Crossing “The Wine-Dark Sea”

We stayed at Ua Poa for just two days and have had a sad parting.

We had hoped for a few days more but the weather gods dictated that we cut this visit short. However, we manage to pack in a fair amount, not everything we had hoped for but enough to remind us why we liked this island so much. The bakery got hammered, we took Mia to the cross at the top of the hill and we even had a clear view of the Spires for a few minutes.

We managed to get up to the Catholic church which is highly recommended. The clever open wall design ensured the place is light and airy and the carvings inside are excellent. Hannah got a bit freaked out by the older ladies she met there but they all were super friendly! Serve her right for looking small and cute.

IMG_2631

Mia has been having real problems finding a flight at a reasonable price from the islands in the Tuamotus that we are hoping to visit and she wasn’t able to alter the ticket she had. There is also the issue that many of the flights are only once or twice weekly, so leaving her with an expensive layover in Tahiti. Tough life, I hear you say, but when you are on a travellers budget it is just that and choices must be made.

Starcharger, newly arrived at Ua Poa from Hiva Oa, is shortly leaving the Marquesas and after a couple of stops will arrive in Tahiti within a couple of days of when Mia has her ticket home. To that end, as we looked to make our way back E to Hiva Oa, she has jumped ship and joined Alastair and Gill. We loved having her on board for the short time we did but we are glad she will have a proper time in the Tuamotus before heading home to Denmark.

We have also promised to put the word out for her as she would like to join a yacht crossing the Atlantic this Nov/Dec. We give her a big thumbs up for her friendliness, competence and work ethic. So if anyone knows of someone doing the ARC and is looking for crew, I present you with a highly qualified ICU nurse (a great skill to have on board) with a skipper’s ticket, a diving instructor to boot and has a Pacific crossing doing solo watches under her belt. She has a great attitude and the kids loved having her around. Perhaps more importantly, so did Lou. Get anyone interested to drop us a line and we will put them in touch.

Mia made one last early morning run for bread with Hannah and then moved her kit across. Our thanks to Starcharger for taking Mia with them and for a great last night together. We look forward to seeing Alastair, Gill and Pickles again in New Zealand at the turn of the year.

 P1040022

We wish Mia all the very best and hope we will get the chance to catch up with her further on down the road.

We had to jump East today. It is the first time in over a month that the islands have had a period of no wind and we couldn’t afford to miss it. We really want to visit Fatu Hiva before we leave the Marquesas. It is the furthest SE of all the islands in the group and can be unpleasantly difficult to get back to. According to the forecast (never an accurate beast but the best we have) the calm will last a maximum of 30hrs before the trades fill in again.

As soon as Mia had moved across, we left Ua Poa with another two boats all trying to claw back the easting they need to get to Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva, normally a long 70 miles away upwind. Although we needed an engine on throughout the day as the most wind we saw was 3kts, I got no abuse for uphill sailing! The seas moderated to this extraordinary polished calm with a long swell of about 2m height.

I always thought Patrick O’Brian had simply used his imagination for his book title and the name I have adulterated for this blog. Not so. As the sun set we had a gorgeous lighting effect. Behind us, the sun set behind Ua Poa in a boil of colours and in front, well, I tried but the photo doesn’t do it justice. It was like looking through a glass of Beaujolais.  You can just make out Hiva Oa and Tahuata, about 40 miles away.

P1040029 P1040025

I have no photos of the night sky but my memory will long remember the The Milky Way blazing from horizon to horizon, reflecting back off the sea, making it seems if we were travelling through some sort of starry tunnel. It was the clearest and most vivid night sky of our trip so far.

As the bay here is very dark and the moon will not be up until 0200hrs, I will be ashore tonight to try and recapture on film at least some of what we saw.

We arrived at Tahuata in darkness and decided to park up in Hanamoena Bay, an easy wide bay and safer than attempting the tight Atuano anchorage on Hiva Oa. I woke up this morning to look down at my anchor, clear as a bell in 35’ of water on white sand. We may decide to stay here a few days…….

