Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Raroia Part 1 blog

With eager anticipation we departed Daniel’s Bay in the Marquesas for the
450 mile leg to Raroia Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago (Tuamotus).  We
knew that this area of low-lying, palm-covered motus (small islands)
sitting atop coral reefs that surround sheltered lagoons would be one of
our favorite stops on our South Pacific odyssey.  The reefs and motus are
all that remain of once tall, volcanic islands, much like the Marquesas.
Over the eons, the mountainous islands subsided into the sea floor leaving
just the surrounding reefs and islets.  Many of the atolls have gaps in
the reefs that surround the protected lagoons created by fresh water
rivers that flowed down the slopes of the original mountains.  These
passes allow boats to enter the lagoons and find smooth, flat water that
is buffered from the surrounding, wind-driven seas.  Many of the motus are
uninhabited while some feature small villages where residents farm black
pearls, harvest sea food or cater to a small, but growing tourist
business.  Due to the poor, mostly sandy soil, little grows on the motus
except coconut palm trees and scraggly shrubs so the residents rely on
supply ships that call periodically from Tahiti bringing fresh vegetables,
fruits and meat.  Depending on when the ships last visited, the selection
of supplies at the few small stores can be either adequate or severely
limited.  For this reason, Anne had go to great lengths to stock-up in the
Mexican supermarkets and the much smaller stores in the Marquesas.
Despite her best efforts, our time in this area would be spent creatively
rationing out our supply of rapidly-ripening fruits and vegetables.

Our passage to Raroia started well with favorable winds and smooth seas
but we were soon greeted with a few squalls and an uncomfortable, cross-
swell from our port side reminiscent of our passage from Mexico.  The
winds, however, pushed us toward our destination with such great speed
that, once again, we were faced with the task of making “Blue Rodeo” slow
down so as not to arrive too early at the atoll’s only pass through the
reef.  Since the rise and fall of the tides alternately fill and empty the
sizable lagoons, water is often swiftly flowing either in or out of the
narrow gaps in the reef.  This can sometimes make them impassable.  Not
only did we have to synchronize our arrival with slack conditions near the
turn of the tides but also a time of day when the sun was high enough in
the sky to help us differentiate between the deeper, navigable channels
and the jagged coral reefs and outcroppings that have claimed numerous
vessels over the years.  This area, in fact, was known as the “Dangerous
Archipelago” due to the low-lying hazards in the days prior to GPS
navigation and electronic charting.  Even with these modern devices,
sailors must still exercise great vigilance to avoid an unpleasant
encounter with one of the reefs.

While enroute, we were pleased to hear from friends on the vessels “Island
Bound” and “Buena Vista” who had left the Marquesan island of Ua Pou the
same day we did and were also headed for Raroia.  Having adjusted “Blue
Rodeo’s” speed as best we could, we arrived off Raroia just a few hours
before a slack tide and adequate sun angle.  In the company of “Island
Bound”, we sailed slowly back and forth in front of the lagoon’s reef pass
entrance until we felt conditions we safe to proceed.  Before long, we
were at anchor in front of Raroia Atoll’s only, small village.  We spend
the remainder of the day cleaning and straightening up our boat and
getting caught-up on our sleep after our triple-overnight passage.

The next day, while Mark worked at changing our auxiliary motor’s oil,
Anne went ashore with Bill and Kat from “Island Bound” to explore the
village.  A brief note here that while the three were having an enjoyable
walkabout and meeting a delightful and friendly, local family, Mark was
experiencing one of those boat maintenance nightmares that can make bring
grown men to tears or, alternately, unleash a string of expletives that
would make even the most hardened of dock-workers wince.  After using a
transfer pump to suck the motor’s hot, dirty oil out via a small tube he
attempted to reverse the pump in order to move the oil from the pump’s
reservoir to a container for storage.  Unfortunately, during the process,
a hose connection came apart allowing the black, messy oil to spray all
over him and much of “Blue Rodeo’s” engine room.  At that point, Mark had
no choice but to begin a two-hour cleanup using nearly a full roll of
paper towels and half a bottle of Simple Green.  Needless to say, When
Anne returned, he was not a happy camper.

Cruising friends who had visited Raroria before us had spoken of the
wonderful time they had getting to know the family that Anne, Bill and Kat
met during their walk.  The folks were so welcoming, in fact, that they
insisted that we, and newly arrived friends Don and Deb on “Buena Vista”,
all come to their house for a meal that evening.  So, that night, we took
our dinghies ashore bringing a few things that the girls prepared to
contribute to the impromptu dinner.  At the clean but simple home
featuring plywood walls and a corrugated metal roof, we dining on Chinese
chicken with rice, pulled pork and Greek salad and shared conversation
with Tatiana, Regis and their 7 year-old daughter Kiva Hei.  Both Tatiana
and Regis spoke English and were very entertaining.  Although Kiva Hei
spoke little English, it was clearly evident from her huge smile and
sparkling eyes that she enjoyed meeting our group of ocean-crossing
adventurers.  The meal concluded with a delicious chocolate cake that Anne
had prepared to help celebrate a birthday that Kat had the day before.
Before we returned to our boats, plans were made to go, the next morning,
with Tatiana, Regis and Kiva Hei in their motor boat to their private motu
across the lagoon for a day of spearfishing, beach combing and a BBQ

