We made landfall last Monday morning, we had to try our best to slow the sails down as we were coming in, a great wind for sailing but if we had let our little seamonkey do what she wanted we would have arrived in Atuona around midnight. As it was we started to converge with other boats around 2 am, Vulcan Spirit, Mawari, Calusa, just lights in the distance. A great hulking shape f an island and then the squalls started to kick in. Phil was soaked, I put on all of my foul weather gear and by the time I had finished my watch I was still dry and had had to strip it all off. I woke Phil up around 4:30 am as we were getting close and there was the faintest of lights on the horizon, the sun was coming. Phil had no luck that day, as soon as he was up the rain set in, I was sent (thankfully) down below to hide and it poured for a solid 20 minutes. In that time we made gains on the other boats and by proper sunrise we were first in the queue to make it into the harbour, Oh what sunrise brought us, soaring mountains, the greenest green we had ever seen. The smells coming into land changed, first the scent of decay and mold, then of fresh rain, and finally sweet flowers and dirt, so strange to have one of your senses going in overdrive all of the sudden. I am glad we made it in when we did, Atuona bay was completely packed, boats everywhere. We had to anchor with both a bow and stern anchor so that you didn’t spin with the wind that was fine until the wind switched directions and started coming from the side (I’ll get back to that in a bit). Sail covers on, instruments turned off, and it was still before 8 am. We saw lots of boats we recognized from Panama and Galapagos, funny to start having familiar faces on the other side of the world. I finally changed my watch from Galapagos time to Marquesas time a 3.5 hour time difference, maybe the only cruiser to sail 3000 miles and still manage to be jet lagged. Phil closed his eyes, 3 hours of sleep just wasn’t enough, and I started to tackle the mold. A month at sea, and not a lot of fresh water meant not a lot of cleaning, and man, did the mold ever take advantage of that. By 10 am I was wiped out and I closed my eyes. We decided to head into town after lunch to check in. A tin of Marks and Spencer’s 3 bean chili (even Phil the hater of beans declared it the most delicious ever and might see if we can get caseloads of M and S stuff sent to New Zealand! We slowly came back to life and then the Belgians came, a huge catamaran parked right on top of us. Of course I was worried, I hate when boats park too close (although if I had known what we had to look forward to the next day I think I would have relaxed a bit). The guy came over and told us it was a French holiday, from what I understand about France is there are more holidays than working days! Maybe I should try to live there sometime! Anyway, then the entire family promptly left their very closely parked, but still moving vehicle and went to shore. We kept an eye on things for a bit and decided it was time for us to go to shore too. Inflated our lovely Beagle (the inflatable kayak) which has been getting a lot of use since Galap and headed to shore. Passed some amazing Polynesian outrigger canoes on the way in, very fit men, beautiful brown skin and incredible tattoos flying through the water. The on shore “shower” was a pipe heading up the hillside When you open the taps a little bit, a little water comes through, a lot and it comes out of lots of tiny holes, a cold freshwater shower, what a treat. We were going to collect some to drink, but when we put it in our white bucket the water was decidedly brown. So although all the local canooers were doing it we decided that my belly might not be able to handle the shock to the system. The rain showers collected on the hillsides and swept down the valley to where we were anchored so we were able to catch some of that, but other than a few gallons of that caught water, we have used less than 40 gallons of fresh water in a month! Our other explorations on land went past the gas station (closed) and out onto the point where the bigger (or less ballsy) boats had anchored. We went past a beautiful family. I am in love with Polynesians, their skin, their facial features, eyes, curly dark hair. There was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen playing in a stream coming out of the hillside. Then back to the boat, dinner (I can’t even remember what it was, probably fish because at this point after all of the fish we caught all we eat is fish!) and by 7 pm Phil was in bed. Normally we don’t sleep that well after a passage, but I can say that he slept like a baby until the next morning. I only woke up twice, all in all the best sleep in the world!
