Monday, June 20, 2016

THE TUOMOTUS– June / July 2016

Hao – Makemo
The Tuomotus are about 400-500 miles southwest of the Marquesas depending on where you depart and arrive.  We decided to depart Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas for the atoll called Hao.  The evening we left, it was almost a full moon and the wind was calm.  We felt we might actually have to motor since the wind was so light.  Well, we then got a big surprise on the 2nd day as the wind really picked up and shifted directions and a squall overcame us.  From then on, it was horrible swell and 30 knot heavy wind on the nose.  It felt like we were bashing into the waves the whole time.  By the 4th day, we were about 60 miles from trying to enter the pass of Hao and decided it was just going to be too horrible to even try and enter the atoll.
The thing about these atolls is that you have a narrow pass to enter which has to be entered during slack tide.  So, from an aerial view, it’s like looking at a big circle or oval, with a small slit / opening in the circle/oval, which you can then enter the circle at the right tide.  Some of the atolls have two passes, most have one.  Most of these atolls can also have 3-4 knots of current, if not more, running either against you or with you coming in/out.  Also, you need to enter these passes during morning light hours, as there are many coral reefs and rocks to navigate around and can only be seen when the sun is behind you or above you.   It is pretty tricky to enter paradise!  Once you are inside the pass, and in the lagoon it’s like you’re in a different weather pattern all together.  Most of the atolls do not even a magasin/store.  Most consist of a few houses and might have a place a small village.   Some atolls have a village with a store and maybe wifi.
As the swell and wind were so bad, we thought waiting for slack tide and trying to enter into Hao would be a bust, so we decided to head further north about another 120 miles and enter the atoll of Makemo.  We entered Makemo and the wind and swell was not as bad, but at the anchorage where the town was, it was very rolly as there was no protection from the wind or swell.  We didn’t even get the dinghy down to see the village.  The next day, we headed for an anchorage in the middle of the atoll, which was protected by a nice coral reef.  It was quite an adventure to navigate the bommies (coral heads) that are scattered throughout the atoll.  It was like a minefield.  You have to have look outs at the bow to avoid literally running into these bommies and putting a huge hole in your boat!  We were happy to arrive at the middle anchorage as we saw Pesto and Sarita there.  We had cocktails and a bonfire on the beach that night with them and met 3 other boats, Valindra, French Curve, and Tigress.  This really was a very magical anchorage.  White sand beaches, great coral to snorkel around and calm clear water. 
The kids decided to have a Survival camp on the beach one night.  So, we left the kids with Raquel and Paulo from Pesto, on the beach with a tent, water, Swiss army knife, pork and beans, fruit loops cereal. handheld radio and their survival instincts.  We rowed back to the boat and every once in a while looked out with binoculars to see if they were ok.  The kids built their own campfire and cooked their pork and beans and by sunset, they didn’t know what to do!!  We received several very funny radio calls that asked what time it was every 15 minutes for an hour and then asked what we had for dinner and if we were watching any good movies.  It was pretty funny as it was only 5:30pm.  We saw the fire they had built had gotten bigger and they were running around screaming and having a good time.  I think they wore themselves out.  After the fire burned out, they went into the tents and we were told the next day, that they talked about computer games and card games before they went to sleep.   We thought for sure the next morning they would call right away because they were hungry or bored.  They didn’t call and stayed on the beach the whole afternoon, even through a squall!  They only called to tell us that a squall was coming and that they were having a great time!  It was fantastic to hear that they were having such a great time.  They can’t wait to do it again.

