Fatu Hiva (Marquesas) Revisited

Arriving in busy Tahiti brought two benefits, absolutely wonderful protection from strong winds and impressively big swells, and an Apple repair centre.  So I have finally got my computer fixed and retrieved my photos.    Fatu Hiva, the southern most in the Marquesan chain, was a memorable stop for us so I can at last share with you the beauty of the island that we left behind in May.

Bay of Virgins-squashed

The Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva. An impressive anchorage. 

Hanavave Village Street-squashed

                                                                    Hanavave Village street.                                                                           Every garden is bursting with fruit trees including pamplemousse, bananas, mangoes and oranges.

 

Crucifix top of hill-squashed

Our goal – The crucifix at the top of the hill 

Copra Shed Hanavave-squashed

Copra is still produced on the island, this drying shed has a sliding tin roof to allow the coconuts to dry in the sun

A bull and his friend-squashedBanana Trees-squashedTrack to waterfall-squashed

Waterfall Fatu Hiva-squashed

The waterfall was just a trickle

Fatu Hiva-squashedFatu Hiva views-squashedFatu Hiva Views narrow road-squashed

White Fairy Tern-squashed

Such a beautiful bird with a beautiful name –  A Fairy White Tern

Fatu Hiva North-squashedFatu Hiva landscape 3-squashedFatu Hiva landscape 2-squashedFatu Hiva views from hill-squashed

View over village of Hanavave-squashed

Looking down at the village of Hanavave nestled in the valley

Fatu Hiva views down Hanavave valley-squashed

Views from road West Fatu Hiva2-squashed

Over the hill – a view of the west coast of Fatu Hiva

Who's looking at Moo-squashed

Volleyball Hanavave-squashed

Volley ball seems to be the Villagers’ game of choice

BAY OF VIRGINS busy anchorage-squashed

Evening sun lights up the popular Bay of Virgins

 

 

 

 

Posted in French Polynesia, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Two weeks in Paradise – The Tuamotus

Leaving Nuku Hiva with a brisk 20 knot south easterly we decided to have one last night in the Marquesas at Ua Pou on the west coast before heading for the atoll of Kauehi. With an impressive swell  beam on, the passage was a wet and salty one, especially when one wave broke on the side of Joy and managed to force a gallon of two of salty brine in to the cockpit.  After a quiet night anchored on the west coast, we set off the following morning for Kauehi.

We had a great sail, with 20-30 knots of wind we covered the 496 miles in less than 70 hours, an average speed of just over 7 knots.   As the eastern side of the low-lying coral atoll came into view in the early morning light we kept up our  speed hoping to make the narrow pass through the coral into the lagoon on the south west ‘coast’ not too long after slack water.  Arriving at the pass, the incoming tide had started to run at a couple of knots with a few standing waves on the inside of the pass caused by wind against tide, but we sailed through the pass with the motor running just in case without any problems. The wind was still blowing strongly from the south east so we made our way across the lagoon to the southern side, there was one other boat anchored there and they looked to be pretty comfortable.  As we got into the lee of the southern fringe of coral the wind chop subsided and with the sun now shining the turquoise water revealed a nice sandy patch with only a few low lying coral heads scattered about for us to anchor in.

m_Anchored SE Kauehi

Anchored inside the lagoon of Kauehi

m_SE Kauehi

Looking across the coral reef to the ocean swell outside. The dark patches in the water close to the shore are strange shaped volcanic rocks covered in coral, known as ‘bombies’.

Is was nice to get to know the other boat anchored here too, another British ketch-rigged boat, and we spent a couple of fun evenings with them and went for a snorkel.  The few corals along the shoreline were covered with beautiful clams with vibrant purple, blue and green colours.  A black-tipped shark came to check us out a few times before disappearing uninterested.  I was surprised at how calm I was watching him, watching me. He didn’t display any kind of threatening behaviour and it was obvious he was just being inquisitive (and he was only a small one!).

With the wind getting stronger and a stormy forecast, we decided to move to more protection on the south east coast as some considerable wind chop had developed in this exposed southern anchorage, so we waited for the sun to show itself in between showers and then made our way carefully across a non-charted area of the lagoon.  I kept watch on the bow looking for reef and bombies and Jez watched the forward looking echo sounder, what a great piece of kit this is proving to be. The eastern side of the atoll has more of a wider motu, an island of reef with vegetation, and the coconut trees and vegetation give excellent protection from the wind.  We found a nice sandy patch with hardly a ripple on the water and after a quick survey of the area to check out the bombies we dropped anchor just as the sky darkened and the rain started again.

We spent a few days here, walking the motu and exploring the ruins in the undergrowth and snorkeling when the sun occasionally revealed itself.

m_Anchorage East Kauehi

As 25 knots blows overhead we are completely protected by the coconut trees on the motu

m_Coconut Crabs

Is this what they call Coconut Crabs?

m_Kauehi storm approaching

Stormy Kauehi

m_Rainbow Kauehi

m_Abandoned boat S Kauehi

m_SE Kauehi lagoon

m_Snorkelling Kauehi

Snorkeling in the beautifully clear but cold lagoon

It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the tranquility and seclusion of Kauehi, but with a brief break in the weather as the wind turned to the north east we took the opportunity to get out of the lagoon and sail to the atoll of Fakarava just over 30 miles away.  With slack water occurring at 6am we had an early start and this time used just the forward looking echo sounder to check our course across the lagoon in the dark. Perfectly timed and with barely a ripple on the water we slipped through the calm pass shortly after another boat had entered.  We noticed the newcomer heading off under sail across an uncharted area of the lagoon in the early morning light and weren’t entirely surprised when we overheard his VHF call later to another yacht telling him he had just narrowly missed hitting an uncharted reef! If you don’t have a forward looking sonar in these parts you definitely need eyeballs and sun overhead to navigate safely.

Our sail to Fakarava was enjoyable and fast, we continually reefed to slow Joy down as we wanted to arrive at the Garuae pass on the north side at midday slack water.  Another pass perfectly timed, entering the lagoon under sail in flat calm water avoiding the dive boats bobbing in the main channel.  Fakarava has the second largest lagoon in the Tuamotu group, being 30 miles wide and 10 miles long. It has around 800 inhabitants mostly employed in the pearl, tourist and copra industries. The main village of Rotoava is situated on the northern part of the longest continuous motu in French Polynesia which lies along the eastern side of the lagoon. It is a very popular stop over for cruising boats due to the provisions available in the village, a few small restaurant/snack bars, good snorkeling and great protection from wind with an easterly component.  We counted over 30 boats anchored off the village, positively crowded in comparison to Kauehi.

Our salad search proved fruitless in the three supermarkets in the village, despite only being the day after the supply ship had visited most of the fresh produce had already been snapped up. The wind was now light from the north and the forecast rain had set in, this was the lull before the next blow from the south east, so we raised the anchor saladless and sailed very slowly south along the inner east coast of the motu. After a comfortable overnight stop half way down tucked up behind a protruding reef, the skies had cleared and we continued sailing to the anchorage in the south east corner of the lagoon but this time in sunshine rather than showers. There was quite a crowd of boats already gathering in the anchorage and many more followed later in the day seeking protection.

m_Fakarava channel marker

Channel markers show most of the reefs but not all

 

m_Fakarava Sailing

Sailing in flat calm water watching out for reefs

m_Fakarava south

As the wind turned around overnight to the south east the fun began.  Many boats woke to find their anchor chains wrapped around coral heads, we watched as our neighbours dived on their anchors and chains and drove their boats forward trying to free themselves as the wind increased.  Entertainment over, we thought we ought to do the same and Jez jumped in with his snorkel gear to check. Sure enough we were caught up too,  but managed to easily untangle things by retrieving some chain and waiting for the boat to swing free then paying it back out.  It was good timing, as the strong south easterly set in soon after.