We set off bright and early the next morning, along the road to the first turn off, down to the black sand beach, across the fresh water stream (very cold!) and then up the secret path, unfortunately it had been raining, so walking up the path in flip flops was tres challenging! We got to the top and I had literally an inch of mud on the bottom of each flipflop and my feet were sliding around so much that I couldn’t really walk, so off came the shoes and I sauntered away towards the town barefoot on the concrete road (delightful to walk on). Phil told me to be careful of the mud, obviously too late so by the time we got into town I was covered! The 2 mile walk didn’t take very long and the scenery was beautiful Not as many birds as I had gotten used to seeing in Galapagos and not as many flowers but such pretty hills and mountains. At this point I was desperate to find a bathroom, covered in mud and had to go to customs to check in. We decided to bite the bullet and went to the Gendarme dirty and hot and not looking like the respectable people we try to pretend to be every time we go through the rigmarole. They sent me thankfully to wash my hands and then to pay my bond. It only took us 10 minutes at the Socredo (the bank) but what a lot of work for one man to do. I was paid for in full by Phil (only feeling slightly like his property now) and have enough money invested in this country to fly back to Canada if I wanted to. Then back to the Gendarme, It was around 9 am by this time of the day and it was no longer the quiet office we had left, it was stuffed full of cruisers, asking all kinds of questions to the poor small French man with no English. Luckily we managed to get all of our paperwork sorted and I learned my new French word of the day (Duane – customs) and then we were cleared in. No Zarpe required (so the running around to get them to change the boat registration from American to Bermuda in Galapagos was a wasted 30 minutes). Then it was off to the shops. There were probably 5 little grocery store/ bakeries around the town, each having most of the staples but a few different things. The most delicious discovery was the French pastries, a pan au chocolat, a fresh hot spring roll and a baguette for $4.00 or 400 CFA still warm and delicious, now I am starting to understand why there are so many big people around! Some pareaus (sarongs) and a few other knickknacks, the prices were high but not so bad as expected, except a few things, the paper towels $8.00, and the can opener ($15.00 – thank you for our spare one grandma, it is still working!). But they had some lovely things to, like tinned butter, which we had heard all about from Adventure Bound and a coconut grater that I didn’t buy but should have. We walked into every single store. Then headed back to the trucks parked beside the stage to buy our vegetables. I love that the fresh veggies are sold directly out of the back of a pickup. Pamplemousse (grapefruits) green and the size of my head (not kidding), fresh green peppers, cucumbers, aubergine, we missed the tomatoes (but got them the next day) and also splurged on a few pineapples. Lugged everything with us and we walked up the side of the hill to sit near Gaugin’s grave in the beautiful cemetery and have lunch of bread and a strange processed cheese that didn’t need refrigerating! It was a beautiful view of the bay and much easier to walk down then up. Afterwards we decided that we deserved a beer and headed to Snack Make Make (we think, it had no name on it), kind of a screened in porch restaurant where all the other cruisers in the world had ended up. It was like a big reunion. The girls from Flow (Norway), Axel and Elizabeth from Goodrun (who came to our rescue later that night and gave us a beautiful inverter which is why I am able to type on the computer now!) and Moin (parked beside us in Galapagos), Venus and Sunrunner. Some of these people I have seen naked (actually most of them it seems, I think the Europeans aren’t nearly as prudish as me! But despite (or because of that) it was still fabulous to catch up. 2 miles back home, back down the death path, which had dried out, and that was our day. The evenings are short. The sun is going down around 5:40 pm and it is pitch black by 6:30, leads to early nights heading to bed, especially while still recovering from our passage. Meanwhile when we got back to the boat we realized that Robin (on Katydid) had anchored right on top of us, literally overlapping a bit close for comfort but the poor guy had been single handing from Panama and had been at sea for the last 48 days, I can understand just wanting to get parked and get to sleep.
