Tag Archives: Mia

Diving in French Polynesia – 2016

I thought I had put this up when we left FP to go to NZ but I’ve just realised I never got round to it. It is a collection of some of the better underwater photos we have taken. Only nine months late. Oops.  SH Jul 17

In 2015 I was blessed to meet Robert of Almost There, a US Navy trained Master Diver who needed a dive partner in Bequia. He informed me with a pointed finger I was it and introduced me to the sport. His methods of teaching were old school and doing remasking drills at 15m was fun. But he took me out, held my hand (literally and figuratively) and taught me the basics extremely well as well as, most importantly, his philosophy for diving, for which I am very grateful. Since then, I have not had a more conscientious or competent dive partner.

Having qualified a in Nov 15 at Scubatech, under the lovely Evelyn’s care in Prickly Bay, Grenada , I have managed to do quite a lot of diving. Not as much as I’d like but it gets expensive if you don’t have access to a compressor and a dive partner, which for large periods this year I haven’t. Dives average around $70 a dive and most days you will do two dives so $140 a pop. Refills on tanks are dear (running to $30 a go in Fakarava) and again soon mount up. Problematically in FP, there are few places you can get a fill, really the larger atolls only, so you can’t rely on a school helping you out on most atolls.  If you have friends with a compressor or have one yourself, it costs you the price of the filters you will contribute to replace every 25 fills, needed to clean the air.

One clear lesson. If there are two of you wanting to dive on board, then having a compressor would be every penny for a Pacific trip. Find the space!

Fakarava was one of our primary targets for this year’s travels as it has a reputation for having some of the very best diving not just in French Polynesia but in the whole of the Pacific. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I started with a couple of dives up in the N pass. This is a deep drift dive going down to around 36m. After I had been asked what diving I had done, I was sent away with the schools own awful instruction document (French to English courtesy of Google Translate) which I decided to rewrite, if only so I actually understood what I was supposed to learn. I’ve always found that writing an instruction manual or guide is an excellent way to embed knowledge and I passed the test without issue. TopDive Fakarava N should be thankful!

The two dives in the N pass were interesting but not brilliant. We dropped into the blue and were swept on to the mouth of the pass, landing on the drop-off at 38m, 20m more than technically I was qualified for with my PADI Open Water and a couple more than the PADI recommended max with Nitrox (although 2m less than the absolute limit). The current runs very strong (3-4kts)and we were holding on tight to stop us from being swept in to the lagoon as we waited to see if any sharks would come to take a look at us. A few did, some Greys, and we then swept on through the pass bouncing up and down between 25-35m. We did see small schools of pelagic fish but we were moving too fast to really enjoy the few reef fish we saw. Dive two was a rerun of the first but with slightly more current, having lost half an hour of time waiting for a cruise ship to enter the pass. Waiting to drop in, we saw thousands of Sooty terns and 15-20 Devil Rays feeding on the surface which was the highlight of the day. The dive again was interesting without being fantastic. I found some white tips teeth on one of the sandy patches and passed them on to the girls.

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I have to admit I was very pleased to see Taranga arrive at Rotarua. Soren is a great guy and had first filled my tanks for me all the way back in Panama. He was very keen to get to the better S Pass and we travelled in company with him. For him to stay in the S for any length of time, he needed water as he has an emergency watermaker only and I would need air if I wanted to dive. It seemed a good swap and sweetened by a kilo of our honey (he had run out), Skylark for post dives coffee and teas, bug spray (we won’t talk about this….) and some petrol during our three weeks in the S, I think we were both happy with the arrangement.

The diving in the S Pass can only be described as spectacular. In terms of reef fish, ease of dive, shark population or coral density, I have never seen anything like it. We dived mainly on the incoming current, our outgoing experiences being mistakes hitting the water late in the tide, finding ourselves working hard. The outgoing was used by the dive schools to bulk up their paying customer’s dive time but we found that the visibility markedly decreased as silt and sand from the inside of the atoll was swept out. Whilst still a good 10-25m it didn’t compare to the frequent 50m+ of the incoming clear deep ocean water.

