Landfall – Marquesas!!!

Miles traveled: 3,165
Days on passage: 24 days 30 minutes

The spectacular Bay of VirginsWe normally don’t do broadcast emails like this because we hope our friends and family are occasionally checking our website, but this time we want to make the big announcement that we finished our South Pacific passage today! It was a long 24 days and nights underway, but we’re happy to report it was mostly uneventful. The winds were lighter than normal so we spent more time trying to keep sails full and the boat moving as fast as possible.

Rob caught lots of fish and we feasted on fresh Mahi Mahi and Wahoo many days. There was minimal equipment breakage, with the self steering gear being the only real problem. Thankfully the autopilot picked up the slack and we just had to make up for the power drain with occasional engine runs to put back into the batteries what the autopilot needed to take out.

In the end we traveled just over 3,000 miles in a little over 3 weeks. Our remaining transit across the South Pacific to New Zealand is only about a third again that distance – it’s 4,100 miles or so including the islands we plan to stop at along the way. We’re happy to think we have 6 months to sail it before cyclone season will chase us out, which will be a much better pace than we’ve been traveling the last three weeks.

Now we’re anchored on Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. I don’t know if I’ve ever been any place more beautiful.

Teresa, Rob & Maya
SV Yohelah
Lying Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Fatu Hiva is here

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Well we’re definitely not in Kansas, Ecuador, Central America or Mexico anymore. Two dozen eggs, 1 large cucumber, 4 small tomatoes and a head of cabbage. In Ecuador that’s maybe $3.20 (probably $2.20 if you’re a local). In Panama maybe $4.50 and in Mexico probably $5.00. So what do you think that cost here in French Polynesia? $18.00. Really, it was $18.00. I am so thankful I’m only shopping for fresh fruits and veggies here.

But on the positive side, I’m starting to get used to naked people. This morning when the catamaran behind us got their anchor snagged and someone had to go in the water to tug it loose the wife did. And really, why get the whole bathing suit wet when you can just hop in with the bottoms on? We’ve been traveling with Europeans long enough now that we’re really getting quite used to people considering anchorages clothing optional.

Anchored bow and stern to pack us in tightWe’re in a very very crowded anchorage in Hiva Oa today after a quick motor/sail over from Fatu Hiva yesterday. The boats in here are anchored bow and stern so we don’t move and we can pack them in as tight as possible. I can literally chat in a normal tone of voice with the boats on either side of us. We’ll go check in tomorrow or the next day with the officials and start our 90 day French Polynesia clock. Some friends rented a car earlier this week and did a tour of the island, which I think we’ll do tomorrow or the next day. The anchorages on the north side are untenable right now due to a big north swell so by car is the only way we’ll get to see them. We’ll share the car with friends and do our check-in and touring and shopping all in one day.

No caption necessarySo far what we’ve seen of French Polynesia is unbelievebly beautiful. I’m uploading some pictures to a gallery album now, and we should have more before we leave here later in the week. When we were on Fatu Hiva we stayed on the boat the first two days cleaning up after the long passage (shouldn’t we want to get off after 24 days at sea). Then I had some problem with my shoulder so I took some pain medication and the hike to the waterfall was about all we managed for a tour of the island. We’ll spend more time on this island before we move on and hopefully get to spend a little more time with the Polynesians, who at first glance are so welcoming and friendly compared to the conservative Latin Americans we’ve been visiting for the last three years.

Today on Yohelah we’re having a rainy day and getting settled in to life in the land of the French and Polynesians…..

Hiva Oa is here

Just Because It’s Expensive Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Cheap

We had arrived at Hiva Oa on Wednesday afternoon and planned to rent a car on Friday, so we thought we’d skip checking in on Thursday and do it Friday while we had the car. Our friends on Carina who we were sharing the car with decided to check in Thursday anyway so we stopped in the office of the Gendarme and he told us we were 20 minutes too late and we should come back Monday. Turns out Friday was another holiday. So on Monday we got up at 5:20 to be ashore by 6:00 to arrive at the Gendarme when they opened at 7:00. It’s a lovely walk around the bay early in the morning before the sun is high and hot.

