May 2014 - Marquesas to Tuamotus

1 May 2014   Hanamoenoa to Taiohae, Nuku Hiva (Day 1)
We did a scuba dive in the morning off the northern headland of the bay.  It was a pleasant dive following the headland to the west and then heading north.  The depth dropped to 17 metres on the tip of the point, but then shallowed out to a coral plain at 10 metres around the corner.  There were lots of fish around and we saw another Spotted Eagle Ray cruising around above us.  Some very big Snappers were very curious and kept making close passes and we found a small Lionfish hiding away under a rock shelf – the first one that we’ve seen in the Pacific.

Starting to fillet a 5 foot long Dorado

The afternoon was spent filling dive tanks, making water, getting the dinghy on deck and tidying up ready for an overnight sail to the island of Ua Pou (pronounced “Ooa Poe”).  

We left at sunset and had mixed wind for the first few hours until we got out of the lee of Hiva Oa.   The rest of the night was lovely with a 15 knot wind on the beam and reasonably calm seas.   At our one o’clock change of watch, the wind and swell was coming from the North-east, so we decided to course and headed for Nuku Hiva because we felt that the anchorage at Ua Pou might be exposed to waves and very rolly.

2 May 2014   Hanamoenoa to Taiohae, Nuku Hiva (Day 2)
The lovely 15 knot wind continued until just after dawn, when we hit a lull and had to motor for an hour or so.   When we got sailing again, we hooked a big Dorado.  It took me 20 minutes to land it and the five foot long fish weighed 27lbs – the biggest that I've caught to date.

The anchorage of Taiohae is ¾ mile wide, which is a good job because there must be 50 boats anchored in the bay.  We did our normal meander through the anchorage to look for a spot close to the dinghy dock, but all of the boats were pointing in different directions and it was very difficult to know where their anchors were, so we plonked ourselves in the middle of the bay, a long way from other boats.

By the time we’d got ourselves settled it was nearly eleven o’clock and from bitter experience knew that the town would be shut down from 11 to 2, so we chilled out, had lunch and took our time to get the dinghy back into the water.  I put our 15hp outboard on the dinghy because we are so far from the dinghy dock and to my complete amazement it started after the third pull – not bad after being stored for ten weeks.

Around three o’clock, we whizzed over to the dock in the north east corner of the bay and tied up with the other 20 dinghies behind the small breakwater.  There are a couple of small cafes, a dive shop and a place called “Yacht Services”, which does laundry, fills cooking gas bottles, hires cars, provides free internet, etc .  It all seems very cosy and organised with cruisers sitting around in the cafes, chilling out while surfing the internet.

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva

After chatting to a few cruisers at the dock, we walked around town, which is spread out along the shore line.  There are only two small supermarkets, which have all the essential things apart from vegetables and fruit – we only saw potatoes, onions and one bag of carrots that Glenys grabbed as soon as she saw it.  We’re a bit disappointed because the supermarkets in Hiva Oa were better.

Other cruisers have told us that there’s a small farmers market tomorrow at the un-Godly hour of five o’clock in the morning.  It’s supposed to be a bun fight with locals and cruisers grabbing vegetables as soon as they are put out.  We don’t think that we’re that desperate (yet!)

3 May 2014   Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
I paid $5 for an hour’s internet on the boat so that I could download our email - the first time for five weeks.  We received 200 emails, but there was nothing of great importance, thank goodness.

After breakfast, we went ashore – Glenys wandered around the shops, while I parked myself in Yacht Services and, using their free wifi, did some more surfing on the internet, updating our website and sorting out a few bits of admin.  Glenys did well and found a small store that actually had some vegetables – pak choi, cucumber & green peppers, so she was very pleased with herself.

After lunch, Lonnie and Bona from “Good News” brought over their genoa because in a moment of madness, I’d said that Glenys would repair it for them.  We set up the sewing machine in the cockpit and Glenys then spent a few hours repairing a tear along a seam and re-stitching the sacrificial strip.  It was worth it because they kindly gave us a couple of boxes of “Clos” wine.

In the evening, we were invited to dinner by Glen and Erin on “Sundance”.  Glen had bought a third of a goat from a hunter in Vanuatu and wanted to share a Goat Curry with us.  We had a very pleasant evening and met Joe, Sally, Larry & Vicky from “Cygnus”, who came over for drinks after dinner.  I’m quite excited because Joe and Larry both play the guitar and we’re going to get together at some point in the next couple of weeks – first time that I’ve met some other guitar players for ages.

Hiking over to Colette Bay

4 May 2014   Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
In the morning, we went for a seven kilometre hike over to Colette Bay.  We walked around the bay towards the west and first visited the Cathedral, which is a nice open church with some impressive wooden doors and more of the lovely religious wood carvings, which abound in the Marquesan churches.

Further along the shore road, we came across an archaeological site, which contains a number of “Pae pae”, which are stone platforms used as foundations for ancient Marquesan houses.   The whole site was rebuilt twenty five years ago for a cultural festival and has a number of modern sculptures and Tiki made by local artisans.

At the west end of the bay, we started to walk up a dirt road past some very nice houses.  I love the way that everywhere in the Marquesas is clean and tidy and with flowering shrubs and fruit trees wherever you look - so different to Central and South America.  

