Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lovely Ua-Pou, Marquesas

Approaching Ua Pou, the prettiest island from the sea.
The native language is full of vowels! Depending on the emphasis and accent, the same letters sound completely different. We have not begun to learn more than a couple of phrases and depend on minimal French and a lot of gesturing to get by. Somehow we do communicate as the Marquesans people are so friendly. They love having visitors.

S/V Sweet Pearl is sailing with us.
We have just left to island of Ua-Pou, pronounced like "woe pooh." Of all of the Marquesan Islands, this was the most beautiful as we approached from the sea in the late afternoon. We also left in the late afternoon and saw the other side in the golden sunlight as well. It is the most sculptural of the islands. The highest mountains are over a thousand meters high. Ua-Pou is located 25 miles south of Nuka Hiva and is a rugged mountainous island.
A view of the anchorage from the top of the hill.
We visited the main town of Hakahua, which is the capital of the island, and anchored in Baie D'Hakahua. Only about 2100 people live here. We only spent one night there, but had a nice experience.

We are sailing without crew now, so we are tandem sailing with S/V Sweet Pearl owned by Tom and Sandra from Switzerland. They are on the honeymoon! They quit their jobs and bought a boat specifically for this 16 month trip - actually longer because they sail across the Atlantic Ocean with the ARC.

I loved this house and its front door!

On our way to find dinner, we asked a man for directions. As it turned out, he was the Mayor. He told us about the barbecue we passed on the beach. It is a celebration for the national championship victory by one of their two football teams. He is serving his third term as Mayor and has been in office since 2001.

The carved pulpit was beautiful.

The Mayor is obviously very proud of his town and he should be. It was very clean and well developed with good streets, gutters, lights, etc. This has not always been the case in the islands. We visited the Catholic Church and saw the most beautifully carved pulpit and statues I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I left the boat without my camera so I had Sandra take a few shots for me.

Dinner was interesting and very good: shrimp curry with French fries. They serve French fries with almost everything - even when they serve rice. There was no rice tonight - just Frites! And of course, French bread!

The interesting part was where we ate. Many places are called "snack bars" and they are someone's home with a dining spot on their covered front porch or patio. They cook in their kitchens and serve you at tables like a restaurant. The food has always been good and cooked fresh. In fact, one notable thing is how they serve. Regardless of how many are at the table, they bring out one person's meal at a time as it comes off the stove. So often you are eating while the rest of your table is waiting - and waiting.

Dennis at the top of the mountain
where the grotto is located.

Always looking for ways to stretch our legs, we climbed to the top of the hill to see a grotto and cross that overlooks the bay. As with most hikes in these volcanic islands, it was strenuous. And 88 degrees! It was good exercise because we are now sailing 500 miles without a stop to reach Rangiroa in the Tuamotu group. These are all atolls and require careful navigation. It is also our first long double-handling in the Pacific. I am sure we will be tired when we arrive at the atoll.

Our crew member Tom would have had fun with our "run in" with S/V MO jumbo! This is a family from Australia who make quite a spectacle in anchorages. This time they cut us off at the entrance to the harbor even though we were ahead of them. Then they dropped their hook in the middle to establish their territory. Based on previous experiences, there was no way we were going to be close to them!  Next while we were trying to anchor, the Skipper (dad) swam right in front of our boat and I had to reverse not to hit him. Not too smart or thoughtful.





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exploring the Marquesas: Nuka Hiva

Note the mixture of d├ęcor: both Christian and Polynesian
The grounds of the Catholic
Church were lovely.
Nuka Hiva is the largest and most populated island in the Marquesas archipelagos and the second largest in French Polynesia. I learned that they have two representatives in the government in Tahiti where Hiva Oa only has one. Like the rest of French Polynesia, the Marquesas Islands are under French rule with autonomy, but the Marquesean people have an interest in not being so. They are geographically a long way from Tahiti with little contact there. Like everywhere, some people would like to change the way they are governed.