Horatio getting ready to fish

Beautiful Parrotfish

Paulo with hermit crab

Cocktails and bonfire on Makemo beach

Makemo atoll

After spending a week in Makemo, we decided to check out another atoll.  It was also a very sad time as Pesto was planning on staying in Makemo for another two weeks, at least, and in the atolls for at least another month or two.  They had family coming to visit them in the atolls and we also had family that was arriving in Papeete (another 200-250 miles away).  So, we had to part ways with our very good friends that we had been cruising with since Mexico.  The kids were so sad as they had become so close with Raquel and Paulo.  It was a hard time for all as we said our goodbyes.  We know we will see them again, but maybe not until next year.
We arrived in Tahanea, which is another atoll about 50 miles west.  It is supposed to be a national park as no one lives on this atoll.  So, no village, no stores.  Fresh food was getting in short supply, but we were still enjoying ourselves.  Tahanea is a beautiful atoll.  Lots of white sand beaches and lots of coral beaches.  We snorkeled in the pass which is a huge reef.  It was AMAZING.  Just how clear the water was and the colors of the coral and the types of fish we’ve never seen before.  It was so lovely.  We only saw one black tip shark and that was about it for sharks.  We wish our camera took better pictures as it does not do justice to the colors and view of the sea life.   We enjoyed being in Tahanea for a few days of snorkeling and exploring.  Very quiet and very peaceful.

Inside the lagoon in Tahanea - you can see the ocean on the other side of the sand (that is how close you are to being in 1000 ft of water vs. anchoring in 35 ft of water.

Brightly colored  coral
We left Tahanea and went another 50 miles west to the atoll of Fakarava.   This is one of the larger atolls and has two passes and a village with a couple of magasins.  But we never made it up toward the north pass (25 miles north) where the magasins are.  So, no fresh food again.  We entered the south pass and anchored there for several days.  When we arrived into the pass, we noticed several dinghies in the water as lots of folks were drift diving or snorkeling in the pass.  You basically take your dinghy into the pass and jump overboard and drag the dinghy line behind you.  You typically drift out during slack tide and then wait for the tide or current to take you back in and hop back into your dinghy.  Or you hop back in because there are a lot of sharks! 
Upon arriving into the southeast anchorage, we met a family on Blue Raven.  They have two daughters, close to Horatio and Noah’s age. They invited us over for cocktails and we met two other boats, Valvini and Cartago (sp?).  Everyone is so fantastic trading sea stories and passage stories.  It really is a small family when it comes to sailing as you typically end up seeing these folks again at another island/anchorage.  The kids played on Blue Raven one day and met two boys their age from the boat Kandu.  We met one of the boys from Kandu in Nuku Hiva, but they actually got to hang out with both of them 300 miles away from the Marquesas.  What a small world!
Sarita was also in Fakarava and we spent a day exploring the beaches with them.   Horatio and Noah had a great day with Katia on a small sand island to themselves while the adults explored the other beaches.  We also spent another day snorkeling in the pass with Sarita.    AMAZING!  Like Tahanea, so much coral, so alive with fish and soooo many SHARKS!  Black tip and white tips sharks.  At least 20 sharks swimming around us.  It can certainly be unnerving, but they don’t really bother you.  As long as they don’t start to circle you, or seem to be aggressively coming toward you, it was fine.  We saw no circling or aggressive behavior at all.  Wow!

Horatio snorkeling

Black tip shark - one of many

School of fish

Noah looking for treasure

Not sure what this is? 

Any ideas? We saw so many, but do not know what they were

Maybe a grouper?

Beautiful clam

Now it was time for us to start thinking about heading toward the Society Islands, where our first stop would be Tahiti, with a real city and real grocery stores and wifi!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Marquesas – April/May/June 2016

