Saturday, August 27, 2011

French Polynesia

The Marquesas

We had some excellent sailing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas.  Here we are doing 11 knots (about 20kph) on a reach with the screecher up. Had done 13.5 the day before - not bad for a fat cat. Wind is about 20 knots, seas 2-3m - difficult to see in the video.

Relaxing at the helm on a night watch.

A day in our life out here: We’re doing 6 hour night watches; Cathy takes 2000 to 0200 and I take 0200 to 0800. That way we get a decent sleep plus we each have an hour or two nap during the day. So far fatigue is not an issue and we’re both feeling good. In the morning, after clearing the decks of any squid and flying fish that have joined us overnight (one night we had 2 dozen of each, but a bit too dried out to be on the menu for breakfast), we do a scheduled radio net with other boats out here and check our SSB email for weather info.  We have breakfast together then I take my morning nap from about 1030-1230. Lunch together, then Cathy lies down for a couple of hours. That’s when I usually throw out the fishing lines; score so far, 2 tuna and 3 mahi – we’ve had as much fish as we want to eat, and there's more in the freezer. Download some more weather info and check satellite email, then dinner together. Last night Cathy did a great mahi-mahi curry! Then its time for Cathy to take her watch and for me to get some sleep. We get into a real rhythm, time just slides by with lot’s of reading (we both have Kindle’s and a friend provided us with 1000+ ebooks), some emails, music, a few boat chores and sailing.

Sailing across the Pacific in the moonlight.

0430 sitting out on the side deck listening to Dark Side of the Moon as I watch the silver bright ¾ moon’s shimmering path on the dark sea ahead of us.  We’re sailing along at 8 knots, the sensuous shape of the full sails shadowed in the moonlight. The wind is blowing from the east at about 15 knots and its 30 degrees warm. I’m sipping on a mug of good coffee and thinking about life, the universe and everything, and how lucky we are to be here.
A band of clouds slides slowly across the moon like a smokey silk scarf and its dark, allowing me to see the stars above and the flashes of luminescence in the black water sliding past the hull.  Man, what’s in that Panamanian coffee…?  Actually it is pretty magic out here. We have about 900 miles left to go of this 3000 mile journey. Its been very good so far.

Landfall - Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas!  We've had a great passage:
Nautical Miles Sailed: 3100 (approx 5500 km)
Elapsed Time: 17 days, 4.5 hrs
Amount of time using engines: 20 hrs
Average daily run: 180 nm
Average speed: 7.5 knots (approx 13.5 kph)
Max Speed: 13.5 knots (about 24 kph)
Maximum wind: 28 knots (approx 50 kph)
Largest seas: 4 m
Fish Caught: 2 tuna, 3 mahi-mahi, 1 wahoo (4')
Equipment failures: 0
Best Part: Night watches with full moon, sailing fast on a reach with sparkling waves all around, the rhythm of the days at sea
Worst Part: Steep, confused seas from 3 directions for first week - like a washing machine on "heavy duty cycle"
Number of other boats seen: 2

Fatu Hiva, Hanavave Bay (the Bay of Virgins, originally named the Bay of Phalluses due to the massive rock spires guarding the valley beyond, but the missionaries thought that inappropriate...).  Whatever the name, its a stunning spot. We hiked to a jungle waterfall and swam in the pool beneath until chased out by a large freshwater eel (serpent?). Tried trading for fruit but the men seemed to have cornered the fruit market and only want to trade for alcohol.... Had a great evening aboard a friend's boat with all of us who had sailed across together, some of whom we had only talked to before by shortwave radio on the passage. Saw spinner dolphins and manta rays in the bay.

A tiki welcome to each village

Those hips really sway!

Off for a jungle hike - four boats from as many countries.


 Party on "Sete Mares".  Thanks John and Marie Andree!

Different tikis at each village.
There are churches everywhere, even the smallest village. Some beautiful singing on Sunday mornings.

A family we met at a little village on the north side of Hiva Oa. They were bathing in the rock pool behind them. The woman offered us a big bowl of fresh banana fritters that she had made. Delicious! Note extensive and intricate tattoos on the husband and wife - the norm for adults here.

They also insisted on giving us a stalk of bananas. Kept us going for weeks!

Cathy with a couple of fresh loaves of whole wheat bread she has baked. If you're anchored off a village and get to the boulangerie early (before 0700), you can buy delicious fresh baguettes for only $0.60 a loaf. But whole grains are pretty much impossible to find in the French islands and we are not often near a village.

It was good to get back in the water. Lots of new (to us) fish.  And the corals are amazingly and encouragingly healthy looking, especially compared to what we've seen in the Caribbean. Trumpet fish.

Redfin butterflyfish.

Convict Surgeonfish - often in massive schools.

Blue-lined surgeonfish.

Time to leave the Marquesas and head for the Tuamotus, 450 miles away.  The Tuamotus are a chain of 100s of sparsely inhabited low lying atolls. We plan to be there for over a month so need to stock up on as much fresh fruit and veggies as we can , before leaving the lush Marquesas. We've been told that the best market is at 0430 (that's really early), so we pile into the dinghy in the pitch dark with our friends Iris and Graeme, and go shopping. The picture looks a little out of focus, but so were we....