to remember that we are not their normal food, so they don’t automatically think of us as food.  They do, however, have an uncanny ability to sense fear and distress.  Their normal prey are the weak and injured creatures, so if you splash and scream and act like you are in trouble, you look an awful lot like a weak and injured creature.  Stay calm, and they just figure you are some other big fish.
Caren tells the story of swimming back to her boat with six sharks, three on either side.  A woman on another boat in the anchorage saw the sharks and announced it to a woman swimming in the water further away, who then proceeded to panic, scream, make a big fuss, and start hyperventilating.  All the sharks left Caren to check out this distressed woman. There's a big lesson here, says Caren: Be calm. If you are nervous, try to stay cool and make a calm but quick exit from the water so as not to attract too much attention from the sharks.
5. Get over it. Overcoming our fear of sharks, any way we can, will ensure that we can fully experience their mystery and beauty.  We are fortunate to have sharks still roaming the waters of the South Pacific, since most cruising grounds in the Atlantic are devoid of these creatures due to overfishing. Caren encourages us to snorkel at the passes, or entrances, to the atolls in the Tuamotus, well known for shark hangouts. For example, there are all kinds of sharks breeding at the atoll entrance at Rangiroa where the water is known to resemble a shark screen saver there are so many sharks. People come from all over the world to dive this pass. And our guide book tells us there are many more like it, which can be experienced by scuba diving or just plain snorkeling while at a slack or incoming tide (called drift diving/ snorkeling).
6. Know the statistics: The statistics are much worse on the highway and we never hesitate to drive, so, Caren says, don't let fear of sharks ruin your experience of some of the best underwater spots on earth. She assures us that we would be missing half the trip if we don't go in the water.
We’ll keep you posted on any face to face encounters but since there haven’t been any yet, we don’t have any photos for you. In addition, our internet is way too slow to start looking for them online. For now, though, we’re studying up from our shark book.
-Barb in Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
P.S.  Caren’s son Dana’s successful Stanford University entrance essay was on overcoming his fear of swimming with sharks in the South Pacific.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anaho Bay, Getting Lost, & 50 Ways to Eat a Mango


We spent the last five days on the north side of Nuku Hiva in a bay so picturesque it belongs in a Marquesan tourism brochure.  It’s actually accessible only by boat, though, or on foot from neighboring Haitheu Bay.  We obviously arrived via the sea after a spectacular sail in which two hours were spent being mesmerized by melon-headed whales swimming and playing at our bow.  Not much is known about these whales, except that the eastern side of Nuku Hiva is a resting ground for them, and they have clear white smiles painted on their faces.  If we hadn’t read about them, though, and given their small size and resemblance, we would have thought they were dolphins.  

There’s not a lot here in Anaho Bay that evidences human settlement, given its challenging accessibility to the general population. There are a few houses, a ‘pension’ with two rooms for guests, a very small church (perhaps 20 x 20 feet), and a coconut plantation. There are no stores, fresh water sources or restaurants.

IMG_0954We’ve been swimming in the tropical aqua colored anchorage so clear that we can see our anchor clearly 30 feet below the surface (and how happy we are to see there is, actually, an anchor there).  The way our boat is sitting in the water, we are directly above a coral reef and are greeted every morning by hundreds of fish.  We’ve taken walks on the beach and explored tide pools in the black porous volcanic rock at low tide.  We’ve snorkeled a lot. We’ve visited with our friends aboard Brittania and Piko, who are also anchored here.

Together with Brittania and Piko. we ventured by foot over the pass between Anaho and Hatiheu Bays, to have lunch at Chez Yvonne in Hatiheu. We had visited Hatiheu on our road trip with our friends from Ceilydh, but from Anaho, it was an hour’s challenging steep climb in the humid sweltering heat and lush jungle forest. The hike, however, was well worth the views. 


On our way back, I had trailed the group and missed the sign that showed the turnoff.  For more than an hour I walked on the wrong path, lost in the forest – for real. It wasn’t until I got to a 3-pronged fork in the pathway that I realized that this was, for certain, not the way we had come. At that point, I decided to turn around and see if I could find my way back.  No one was answering my calls.  I was starting to allow myself to think about what I’d need to do to survive for the night in the jungle.  But as I made my way back toward the way I had come, I finally heard Michael’s shouts. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or angry that no one had waited for me, or turned around to look for me earlier.  The experience really freaked me out, but I’m not sure if it was because I was really lost in the forest, or because no one even noticed I was gone for close to an hour. It’s something I’ve been pondering for a couple of days now…

Nonetheless, we picked wild mangoes on the path home until our bags were overflowing.  The next day, we decided to have a Mango Party, making as many mango dishes as we could using all this sweet aromatic fruit.  Amanda (Brittania) made luscious deserts of mango pie and a spiced tart. I made a curried mango quinoa dish with cucumbers (and a green papaya salad to use up a very green papaya foraged on another hike).  Lauren (Piko) had frozen mango ready for smoothies.  We shared assorted other dishes and ate like kings.