And indeed he opened at 7:00, checked us and one other boat in, then promptly closed at 7:45. By 9:30 there were probably 10 other boats waiting to check in and he still hadn’t reopened. And the office only accepts people for checkin until 11:00. He finally reopened at 10:00. We were all checked in ok, but the boat in front of us in the bay who was sitting on top of our anchor was in the big pile up at the office so we couldn’t leave anyway. After much wrestling with our respective stern anchors we were both on our way late yesterday afternoon.

We came across a short channel to the Which one is Rob and which is the tikiisland of Tahuata and pulled into a lovely little deserted bay that was not listed in the cruising guides but Brit & Axel had stayed in and told us about. There were some copra drying sheds ashore and we would guess it’s only used during copra season. So after a week in a dirty harbor we were happy to hop in and took a swim that would make our European friends proud. Of course you know what happens when you’re the only boat in an empty bay. Suddenly there are three other boats headed directly towards us, including a local boat from the village around the point. I jumped into the shower and Rob ended up trading 3 ice cold beers for some papayas and bananas.

So I’ll stop whining about the prices in French Polynesia soon. I promise. But one more story first. Rob found a nice new long hose for the shower in Hiva Oa so he put it on yesterday morning. I wasn’t in the shower more than 3 minutes when the hose blew at one end. Rob was shocked because he had paid 5 times the price that he had for the cheap one in Ecuador that lasted months. And sadly that’s today’s lesson for us – even though it’s expensive it can still be cheap.

Our drive around Hiva Oa with Leslie & Phillip on Friday was lovely, BTW. Rob has some great pictures and we’ll get them uploaded when we get to Nuku Hiva probably late next week. We found an ancient ceremonial on the far side of the island with some very cool carved stone tikis. It was a lovely day.


Hiva Oa is here

Tiki Shopping

The view of Hapatoni Bay from above townWe’re in Baie Hapatoni on the Island of Tahuata in the Marquesas Group of French Polynesia (S09 57.836 W139 07.136 on Google Earth). The beauty of the Marquesas continues to marvel us at every stop. After three years in Latin America we’ve got to admit it’s quite refreshing to be in a place where the locals keep the rubbish picked up. The houses, yards and streets in these little villages are all absolutely sparkling clean. And the Polynesians couldn’t be any friendlier.

We, sadly, don’t speak a work of French beyond hello, goodbye, please and thank you. Which is a total bummer for us. After three years of studying Spanish and finally making enough ground to have a basic conversation it’s heartbreaking to be back to square one. I remember the first time at a grocery store in La Paz when I walked up to the deli counter. Besides only knowing Spanish at the level of a four year old, I had no idea how much a kilo even was. At the last deli counter I visited in Costa Rica I explained to the girls that when I had been in earlier in the week there was some ground pork in the other cooler and now it was all gone and did they have any more in the back. OK, it may not have been in perfect Spanish, but we definitely had that conversation because I walked away with 2 kilos of ground pork for Italian sausage.

Buying a carving from the artistToday we went to the local village to shop for some Marquesan carvings. Some friends had been here earlier in the week and bought some beautiful pieces and we wanted to see what we could find. Whenever we can we prefer to buy crafts directly from the original artist rather than supplement the income of craft shops in the big cities. And today we were rewarded with a beautiful hand carved wood, fish bill and bone tiki. We dinghied into the village where we walked to the little market and asked for carvings. There were none on display because this is not a typical tourist stop. The girl in the store pointed us at a local’s house where we were invited into the living room to see what they had on display. We were looking for something a little smaller so we managed to communicate that and they sent us off with another girl towards what looked like the community center.

The carver working on another pieceAn older gentleman started taking beautiful carvings out of a box where he likely was accumulating items for the gift shops in Papeete or Taiohae. Our plans to find something small were completely abandoned when we saw the stunning pieces he was unwrapping and laying on the table. 7,000 Polynesian Francs ($75) later we walked away with a 30″ tiki that will look absolutely beautiful on the wall in our main salon. We certainly could have bargained hard and probably gotten it for much cheaper but after we finished our walk and saw him sitting outside carving another piece with hand tools and without a dremel we were happy we could afford to pay for his hard work.

