Marquesas Islands to Tuamotus

Ferdinand Magellan named the Pacific Ocean back in the 16th Century. Pacific meaning peaceful. He obviously didn’t experience his cornflakes being blown off his spoon in a 36 knot gust at breakfast did he!

The four day passage from Nuku Hiva over to Rangiroa wasn’t one of our favs to put it mildly. Coming out of the anchorage late in the day we had to run from huge squally clouds right off the bat, and even though we managed to miss the main part of it we still got smacked with 28 knots of wind and sheets of rain. It might look pretty in this photo but it wasn’t fun.Nuku2TuroThis pretty much set the scene for the rest of the trip.

The first night was a horror! Squalls everywhere, we managed to miss most but one or two got us and boy they had some bite! I clocked the wind at 38 knots with so much rain I couldn’t see the front of the boat.

Of course we had our sails trimmed for this and Interlude managed the feisty conditions very well. The only thorn in our side was our steering cable fix we rigged in Hiva Oa which gave up the ghost so it was back to relying on our trusty autopilot again. Not perfect, but then again we’re only a few days away from Tahiti now where we can get the correct cables and repairs done.

The remaining 500 miles were pretty much carbon copies of the first night. Strong winds, squalls that were stronger, and a big swell that was hitting us beam on. That all added up to slightly miserable conditions on board.

Exactly four days later we spotted land. A very welcome sight.

Not four days we’ll look back on with happy memories but we arrived safe and sound and that’s the main thing. It’s funny though, if Ferdinand Magellan had the same run we did the Pacific might well be called Satan’s Sea or something now. Sailing the South Satan’s Sea doesn’t quite have the same romantic feel about it as sailing the South Pacific so maybe everything worked out for the best?

Marquesas – Nuku Hiva

We were happy to see Wandering Dream when we reached the little harbour at Nuku Hiva. What’s more Steve wasn’t leaving for once, well at least not until the next day, so we managed to finally catch up over some pizza and beers and get the low-down on the island.

The next day we wandered around town. The first stop for most people is the little cafe on the dock, which offers up internet, unlimited coffee, and free bananas. It’s a great place to relax, meet fellow sailors and listen to the local musicians singing and playing the ukulele. You have to be careful or before you notice several hours have passed by  – our excuse was we were waiting for a break in the rain showers.

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We eventually left only to find our outboard wasn’t working, and of course we didn’t have the oars with us, so we begged a lift with some lovely people that we’d met on a water taxi in the Galapagos – thanks guys!

Later we rowed back to town for sunset drinks at the fancy hotel around the bay. It’s a bit of a trek so by the time we got there the sun had set (grrr!) but we’re joined by another couple from the boat Pallaren. After a few expensive beers and big laughs we decided to head to the pizza joint again. There wasn’t really many options in this little town, but the pizzas and burgers here were ok and the wine was good and cheap! A bit of a rarity in these parts. To end a perfect evening we got another tow back 🙂

Next day we headed to Kevin’s Yacht Services, it’s next door to the cafe and usually has a queue of people outside. He knows the people who can help you fix your yacht (but not your electric outboard engine – doh!) and also has laundry, a book swap and all the essentials. You can also book a car from here to tour the island or a local charity dance – so we signed up.

The lovely people on Sofia took pity on us this time and offered us a lift to shore to see the dancing and we joined a group of sailors for a fun-filled night. The food just kept coming until we couldn’t eat another bean and then the performance began. The local dance troupe mainly consisted of children along with a few other young folks. We were in awe the whole time as they drummed, sang and danced their little hearts out. So talented and obviously having a ball! I had a great view in front row, which of course made me an easy target when it was time to drag a grown-up onto the floor. So I went up and showed them how it was done – ahem!

After that it was time for the ‘Mask competition’, these people go all out for the mask competition, so I’m glad now that I didn’t compete. Each competitor had to walk around the stage and drum up some votes. Our vote went to ‘Cousin It’!Nuku Fiva 3For the next two days it rained. We were pretty much boat-bound except a few supermarket runs for the essentials. Each trip to the grocery store we were followed by a local dog who was after our bread. We would have given him the dog-end except that it’s Simon’s favourite bit and fresh bread is a bit of a luxury after so long at sea. So walking back Simon would have the dog-end and the dog would get the next bit which meant that we had to start buying an extra baguette!

