Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Exploring the Marquesas

Waking up in the beautiful bay called Hanamoenoa on Tahuata was the perfect way to start the next chapter after making a long passage.   What could be better?

Well, one thing that made it better was the surprise email we received from friends we met in Panama three years ago saying "You'll never guess where we are... TWO miles away!!"

In no time at all, Will, Molly, Scott and Tracy of the catamaran "Yollata" were aboard Moonshadow.  Will immediately began brushing up on his conch blowing skills, while Molly helped with some body english.

Reuniting with cruising friends after so many miles have passed under our keels is such a rich aspect of the cruising life.  

After two days luxuriating in the gorgeous anchorage, we moved over to Atuona on the larger adjacent island of Hiva Oa.  It being Monday, We could now visit the authorities to check in to French Polynesia.

But first we had to negotiate Atuona's anchorage which is compressed into the shallow end of a small bay. Inter island supply ships visit here and when they do, their need for clearance to turn around results in most of the yachts becoming crammed into the last few hundred yards.  This is were we found a spot just big enough for Moonshadow's 62 foot length, and set anchors off the bow and stern so we wouldn't swing into the other boats with the shifting wind.

After a ride to the Gendarme's  office to finalize our arrival, we walked to a nearby WiFi Cafe for breakfast and our first taste of Polynesian internet access.  Let's just say the internet connection speed allows one ample time to enjoy the delicious crepes and expresso we were served for "le petit dejeuner".

As it was our first time ashore in French Polynesia, we walked around the little town of Atuona, discovering it's many charms.

We also arranged a guided tour of the island by Pifu, who has lived here all his life except when abroad in Europe and the US on a mission for his church.  It seems everybody on the island is somehow related to Pifu.

Here, Pifu is patiently teaching Mark and John the ancient Polynesian "Pig  Dance"

We nailed it!

All this was on our way to the sacred grounds of the Marquesan warriors at the Iipona archeological site on the North side of Hiva Oa.

This excellently preserved site has many of the most pristine examples of ancient Tikis and other ritual symbols, including the sites for circumcision (performed in teenage years), and tattooing, both rites of passage onto warrior status.

All this raw native stuff got us hungry so we ate at Pifu's Gramdmother's house, where she prepared and served a feast of wild boar in coconut milk, goat stew, poisson cru, tapioca fries, poached papaya, fried banana and coconut cake.

We ended the tour with a visit to the cemetery where Paul Gaugin is buried.  The famous artist is not well regarded here as the story goes that he mistreated the local women he painted.

We left Atuona for a quick trip back to the beautiful island of Tahuata where we'd originally anchored after our passage.  With friends Mark and Deanna aboard Speakeasy, the bay was even more beautiful than before.  We ended up inviting all five of the boats anchored there aboard Moonshadow for sundowners.

Next it was time to sail south to Fatu Hiva.  This was more of a motor-sail because this southern-most island in the Marquesas is also usually the most windward of the islands.  But there's no whining here, it was an easy trip...

...with amazing coastline of the southwest end of Tatuana...

...but the ultimate reward was the sight of Fatu Hiva looming up on the horizon.

This has got to be the most amazing island in the world.

Dropping the anchor in this bay is a once in a lifetime experience.

Click the video below to understand just how surreal this place is.

Behind the soccer field where the valley meets the ocean, we walked up the road looking for the trail to a waterfall.

Fortunately, our friend Mark spotted the cairns which identified the trail.

Soon we were in a deep jungle.

And, along the way, we could see the evidence of long past Marquesan tribal dwellings.

Eventually there was the 200 foot waterfall through the trees!

Very well worth the strenuous hike.

And the cool, cool water, which made some people squeal like girls...

...was actually, eventually, very welcome and refreshing.

From Fatu Hiva, we sailed Moonshadow back to Athuata where we spent time repairing our Reckmann roller furling.  

This is the apparatus that allows us to roll up the big genoa like a window shade.  The massive stainless steel bearings in this device were serviced in San Diego last summer but the bottom race un-screwed itself allowing all but ten of the ball bearings to find their way to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  Fortunately, our omnipresent crew member, McGiver extracted eighteen ball bearings of the exact same diameter from an old block he'd been hoarding for just such an event.  With these precious ball bearings, and some skilled handling of them that resulted in zero of them falling into the beautiful blue water, Moonshadow's crew may now continue to roll the big jib out and in.  This is big in our world.