We dropped in normally to about 18m and generally stayed to the side of the pass wall, dropping to no more than 25m so we didn’t bother the sharks. We did go along the pass floor on one occasion, swimming beneath the approaching sharks, but they didn’t like it and quickly disappeared. Down at 32m you don’t have a huge amount of bottom time and it was more fun to stay between 15-25m.  On our best day, we finished the dive staggered by the number of sharks we saw. Normally we would see 100-200 on what is known as The Wall of Sharks; that day it was just a solid wall of them. We reckoned 500+, a mix of Black Tip, White Tip, Grey and a huge lone Silver Tip, all sitting in the incoming current. Just amazing.

All us divers need to say a special thank you to Lou who always came with us to snorkel the pass and look after the dinghies until it came time to pick us up at the end of the dive. We couldn’t have dived without you.

Whilst I think I got some good photos I have been wishing I had a decent underwater camera with the ability to zoom in. All of these shots were taken with a GoPro 4 Silver, a good camera but limited by having a fixed lens. You needed to be very close to small fish to be able to take a decent still and I’m afraid small fish are just too afraid to sit still enough to let you get close enough! Where the GoPro excels is film. I am inexpertly put together a small video segment which gives you a decent flavour of what diving in the S pass is like. I’ll link it in here when I am eventually finished.

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Diving in Toau as very different. We did one drift dive from outside the pass which was hard work as we had to deal with a big northerly surge. The dive at the N end of the atoll was better and going along the wall was great fun, trying to find all the caves talked about in the Compendium. They were pretty good and it was wonderful seeing the occasional huge pelagic swimming just at the edge of our vision off the wall in the deep.

Ann-Helen and John at the Wall of Anse AmyotCaves at TouaMoray Eel at Anse AmyotOn the Wall at Toua

I’m not sure if I have spoilt myself with the superb diving I have been able to do here but I have caught the bug in a big way and am praying for more of the same as we go through the Pacific next year. I have been extraordinarily lucky in meeting up with friends happy to help me fill my bottle daily and I doubt if I will be as lucky next year but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll find other like minded souls. I do know it should get easier to find dive shops able to fill bottles as we get to more populated places but I still need dive partners.

To those who have dived with me this year, a big thank you. They are John from Mary Ann II, Ann-Helen and Harvard from Wilhelm, Soren and all the rest of the mob from Taranga, a special mention to Mia, Olivia and David of El Nido and a few others who made guest appearances. It has been a great education.

My dive on the wall with Ann-Helen and Harvard proved to be the last dive before we hauled out and headed for New Zealand. I’m so looking forward to planning and researching more diving for next year, perhaps with Eleanor in tow if we can arrange it. I can’t wait.

Fakarava Diving

Happy Christmas 2017

We decided to splash out for Christmas. On the basis that we had been invited to Vaughn and Sylvia’s for a pre-Xmas drinks party on the 24th and ZigZag were in the nearby Half Moon Marina, we found an Air BnB house for rent near both and moved in for three days.

The do at Vaughn and Sylvia’s was great fun. The kids played in the heated pool, the grown ups (the men at least) looked longingly at Vaughn’s rather glorious speakers that had come all the way from Glasgow and his excellent BBQ. The selection of beer was impressive and the enormous fillet of beef that we were spoilt with tasted fantastic. Added to that the platters of salads, cheese, biscuits, many types of bread meant that the meal was a joyful event. Our thanks again to Sylvia for the organisation and Vaughn for his excellent BBQ skills. Quite an undertaking the day before Christmas.

Irene took over kids’ entertainment after dinner and they all had a great time singing Christmas songs in a variety of languages! It all seemed to work although asking the Dads to judge the costume dressing up competition was a little dangerous.