P1040031

Nuka Hiva – The Isle of Bugs – Pt 3

In hope of clear water to swim in, we decide to move on up to Anaho Bay on the NE corner of the island. The weather gods lied to us. 12kts from the E-ESE was the forecast. We came out of the shelter of the bay to be met with 30kts which made it a bit interesting for a while. We ran W to the end of the island, frequently hitting double digits.

We turned N up the W side of the island and were quickly in the lee of the high hills which towered above us. With flat water and no breeze, the engine went on. Once we got to the NW corner and passed the airport, the wind was back in our face with a vengeance. We motor sailed the 10 miles  to Anaho Bay. Again, it got a bit bouncy and Lou got on to her normal hobby horse of downhill sailing…..

The views on the N side of the island were terrific. Steep green valleys with the occasional house tucked away in a bay.

 P1020953_thumb1_thumb

Anaho Bay is wonderfully sheltered, beautiful and is the most interesting anchorage we have seen since arriving in the Marquesas. Bay Hanamoenoa at Tahuata may have been Bahamas white sand but it was pretty sterile and it rolled. The snorkelling here is excellent with good coral and a huge range of reef fish. Being surrounded by beach helps even if, as Mia found out, the place is crawling with no-see-ums (locally known as no-nos). She woke this morning looking as if she has chicken pox. We finally saw some lobster and if we have time, will be going to see if we can acquire a few too.

IMG_13171_thumb1_thumb

We have also been getting some rain which have been keeping the water buckets nicely topped off.

There is a walk across from Anaho Bay to Hatiheu, the village in the next bay W. It is a bit of a hack up the hill separating the valleys but it doesn’t take long and the view back down to Anaho is spectacular. Note the reef just behind the boats. Skylark is the yacht closest to the reef in the foreground. One comment on the  hill on the way up. Be prepared for the constant carpet of ants. Don’t stop, as they will be half way up your leg as soon as you do. And yes, they do bite although thankfully nothing as bad as fire ants. From the edge of the beach to the top of the hill, perhaps a mile away, you will be standing on them, millions of the buggers. There is no relief until you go over the top and start going down, at which point they all disappear. Weird.

P1020973_thumb3_thumb

Hatiheu Bay is a rated as a good anchorage in its own right but has far more roll than Anaho and therefore is less used. The village was, accordingly to the guide books, a firm favourite of Robert Louis Stevenson when he visited the Marquesas but we saw nothing to mark this. It does have a great collection of tikis standing along the sea front, including the one below, standing guard on the church. These days the village boasts one of the best restaurants in the islands, Chez Yvonne. Sadly it was closed for Sunday. There is a small shop here too.

P1020985_thumb1_thumb  P1020990_thumb1_thumb

It also has the largest archaeological site in the Marquesas. There is a very large festival plaza, a temple with a huge sacred banyan tree and a second festival site a little up the hill. We enjoyed wandering around and I was impressed with the scale of the place. It is far bigger than Tohua Koueva, the site on the other side of the island.

   P1040004_thumb1_thumb  P1020995_thumb2_thumb  P1020998_thumb1_thumb 

For Pratchett fans –  Apparently the ancient Polynesian people knew that “The Turtle moves” too………

P1040001_thumb1_thumb

We took the chance to collect some more fruit as we walked back down from the site. We found some banana, star fruit, bread fruit, cocoa and pomelo. Other than Lou having minor hysterics when she saw the large gecko on the banana stalk she was holding, it was an enjoyable and easy job! 

P10400071_thumb_thumb

There were more lovely flowers on show all the way back to the village and the smell on the walk was truly exotic. The whole place seems to be in a perpetual state of bloom.

P1040006_thumb1_thumb  P1040009_thumb1_thumb  P1040011_thumb1_thumb

We picked up Mia back in the village who had chosen to pass on the history lesson, having visited the site before. Her pack hammock is a great idea and the kids enjoyed taking the weight of their feet before the hour plus trek back over the hill to the boat.