Woke up a bit less early the next morning, otherwise known as provisioning day, First stop, the ladies in the trucks, actually first stop was the bakery, second stop was vegetables. Then we went to see the church. It was a beautiful building, carved doors and open windows in stone all the way around, funny to lock the doors when you could so easily climb in the windows. We sat and waited a little rain shower out. Then to the big grocery store, 4 baguettes, a tin of butter (but not as big as the other lady bought!), some super expensive cheese (which comes in little containers like cat food), some pate (which I actually think is mislabelled cat food) and a few other bits and pieces. I always get overwhelmed in a shop, especially when we haven’t been in one for a while, so Phil had to be very patient and tried to get me out of there as soon as possible! The walk home was a bit slower and a bit sad when we saw the cruisers with the wheely bag in a taxi getting a lift back, but beautiful. However, as we got the the overlook for the bay we saw that Robin and our boat were really close. I think the wind had changed and everyone’s stern anchors had dragged a bit, so a jog/walk back to the boat, engine on and we had to re-anchor. Too scary for me, and yet another reason I love anchoring on our own. It wasn’t the last of our anchoring worries, the next morning when I woke up I looked behind us and Shantianna had dragged their stern anchor. The only reason they hadn’t hit us is their whole keel was sitting on our stern line, managed to get moved but it reinforced my desire to get outta there! We got our most expensive laundry in the world (but I couldn’t face doing it all by hand) and had our anchor up by 11 am.
We sailed through some crazy fast winds between tahoiata and Hiva Oa and dropped our anchor in our new favourite bay Itai oa???? By 1:30 pm literally just as the grey clouds rolled in. An afternoon of water collection and pouring rain was just what the doctor ordered, holed up down below, not another boat in sight and nothing to do except for relax, heaven. We are old fogies it seems, it is pitch black by 6:15 pm and we are often in bed by 8, still recovering from the crossing and it is lovely because I can get up before 6 feeling completely rested and happy! We spent the next morning cleaning the bottom of the boat, a much required job in the clearest water imaginable, I decided to take advantage of the incredible visibility and had a snorkel over to the other side of the bay. The schools of fish were huge and beautiful, lots of friends I had never seen before and then duh du, duh du, duh du duh du duh du, a black tipped shark!!!!!!! I swam so fast towards our boat which was forever away but tried to slow down and then tried to snorkel backwards, craziness I know, I spent the entire time trying not to attract the damn thing. They are beautiful creatures but after that I decided not to try to snorkel on my own (although what poor phil would have done to have to save me is anyone’s guess). Anchor up again and then we went to the beautiful Hanamenu bay… oh Hanamenu, the memories. It was a strange sail, good wind at the start which dropped out, a pod of dolphins, about 25-30 amazing creatures, flapping tails and fins, leaping up to 15’ out of the water, playing in the bow wave of the boat, really magical, (although at first I thought it was a huge bunch of sharks, of course!). Wind dropped out and motor on and then we rounded the corner into huge seas and swells, realized we weren’t exactly ship shape (although we were close) and lost the breadcrumbs onto the floor (talk about a sad moment) and then we were there, in the swell and the wind, anchors down, 3 boats in the bay and us, We had lunch (always important and then headed to shore. Landed on the far side of the beach, with a triumphant landing although I got completely drenched, guess I didn’t manage to paddle quite quickly enough! Walked through a stream and made it to a lovely new friends house, Boia (as in beautiful boia we explained). He has been building his house since july and it is beautiful. The bay is described incorrectly as abandoned and I hope people pay it the respect it is due, not stealing the fruit using the houses etc. I worry that a lot of the other cruisers aren’t as bothered about details like that. Oh well, that as just the start of our worrying. Just behind Boia’s house was a beautiful pool, when I say beautiful I mean beyond anything imaginable, fresh water gurgling out of the side of the mountain, amazing plants and trees, incredible. We