Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just like kids!

Yesterday we snorkelled again at Hanamoenoa Bay of the Marquesan island called Tahuata and then went ashore to collect some fruit from the many trees that we had seen yesterday. We collected only a couple of papayas as they were still a bit small and not quite ready yet. But the pamplemousse trees were full of these very large and very sweet grapefruit-type fruits.

We ate 3 on the sandy beach with juice dripping down our faces and bodies, feeling like little kids again! With 10 more in bags along with the papayas and a few limes, we swam out from the shore to where our dinghy was anchored and headed back to Sea Turtle.

We finally pulled ourselves away from this splendid bay today at 11:00 but only went to the very next bay, Ivaiva, a few minutes away. Ivaiva (S09°54.750' W139°06.450') had better visibility for snorkelling and we saw an array of very bright coloured tropical fish in the warm water.

Jordan deep snorkelled on the other point searching for supposed lobster, but no luck. He did spot one 6-foot black tip shark though (they do not pose a threat).

We pulled anchor 3.5 hours later at 14:30 for the next bay about half an hour away. We dropped the hook at Vaitaha Bay, also known as Resolution Bay (S09°56.200' W139°06.620'). Captain Cook landed at this same bay with his ship Resolution back in 1774.

Vaitaha Bay

We dinghied ashore, bought a couple of things from the store, and asked where we could get bananas and mangoes. The store clerk said to just ask around outside so we did. A man took us to his house where he handed us several bananas on a stalk and then we followed him outside to a tall mango tree which he climbed in bare feet and tossed several down to Jordan's waiting hands. He charged us a meagre $5 for all this fruit which we happily paid.

As we settled in for the evening on Sea Turtle, we watched several children frolicking in the warm ocean water.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tahuata

We left Taahuka Bay at Hiva Oa Island (Marquesas) at 12:45 on June 24th to go to a nearby island called Tahuata. At 15:00 as we approached the island, we spotted several large beautiful manta rays in the clear baby blue water. As soon as we dropped anchor in Hanamoenoa Bay (S09°54.439' W139°06.270'), we leaped into the water and snorkelled the nearby northern rocky shoreline. The water was so clear we could see our anchor in 15 metres (50 feet). Jordan excitedly pointed out a brilliant lionfish to me. This fish is very venomous but so amazing to watch as its long spiny feather-like fins swayed in the water. We did not see any mantas as they had vacated the bay as we anchored.

The next day, we spotted a manta from Sea Turtle so we got in the water with our snorkelling gear on and were able to swim with this graceful creature!!

Later we dinghied ashore to check out the sandy beach and Jordan climbed a coconut tree and tossed down several coconuts which we took back to Sea Turtle. Over the next several days, we drank the juice and gorged on the sweet meat.

Once again the next day (June 26th), we spotted a couple of manta rays. Unfortunately we had broken our underwater GoPro camera so we were using another not very good camera. The manta was coming real close and doing multiple somersaults - almost as if it was performing for us. Jordan dove and swam alongside of it but sadly we were only able to get poor shots of this spectacular encounter.

Jordan approaching the manta ray

Performing somersaults as we view his underbelly

Later in the day, our friends Bruce and Jeannie of SV Jabula caught up with us but were too tired to join us ashore to watch the sun sink away and relax in front on the bonfire.

Jordan stoking the fire

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hiva Oa

After a fun day of breadmaking lessons from friends Bruce and Jeannie (SV Jabula), we pulled anchor from Daniel's Bay (Nuku Hiva) on the 20th of June at 10:00 to head for another Marquesan island called Ua Pou (pronounced Wa-Poo). It was just starting to sprinkle a bit and once we cleared the bay, we looked back and saw it was entirely socked in and pouring. But we were in 60% cloud cover and no rain - perfect timing to leave!

Distant island of Ua Pou...


...and getting a closer look.


We bypassed the main village on Ua Pou as there was a NE wind making it difficult to get to and it would have been a very rolly anchorage. We scouted out several anchorages on the SW side but none were suitable so we decided to continue on to Hiva Oa, doing an overnighter on a close reach point of sail.

About 1 hour from Hiva Oa as we were going through a channel, we were surrounded by about 15 dolphins with some jumping high out of the water. I briefly caught this one in the distance.


