Pacific Crossing 2010-11
Sunday, April 10th, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
Somehow we managed to get ourselves up bright and early Sunday morning to decant the dinghy from the deck. Our goal was to attend church at eight a.m. We were very glad that we did. The service and music were very beautiful. I guess I should say the music was beautiful since we couldn’t understand a word of the Marquesan- language service. It was very enjoyable to absorb the local flavor and customs which surrounded us. The mass was quite casual with people coming and going all the while. Children were passed from pew to pew, person to person, completely unfazed. At one point a small boy reached the row in front of us and I became worried that he would soon come to us. The parishioners were dressed in a range of fashions. All the women had their hair up in loose buns or ponytails, each adorned with fancy clips, flowers, or the occasional fantasy of grasses and flowers mixed, which made the finished product look like a delicate bird’s nest. Exotic tattoos were visible on both the men and the women. My favorite was a small yet elegant manta ray on the upper back of the woman in front of me. Several men were wearing t-shirts with the image of Father Damien of Molokai on the back, perhaps souvenirs of a church project. When the mass was over we headed out the front door to the “receiving line.” Those who had given readings or solos greeted us warmly as we made our way through the church yard and back to the quay.
In the afternoon we met up with Sopi, a local fellow who had sold us fish from his boat the previous day. We arranged at that time to go to his house the following day to procure some fruit. At his home we met his family and saw his carving work and tapa cloth. It was here that we secured our first stash of the amazing Pamplemousse. Pamplemousse are the Marquesan version of grapefruit. They are huge and spectacularly sweet. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to look at a grapefruit the same way again. With Sopi, his son Mona and our bag of citrus we made our way back to the boat. Our half of the swap included some wine and crayons for the kids. Everyone was happy.
Quicksilver turned up in the mid-afternoon after a twenty-one day passage from the Galapagos. In the evening we gathered in our cockpit to celebrate our successful voyages. It was a busy first day.
Monday, April 11th, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
Monday was Waterfall Day. Shango, Quicksilver and the crew of a Finnish boat headed off into the hills in search of the famed Vai’E Enui Falls. We had acquired a variety of directions, some from cruisers and some from locals. Despite, or perhaps because of this wealth of information we managed to get lost twice during our trek. Miscounted “hairpin” turns and overlooked rock cairns did not prevent us from reaching our destination however. The Falls, one of the highest in the world, were worth the trip. Our assembled group of sweating, out of shape sailors all plunged into a clear pool of VERY COLD fresh water. It was just us and the crayfish, frolicking under a curtain of falling water.
Tuesday, April 12th, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
Another day anchored amongst the spires. This one pointed out the need for a better business bureau in even the loveliest of spots. Early in the morning we were visited by a rather gruff fellow and his young daughter. He was keen to acquire some new fishing gear. I pulled out the (apparently inadequate) fish hooks and line we had brought for just this sort of occasion and was met with a rather withering glance. They were obviously not what he had in mind. Anything else? Roger pulled out his box of fishing tackle and it proved to be much more to the gentleman’s liking. After picking out several of Roger’s favorites he stood to depart, not offering anything in trade. All we could think to say was “Pamplemousse?!” Our guest reluctantly suggested he would meet us at his house at mid-day. In the end we were able to track him down and secure a fresh supply of our new favorite fruit but the price in lures was HIGH.
The day ended well however, with a spectacular gourmet meal aboard Quicksilver. We feasted on exotic marinated fish, savory bananas, chicken in spices, marinated green papaya and ended the evening with chocolate cake and spiced bananas.
Wednesday, April 13th, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
After a morning of chores we were ready for an outing. The goal for the day was to summit the hill which overlooks the harbor. We were told it provided a spectacular view but that it was somewhat steep. Never fear, it’s a paved road they said. Several hours later we did in fact take in the spectacular view but not without a great deal of whining and moaning about the terrain along the way.
Friday, April 15th, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
Shortly after we arrived in Hanavave we met Michael, a German cruiser aboard a catamaran named Mariposa. He is an itinerant dentist, traveling between the Tuamotus and the Marquesas. He has many friends in the Islands and enjoys connecting cruisers and locals. His mission while we were in Fatu Hiva was to organize a traditional pig roast. Boats kept coming and going and he was having a hard time getting the minimum ten people which would allow the fete to proceed. Finally by Thursday morning he had the bodies lined up. By Thursday evening the number of guests had swelled to twenty and by Friday morning there were thirty cruisers in the Harbor. Our Hosts, Desiree & Jacques (and family) quickly shifted gears and prepared for what was now a large crowd.