A little history from the book “Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French Polynesia”, the Polynesian islands are emerged underwater volcanoes of the Hawaiian type that drift due to plate tectonics.  The volcanoes correspond to the hot spots of the floor, from which the deep magma spouted.  Taking into account the incessant drift of this floor, the islands born at these hot spots drift progressively westward, 10 cm per year, while the hot spots continue to spew forth magma, creating a new volcano, etc.  As these island drift westward, they sink into the oceanic floor under their own weight and the coral that had colonized their shores remains on the reef base that is has created.  Thus, the island is diminished in size and height and the space left between the original reef and the new shores is then filled in by a lagoon, which enlarges as the island shrinks.  During the final stage the island totally disappears under the water’s surface, and there remains only a central lagoon and the reef crown, which is then an atoll.  The high islands, without a lagoon nor crown reef (the Marquesas) are the youngest, and those that have a vast lagoon are the oldest (the Society Islands), and in between are the atolls.
French Polynesia extends over 5,500,000 square kilometers, counting the territorial waters, but the land surface of the 118 islands is only 4,000 square kilometers.  That is why they look like a speck of dust scattered on the ocean.
French Polynesia consists of 5 archipelagos.  To the West, the Society archipelago is comprised of the Windward Islands (including Tahiti and Moorea) and the Leeward Islands (including Bora Bora and Raiatea).  The Tuamotu archipelago is made up of 76 atolls, which is extended by the Gambier archipelago.  The Austral Island archipelago has 5 inhabited islands.  To the north of the Tuamotus are the Marquesas.
Nuku Hiva
Coming into the youngest archipelago, the Marquesas, was such a treat, because we could see land immediately as the mountains stood out from quite a distance.  The Marquesas have 11 islands, which 5 are uninhabited.  We landed on the largest and most populated island first, Nuku Hiva.  We came into the northern bay which was Anaho Bay.  We really enjoyed that bay and took a well-deserved rest from the long passage.  We hiked to the bay west of Anaho called Hatiheu, and ended up meeting our friends from Pesto by pure coincidence.  It was a real treat! 
Taiohae Bay - We then sailed south to the Taiohae Bay, which is where we ended up checking in and getting our clearance and fuel exemption.  Taiohae Bay (@1500 people) is very large and can accommodate over 70 boats.  We were very surprised to see over 50 boats, maybe more, already anchored.  We have come to realize that French Polynesia is very populated with French and European cruisers, more than American or Canadian cruisers.  It is really great to meet so many people from Europe that cruise this area every year! 
The town of Taiohae has very friendly people and a few Magasins (small grocery stores) and fresh fruit market.  We have come to find that getting pamplemousse (French grapefruit, very good and much sweeter with larger pulp than traditional grapefruit), papaya and bananas are plentiful.  But getting items like lettuce, sometimes tomatoes, apples, carrots, potatoes, are difficult to get, as they come by boat from New Zealand.  But we have found that baguettes are plentiful and can be found at the magasins and some cafes.  As for pastries such as croissants, you have to get up at the crack of dawn and buy as many as you can, because by 6:30am, they are all gone!  When the fresh market on Saturday occurs, same thing, must get up at 5am to get the best veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, etc.    Folks in town get up early, take a siesta/rest between 11am-2pm, sometimes 3pm, and then close down by 5pm.  Taiohae only has a few restaurants, and we tried one that served a variety of foods.  Pizza, steak, chicken, pork, goat.  Restaurants are good, but wouldn’t say they are fabulous.  The most famous dish is poisson cru.  It is like ceviche.  Raw fish seasoned with coconut milk is the most traditional.  They sometimes have a curry, or soy flavored version.  It is very good.
Hakatea -We decided to move to another anchorage to check out more of the island.  We went a few miles west to a bay called Hakatea.  Sometimes known as Daniel’s Bay (nice gentleman used to live there and was very friendly and helpful to cruisers), but also known as the bay where they filmed one of the first Survivor TV show series.  We anchored with about 7 other boats.  Our friends from Pesto and Sarita were already there and we met Sababa.  We had only heard them on the Puddle Jump net as we were making the voyage, but finally met them.  We all had cocktails aboard Sarita that evening.  It was a wonderful evening and a nice anchorage. 
The next night we ended up having dinner with a local family. Kua and Teiki.  They were so wonderful.  Their farm is loaded with coconuts, pamplemousse, papaya, bananas, and when in season, mango, avocado and pineapple.  They served us crawfish from the river that runs next to their farm, rice, bananas, breadfruit and papaya.  It was delicious!
We went back to Taiohae after a few days so we could pick up our fuel exemption and get fuel.  While in Taiohae we met several other kid boats.  We met Muk Tuk, a boat from Austria, with two boys, Jan and Noah, close to Horatio and Noah’s age.  The parents have been cruising for 22 years.  The boys have never lived on land.  They are amazing boys and very self-sufficient.   We also met Daybreak Oceane from Canada.  They speak French fluently, just like Muk Tuk, which of course is very helpful in French speaking Polynesia!  Daybreak has one girl named Leah.  She also is very self-sufficient and fun to hang out with, especially playing cops and robbers. 
Comptroller Bay – We checked out an anchorage a few miles east called Comptroller Bay, which has 3 bays.  One of the bays, called Taipivai, is the most famous as that is where Herman Melville wrote Typee and Omoo. We decided to stay in the smallest of the 3 bays, called Hooumi.  We found it to be small but beautiful and protected from the S/SE swell.  The next day, Pesto showed up and the kids pretty much swam all day long!  It was beautiful and clear with sunny skies.

