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.
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
Lots of bananas
Smoking coconut shells to keep the mosquitos away
Dinner with Pesto and Sarita
Pesto in Controllers Bay
Homemade canoe with sail
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,
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
Church in Vaituahu Bay
View of village from our boat
Here piggy piggy piggy
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
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….
Geoff!! It's Oscar. Awesome blog and I plan to live vicariously through it. Grant and I were talking GT stories and you came up when I started telling Tobago Island (Panama) tales. Looks like you are living the dream. Congrats to you and your family. Safe travels and please keep up with the pictures and blog. I wish I could have seen you and met your family before you sailed from the Bay Area. Next time, my friend!ReplyDelete
You had a great and thrilling experience in discovering different anchorages of Marquesas Island.After reading about your experience, I too want to discover them.ReplyDelete
Nice post thanks for sharinngReplyDelete