Having been in the protection of the south east corner for a couple of days the wind once again dropped and turned more easterly releasing us from our paradise prison.  We sailed along the south coast to the south west pass, a much narrower pass than the northern one and trickier to negotiate with strong currents and opposing seas.  As one boat just a few days earlier had sadly discovered.  We hadn’t come here to transit the pass, but to snorkel it.

m_Fakarava S Pass boat on reef (3)

The pass into the lagoon runs to the right of the photo beyond the coral reef, the stricken yacht sits out at the entrance

m_Fakarava stricken boat Jez and pooch

Jez inspects the damage as our adopted furry friend waits for me to catch up

m_Fakarava Yacht on reef

Such a sad sight – Three local guys strip anything they can out of the boat and load up their wheelbarrow

Word on the street is that the boat tried to exit the pass at 5 am a few days ago with full sail up but ran into difficulty when a rope caught in their propeller and they ended up on the reef losing their keel.  When we were here there were big rollers crashing in on both sides of the entrance to the pass, and a day later very shortly before the morning slack water we watched a charter catamaran enter the pass, only to turn back half way. We could then see why, there were large rollers breaking right across the pass, a truly disastrous situation for any boat attempting to exit, and in the dark this situation would probably not have been obvious.

The small motu of Tetamanu on the eastern side of the pass is home to a few residents who obviously enjoy remote living and a small hotel (known as a Pension) with a dive shop.  It was nice to wander around and stretch our legs and after being barked at by a local pooch she then decided to join us on our walk around the motu.

m_Fakarava Tetamanu beach

m_Fakarava S Pass flowering trees

m_Fakarava Tetamanu church and main street

The Catholic Church at Tetamanu, dating back to the 1870’s and made entirely from coral rock!

m_Fakarava Tetamanu ruins 2

Ruins in the village, this was once apparently the village prison cell.  Signs that Tetamanu used to be the main village of Fakarava many years ago.

m_Fakarava S Pass inspecting the damage

A diet high in fibre..glass?

m_Fakarava S Pass the chase is on

Chasing lizards!

Snorkeling the pass was quite an experience, waiting for slack water at 3.30pm we took the dinghy into the pass and checked things out. There didn’t appear to be any current running so we started at the outer entrance and jumped in, towing the dinghy along with us. Not such a good place to start as it was deep and visibility poor so we moved over to the edge just before the breakers and got a much better view.  The hard corals look healthy and there were plenty of fish around them, it was nice to see different varieties of tropical fish compared with the Caribbean.  And of course a few black-tipped reef sharks came along to check us out, the biggest chunkiest of which had a remora attached to its belly and he patrolled the shallower reef passing us several times.  As Jez chased the sharks around with the Go Pro I pulled along the dinghy occasionally using it as a barrier when Mr Chunky came a little too close for comfort.

m_Black tipped sharkm_Grouper hunting

m_Mr Chunky 2

Mr Chunky

m_Shark in the shallows

We took a long time drifting along the coral wall on the edge of the pass, an hour and half to be exact, so by the time we had reached the end we were being carried along on an incoming tide of a couple of knots and with our heads now above water we realised it was starting to get dark! Time to hop back in the dinghy before we reached the building waves at the inner entrance, that wind against tide thing again.  It was a great experience.

Our time in the Tuamotus has been ruled essentially by the weather, we have had a lot of dark cloudy days with plenty of rain and wind so it has rather restricted our activities.  So after another wonderful lagoon sail back up to Rotoava, we got ourselves ready for the passage to Tahiti 420 miles away.  With yet another strong south easterly wind on the horizon and a building south-west swell, we are making a dash for Tahiti before the northern end of Fakarava becomes too uncomfortable.  With one last visit to the village on supply ship day we secured ourselves some lettuce and extortionately priced tomatoes, and after a cold beer watching out across the anchorage as the sun got lower in the sky we hopped in the dinghy and headed back to Joy. As we left the dock Jez noticed something flapping in the water and we thought it was a couple of manta rays as we could see the tips of their wings breaking the surface.  Killing the engine we floated and watched for a few minutes, blinded by the sun going down.  Just as we were about to give up watching one turned towards us, as it got closer we could see that those wing tips belonged to a huge manta ray, by far the biggest we have seen here. It glided right up to us with its mouth wide open brushing the dinghy with its wing before diving and disappearing.  What an awesome sighting, and one I will certainly not forget in a hurry.  So its farewell Tuamotus, Tahiti here we come!

Posted in French Polynesia | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Medley of Marquesas

Fatu Hiva

The ‘Bay of Virgins’ anchorage on the small island of Fatu Hiva is really quite stunning, with some curious rock spires towering majestically over the small village of Hanavave.  After a tough beat from the north coast of Hiva Oa, where it took us 7 hours just to clear the north east point of the island from the bay of Hana Iapa (a distance of 14 miles), the rest of the passage we made in one tack and arrived after dark much later than we had anticipated.  The small anchorage was busy with 14 other boats and we dropped anchor at the back of the pack in 36 metres of water, taking every centimetre of our 110 metre chain with some added rode for good luck to keep us in place.   The village lies, as most do in these islands, in a valley with high cliffs surrounding the bay, bullets of wind shot down from the mountains on a regular basis making hard work of the otherwise spectacular bay.    We had two hikes on the island, the first was a good trail to a waterfall where we were expecting a “dramatic cascade with an olympic-sized pool”.  In reality, with very little rain over the past few days, we had more of a trickle over the cliff and a rather stagnant small pool.  Whilst the guide books had rather oversold this waterfall for us, it was still a very pleasant walk in some beautiful countryside.  One thing that stands out on this island however is the lack of bird life. It wasn’t until later that the answer became clear, we discovered that the ‘rat noir’ is present on the island,  wreaking havoc with not only the bird population but coconut production too.   

We asked a villager how to reach the crucifix at the top of the hill overlooking the village, she told us to just keep walking on the concrete single-file road out of the village so the next day we set off with packed lunch and camera.  Breathtaking scenery and mind boggling rock formations, the road is so steep it is amazing how they managed to get the equipment up it to construct it.  We fell short of reaching the crucifix itself as it lies above the highest elevation of the road and the goat trail up to the summit was just too steep for us to get a grip on. It was still another lunch with an amazing view.  A few days later when we had arrived at the next island I downloaded my 160 odd photos onto my macbook and as always I had elected to delete them from the memory card to free up space. As I looked through them, amazed yet again at some of the sights we have seen, the computer crashed!  It refused to reboot and after trying all the tricks in the Apple book it appears that my hard drive has been corrupted.  So for now it keeps my Fatu Hiva photos hostage until I can reach Tahiti where I am rather hoping I can retrieve my data.  Until then, you will just have to take my word for it, Fatu Hiva is outstandingly beautiful.

Tahuata

We had a very fast and lively passage to Tahuata just 40 miles from Fatua Hiva, as we got into the lee of the island we were expecting a wind shadow but instead got accelerated winds in the 30’s which made a couple of the anchorages rather uncomfortable.  So we continued on to a bay which we had already spent a couple of days in after first arriving, Hanamoenoa Bay.  It isn’t as gusty here and has a little less swell entering, so we took the opportunity to take the engine apart and find the small water leak we have had since the passage from Mexico.  The oil cooler was the culprit and after scraping off the old paint we found several pin-hole perforations. A healthy coating of “stop any leak” 2 part epoxy and a fresh coat of paint seems to be doing the trick, it needs to hold up until we manage to get a new part sent out, probably to Tahiti.  It was in this bay that we discovered how the locals tenderise their meat.  Early one morning with coffee in one hand and trusty binoculars in other, I watched a figure of a man on the peak of a mountain throw a dead goat over his shoulder, gun slung over the other. After getting down a few rocks he placed it at the cliff edge and headed back, slinging another over his shoulder, then another.  We were just pondering how on earth he was going to get three goats down the mountain, when he picked one up and through it over the cliff edge! The other two followed, bashing their way down the cliff hitting trees and scrub on the way. An interesting method, perhaps it does the job of skinning and de-boning at the same time!

