Pitstop in Pago Pago, American Samoa

The people of American Samoa are so very friendly, checking in was a delightful experience with all the officials.  The Port Authority staff were also very welcoming and we instantly knew we would enjoy our time here.  It was an interesting change in culture with both sexes wearing the traditional skirt, a wrap-around a bit like a sarong, called a ‘lava lava’.  After clearing in we moved off the dock and into the anchorage, its bad reputation for poor holding foremost in our minds.  This island had been hit by a tsunami in September 2009 following a nearby earthquake, and the harbour seabed is reported to be littered with household items such as mattresses, sheets and childrens toys as well as old moorings, ropes and machinery.  We had heard reports of people requiring divers to free their anchors, and certainly while we were there three boats behind us spent several hours freeing their chain and one had to have a diver.

Pago Pago is a large well-protected harbour with an interesting history. The US became involved with the islands as far back as 1872 when Commander Meade negotiated facilities for a coaling station for the Navy from the Samoan High Chief. A small American naval base was stationed here from 1899 and then expanded in 1940 following the outbreak of WWII.  In 1942 the base came under attack from a Japanese submarine that surfaced off the coast firing 15 shells from its deck gun. Most of the shells landed in the bay but two people were injured, ironically the only building that was damaged was a store owned by a Japanese expat!

When the naval base closed in 1951 the port returned to commercial use and control of these islands was transferred to the US Department of the Interior. The harbour is now a very busy base for tuna fishing boats, all delivering to the tuna canning factory on the north shore of the bay.  The downside to anchoring in this beautiful natural harbour is the very noisy diesel fired power station and the tuna factory which emits a particularly intense smell every evening. I don’t think I could ever eat canned tuna again!



A raft of fishing boats tied up outside ‘Starkist’ tuna factory as a helicopter comes in to land on one. These boats use helicopters onboard to spot the fish!

We were amazed to find that the parts we had ordered shortly before leaving Bora Bora had arrived the same day we had.  The gas strut however was an en-route breakage and took a few days to get on order. Our main issue was getting the boom kicker apart, it took over a week of dismantling, drilling and then brute force to get the thing apart. Once apart we could see the problem, the sudden downward force that blew the gas strut had also obliterated the plastic bracket holding it in place, jamming everything inside.  Our 3 day ‘express’ delivery then ended up taking 10 days when it was finally discovered awaiting ground shipment in Honolulu!

During our wait we did a few boat jobs and a little much needed maintenance, fitting in a little exploration using their excellent US$1 a ride bus system and a wonderful hike across the hills on the southern side of the bay to see the remains of the WWII gunnery.

On the hike we also discovered the remains of the tramway and cable car system which operated across the harbour to the mountain the otherside from 1965 to 1980. It was originally built to take engineers to service the telecommunication towers at the peak but then became a tourist attraction in the 1970’s.  Here we also learned of another tragedy that these islanders have endured. On 17th April 1980, a US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft was taking part in Samoa’s flag day  celebrations. After dropping skydivers it turned to do a second flyover across the harbour, but this time went too low and its wing clipped the tramway line causing it to crash into buildings. Tragically all 6 crew members were killed along with 2 onlookers.


The old tramway Pavilion


Rusty remains of the tramway system


Fruit bats fly overhead even during the day


A view across the harbour and the anchorage


The entrance to the bay



The colourful trail took us through some beautiful forests, several areas of the climb are very steep and ropes have been provided to help.


Looking south, the reef protects much of the shoreline


A cane toad rustles through the leaves


A flooded WWII gun position


Toady making the most of his warm bath


Cane toads were introduced to this island in 1954 to control mosquitoes and also some insects that attack taro, a popular root vegetable grown here.


A colourful church in the small town of Fagatogo, downtown Pago Pago


The bus rides include loud music and an uncomfortable wooden bench seat, but they are cheap and plentiful!