P1040014_thumb1_thumb

We will move on in the morning, heading back to Ua Poa. I have enjoyed Nuka Hiva and the views are fantastic but having been without bugs since Panama, it has been unpleasant having to cover up and spray on the repellent again.  It is somewhere I would recommend but be prepared for bugs and lots of them. As long as you are, you will enjoy this beautiful island.

Lastly, a plea. Much as I love them all, I am now even more outnumbered.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed by girls hair (all still moulting it seems – when does it stop?), endless gossip, deadly serious tips on yogurt making, discussions on girly chick-flicks and how much they each cried, hormones and the rest. I would be grateful for male company at some point. Any takers? PS bring whisky……

P1020770_thumb4_thumb

Nuka Hiva–The Isle of Bugs– Pt 2

We  moved around to Hakatea Bay (aka Daniel’s Bay), about 5miles W of Taiohae. We chose an hour of squalls and bumpy seas to move between bays. It is an extraordinary entrance with 800’ cliffs running N-S as you enter. You feel as if you are driving into the cliff, before turning hard right at the last second through the narrow entrance into the shelter of the bay. 

The bay is in two parts. The western finger has a river running in to it and is very brown due to the runoff with all the rain we are having.  We anchored in the eastern arm in 30’ of flat water and then had fun with the paddleboard and kayak. I’m on 4 days no salt water because of the new tattoo so got photo duties. Try doing handstands on a moving paddle board in the surf. Well done, Eleanor!

P1020842_thumb2  P1020855_thumb3P1020852_thumb2  P1020846_thumb1P1020959_thumb1

We did get some visitors too. Baby Manta Rays – about 5-6’ across feed in the bay. We decided to stay in the kayak to photo them after Mia noticed a large Black tip Shark just underneath her. With all the earth rolling down into the bay after more torrential rain last night, visibility isn’t good, about 3m, so it got pretty close. The sharks are in to breed and there are plenty of their prodigy around. We even caught one on the rod which we quickly released. We know from another boat there are Hammerheads in too but we haven’t seen them yet.

P1020858_thumb1  P1020871_thumb1

The main reason for visiting Daniel’s Bay is the walk up the valley, following the river to the high waterfall. The walk is an easy one, a bit muddy at times, but I’d suggest you wear long sleeves and trousers as there are plenty of bugs along the route. You will be wading as well so make sure your shoes are waterproof too. It takes about 6 hours there and back.

The first part of the walk goes through the local’s back gardens and fruit trees. So bountiful. You can ask the locals here for fruit and they will arrange basket loads. You get a huge amount for not a lot. We were also  surprised to find a solar powered telephone box in the midst of paradise!

P1020884_thumb1 

Hannah was happy. She found a chilli bush. A new collection of birds eye type chillis for the pot.

P10208941_thumb

 

P1020899_thumb2  P1020903_thumb2

And we found the odd tiki as well. All along the bottom of the valley you will find remains of traditional houses with their house tiki standing as guardian.

  P1020913_thumb1

As we broke into a small clearing from the near continual canopy, we got our first view of the waterfall. It is the highest waterfall in French Polynesia and falls a little over 1000’. We could hear it rumbling from a couple of miles away.

P1020915_thumb1P1020920_thumb1

Once we got close to the falls, we had the river to deal with. Lou, of course, tried to fall in but recovered for the photo shoot opportunity. Watch out for the fresh water eels as you cross and recross the river as you get near to the foot of the waterfall. The eel we saw was more than 5’ long!

P1020923_thumb1  P1020925_thumb3

Mia and I decided to brave the “instantaneous death” from falling rocks threatened by Terry, an emotive soul, bless him, and one of the tour guides we had met on route,  if we tried to get up to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  It was worth the extra 200m. The number of craters made by falling rocks a little worrying but we kept a good look out and didn’t stay long.