So with the engine back together and the wind a lot more civilised we headed back to the anchorage off the main village on this island,  Vaitahu.  Going ashore usually involves landing on a concrete quay with precision timing as the strong swell lowers and raises the water level with some amazing force.  As one of my guide books says, a lot of Marquesan landings are “for sporty types” and this was one of those sporty landings.  We followed the paved road out of the village until it turned into a dirt track and made it to the top of the hill overlooking the bay.  Another crucifix and shrine gave us a perfect spot with an amazing view for our packed lunch.

m_Tahuata Double Rainbow

A double rainbow over the village of Vaitahu

m_Tahuata Boats at anchorm_Tahuata Hilltop

 

m_Prettiest pigeon Tahuata

It was on this hill we first spotted the prettiest dove ever, the White Capped Fruit Dove has a green back with yellow and red chest. At first glance it looked like a parrot.

m_Tahuata village view

The village of Vaitahu with Joy anchored far right

m_A Moo with a View

A Moo with a View

m_Tahuata

m_View of Hiva Oa from Tahuata

A lovely view of Hiva Oa to the north

m_Tahuata village church

A Tiki stands guard at the entrance to the church

m_Tahuata church ext

The stone work and carved doors of the church

m_Tahuata church view

m_Tahuata church

I think this must be the most beautiful church I have ever seen

m_Tahuata Joy at Anchor

After a visit to the wonderful village church we headed off on a different road leading out of town, we had hoped it would lead us into the next little bay but instead we ended up on a dead end road which led only to a coconut plantation in the valley.  A couple of residents sitting outside their houses offered us fruit, and we were piled up with mangoes, pamplemousse, oranges, bananas, a coconut and a fruit which I can’t remember the name of – it’s the size of a kiwi fruit but tastes like a cross between an apple and a mango but with very course flesh.  The locals wanted to exchange bullets for hunting wild pigs and goats or whiskey for the fruit trade, which of course we have neither (and in any case can you imagine  us exchanging whiskey for fruit? Really?)  So we agreed on a cash price instead and hauled our fruity stocks back to a bucking dinghy for another sporty exit.

Ua Huka

From Tahuata we sailed overnight to Ua-Huka further north so that we could arrive during daylight. Our first anchorage was in a small inlet surrounded by high cliffs near the village of Vaipee.  A catamaran was already anchored on a single hook in the middle so we had no choice but to anchor also on a single anchor, with an annoying swell entering the bay it was a rather rolly anchorage.  Another walk up a hill and lunch with a view was the order of the day, and after a sporty landing on the concrete dock we set off through the village in search of a crucifix.  It was a pretty hot day and we had many locals stopping in their vehicles offering us a lift up the very steep and winding road out of the village, of course we declined as we really wanted the exercise.  We never made it to the crucifix, after a couple of hours it was in view but on the other side of yet another valley and we could see the road winding the long way around and we gave up.

m_Ua Huka

Wild horses graze in the village

m_Ua Huka wild horses drinking

m_Ua Huka church carvings

Beautiful carvings at the church

m_Ua Huka main roadm_Ua Huka views

m_Ua Huka hiking

The crucifix –  just a little too far

The next day we sailed further along the south coast to Hane Bay, a large open bay but with slightly less swell as there is a small island at the entrance to the bay giving some protection.  We set our stern anchor so that the bow pointed in to the swell and sat quite comfortably.  The beach landing however didn’t look very easy so instead we did some jobs and enjoyed our beautiful surroundings.

m_Ua Huka coastline

Ua Huka coastline

m_Ua Huka dolphins

m_Aranui 5 squeezes in Ua Huka

On our way back past the first anchorage at Vaipaee we discovered the Aranui 5 had squeezed into the tight bay. This impressive ship serves as a supply ship and mini cruise ship serving the Marquesan Islands from Tahiti.

Ua Pou

Next stop was the small island of Ua Pou about 40 miles south west of Ua Huka. The incredible rock spires overlooking the village of Hakahau had attracted us and we tucked ourselves into the small harbour with a stern anchor in an attempt to defeat the swell.

Just before exploring the next morning, the Aranui 5 joined us in the harbour, after some skillful manoeuvring on to the dock it offloaded a lot of tourists and spent all day hauling goods off and then back on with its large cranes.  It was certainly an impressive sight.

m_Approaching Ua Pou

Approaching Ua Pou

m_Aranui Ua Pou

m_Ua Pou spires

The rock spires overlooking the village are often hidden in the clouds

m_Ua Pou church

Another beautiful church

m_Ua Pou pulpit

The pulpit is an amazing work of art

m_Carvings Ua Pou church

Nuku Hiva

Saving the best ’til last, we had a fab sail north to the last of our Marquesan medley, Nuku Hiva, and arrived into the huge bay of Taiohae on the south of the island.  It’s a very picturesque bay surrounded by lush green mountains, and the small town is spread out along the road running along the coastline. There is great provisioning here, close to the dock is a daily farmers market with locally grown produce.

m_Nuku Hiva dock

m_Nuku Hiva busy anchorage

Boats at anchor Taiohae Bay

m_Nuku Hiva anchorage

m_Nuku Hiva Tiki

Two huge modern Tikis stand guard over the bay

m_Cathedral entrance

The town Cathedral entrance is rather grand

m_Cathedral grounds

Cathedral grounds

m_Cathedral doors

Beautiful carvings on the cathedral doors

m_Cathedral doors 2

Nuku Hiva seems to have more to offer cruising folk, and with a good choice of anchorages we decided to do a circumnavigation of the island over the course of a week.  After a couple of squally days in two different anchorages within Controller Bay on the south east point, we tacked our way out and sailed up the rugged east coast of Nuku Hiva. Large dolphins joined us, bringing their babies in close to show them what 37 tons of steel looks like ploughing through the ocean.  Then we caught a chunky tuna, this was turning out to be a great day.

Our next anchorage was tucked in to Anaho Bay on the north east coast, it’s a beautiful bay with a sandy beach fringed with a coral reef and made even more wonderful because no swell gets in here.  There are a few houses nestling in the coconut plantation and even a small chapel, but no roads. A mule track up and over the mountain leads to the next village called Hatiheu, and with a buoyed channel through the reef to the tranquil beach there was no need for a sporty landing. It took us a little under two hours to hike to the village for another packed lunch with a view.  The village of Hatiheu sits in a large bay but this one has swell crashing on the beach. More impressive rock spires overlook the beautiful village.

m_Anaho sandy beach

The beach at Anaho Bay

m_Pretty finch

The Chestnut-breasted Mannikin can be seen everywhere, the tiny finch-like bird has a beautiful blue beak

m_Rocks at Anaho Bay

Anaho Bay

m_Chapel at Anoho Bay Nuku Hiva

The chapel at Anaho Bay

m_Ruins at Anoho Bay

Ruins hidden in the undergrowth

m_Mangi trees Anoho

The mule trail winds its way through the mango trees

m_View of Anaho Bay

Looking over Anaho Bay from the cut in the mountain

m_Ruins at Hatiheu

Hatiheu sea front

m_Chicken Hatiheu

Even the chickens are beautiful!

m_Hatiheu village church

Another amazing village church

m_Hatiheu rock spires2

Rock Spires at Hatiheu

m_Mango eating Mutt

A mango munching mutt!

What a great days hike followed by the best nights sleep in over two months in the flat calm waters of Anaho Bay. Next on our list were a couple of uncharted bays on the north coast heading west, the first was very picturesque with a white sandy beach but the holding was poor and it was quite rolly, so we had lunch there and moved on.

m_Lunch stop N Nuku Hiva copy

Lunch stop on the north coast of Nuku Hiva

The next bay was called Pua Bay, known locally as the Valley of the Chiefs where it was forbidden for anyone to enter unless they had been born there.  We felt our way into the anchorage and after checking out where the reefs were we dropped anchor in sand with not too much swell action.

m_Pua anchorage

The majestic “Valley of the Chiefs”

There were goats, cows and horses grazing freely on the hillsides which kept us occupied for the rest of the afternoon. Peace and tranquility in amazing surroundings.