To celebrate our latest "fixing boats in exotic places" victory, we took a walk ashore to see what this little village at Baie Vaitah was all about.

What an exquisite little village.  It seems like it must be inhabited by landscapers and gardeners because from end to end the town is beautifully manicured.  We had to imagine the beautiful voices singing within because our plans were to leave before Sunday's services.

A theme we're coming to recognize is consistent throughout the Marquesas is the islanders preference of beauty and tidiness to litter and neglect.

I mean look.  Everywhere you look you see beauty!

The thing about a 90 day visa is you gotta keep moving.  Unsure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, Moonshadow continued on through the Marquesas sailing 85 miles down island to Nuku Hiva.

The day started off with week variable winds as we motor sailed through the lee of Hiva Oa caused by easterly trade winds.  But eventually the trades established themselves and Moonshadow enjoyed the rest of the day flirting with ten knots under the A-chute.

Ua Pou's massive spires jut upward as Moonshadow glides by.
We arrived in the main anchorage of Baie du Controleur in the South-West corner of the island of Nuku Hiva.

"In the valley above this anchorage, an easy hike up a slight hill brings you to a collection of authentic Marquesan Tikis and other sacred artifacts in their natural state".

That's what I might have written in my journal forty-five years ago when I visited this very spot.  But then I was nineteen.  And I didn't keep a journal.  Now, I'm more apt to say:

"After sweating your brains out and fighting off crawling and flying insects while nursing your sore knee, if you can still see through your sweat-stained shades, you would find yourself surrounded by a bunch of stone fat guys with weeds growing through their belly".

Either way, this is worth the effort.

Back on board Moonshadow, we shifted to an anchorage called Anse Hakapaa.  This is a one boat cove.  There is coral all around the anchorage and it is deep in the middle, so by the time you let out enough scope (220 feet in our case) and add the 62' length of Moonshadow, we needed to claim a circle 550' in diameter.

To make matters more challenging, from the deck it's really hard to see where the safe, deep water ends and the coral begins.  I't probably 700 feet wide, but as you can see from the drone shot below, we nailed it.

Next it was a short motor west to Taiohae Bay. 

This is the landfall where John arrived in the Marquesas forty-five years ago.  It was fun to see again the famed limestone cross that marks the East Sentinel of the entrance to Taiohae Bay.

As the bay unfolded, John remembered how it was in 1971 entering this huge bay to find it was occupied by just one other boat, the schooner "Fairweather".  As it later turned out, John spent 4 more months living aboard and sailing Fairweather as far as the Cook Islands.

But that was then.  Today, there are close to sixty boats anchored here.  The bay could handle over a hundred yachts.  

Taking all this in, John is relieved to find that despite many obvious signs of change from his first time here, the Marquesas Islands retain the charm and the mystery that created the burning desire to return one day.

Though there is still more exploring to do here in the Marquesas, we will not likely have internet with which to post photos for who knows how long, so the rest of our Marquesan tour will follow in a later post.


Unknown said...

Hi J and D
I look forward to your blogs. Great work on the Marquesas blog. I keep saying "great job" you guys. I keep meaning it, so "Great Job" you guys. If you find yourselves making a visit to these precincts please accept an invitation from Robin and myself to join us at home for either lunch or dinner or whatever.
Meantime stay safe and keep up the blogs and the great work on this great adventure.
Best greetings
Aidan and Robin

Anonymous said...

When you leave for the Tuamotus please look at entering at Kauehi .. Fakarava and anse amnyot very close and very memorable.. Brett & Debbie Interlude IV Sundeer 60

Anonymous said...

Toau is another gem

Anonymous said...

Another fabulous post! That hike on Fatu Hiva was looking a little bit like a Lost episode, glad you made it back to Moonshadow. Thanks for the stunning pictures, great descriptions and really amazing photography. Oh, and of course the humor, and seeing your smiling faces. You might not see this reply for a while, but know that we were cheering you on to Kauehi.

Unknown said...

I love Gauguin's painting but I don't doubt for a second that the locals' impression of him is accurate. Fascinating that you were able to visit his grave!


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