Christmas 2017

Christmas Day was spent at the Air BnB house. It was a pretty little three bedroom house with a hot tub in the back garden and most importantly a decent kitchen to cook in. I will say that the general cleanliness of the kitchen left a little to be desired but a couple of hours of scrubbing brought it up to standard. I hope the owner appreciated our efforts when they returned from their Xmas away.  The house also had a washing machine! This was run practically non-stop with ZigZag catching up on their loads too – never has laundry been so enjoyable.

Santa delivered as expected and by way of Fiona Foura’s parents, we were able to pick up presents kindly sent from the UK from the family too. I’m not sure just how sane it was to buy Eleanor a chemistry set but she is already had fun making smells and bubbles!

Christmas 2017

The kids had a huge smile on their faces up to the point we made them wait for the arrival of ZigZag for the opening of the presents from us! ZigZag dutifully arrived just as the kids were ready to explode, with Irene’s sister, Mareike, over for the holidays in tow.

We had a lovely meal with a mix of British and German delicacies being added to the table, offering the traditional Henderson starter of cream of turkey and parsley soup. The parsley was courtesy of the Chinese market we found at the racecourse on our way back from picking up ZigZag’s new car on Christmas morning. Good thing the large Chinese community doesn’t celebrate Christmas! The main course was turkey followed by a huge sticky mascarpone wonderfulness made by Irene and Mareike. We had managed to find a good size turkey, the last in the shop, but had failed miserably in our attempt to find decent chipolatas. NZ just doesn’t do decent sausages. We have found a single butcher on our travels that would make what we would class as what is comparable to the standard we would find at our local butcher in the UK.  Bread sauce and cranberry sauce were generally enjoyed; I’m afraid the sauerkraut was less so! Each to their own. The one item that Lou was hugely disappointed not to have on her plate was Brussels sprouts. As it is high summer down here, they were, regrettably, out of season.

Christmas 2017

Whilst our girls are by no way grown up, it is always fun to be around really smalls for Christmas. Noah was very helpful in unwrapping everybody’s presents whether asked for or not! Mia had a lovely time playing and cuddling a new doll.

Christmas 2017

After the meal, we retired to the hot tub and had a very pleasant afternoon bubbling away with a certain amount of NZ bubbles helping us along. Toasty!

A Happy Christmas to one and all!

 

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Makemo

We left Raroia for the 80 mile overnight trip, hitting slack water perfectly at about 1130hrs. Just as we left the pass, we had an unusual visitor. A big dolphin, swimming upside down started to rub itself on the  port bow in an attempt to get rid of two Remora that were determined but obviously unwelcome visitors. It stayed with us for five minutes twisting, turning and bumping. The Remoras simply slipped position whenever it tried to hit them on the hull and as we were obviously no use as a scratching post, it moved off.

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After two weeks of flat atoll water, it felt strange to have a sea running again, even the 1m swell we had. As we turned SW on course a front meandered pass and our chance of a simple sail disappeared. 13kts of wind from the E and 4kts boat speed lasted all of 15 minutes. The wind dropped to 5 then 3 then 2kts. We threw the parasail up for an hour and managed a whole 0.8kts SOG before giving in and switching on an engine as the wind moved into the W very briefly then S. It took three hours to flick back E but once it did the main and jib went back up for the ungenerous 8kts we got. We had a slow night but in the end we timed in pretty well. I was surprised to see a lighthouse guiding us in towards the entrance, the first one we have seen in a long time. I think the last one we saw marked the southern point of Haiti and DR. We spotted it at a range of 20 miles as we came around the southern end of Taenga. We arrived at the SE pass of Makemo at slack water but waited an hour for some proper light and were carried in by a current of around 4kts. There were a few standing waves as we went past the large, white painted but unlit leading marks, but nothing worrisome.