Our last anchorage of the circuit was back on the south side of the island, the much drier west coast has only one suitable stopover but it didn’t look particularly attractive so we decided to continue sailing to a well known bay called Hakatea close to the village of Hakaui. Otherwise known to cruisers as Daniels Bay, as a guy called Daniel used to live here and give water to cruisers, it is tucked inside a bay with high cliffs down one side. Our main reason for visiting this bay was to hike to the waterfall from the nearby village, and just after anchoring we were visited by several manta rays feeding at the surface followed by a couple who live here, Teiki and Kua.  They offered us a meal at their home after the hike which sounded like fun, and we were keen to try the local pork, The bay was joggly with swell refracting off the cliffs but spotting the goats high on these vertical cliffs kept our mind off the jerky boat movement.

m_Approaching entrance Daniels Bay

Approaching the narrow entrance to Hakatea with light streaming down the cliffs 

m_Manta Ray feeding

A beautiful manta ray hoovers up his dinner

After beaching the dinghy the next morning and taking the ancient shoreline trail to the village, we came across a shallow river running quite fast and after pondering for a few seconds we suddenly saw Teiki appear on the other side and he beckoned us across. Luckily it was low tide and this river mouth wasn’t quite knee deep so we waded across to the otherside.  Teiki and Kua live in what we would call paradise, their house is surrounded by nurtured veggie plots and fruit trees, Teiki’s wooden saddles are lined up neatly under the porch with his selection of tack.  We agree on our after hike meal and continued on the village ‘road’, past a phone box and just a handful of houses until the grass road turns into a dirt track.

m_Village road Hakaui 2

The village ‘road’

m_Phone Box in Paradise

A telephone box in paradise

m_Village road Hakaui

m_Ruins Hakaui hike

The many ruins in the forest gave us an idea of the number of Polynesians that once inhabited this land

m_Neddy at Hakaui

The 2 hour trail to the base of the waterfall took us through a beautiful tropical forest with song birds calling and lizards scurrying.  We crossed the river on two more occasions, the first was full of small boulders so we managed to pick our way across with the rushing water just below knee height.

m_River crossing 2

Contemplating the easy river crossing

As we got closer to the waterfall, the final river crossing appeared. This time it was much wider and deeper and we picked our way through some deep murky water using overhanging trees to steady ourselves against the fast flow.  Then we met another English couple on the trail, Andrew and Kate, who were just returning from the waterfall.  They were also eating at Teiki’s so we agreed to meet back there for a chat.

m_Waterfall hike Hakaui

We finally reached the waterfall, well more of a trickle once again, with a large pool at its base.  The guide book suggested a swim across the pool to climb across the boulders to the base, the dead goat floating in the pool rather put us off.  Obviously one of the not so sure-footed goats, or maybe it was being marinated after tenderising. I was glad to have chosen pork and not goat for my after hike meal. This really is a very beautiful and eerie spot.

m_IMG_7427

The waterfall can be better seen from a distance

m_IMG_7431

Looking back at the trail from the waterfall

m_Hakaui waterfall

The pool at the end of the trickle

On our way back we decided to find a better way to cross the river, scrambling through the undergrowth further up stream we found a shallower part that had large rocks strewn across it.  With the help of a dead tree which we pushed between two of the boulders we managed a crossing with only one occasion needing a leg in the water. Back in the village we met up with Andrew and Kate again and Kua served up our meal of local wild pig with a fruity salad and bread fruit chips, all from her garden.  They cook over an open fire using coconut husks, far more successfully than our attempt on the BBQ with an old rotten husk we had found at Anaho bay.  Kua served freshly squeezed lime and pamplemousse juices and then homemade coconut icecream for pud.  She has a solar powered coconut grinding machine, a bit like a large dremel, that shreds the inside of the coconut flesh then she adds crushed cane sugar from her garden. 

We chatted away an hour or so with Kua, it was so interesting to hear how they live in this tiny village with nothing but a few simple houses and a phone box for communication.  Teiki hunts wild pigs at night with his dogs, as they have no bullets he uses a knife strapped to a cane.  Kua then showed me around her tidy garden pointing out all her herbs and vegetables growing while Jez talked to Teiki about hunting, rifles and horse riding. It was a privilege to spend time with these people.

Time is moving on fast, we have already spent 5 weeks exploring these wonderful islands with one stunning anchorage after another, and there are many more to come on our journey across the South Pacific.   After a reprovisioning stop at Taiohae and a catch up with some work on the internet, we head off for our next set of French Polynesian islands, The Tuamotus, about 550 miles to the south west.

Posted in French Polynesia | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hiva Oa

Joy's Route - Mexico to Hiva Oa 2019-squashed

Joy’s route from Mexico to Hiva Oa, crossing the ITCZ twice in just a few days

Hiva Oa has proved to be a wonderful introduction to the Marqueses Island group, all apart from the rock and rolly anchorage at Atuona of course! The first run ashore we decided to row rather than attempt mounting the outboard. After a very easy check-in at the Gendarmerie, we explored the small town of Atuona and found two very well stocked supermarkets. It was great to get some fresh produce, long green beans, aubergine and pak choi amongst others. We had heard many rumours about the very high cost of provisions on these islands, so were pleasantly surprised to find many items at a reasonable price, we have shopped in the Cayman Islands afterall.

IMG_6601-squashed

The beach front at Atuona

IMG_6605-squashedIMG_6607-squashedIMG_6609-squashed

IMG_6619-squashed

The quirky town Post Office where we managed to find an internet pass, we took their last one – with all the cruisers arriving they had sold out.

The town of Atuona is about a ¾ hour walk from the harbour and was so pretty and well-kept, the residents clearly take pride in their beautiful surroundings, so we decided to put up with the uncomfortable anchorage for an extra day so that we could return. That evening under slightly better conditions we decided to mount the outboard. As usual things worsened as we got ready, it was a very nerve racking moment as Joy pitched in the swell and a local motor boat roared past at a critical point. More by luck than judgement mission was accomplished but when we woke the following morning conditions had got worse, an even bigger swell was rolling in and even affecting the boats that were behind the breakwater.  With conditions bordering untenable we decided on a very quick second visit into the village and found oranges, mango and  tomatoes for sale which made a wonderful addition to our fresh stocks.  A very kind resident took pity on us as we made our way back along the road towards the harbour, and gave us a lift back to the dinghy dock.   It was touch and go getting the dinghy safely up on the davits in the awkward swell, and with both anchors retrieved we made a very quick exit in search of some better protection.

We wanted to explore the anchorages on the north coast of Hiva Oa, and also this would give us a better sailing angle to get south to Fatu Hiva, so after a couple of days chilling, swimming and snorkelling off a pretty sandy beach on the island of Tahuata just a couple of miles south of Hiva Oa, we set off across the windy Canal de Bordelais inbetween the two islands. Our local forecast had given us 13/17 knots gusting 20/25 and a moderate to rough sea.  The channel has a reputation for being a wind acceleration zone and we had a great sail across it to the west coast of Hiva Oa with 30 knots just aft of the beam, made better by a pod of dolphins riding the bow wave. As we rounded the north western tip of Hiva Oa we found the ‘rough’ part of the  forecast.  A meeting point of two swells as they wrap around both sides of the island created pretty uncomfortable conditions and with wind clocking the compass it was impossible to sail.  So we ducked in to a bay called Hana Menu to wait out the conditions.  The bay was open to the north, swell lessened a little as it reached inside the bay but the wind continued to gust from every direction making a joggly anchorage.  We were pleased to find a better sea state the next day and more consistent wind and tacked our way further along the northern coast to Hana Iapa, a small village with a much calmer and prettier anchorage. It was also nice to be away from the crowds of other boaters, with only 3 or 4 other boats on the entire northern coast.

The village sadly no longer has a store or a school now that a paved road, most of it single file, leads to Atuona and most of the residents have cars or trucks.  So now the village is a very quiet narrow road, lined with nice houses with well manicured gardens and a pretty little church on the hillside.  Plenty of fruit trees hang heavy with pampelmousse (a very large and sweet grapefruit), mangos, limes, soursop and something that looks like a giant pear.  All privately owned of course so nothing we could help ourselves to, even though there were plenty of windfall going to waste.

IMG_6710-squashed

Entering the anchorage at Hana Iapa with a free flowing waterfall and an odd rock

IMG_6714-squashedIMG_6718-squashed

IMG_6723-squashed

Hana Iapa village street

IMG_6726-squashed

One of the many copra drying sheds, the residents harvest coconuts and the flesh is spread out to dry before being transported for processing.

IMG_1192-squashed

IMG_6731-squashed

As I was taking a photo of the church an old guy living next door called us over and welcomed us to the village in a mixture of French and Polynesian.  We have found that French is their main language but ‘Taua’ who had lived in Hana Iapa all his life, spoke a mixture of what he called Marquesan and French, although he struggled to understand our version of French.  Despite the language barrier we somehow passed the time of day, and he gave us two huge pampelmousse and offered us ‘un café’. We were rather hot and bothered after our walk and in need of some lunch so we graciously declined but he insisted we return the next day.  Despite not being quite sure why, we returned anyway to take him some Wahoo as a thank you for the fruit. As we arrived at his house , he was sitting on his porch waiting for us and invited us into his home for a coffee.  We discovered that his father was Czechoslovakian and had arrived on Hiva Oa by boat before he was born.  As we said our goodbyes he stuffed four more huge pampelmousse from his garden in to our rucksack.