Looking out through the original entrance to the old church
We found Nuka Hiva to be a very friendly place with people willing to help. For example, I was looking for lettuce (which I finally learned to ask for “salad” to be understood) and a customer at the snack bar where we all hung out gave me a ride in her truck to a market way up the hill so I could buy lettuce! She started to tell me how to get there and then said, “Just come. I will take you!
The design of the church was beautiful as was the use
of stone, wood, and many carvings.

The Catholic Church in Nuka Hiva was one of the most beautiful we have seen. It is relatively new, but built on the sight of the old church. We have so enjoyed visiting the island churches for Sunday Mass to hear the local people sing in their native language. The Church has allowed the people to celebrate their ancient religions within the same walls. There are Christian statues as well as carvings of their religious leaders and animals. All of it is well done and complimentary of the space.
We saw traditional dances. Boy!
Could those girls move their hips!

There was an opportunity to try
our hands at some of the many
crafts and flower arts.
We did not tour the island here. However, the World ARC had arranged for a beautiful day and evening of local culture for us. We participated in making jewelry and woven items made of palm. They greeted us with flower leis and put on a dance exhibition. There were wonderful foods to taste as we watched them prepare breadfruit and coconut in the traditional ways. 
 This was a spread of fruits and coconut made in different
ways. All of this before the traditional meal, too!
The women did the singing and the men did most of
the dancing, except for a young girl who did a
beautiful Bird Dance. She was so fluid and graceful.
And all of that was before dinner! We then went to their community center where we ate the traditional foods and watch a dance performance that was outstanding. I have many video clips that I will try to share when I get enough Internet bandwidth to post them. Unfortunately, they did not brief us on the stories that were being told through dance and singing so we had to guess what it was. It was most enjoyable at any rate.

He was obviously the chief in the story being told through
song and dance, but there was no interpretation for us.
We spent time walking around the village and seeing the Tiki remains. The islanders are working very hard to maintain a connection with their heritage. The government encourages the teaching of the native language along with French. They are preserving archaeological sacred sites throughout the islands.

In Nuka Hiva, there is a park where the stone remains are on display. They have also replicated some of the most important Tiki monuments that are protected on other islands so the people have access to them here.

While in Nuka Hiva, we had a disaster with our dinghy. The fuel dock here is known to be challenging so we had a plan in place to manage the purchase of fuel. Unfortunately, we were unable to execute it in the time we planned since another boat took longer to leave the dock than we expected. As a result, the ever challenging tide got the best of us.

While we were anchored stern-to off the concrete quay, the dinghy was tied to the ladder on the quay. Two of our crew went on the dock to handle lines and sent the pump handle to us via a messenger line. All of that went well and we managed to fuel up in the rough sea. Then suddenly I noticed our dinghy was deflating! There was a big slit across the top of it. Not only did we have to find a way to keep it afloat until we got the motor off, we also needed to find a way to repair it since it is our “car” to get to shore!
A sad day for our dinghy. The repair cost us several
days. As the rest of the fleet moved on, we waited for the
repair to cure. Now it looks like a pirate with a patched eye!
The local people told me later that there are several dinghy tears on that dock every month. That must be why there is a guy there who knows how to repair them! The only problem was that it takes three days for the glue to cure and we had to stay behind when most of our friends in the fleet moved on. This meant we will not have much time in the Tuamotu Islands as everyone else. And we have an appointment in Tahiti for some maintenance work so we need to keep on schedule.

The WARC gathering place or watering hole!
The fleet hung out at the Snack Bar with the red and white awning. Actually, the family who own one of the grocery stores also owns this establishment. The kitchen is somewhat open air and they wash the dishes in the sink outside. The favorite pastime of the fleet is to hang here and use the Internet (which makes it really slow) and drink fresh squeezed fruit juices or beer! And they make the best French fries in a huge wok filled with oil! One night they had a barbeque where they roasted a whole goat on a spit over the open fire.

