Friday, July 13, 2007

Marquesas (Polynesia)

Fatu Hiva, the southern Marquesas, was our first port of call after the 26 day crossing. I don’t posses the vocabulary to describe the relief at sighting land. It’s not that the sail was particularly trying, just the longest we had ever undertaken and our stores of fresh produce were exhausted except for onions and potatoes. The Adagios were craving fresh fruit and salad greens!!!

The anchorage in the valley is quite spectacular and very lush. The mountains rise up from the sea bed to the north and south with the valley floor at the head of the bay. Several pinnacles rise up from the valley and one even resembles the face of George Washington. A Polynesian Mount Rushmore?? These pinnacles have a quite phallic appearance hence the original name “Bay Des Verges” (Bay of the Phalli) given by the early explorers. Supposedly the missionaries disapproved and inserted an “i” making it “Bay Des Vierges” which translates to Bay of Virgins! An interesting bit of trivia. Who knew the difference between a phallus and a virgin was an i!!!!!!

Upon arrival Geoff and Meryl on S/V Sifar graciously invited us over for dinner and drink. They had arrived two days prior and knew we wouldn’t be in any state to cook. Thanks for the curry guys.

Next day a bunch of us took off hiking to the famous 200’ waterfalls for a nice swim. We were worried about the 45 minute hike as our leg muscles had atrophied during the trip – our legs felt so weakened and soft – and didn’t know if we were up to it. Well, we got lost and it turned into a 4 hour hike instead. Got to see plenty of the valley and mountains around the anchorage before stumbling onto the falls. It was all worth it when you felt the massaging water on your body. Also we had our first looooooong shower in over 3 weeks. Yummy.

The next task was to procure fresh produce from the town. Meri headed into town armed with a Spanish-French phrase book, some cheap smokes and makeup kits for trading. She arrived back at Adagio with fruit, eggs, bread, and local money! A lady wanted a small makeup kit we had but was out of trading goods so she just offered cash. Hey who can resist. The pampellmousse (grapefruit) she got were absolutely huge and delicious. They taste like a cross between an orange and a regular grapefruit. Half of one is a meal in itself and they grow everywhere on the islands. Over the week we did some boat repairs, checked out the town some more, and got to know cruisers, in person, that we had only heard on the SSB radio during the trip.

Now, Fatu Hiva is the last island, in the Marquesas, to produce Tapa cloth (produced from the inner bark of trees) of superior quality which is stenciled or tattoed. In our anchorage the better ones had already gone to the “Haiva” festival in Tahiti so we decided to visit Bay Omoa to the south and check it out. To get there we had either a 4 hour hike or a 30 minute dinghy ride. Which would you choose??? Taking Adagio was out of the question as the anchorage is VERY rolly with poor holding. We dinghied there with Chris and Erin from S/V Barefeet and the Sifars. The landing dock was quite scary and had to be negotiated carefully in the large swells. We decided to leave one person minding the dinghies in the bay and rotate the chore.

Meri found the right tapa place and bought 3 beauties from the old lady there. I really wanted the 3 meter long tapa she had on display even though it was a little pricey. However, storing large, delicate items on the boat isn’t easy. Especially when they can be easily damaged by water.

Both the towns visited were spotless, lush green, fruit growing everywhere, and the people some of the friendliest and mos t courteous we have met. Great start to our Pacific tour hey.

After fixing our battery charger, alternator, main sail, and engine oil leak – we had to use parts onboard or improvise as the towns had nothing of this nature to offer- with a little help and advise from friends (thanks George S/V Thalia and Ray S/V Horizon, the big guy in the canal transit photo’s) we decided to head off north to the island of Tahuata.

Unfortunately we ripped the mainsail again (different spot) in a huge gust and coul only limp along under staysail alone. The weather had deteriorated and strengthened so the genoa wasn’t a viable option. The anchorages in Tahuata , as in most of the Marquesas, are exposed to the sea so we kept going to Nuku Hiva and it’s more sheltered bay. Also we needed to check in officially before they fined or kicked us out.

The trip was very uncomfortable in large seas, up to 4 meters, and strong winds but, Adagio excelled and we arrived safely. The following day we had to post $AUD2600 as a security bond to obtain a 90 day visa and cruising permit for French Polynesia. What a rip off. Of course we get the money back but, in local currency on the other side of Polynesia. The conversion both ways, kills you and can cost as much as $300 after bank charges etc. At least the Bahamas just hit you up front for the $300.

Nuku Hiva was also very beautiful and we watched the local outrigger canoe racing one weekend. Unfortunately we missed the mother’s day festival with dancing and a huge feast. Will make up for it in Tahiti, for sure, during the “Haiva” festival. During our time here the weather alternated between nasty and dead calm for a day then back to blustery. We wanted to visit the island of Ua Pou to the south, on the way to the Tuamotus, which has some cool carvings and loads of cheap fruit. However, friends anchored there radioed that the swells were rolling in and made it very uncomfortable at the time. We had a nice 4 day weather window that shouldn’t be wasted so it was off to the Tuamotos for us. It would be nice to see everything but, not possible with limited time and another 4000 miles to sail homeward.

The sail to Rangirora was exceptional and fast (580 miles in 90 hours) with no damage and a happy crew. We didn’t actually choose our destination as there were dozens of islands in our path. Rather, the wind shifting to the south chose it for us and we maintained a broad reach just shy of blanketing the genoa. It didn’t matter which island we arrived at as they are al unique with very dangerous passes to negotiate into the lagoons. They are, basically, volcanic craters that have eroded to just above sea level ad have one or two passes to enter from. The currents can be fierce, the swells running across the passes, and the current wind driven waves, in the passes, very high and steep. Sounds lovely!!! We planned well, arrived at high slack water, and motored in on a flat calm sea. Not so on other atolls. Two boats had run aground and been lost during our stay. The western pass to Rangirora had two sailboats washed up on it’s leeward shore!!!

Anyway, we set the hook, slept all day, and prepared for some cool diving.


At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, your pics are so so amazing, looks like you are still having a great time, wish we would have come along with you!

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was me by the way!! Sarah and Stuart!!


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