We would all sleep well aboard our boats that night and awake early the
next morning for another day of adventure shared with friends

Monday, May 28, 2012

Daniel's Bay

The beauty of Daniel’s Bay is hard to describe.  There are 2 lobes within
the bay, each with sandy beaches surrounded by dense forests of coconut
palms and towering, emerald green cliffs.  A portion of the bay was used
as the site of one season of the “Survivor” television series.  The
Marquesan name for the bay is Hakatea but cruising sailors commonly refer
to it as Daniel’s, named after a friendly gentleman who lives in a modest
home on the northeast corner of the bay and provides a warm welcome to
anyone coming ashore.  Aside from the beauty of the bay itself, the area
is famous among adventurers for a jungle hike that leads up one of the
nearby valleys to the world’s 3rd highest waterfall.  Cruising friends
that arrived here before us said that the 3-plus hour, roundtrip hike to
the falls was a “must do” so we joined the crews from 3 other boats for
the hike the next day.  After taking our dinghy ashore and dragging it
across the sand to where we could tie it to a palm tree, we set out on the
walk that passed through a small community of homes surrounded by the
lushest gardens imaginable.  As we passed by them, several friendly locals
greeted us and enquired if we were going to the waterfall and if we would
like some fruit on the return trip.  We all answered yes and continued
along the trail that meandered through the jungle.  The hike, although not
strenuous, involved several stream crossings.  Friends had told us that
they had seen locals feeding 4 foot long eels in the fresh water streams
so we tried to block that image from our minds as we waded through murky,
knee deep water and hopped from slippery boulder to slippery boulder.  As
the trail continued up the narrowing canyon to the falls, the terrain grew
more and more dramatic.  Eventually, the canyon walls closed in around us
and were, in places, overhanging.  If ever there was a place for a lost
civilization, this seemed to be a perfect location.  As we neared the
waterfall, we passed a sign warning us of the danger of falling rocks and
soon came upon a cache of plastic, construction- type hard hats for hikers
to don as protection.  We would find out later that a tour operator in
Taiohae occasionally brings hearty clients to the canyon to view the falls
and leaves the hard hats for anyone to use.  After donning the rather
silly looking helmets, we all chuckled at the sight of each other and
joked about how they would really not offer much protection for a falling
rock bigger than a golf ball.  A little farther up the trail, we were
rewarded with the first views of the water cascading hundreds of feet down
a near- vertical cliff face.  We all stood in awe at the sight, doing our
best to take many photos that might convey the grandeur of the scenery.
Before long, we reached the pool at the base of the falls, made murky by
near constant rain runoff from high above.  Not being deterred by the
thought of eels in the water, we all swam across the first pool and
scrambled over boulders to another pool at the base of the falls itself
where we frolickedin the water like children.  The force of the falling
water created wind and spray that was nearly impossible to swim against
but several of our group managed to get right to the base of the falling
water itself.  Before the hike back down the canyon, we took time for a
few snacks while taking more photos and marveling at the majestic

 By midafternoon, we had reached the settlement near the bay and were
greeted by one of the Marquesan women we had spoken to on our way in.  She
motioned us into her yard and to the covered patio of her simple house
where she offered us a treat of fried bananas and lemonade.  We were all
happy to purchase some home-grown fruit from her before saying a heartfelt
“merci” and bidding her “au revoir”.  Our next stop was at the home of
colorful gentlemen who lived with his wife and two boys along the path to
the falls.  Even though he wore modern surf trunks, he resembled an
ancient Marquesan warrior with a chiseled, muscular physique and
interesting tattoos over half of his face and other parts of his body.  He
wore around his neck a necklace made of shells and boar’s tusks.  Before
long, he had engaged all of us in a demonstration of the art of husking
and opening coconuts.  The tops were sliced off several green ones and
they were passed around so that all of us could drink the sweet coconut
milk inside.  He then showed us how to shave the coconut meat from inside
one of the nuts producing what we often see sold in markets in the U.S.
The time spent with him and his family was thoroughly entertaining but we
were soon motivated to return to our waiting dinghies so that we could get
back to our boats before dark.  Before reaching the beach, we walked
through a grove of coconut palm trees where the sandy soil around them was
pockmarked with large golfer-style holes.  Anne squealed when she saw an
animal disappear into one of the holes and we all began to look more
carefully, finding most of the holes occupied by large coconut crabs.
Several of their dead carcasses lay nearby, some measuring 6 inches across
and making us glad that we would be sleeping aboard our boat that night
rather than in sleeping bags on the beach.
Our plan had been to leave the next day for the Tuomotu Archipelago, a
passage of about 450 miles but, when our friend Tucker, from the boat
“Convivia” that was anchored nearby, suggested that everyone meet ashore
that night for a beach bonfire, we happily postponed our departure until
the following day.

The next morning we awoke and began readying “Blue Rodeo” for another open
water passage.  While we enjoyed our visit to the Marquesas immensely, we
were now eagerly anticipating the time we would spend in the Tuomotu where
we would find nearly-deserted, palm-covered, coral atolls and crystal
clear water for diving.  Undersea world…her we come!