At Hiva Oa, we stern tied with 20 other boats on June 21st at Taahuku Bay (S09°48.258' W139°01.943') at 11:00. Here our eyes were treated to a splendid scene of verdant landscaping with steep rocky cliffs covered in tropical growth as the backdrop.

Judy washing laundry at the seaside sink and shower

One day we walked and hitchhiked into the town, Atuona, and checked in with the "Gendarmerie" (French officials). Famous French painter Paul Gauguin spent time at Hiva Oa and was buried in the cemetery of Autuona at the age of 54 in 1903.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cascade Tevaipo

We lifted anchor from Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva (Marquesas) at 12:15 on June 15th for a 1.5 hour motored voyage to Hakatea Bay (S08°56.594' W140°09.847'), also known as Daniel's Bay, and also on Nuku Hiva Island. This is the location of the Tevaipo Waterfall, the 3rd tallest in the world at 350 metres.

On June 17th, with Bruce and Jeannie of SV Jabula, we hiked the long trail - depending on one's hiking ability, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. The forested trail varied with rocky areas, a lot of gnarly trees, a few muddy areas from the evening's rain, about 3 creeks to cross - some knee-deep - and a narrow path through a lush green field of groundcover.

Judy and Jordan traipsing through creek

Along the way, we travelled at times on footpaths built up by the ancient inhabitants of this valley as well as passing by remains of their long abandoned village.

Upon arrival at the falls, it was not what we had been envisioning. We had seen several pamphlets and postcards showing the entire 350-metre stretch of the waterfall surrounded by verdant green cliffs - perhaps aerial photos.

However, at the end of our hike, only the bottom of the waterfall as it fell from its upper hidden cliffs could be seen from where we stood. We ate our picnic lunch and then got into the cool pool of water where we swam to make our way in behind the large boulders.

Jordan at lower left checking to see what is behind boulders

But the view behind these boulders was quite stunning and breathtaking. We all gasped as it came into our sight - the tall black indentation of the cavern wall, the jutting peaks behind us, and the glistening lower portion of the waterfall cascading into the pool depths. After admiring the scene, we swam right under the falls and revelled in the outward spray and downrush of water.

But it was getting late...time to hike back to our respective boats after a great day.

Jordan and Bruce of SV Jabula

At the end of our hike, we met up with a local man who offered to remove the outside husk of the coconuts we had collected by thrusting them against a sharp rod sticking out of the ground. He was adorned with several of the traditional Polynesian tattoos.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Here comes Jabula

Our good friends, Bruce and Jeannie of SV Jabula, met us at Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva Island in the Marquesas 3 days after we anchored. We have been waiting since 2009 to share the same anchorage with them but have always had conflicting issues or schedules to this was a real celebration!

Bruce and Jeannie in their dinghy - Bon Jour!

Jordan arranged a fishing derby for June 11th with 7 boats participating (Boomerang, Cornelia, Jabula, Lay Lady Lay, Lightspeed, Yara, and Sea Turtle), Only 1 Barracuda was caught by Lay Lady Lay, though Jabula did report 4 bites.

We noticed an odd sight while trolling for fish in the dinghy. Many, many dolphins were seen at rest near the shore edge (around 100 possible). as we approached, many started to swim by the dinghy and Jordan took underwater video of them as they frolicked. Even though we didn't catch a fish, this experience made our day!

Dolphins beneath dinghy

The next day we toured the island with Bruce and Jeannie in a rented 4x4 and bumped over a real gnarly back road. Scenery was magnificent...

View below

Oceanside

and this statue was interesting to say the least...


With an invitation from Jabula for dinner last night, we surreptitiously planted a large plastic cockroach in their galley (kitchen). (This was very mean for us to do as Jabula had a terrible infestation of cockroaches when they had to unexpectedly leave their fully stocked boat on the hard for 2 years in Mexico.)

Alarmed at the site of the creature but keeping her reaction in check, Jeannie quickly knocked it into the sink, putting a mug over it for Bruce to deal with it after company had left. But not a word was said, even for most of the day while we toured around with them. Jordan was debating whether to mention it but refrained until Jeannie gave him a nice piece of her delicious cake wherein was planted the critter. "Touché!"

Tailgate lunch with a hidden surprise

The friendly locals gave us delicious hand-picked mangoes, coconut, and pamplemousse (large sweet grapefruit). So delicious...words just can't describe the goodness when it's this fresh.