We were also fortunate enough to meet another couple Jeremy and YenYen and their two lovely children Kai and Lia on another English boat in the anchorage,  and spent a couple of days exploring with them.  After a failed taxi booking due to an apparent landslide, or maybe the realisation it was a public holiday, we were given details of a track that ran around the mountains and led to a white sandy beach in the next bay.  Given the impression it was ‘just over the hill in the next bay’ and maybe an hours walk, we set off on the rough goat track with our packed lunch and what we thought was plenty of water.  Two and three quarter very hot hours later we finally arrived at the beach, and with two or three houses nestling in the coconut trees behind the sand we sought out a couple of residents and got permission to spend time on the beach and pick some fruit. With no roads to these properties they are extremely isolated. They have goats, pigs, chickens and horses and obviously plenty of fruit.  One man decided to demonstrate his mad-man style riding skills and galloped around us on a small pony in a rather intimidating manner as we picked some fresh limes, I was rather glad we had already got permission. I suspect that this is their mode of transport along the goat track to the road at Hana Iapa as there were hoof prints among the goats. We were all pretty worn out when we arrived back at our boats, a cool drink laced with some fresh lime juice and a swim was definitely in order.

IMG_6737-squashed

Boats at anchor in Hana Iapa Bay

IMG_6739-squashed

IMG_6743-squashed

Following the goat trail

IMG_6762-squashed

IMG_6744-squashed

Almost there!

IMG_6747-squashed

This little piggy is definitely not going to market

IMG_6749-squashedIMG_6755-squashedIMG_6756-squashedIMG_6758-squashed

 

The next day a taxi did appear and we all got a lift to the car rental place near the harbour at Atuona, we had all wanted to visit the ‘tiki’ archaeological site at Pua Mau on the north west coast. So after some shopping in Atuona, finding fresh lettuce, ginger, mangoes and all sorts of other goodies, we headed off on the road to the village of Pua Mau.  After just a few miles the road turned into an unmade track with just a few short random sections concreted.  It was a bumpy but picturesque 2 hour drive to the village, passing numerous cattle and ponies tethered in the shade along the roadside.  After arriving in the village and paying the entrance fee at a small snack shop we followed a narrow road into the valley lined with banana, mango and breadfruit trees and arrived at the small archaeological site. It was all very pretty with five ancient tikis (stone statues) under some modern thatched covers and a large pile of rocks where apparently human sacrifices had been made to the gods, but we did all wonder if we were at the right site! Ten minutes was all that was needed, and another twenty to load the back of the truck with some windfall bananas and freshly picked breadfruit. Despite the very misleading description in the guide book, we enjoyed the trip out there to see more of the island, although I came away with much more than just bananas and breadfruit. The notorious ‘no-no flies’ had munched on my deet-covered arms and legs with the odd mosquito bite thrown in for good luck.  That evening I gave up counting after itchy-bite number 30, Jez thought the reason for my misfortune was on account of not drinking enough tequila the night before, as he hadn’t a single bite.  Hmmm, he may have a point.

IMG_6768-squashed

The north coast of Hiva Oa is beautiful

IMG_6775-squashed

The tiki site at Pua Mau

IMG_6776-squashedIMG_6778-squashed

IMG_6780-squashed

One of the ancient tikis

IMG_6781-squashed

From here we will beat our way to the small island of Fatu Hiva, about 50 miles south of Hiva Oa.

Posted in French Polynesia | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Having a “Swell” Time in the South Pacific

As we started to approach the ‘Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone’ at around 4° N, the asymmetric sail was put away mainly due to the threat of squalls. The wind had increased slightly so we set up our pole attached to the main mast and poled out the jib sail on the starboard side and set the staysail on the port. This is a good down-wind set up but does have a tendency to make the boat roll from side to side. We were pleased we had made the change as that very night the first of many squalls hit.

Generally speaking a squall will bring an extra 15+ knots of wind and torrential rain. The following day with a mean wind of 20 knots and a dark cloud coming our way, we rolled away the poled out jib leaving just the staysail and set the main with 2 reefs. Torrential rain flattened the sea and the wind built to 41 knots, Jez took over the helm from the autopilot to keep us downwind and prevent gybing. We cheered at 8.5 knots of boat speed, and clocked up 10 knots surfing the back of a wave. We were sailing and making progress at last!

Sadly the squall leaves behind a period void of wind, before long we were back to bobbing with sails and booms crashing and banging. The ITCZ lived up to its reputation, windless and calm with miles of motoring required to get through it as soon as we could, interrupted by the occasional squall. In the words of Captain James Clark Ross sailing HMS Erebus through the ITCZ on an expedition to find magnetic south in 1839 “Violent gusts of wind and torrents of rain alternate with calms and light baffling breezes, which, with the suffocating heat of the electrically-charged atmosphere, render this part of the voyage both disagreeable and unhealthy” – I couldn’t have put it better myself!

The highlight of the doldrums was having a chat to Cap’n Morgan from a huge fishing boat who radioed us up one morning as he passed our bow, we thought that he was going to ask us to keep our distance, but instead all he wanted was a chat! We were amazed to discover that he had just netted 60 ton of tuna, with a crew of 29 onboard, saying that this was a medium haul, a good haul was 100 ton. He operated out of Equador, fishing a vast area from 10°South to 10°North and occasionally beyond. The ship has a staggering capacity of 1200 tons of fish, his shortest fishing trip was 60 days and longest 121 days to achieve this! He consequently didn’t seem that impressed with our Wahoo catch!

A couple of days later we finally found some wind from the east and made better progress, crossing the Equator during our 3am shift change on 22nd April we set a direct course for Hiva Oa. The wind filled in to 20-25 from the south east and another yachtie ‘Little Wing’ popped up on AIS 10 miles ahead and to port. From the dimensions shown on AIS we gathered that they were a multihull so assumed that they had overtaken us. Much of the time out of sight at 7-10 miles away, we watched them on AIS as we made slightly better progress and soon started to get ahead. After a particularly long-lasting squall one morning that just never seemed to pass, we discovered that the ITCZ had decided that once was not enough and had dropped hundreds of miles south to grace us with its presence, at 2° South! More squalls and calms, but with Little Wing to port of us they became our extra ‘squall detector’, when we could see them on AIS changing course slightly and speeding up to 7+ knots we knew we had it coming. This gave us plenty of time to gauge its strength, reef if necessary and get ready for the onslaught! As the ITCZ finally let us be, a good healthy trade wind developed on the beam, Joy screamed comfortably towards the goal at 8 knots with 2 reefs in the main and mizzen sails and the jib and staysail working together. It wasn’t long before we had surprisingly left our “squall detector” behind and the remaining 850 miles just melted away. With a high CAPE value still looming we had the odd squall to contend with and some pretty lightening displays, but quite often at night we had clear skies displaying thousands of mesmerising stars in a never ending milky-way galaxy, interrupted by the odd shooting star!

Disappointingly, we haven’t seen so many birds on this leg of the passage, and this must be the first time without a night time visitor resting somewhere on Joy. To make up for the lack of feathered friends however we did have three huge sperm whales pass us by pretty close, one went under the surface and slid past us then shortly after two more came ploughing through at the surface on a mission. It was pretty impressive to watch them, they have such huge blunt heads (the cavity of which, according to my guide book, can accommodate a car!) and their blow hole is through a slit on the left side of their head which we could clearly see. We estimated them to be at least 15m in length.

Our racing speed knocked a little over 24 hours off of our anticipated arrival, at 6am shift change yesterday we sighted land on the hazy horizon and by 8am we were off the north east point of the Marquesan island, Hiva Oa. The last few hours sailing along the south coast went back to bobbing with a drop to 12 knots in wind and the occasional rain shower.