P1020932_thumb3  P1020936_thumb1

Having taken our time and enjoyed the views on the way up, the walk back down was done at a fair pace to ensure we didn’t end up in grey/green territory. The evening sunshine, the few times we did break out of the canopy, gave us some wonderful light effects.

P1020939_thumb1

Nuka Hiva–The Isle of bugs– Pt1

We heard great things about Nuka Hiva. Taiohae is its the largest village, town would be going too far, and it is the administrative centre for the Marquesas group with very shiny official looking buildings with lawns to proclaim their status. 

We entered the huge S facing bay at Taiohae. Note the very obvious crystal scar in the cliff on the E side of the entrance. We initially thought it was a waterfall. We counted 35 yachts in and  there is room for several times that. The books say stay away from the E side of the bay as ships going in to the dock there need turning room. My advice is to ignore that and go as far E as you can as there is a swell that wraps into the bay with the normal ESE -SE sea running. The further E you are, the more you can negate it. Ships aren’t regular visitors (one every two weeks) and you can always move.  Holding seems to be good in hard sand at a depth of 30-40’ but there is a roll and you get nasty reflected waves amplified by coming off the beach and sea wall. The current swirls around as well. I’d suggest anchors fore and aft to ensure you don’t end up up beam on to the swell.

P1020709

There is a mix of superyacht at 130’ with their beautiful people crew to a ridiculously small 20’, crewed solo by a hard as nails 70 year old lady. She doesn’t sail at night, choosing to take the sails down whilst she sleeps.  She has come from Germany  to see her son in Moorea! He will do the final leg with her from here. Nuka Hiva is the most popular booking out place for the Marquesas as it giving you a great angle to get down either in to or through the Tuamotus to the Society Isles.

We arrived as an annual outrigger race meet was being held with a large number of men and women racing distances between 3 and 12km.

P1020719

They were all welcomed back by the singers on the shoreline and the drummers making great music. Some of the drums stood 5’ high, easily heard across the bay. It is common here to see folk with a flower headdress or a flower tucked behind the ear. Just so you know, the lady here with the flower tucked behind her left ear is saying she is either married, has a significant other or is not on the market at the moment. Those with a flower behind the right ear are single and interested in finding company! You will see both men and women using this beautiful “language” and it is used right across Polynesia.

P1020726

We dinghied in and were greeted immediately by Mia, who had managed to get a flight a day early from Tahiti where she had holidayed with her sister. She showed us around the village and we did the normal hop from supermarket to supermarket to see what we might pick up in each.

What we didn’t know is the island is also one of the very few islands that has a problem with both mosquitos and no-see-ums (an equal, like no other we have met, to the Scottish midge) – in huge numbers. And critically, the mosquitos carry both Dengue and Chikungunya virus too.

Mia told us about Christian, another one of the Taranga crew, who had gone down with Dengue fever and had been holed up in a B&B, sleeping 18hrs in the day and absolutely wasted by a week of pain and nastiness. He visited the hospital here and was told there are a large number of people going down with both ailments at the moment. We decided that bug juice would be worn religiously and our plan of staying a while is being revisited. We met him the first day he became human again and got him onboard to enjoy the breeze in the bay and have a little lunch with us. He has lost a lot of weight and still looks wrecked but he has a smile on his face again.

IMG_1310

This is the first island where tiki, a human like carved statue, with a religious connotation and a family value, found all across French Polynesia, have been easily identifiable and seen by us in large numbers. The photos with the horse are stones we saw in someone’s garden. I have to admit, I look at them and understand where the writers of Alien and a few of the other classic sci fi horror films got their ideas!

P1020737 P1020797 P1020793P1020794 IMG_1303 IMG_1305

The advantage of having Mia join us is that she has been on Nuka Hiva for nearly two weeks and has had a good chance to look around. She took us to the partially rebuilt festival or meeting place called Tohua Koueva which is off the main road, up a track and around the corner in the middle of nowhere. We would have had difficulty finding it with the one small sign (knocked down) beside the road a mile from it. The festival place has a huge paved esplanade and wall construct which must have taken generations to build.  The banyan tree, standing in the middle of the village is impressively huge. Look a the scale of it with Eleanor and Hannah standing beside it. The meeting place was used up to about 1845 when the French killed the Warlord chief of the time and the missionaries moved in.