Another daily pleasure was checking out the catch from the fishermen. One day one of them came in with a large shark's head. Something bigger had eaten the body! After they clean the fish right there on the quay, they throw the trimmings into bay and the sharks attack the mess! It does provide for some entertainment, though. We were warned not to swim in this harbor and now I know why!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Exploring the Marquesas Islands: Tahuata

This was a beautiful bay with a large white sand beach.
It was a wonderful place to spend the day swimming.
The Captain and his dinghy.
After leaving the Bay of Virgins, we sailed north toward Hiva Oa and went to an island just off the southwest coast of Hiva Oa. There are several bays on Tahuata with the best ones on the western shore.

We chose to visit Hanamoenoa Bay where we saw the first white sand beach we had seen in French Polynesia. Until then, nothing had looked like the brochures!

Hanamoenoa Bay has the white sugar sand and a wonderful swimming area in the turquoise waters. We had finally arrived in French Polynesia! The surge was quite strong so landing the dinghy was tricky. None of us cared that we got wet because all we wanted to do was dive into the water! We spent most of the day enjoying sand and surf.
The only signs of life at this beach was what appeared to be a deserted seaside campsite. There were tables and chairs made of wood, an abandoned hut and a platform structure with a roof and an old freezer! It appear to have a grave right next to the table as it was all marked off with old coconuts and stones with a bouquet of plastic flowers. It looked like it should be respected.

When walking the beach, we saw footprints from a split-hooved animal – probably wild boars. Then we came upon an area where some animals must bed down for the night as there were concave areas in the sand. We did not see any animals but sensed they were nearby.
One of the tasks we planned to do onshore was to open our light air gennaker and untwist it. Somehow when we took it down in a sudden blow, it managed to twist on itself and we couldn't get it up the next time we tried raise it.  To solve the problem, we strung it between two trees and totally unfurled it and then refurled it by hand. Now it is ready to fly again!

The only mishap of the day was that we got back to the boat without Tom’s camera. A trip ashore did not prove successful so either it is twisted in the sail or it is in the ocean! That is the problem with water-proof camera: if you don’t secure them to you, they get swept away in the surf. Fortunately for Tom, I had downloaded all of his photos from the crossing so I could put them on a memory stick for him. We are still looking for the camera, Tom.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Exploring the Marquesas Islands: Fatu-Hiva

The shape of the mountain gave it its first name!
We weighed our anchor and set sail for Fatu-Hiva where we were to hike to the second longest waterfall in the world. This is the southern-most island in the Marquesas and one of the least populated. It is a very high island with a mountain chain forming the backbone of the island. There are only two bays which are located on the west coast. Since it is a steep mountain, these bays are the only place to anchor in relatively shallow water.

This was a deep anchorage with no beach.
We anchored in the Baie Hanavave or Bay of Virgins as it is called. This island has an interesting history – or at least the guidebook stories – about its name. Due to the shape of the volcanic rock formations, it was known as the Isle Penises. However, the missionaries did not approve of that name and changed the spelling so it is the Bay of Virgins.
There was a small landing at the base of the village.
We took a dinghy to shore and walked through the village which consists of a church, a school and an infirmary. Like many of the islands, they also have a single pay telephone booth! As you walk up the road along the river, you see the homes of the local people with their mango, avocado, breadfruit and pamplemousse (grapefruit) trees in their yards. Oh, how I wanted to pick some of those!

The waterfall was breathtaking!
There is only one road from the
bay through the town up to
the mountain and waterfall.
Since I am not much of a hiker or trail climber, I hesitantly went along on a 1.5-2 hour hike way up the mountain to see the waterfall. It was a physical challenge especially in the heat and humidity, as I am still not loving the heat. There were times when I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the top, but with the help of Dennis, Tony and Tom, I managed to do it.
I didn't even care that my clothes
were wet! I finally cooled off!!!
The trail was rocky and slippery and only marked with little stone markers. The shade was nice in the jungle and the sound of the river and waterfall was peaceful. There are flowering trees everywhere in these islands so it is not unusual to see orchids lying on the ground and blossoms of many varieties blown from the trees. This is why the Polynesian women always have flowers in their hair – flowers are everywhere and go wild.

