Friday, May 27, 2016

Atoll Life

The reward for our three day passage was anchoring in the clear, clear waters of the atoll Kauehi in the Tuamotus.  But just anchoring has it's hazards.  First it is important to see and avoid the coral reefs and "bommies", which are individual coral heads.

Next, it is important to lay out your anchor chain so that it will not wrap around the bommies.  

Yeah, right!

If you get it right, you can see your boat's shadow on the sand bottom 25 feet down.

The Tuamotu atolls are the polar opposite from the Marquesas Islands.  No mountains, no waterfalls, no jungle here.  Just sand, coral and palms.

Every village in French Polynesia has a prominent church in the center of town.  

The city pier is where we began our exploration of the village with friends Mark and Deanna Roozendahl of the catamaran Speakeasy.  

We met them at West Marine in San Diego while waiting in line for the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha kickoff costume party.  They were cats, since Speakeasy is a catamaran.

Mark and Dee on the right.
We were the cow herd from Moooooooonshadow.  Somehow we instantly knew we'd be long time friends.

2014 Baja Ha-Ha party

Since then, we've seen them all over Mexico and now throughout the Marquesas and the Tuamotus. We've been "buddy boating" which means we're often traveling between anchorages and on the radio together.  This has been especially beneficial in the bommie filled lagoons of the atolls.  

We also pal around together on shore hikes and explorations.  This means we also trade photos, so some of the shots on our blog posts have come from the Speakeasy (and visa-versa).  We will soon part ways but will always have the memories, and full expectations that we'll run into Mark and Dee along life's paths.

Every day on the water is like a snowflake:  Completely unique and full of surprises.

Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to realize 
you are not in some dream in the land of postcard photos.

When you hang out with buddies, there are more shots with people in them!

Photo by Mark
The water in these lagoons is amazingly clear.  We can preview the day's snorkeling adventures with the paddle-boards.  This looks like a good spot!

Speakeasy's launch is a 13 footer with extra large tubes.  That means you need some manly skills to get back into the boat.  

The sea life here is just beautiful... are the fish!  

There's plenty to explore

One night we had sundowners on the beach with 
pot-luck munchies all spread out on the driftwood.

On another night we had drinks at the swim-up-bar, which sometimes doubles as a paddle-board.

Sunset from the swim-up-bar.

From the village at the north end of Kauehi, we moved to the south end of the atoll 
where the amazing beauty of these atolls was on full display.

Here, the weather can be raging at sea, but we, just a few hundred yards from the open ocean,
 are protected by the reefs and the motus (small islands) of the atoll.

There is no shortage of magazine cover photo ops.

Friends from several of the yachts anchored here got together on the beach for a bonfire barbecue.  Lifelong friendships can be found at such events...

...and when you have friends, the first thing you do is try to crush them at bocci ball.  
Sometimes it works out the other way 'round!

Down here, we were reminded that the lagoon we're swimming in is actually someone else's domain.

Black tip reef shark.  About four feet long.
Finally after a week in the lagoon of Kauehi, we arose at dawn so we could navigate through the pass during the slack tide, then make our way on to Fakarava, another atoll some 34 miles away.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Rest of the Marquesas

Internet in the South Pacific is very much a hit or miss proposition, with a lot more misses than hits.  As a result, this post covering parts of the Marquesas is out of sequence because though we had the experiences and the photos to prove it, we had no way to upload so many gigabytes of photos until arriving at the Tuamotu atoll called Fakarava.  Here internet is available to those willing to pack up their computer and hike to the home of Stephanie and Aldric who run Fakarava Services.  Buy some of the most delicious juice in the world and you receive free internet sitting on a couch on their front porch.  But before all this, while aboard Moonshadow using our sat phone connection, we were able to post a brief update of our passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus .  So things are a bit mixed up, and we’re sorry, but also expect more of this in the months to come.

So we arrived at Hakatea Bay, better known as Daniel’s Bay on Nuku Hiva.  This place was once the site for a season of the TV reality show “Survivor”, but that’s not the reason to visit.  

John remembers this bay on his 1971 visit when Daniel, a descendant from the ancient chief of the valley, lived here.  On that visit Daniel and his family greeted the crew, provided us food, and arranged a game of soccer before guiding us up the valley for a look at the 2000 foot waterfall.

When we dropped the anchore here we found ourselves in some pretty fast company, all part of the 2016 Pacific Puddle Jump, all departing from Mexico at the same time.  Besides that, what all these boats have in common is that they are the result of designers who set out to create fast, save passage-makers that can easily be handled by two.

Cinnabar, Tom and Sylvia's gorgeous Schumacher 52.

Impulsive, Morris and Debbie's Outbound 44 is also a Schumacher design.

Scoots, an Able Apogee 50 designed by Chuck Paine and owned by Eric and Vandy Schrader.

And of course, the Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow by Steve Dashew.  We're particularly fond of her.

But the main reason to come here is the magical valley of immense proportions and grandeur.  John was very happy to find that except a few new structures, the valley has not changed much in the 45 years since his last time here. 

We were able to navigate our dinghy up the bit of deep water that remained over the bar at low tide...

...and follow it up the valley...

...until we found a safe place to tie her for a while.

With cruising buddies Mark and Deanna, a two hour hike took us through dense jungle...

...across the river...

...several times...

...through the ancient ruins of what was once a thriving city...

...until we finally got a glimpse of the very high waterfall.

There were more river crossings...

...and then we began to hear the thunder of the waterfall impacting the riverbed.

The waterfall is too high to see in its entirety.  At the base we could only see the last hundred feet as it continued in its relentless carving of a deep crevasse into the Marquesan hillside.

The pool at its base was cool, but not clear.  Mud from 2000 feet above was carried down to the valley.

It's important not to scream like a girl when entering the cool cool water .

Everywhere you look the proportions seem just out of scale with any normal place.  It is an immense valley with walls that seem to go up forever.

On our way back to Taiohae, our approach showed why this is the most populous village in the Marquesas.  The valley with it's surrounding high ridges is huge.

As the largest village, it gets frequent visits by the inter island ferry/cargo vessels

And frequent visits by these small rubber boats too!

It's fun to come ashore in the big city...

...where they have stores full of food!

Taiohae also has a Friday night happy hour/dinner for cruisers.  We arrived an hour early so visited the Pearl Resort for some refreshments...

...and a chance to take in the view of lovely Taiohae Bay.

Our next stop was Oa Pou with it's strange stone spires jutting into the sky

You can always spot a village by looking for a church spire reaching above the treetops.

You can visit Ua Pou by airplane, but this runway is not for the faint of heart.  This is a one-way airstrip with no option for a go-around when landing.  Then takeoff is a downhill/downwind affair straight out over the ocean.

Ua Pou was our launching point for the voyage to the Tuamotus atolls.