Michael said we could watch the food being placed into the cooking pit if we went to our host’s home at eleven a.m. Friday morning. Shortly after we arrived, the slaughtered pig, fish, chicken, breadfruit, red mountain bananas and a variety of other foods were placed into baskets woven from palm fronds and placed in a pre-heated pit in the ground. These baskets were covered with leaves and stones and a tarp and eventually a pile of dirt. The whole pile would cook until well into the afternoon when it would be unearthed for the feast. At four-thirty we once again headed up the hill, this time to watch the food emerge. The smell was overwhelmingly wonderful. Once all the food was taken from the pit the guests headed back down the hill to the community building to await the arrival of our dinner. Before too long a convoy of wheelbarrows with Jacques at the head, came weaving into view. All chatting stopped to watch the savory-scented procession pass by. Shortly thereafter our Hostesses, Desiree and her Mom, appeared, freshly clad and ready to preside over the evening’s event.
We got into line, carrying our own plates and cutlery, and headed for the food. Unbeknownst to us the evening would also include entertainment. Two of the fellows who had been working the pit turned up with guitars, along with another man with a ukulele. Several kids manned a variety of drums. Desiree’s daughter Carolina, who was no more than ten, performed lovely Marquesan dances and was followed in turn by her brother Alex who performed a very impressive warrior dance. Cruisers being cruisers, the dance floor was soon occupied by wannabe native dancers. No one could surpass the talents of young Carolina however.
The evening ended with speeches and thanks and sad farewells. It was a wonderful experience that we’ll remember for a great long while.
Saturday, April 16th – Thursday, April 21st
Though it was hard to pry ourselves away, we left Hanavave at first light and pointed our bow toward the Island of Tahuata, thirty-five miles northwest. Quicksilver and Dream Away, another British boat, headed out as well. The breeze, once we were out of the shadow of Fatu Hiva, was aft of the starboard beam, sometimes light, sometimes breezy. At any rate it was in our favor and it felt nice to be sailing. Our destination, the village of Hapatoni, was at the Southwest corner of Tahuata. It was a quick trip and we were at anchor by two o’clock.
Roger, Mike and Hilde managed to make it into church Sunday a.m. Their report back suggested that although the processional through the village was nice and the music was lovely, the sermon went on at some length, causing a certain amount of squirming. It was Palm Sunday and our trusty cruisers were presented with oleander branches.
At noon we headed the two miles north to Vaitahu, the largest village on the Island. The crew of Shango made the mistake of not going immediately ashore. “Tomorrow” we said. It was not to be.
Overnight the weather degenerated. The rain moved in. The wind moved in. Not good. Quicksilver and Dream Away, having already toured the village the previous afternoon decided to head north a few miles to Hanamoenoa, a purportedly beautiful beach anchorage. We decided we’d stick it out and see if the weather cleared so we could go for a walk. Unlike our first two stops, Vaitahu has not been provided (by the French) with a nifty concrete breakwater. During the day we watched several locals land on the quay. It was not pretty. A boater would arrive via miniature outrigger from his “big boat” which was secured to a mooring. There seemed to be a local stationed at the quay to catch what the arriving boater had to toss ashore. Once unloaded, the boater would launch himself from his outrigger and hope to time the waves correctly for a successful landing. It was not looking good for our walk. All afternoon we rolled around in the anchorage watching the “Bonsai Pipeline” break off to our right, while a blowhole directly in front of us would regularly launch fountains of water fifty feet into the air. Meanwhile the tiny river emptying into the harbor had become a class five rapid, disgorging all manner of debris directly at us. We and an Italian boat waited patiently for a change. It was not to be.
We finally gave up and departed Vaitahu mid-morning on Tuesday. The seas were beginning to settle, but not quickly. The rain was continuing and it was just too dreary for words. It was off to the beach for us.
Not three miles away at Hanamoenoa the weather was spectacular. We dropped our anchor off a crescent of white sand beach and watched as rays swam in the distance. Before the hour was up the Italians turned up as well.
Quicksilver and Dream Away joined us in the evening to celebrate our good weather and my sprout harvest.
Wednesday was a sail repair day but at least the setting for the project was lovely. In the evening we visited with Dream Away. They had been to the Market in Hiva Oa the previous week and were able to produce a sliced cucumber to go with dip. The smell of the fresh vegetable almost made us swoon with pleasure. It has been six weeks since we’ve been to a market. It is perhaps time. Man cannot live on Pamplemousse alone.
With the early Friday morning departure of our British friends the anchorage was now filled almost exclusively with Canadians and Americans. This was a first for us in a while. We were now beginning to meld with the boats that crossed the Pacific from Mexico in addition to those who came from the Panama Canal.