Boat repairs - lines and sheets that broke

Outrigger canoes on the beach in Nuku Hiva

Canoe racers practicing

Our dinghy with some canoes

Entering Hakatea Bay

Cocktails aboard Sarita with Sababa

View entering the river in Hakatea Bay

Kua and her husband Teiki and friend gathering coconuts

Teiki and friend with their big hog

Horatio and Noah drinking coconut water with Pesto family

Rowing into the river for dinner at Teiki and Kua's farm

Our kids with Pesto and Muk Tuk playing on the kayak
Sarita family entering the river 

River landing at the farm

Electricity on the farm

Copra - Drying coconuts
Dinner of Shrimp, Rice, Breadfruit and Banana

Local flowers

Lots of bananas

Smoking coconut shells to keep the mosquitos away

Dinner with Pesto and Sarita

Comptroller Bay – We checked out an anchorage a few miles east called Comptroller Bay, which has 3 bays.  One of the bays, called Taipivai, is the most famous as that is where Herman Melville wrote Typee and Omoo. We decided to stay in the smallest of the 3 bays, called Hooumi.  We found it to be small but beautiful and protected from the S/SE swell.  The next day, Pesto showed up and the kids pretty much swam all day long!  It was beautiful and clear with sunny skies.
Pesto in Controllers Bay




Boat School

Homemade canoe with sail
Ua Pou
After getting fueled up in Taiohae, we decided it was time to visit another island.  We tried to sail directly south to the island of Ua Pou.  The view from Nuku Hiva was that of sugar loaf peaks called “the pillars” and looked like it would be a beautiful place to visit.  Well, the main town on Hakahua has a very small anchorage that can only fit about 5-7 boats when the swell is low. But with big swell, you have breaking waves in the anchorage and leaves about room for only 4-5 boats.  We tried, and could not anchor.  We tried again a few days later, but no luck, and anchored further west on Ua Pou in Hakaheiteu.  It was an ok anchorage, but nothing really to see.  The swell was still a little high, and we decided to make our leave and head to another island.

Caught a big Wahoo on the way to Ua Pou

Pesto sailing to Ua Pou and then to Tahuata

Horatio looking for Pesto

Alex and Adriana from Pesto sailing to Ua Pou
Hanamoenoa Bay – We sailed a rough passage for 12 hours and ending up anchoring just as the sun was setting on the island of Tahuata in Hanamoenoa Bay.  We were greeted by our friends from Pesto, Sang Vind and Muk Tuk!  What a welcome site and a relief.  The bay is the most beautiful of all of the islands we have been to.  It is crystal clear down to over 60 feet.  Amazing white sand beach and one inhabitant named Steven living in the bay.  We invited Steven over to our boat for a potluck dinner one night.  We had 17 people aboard!  Talk about tight living space!  It was a great time as we got to meet Steven, and catch up with our friends from Sang Vind, whom we had not seen since La Cruz in Mexico in March.  We also had Muk Tuk family and Pesto family over.  It was a great evening.
The next day, we had lunch with Steven on the bay.  He served coconut rice with pork and pamplemousse and green papaya.  It was very good. We also met a catamaran, Nogal, from Sausalito. They have two girls on board and they invited everyone over for cocktails that evening.  Mirilia, the mother/wife on board is Brazilian, so they hit it off with Pesto and were able to converse in Portuguese together. What a treat for them.  Raquel from Pesto also had a great time being able to play with girls as she had been surrounded by boys; ours, her brother, Sang Vind and Muk Tuk for quite some time. 
We stayed for several days and decided to head to the next bay over to meet with a tattoo artist named Fati.  He was in the village of Vaitahu Bay.  This was a beautiful town, but had a very hard dock to come ashore on, so I’m guessing not very many make it to town.  Even though they have a magasin (not a lot in stock though).  We met with Fati and he took us to his house.  Geoff and I both got Marquesan tattoos.  The symbols are very artistic and meaningful when you learn about the different characters.  We both got tattoos that symbolize things that were meaningful to us.  Family, safety, harmony, sailing. Etc.  It was a real treat to see a tattoo artist at work and share his house with us.