A pleasant 25 mile day sail from the island of Ua Pou took us to the
island of Nuka Hiva where we anchored in Taiohae Bay near the largest
population center in the Marquesas.   It was here that author Herman
Melville jumped ship to stay for a few years and write his novel “Typee”.
 We were pleased to see several boats in the anchorage that we recognized
from Mexico and, even though rain showers were moving through the area, we
launched “Blue Rodeo’s” dinghy and went to shore for an evening of
socializing and dinner.  During the ride to shore, a squall with heavy
rain passed overhead and, by the time we reached the dock, we were soaked
to our skin.  We have grown accustomed to the frequent showers in the lush
Marquesas and find them a refreshing, if inconvenient, occurrence.
Being that it was a Sunday night, things in town were even quieter than
normal and our dining options were limited to a simple open air restaurant
at the harbor.  Even though the couple that owned it was preparing to
close when we arrived, they were happy to prepare steaks, French fries and
salads for our hungry group of 8.  For most of us, it was a first meal out
in a long time and we all enjoyed it immensely.

The next day was spent obtaining diesel fuel for “Blue Rodeo” and gasoline
for our outboard motors.  There is a filling station on the quay in the
harbor but tying up a boat’s stern to the rough concrete wall and fueling
from a 30’ long hose can be difficult in any sort of windy and rolly
conditions.  We decided to check out the situation first by dinghy before
going to the trouble to take our boat there.  After sizing up the quay,
which is designed to accommodate much larger vessels than us, we opted
instead to make several trips in with our 5 gallon plastic jerry cans.
The process was exhausting as the full jugs of fuel had to be carried from
the filling station to a point on the concrete quay where a stainless
steel ladder descended 8 feet to the water.  While Mark filled the jugs
and carried them back, Anne waited in the dinghy being tossed about by the
swells and current.  Each of our 4 jerry cans was then lowered by rope to
the dinghy for the trip back to “Blue Rodeo”.  There, the heavy jugs had
to be lifted aboard over our lifelines and then carefully emptied, using a
funnel, into our fuel tanks.  Fortunately, we needed just 33 gallons of
diesel but, since we wanted to depart with all 4 of our 5 gallon jugs
filled as reserves, 3 round trips were required before the job was done.
Al off this was done in the tropical heat and humidity which left us
tired, crabby and drenched with sweat when we were finished.

  With the fueling task complete, we had just enough time to take our
passports and boat paperwork to the office of the gendarme to officially
check in.  Since we would remain only a short while, we were able to check
in to Taiohae and check out for our next destination in the same visit.
Other cruisers had informed us that the hospital near the gendarme’s
office provided free medication for the prevention of an insect-borne,
tropical disease that can, if untreated, lead to Elephantitis.  We knew of
what terrible consequences contracting that disease can produce so we made
the effort to get the pills and be on the safe side.  Even though the
nurse in the dispensary spoke very little English, with the aid of a
poster on the wall showing photos of people with terribly swollen
anatomical parts, we were able to convey what we were seeking.  With pills
in hand, we rendezvoused with our friends from the yacht “Panta Rhei” for
a walk through town to a beautiful, hillside, bungalow-style hotel where
we indulged ourselves with drinks on their deck and a delicious meal in
their restaurant.  From the hotel, the view of the bay and our anchored
boats below was spectacular and the company was delightful.   A fine
evening was had by all.

Early the next morning, we made the rounds through the town’s small
markets hoping to purchase as much fresh produce as we could for our
upcoming trip through the Tuamotu Archipelago.  We have come to expect
that, between the arrivals of the supply ships that come from Tahiti,
supplies are often limited in these islands and the best source of fresh
fruit or produce is the local residents.  Through a tip from a cruising
friend, Anne learned of a woman that sells produce grown by the town’s
school of agriculture.  So, after our limited success in the markets, she
and two friends made a trek to the school and returned lugging bags of
turnips, tomatoes, lettuce and sausages made from a freshly butchered pig.

That afternoon, with provisioning accomplished, we motor- sailed a short
distance west along Nuku Hiva’s rocky shoreline to Daniels Bay where we
would spend several days hiking and socializing with a few local families
and our cruising friends

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ua Pou

Our 65 mile passage from Tahuata to the island of Ua Poa began with a
4:30am wakeup and last minute preparations for a pre-dawn departure.  Once
clear of the anchorage we raised “Blue Rodeo’s” main sail and pointed the
bow toward our destination.  Unfortunately, the winds remained so light
throughout most of the day that we motor-sailed the whole way.  The
exception though was when we were just five miles from the rocky,
northeast shore of the island, where  we were overtaken by a squall that
brought with it winds gusting to as high as 42 knots.  Fortunately, as the
squall’s ominous, black cloud bore down on us, we reduced our mainsail
area to the second reef point.  With the strong winds, the seas quickly
became ugly and we were relieved to finally turn the corner into the tiny
harbor of Hakahau and gain some shelter from the wind and waves.  Two
other boats were already at anchor so we joined them using both bow and
stern anchors to hold our bow into the wind-driven swells that wrapped
around the harbor’s breakwater.