The very grand Court House

When the gas strut finally arrived we wasted no time in fitting it and putting things back together. We returned to the officials to check out and obtain our  clearance for the next port, the friendly male immigration officer wore a smart shirt, decorated with a necklace of very large bright coloured beads, a lava lava skirt with socks and shoes. Much more colourful and relaxed than the usual immigration uniforms.

It was a relief to pull up the anchor and only find a few bits of old rope and fishing line wrapped around the chain, we hadn’t snagged anything serious.  And we had a perfect weather window to reach the northern-most Tongan island of Niuatoputapu just 200 miles away.

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Saying Farewell to French Polynesia from Bora Bora

We had a great break in the weather for our sail from Taha’a to Bora Bora, just half a days hop away.  That annoying southerly swell continued to roll us around on the downwind passage but at least the sun was shining so it was enjoyable.


Approaching the beautiful island of Bora Bora

Just after entering the lagoon we followed a marked channel to starboard and tucked ourselves in on the leeward side of the private motu ‘Toopua’ and anchored in a large patch of sand right behind an even larger superyacht catamaran called Hemisphere.   The government has tightened anchoring regulations in recent months, and many moorings have been placed in the ‘anchoring zones’ which makes life a little difficult for any yacht who would rather trust their own ground tackle over a possibly under rated mooring.  We checked out the anchoring zone just the other side of the channel behind Toopua and found numerous coral heads scattered about which made it impossible for us to find a big enough patch of sand to anchor in without damaging the coral or getting too close to a mooring.  So we settled for our large patch of sand behind the superyacht.  The mooring operator came by and paid us a visit, he was sure our 37 ton would be fine on his moorings (for a fee of US$100 a week) even with a forecast of 30 knots of wind for the next few days, but we firmly declined and insisted we stay put in our sand.  He very generously said ok we could stay one night, we ignored him and stayed here for our 5 day visit to the island and neither he or anyone else bothered us again.


The view towards the reef and the ‘anchoring zone’ from our secure patch of sand

During our first evening in the anchorage we noticed a motor boat ferrying people to the superyacht in front, we were intrigued as to what was going on as a dozen or so locals were loaded on to ‘Hemisphere’.  When the sound of  drums began to flow out from the back deck and chanting began we took our places, peering over the sprayhood, for a traditional performance.  The human delivery had been local dancers and musicians performing an exclusive show for the lucky (and very rich) guests of the superyacht.  Well, not that exclusive as us two curtain-twitchers looked on through binoculars in awe of the men and women dancing and singing, including several costume changes in between. The icing on the cake was the finale involving the guests getting individual dance lessons taking ‘dad-dancing’ to another level.  Priceless.  What an evening of entertainment…through the looking glass. Good job it gets dark early here.


Our Entertainment Yacht “Hemisphere’ leaving Bora Bora with a crew member in the main boom. She is the worlds largest luxury charter catamaran at 145 feet long and costs up to US$280,000 per week to charter!

Although our anchorage was lovely and protected, the dinghy ride across the lagoon to the main island of Bora Bora was a real bone shaker, punching against 25-30 knots of wind and associated waves was a wet and bumpy affair. My coccyx may well be a couple of mm shorter than before.  We were lucky enough to be joined in the anchorage by ‘Bruno’s Girl’, a British boat we had met in the Tuamotus, so despite the strong winds and heavy downpours we managed some fun evenings together and a hike across the northern part of the island.