Sailing towards Baie Tahauku where we can check in, our hopes of a calm anchorage for a good nights sleep were dashed when we spotted quite a few boats rolling hideously in the swell. The small harbour was jam packed with anchored sail boats and the overflow were anchored outside the breakwater, and there we joined them. There is no protection at all here, so we took the time to set a stern anchor and keep our bow into the building swell. Good job we had just been at sea for 24 days and had become accustomed to being thrown around!

After a very bumpy nights sleep, but I guess at least we didn’t have to keep watch, we mustered the energy to inflate the dinghy and get our home ship shape again. Our “squall detector” arrived in and anchored next to us this morning, the trimaran Little Wing. We can see a few yellow dusters flying from various yachts here so I guess Monday morning will be busy for the Gendarmes checking us all in, then we can explore and find a calmer anchorage. Wahoo for dinner…again!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What a Whopper!

First light on Friday morning revealed a tear in the asymmetric sail, the night had been a difficult one with the wind dropping below 8 knots at times causing the sail to flog. As the sun rose the wind filled in and we were sailing comfortably again, so it was rather annoying to have to retire it. The spinnaker cloth is very lightweight and unforgiving especially if snagged on anything sharp. A previously patched area must have caught on something high in the rigging when flogging in the annoying swell and variable breeze. We had no choice but to douse the sail and bring it in, deploying number 2 sail from the light air wardrobe, a high-cut reaching sail which we hoist from the bowsprit on a torsion rope. A heavier cloth than the asymmetric, it’s a little less delicate but is smaller in area and not as powerful, and also as the luff is fixed to the torsion rope it’s not possible to go as deep downwind as with the asymmetric.
On closer inspection the tear was bigger than it looked when hoisted, a rip a couple of feet long in the patch and original cloth with a couple of smaller rips branching off. The ‘sharp’ object had also sliced vertically through the edging tape. After a little hunt through my ever growing stock of sewing bits and bobs, I located a piece of spinnaker fabric left over from a repair I made to a couple of small rope burns in the sail a couple of years ago. It was only just big enough for the job, but beggars cannot be choosers. So with the sewing machine set up on the cabin floor, far too rolly to have the heavy thing on the table, I set about repairing it to the best of my abilities and I also reinforced the edging tape with a remnant of stronger sail cloth I picked up in San Diego. A motto of ours is “I can only do what I can do with what I have got” and coupled with “where there’s a will there’s a way” we got the job done. It was satisfying to get the sail rehoisted and back in action so quickly.

As I was busy sewing, Jez was accepting small gifts from Neptune in the form of a nice chunky tuna and a small Mahi Mahi. With the sail rehoisted and 6 knots of boat speed, we sat in the cockpit gazing at the wind-filled patch-work sail, mooching over what to have with our tuna supper. We discussed the benefits of catching smaller more manageable sized fish. We deliberately target these fish by using small plastic brightly coloured squid with a concealed hook inside, our rod and reel combo is perfect for the size tuna we normally target. Jez had just baked ‘Barbara’s Bread’, a wonderful artisan no-knead recipe passed on to us by our friend Barbara, and as he took it out of the oven the reel screamed at a level we have never heard before.

We both knew that this was not a mid-size fish of any description, as always my imagination ran wild and amongst the OMGs and a few other choice phrases I prayed to god it wasn’t a dolphin (Jez thinks I have an over active imagination, I have to remind him that we once caught a seal in Alaska although he was released unharmed with just a pierced lip!). The rod bent double and the fish ran with many metres of line, this one was going to be our trickiest ever – not at all what we had in mind! After increasing the clutch on the reel, Jez doused the asymmetric sail to slow the boat down before we started the long haul in. With every 5 turns of the reel, the fish took 10 back. It was a long muscle-burning reel in, excitement and anticipation keeping the adrenaline pumping.

As we got him closer to the boat we could see in the clear deep blue ocean a huge wahoo gradually tiring from his ordeal. This fish was far too big for us and our gear, but we had no choice but to bring him on board as he had swallowed most of the squid lure and the hook was deep in his throat, we would never be able to get close enough to remove that and release him alive. As luck would have it I gave a perfect strike with the gaff and struggled to lift him a little out of the water, Jez took over and I managed to get a rope around his tail which we tied to a cleat just in case! He was onboard and we still had all our fishing gear intact.

At 4 feet 5 inches long, this whopper of a Wahoo must have weighed around the 80-90 lb mark, based on Jez’s fishing book – that in Jez’s mind compares with a lamb ready for the butchers! We spent the rest of the day filleting and packaging 43 portions for two of beautiful chunky white fish, and our back-up freezer has been fired up to cope with the unexpected addition to our food stocks.

So it’s been a very productive and enjoyable second week at sea, with 12-18 knots of wind and a few periods down below the 10 mark, the sailing has been great and we finally feel that we are making progress. We have spent hours watching tuna leaping out of the water along side Joy in hot pursuit of flying fish, they seem to be using Joy as cover to creep up and attack the smaller fish (there goes my imagination again!). Also providing entertainment are the numerous sea birds also hunting the flying fish, Boobies are the most common but we have also had Shearwaters, Petrels, Terns and Tropicbirds and today an unknown bird which looks like an immature brown booby with red feet but has a much bigger wing span, and boy is he agile picking off flying fish mid-air.

With 1,100 nautical miles behind us, we have about 1,600 remaining as the booby flies. Today we changed course slightly after deciding to cross the ITCZ further west than originally planned, mainly because it looks as though there is more consistent wind closer to 128W compared with the area from 122W to 126W. In the last day or two we have entered the area of ‘CAPE’ around the ITCZ which stands for Convective Available Potential Energy – basically this means increased moisture and risk of squally showers, thunderstorms and lightening. It’s cloudy, hot and humid and occasionally rainy, we are now on squall alert especially with the asymmetric flying.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow!

After leaving La Paz last week we made our way south out of the Sea of Cortez towards the Cape. The new moon had meant some interesting waltzes with strong currents in the anchorage at La Paz making getting our outboard engine off the dinghy and into the aft lazarette an impossibility with an opposing wind and quite a bit of chop on the water. So we left the dinghy and engine hoisted on the davits and decided to stop in to the beautiful Ensenada de los Muertos anchorage on our way past to get this job done in more settled conditions. We only ever pack the engine away and deflate the dinghy on long passages, it means we can flush it through with fresh water before its sabbatical, and the dinghy is far safer packed away than strapped to the davits especially if things get rough. After dodging dozens of small fishing boats in the dark, we entered the bay late in the evening accompanied by the continuous sound of slapping on the water, and realised that it must be jumping eagle rays, slapping the water hard as they landed. It appeared the next morning that the eagle rays were perhaps in a feeding frenzy, as they continued to jump amongst the fisherman but seemed not to be the target of the local line catchers.

With everything stowed away we set off once more in a light onshore breeze hoping to find more consistent wind further away from land.

As we rounded the Cape and left the Baja peninsular behind us a couple of humpback whales waved goodbye on the horizon with some awesome fin-slapping and a breach. As Joy headed offshore once more we had a fantastic 25 knot north wind fill in on the beam and screamed along at 8-9 knots thinking that this was going to be a fast passage. Sadly that only lasted about 12 hours before we were back to bobbing at 2-3 knots.

Light north east winds set in around the 3 to 8 knot range and coupled with a north west swell for most of the week has meant a flogging asymmetric sail and little progress.

To give you an idea of our measly progress, yesterday we clocked up just 18 miles in 11 hours! That has to be an all time record low for us. It’s entirely possible that Jez will celebrate his 50th birthday on this passage (he’s currently 47). Our light airs downwind sail has spent more time hanging from the rigging like a limp lettuce, just swinging in the swell and occasionally dipping in the water. The pod of dolphins that visited us didn’t think much of it either, I think their squeaking and tail slapping was some form of dolphin fun-poking. The highlight of the day however was when we overtook a large turtle at about 1.8 knots (yes, there is a decimal point in there), the hare and the tortoise sprung to mind. We had initially thought that perhaps he was dead as we bobbed past him, who knows perhaps he thought the same about us, until he finally raised his head for a gasp of air.

So with plenty of time on our hands the sudoku books have seen plenty of action, and I have had time for some meaningful pondering on the state of our planet as we try desperately to travel greenly, patiently encouraging this hare to continue moving forward with every little puff of wind.