We decided to use the excellent village pier which is free to use and initially tied up where the ferry would come in before moving to a med style mooring further in as the onshore wind increased. A Swedish catamaran, Alexander,  choose to anchor behind the pier and had a very nervous night as the SSE wind picked up to 30kts in gusts with just 30m of water behind them before they would be on the reef. They all looked tired when we met them ashore in the morning having had to do a double anchor watch. I slept beautifully.

ZigZag joined us the next morning. They had spent the extra day in Raroia trying to fix their watermaker. Sadly the patch Georg had tried couldn’t take the pressure and it had burst again. Their only solution is to buy a new pressure vessel which they think they should be able to get in NZ. We parked up together. With the wind howling and our wind generator trying to take off, there was no problem with power and our watermaker went on for some long runs to get them filled up as much as we could. To save us the heavy lifting,  we organised our own “ferry” to take water containers back and forward. It worked well!Makemo

We waited three days for the reinforced trades to depart, safely tied on to one of the best piers we have seen, sitting in crystal clear water with lots of fish around. The water is a little colder here and it may be that reason that the reef seems far healthier than those we have seen so far. It was a bit like swimming in a fish tank. Georg and I both had a quick go at ridding ourselves of some growth on the hulls. Skylark was pleasantly clear with just a few barnacles on the rudders. The hulls have a little slime on them – nothing to worry about – although the primer is showing through the antifouling in a lot of places.  I hoped it would last a little more than 6500Nm which is mileage we have done since we left Grenada nine months ago. Next time around, I’ll choose a hard paint or even better, an epoxy coppercoat……..

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The girls had a great time rollerblading around, swimming and playing with the local kids, both Polynesian and French, the sons and daughters of the atoll’s doctor and nurse, newly arrived on the island for a two year posting. There was time for baking with licking the bowl out, as always, being one of the more popular activities.

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The main village of the island is Pouheva, on the N side of the pass. It has a population of less than 300 which jumps to over 400 during school term times as it hosts the main school for the surrounding islands and the kids board. By size and population, it is one of the biggest atolls and it is used as one of the central hubs within the islands, Hao, Gambier, Rangiroa and Fakarava being the others. It is one of the few islands in the Tuamotus with a doctor appointed to it who is there to cover for the school and the surrounding islands as well.

We have been surprised and pleased at the shopping here. There is a proper boulangerie (bread available from 0900hrs on a Mon and Fri, 0530hrs the rest of the week including 0530-0700 on Sun) and a large shop which is an Uig size store, about half the size of the big Marquesas ones but very proud of the three shopping trolleys stored by the door. Both are reasonably stocked and have the normal range of red label goods. We even found green peppers and a cauliflower in the store and the boat hasn’t been here for nearly two weeks! They are close together at the W end of the village and are about a 10 minute walk from the pier. The big store has a restaurant beside it with a menu of fish and steak. There are another two shops, one right by the pier which has a far smaller stock and offers an expensive laundry service, and “Chez Flo”, opposite the church which has even less but which does have a small kitchen dinner and does single recipe dinners for 1000XFP a head. Although it is popular with the locals, we didn’t try it.

Makemo

The village has a bit of money in it, copra being the mainstay industry but with a couple of fledgling pearl farms and I suspect, excellent French subsidies. All the garden walls are painted purple and white, houses are in good nick, there are solar powered streetlights throughout the village and people appear busy. They are also very friendly with everyone passing giving a “Bonjour” and a smile. Their friendly nature and willingness to interact made me think of the people at Spanish Wells in the Bahamas. There are a few cars on the very flat concrete roads but most people use bikes or tricycles to get around. Mia fitted in well with her little balance bike and attracted a few smiles. The speed limit is a whole 15kph – which of course gives everyone the chance to be sociable as they drive on by. The only down side is that all the dogs here seem to be big mastiff/pitbull crosses which are a little off putting.