What a view – from Bora Bora to Motu Toopua


Daredevil Claudia enjoying the view


Beautiful decorations outside a local wedding celebration


Following the trail across the mountain, just before the rain set in for the afternoon

It is certainly a very pretty island and has numerous tourist resorts in the lagoon area so the main town was bustling, it was just a great shame our visit had 90% bad weather as this really limited what we could do.  Just a few days after arriving, a weather window appeared for us to sail to our next destination, American Samoa, about 1100 miles to the west. Here we will collect a replacement gearbox oil cooler that sprung a leak in the Marquesas. Parts can be delivered here cheaply from the States using the US postal system without any tax added, our oil cooler worked out less than a third of the cost  of having it delivered to Tahiti.   Clearing out of French Polynesia was a rather long and slow process compared with checking in. After completing 6 forms repeating the same information at the police station, and 2 more wet rides across the lagoon as they still hadn’t received our clearance papers from Tahiti, our departure was delayed by half a day.   So from Bora Bora we said our final goodbye to the wonderful French Polynesian Islands and we head off out into the swell once more.

Our 1100 mile passage to the main port of Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango), on the southern shore of Tutuila Island in the American Samoa group, started in squally weather which kept us on our toes.  Early on day two we had a sudden 36 knot squall which the autopilot couldn’t cope with in the swell, so I took over quickly as Joy attempted to round up into the wind.  Another reef in the mizzen certainly helped the helm.  We poled out the jib sail to stop it collapsing when the boat rolled in the swell, and from day 3 the squalls subsided and slightly better conditions set in. Three other boats that had left the same time as us peeled off to Suwarrow Reef for a stopover but as the forecast was so good we decided to take advantage and carry on to collect our parts.  Two days out from our destination we added to our small list of parts required.  The gas strut inside the main boom kicker, which supports the boom and allows us to raise and lower the boom from the cockpit, suddenly blew which meant we had to use the topping lift (fancy name for a rope that runs from the top of the mast down to the end of the boom) to support the boom.  When it blew, the boom smashed the electrical box on the hardtop serving the solar panels.


Catch of the day – a tasty Wahoo, a similar sized barracuda was also added to the freezer


Downwind sailing – Poled-out Jib sail to starboard and staysail to port

After a 9 day sail we arrived very early morning off the coast of Tutuila, hoving-to for a couple of hours so that we could delay our arrival and enter in daylight.  It was really nice to see our friends on ‘Larus’ in the anchorage and just before we dropped anchor they whizzed over and told us that Customs here require clearance on the dock. Luckily there was a Joy-sized space on the concrete dock squeezed in between a large fishing boat and another yacht and Nancy and Tim from ‘Larus’ very kindly took our lines.  We had arrived!


A view of the channel in to Pago Pago, American Samoa

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Saying Tata to Taha’a

Next on our Society Island itinerary is the beautiful island of Taha’a, it actually lies within the same protective coral reef as its larger sister island Raiatea and they may even have been a single island many moons ago.

We had a wonderful sail from Huahine in glorious sunshine and a settled sea, entering the reef pass on the eastern side in good light mid-afternoon, then we sailed around the southern shore of Taha’a in between the two islands.  Raiatea looked busy, so many yacht masts in one place!  As our Pacific crossing clock is ticking we decided to stop at just one of these islands, and Taha’a being smaller and quieter we opted for the slower pace of life as always.



A sea plane preparing to take off close to a hotel complex inside the outer reef


Lots of green pastures with cattle grazing


A well kept banana and coconut plantation


The neatest and best-kept copra (coconut) drying shed we have seen in the whole of French Poly


One late afternoon stroll along the shoreline of Apu Bay (where we were the only boat anchored in the whole of the huge bay, maybe because it was 20-30 metres deep) Jez spotted an octopus in the shallow water. We watched for a few minutes as he scouted around the rocks perhaps looking for his dinner, then he suddenly propelled himself away into the deep. What a wonderful sighting!