P1020746  P1020747P1020760  P1020763

On our way back down to the harbour we did a little liberation of fruit from trees beside the road. These are called Pomelo (Citrus Maxima for all you interested gardening types) and are grapefruit with a thicker skin, not as bitter and with a far more lemony smell. Google says that they are the forerunner of the modern grapefruit, the thick skin being breed out of the modern variety, replaced with more flesh. It is delicious and we are serving it mixed in with our homemade muesli and yogurt.

 P1020787   P1020808

The weekend was in full flow and the kids were having a fine time down on the pier.

P1020803

On our return to the dock, we found a new friend for Hannah, a little girl called Masha, on S/V Beruta. We had seen her go in with Elvira, her Mum, earlier in the day and had waved at her. Her Russian parents are en route to New Zealand but have had to stop for him to have an operation on a hernia. With no windlass, Elvira can’t manage the anchor weight so they are stuck here until he gets better. The wee girl has absolutely no English; Hannah has no Russian.  Therefore all is well and they are having great fun!

IMG_1311

I decided that as a celebration of getting this far and a memento of the Marquesas, I would finally succumb and get a tattoo. I couldn’t think of a better place to break my duck than where tattoos originated. Having done my research over the last four months, there are three tattooists in the Marquesas that are regarded as being within the best in the whole of Polynesia. One was in Fata Hiva and we aren’t going there for a while. Jimmy, based on Hiva Oa, is away on paternity leave at the moment, his wife having their child in Tahiti very recently. Moana (the Tahitian for Ocean – he is already sick of any questions relating to Disney productions and yes, it is a boy’s name) is based here in Nuka Hiva and is known for his very fine detail. I was firmly told by no less an authority than the heavily tattooed Police Sergeant at Atuona in Hiva Oa that I should stick to an  tattoo done here in the Marquesas rather than risk one of the tourist types down in Tahiti. I did. I can talk about the detail and symbology but what it boils down to is family in the middle protected by a tiki for our journey through life and on the oceans. Simples! So, John Mc, thank you for the observation but I can assure you that no testicles were harmed in the production of this particular tattoo ………

P1040734

PS For the Hendersons amongst the viewing figures, we have educated Mia on the delights on MUSH and she approves!

It is no surprise that the flora and fauna are impressive, both in quantity and vibrancy. I present you a small selection. We have no idea what any of them are and would be grateful for expert identification.

P1020781  P1020764P1020765  P1020767  P1020774 (2)  P1020888

I suppose this doesn’t really count but…….. I was waiting for Old Man Willow to bite.

P1020780 

It is good having someone new with different ideas and routine on board again. Within 24hrs, Mia has instigated a morning swim as a requirement. Of course, the girls, happy to please their new toy, wanted to join her!

 P1020805

Mia wants to join the Danish Army as a medic and she needs to pass an initial fitness test. Before she goes to the Danish equivalent of the Vicars and Tarts course (She goes in as a Capt) she has a lot of core strength exercises to do. Lou, already doing her own exercises and (occasionally) the kids have embraced the new programme and the foredeck after breakfast is full of grunting, groaning and lots of “surely that’s 30 seconds by now?” comments.

I’ve been banned from putting a photo here –SH.

Ua Pou

I doubt you will recognise the name of the island. But I bet you have seen one of the classic Polynesian images to come from here. The 4000’ spires of this island are famous and often to be seen on promotional literature, extolling the beauty of the region. Although they are often clouded over, when it does go clear, they are spectacular.

P1020627  P1020653

We arrived at Hakahau, Ua Pao, the main village of the island after a slow but comfortable night sail from Hiva Oa. We had a little trouble with a suicidal parasail sheet overnight which necessitated a swim to untangle it from the stb propeller which it had wrapped itself around. Not much fun in 6’ of waves but quickly done.