Tonight about 2:00 we’ll get up and head for the northern group of islands. It’s too far to get to in daylight in one day so we leave before daybreak and arrive before dark tomorrow afternoon. If we can make it all the way to Nuku Hiva we’ll go there and try and get some diving in with our friends Brit & Axel. If we can’t make it to Nuku Hiva we’ll stop at Ua Pou on the way for a day or two. We’re enjoying the Marquesas tremendously and feel we’re definitely getting our reward for all the hard work it took to get here.


Hapatoni is here

A Tour of Nuku Hiva

We’ve been in Tiaohae Bay on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas for 4 days now and it’s about time to get moving on. We rented a car the first day with Brit & Axel and toured all around the island. We picked up the replacement latch for our windvane and Rob fixed that. He also repaired a broken wire to the alternator that was keeping us from charging our last day on the way in here. Our propane tanks are getting filled today, the Gendarme has signed off on our visa extension in our passport, there are fresh veggies in the fridge and the laundry is hanging out to dry. Sounds like the chores are about done.

The last thing to finish up is an upload of some pictures to the website because this is likely the last day we’ll have an internet connection for five or six weeks. We’re headed into the Tuamotus, which is an island group composed of sparsely populated atolls. There are about 10 islands on my wish list, all of which have passes into the lagoon that seem doable for a first year visitor with a 6′ draft.

More tikis along the beachThe Marquesas are absolutely beautiful and we’ll miss the high mountain peaks and lush green vegetation after we leave here. The tour around Nuku Hiva included lots of surprises in the terrain. Near the shoreline it’s lush and tropical with palm trees as you’d expect; mid way up to the top you start running into a pine forest that looks like the ponderosa pines near home in Montana; high up in the plains there is a huge clearing in the pines where they’ve created a farming and agricultural area.

We were on a hunting and gathering mission that day because I wanted some avocados and knew they grow wild here. After about an hour of scanning trees along the road I finally found an avocado tree on the way down to the beach on the north side of the island. Then Brit wanted some mangoes so we found a mango tree with decent sized fruit. Axel collected a few coconuts and then we started looking for pineapples. We were surprised to realize that there had been huge pineapple trees all along the route that we hadn’t noticed until we started looking. My image of pineapples is only from the commercials we see where they grow close to the ground in Hawaii. Here they’re high in the trees and all of them seem to be just out of reach over the edge of a cliff. So we got skunked on the pineapple collection because likely the locals gather any that are close enough to the road to reach.

After our swim and picnic lunch this is the trail back outTomorrow morning we’ll go over to Daniel’s Bay, which is our second stop in our tour of Survivor locations. We’ve been fans of the reality show Survivor since the second season and it’s kind of fun for us to see the spots where they shot. There’s a two hour hike up to a waterfall that’s reportedly gorgeous. Right now there’s not much water in the falls but we’ll enjoy the hike nonetheless.


Daniel’s Bay is here

To Go Or Not To Go

We’re on the island of Ua Pou in the northern Marquesas waiting for a weather window to head south to the Tuamotus. For the next two days the wind is forecast to be 4-6 knots between here and there. Then it kicks up to 15 and the low 20’s after that as far as the forecast goes out. Which is perfect for the 500 mile passage, but totally suckful for a landing in a Tuamotu atoll.

It will be our first experience making an entrance into a coral lagoon through a narrow pass with fast flowing current. We’ve been reading and reading and talking and asking lots of questions and have finally come to the conclusion that figuring out slack tide in the passages is just pretty much a crap shoot. There are, of course, some real definitions based on a lunar cycle. Supposedly four hours after the moon is at it’s peak is when the current will change from outgoing to incoming, which means it’s somewhere near low tide. Which is good so you can enter on an incoming tide and be with the current and also a rising tide to push you off if you bump the bottom.

However, and of course there is always a however, if the lagoon does not have much of a southern rim and/or if the southern swell is running really high, then the lagoon will fill up more than normal and the outgoing tide will never stop. And if the wind is really howling and the waves are big all bets are off about whether the pass will be navigable anyway.

So there we are. We want some wind for a good passage south, but we don’t want much when we get there. And nobody can forecast more than 7 days out. So if we leave today we’ll have to motor the first two days and we’ll get there before the 20+ knots arrives. If we wait until Thursday as planned there’ll likely be more wind than we want when we get there. Hopefully the forecast tomorrow shows it easing up and maybe we’ll wait until Friday to leave.