The remnants of sugar cane gets piled outside the small local rum distillery after crushing


One reason for coming to Taha’a was to snorkel the ‘Coral Gardens’ a shallow area in between two motus where the currents can be quite strong, but it’s full of coral and friendly fish.   We had a few gloomy rainy days while we were on the island, so late one afternoon when the sun finally showed itself as it dropped beneath the clouds, we grabbed the opportunity and whizzed over in the dinghy.  It was busy with snorkelers when we arrived as there is a popular hotel complex on one of the motus, and after walking a short trail on the smaller uninhabited motu we entered the water on the seaward side and got carried back by the current into the lagoon.  It was a little like being on a fast conveyor belt whizzing over some very shallow corals and lots of pretty tropical fish. It was amusing negotiating the maze created by the coral under full speed. We managed to find a couple of spots with less current tucked up behind some larger coral where we could hang around and enjoy being in a tropical fishtank.  The fish were so friendly I even had my ankles nibbled at!

Butterfly Fish-squashed

The sunsets here were beautiful with the majestic outline of Bora Bora visible in the distance, this will be our next stop and our last in French Polynesia.


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Heavenly Huahine

After a very lively overnight sail from Moorea we entered the easy Avapehi pass in through Huahine’s protective reef and headed to Avea Bay on the south western tip of the island. There are a lot of charter boats in this area, mainly catamarans, and the anchorage off the small town of Fare at the north end looked pretty busy so we chose to spend most of our time in the quieter southern part of the island.


Avea Bay – A beautiful anchorage fully protected from the sea by a wide expanse of reef and shallow water


Quite possibly the coolest house boat ever

There was a small hotel ashore with a dock and they very kindly allow cruisers shore access, so we left our dinghy on the dock several days in a row and went hiking.  Huahine is very different from its south-eastern neighbour Moorea, with less dramatic terrain and fewer agricultural plantations, but it has a beautiful coastline and such lovely friendly people too.



Archaeological ruins along the coast, all made of coral rock



Lunch with a view, we regularly have to pinch ourselves!


At the top of the hill over looking the small village of Parea we found a very well manicured look-out with some imaginative planting and a spectacular view of the reef



One of the many meandering rivers flowing through the village of Parea



Baby coconuts



More attractive look-out points on the road heading north


Another day in Paradise


On our hike north along the quiet main road we came across a vanilla plantation, and after a chat with the owner and a purchase of some vanilla beans we were given a free tour of his organic plantation, originally started by his grandfather.



The vanilla plant is related to the orchid and originally came from Mexico. The plantations are usually under cover to give them protection from the elements, in particular rain as this damages the flowers. Coconut shells are used as a mulch providing nutrients for the roots.


A labour of love – A Vanilla plant can take three years before it flowers, it is then ‘hand pollinated’  using a fish bone as a tool. The flower cannot self-pollinate due to plant tissue covering the stem, and the pollen is quite inaccessible to most natural pollinators such as bees and butterflies. So the tool is used to transfer the pollen from the anther to the stigma.


New flowers forming


The pods can take 6 weeks to grow to 6-10 inches, then go through a further 6 month drying or ‘sweating’ ritual. A healthy vine can produce up to 100 pods in a year.

We can now certainly appreciate why vanilla is so expensive to buy, the farmer has spent several years nurturing a plant and it’s harvested pods before he has a product to sell.


Some amusing local art decorating a car port!


Among the overgrown banana and papaya trees along the roadside we found some wild chillies!


A new experience – the Star Apple fruit.  We came across a lady along the road selling fruit from her garden, so we bought a huge bag of Star Apples and some coconuts.  The Star Apples are strange, as they are cut they pour with a milky latex sap, the flesh scooped out from the skin has a creme caramel texture and mild flavour but with a beautiful purple twist.

Huahine was a wonderful island to explore and we had excellent weather, I think this is my favourite Society Island so far. As always it is difficult to tear ourselves away from such a paradise, our next destination is in sight and just a days sail away.


Raiatea and Taha’a are just 20 miles away and visible from Huahine.