wandered through the village, a garden of Eden if there ever was one, lemons fallen all over the ground, the smell of ripe fruit everywhere, I will admit I did steal a lime (off the ground) and then we ended up back at Boia’s house where we were sent home with a bunch of bananas and 2 coconuts (which was all we would let him give us). Dinner that night was a delicious concoction of cashew and cranberry covered mahi mahi and a bottle of wine. Then the craziness began. Just after sunset Phil saw a fishing boat motoring around the bay, they came over to shoot the Sh*t with us, not really saying anything, then drifted off to the sound of their engine not starting, The unfortunate thing is that Phil called the whole thing before it had happened. Low and behold Clovis and David were back asking to tie on to us while they tried the motor and of course it wouldn’t start. At this point both phil and I were decidedly uncomfortable; who were these strange men come to our boat in the night? Why didn’t they go to the catamaran to ask for a cell phone (to call their mechanic friend) or ask for a lift to land where apparently they had a holiday house? You could tell they wanted to be invited into the boat and I was too worried so the poor guys slept outside, I didn’t feel that bad (okay I did) because they were planning on fishing at night, so how could they not have jackets, an anchor a cell phone and wouldn’t go to the other boat to ask for any of it…. But we did feel bad. Anyway, after a restless night of wondering if they were poor stranded men, or cannibals or robbers we woke up and they managed to get to shore to Boia and call for help. By 9 am they were off. Oh the sleepless night. Back to land we went. Another walk to the stone stages, another bathe in the pool, what heaven and another armload of fruits from Boia, this time limes, guava, a watermelon, mint and a huge handful of watercress picked from the side of the pool! Lunch was watercress, local tomato, cucumber, and guava salad with a lime vinaigrette! Eating local isn’t so much a choice here as just how things are.
It was time to move on, the rain set in and the cloud of murk and mud was moving towards the outside of the harbour. Almost ship shape, this time we lost a delicious bottle of juice that we had saved from Panama, what a mess! A lovely sail back to our Tahoata bay, no one there, although there were 8 yachts in the bay right next door, less likely to swim this time but we had a wonderful day just getting jobs done on the boat. The saddest thing that happened was one of the pillows I was sunning went overboard. Even though they are covered in mold it was still a loss. Doubt we’ll be able to get another new one until New Zealand. Good thing we have 2 left! We managed to get the rig tuned up, the ceilings scrubbed (stupid liner, I have to do each inch with a brush and really scrub), dishes caught up, and generally felt better about having the boat in shape. I managed to get a decent sunburn, the funniest thing is that I hadn’t spent any time outside; it was through the hatches and windows! Thank heavens for sunscreen.
4:30 am (instead of 3:15 am as was planned) phil and I had the anchor up and heading down the coast towards Fatu Hiva. A glorious beautiful upwind sail. Of course I managed to feel a bit seasick, but it was beautiful out there, wind in the hair, waves crashing over the deck. Our boat was once again so nearly shipshape, this time it was the kitchen table, whose screw we hadn’t tightened up enough that came crashing down on my knee, between this and the cut that is infected on my other knee getting around the boat has gotten a lot harder!
What a bay to arrive in, it was originally called Phallus bay and now the Bay of Virgins (renamed after the missionaries arrived)). Huge tiki shaped cliffs surrounding the bay, crowded but not as bad as atuona. Clear water, fresh air and the mountains… lots of boats we know, Bamboleiro came over for drinks last night, Katydid has anchored a distance away, Aelaris stopped for a quick chat. Nice to start seeing familiar faces. We haven’t made it to shore yet and we’ve been here 24 hours. Apparently there is lovely fresh water on shore so Phil and I have both splurged with a delicious shower indoors, I’m making lunch, clouds are coming and going, inverter from Goodrun is charging all of our stuff, cup of tea (with real milk) cooling down so I can drink it. Lovely. Well, I’m sure in the next day or two we will have lots more adventures and I will keep typing on this. What a lot for you to read!!!