Apart from that we did some boat chores, relaxed a little and even managed to find the time to watch a film. Not sure when we last did that!

We were also pleased when a fellow boat arrived in the harbour. They’d just made the crossing from Galapagos and were missing a rudder so we were pretty impressed when they made it calmly into the anchorage. It’s good to see them safe and sound. It seems unlikely that a boat would loose a rudder but we’ve heard of at least two other cases which is strange, although there have been some big swells out there.

Finally the weather let up a bit and we hired a car to tour the island – a big 4×4 which as we found out was definitely needed.

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First stop was the ‘Baie du Controleur’ for some amazing vistas.

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This part of the island was very green, lush and hilly making for some very exciting driving. On each hairpin bend was a group of wild or tethered horses to make things more interesting.

Nuku Fiva 15Or a wild hog to entertain us!

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We thought we’d taken the wrong road as the concrete turned to rubble, turned to mud and then turned into a stream but we persevered and were finally spat out the other side of the island. We took in yet more postcard views.

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Then it was time to find Yvonne’s restaurant at Hakaenui Bay for a much needed lunch of fish and the local speciality, goat curry.  After that we sought out a bit of culture as we explored a tiki site and hunted down some petroglyphs.

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There was also some pretty crazy trees here. Quiet a magical place 🙂

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We were also told that the other side of the island shouldn’t be missed so we headed off there. First we came across a flat plateau with yet more horses and then we started climbing. Up and up with more and more stops to take photos until eventually we ended up in the clouds, quite literarily. After loosing the road at several places we decided we were pushing our luck and turned about to head home before darkness.

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The next day we dropped the car back and took Interlude to the next bay down. You can’t reach Daniel’s by car which makes it pretty special. The thin entrance to the bay is described as ‘exciting’ but as the swell picked up and pushed us unceremoniously through the gap some other words sprang to mind! Once in the bay it was peaceful and relatively calm except from the odd wind gust to keep us on our toes. And it was stunning with a capital ’S’. High mountains of green surrounded the bay and with only a handful of other boats it was perfect for a bit of lounging in the cockpit over dinner.

The next day we rose early as we were desperate to visit the waterfall, the 3rd highest in the world! But this required a huge hike. And we were also keen to leave for the Tuamotus while we had a good weather window which was closing in fast.

So we hop-footed it up there. I sent Simon first to ward of the numerous spiders that had formed their webs across the trail overnight. What a hero!

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The trail is quite hard going and requires you to wade through stream after stream, sometimes up to waist-height.

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Pretty intrepid but a pure delight too. We passed by some local home-steads where the people called out to try and sell us fruit.

After a while it began to rain which was quite refreshing at first and then we were just wet from head-to-tail. The trail wound its way through an amazing forest, and goes up and up until you are in the middle of no-where, in fact we didn’t see a single soul.

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Eventually the waterfall came into view and we headed towards it. There was a sign that warned about falling rocks and looking up we could see why, the steep-sided mountains were looming above us. But having come this far we decided to continue. We’d heard that you can’t see the full height of the waterfall until you’re at the base. So we made it to the little lake at the bottom and stepped in. Well actually Simon slipped and did a belly-flop scaring the local wildlife which jumped and hopped and skipped in all directions.

Once in we swam across to the other side and climbed behind the rock to see the waterfall. It was pretty impressive, tall and heaps of water cascading down. There again there’s been plenty of rain to feed it! Simon tried to swim underneath it but the current was so strong, just to be there in the spray was amazing!

After that we hop-footed it back to the boat as time was of the essence and the Tuamotus were beckoning.

Marquesas – Ua Pou

WOW POW! Not sure how we ended up in Ua Pou!

One day you’re dreaming of heading South to Fatu Hiva and the next morning you’re further North than you started, in Ua Pou. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, or the wind, or just run away from the bad weather like a girl!