The Society Islands - French Polynesia-squashed

The Society Islands – French Polynesia

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Wanting more of Moorea

Another night arrival in the Society Islands, but this time the channel through the reef had its leading lights in full working order.  After a pleasant sail from the southern end of Tahiti we made a midnight entrance into Moorea, passing twenty or so yachts crammed into a small anchorage behind the reef we proceeded into the almost empty large deep bay of Opunohu, anchoring behind a large superyacht.   It’s always nice to wake up in a new place and see your surroundings for the first time, Opunohu Bay is quite possibly the most scenic anchorage we have had in the South Pacific so far.  It is surrounded by lush green mountains and rolling hills with a mixture of livestock and crop plantations.


Opunohu Bay

After an excellent hike up the valley to visit some archaeological sites and a viewpoint called Belvedere, with views north across both Opunohu and Cooks Bay, we discovered a network of hiking and cycling trails across the northern part of the island.



The trail across the mountain disappearing into the clouds


This ancient site is believed to have been part of an archery competition arena



Looking north from the rainy viewpoint, Opunohu Bay on the left and Cooks Bay on the right

We spent a week on this beautiful island, hiking every day through pineapple, banana, and citrus  plantations and pine forests, with the occasional beef herd in between.



These banana trees had to be propped up to support the weight of their fruit



The Common Myna are pretty birds with an impressive array of vocal sounds, but they are a pest. Introduced to the Islands in the 1800’s to control insects, they are now prolific and have reduced the numbers of native birds by stealing nests and destroying eggs and also cause damage to fruit crops.


The Soursop tree


Pineapple fields



A flowering pineapple plant




Beautiful rich looking soil



A papaya tree heavy with fruit


Wet feet again, the trails cross the river several times


Leaving Moorea


A full moon for the overnight passage to our next island, Huahine

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Total Protection – Tahitian Style

Our passage from the atoll of Fakarava to Tahiti was bouncy and wet with a very confused sea caused by the meeting of two swells. A long south-west swell of 2.5 metres crossing with a short south-easterly caused by the prevailing wind, not an ideal combination.  We knew it would be uncomfortable but that never really makes it any easier. We were heading for the protection of Tahiti’s western reef before the conditions were forecast to worsen, and thankfully the sea eased as we rounded the southern end of Tahiti in the darkness of late evening on day two.  Sailing a little more comfortably towards the main channel in through the reef we looked longingly for the leading lights shown on our charts.  The southern side of the channel had a lit beacon marking the reef, but as we approached in the pitch black there were no leading lights to be seen.  The pass is wide and deep and reported to be safe in all conditions so we decided to cautiously approach, as the chart and visual bearing on the lit beacon all agreed we made the entrance whilst keeping a close eye on our forward looking depth sounder.  The sound of the sea crashing on the reef either side of us in the dark was a little eery, but we sailed through without any problems and headed south to a small anchorage just off the channel.

Our intended destination on Tahiti was Port Phaeton, a large bay that lies on the west side of the isthmus that connects ‘big’ Tahiti Nui with ‘little’ Tahiti Iti. So after a great nights sleep we negotiated the network of channels around the inner reefs and shoals, and we were rather glad we hadn’t attempted this in the dark as there were many fishing buoys dotted about just waiting for an unsuspecting propeller.  Port Phaeton is a very pretty bay surrounded by lush green countryside, but only a five minute walk to the small but busy town of Taravao on the isthmus. The protection in this bay was complete, as we watched the sea build outside to an impressive 5 metre swell and crash onto the reef, Joy sat peacefully suspended in a mill pond.  As the wind reportedly blew 30-40 knots gusting nearly 50 outside, we had barely a puff of wind cross the boat and our wind turbines sat idle.  It seemed to rain for days and days, with low grey clouds looming over us I had almost forgotten what that bright shiny thing in the sky looked like. Jeans, fleeces and the winter duvet even came out of storage. With no wind or sun to generate our power, we had to run the generator to charge the batteries for the first time in ages. But, we were safe and snug in quite possibly the best protected bay in the whole of French Polynesia. It deserves its reputation as a hurricane-hole.