By the next morning, the stormy weather had passed and we were treated to
the sight of the island’s dramatic skyline punctuated by near-vertical
spires thrusting upward from the jungle-covered ridges.  It was quite a
sight to watch the spires come in and out of view a clouds swirled nearby.

After a quick breakfast aboard, we launched our dinghy and went to shore
for an exploratory walk.  Soon after securing our dinghy to the quay and
exiting the harbor area, we were greeted by a young woman with a huge
smile as she bicycled toward us.  After asking if we spoke English, her
eyes lit up and she proceed to tell us that she was a teacher at the local
school and had lived and worked for a while in Cornwall, England where she
learned to speak English.  Since it was Saturday and the school was
closed, she insisted on being our guide and accompanied us to several
markets and on a tour of the village.  Mel, the young woman, was Tahitian
and was a wealth of knowledge about Polynesia.  At one point it was agreed
that our group would split up so Mark could sit in front of the town’s
post office with his lap top computer to try to pick up an internet signal
while Anne would take Mel to our boat for a tour and to pick up some
shopping bags.  Mark’s success with the internet was limited but made more
interesting when he was joined by three young boys who sat next to him and
watched intently what he typed onto the computer screen.  They didn’t seem
that interested in his attempt to transfer money from our
retirement account but soon asked in French, mixed with a limited amount
of English, if Mark would type in a specific internet web site address.
Mark complied and up came a Japanese cartoon video site that was, no
doubt, a favorite of theirs.  Even though the internet connection was too
slow to run the videos, the boys seemed grateful that Mark tried.  When
Anne and Mel returned from the boat, they found Mark still sitting on the
sidewalk with the three boys snuggled up to him and staring at the
computer screen.  We looked at the experience as just another example of
how quickly the world is changing and how we consider ourselves fortunate
to be seeing some of the remote parts of the South Pacific before modern
technology changes it for the worse.

The following day, we motored a short distance along the island’s north
shore to another beautiful bay passing along the way an airport with a
paved runway cut through the jungle from the shoreline up a steeply rising
valley.   The rapidly rising terrain at the runway’s opposite end meant
that this was a “no go-around” airport, much like some of the airstrips
that we fly into in Idaho’s backcountry, where a landing must be made on
the first attempt.  Takeoffs must be made in the opposite direction
regardless of the wind direction.  Even though the island’s population in
limited in number, air service to Tahiti is available several days a week,
no doubt subsidized by the French government.

Our anchorage at Hakahetau, off another small and picturesque village,
provided a splendid place to watch the sunset and spend a relaxing
evening.  The next morning, we would raise anchor and set sail for the
island of Nuku Hiva, our final Marquesan island destination before heading
southwest toward the Tuamotu Archipelago