On the way south we’ll figure out which atoll to visit first, and that decision will be based on how easy the pass is and whether there’s a shallow outside the reef in case we need to just hang out for a day or two on a hook and wait for the weather to settle. We want to sail from here to the southernmost atoll and work out way north through the island chain. There are 70+ islands/atolls, but relatively few with a navigable pass for out little boat. We’ve picked about 10 we want to visit and hopefully we’ll have a nice mix of wind and calms to help us get there quick and into the passes safely.


25 Miles for a Jar of Vaseline

We came back 25 miles to Nuku Hiva yesterday so we could find a pharmacy and some vaseline. It was a pretty bouncy ride with 15-18 knot east-northesterlies just forward of the beam and big easterly seas. You would think that on an island where there are 2 tatoo artists who keep pretty busy that the pharmacies might realize there is a little market for vaseline, but no such luck. And knowing we were heading to the Tuamotus next where supplies will be scarce at best, we knew we had to come back over here.

The missing Belushi Brother dances with the menThe stop in Ua Pou was fun and interesting. One way to see the Marquesas is as a passenger aboard the Aranui III, which is a combination coastal freighter and cruise ship. Not a luxurious cruise ship by any stretch, but the only game in town. It carries 100+ passengers and brings freight to and from the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Papeete. Occasionally during stops the locals put on shows for the benefit of the passengers, and we happen to be on Ua Pou when that happened this week. There was some lovely dancing followed by a delicious Marquesas buffet lunch. Nice afternoon.

After that we went up to a little Pension up on the hill above the harbor to watch Terese from the boat Coquillicot get a huge manta ray tatooed to her back. The guy appeared to be a very good artist, and his procedures of using new needles and ink and gloves gave us the confidence that tatoos in the Marquesas would be relatively safe. So we returned yesterday morning and Brit and I got tatoos with Marquesan designs on our feet.

mytattNow we’re back in Taiohae Bay for a visit to the pharmacy and one last stop at the grocery before we head south. The weather has completely deteriorated into squalls and rain, though, so I think we’ll stay put one more day here. We were going to leave this morning but it really doesn’t appeal to us to head out into 30 knot squalls when we can safely stay anchored here. This system should ease up mid week next week so we’ll see what the forecast looks like tomorrow. For weeks I whined about light winds and now it’s gone completely the other way!


Ua Pao is here

Hurry Up And Wait

Well we’re still in Nuku Hiva waiting for the weather to settle down. According to all the forecasts we should be good to go tomorrow. And quite honestly our little boat would have done fine if we had left sooner. But it would have been definitely uncomfortable and the arrival at the Tuamotus would have been a bit dicey. By tomorrow it should be a solid 15-17 knots off our port quarter for the whole trip down. That’ll make it a pretty fast ride for us, but the seas should be down to reasonable swells and we should have a good sail.

The bay here is just rolly as hell since it’s so bouncy outside and I’m definitely tired of rolling around at anchor. It’s one thing to have to hang on to every item in the galley as you try and cook while you’re at sea, but when you’re on a hook you should be able to set something down on the counter without having to worry about it getting launched across the galley. Good news is we met some folks today who did a cruise down here 15 years ago and they promised that this is our last rolly anchorage. All the atolls are nice and flat and calm inside. Which is nice because Rob & I took a little inventory and since we left Ecuador last November we’ve had less than a handful of nice quiet flat anchorages.

But enough of that whine – I’m still sitting on a sailboat in French Polynesia and need to not forget that fact. Some friends from Tasmania on a boat named Warrior that we first met in Zihuatanejo 3 years ago came in last night after a nice little sail down to Easter Island, Pitcairn Island and the Gambiers. We’ll have a potluck on Hello World with Carina and Warrior tonight and hear about all those adventures. Warrior is a Chance 50 that was huge in the racing circuit in the states for years and Robin & Michelle are taking her home to Australia.

That’s all for now. I’ll post some blogs as we sail south to the Tuamotus. It should be about a 4 day trip. We need to arrive in the morning for a slack low tide and we can’t make the 500 miles in three nights out so we’ll plan for four. So we should be there Friday morning.


Nuku Hiva is here