Looking up from underneath
the waterfall. It was refreshing!
Not sure what the occasion was, but there was something
religious going on in the village.
Once we finally got to the waterfall, it was breath-taking! We swam in the fresh water pool in our clothes to cool off. That alone was worth the climb! It was the first time in a long time that my body temperature had cooled off to a chill and I loved it.
The trip down was easier and seemed shorter. When we arrived in the village, we met up with a procession of priests and people going from house to house and singing. We were not sure what was going on and couldn’t think of any holy day that might be being celebrated. We respectfully waited until they had passed us before returning to the dock and boat.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Night Passages and Other Changes

Some times there are messes to clean up! Here
is one where the fishing line got tangled - again!
Other than island hopping down the Caribbean chain, we have not done much double-handling. I have always wondered and admired the couples we have met who have sailed the oceans for years without other crew members. It used to scare me to death at the thought!

Out here on the Pacific Ocean, there are no island stops along the way. The trip from the Galapagos to the Marquesas Islands was nearly 3,000 NM with nothing in between but fishing boats and a lot of water. We are now sailing without crew to the Tuamotu atolls and on to Tahiti - around 700 NM for the passage. There are 76 atolls to dodge as we move through this area. I am not looking forward to being there during darkness.

We see the most beautiful skies everyday!
Since it is just the two of us, I am now doing night watches which I have not done since we left the Caribbean. We have had three extra people on board through the Marquesas. I like having three extra people for the long passages to help with sail changes and night watches. It was actually quite nice for the last crew as their watch schedule was three hours on and nine off! It does make extra work in the galley with more people.
You couldn't paint a more beautiful picture!

Dennis and I have worked out a decent schedule for double-handling. I take the 1700 to 2400 shift and then go to bed. Dennis can fall asleep anywhere at any time so he can go down right after dinner and get five hours of sleep. Then he relieves me at midnight. I come back up at 0500 and he goes down for a nap. During daylight hours, I spend a lot of time in the cockpit while he does other boat chores.  We both grab naps during the day.

The clouds and light make for an ever changing view.
So far it is working well, but I still would not choose to cross the long legs without crew as I can see how exhausted we would become. Poor decisions are often made by tired sailors. I was apprehensive about doing night watches, but it has turned out to be beautiful and peaceful. And I am comfortably cool which is a relief from the daily heat and sunlight. Fortunately we have only had a couple of small rain showers with no change in the wind.

One night the wind crept up to 23 knots while I was at the helm alone. I had an internal argument with myself as to whether not to wake Dennis up. There was a squall and the wind was strong. The rail was in the water and we were moving at 9 knots - that is fast for us! So I thought: this is my test. Can I ride it out without panicking and not wake him up? Finally, I relaxed and started to enjoy the ride. I knew Trillium was happy at this speed so I rode out the squall. It made me pleased with myself that I did it alone!

Cobb salad on the way up to the cockpit

I have also switched our eating schedule to have our big meal during daylight hours. This makes for a simple cleanup just before I go on night watch. It also gives us more time to connect and have dinner conversation during the day. I think there will be more double-handing in our future.

I have changed the menu some also. I try to prepare something that can be used for several meals and a night snack for Dennis. For example, I made pesto chick breasts so we had a chicken dinner one day, a Cobb salad the next day and Chicken Korma that night. Less mess and less heat in the galley.

Chicken Curry with Pumpkin (a common
vegetable in the local markets year round).
Today I cooked a whole box of rigatoni, so we had some with tomato and meat sauce for dinner and made a pasta seafood salad for lunch. I am lucky that Dennis willingly eats anything I put in front of him and he would eat the same thing for several meals in a row.

While I really like our various crew members and love having them sail with us, it is nice to have the boat to ourselves. One of the concerns I had from the beginning of this adventure was the reality of have someone (or more) living with us all of the time. I think the solution is to have crew for long passages and have some time alone when we get to the destination. I do miss the humor and conversations we had with our crew.