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


> With so much to see in the Marquesas and time limited by our 90 day visa
> for all of French Polynesia, we reluctantly left beautiful Fatu Hiva and
> sailed north to the island of Tahuata where we joined friends Bob and Ann
> of the vessel "Charisma" who were already anchored at Hapatoni Bay.  The
> small bay is surrounded by steep hillsides covered with the densest
> carpeting of coconut palm trees imaginable.  The late afternoon sunlight
> bathed the greenery making the colors explode with surreal intensity.
> After searching the coral and rock-covered bottom of the anchorage for a
> patch of sand, we dropped and set "Blue Rodeo's" anchor.  Soon after, we
> were socializing with the "Charisma" crew and planning a trip ashore to
> explore a tiny village.
> The next morning, the four of us took our dinghy to the village's concrete
> quay where we tied up near where several mothers watched their young
> children splashing and playing in the water.  We all exchanged warm smiles
> and, once again, felt welcome by the local residents.  After walking just
> a short distance toward the village's ancient stone promenade that follows
> the shoreline for a considerable distance, we were greeted by a friendly
> gentleman who escorted us to his simple home where he produced a selection
> of fine wood and bone carvings.  Bob purchased an exquisite ceremonial
> dagger made from bone and a Marlin bill.  Our walk continued along the bay
> past a beautiful church and cemetery.  When the stone promenade ended, we
> followed a trail up a steep hillside toward a narrow road leading to the
> next village.  Our efforts were rewarded with splendid views of our two
> boats in the beautiful anchorage far below.  As we walked, we marveled at
> the amount and variety of fruit that hung from the trees in the dense
> jungle.  We couldn't help but "harvest" a big bunch of bananas from a
> roadside tree.  We were careful to be sure though that the banana tree was
> far from anyone's personal property.  Without any cutting tools, it took
> considerable effort on the part of all four of us to wrestle the stalk to
> the ground and tear it free from the tree.  Our reward was about two dozen
> green bananas that would provide a sweet treat when they ripened.
> Back aboard our boats, we did a few chores and went snorkeling along the
> bay's rocky shore.  The visibility in the water was good and, along with
> lots of colorful fish, Anne and I saw our first Black Tip reef shark.  It
> was just 4 feet in length but certainly got our attention.
> The next day, we continued further up the island's west shore to Vaitahu
> or Resolution Bay where another small community sits at the water's edge.
> Our intention was to anchor there for a night but, as we approached, we
> could clearly see that strong wind gusts were funneling down a canyon to
> the bay leaving the water's surface rough and streaked with spume.  We
> opted instead to continue another mile to a bay called Hana Moa Noe where
> we found much better conditions.  This beautiful spot, with its crystal
> clear water and white sand beach will remain one of our favorites in the
> Marquesas.  Our two days there were especially pleasant enjoying the
> scenery, socializing with cruising friends and snorkeling.  We even had
> the opportunity to swim again with large Manta rays, though not as big as
> those in Mexico.  One afternoon, while friends Bob and Ann were swimming
> with the Mantas, they noticed that one was trailing a long length of
> fishing line from a lure stuck in its mouth.  When they informed us, we
> quickly donned our snorkeling gear, grabbed a knife and swam toward them
> hoping to offer assistance.  After an attempt by Mark, Anne was able to
> take the knife and gently approach the swimming Manta getting close enough
> to caress it and cut off most of the line.  When the ray swam out of
> sight, we were satisfied that we had done our best to help it and that the
> remaining lure would probably rust away in a few weeks.  In addition to
> the encounters with the marine wild life, we were treated one evening
> there to the sight of two wild horses on a ridge above the anchorage.
> What a beautiful sight!
> While most days in the Marquesas, to this point, had featured lots of
> sunshine and warm temperatures, the skies were never cloud-free.  For that
> reason, we always kept a watchful eye out for showers that can begin
> suddenly and often dump a considerable amount of rain.  We would
> frequently do the "hatch dance" where we'd jump up and scurry about
> closing all of "Blue Rodeo's" hatches.  As soon as the showers passed, the
> dance would begin again re-opening them to allow the cooling breezes to
> flow through the boat.
> Our last evening in Hana Moa Noe was spent sharing a pot luck dinner
> aboard the spacious catamaran "Gato Go" with friends Craig and Bruce whom
> we have known since our first season in Mexico.  The crews from "Island
> Bound" and "Charisma" also joined in the fun.  A high point of the evening
> was comparing photos of our group's Equator crossing costumes.  We all
> howled with laughter at the creative and silly costumes.
> We returned to "Blue Rodeo" that night and began making preparations for a
> predawn departure for our next stop, the island of Ua Poa, about 65 miles
> to the north.  Leaving a beautiful spot and wonderful friends is always
> somewhat bitter but sweetened by the knowledge that more exciting
> discoveries and warm reunions are just another island away.  This is all
> part of the magic of the cruising life

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fatu Hiva

Leaving the Island of Hiva Oa, we set sail for the small island of Fatu
Hiva, about 45 miles to the southeast.   Fortunately, the wind direction
and sea conditions were cooperative and we made the crossing in good time
on a single tack (without zigzagging back and forth to make windward
progress).  We approached our intended destination with eager anticipation
knowing that it is regarded by many as the most beautiful anchorage in the
world. Hana Vave, or the Bay of Virgins as it is now called, is a small
bay on the island’s northwest side at the mouth of a narrow valley.  A
village with about 600 residents sits near the water’s edge surrounded by
incredibly beautiful, jungle-covered rocky cliffs and spires.  These
dramatic rock formations inspired the bay’s original name of the Bay of
Phalluses.   Apparently, that name didn’t meet with the approval of the
Catholic missionaries upon their arrival years later so, by a changing a
vowel in the original French word, phalluses became virgins.

We approached the bay when the late afternoon light was illuminating the
rock formations and lush green hillsides with such intensity that the
colors and shapes were a feast for our eyes.  We hurriedly took photo
after photo as we made preparation to anchor knowing that it was unlikely
that any would completely capture the majesty of this place.  The
anchorage there is deep, limited in size and has, in many places, a rocky
bottom.  We slowly meandered through the gaggle of already-anchored boats
looking for a spot where we might drop “Blue Rodeo’s” anchor to a sandy
bottom at a reasonable depth.  We settled for an area that was 90 feet
deep (we’d prefer to anchor in 25 to 30 feet of water) and lowered our
anchor and almost all of its 350 feet of chain.  Reports had mentioned
that wind gusts of 60 knots can funnel down the narrow valley and blow
anchored boats out to sea so we made sure our anchor was well set before

While we were still underway to the island, we had spoken to friends from
the vessel “The Rose” who invited us to join them and a number of other
cruisers for a dinner ashore that night at the home of a local family.  It
turned out to be a lovely evening with an opportunity to sample lots of
typical Marquesan cuisine and get to know more interesting cruisers.
Since Fatu Hiva is the most windward of the islands in the Marquesas, it
is often the first stop for cruisers coming from Panama or the Galapagos,
even though it is technically not a port of entry.  Several groups at
dinner that night were from Europe and had come straight to the island.
During the next few days that we spent in the Bay of Virgins, several
others would arrive with the tell-tale coating of algae and gooseneck
barnacles along their boat’s waterline as a result of many days at sea.