It was a 20 minute grind up the dusty, steep road to a ridge.  Once over the col, the road is more shaded and gently descends to Colette Bay, which has a beach with black sand and a few homesteads growing Noni fruit.  This strange knobbly fruit tastes bitter and has a strong pungent smell, but is sold as a juice that is supposed to cure a wide range of ailments including cancer, heart disease and even HIV.

We didn’t stay long because I’m paranoid about “Nonos”, which are tiny little flies that live on the beaches of the Marquesas and are supposed to be ferocious leaving behind very itchy bites.  So far, touch wood, I’ve not been bitten, but that might be because whenever we’ve been near a beach, I’ve heavily sprayed myself with Deet.

We retraced our steps back to the dinghy dock, chatted to some of the cruisers at the café and retired back to the boat for a quiet relaxing Sunday afternoon, dozing and reading.

5 May 2014   Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
We had half a mind to try to leave today, but this place is like a huge magnet for cruisers and it just didn't happen.  Our morning was spent food shopping.  Glenys hunted out vegetables and we stocked up with drinks – beer, coke and Orangina, which with rum, has become my favourite tipple.   We had so much stuff that the supermarket gave us a lift back to the dinghy dock, which was useful.

The afternoon was taken up with more chores – washing clothes, collecting our cooking gas bottle, last minute internet and getting fifteen gallons of diesel, which was extortionate at almost 12,000 Polynesian francs ($120).  By the end of the day, we were feeling pretty exhausted.

Off to the supermarket in Taiohae

Dave and Jan from “Baraka” invited us over for sun-downers.  They've just finished their six year circumnavigation and are heading off to Hawaii tomorrow, then back to Seattle in the States.  Jan says that she’s feeling a bit weary with cruising and is now looking forward to being back home.  Having only gone 20% of the way around the world, I wonder when we’ll feel the need to stop.

6 May 2014   Taiohae to Baie Hooumi , Nuku Hiva
We made sure that we didn't go ashore this morning, so that we wouldn't be sucked into the cruiser vortex and stay another day.  Instead, we had a leisurely breakfast and upped anchor at about ten o'clock.  The wind was dead against us as we motor-sailed ten miles east under some very impressive sea cliffs into Controller Bay.

There are three bays and we chose the smaller, eastern one, Baie Hooumi, which is very dramatic.  It is surrounded by steep sided hills with rocky pinnacles reminiscent of the Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva.  There’s a sandy beach at the head of the bay with some buildings – we believe that there’s a small village there, but we didn't venture ashore.  We anchored in the middle of the bay in 7 metres of water.

We had a very musical afternoon with Glenys playing her ukulele and me playing my guitar – practising in case we meet up with “Cygnus”. 

The clouds built up during the afternoon and a big squall system passed to the south of us, bringing rain showers and strong katabatic gusts dropping down from the surrounding hills.  Unfortunately, these gusts were coming from seaward and we ended up with a large cliff to our stern.  Even though I felt that the holding was good and the cliff was 50 metres behind us, I found it unsettling, so we upped anchor and moved a little further out into 10 metres of water.

Thankfully, the gusts stopped late in the afternoon when the squall system moved away and we had a lovely settled night.

7 May 2014   Baie Hooumi to Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva
We motored around to Anaho Bay, passing under some sheer sea cliffs that were more impressive than the ones that we saw yesterday.  There’s a knife edge ridge along the headland, which looks like it would make a great scramble, but I think that some climbing gear would be needed to do it – unfortunately, all ours is back in the UK.

Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva

Several times during the two hour slog into the wind, we were accompanied by pods of dolphins including Spinner Dolphins, who entertained us with huge leaps out of the water, while doing a 360 degree spin.  It’s the first time that we’ve ever seen this.

Halfway along the coast, we passed by our friends on “Vanupieds” and “Nuwam”, who we haven’t seen since October.  We chatted on the VHF radio and they are planning to leave for the Tuamotus in a week’s time, so we might finally catch up with them there.  They left Isabela in the Galapagos three hours before we arrived and we only missed them by an hour this time, so we’re gradually catching them up.

The anchorage at Anaho Bay is lovely, with a white sandy beach fringed by a coral reef.  Behind the shore line, the land slopes up to a rocky ridge with some impressive cliffs.  There’s a small village ashore scattered among the swaying coconut palm trees.

The anchoring here is a little bit tricky because the seabed slopes slowly to 10 metres and then suddenly rises to a metre or less over the coral reef.  We motored around for ten minutes until we were happy with a spot in 12 metres and put out 50 metres of chain.  The only other yacht in the anchorage left in the afternoon, leaving us in splendid isolation for an hour, but a catamaran and two other sailboats arrived soon after and anchored close to us – God knows why because there’s plenty of room here.

We went snorkelling.  At first we looked near the cliffs on the west side of the bay, just around the corner from the anchorage, but the water looked dark and gloomy, dropping very quickly down to 10-15 metres.  There was also a strong current and lots of small jellyfish in the water, so we went back to the reef to the west of the anchorage which was very good.  There are lots of coral heads and the reef gradually slopes down to 10 metres.  As well as lots of reef fish, we spotted a large Octopus and a large White Tipped Shark in the deeper water.  When we saw it again (or another one) over the shallower reef, we decided to call it a day and got out of the water.