Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The largest town in the Marquesas is on Niku Hiva in Taiohae Bay. The bay is open and easy to anchor and safe, so it's a relaxing place to hang out for a while. Conveniently, at one of the two little 7-11 size stores here they sell goberment subsidiezed food, so a whole frozen chicken was $4, and a half kilo of hamburger $5. We stayed a week fattening ourselves up, eating a few vegetables and some cheese and butter. We learned that it was in this bay one year ago that a German singlehander on the aluminum catamaran Baju was doing the same as us when he was invited to go pig hunting with a local. Little did the german know but the Marquesan culinary term for human meat is "long pig" and so the menu was to be pig of the two legged kind. The local took the cruiser into the woods and had killed him and was preparing to feast when he was caught by the authorities.
Before we got too comfortable here we decided to move on. 5 miles to the south is Daniels bay, a stunning enclosed anchorage beneath a towering 1600' ridge. At the base of this cliff lies a small village, 5 or 6 houses, where the locals live tending their gardenlike crops. The ½ mile road servicing two trucks is planted with regularly spaced, well tended fruit, first a line of bananas, then papayas, then grapefruit with guayabas, passion fruit, limes, sweet thai peppers, starfruit and plenty of other tasty things we'd never seen before. We hiked this road, that turned into a trail and wound to the head of the deep valley where, the trees stopped and the valley was covered with knee high soft green plants with white flowers. Here the valley walls were so sheer that the sun never directly entered to the valley floor. We followed a clear running stream to the end of the canyon where we looked up to see the water falling 900 feet through the rock wall to end at a pool at our feet. We stripped and jumped in the water, splashing our way to the base of the falls. The water was cold, delightfully refreshing after months of only warm water so we swam until we shivered with cold, then we sat on a rock and ate our sandwiches watching as white birds soared 2000' feet above us at the rim of the canyon.
On the walk back we met a substantial Marquesan with the word "Tapua" tattooed across his bare chest like a necklace. We asked him what Tapua meant and he said it was "flower," his wifes name. We asked him what his name meant and he said "warrior" then laughed in a good natured, deep way. We bought lettuce, the first we'd seen in over a month, and a bag full of pomplemouse from him and returned to the boat happy and ready for the voyage to the Tuamotos.
The crossing was smooth, we had three days of excellent wind, sailing fast beam reach covering 400 miles, then the wind left us completely and we motored for two days, slowly working our way to the atoll of Apataki. Despite our efforts to determine the time of slack water, we entered the north passage into the lagoon at max flood and were easily whisked into the lagoon where we anchored off a white coral beach with 100' visibility in the water. We were completely alone, and spent the day snorkeling the bright corals, watching schools of fish swarm around the rocks, and reef sharks glide ominously around us. We watch the sunset from the cockpit turn the sky red as we toasted our landfall with cocktails.
We woke in the early morning to SE wind, squally skies and a building chop that slapped the hull. Our paradise had turned into an exposed, 17 mile fetch, lee shore. The gray skies 3 foot chop and thick rainsqualls made crossing the uncharged lagoon with unknown coral heads risky. The wind was coming directly from the haulout and only SE protected anchorage in Apataki 17 miles away. There is no way to cross out one pass, sail around 20 miles and enter through the other pass, then cross 10 miles of the lagoon all in daylight either. We were faced with the choice of braving the lagoon under power of our 15 hp diesel, or riding out the wind at anchor. We didn't have much room behind us to let out more scope because of coral heads, and having no idea if the wind would increase we decided we'd prefer to be active and risk running aground rather than dragging aground. We spent 7 hours, me on the bow trying to spot coralheads and Cristina at the helm. We were able to motorsail a bit with the main when we were hit by line squalls. Fortunately the lagoon is deep, mostly 90' and the chop created breakers on all the coral heads we saw. We wound our way to the haul out where we anchored with several other cruisers in the lee of a motu.
As the sun set we launched the kayak and paddled ashore. We met the family that owns the island, saw the haulout and felt good about making it here, where we'd finally put some fresh paint on Bamboleiro. We spent 11 days here, first waiting for enough jackstands so they could haul us, then 5 days ashore so we could put some fresh black antifouling and a sweet white bootstripe on Bamboleiro. We were in good company as several other cruisers had stopped here to do the same thing, so we spearfished, fished off the dock, caught landcrabs in the woods and explored the reefs around this flat, crushed coral atoll. Most evenings we ate with the family and cruisers at a big table looking over the lagoon and setting sun. Alfred, the owner, cooked up fish, or lobster or crabs over a coconut husk bbq, and we drank cheap wine we cruisers brought out from our bilges. We launched Bamboleiro on the 21st, she slid off the hydraulic trailer into the smooth lagoon with hardly a ripple and we motored into the lagoon. We spent the day stowing our tools and cleaning up then the next day, with a forecast of a mild 14-17 knots we set sail for the 250 miles to Taihiti.
I don't know if it was because of our ten days of being in the smooth lagoon and on the hard but once we rounded the last atoll and entered the open ocean and the boat lifted on the swell we both got seasick. The wind picked up and we spent the first night under double reefed main beam reaching at 6+ knots getting tossed around by a confused sea. As the cockpit was awash every few minutes we went below and closed the companionway, Cristina in the seabirth and me on cushions on the cockpit sole. We spent a misearable two days like this, hardly moving except to put in the third reef as we continued at 6 knots surfing to 8 in rough seas. Bamboleiro proved once again she's much tougher than us as waves crashed surging beneath her keel rolling out the other side with barely a shudder. We took waves constantly over the cabintop, through the cockpit and on one large one that slapped the hull, eggs flew out of their container on the port side and hit on the floor right by my head. I jumped up to check out the boat, yelling to Cris, "there's eggs all over the place!" She'd been sleeping and felt the large wave but didn't know what I was talking about eggs for. I showed her one had landed on my pillow, which fortunately didn't break as I wiped up the mess from the floor from the other. We didn't eat anything for two days, and arrived at Taihiti at 4am on the third day. Cristina was still tired from the seasickness so I stood watch in the cockpit as we approached going fast. The waves were still breaking all around us so I didn't feel like heaving too off the main passage to Papeete. 8 miles further, around a point was the pass of Taapuna, but the only thing we knew about that pass is the guidebook says its only to be entered in calm conditions. Definitly the condidions we were in were not calm, but seeing as we couldn't slow down to wait for daylight for the main pass I decided to hope for the best, that Taapuna would be sheltered in the lee of the island so we continued on. As we came around the reef into the lee of the island the waves flattened out and Cristina felt better. The sun came up and we stowed the little sail we had up and motored into the pass, and into the free anchorage off the marina. Here we anchored in 55 feet with at least a hundred other cruising boats. Then we ate. Then we slept. We woke in the afternoon and paddled ashore, stretching our wobbly legs. We found a grocery store and bought sausages, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, baguettes and an icecream. We returned to the boat and ate our first real salad in over two months, drooled over pork and cheese and toasted bread sandwiches. So simple, but it was the best meal we've ever eaten. As the sun set, the wind picked up again and it rained all night. We slept snug, happily safe and secure with 160 feet of chain tying us to Taihiti. It's good to be here. We have no plans to leave. Ever!
|Archeological site in Nuku Hiva|
|Nuku HIva Taiahoe Bay|
|Nuku Hiva - we were not the only ones there!|
|Daniel's Bay (trip to the waterfall)|
|Bamboleiro in Daniels Bay (Nuku Hiva)|
|Hills of the town in Daniel's Bay|
|Swimming in Daniel's bay waterfall|
at 7:16 PM