Protected Port Phaeton anchorage-squashed

Blue sky appears after days of rain in protected Port Phaeton

Protected Port Phaeton-squashed

Barely a ripple in the anchorage and wonderful views of Tahiti Iti

Sailing Lessons Tahiti-squashed

Youngsters get regular sailing lessons in the bay whatever the weather

The town of Taravao kept us occupied on the gloomy days, the roads have several stands selling fresh fruit and veggies of an excellent standard and that made a nice change from having to hunt and forage for produce. But with so many shops including a large Carrefour with lots of tempting tasty French goodies, it also relieved us of some cash.  One day, crossing a road in town by the Church I noticed the pavement was white. Looking up at the pine-like tree overhanging the pavement I was amazed to see it full of nesting Black Noddys!  Further along the road in the middle of a busy junction, with traffic passing on all sides, we came across another tree also full of nesting Noddys.

Black Noddy Squashed

The Black Noddy chick is fed by both parents and gains weight rapidly, by the age of 3 weeks it can weigh as much as the parents!

Black Noddy chick-squashed

Black Noddy

There are two schools of thought on the name “Noddy”. The first is because it nods and bows during courtship, the second is that sailors once called them ‘noddies’ meaning ‘simpletons’ as these birds are so tame that they can easily be taken from the nest (to eat)! I didn’t test this theory as we had already decided to try some local beef for supper!

We rented a small car from the local garage so that we could explore the island and also visit Papeete, the main city at the north end. Tahiti Nui has one main road that runs around the flat perimeter of the island, a busy road constantly streaming with fast traffic, well it seems fast after being used to an average of 6 knots.  On the inside of the main road lies some beautiful dramatic countryside, mountains covered with a variety of trees of all shapes, sizes and shades of green. The mountain peaks disappear into the thick veil of cloud hanging over the island, and the valleys have numerous waterfalls flowing, especially with all the rain.

Tahiti East Coast behind reef-squashed

The east coast of Tahiti Nui after the weather had improved

Tahiti East Coast 2-squashed

Waterfall Tahiti Iti-squashed

Once on the road, it was difficult to stop or get off as the traffic just kept pushing us on.  Jez remarked that Big Tahiti is basically like a race track with an inaccessible park in the middle – this really summed it up for us. Papeete is a busy city, jam packed with traffic and people, we found a lot of road works and building renovations underway, the place certainly needs it.

Tahiti-Iti is thankfully very different,  the hills lie much lower than the northern half and with fewer people and more open countryside the road is less busy.   We managed to find a small winding lane that took us inland through rolling fields dotted with cattle munching on the lush green grass.  We felt much more at home here. At the top of the hill we could look out across the isthmus and Port Phaeton towards Tahiti Nui with an excellent view of the reef responsible for our protection from the swell.

Tahiti Iti Cattle-squashed

Moovelous, local beef!

Tahiti Isthmus-squashed

Tahiti Nui visible under the clouds, Port Phaeton lies to the west of the low isthmus

View of West Coast Reef-squashed

The western reef protecting Port Phaeton

Tahitian Trees-squashed

Tahiti Iti squashed

Tahiti Iti eastern coast

As soon as the weather improved it was time to move on, our next stop in the Society Islands group is Moorea just a few miles off the northern coast of Tahiti Nui.

Leaving Tahiti-squashed

Leaving Tahiti

Tahiti Rainclouds 2-squashed

More clouds developing

Tahiti Rainclouds-squashed

The rain clouds just seem to follow us

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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





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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.


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_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.


The waterfall can be better seen from a distance


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.


The beach front at Atuona



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.


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



Hana Iapa village street


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



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.


Boats at anchor in Hana Iapa Bay



Following the goat trail



Almost there!


This little piggy is definitely not going to market



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.


The north coast of Hiva Oa is beautiful


The tiki site at Pua Mau



One of the ancient tikis


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

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