Sang Vind towing the kids

Boat anchored in the Hanamoenoa Bay

Sang Vind and Muk Tuk and Pesto having potluck dinner on Enough

Kids eating dinner on Enough
Lunch at Steven's  - Pig roast

All the traditional fixing - Papaya, Pampelmousse,
Cassava, Rice

Sang Vind, Pesto, and Nogal enjoying lunch

Vaituahu Bay - We stayed for several days and decided to head to the next bay over to meet with a tattoo artist named Fati.  He was in the village of Vaitahu Bay.  This was a beautiful town, but had a very hard dock to come ashore on, so I’m guessing not very many make it to town.  Even though they have a magasin (not a lot in stock though).  We met with Fati and he took us to his house.  Geoff and I both got Marquesan tattoos.  The symbols are very artistic and meaningful when you learn about the different characters.  We both got tattoos that symbolize things that were meaningful to us.  Family, safety, harmony, sailing. Etc.  It was a real treat to see a tattoo artist at work and share his house with us.

 Geoff getting a traditional Marquesan tattoo

Chicken fight

Stained Glass in church

Church in Vaituahu Bay

View of village from our boat

Here piggy piggy piggy

Hiva Oa
 Traitor’s Bay (Tahauku Bay) and the town of Atuona – We next sailed to the island of Hiva Oa.  Also a largely (@1000 people) populated island with most folks in the town of Atuona.  This is also a town where you could check into for arrival and clearance, but we are glad we did that in Nuku Hiva.  We could refuel and also stock up on some groceries as they had 3 magasins in town.  This town was a little tricky to maneuver.  The anchorage is 3 miles from town.  So, it is quite a walk up the hill to get into town.  So, if you need to stock up on groceries, you really need to think about renting a car or making several trips by foot to go back and forth from town to the dinghy dock and then getting the food or supplies on board.  Overall, it was a nice town, but the anchorage was crowded and a little too cramped to be able to do anything.  You really couldn’t swim, so, it made the stay much shorter than most.

Typical Magasin - mini mart grocery store

Horatio and Noah with Boar Tiki

Walkin in the town of Atuona in Hiva Oa

Fatu Hiva
Hanavave Bay (Bay of Virgins) – This was the last island we were to visit before heading on a 500 mile trek southwest to the Tuomotus.  We are happy this was our last as it made a very lasting impression.  The Bay of Virgins, as we’ve been told, is the most photographed bays in all sailing magazines and cruising magazines.  It is truly beautiful with clear water and sand beaches.   We found that the locals really engage with the cruisers and do lots of trade.  We did not find this as much on the other islands, but this one, maybe because it is the farthest southern island In the Marquesas and the boat from New Zealand only comes once a month, that the locals really come out to greet you and invite you to dinner and want to be your tour guide.  They like to trade for lipstick, perfume, fish hooks, and flip flops!  In return you get pamplemousse, papaya, local art like Tikis (wooden sculptures) or Tapas (paintings on wood bark).   We had a fabulous dinner (coconut curry chicken, soy pork, grilled fish, dried bananas, fresh plantains, rice and green papaya salad) at Jacque and Desiree’s house.  We shared dinner with Pesto, and 3 other sail boats.  One from France, one from Zealand and one from the US.  It was an amazing spread and the amount of effort was much appreciated.  Jacque and Desiree took some boats out for catching lobster or to visit the waterfall or to go see a blowhole.  They are incredibly entrepreneurial and very good at it.  We did lots of swimming and some motoring around on Pesto and Nogal’s dinghy.  It was a nice ending to the Marquesas and can say that Hanavave and Hanamoenoa had to have been our two favorite bays in all of the Marquesas, with Anaho as our third.

Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva


Nogal giving Pesto and Enough kids ride to blow hole

Blow hole - whoosh

Dinner at Jacque and Desiree's with Pesto and 3 other boats

Children practicing traditional dance for Heiva Festival in July

Traditional boat building 

On to the Tuomotus….