The next day was spent in the company of friends from the boats
“Charisma”, “The Rose”, and “Island Bound” exploring the small village and
getting to know some of its residents.  There is just one tiny market but,
with a bit a asking around, we soon connected with several of the
friendly residents who provided us with fresh fruit to restock our onboard
supplies.  Most of our exploratory walk that day took us to the backyard
sheds of local craftspeople that produced fine wood carvings and painted
art works on “Tapa” cloth made from pounding water-soaked bark into
paper-like sheets.   We couldn’t help but buy a small, carved, rosewood
“Tiki” and a “Tapa” print to commemorate our visit.  By the way, the
Marquesas are considered to be a birthplace of the art of tattooing and,
even though the traditional art form nearly died-out, a number of current
artists are practicing it and most locals we encounter have their bodies
decorated.  Often, visiting cruisers are so moved by the experience of
crossing an ocean to visit these exotic islands that they choose the get a
Marquesan tattoo to commemorate the experience.  While Anne is opposed to
the idea, Mark admits that he can’t help but have some interest in some
small, traditional tattoo.  He has though, opted not to get one, motivated
mostly by the fact that his hairy, freckle-covered skin that continues to
wrinkly before his eyes is probably not the best “canvas” to display a
Marquesasn work of art, no matter how beautiful it might be.

The next day was spent hiking to a stunningly beautiful grotto in the
hills above the village that features a 200 foot waterfall and freshwater
pool at its base.  A group of about 8 of us make the trek up through the
steamy jungle to reach it and were rewarded by magnificent scenery along
the way and a refreshing dip in the pool at the falls.  That evening
turned out to be the high point of our visit with another feast ashore put
on by a delightful and friendly woman named Kati, whom we had met during
our visits to the wood carvers.  Pat, from “The Rose”,  used her better
French communication skills to arrange a cooking lesson for anyone that
wanted to come early to watch how the traditional meal of poisson cru,
beadfruit, papaya salad, baked bananas, and chicken was prepared.  The
event coincided with the celebration of Kati’s 7 years old granddaughter’s
birthday so our fortunate group of cruisers became part of the huge party
that concluded with after-dinner birthday cake, guitar and ukulele music
and singing and dancing from the many neighborhood children.  We took
dozens of photos and some short video clips but, sadly, none will do
justice to the warmth, camaraderie and joy that we experienced that night.
 We have to trust our memories to accurately record forever the magic of
that evening.

The next morning, when Anne climbed out into “Blue Rodeo’s” cockpit, she
squealed with excitement at the sight of a familiar sailboat entering the
bay.  Our friends Larry and Karen, whom we spent good times with during
our first season in Mexico and had not seen for many months, were arriving
after a 22 day passage from the Galapagos.  Since many of our cruising
friends in the anchorage were planning to go ashore in less than an hour
for the town’s Sunday church service, we quickly greeted our arriving
friends and offered to take them ashore in our dinghy as soon as they
could get settled.   We had heard from others that the Catholic church
service, spoken in Marquesan and featuring lovely music and choir singing,
was very special and not to be missed.  We were not disappointed as the
beautiful, pitch-perfect voices of the children’s choir left us all very
moved.  We also couldn’t help but be entertained by the warm interaction
of the villagers.

That Sunday concluded with a delicious dinner aboard Larry and Karen’s
boat “Phanta Rei” with their crew Katie and Kent and friends from “Island
Bound” Bill and Kat.  Before dinner, we all shared information about where
we planned to go next and our probable itinerary for the next few months.
While part of the fun of cruising is getting to know new people wherever
you travel, connecting with those that you have already met in exotic
parts of the world is extra special.

Our evening aboard “Phanta Rei” ended  rather suddenly when some of the
anchorage’s notorious wind gusts began to blow through the bay and we felt
it best to head back to our boat to make sure that all was well.  Upon
return to “Blue Rodeo”, we were disappointed to see that one of Mark’s
Patagonia Hawaiian shirts and his favorite pair of board shorts, that were
left pinned and drying on our clothesline, had been blown off into the
darkness of the night.  Oh well, it was another lesson learned about
leaving anything unsecured while we are off the boat.  It certainly could
have been worse as our entire floating home might have been blown out to

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Paumau Bay

Our circumnavigation of the island of Hiva Oa continued with an overnight
stop at picturesque Hanaiapa Bay followed by another day sail to Puamau
Bay.  Beautiful  Puamau features a number of immaculately kept homes, a
small, open-air restaurant and some of the best archeological ruins in all
of Polynesia.  It is accessible by road from the main town of Atuana so
the locals are accustomed to visiting tourists.

Our trip ashore for a walkabout and visit to the archeological site began
with navigating our outboard motor- powered dinghy through fairly large
surf to land on a narrow, sandy beach.  Mark patiently studied the pattern
and frequency of the larger sets of breaking wave and managed to get us to
the beach without any drama.  Friends Bob and Ann from the boat “Charisma”
rowed their dinghy ashore and also landed without incident.  As we all
dried our feet and changed into our hiking shoes, we couldn’t help but be
overwhelmed by the spectacular scenic beauty around us.  Fortunately, the
local residents must appreciate it as well as evidenced by how clean and
pristine everything seemed to be.  The yards around the rather simple
homes well all carefully manicured making us feel as though we were in a

Our trek to the archeological site began by passing the small restaurant
were a sign pointed us in the right direction and indicated that there was
as $3.00 fee per person to visit it.  We happily paid the fee and began
the 20 minute walk up a steep, paved road to the site.  All along the way,
we were amazed by the amount and variety of fruit literally falling from
the trees around us.  Every few steps we’d stop to examine some example of
exotic tropical fruit.  The stops in the shade of the many trees gave us a
chance to cool off a bit as we were all drenched with sweat and suffering
from the heat and humidity.