-Barb, Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Nuku Hiva: First Impressions

After spending a week here on the island of Nuku Hiva, we’ve gotten a good feel for the way things work. The people start their days very early. The sun rises at about 5:00 a.m. and the Saturday market starts at 4:30 a.m. We’ve been waking up at 6 so we can start school at 7 because that way we’ll save daylight since the sun sets at about 6:30. The water here is dark because the sand is black, making it so that we can’t swim because if a shark came (and there are sharks-we’ve seen them in the shallow water when the fishermen come in), you wouldn’t see it. So, instead of swimming, we go to shore. The land is IMG_0892very green since it rains almost every day at least five times. There is one road that runs around the island, branching off toward a couple of side streets. Most roads are paved and almost everyone drives a car. My friends and I go to the basketball/volleyball court, which here is the equivalent to a park, if we’re not at each other’s boats.
The people here are very nice. One of the men we met while walking led us on a hike and cut pamplemousse (grapefruit, but way better) from a tree and gave it to us. It was really cool because we ate rightIMG_0722 off the tree instead of going to a store and buying what you think is fresh, but not really knowing what preservatives have been put on your food. The man then opened up a giant sack and dumped out a large branch of bananas and gave them all to us.
I really like Nuku Hiva. It has the same welcoming feel Mexico has, but it makes a nice change.

-Danielle in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Nuka Hiva’s Flowers

DSCF1563Nuka Hiva is a wonderful island in the Pacific ocean with beautiful flowers and vegetation. DSCF1599Flowers here are peaceful and full of vivid colors of all shape and sizes. Today, when we hiked to the next bay over called Collette Bay, we passed many flowers, most of which I took pictures of.DSCF1574 As bugs flew quickly by us, we admired the pictures and nature.

When my dad saw the pictures and flowers he said, "Those are very neat flowers." They were! We were quite sad to leave although we were all tired. The flowers here are unforgettable!

-Harrison in Taiahoe Bay, Marquises


Thursday, May 12, 2011

We're in the News

Check out the link here  for a short story on this year's Puddle Jump.




The Polynesians are very serious about their tikis.  While all have all but abandoned their ancient religion for Christianity, they still maintain the belief that a great ‘mana’ or spiritual energy can emanate from the tikis. This vibe, so to speak, is sometimes good and sometimes not so much.  It is out of respect and perhaps fear for this superstition that leads Polynesians to believe that a tiki should not be moved, or even touched. This makes breaking the rules ‘tapu’, a word familiar in the English language (and adopted from the Polynesian word) as ‘taboo’. Grave and mysterious consequences can befall anyone who does not obey the tapu.  Uh-oh.  You may recall from our road trip photos that  we did a lot of tiki touching.  

Or perhaps we were just not meant to leave Taiohae Bay?  It could be that we are supposed to wait for our friends aboard Ceilydh to receive their new rudder so that they too can leave?

Whatever it is, we have tried to leave this bay for the last 3 days, and each day some other event has prevented us from doing so. On the first day, it poured like we hadn’t seen it rain since arriving.  Day Two began with us turning on our generator only to find that it was time to change the impeller, a small rubbery cog that brings freshwater into and through the generator motor, which is necessary for that motor to operate.  While doing that, Michael also decided to clean in and around the engine.  Once that was done, it felt like it was too late to leave.

Then, yesterday, when we went to raise our anchor, it wasn’t coming up as easily as usual. When we tried to work it out, the rode split in half just above the chain, sending 120 feet of chain plus our 55 lb. anchor (not to mention $$$) to the bottom of the bay, 30+ feet below. [The rode is the 150 or so feet of rope that runs between the boat and the chain, used in the anchoring system when we need more than 120 feet of the chain we have.]  The rode had been showing signs of wear and we knew we would have to deal with it at some point, just not then.

Losing an anchor is a likelihood at some point of one's cruising career if you are out long enough.  When it happens, it sure is inconvenient.

We’ve spent the last two days searching for our anchor.  Several other boats have helped us ‘dredge’ for it, involving pulling a long line with weights at the end and a hook anchor called a grapnel.  The idea is to travel back and forth in the general area where you think you lost your anchor, praying that the grapnel will ‘grap’ something (hopefully your chain, anchor or rode).  Our friends on Evergreen dove the area for several hours using their homemade hookah (like a scuba tank only it sits in the dinghy with about 50 feet of tubing that leads to the diver’s mouth piece).  No luck.  Today, our friend Yp aboard Aeolous, a former Danish navy diver, went diving using the hookah, but again to no avail.  Yp has this very calming way about him, and seeing our anxiety, gently came to the rescue.  He advised on the approach to our anchor search, and was even willing to dredge using his own big boat if the dinghy trolling was not effective. He was just what we needed.  He and Michael went dredging for a bit, and after a few false positives, hooked something hard.  After diving the area, Yp came up with a nice smile and two thumbs up – our rode had been located!

Jubilantly, Michael and Yp figured out how to haul the chain and anchor back into our anchor locker.  We’ve attached a new stronger rode, and we’re hoping to raise anchor tomorrow morning after nearly two weeks in Taiohae Bay.  Were hoping to explore more of the island of Nuku Hiva, but you can be sure that when we come across a tiki, we’ll just smile and move on.


- Barb
Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Monday, May 9, 2011

Get Me to the Church On Time

This week we made it.  Last Sunday we weren’t as lucky.  I’m not sure who got the details wrong, but we now know that Sunday Church services at the Catedral de Notre Dame d’Iles Marquises begin at 8 a.m. and not at 10. Last week’s failed attempt at experiencing the not-to-be-missed singing landed us on an entertaining, fabulous but sweat-filled hike (in our Sunday Best, no less) involving some getting lost, an archeological site, a generous but toothless local named Roo on horseback feeding us fruit directly off the trees, and the crew of some 5 boats bonding along the way. Not so bad. 
This week, as a group of only seven (again, the four of us and the crew of Ceilydh),  we were lucky enough to immerse ourselves in the spine-tingling choral music highly recommended by all our guide books.  Our foray was still sweat-filled (it was a like a sauna in there), but the harmonies more than made up for the discomfort.  
Polynesian church attire
My kids had never been to a church service before, so it was fun doing the comparisons.  Lots of sitting then standing.  Lots of singing.  We especially enjoyed Hallelujah to the tune of ‘Michael Row Your Boat Ashore’.    Both services involve washing hands, drinking from a wine goblet, and eating bread (challah vs. a wafer), although at a synagogue it all happens after the service is over and the food is usually far more abundant.  The church service was a mere hour plus, while Saturday morning synagogue services are closer to 2.5 hours.  Foreign languages for both, my kids said – although the congregants here speak the language of the service on a daily basis. In fact, the service was conducted in both French and Marquesan, a language much closer to Hawaiian than to Tahitian, apparently. 

IMG_0639The church itself, with its open air half-walls, is simpler but no less beautiful than its colonial European cousins. This particular church was built with stones from each of the six inhabited Marquesan islands as well as with magnificent dark woods endemic to this area.  It is remarkable how the Catholic and ancient Polynesian traditions are intertwined, with both Christian and traditional symbols adorning the church, most often in the form of beautiful wood carvings, an art form still practiced here.  What most struck me was how everyone knew the entire service and readily belted out the melodies in stunning harmonies.  The guidebooks were right.  This was a truly moving experience.

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Road Trip!


Last night I tumbled into bed with that contented feeling of having had a full and fulfilling day.  We’re slowly getting back into cruising exploration mode and it feels so good.
We started the day with a 5:15 a.m. visit to the Saturday morning market, only to find we were too late for lettuce. We’ll have to do without for a week, as we are planning today to begin our circumnavigation of this island of Nuku Hiva (if the rain ever stops), which should take about 8 days.  We’ll then pop back into this bay (Taiohae) for reprovisioning before moving on to Oua Pou for a few days and then the Tuamotus, which lack fresh vegetables altogether. That’s not to say that the produce in Taiohae is varied, or that the vegetables are abundant. Because it’s the government seat for the Marquesas islands, however, it’s likely the best we’ll get until we arrive in Papeete (Tahiti) in over 6 weeks. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that as we go.

Following our early morning start, we picked up a car rental and piled 7 people (the four of us plus Evan, Dianne and Maia of Ceilydh), layering our bodies so we could all fit, into our 4 door Toyota pick up truck, a vehicle which makes up perhaps 99% of the transportation stock on this island.  The AWD is a necessity here given the roads splintering off of the main one throughout much of the countryside. IMG_0842Our map consisted of somewhat of a relief-based picture, but only showed the main road that runs along the western and northern edges of the island with a diagonal cutting across.  The rest was up for speculation. Equipped with our non-descript map, our guide book and plenty of food and water, we set out to to explore, not really certain of what we’d find. We hit some surprising hairpin turns, gorgeous look-outs, several dead-end trails in search of a waterfall (but none the less fruitful in other ways), and fascinating ruins.
IMG_0817On the topic of ruins, it’s hard to escape them, which is very much a testament to the dense and active civilization that once lived here.  An estimated 18,000 inhabited the six populated Marquesan islands, according to our guidebook, at the time that France claimed them in 1842. Thought to be 600-800 years old and abandoned about 200 years ago (the population of Marquesas was believed to have dwindled to less than 3000 by 1926), the remnants of this civilization is literally everywhere – hidden and in plain site, but mostly overgrown with weeds.  Only a very few areas are actually maintained, and even then there are no explanatory signs. Many homes have been built atop the stone foundations of their original pae pae. 

IMG_0821The most fascinating ruins are the me’ae or temples, usually surrounded by tiki, or statues and usually in the vicinity of the massive banyan tree believed to contain mana or spiritual power, where worship, burial and human sacrifices took place. It’s no surprise that we have been most intrigued with this latter ritual. Our imaginations run wild as we come across deep foreboding pits into which human remains were allegedly deposited.  IMG_0822

IMG_0798One of the best parts of travel is staying open to whatever comes around the corner.  We happened upon a group of men preparing coconut meat for its milk in order to make poisson cru, raw fish marinated in lime juice and – you guessed it - coconut milk.  We came across a large group of children gathered for catechism where a woman was creating a head piece out of flowers.  We learned about the island’s copra production, a main source of income for many in which the coconut meat is dried and used for its oils for the cosmetics and food industry.  We watched a local man and his young daughter catch mangoes from a tree using a tool resembling a lacrosse stick made out of a coke bottle (reminding me of the movie These Gods Must Be Crazy  in
IMG_0807which a coke bottle fell from the sky to turn an isolated African tribe upside down with the bottle’s new uses). We experienced the mystery of ancient Polynesian civilization, fascinated by the aforementioned human sacrifice and cannibalistic traditions.  And the scenery was simply breathtaking notwithstanding the mostly overcast skies.  Our return trip was shrouded in fog, adding to an exhausted but happy and contemplative mood 11 hours after our departure.
While the day was mostly about incredible scenery, spectacular natural beauty and intriguing ruins, the thing that stands out most for me is how friendly and welcoming everyone is, from the horse-riding cattle ranchers atop the mid-island plateau to the residents of the smaller villages deep inside the valleys. Everyone greeted us with broad smiles and a hearty ‘Bonjour’.

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Iles des Marquises

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Findings, Fast Facts, & First Photos (in no particular order)




Polynesian women really do wear flowers in their hair.  Really. It’s not just a touristy thing.  In fact, there is little touristy about the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesan Islands of French Polynesia.  It’s also rather refreshing that there is little American about it.  The cruising community here, as expected, is much more international. No, Barbara, you’re not in Mexico anymore.

IMG_0769The Great and Mysterious Polynesian Migration is believed to have occurred somewhere around 3500 years ago when the first settlers left Southeast Asia, Taiwan or China in sailing/paddling canoes (the forerunners to our lovely catamaran) with chickens, dogs, pigs, veggies and their kids. They used celestial navigation, and read cloud reflections, bird flight patterns and wave formations (ancient techniques long lost) to arrive who-knows-how-many-days-or-months-later to the western islands of Samoa and Tonga.  French Polynesia was settled somewhere around 200 BC via Samoa, beginning with the Marquesas Islands. The first Europeans to discover this side of paradise arrived in the area in 1595, but Nuku Hiva where we are anchored was untouched by Western influence until 1791.  The French claimed what is now French Polynesia (made up of the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, and the Society Islands including Tahiti, Bora Bora and Huahine) in 1838.  While European settlement all but decimated the Polynesian culture with disease, alcohol, firearms and evangelism, there has been a resurgence of national pride since the 1980’s.  I’ll try to include other tidbits of this fascinating history as we go.

The people are lovely.  As we walk through the streets, they will stop to ask about where we come from, and will readily tell us about their lives here. Almost everyone (men, women and teens) is tattooed, an ancient Polynesian art that was adopted by sailors when Captain James Cook first arrived in IMG_0714French Polynesia in the late 1700’s. My friend Dianne got one on her third day here.  I was supposed to go with her to help her translate and just give moral support but the tattoo artist wanted to ‘feel her vibe’ as he designed the motif and worked with her to create something personal.  The artwork was spectacular. 

I am loving speaking French.  And I’m really speaking French, none of the tongue-tied stuff I attempt whenever I travel to Quebec. I’ve surprised my entire family with my skill, but not more than I’ve surprised myself. I haven’t been in French conversations for nearly 35 years. And I’m doing my fair share as I act as the translator for most of our cruising friends here.

We have had to get over sticker shock since we’ve been here.  There are only a handful of restaurants which are very pricey. We did sample the local specialty of ‘poisson cru’ which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk – amazing, even if it was served without a vegetable. This should have been a foreshadow for us:  While fruit is abundant on the island, vegetables are a bit more scarce. 

That doesn’t affect the cost of produce either way, however.  We spent about US$50 on a mere few pieces of produce when we first arrived, and have supplemented here and there with other very expensive pieces of fruit and vegetable. The various ‘magasins’ (stores) are well stocked with canned goods, however, including ‘haricots verts’ (green beans) that I so desperately but unsuccessfully sought in Puerto Vallarta. Any items in the store with a red price label are subsidized by the French government, which apparently pours millions in to these islands. Unfortunately for us, laundry here is not one of those red-stickered items: It’s about four times the price as it was in Mexico, weighing in at a mere $12 per load (about 4 kilos).  At those prices, we’re doing it all ourselves – but after a 19.5 day crossing and a lot of rain since, it’s one step forward and two steps back.  I think after 6 days at anchor we’ve managed to do about 7 loads, including very stinky towels and sheets, and we have about 3 more to do to catch up. That would have been about $120 in laundry had we given it in to be done for us. 

IMG_0719One way around the prices for fresh produce is to pick it yourself, which we’ve gotten really good at.  There isn’t much choice in the way of vegetables (although we’ve seen avocadoes growing – only too high or far for our reach).  We’ve had incredible pamplemousse (grapefruit), starfruit, mangoes, papayas, bananas, and guavas, many right off the trees.  We call it foraging. Simply luscious.


This place is pure paradise.  No dangerous life-threatening animals to fear (other than sharks in the water – a story unto itself) - even the dogs take it slow. Lush green steep mountains rising up from sea.  Fertile volcanic soil.  More fruit trees than one can imagine.  Beautiful people. Beautiful singing. Beautiful dances (we were lucky enough to watch a practice one night passing the community center).  It truly must have been the ideal life before the white man turned things around – although it is still pretty incredible.

It does rain a lot here, usually only for a few moments and usually only a few times a day, but we have gotten used to the drill.  Close or vent all hatches whenever we leave the boat, even if it’s clear sunshine. Sleep with hatches vented. If drying anything out, be ready to take it all in when it starts to rain, and then take it back out to finish drying – and then multiply this by a few times.  We’re also trying to dry out our heavy comforters and decorative pillows, so that we can store them in vacuum sealed bags. We’re hoping to achieve this before mold sets in, which is a huge problem here, and this has proven to be a multi-day task as well.

We’ve been a bit relieved with the mostly overcast skies, given the alternative hot and humid sunshine.  Because it’s been so hot, we’ve been getting up with the sunrise around 6 a.m. or before, so that our boat projects and school are done by noon.  The Saturday market begins at 4 or 5 (we’re still not sure) – we got there at 5:30 a.m. - but we do know that all the good produce was gone by 6:08 a.m.

It took us a good 5 days to finally melt into normal sleeping patterns. We’ve been spending our days on boat projects, school and exploring the island with a couple of hikes under our belts and some visits to some archeological sites. We’ve now had all three of our sails repaired - while the mainsail was the major job to have the headboard re-attached, we also had some tears in both our jib and our screecher.  The sail repair here was well done, and at fairly reasonable prices too.  So far so good.

One more to add to the incident report: We did discover that water came into our forward crew’s quarters which we’ve been using as our garage.  Likely, the water came in where a seat on our bow is screwed in, but after 19.5 days of being hit with high seas, it slowly dripped what turned into about half an inch of water in the compartment.  We’ve now almost dried out from that and are slowly putting ourselves back together. 

Our days are full and we are feeling very content.


P.S. Michael has updated our photos to the right of this blog post.  Enjoy snapshots of the crossing, including Michael in his sexy sailor attire, and of our first few days on Nuku Hiva.