The anchorage was inside a little harbour and as we hunted for a spot a catamaran called up and told us he was thinking of moving to the area we were in so not to anchor there as that was where he was thinking of going. Nice!

Anyway we moved to a different spot, dropped the hook, dragged, dropped the hook again, found ourselves too close for comfort from another boat, dropped the hook again and relaxed. Well until the boat in the perfect spot behind the harbour wall disappeared and then we upped anchor again and grabbed their spot. Perfect! Or maybe just a tad close to the harbour wall. Anyway that’ll teach you Mr Catamaran!

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After a nice cuppa we headed to shore and wandered around town. First we checked in with the police. Turns out we needed to show our papers at the Gendarmerie a little distance away – oops! They were friendly peeps though and we usually find a way to  chat with the police one way or another so it was good to get that out of the way.

We wandered in and out of a few grocery stores, and found… TimTams and Arnotts (biscuits). We really must be getting closer to Australia, which also marks the end of our trip – boo! Anyway apart from that there wasn’t much of interest. After a night of sailing we were hungry so stopped at one of the only eateries open – a pizzeria, turns out I make better pizza so at least that’s something.

There was a promising walk up to the cross on the hill but we just weren’t up to it so we went back to the boat. No sooner were we back onboard than a fellow boat called us up and told us we had to move (again) as the cruise/supply ship was due early the next day. So all the little boats in the harbour had to line up like soldiers close to the beach and in line with the solar panel on the dock.

Ok so the last spot was in the far corner. We headed over and the friendly man on the boat next to us came out on his dingy to help us set our stern anchor. He was keen to get us as close to the beach as possible and in line with the other boats but this mean’t we only had 0.8 meters below the keel and with a meter of tide that didn’t seem great to us. Their answer? ‘Well it’s just sand’. I’m sure we must be the most fussy yachts-people I know but grounding doesn’t sound like a good option to me, even if it is sand. So after he left we dragged in some of the anchor chain at the front and let out some more at the back positioning Interlude back into deeper water, but a little out of line. Such rebels!!

After all this, we actually liked our little spot which was really calm and quite picturesque. A quick snooze and we felt much better about this place and the people around us. In fact, we were also considering staying another day. Not because we were in love with this place but just because we were feeling a little (or a lot) lazy.

The next day we awoke to find the huge cruise/supply ship at the dock. Not sure how many times he bumped us on the way in but he hadn’t left a scratch!! And what’s more we were still floating!

Ua Pou 5Anyway we decided to stay and take on the challenge of the hill! We bumped into our fellow cruisers ashore, from the catamaran and the little boat who helped with our anchor. They really are nice people and they told us about the beach in the next bay.

We made the arduous walk up the hill to the cross in the heat of the morning to take in the views.Ua Pou 4Ua Pou 3

Then we went down to the paradise beach for a refreshing swim in the waves with our new friends – there was no-one else there. We didn’t stay too long either as the nono’s (little, evil, biting insects) came out and started eating us alive.

Ua Pou 1Ua Pou 2On the way back we passed a skinny horse and foal that had been standing in the sun all morning and their water bucket was empty so we felt a bit bad for them. We gave them our very precious last bottle of water, tipping it into the bucket. As we wandered away we turned to see the stupid horse had kicked over the bucket. He probably plays this game all day long.

After that it was back to the boat. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to bring ourselves to leave as there’s not much to stay here for. Next stop Nuku Hiva!

Fata Hiva, no… wait… Tahuta again.

We woke and were going to head to Fata Hiva. That was the plan. The reality was that upon rounding the island then heading South we were spanked hard by 25 knots of wind right on the nose and flung around by a pretty unruly sea that was causing the boat to slam this way and that. After an hour of so of this torture we decided to call it a day, turned back, and hid behind the shelter of the island with our tails between our legs. Everything instantly calmed down.

Part of the frustration of sailing is that you can’t sometimes get to where you wish to go. Well that’s not exactly true I guess. We could have battled away for 30 hours making painfully slow progress, causing some damage to the boat possibally as she ran into the waves, but where’s the fun in that? I’m sure Fata Hiva would have been amazing, it’s known as one of the worlds best anchorages, but we’ve been some pretty amazing places already so it was out.