We anchored on the inside of our friends Wolfgang and Kathi on Plastik Plankton, in very little water. Bar Isabela, this is the most protected and flattest anchorage we have seen for a while, with both a big breakwater and a brand new dock giving yachts lots of protection. It helps that it faces N, traditionally where little swell ever comes.

We arrived to find this strange ship in. It is a mix of cruise ship with cabins at the aft with container space to allow it to deliver goods to the islands. The tourists from it, all looking white and unhealthily blotchy or lobster like, are wandering around, mobbing the number of locals. The ship will depart tomorrow so we will have peace.

P1020636

There is a excellent, very clean sandy beach with no surf to pull the dinghy up on. Don’t bother putting your engine on. It is an easy row and you will need to lift your dinghy a long way up the beach to get it to the high water mark. The beach is well used by the locals. Fishing before first light, outriggers training finished by 0700hrs and then a variety of kids appear over the course of the day as the school has its own boat house on it. They do swimming, canoeing, running and occasionally horse riding on the beach. Lots of fun and laughter and a great excuse to ditch clothes!

P1020657  P1020696

The day starts early here. The bakery, a pink building 200m past the school boarding house runs out of bread by 0800hrs. Bread is even cheaper here than Hiva Oa at 54XPF a loaf (about 35p). However they also do croissants and pain au chocolat here (120XPF each) which we haven’t seen elsewhere. Oh to eat a civilised breakfast! We were surprised by the supermarket as well. A good range of stock if limited in variety.

Above the anchorage to the E, there is a hill with a cross at the top. We had heard that the walk up was worth the effort so filled the camelbak and headed off. We were slightly delayed when Hannah found a lamb crying to itself. A bit of petting was in order.

P1020660

After a little bit of aimless wandering requiring directions from a couple of locals, we found the road going up to the “power station”, a white building with a generator in it behind the beach which led on to the track we needed to follow. The walk up was an easy gradient but hot.  Make sure you take water.

P1020662 

The walk didn’t take long, no more than 45 minutes and we were stopping to look at the ever more impressive views. The view back down into the bay was worth the effort. Skylark is the only catamaran in. There is plenty of room and the holding is good in firm sand. As an aside, we have noticed a big drop off in the number of catamarans. Monohulls are definitely the more numerous which is a big change from the Caribbean. Most yachts are very well provided with solar, wind and those little touches that mark out a long distance traveller. It does mean there is always space for the cheeky catamaran who can anchor in three feet less water than our mono friends!

P1020666

From the top, the panoramic proved spectacular. The village of Hakahau is well spread out. It is the third biggest in the Marquesas with a population of around 1000, most of the island’s people being centred here.

P1020670

P1020673

Walking back down, we looked down into the next bay to the E. Completely deserted, it may require a day visit on our way back S as it has a reputation as an excellent surfing beach. It looks W and the swell comes straight in for much of the time.

P1020677  P1020679  

After we came back down, we finally managed to get a SIM card for the phone. A phone call later and we confirmed our winter haul out at Apataki in the Toamotus. We have told them that we will arrive in November and stay to Mar, which covers us for the cyclone season. We will be looking at flights from Apataki to New Zealand and for the purchase of an RV once we get to decent internet land, a rare place here.

Wolfgang and Kathi have decided that they will need to head off to the Toamotus tomorrow as the weather, good for the next few days, is going to turn very slack for a couple of weeks after that. They have been exploring the Marquesas for a month already and don’t want to get stuck here and lose the chance of more time in the Tuamotus. They have been getting their wind vane back into working order after it jammed on them. It was just blocked up with salt – a common event when sea spray dries so quickly in the heat here – and cured with a wash and clean.

P1020686 

There was time for a bit of fun of the back of Skylark and Hannah conducted diving lessons for Kathi. She progressed from the bottom step to the front of Skylark impressively quickly. We enjoyed one last evening of sundowners with them too – painkillers were the theme of the night. We are hoping that we will catch up with them further down island. They are great fun and good company.