After following the steeply climbing road as it made its way up the lush,
jungle-covered hillside we reached our destination where we found an
impressive display of carved stone “Tikis”, some resembling humans and
some more animal-like.  In addition to the Tikis, the area featured rather
elaborate stone walls and platforms.   We examined the carvings with awe
and felt so fortunate to be alone at this very special place with just the
company of our two friends.  After taking dozens of photos we followed the
road back to the beach where we were chagrined to see that, while we were
away, the surf had gotten even larger.  Before attempting to head back to
our boat, we stowed our camera, hats and sunglasses in a waterproof bag
and lashed it securely to the dinghy.  While we watched breaking wave
after breaking wave roll onto the beach, trying to recognize a pattern of
the larger sets, Bob and Ann started out.  Their timing looked good and,
with Bob rowing with all of his might, they made it through several
smaller waves to the safety of deeper water.  We then decided to give it a
go and began rolling our wheel-equipped dinghy toward the water’s edge.
As we waded into knee-deep water and waited for an appropriate time to go,
we looked back to see both Ann and Bob standing up to their chests in the
surf zone.  Bob was wrestling to right their overturned dinghy.
Unfortunately, after thinking they “had it made” a larger than normal,
breaking wave appeared from nowhere flipping them end over end.   Soon,
they were back on the beach bailing water from their swamped dinghy and
taking inventory up what had been swept overboard.  Sadly, Ann lost a pair
of prescription sunglasses.  As they regrouped for another try, two young,
local men came to their assistance and successfully helped push, swim and
row their dinghy through the surf.  While that was happening, we saw our
opportunity and, with Anne riding in our dinghy’s bow and Mark manning our
tiny and underpowered 2 ½ horsepower outboard motor, we started out
through the surf.  Our timing was good and we made it through several
small, breaking waves without a problem.  But, before we were safely past
the surf zone, several larger waves lifted our bow, nearly breaking over
us.  Fortunately, Anne rode our bucking bronco keeping her weight forward
and, after what seemed like an eternity, we were safely into deeper water.
 Later that day, we would all laugh about the experience feeling that it
will remain another special memory of this incredible adventure.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Before leaving Atuona, we attended a pig roast hosted by a local gentleman
who lives in the hills above the anchorage and provides services for
visiting cruisers.  We were accompanied by several friends from our Puddle
Jump group as well as a number of others of different nationalities.  Of
the group of 21, we had people from the United States, Canada, Denmark,
Sweden, Germany, South Africa, South America and Zimbabwe.  The main
course consisted of a pig and wild goat baked in a hot coal-lined earthen
pit covered with layers of damp banana leaves.  Side dishes included an
extensive sampling of local foods such as poi, breadfruit, poisson cru,
vegetable casseroles, rice, dumplings, baked bananas in coconut milk and
pamplemouse (large grapefruit).  We found most of the food very tasty and
enjoyed getting to know many new interesting people.
After a final provisioning run for fresh fruit and vegetables and the
completion of a list of boat chores, we raised our anchor, motored out of
the harbor, and began a clockwise circumnavigation of the island of Hiva
Oa.  Friends Ann and Bob, on the sailing vessel “Charisma”, joined us for
the two hour sail to a bay on the northwest side of the island called
Hanamenu.  Two days were spent there soaking-in the exotic tropical
scenery.  One afternoon, we and the “Charisma” crew took our dinghies
ashore for an exploratory hike.  We were greeted by a local gentleman with
a huge smile and a twinkle in his eye.  He sat under the shade of a tall
palm tree and patiently watched us drag our dinghies up above the tide
line and change into our hiking shoes.  We did our best with our limited
French to introduce ourselves and, although communication was limited, he
motioned for us to follow him.  He led us to a spectacular, fresh water
pool fed by water that cascaded down from the jungle covered hillside.
The pool and surrounding gardens were pristine and inviting but we were
anxious to hike a bit and explore more of the area.  Our guide led us a
little further into a small compound of what looked like part- time homes
where we encountered two other gentlemen.   One was larger than life in
every way and both welcomed us with mounds of fresh fruit.  As we stood
and tried to communicate in French, they cut a watermelon into large
slices for us to enjoy.  Before we could continue any further, they had
accumulated a large pile of papaya and cucumber for us to take with us to
our boats.  Walking farther inland through the dense jungle we stopped to
marvel at the stone ruins scattered along the way.  In the early 1800s,
the population of the Marquesas numbered nearly 80,000 but sadly, due to
diseases introduced by Europeans, currently only 2000 remain.  Throughout
the islands are countless examples of stone ruins dating back to the 1600s
and this site was particularly rich in walls, foundations and ceremonial
platforms.  Returning from our hike, we stopped to collect our fruit and
thanked the gentlemen profusely.  We wished that we had brought some gifts
to offer them in exchange but the best we could come up with was the
baseball cap that Bob was wearing.  Even though the local residents expect
nothing in return and their generosity is motivated only by their warmth
and friendliness, we have made mental notes to not go ashore again without
some small tokens of our appreciation.
These islands are truly a tropical paradise but not without a few
unpleasant features.  The most significant of which are mosquitos and
varieties of tiny biting flies referred to as NoNos.  As we prepared to
launch our dinghies, we were besieged by NoNos that, despite heavy
applications of insect repellent, seemed intent on making a meal of us.
We quickly got underway and rowed most of the way back to “Blue Rodeo”
before the cloud of insects lost interest.