We sailed back to the coast slightly deflated and anchored off the main village on Tahuta.

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We got the dingy back in the water and headed ashore. We hiked around the small town for hours. Helen even made friends with some goats- it’s going to make eating the famed local goat curry a little harder.

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The way of life here is really simple. Most houses have no windows or doors, there’s a small shop where you can get fresh bread, goat meat (oops), a few fruits and not a lot else. The church was stunning though, and clearly the centre of life there.

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We love just wondering around places, and everyone we met was really welcoming.

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So back on the boat later that afternoon we started chatting about what’s next.

Part of the beauty of sailing is you can just head off in a new direction. That’s what we did, on a whim (plus the wind in the anchorage was getting up) we set a new course for the Northern Islands, a few days ahead of when we were going to go, got the boat ready, and sailed off as the sun set for a 140 mile overnight crossing.

Take that weather! If we can’t beat you we’ll join you.

Marquesas Islands – Tahuata

It was only a 15 mile hop over to Tahuata, made memorable by our dingy line snapping mid way and a fight in a rolly swell to rescue it. There’s always something! Well at least it tested our temp fix on the steering cable! We managed to get the dink back and carried on. Once safely around the corner of the island the swell dropped and we approached one of the most amazing bays we’ve ever seen. Total paradise!

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The water was so clear that you could see the bottom where huge rays were snoozing away. The beach was pure white sand with quintessential palm trees lined up neatly just beyond. Postcard perfect. People seem to think that’s what sailing part way around the world is all about, and in many ways I know we’re totally lucky to be out here but instead of lounging around on the beach we both went straight to work on cleaning 3 weeks of crud off the boat.

I went in the water and starting trying to clean the hull. So much life had attached itself to our hull. These weird little plant like looking things that pulsed slowly and were absolute monsters to get off. The stern above the anti-foul paint was covered in them. It baffles me how in the middle of the ocean, going at 7 knots, a small little guy can float past and think… ‘Well lookie here! A bit of something solid to cling to! I’ll have me a bit of that!’

Two hours, and many a cut from scraping small barnicles off the top of the rudder and prop who’d also decided to come over for the ride, I was done. Helen had the inside of the boat looking amazing so we spent a few hours in the cockpit just chilling out and looking at the amazing views.

Just then our friends Matelot turned up and got to work cleaning their hull as well. We arranged to head to the beach for sunset.

As the light faded we got some wine and nibbles to eat in the dingy and rowed to shore. I thought there was a small break in near the beach but decided it was fine for us to land there. Just as we came in a large group of waves decided to smash into us sending me flying into the water. I kept the dingy heading the right way and got us to shore protecting our food and wine, Helen by this point had jumped in to help also. We must have looked like a right pair of muppets I’m sure.

As soon as we I was ashore for some reason I checked for my wallet, which was gone.

ARGH!!!!!!!! I ran back to the waters edge hoping it had washed up. Nothing. I asked Helen to check the dingy just in case it had fallen out in there. Nothing. What an idiot! After a very potty mouthed ten mins on the beach Richard, who must have seen the panic from his boat came racing over in his dingy with a snorkel. I spent 10 mins in the area where we’d fallen out to no avail.

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At this point a local guy, who it turns out owns the beach along with his brother, came over with his snorkel to help. Then his brother joined us. The light was really fading by this point so after 20 more mins of frantic searching we gave it up. By this point Richard and Pippy had joined us and we had a lovely time on the beach watching an amazing sunset joined by the two brothers who explained about the island. We gave them some beer and snacks which they seemed to be happy with and they later came back with a huge bag of fruit as a trade (trading here is the way these smaller islands seem to operate).

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We headed back to the boat. I was still quite mad at myself for such a silly error, it’s not easy trying to cancel cards out here where there’s no phones, internet, etc.

I got back on board, and there was my wallet on the Nav table. (Insert stronger potty mouth screams here) and sorry to the two brothers who helped look, and probably are still looking, for the non-existent wallet. Oops.

Tomorrow we’ll try and head South back down the 30 miles to Fata Hiva.