Folks are advised not to swim in Taiohae Bay where we are anchored as sharks are visibly present. We watched huge ones feeding on scraps at the fish dock. Below, caught by locals, are gigantic tuna at the cleaning table - scraps are tossed into the ocean.


Now that we are in the French Polynesia, everyone speaks French. So much for all the Spanish we learned! We keep using Spanish when trying to converse with the locals as it has become habit and unfortunately we do not know any French.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

MARQUESAS - Nuku Hiva

Upon pulling anchor from Isla Santa Cruz of the Galápagos Islands on May 11th at 13:30, we almost turned around and returned after a couple of hours. Not because we loved our stay at the Galápagos so much, (which we did!) but because our (not so) faithful autopilot once again refused to engage properly.

But thankfully after a couple of hours of hand steering, Jordan did some adjusting to the rudder angle indicator (sensor part of autopilot) and got it working. It finally kicked in and relieved us from sitting at the helm. As we passed Isla Isabela with Galápagos' last occidental village, we decided to take a chance that it would not quit during the passage and we were off!

But our passage to the Marquesas in the French Polynesia was not what we were expecting, or should I say, hoping for. At first there were little or no winds as the ITCZ (intertropical convergence zone) - that band of dead air that wraps the global oceans at or near the equator separating the north and south air masses - was over us. So after 1.5 days motoring to get some southing in search of the trade winds, we picked them up, set our sails and didn’t touch them for 4 days, running due west along the 4 degrees latitude south with the benefit of the westbound equatorial current. We thought we would have a great sail with the nice steady trade winds but instead we were at the vicissitude of the winds, waves, and rain cells making for inconsistent conditions. As the saying goes,
"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails."
We did a whole lot of adjusting sails!

Other than the aforementioned, this crossing was typical in many respects. After multiple passages, we now easily fall into the lazy rhythm, passing the time with such things as reading, watching movies, writing, and daily deck checks which include cleaning it of flying fish and squid! We had no more engine problems.

First day out, Jordan caught a huge yellowfin tuna, after about a 2-hour fight. It was so big and heavy that he struggled to bring it on deck - a very rotund plump fish. We saved enough for about 10 meals, the rest we had to return to the sea and share it with the fishes as we had no way of safely preserving it for a long period of time.

Too heavy to lift!

We saw few boats - a couple of freighters - about 3 days out then nothing until Day 14 where we crossed close paths with a slow moving Japanese fishing ship that Jordan made contact with to make sure he saw us. They go to great distances for their pelagic harvest.

The start of our passage was under a sliver of waning moon. We had many dark nights with only start to light our way. But slowly, it made its appearance once again as we watched it wax to full. The Milky Way here was as vivid as white powder on a black canvas so much so that at first we thought it was clouds, but after repeated nocturnal observations, it was evident. In this pearly band, the Southern Cross (the southern hemisphere's equivalent to the North Star) was showing us the way.

Day 23 - June 23rd. Getting close to land. Had a couple of dolphins at our bow, 1 mom and 1 baby. How cute is that! Also several boobie birds and seagulls making an appearance. The moon was full and so bright.

Land Ho! We spotted the first Marquesan island, Ua Huka, off in the distance the next day at 16:15.

On Day 25, we entered Taiohae Bay (pronounced Ty-o-ha-eh) at Nuku Hiva island of the Marquesas at 09:00 (S08°54.927' W140°05.881') just as the moon was relinquishing light to the rising sun. Jordan counted 39 other boats in the anchorage. We set our clocks to Marquesas time of 06:30 (2.5 hours earlier than Galápagos time). New exploring to begin!

We have completed 4 major passages in the last 6 months: from Ecuador to Easter Island, Easter Island to Chile, Chile to Galápagos, and now Galápagos to Marquesas. This put us out to sea for a total of 83 days out of 199 days which is close to half. That's a lot of time to be out to sea in a short period of time for us!

F.Y.I. The French Polynesia consists of 5 archipelagos which means 5 groups of islands. We will be visiting 3 of these groups: our first is the Marquesas, next will be the Tuamotus, and finally the Society Islands.

We will NOT be visiting the 2 more southern groups called the Gambiers or the Australes (do not confuse with Australia!) The 5 archipelagos include 120 islands spread over 4.5 million square kms in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As we are only allowed to stay in this area for a total of 3 months, the number of islands we can visit is limited.