 P1020688  P1020692

Hannah conched them off, the traditional Caribbean farewell!

P1020695

 

One of the less pleasant regular visitors we have are these enormous wasps. They are over an inch long and whilst they don’t seem to be aggressive, it is a little alarming to find one buzzing around your face. Thankfully, they don’t seem to mind being shooed out.

P1020694

We have only just scratched the surface here but we need to move on quickly to meet Mia at Nuka Hiva, the next island N. We want to visit some of the anchorages on the W of the island, one of which has a great walk into a couple of waterfalls. We will return in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, onwards N in 15kts of glorious SE trade wind!

P1020701

A Word on Watches

With only two of us able to stand watch, the long haul passages we did in the Caribbean proved tiring for us. We tried 2 hr and 3hr watches – just as we had on Army boats in days gone by and it worked reasonably well for short island hop passages. We were both used to it and doing stag is just doing stag after all! However, in all the longer passages we did, we quickly got tired. And I mean very tired. Need to sleep for a day to recover tired.

We have only twice had crew. Once just for a night, Lou from BVI to St Maarten and then Vicky for a week, from Jamaica down to Panama. The difference to Lou and I having someone else we could trust to stand watch was huge. 2 hrs on, 4 off. You suddenly have the chance to catch up on sleep, to be able to do something other than sleep when you come of watch. Maybe even actually enjoy the sail!

IMG_0807_thumb[1]

 

Back down to no crew as we couldn’t find anyone suitable, when we were contemplating the Panama to Galapagos passage, Lou and I decided to try something a little different. Lou and I have very different sleep patterns. Lou is a night owl and hates the morning. I on the other hand, far prefer an early night (she says its my age showing……cow) and am perfectly happy getting up at the crack of dawn. To that end we set up a modified watch system that allowed both of us to get what our bodies say they like.

Our watch for the pair of us is as follows

0001 – 0300  Stewart

0300 – 0600  Louise

0600 – 1100 Stewart (breakfast and kids morning routine)

1100 – 1500 Louise (lunch)

1500 – 1900  Awake period. A mix of adults and kids. E and H will stand for periods up to an hour each (weather and sail plan dependant). Lou will doze. Dinner before last light.

1900 – 2359 Louise

 

A note on the kids. As the kids have got older, we have asked the kids to stand more time on watch. Initially it was 30 mins just sitting beside one of us. As time has gone on, they have learnt how to use the autohelm, how to steer and critically to shout when they are unsure about something. It is Eleanor on the helm when we reef these days – she has an excellent understanding of Go, No Go (thanks, Ernesto!) and where to point and balance the boat whilst we raise or lower the mainsail. These days they will stand an hour each at a time. Even if the hat seems a little big on them, both have been a great help. The hour here or there that they do just takes a bit of pressure of Lou and I.

P1020254

We have used this system successfully for the Galapagos and now the Pacific crossing. It isn’t perfect. If the weather is difficult, then we do both get tired and need to doze during the Awake period but it seems to work far better than what we have used before.

We will have crew with us for some of our time in FP. Mia from Taranga will join us for a month or so and we are looking forward to some more sleep as we island hop. However, as we move W and just the family on board again, we will come back to this system.

We are happy with it.

Hauling out in the Marquesas

Up until last month (May 16), it was not possible to haul out in the Marquesas. Previously the first place you could do so in French Polynesia was at Apataki, one of the northern islands in the Tuamotos, 600miles W of the Marquesas or even further on,  at the larger facilities of Tahiti.

You can now. And boy, do you get a view!

P1020503

Vincent and his wife, Maria , the owners, have invested heavily in a brand new hydraulic trailer and tractor and now offer the ability to haul boats up to 25t out onto the hard by the jetty at Atuona. Vincent is the aircraft engineer at the Hiva Oa airport. The yard is set up in a old pit, mined out to supply spoil to build the breakwater. It is very sheltered.