Makemo

We stayed one extra day to see a church procession walked around the village. The town boasts the largest church we have seen in French Polynesia and in some of the guide books, it is talked about as a cathedral. It is certainly impressive and as always in the islands, with religion taken seriously here, the church is a focal point for the locals. Georg and Irene, both of whom describe themselves as lapsed Catholics, were interested to watch a ceremony that both had been part of as kids back in Germany. Even though the service was all in Polynesian, Georg was able to tell us the individual prayers at each of the six procession stops around the village.

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Having coped with the excitement of the procession and had a good explore of the village, we finished the day with sundowners and crisps by the lighthouse before moving back for dinner aboard ZigZag.

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After loading up with bread and milk, we headed down to the SE corner of the atoll. Once you get within a couple of miles of the end of the atoll, the number of small bombies increases to the point I felt we were slaloming around them. You need to keep the speed down, go in the late morning to get best light and have a very good look out. Most would not be dangerous to us with our 1.2m draft but the odd one would have stopped us cold.  We anchored in 20’ at 16 23.42S 143 23.64W and buoyed the anchor for the first time. We had to change the floats around to get the chain off the ground and I think we will need more buoyancy on the first float going forward. However, our first night had us turning as a front went over us and we woke unwrapped and pleased with ourselves. We made sure that we kept a good look out on the anchor, checking it daily to ensure a good hold and that we were doing no damage to any coral as we swung.

Makemo

ZigZag’s luck continued to be rotten. On the way down to our new anchorage, their auto pilot and anemometer both decided to roll over and die. Georg and I had a morning of taking the autopilot apart, checking connections and we had Eleanor up the mast cutting some fishing line inexplicably caught around the spinner. Although we got wind measurements back, the autopilot failed to spark. Raymarine 6001+ spare anyone? Their saving grace is that they have a windvane steering system so they will survive as long as there is wind. We managed a few days exploring the motu we were anchored off, playing in the shallow warm water behind the reef. The girls enjoyed more babysitting duties, looking after the smalls.

We were visited a couple of times by pie eyed locals down maintaining the coconut groves and drinking homemade coconut hooch, presenting us with fresh coconuts each time. We reciprocated with some yogurt cakes that we dropped off with them.  Copra is still the major source of income here and the undergrowth in the groves is cleared out to maximise the trees output. It also means very few bugs which means a beach day is a very pleasant affair.

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With the wind scheduled to increase and their need to move on quicker than us, ZigZag left us on the day of the full moon to run up to Kaeuhi. They will spend a few days there before jumping down to Tahiti, hopefully to pick up new equipment to replace what is broken. They left with full water tanks after a final water run and a breakfast on ZigZag to say goodbye. A big thank you to Irene for forward planning a big can of Heinz Baked Beans for us to enjoy, some of the stock she put on nearly two years ago in Germany. Wonderful foresight!  There were a few tears from the girls. They have enjoyed having Mia to play with and the chance to haul out lots of Barbies, something they haven’t done for a while. Hannah gave Mia her Princess pink fishing rod and we hope that it will have been a success by the next time we see her.

We will be sorry to miss Noah’s first birthday at the end of the month but we enjoyed watching his first steps outside the Mayor’s office in the village. By the time we next see ZigZag, in NZ in November, he will be truly off and running. I’ll also be missing Noah shouting across to Skylark, wanting a conversation with us each morning. It was always a good excuse to go across and enjoy a cup of coffee. And yes, the water is that colour here before I get accused of photo-shopping!

Makemo

We had a few more days of strong wind and we were glad to be behind the reef as it looked distinctly unpleasant outside. The underlying swell in this part of the Pacific seems to be about 1.5-1.8m in height. Reinforced trades when a front comes through (20-25kts rather the normal 12-18kts) will quickly build that and this was about 3m. The most we have seen inside an atoll was a short 1m sea on a long fetch from the W which lasted an hour. Most of the time it is less than 15cm. What we have noticed is with the constant trade wind having a southerly component, whistling up from the Southern Ocean, the air temperature feels far colder than in the Marquesas. Our jug showers are done out of the wind, we have moved inside for our evening meal and bedtime includes PJs and blankets again. Of course, the temperature doesn’t drop below about 78F but it is all relative. Out of the breeze the sun is as warm as ever, somewhere in the low to mid 90Fs.