Friday, April 22d - Monday, April 25th
We made the twelve mile trip to Hanamenu today, across the Bordelais Channel and up the west coast of Hiva Oa. The western landscape of Hiva Oa was very stark. Locally it is referred to as “Terre Desert” or desert land. We dropped the hook in the canyon which forms Hanamenu Bay on the northwest coast of the Island. We were, amazingly, the only boat there. It was not to last however. Company, in the form of Minerva from Beaufort, N.C. arrived by mid-afternoon. Also in mid-afternoon we were approached by the small motorboat Roger had towed in earlier. They tossed us several “thank you” Pamplemousse. Sweet.
Saturday morning we were joined by the friendly Can Am fleet from Hanamoenoa. While visiting with Minerva in the afternoon we were approached by several locals in a motorboat who asked if they could get a ride to shore. Roger met them at their mooring and was soon loaded up with a holiday weekend’s worth of food for trip number one to the beach. After two trips and much chatting he returned with the news that MarieJo, her Husband Jean and several others had arrived to spend the Easter weekend and we were free to join them ashore.
Later, several crews headed in for a walk and a swim in the freshwater pool, which abuts Mariejo and Jean’s property. As we all headed back towards the beach we stopped to chat with them and were all invited to share in an Easter fish barbeque at noon the following day.
Early Easter Sunday we watched (or listened) as the fishermen departed in the early morning to secure the day’s main course. At noon we all made our way to the beach with food and drink and joined MarieJo and Jean at their home. The day’s catch was being placed onto a rack over a fire and Mariejo was laying out the assembled side dishes. Before too long the first fish off the grill, placed on a platter, was passed ceremonially around to each person to taste. Sixteen cruisers, four locals and two tiny cats enjoyed a superb meal on what was for us a very unusual and memorable Easter.
Monday morning the boats scattered. We slogged our way into the wind (east) eight miles. It was the first time we’d had to go to weather in a very long time. It should to be avoided.
Our destination, the village of Hanaiapa was back in the lush zone. Although the cliffs which guard the entrance to the Bay are rather stark, the valley is quite green. We traversed the waterfront, passing the usual array of outriggers before heading inland. Soon we were being accompanied by a young boy on a bicycle. He was not much of a talker but when asked to verify the correct French word for selected flora or fauna he would readily respond “Oui!” After a fashion he darted ahead and off to the left. As we passed the spot where he disappeared we were hailed from above. An older man, making his way down a hill, was waving his arms and making motions that he wanted us to sign something. It turns out that William, the grandfather of our young tour guide, likes to greet each new cruiser who visits the village. He invited us into his house and showed us his notebooks full of messages from earlier visitors, several of whom we recognized. William then gathered a huge pile of fruit and told us to stop by after our “promenade” to pick it up. At one point during our walk we saw a lime rolling down the street. Only in the Marquesas, we imagined, is it possible to be passed by a rogue fruit. Later in the afternoon William and his grandson joined us on Shango for a visit. William has been learning to speak English from Yachties since 1973. Almost forty years later he still enjoys the arrival of a new boat and as you might guess, his English is now quite good.
Tuesday, April 26th - Wednesday, April 27th
We got up early and were underway by six a.m. for our fifty-five mile trip northwest to the Island of Ua Huka. Once out of the wind shadow of Hiva Oa we had 20-25 knots of wind from aft of the starboard beam. The weather was a bit changeable and every now and then we would get a rain shower to add variety to the day. With the steady wind we made good time and were approaching our anchorage, Haavei, on the west side of the Island, by two in the afternoon. Two small but strikingly different islands protected the southern end of the anchorage. One, Teuaua, was low and flat and ringed by cliffs. On its top were an amazing number of nesting terns. With binoculars it looked as if the place was being swarmed by mosquitoes. The other Island, Hemeni, looked like a replica of the Rock of Gibraltar in miniature. Sadly their protection was not ideal and the anchorage was a bit on the rolly side. Nonetheless it was quite an amazing spot. We were surrounded by sheer cliffs and fronted by a white sand beach with a ramshackle dwelling under a canopy of palms. The surf hitting the beach was fairly sizable so we decided against a landing. Despite the roll we spent a few days enjoying the solitude which comes with an empty anchorage.
Saturday, April 30th, Taiohae Bay
We decided to branch out. After a seemingly unending string of anchorages beginning with H we moved on to a T. Taiohae is the largest town in the Marquesas but it’s all relative. We arrived Thursday afternoon after a terrific thirty mile downwind sail from Ua Huka. We dropped the hook amongst thirty other sailboats which is more boats than we have seen in one spot since the Galapagos.
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