And I must wish my precious Mum, Sandie, a very happy birthday along with my niece Jasmine, hoping they both have a super day. Xx

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And We’re Off!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks getting last minute jobs done and a mammoth reprovision for the next 7 months of cruising the South Pacific Islands.  We spent most of yesterday on the paper trail to clear out of Mexico, with visits to the Port Authority, Health Department, Immigration and then finally the Port Captain.  Of course all the offices are spread out around the town so plenty of exercise in between.  It was an uncomplicated procedure, all the officials were very friendly and I got by with my small amount of Spanish.  The last stop at the Port Captain was painfully slow, as we sat at the “Ventanilla Rapida” desk for an hour and a half waiting for our clearance papers with my stomach grumbling like a caged lion, I wondered if the sign taped to the window was an April fools joke.

We have had some great wildlife encounters this last week, Lofty our resident Osprey eats her breakfast every morning on the TV aerial at the top of the mast, the splatterings of sushi on the deck can be a bit annoying when walking around in bare feet.  The dolphins have been a great source of entertainment too, large pods of them come into the harbour to feed and they do so right around the anchored boats.  We had one do a spy hop a couple of metres from our bow, vertically in the water his whole head came out and had a good look at us before going back down.

So we’re cleared for departure and head off out today hoping to pick up some trade winds once we get offshore.  We are sad to be leaving Mexico, we have so enjoyed our time here and as always don’t feel we have really seen enough, but the South Pacific is calling Joy and we must set sail once more for our next adventure.

Baja Mexico to Hva Oa-squashed

Just a little over 3,000 miles to Hiva Oa, Marquesas

 

 

Posted in Mexico, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Preparing for the Pacific

Now that we are back in the vicinity of La Paz, work has begun on prepping Joy for her next leg of the adventure, crossing the Pacific.  It’s hard to believe that less than ten months ago we were leaving Panama for Alaska via Hawaii, sailing over 8,000 miles in about 9 weeks to Sitka. Since then we have added at least another 3,000 miles making our way down through SE Alaska, British Columbia, West coast US and Baja Mexico. What an adventurous year it’s been for us Joysters and now ‘here we go again’!

We had a wonderful sail down to La Paz from Bahia Concepcion, this time we took full advantage of the northerly winds to actually sail pretty much all the way.  We stopped at a few anchorages on the way back that we missed on our way north, our favourites being Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante a couple of miles from Escondido, and a beautiful bay on the mainland Baja called Agua Verde where we bought some goats cheese from the local dairy. At last, some cheese with flavour.

 

IMG_5734-squashed

A view of the mainland from inside Honeymoon Cove

IMG_5746-squashedIMG_5749-squashed

IMG_5753-squashed

Looking north from Isla Danzante on a day when the northerlies weren’t blowing

IMG_5754-squashedIMG_5758-squashedIMG_5786-squashed

IMG_5790-squashed

The anchorage at Agua Verde

IMG_5792-squashed

Our little Mexican friend tried to follow us on our walk to the village. But not before licking most of the bug spray off our legs, chewing the inflatable kayak and trying to run off with Jez’s shoes (brave)!

IMG_5796-squashedIMG_5799-squashedIMG_5801-squashed

IMG_5805-squashed

Following the dirt-road into the village

IMG_5808-squashed

Approaching the ‘village’ at Agua Verde

IMG_5811-squashed

Free range goats on the beach

IMG_5814-squashed

A big thanks to Nanny for our tasty cheese

Isla Partida, the small island just north of Espiritu Santo, was our last port of call before heading back to La Paz harbour.  We stayed a couple of days in a large bay called El Cardonal (which is the name for the tall cactus found here), and has a beautiful walk across a valley to the other side of the island on a well-marked, easy-peasy, kind-on-the-knees trail.  We were rather taken with this bay, especially as we passed an osprey sitting on her nest on the cliff face as we entered, although the wind did accelerate through the valley and blast us from one way to the other pretty regularly but it was a small price to pay.

IMG_5819-squashedIMG_5823-squashedIMG_5824-squashedIMG_5832-squashedIMG_5859-squashedIMG_5861-squashed

IMG_5864-squashed

A random place, inland, to find what we think is a dolphin skull

IMG_5866-squashedIMG_5877-squashedIMG_5881-squashedIMG_5887-squashedIMG_5895-squashedIMG_5898-squashedIMG_5899-squashed

IMG_5901-squashed

The tide had gone out rather a long way when we returned to the kayak

IMG_5907-squashed

IMG_5924-squashed

These bugs scuttled across the rocks in their hundreds, it was difficult not to step on them, a cross between a cockroach and a woodlouse.

IMG_5934-squashed

The elaborate abandoned fish trap

IMG_5936-squashedIMG_5942-squashedIMG_5945-squashedIMG_5946-squashed

IMG_5948-squashed

Layers and layers of shells

IMG_5955-squashed

Then on night 3 our overnight forecast of a shift in wind from the NE to a 10 knot north-wester turned into a 20+ knot south-west wind, entering directly into the bay pushing along with it a lumpy sea with 20 miles of fetch. Jez can pretty much sleep through anything, I gave up trying at 3am and went on anchor watch until 6am when things finally started to calm down and I dropped off to sleep. With more of the same now showing in the forecast we decided it was time to get back to La Paz and knuckle down to some serious preparations.

Whilst waiting for some parts to arrive from the UK we have been busy adjusting our spray hood fixings to stop water getting in. The spray hood (or dodger) was attached to the coachroof by three sections of track at two different levels. Inevitably, especially when heeled over, water runs in through the gaps in the track and we often have towels at the ready in rough weather as that salt water always attempts to get down the companionway and then runs over the electronics, not a good combination! So Jez has built up the lower section of the coachroof  in teak using his rather handy carpentry skills so that it’s all one level and then we have fitted a one-piece track across the front.  I have been busy with the sewing machine adapting the spray hood and fitting a new bolt-rope. We sure are softy sailors who like our comforts, getting wet especially with sea water isn’t very pleasant and on a long passage getting things dry when covered in salt is not easy, so we are hoping this will improve things further.

Meanwhile our experience with importing parts into Mexico using DHL has been a little stressful, causing me to discover an unexpected taste for tequila. DHL refused at first to process them as a temporary import (as we will be leaving Mexico with said items) and slapped us with an 11,500 peso bill (£450) for customs fees and duty and a persistent reminder that if we didn’t pay by 15th March our package would ‘go into abandonment’, charming!  We had made sure the package had all the correct paperwork for a temporary import before it left the UK,  including stamped customs documents we obtained in La Paz for each item but still DHL refused to recognise them.  I managed to find a copy of the Mexican law on allowing temporary imports for boats such as ourselves, helpfully translated into English under each section, on Marina de La Paz’s website, and I emailed this to DHL and the customs broker.  After 23 emails in over two weeks and just as many frustrating phone calls I finally got some action, I guess slow action is better than none. We got a reduced bill without the duty, but still stupidly expensive at 5,000 pesos – to put this into perspective, here in Mexico that’s 465 cans of beer, or 43 litres of tequila! Daylight robbery.

But now that’s all water under a very dodgy bridge, we took delivery yesterday and have already started fitting things.  We have opted for a B&G wireless wind transducer because it was actually the cable inside the mast that had failed on our old Raymarine system. This cable is secured inside conduit in the mast and will not budge, so we can’t replace it without unstepping the mast and that’s an expensive option!  So our solution is to fit a wireless transducer instead, which relays the data via bluetooth to a base fitted at deck level which is in turn connected to our network.  After a bit of trouble getting the two to pair, we discovered with the help of my trusty friend ‘Señor Google’ that B&G have provided the wrong sequence in their set-up instructions! So that resolved our problem and hey presto, we now have apparent wind speed and angle on our displays once more. Our other part is to replace our Echopilot forward looking depth sonar which won’t be quite so straight forward as there are cables to run, control boxes to mount and we discovered this morning that the video-out cable supplied with it has a different connector to our video-in on the Raymarine display!  Don’t you just love these companies!