Makemo - credit to ZigZag

The snorkelling at the SE corner of the atoll has been excellent – some of the best we have had. We have stuck to the warm shallows and have finally managed to find areas that aren’t completely covered with young Sea Cucumbers which makes the bottom look as if it is covered with small turds. We have spotted some gorgeous fish. The list of new ones we have seen is impressive and it feels like the Bahamas again. There we were amazed at the number of new fish we saw each time we went into the water. It is even better here. Just today’s list included Exquisite Wrasse, an Achilles Tang,  Blue Damsel, Neon Damsel,  Pale Tail Chromis and a couple that we are still working at identifying. The number of Giant Clams and amount of hard coral types around has been impressive too.

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We have also been joined by some juvenile sharks in the shallows and adults around the bombies in the deeper water around the boat. Sleek and efficient, Hannah doesn’t like them much as they wander in for a look before gracefully disappearing back out of sight. We still haven’t seen anything other than Black Tips. Lou’s and the girl’s legs are in the background. The sharks don’t come any closer than about 3m.

Makemo

After my birthday on the 23rd (Shona will be pleased to know that although a tube of Smarties didn’t materialise, mush and a BIG can of beans did!) and a last long walk along the edge of the reef, we moved back up to Pouheva to allow us to get some internet and contact with home. Although we are on the other side of the world, we were able to dial in to talk to my parents before their Golden Wedding anniversary party. Although we were sad not to be there to celebrate the momentous day, it was great to catch up with them and Emily. The invitation to family, hopefully passed on by Dad, stands for those that want to visit the exotic Pacific and see places the tourists will never find. Remember we will only be here for a little time next year before we head home. Send us a mail and we will tell you where we will be.

There has been a certain amount of grooming going on. My hair poses no problems these days; No2 all over, minimal effort and quickly done. Lou’s on the other hand, has been suffering as there are no other women to trust with the scissors. Her proper last hair do was by Jennie from So What, so long ago in Saint Martin. In the end, Hannah got to attack the back and take a bit off and then I got to do some styling with the clippers. Lou seems pleased with both our attempts but then she can’t see the back since the girls broke the one hand mirror we had on board!

Makemo

We stayed at Pouheva for another few days as we realised that if we wanted to be organised for New Zealand, we had to start planning ahead. Both girls need new passports and so internet applications were made out. We still need to send in new photographs and finding somewhere to take correct ones may be difficult.  My new driving licence has been ordered. I don’t think Lou has any wish to drive all the time in NZ and fixed that without me even asking for it. We are also looking at doing some volunteer work, staying with a family outside Auckland and working on a farm. Something different!

We found that in our absence, hiding down in the SE corner of the atoll, civilisation in the shape of a brand new ATM had arrived and been installed by the Post Office. This is a very big deal as it makes it one of few atolls (we think three or maybe four, spread over the whole of the Tuamotus) to have one. It will be a point in their favour in attracting more of next year’s boats travelling through looking to replenish funds.

As we have readied ourselves to move on, we have been having fun with all the fish surrounding us back on dock. Drop a few crumbs of bread and you end up with schools of fish appearing. Every time I see one of these unicorn fish, I have flash backs but can’t make up my mind if they are from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life or one of the weirder Beatles videos. Someone put me right please!

Makemo  Makemo

We have loved Makemo and the mix that this atoll offers. The people of the village are happy and welcoming, our ability to reprovision with more than just the very basics was a pleasant surprise and the solitude offered in the SE corner of the atoll is glorious. And the water, crystal.

Simply beautiful.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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! 

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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.

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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.

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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……

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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 ………

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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.

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

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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!

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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.