They were hoping on getting two boats a month initially with the occasional other perhaps needing longer term storage.

What they have got is one boat out for the next eight months, four on longer term fixing projects in the yard and another twenty enquiries from yachts wanting out right now! Skylark is the third and largest catamaran on a short term (less than a week) haul. Plus the locals are starting to ask for an area for their boats too.  It has taken them rather by surprise as they thought it would take two to three years to get the word out.

They are a little limited with suitable boat supports (again all brand new) and can safely prop up six boats but due to the interest they have had, have an urgent order in for more props. The yard is basic with free water (not potable – untreated and straight from the nearby river as most water is here) and electricity (240V only). It is a grass field that they have started to settle out with gravel but is still soft when it rains. They intend to concrete the road up to the yard as well but they are planning to stage costs with other projects. A shower and toilet block, internet and a small store are in their plans over the next year too.

There are limited yacht services as yet but Vincent can source most generic parts you need from Tahiti with a lead time of 4-5 days. My replacement gear cable was $100, only 15% more than I would pay back in the UK.

Price wise, it is very reasonable. We paid around 11 Euro per ft for a two day haul out and a wash down. Monohulls are a little cheaper at 9 Euro per ft.

Hauling is done at high tide on the harbour slip with the tractor using a winch set at the yard gate to help it pull up the initial angle of the slope. For catamarans, the trolley supports are set to the inner width of the hulls and are adjustable up to 2.4m.

 P1020373  P1020376P1020378   P1020389  P1020391 P1020393   P1020394  P1020395 

 

We required to be hauled due to the worrying knocking of the rudders we had picked up on the way to Galapagos. Having dropped one of the rudders in Isabela with the help of the Starcharger crew and failed to dig out the old bearing, we needed to lift to get at it properly. Just as well. The old stb bearing was completely locked in. After several hours of cursing and helpful advice from everyone on the yard, it required  to be cut out. The bearing housing needed a lot of repolishing too. I think that whoever put the bearings in originally didn’t know what they were doing resulting in a fair bit of damage. I eventually froze the new stb bearing overnight which gave it just enough wiggle room to fit back in to its seating. The port bearing was an easy fix and took all of 20 mins to remove and replace.

 P1020401

When we dropped the rudders out, we found another problem. The stb rudder was cracked. Left to itself, the rudder would soon come apart, as it had done for So What this Spring, requiring a rebuild. Thankfully we caught it early.

P1020411

Having watched but not done fibre glassing myself before, Youtube became my friend. I learnt a great deal from a US model maker, whose lessons were supplemented by Sid, another French boat owner in the yard, who is in the midst of epoxying his hull with Copper Coat.

We needed three days to complete the work. Seems a long time to do what we did but we needed to allow the rudder to dry out, run around for the epoxy and hardener kit we needed to fix the rudder,  then to allow the layers of glass cloth to cure and finally to repaint it. In between dodging the rain. The rainy season has come early to Hiva Oa this year and we were getting an inch a day easy. It made life a little difficult but we had Skylark to hide under to work so were better off than the monohulls.

P1020410P1020417

 

Initial sanding and first coat of glass.

P1020399P1020415P1020416

 

Second coat of glass and then two coats of primer. We don’t have any antifouling left. Nor is there any on the island. It will have to last until we haul in the Winter.

 

P1020423P1020428P1020429

 

We also took the chance to refill the gas bottles, or rather, as much as you can using the technique below. Takes a while but we can get about half a bottle using this method. We should be able to get the US bottles refilled conventionally once we get to Tahiti. When Hannah wasn’t helping, then she was playing with Kimiora, Vincent’s daughter who was great fun.

P1020499  P1020506

 

Finally, whilst the sign on the gate may be a little rustic, I have to give Vincent and family a big thumbs up, both for having the gumption to set up a yard and for the help they gave us.  I’m quite sure they will do well with their endeavour. I recommend them to you.

 

P1020583  P1020517