So now we need to start the hunt in La Paz for an adapter which I am sure will involve many miles of fruitless walking, something we seem well practised in.  We feel quite at home walking in Mexico and have never felt unsafe walking the streets, although we had a rather strange incident with a little old lady one day as we walked the pavement past her house in downtown La Paz.  I had seen her looking at us as we approached, and when she broke out in Spanish, which sadly we couldn’t understand, I apologised with ‘lo siento, hablo un poco de Espanol’. With that she proceeded to mimic a karate kick on Jez and pretended to hit him with her stick!  We walked away laughing but quite bewildered as she ranted ‘mi casa, mi casa’ and went inside her gate. Was she inviting us in or warning us off? Who knows, there’s nowt so queer as folk!

We hope to be ready to leave Mexico for the Marquesas by the end of March, and the clock is ticking…..But we have still found time to entertain a few unexpected callers at ‘nuestra casa’.

IMG_6059-squashedIMG_6061-squashed

IMG_6134-squashed

An Osprey landed on the TV aerial and called its heart out for 20 minutes. Reminding me that despite DHL, life really is fantastic!

IMG_6135-squashedIMG_6139-squashedIMG_6145-squashed

IMG_6053-squashed

Waiting for the next high water, a reminder to check your surroundings before anchoring in La Paz. This newcomer was the second grounding in the harbour in one day.

IMG_6049-squashed

The Waltz in La Paz with a front approaching at sunset

Posted in Mexico | 5 Comments

Beautiful Baja Cruising

It’s been a very interesting and varied few weeks since leaving the beautiful Isla Espiritu Santo, cruising north along the east coast of the Baja peninsular dodging the strong northerly winds every few days.  There are plenty of lovely anchorages along the way,  with varying protection. San Evaristo was beautiful and well protected with a nice walk along the beach, and one of the dirt roads that leads out of the small fishing village took us to some salt evaporation ponds on the other side of the point.

IMG_4918-squashed

The stunning Sierra de la Giganta mountain range

IMG_4925-squashed

A shrimping boat takes a rest

IMG_4973-squashed

Salt evaporation ponds gleaming in the sunlight

IMG_4978-squashedIMG_4982-squashed

IMG_4985-squashed

The tiny rural school in the village

IMG_4995-squashed

IMG_5003-squashed

The small fishing community at San Evaristo

IMG_5013-squashed

A chance to sail in the San Jose Channel

Our favourite anchorage was on the southern shore of Isla Coronados which is about 5 miles north-east of the small town of Loreto.  Uninhabited and part of the National Park, the island is actually a volcano with a beautiful sandy spit at its base. The volcano provided us with great protection in its lee during a week-long northerly with gusts up to 35 knots,  we sat comfortably with just a small amount of wind chop watching the large waves rolling on by past the island.  Within kayaking reach of a small beach we had the island all to ourselves, the tourists stayed away for days as the boat trip out from Loreto would have been quite horrible.  It’s not all that easy paddling against strong wind in an inflatable kayak, it was a wet experience but gave us a much-needed work out. We took a couple of hours to hike to the top of the volcano for a picnic, it was pretty tough on the ankles and trainers as most of the trek was across acres of rubble-like rocks which were quite wobbly and sharp.  The last part was very steep and slippery on loose gravel but we made it, our lunch stop at the top was pretty wind-blown as the gusts accelerated over the peak. Great views though.

IMG_5262-squashed

The volcano in the distance

IMG_5261-squashed

Cairns mark the trail across the rubble

 

IMG_5241-squashed

Looking across the sand spit to the mainland

IMG_5247-squashed

IMG_5252-squashed

Nice calm water in the lee of the island

IMG_5254-squashed

A great view of Isla Carmen 8 miles to the south

IMG_5217-squashedIMG_5227-squashed

Going down was tricky, that slippery gravel meant I was on my backside quite a bit.  Sadly my Sketchers were no match for the sharp rocks, now we are both in need of some new trainers.  The beach at the base of the volcano on the western shore is pretty stunning, and there is a network of well maintained paths that lead through the sand-dunes giving a much easier and gentle workout for the old knees. After our second trip ashore on one of the windiest days we kayaked back to Joy with the wind behind us, paddling hard so as not to miss her we arrived at the steps doing around 5 knots. The only way to stop was to grab hold of the fenders pretty quickly and hang on for dear life.  We really didn’t fancy missing the goal, being blown out to sea and having to paddle like hell to get back.  We made it, but I strained my dodgy knee getting out of the kayak and back up the steps, that put me out of action for a few days.

 

IMG_5202-squashed

Joy anchored in the lee of Isla Coronados

IMG_5209-squashed

A well-marked trail through the scrub

IMG_5225-squashedIMG_5228-squashedIMG_5229-squashed

IMG_5232-squashed

This poor little fella with a broken wind followed us up the beach, we returned the next day with some bait fish and left over tuna for him!

IMG_5233-squashedIMG_5284-squashedIMG_5346-squashed

IMG_5359-squashed

This one’s aptly named a ‘rambling’ cactus

IMG_5371-squashed

The windward beach, not so nice!

Loreto is such a lovely little town full of character and friendly people.  There is no protected anchorage just an open roadstead, but it’s an easy hop from Isla Coronados and when the weather is settled it’s possible to anchor off the small town harbour for a few hours. There are a couple of good supermarkets and plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from.   Mexican supermarkets generally have an abundance of avocados, limes and fresh coriander. Jez makes a fantastic chunky guacamole with avocado, onion, garlic, coriander and lime juice, a wonderful change from popcorn at beer o’clock.

IMG_5089-squashed

Approaching the beautiful town of Loreto

IMG_1552-squashedIMG_1556-squashedIMG_1568-squashedIMG_5380-squashedIMG_5381-squashedIMG_5382-squashedIMG_5383-squashedIMG_5385-squashed

IMG_1550-squashed

It’s amazing what you can find next to the bacon in the supermarket chiller!

IMG_1551-squashed

I’m not telling porkies……

The waters around Loreto are pretty special too, huge pods of dolphin can often be seen feeding as well as hundreds of pelicans and one day we were lucky enough to be startled by a humpback whale leaping from the water, crashing down with a huge loud splash.  Then again she breached but not achieving such a great height as the first time, then again. We watched in total amazement as this whale breached six times in succession before her companion joined in and managed two more!

IMG_5092-squashedIMG_5116-squashedIMG_5126-squashed

IMG_5130-squashed

Each time she landed on her back with her mouth open!

IMG_5138-squashed

Now her friend’s turn

IMG_5156-squashed

Our final leg to reach Bahia Concepcion was actually sailable, with some south in the light winds we even managed to get the asymmetric sail out for a few hours as we watched two humpback whales tail slapping. Bahia Concepcion is a large bay with several anchorages within it giving protection from just about every wind angle.  The downside is it’s close to the Mexican highway with noisy lorries during the day, it’s also a popular place for camping and the beaches are full of RV’s and campers.

IMG_5489-squashed

This shrimping boat overtook us doing about 10 knots – complete with a flock of frigate birds in his rigging!

IMG_5493-squashed

It’s not often the asymmetric sail comes out

IMG_5526-squashed

If you look really closely you can see that they are blue footed boobies

IMG_5529-squashed

Playa Coyote

IMG_5534-squashedIMG_5538-squashedIMG_5540-squashed

IMG_5541-squashed

Spot the osprey on her nest

IMG_5555-squashedIMG_5557-squashedIMG_5562-squashed

IMG_5568-squashed

Isla Requeson is connected to the mainland by a sand spit, also a popular place for campers

IMG_5571-squashed

Looking north from Isla Requeson across Bahia Concepcion

IMG_5575-squashedIMG_5581-squashed

IMG_5583-squashed

Millions of oyster shells litter the island

IMG_5667-squashed

The pretty point at Playa Santispac

IMG_5613-squashed

We found this strange little creature blocking up our water strainer for the fridge cooling system (released unharmed!)

IMG_5611-squashed

The authors or our excellent cruising guide for the Sea of Cortez, Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, have also produced electronic charts of all the anchorages that they cover in the book. We bought these too as our Navionics charts were rather poor in detail, they have proved to be very useful and pretty accurate for GPS positioning and depth soundings. This is our favourite anchorage in Bahia Concepcion, Playa Santa Barbara, on the left is the Navionics chart compared with the authors chart on the right.

Santa Barbara Charts-squashed

Now we are heading south on our way back to La Paz to get the boat, and ourselves, ready to cross the Pacific next month.  We’re looking forward to visiting some of the anchorages we missed out on our bash north.

 

Posted in Mexico | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments