Well, during the last weeks I was not really busy with my blog. That’s because it’s way too beautiful here to think about any kind of work! On each island new adventures were waiting and from each bay there are unique stories to tell!
About a month ago we made landfall in French Polynesia. First, it was strange to be back on land. Not because the ground suddenly started moving under my feet, but rather because I was intoxicated by the many unfamiliar impressions. For 34 days we lived in a nine-meter world. Only the two of us; alone with the wind and the sea.
Now, there suddenly were smells, food, cars making noise, people moving and even wanting to talk to me! – In French!
All of that happened in front of a backdrop that could not have been more beautiful! Just behind a narrow strip of black sand, the island rises to green volcanic mountains. On the roadside there are palm trees and, in the gardens, huge mango trees are growing. Fruits generally thrive everywhere here! Grapefruit, mango, star fruit, pomelo, passion fruit, oranges and lemons.
The first job after reaching a new country is, as always, the official clearing in and the associated walk to customs, immigration and health ministry. Sometimes the procedure takes days! Here, however, everything should go quite easily:
We had to register before departure from Panama with all our data and like that, everything should be done with a visit to the gendarmerie. However, the walk remained unsuccessful. It was a holiday and the office was therefore closed. – „Let’s just come back tomorrow!“.
Since Nuku Hiva was still the only place to clear in the Marquesas at that time, we met one or the other boat again in the anchorage! GREAT CIRCLE and BLACK MOON we recognized, with other yachts we were sure to have seen them already in Panama.
We stayed about five days to do our laundry, shopping, and work on the laptop. Then we got ready to sail again and went with Niels and Gretje (BLACK MOON) to „Daniels Bay“, four nautical miles away. There is a waterfall in the mountains that we wanted to explore.
Early in the morning we began the ascent through a valley, farmed by three families. We followed a river that meanders through the never-ending fruit garden. Workers knocked banana leaves off the trees and burned old foliage. Horses grazed along the roadside and a few goats stood sporadically in the bushes.
We continued the hike through the jungle and climbed further and further up the mountain until we reached a kind of clearing after two hours. Between two huge steep fords on the left and on the right, the path went on and on through waist-high lush grass until we finally reached the waterfall. It was the first hike in weeks and jumping in the pool was incredibly refreshing!
On the way back we drank a smoothie in the restaurant of Teiki and Kua. After we had paid our entrance fee, we were literally bucketed with fresh mangos and juicy pomelos! – Everyone got as much as he could carry somehow and we made our way back to the boats.
To round off the day, we arranged to have a campfire on the beach. Everyone brought what the fridge had to offer! Mark and Ivana brought tuna, Nils and Gretje brought chicken and we, since we don’t have a fridge, kneaded a stick bread dough.
The weather was perfect and to all appearances all boats in the bay had the same idea! As soon as the sun disappeared, the dinghies piled up at the stand and sailors from all over struggled with the sticky stick bread dough and their barbecue sticks.
It turned out to be a very social evening and we stayed on the beach until late at night, eating fish, drinking rum and swapping stories.
The, the weather forecast announced a wind shift for the coming days. Instead of southeast, the wind should turn from the northeast for a few days. Perfect for us to sail to the southernmost of the Maquesas Islands – Fatu Hiva. The group of Marquesas Islands consists of a total of eight islands, five of which are inhabited.
Since the wind usually comes from the SE and sailing with the wind is most pleasant, it would make most sense to make the first stop in the south at Fatu Hiva and hop with the wind, island by island to the north. However, due to covid regulations, we had to clear in at the very north on Nuku Hiva. Our plan was then to bite the bullet and fight our way back to the south.
With the aforementioned wind shift, we made the 110 nautical miles to Fatu Hiva almost in one swoop. Only at the end we ran out of luck. With two tacks we had to tack upwind and therefore did not make it into Hanavave Bay before dark.
The anchorage is difficult; especially at night! The bay is narrow and the banks drop steeply. In shallow water, at five to six meters, the anchor finds no hold in loose debris and only two meters further the bottom plunges to 20 meters deep! Of course, it also started to rain. The wind came from all sides: When it sweeps over the island, it is slowed down by the High Mountains and then crashes down into the bay following the slopes in gale force.
The anchor maneuver failed three times. Hoisting the heavy iron chain and anchor back onto the deck hand over hand each time took the last of my strength. „One more time, one more time we can try!“. … But no more! – I already got dizzy the last time and a fifth time I would certainly not get the chain back on deck. We would have to sail out and spend the night floating on the sea!
But then with the last attempt the anchor held, luckily. By luck we have caught a patch of sand in 20 meters depth; the anchor seemed to have dug in! We put a total of 50 meters of chain- a little too little, but all we have and went to sleep.
The night was restless, but when we woke up the next morning we realized why Hanavave, the „Bay of Virgines“, is known as the dream bay par excellence: the scenery is unique! The valley is encircled by high mountains! The peaks are almost never visible as the clouds get caught in them. Everything is green, the ground lush and a light haze is in the air. In the foreground, three rocky peaks rise into the air. Goats bleat on the plateaus at dizzying heights.
We met the crew of „EMMA“ and „MOREA“. Together we hiked to a waterfall and across the island. I got along well with David, a local who told me a lot about the tattoo culture of the Polynesians and through Adrian from „EMMA“ we were invited to a dinner together at Davids. There was goat cooked in coconut milk, poisson cru – raw tuna in coconut milk with lemon and herbs, grilled pig, boiled bananas, breadfruit, salad and rice. – It tasted heavenly!
Teiki from Nuku Hiva allowed me to take a picture of him. The Tatoos show all kind of different stuff. Some are simple; they show things like fish, islandsthe sun and the universe. Others may tell whole family stories. The one in the middle of the close up tells that tree members of Teiki’s family have died, for example. The cross in the circle at his cheek shows the „grand marquesian.
On 06 May we continued to Tahuata, the island 40 nautical miles to the north. Emma took care of everything sailing-related along the way. I was hit in the back so hard when I hauled up the anchor that I could hardly move and spent most of the trip asleep or cursing in the cockpit.
We reached the bay in the south of the island around evening. I took a pill and we both quickly went to bed. At the next morning there was some work to be done: As I sat reading at the bow two days earlier, my eyes slid over the attachment of the forestay. „pretty rusty up front there! „. My gaze lingered for a while and I registered a fine black line on one of the toggles (U-connector). A hairline crack in the metal! In the only securing of the mast to the front! – Should the forestay come loose, the entire mast could come down!
Fortunately, I found an identical toggle in the spare parts box. I disassembled the entire forestay and replaced the broken part with the new piece. Everything reassembled and ready to go! – Only three hours of work this time, but in Tahiti I want to replace the entire bow fitting. The stainless steel has a few salty years behind and is apparently not in the best shape any more. I do not want to take any risks here!
A friend’s boat (BLUE BERYLL), we met them in Panama, had just suffered mast breakage on the Pacific. Yvette and Sander had to travel over 2000 nautical miles with a self constructed emergency rig! They made it safely to Hiva Oa after four weeks, but the trip was definitely not like walking in the park! – Not mentioning the financial damage.
The reasons for the mast breakage remain unknowen. Probably one part of the standing rigging failed. To save the mast on bord was impossible due to the big swell in the middle of the pazific. To prevent the boat from further damage all shrouds were cut loose and the mast was left behind. With a spinacker pole and remaining sails a jury rigg was set up. But without the pressure in the mast, the boat rolled back and forth heavily. Overtaking boats supplied them with fuel and some medizine to find some sleep.
More about our adventures in the Marquesas in the next article. For Emma and me, it’s time to prepare for the Tuamotus, now. They are waiting for us, 400 nautical miles away: flat atolls, white sandy beaches and turquoise water.
See you soon, Paul