 Our day concluded with a sunset cocktail and appetizers aboard “Charisma”
before returning to “Blue Rodeo” for dinner and a couple of episodes of
“The West Wing” on DVD.   Another great day

Hiva Oa

We are currently anchored in the small harbor of Atuona on the beautiful
island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, former home
and burial place of French artist Paul Gaugin.
 As expected, the scenery around us is breathtaking. Geologically, these
volcanic islands are still young and therefore, steep and rugged with
dramatic, jungle-covered ridge lines.  Everywhere we look reminds us of
scenes from the movies King Kong and Jurassic Park.  We made landfall on
the morning of April 24th and, during the 24 hour period prior to our
arrival, continually made adjustments to our sailing speed so as to arrive
shortly after sunrise.   We did however,  get our first glimpses of the
dark silhouette of the island at around 2am and, a short time later, began
to smell the rich, earthy aroma of the island’s fertile soil, a smell much
like that of damp peat moss.
After anchoring among boats displaying flags from mostly European
countries,  we took short naps and then dove into the daunting task of
cleaning “Blue Rodeo” inside and out.   What a pleasure it was to be
settled in a protected anchorage and not having to endure the constant,
irregular motion that we had experienced for much of our crossing from
Mexico.  That day, friends on the vessels “Charisma” and “Island Bound”
also completed their passages and joined us in the harbor.  We hosted a
celebratory dinner aboard that night with a delicious main course of fresh
Dorado and Wahoo courtesy of our friends from both boats.   We all turned
in early that night and slept longer than we had in several weeks.  The
next morning, we were accompanied into town by an agent who assisted us in
officially clearing into the country at the office of the town’s gendarme.
 The process was very straight forward and, before long, we were exploring
the rest of the small town in search of some fresh fruits and vegetables
and regular internet access.  The town consists of just a few grocery
markets, a general store, post office and one restaurant.  Our walk about
concluded with a simple lunch at that restaurant.  Their menu ranged from
burgers to chicken curry to the local specialty, poisson cru which is raw
fish marinated in citrus juice and coconut milk.   Having spent most of
the last two years in Mexico attempting to learn and converse in Spanish,
we are now finding it especially difficult to shift gears and retrieve
what little French we know from the dusty corners of our brains.  We
imagine though that, with the help of the friendly locals, we will be
doing much better in the months ahead.  The day concluded with an early
evening get together aboard the large and spacious catamaran “Orcinius,”
hosted by new friends John and Lisa.
Our plans are to spend two more nights here sightseeing, going to a pig
roast and doing a few boat chores before moving on to explore other more
remote anchorages.

We are happy that the long passage here is behind us and thrilled to be in
this amazingly beautiful, tropical land.  The weeks ahead will be spent
traveling through the other islands of the Marquesas and getting a glimpse
into what remains of authentic Polynesian culture.

Briefly, here is a recap of our trip from La Cruz, Mexico.  We covered the
first 350 miles to Isla San Benedicto in about 66 hours, sailing mostly
hard on the wind with occasional periods of light air but average breezes
in the 15 to 18 knot range.  We used our diesel engine for the first hour
leaving Bandaras Bay and again for about 1.5 hours when the wind died
approaching San Benedicto.  After 5 wonderful days there, we set sail for
Hiva Oa, about 2,750 miles to the southwest.  That leg took 16 days.
Aside from about 30 minutes of motoring while we raised anchor and another
45 minutes during our arrival, we sailed the whole way with good winds.
We had brief periods of wind in the high 20s to low 30 knot range but the
average speed was in the teens.  Luckily, we encountered no thunderstorms
but did have a few areas of heavy rain as we transited the area around the
Equator.  “Blue Rodeo” took good care of us with just a few mechanical
issues to deal with.  The glow plug preheat circuit on our auxiliary motor
decided to act up a bit.  A clevis pin on the bottom toggle of our
forestay nearly worked its way out after shearing off the retaining cotter
pin requiring some teamwork to re-insert and re-pin it.  A snatch block
used on our mainsail preventer line exploded during the night as the
result of constant loading as the boat rolled in the irregular cross-
swells.  And finally, our main sail halyard chafed through at the mast
head dropping the sail to the boom and requiring that we sail the last 500
miles with just our jib.

We are eager to see what lies around the next bend of the island so, soon
we will again raise our anchor and sails and head back out.  No more 16
day passages though.  By comparison, the remaining legs we sail as we
cross the South Pacific will seem like just a hop, skip and jump