10 degrees 27′ South, 138 degrees 40′ West

Ellen writes: I think I am becoming part Polynesian. People here wake
before the dawn and my body has been following suit.
My first morning in Fatu Hiva, I woke before the first glimmer of light
appeared in the sky. Since I couldn’t fall back asleep, I got out of bed
to begin baking bread. I surprised myself by baking bread three times on
the passage and I am now to the point of really enjoying making bread. I
mix the batter and leave it to rise while it is still dark. I take a cup
of tea onto the foredeck to watch the dawn reveal the beauty of this place
called Fatu Hiva. This is a notoriously windy anchorage and the wind
whistles down the narrow canyon and blasts all the boats in the anchorage.
It is cloudy, windy, rainy and cool here. I love it after the heat and
sun of the crossing. The light increases behind the clouds revealing the
multitude of colors in the grey rock and green vegetation. Tiki-like
spires of rock rise all around the narrow, steep canyon. The scenery is
awe-inspiring. What an incredible place to make landfall after 23 days at
sea. Just as I have awoken from sleep, I seem to have awoken from the
dream that was the passage into a beautiful reality that is the Marquesan
Islands. The passage, while very real at the time, now feels like it was
a long tumultuous dream from which is it a relief to have woken. I have
read of people being sorry to have ended their ocean passage, but while it
was a very good passage, it wasn’t a very comfortable one. I am glad to
be here.

Difficulties in Paradise

Ellen writes: Just as one must always be alert for changing conditions and
ships at sea, one cannot relax one’s vigilance once at anchor. There are
actually more hazards making landfall and anchoring than in crossing
oceans. But at least at anchor, you probably won’t have a ship run you
down. Granted, you probably won?t have a ship run you down at sea, but
you?d better watch for them while you?re out there.

One evening at Fatu Hiva, Todd and I found out that there would be a
special Friday evening Mass and procession through the village. We were
excited to take part in a normal activity of the village and wanted to
give thanks to God for giving us the skills, abilities and good fortune to
arrive safely. Well, He certainly didn’t make it easy to arrive at church
safely. The dinghy landing is a concrete boat ramp, which the surge rises
up and down constantly. It’s not too difficult, but not too easy, either.
And when a somewhat large breaking sea is attacking the ramp, it’s not an
easy landing at all. Part of what makes it difficult is that the landing
is tucked behind a point of land, which is good for a bit of protection,
but bad for seeing what is about to come and GET you. We sat in our
dinghy, Abu, and watched the seas rolling in and breaking on the landing
and rock beach and tried to time it right. Todd thought it looked good
and started rowing fast. I looked behind and saw what appeared to be a
larger-than-all-the-rest wave make its way around the point. We had almost
made it to the landing and our friends’ hands waiting to grab Abu, when
the last swell started to suck us back out. Todd rowed for all he was
worth, but we were going backwards. We bailed out of the dinghy. I
managed to find myself on my feet, unscathed. Todd stumbled as he got out
and was pretty wet up one side. We grabbed Abu and looked back to see that
big swell becoming a big wave. The wave hit Abu, Abu hit me, I guess I had
poor footing for the next thing I knew, I was on all fours and my dress
was soaked. Our friends and Todd ran Abu up the ramp and out of the
confused water swirling about us. I picked myself up, walked out of the
water and laughed in a sort of dazed way. We were all a little wet, but
none the worse for wear.

So we walked into church and dripped salt water on the floor all during
mass. I have had the good fortune to be raised Catholic and have heard
Mass all over the United States as well as England, France, Germany,
Canada and Mexico. Nowhere have I heard singing from the congregation
like in the little church in Fatu Hiva. Everyone sang and everyone sang
loud. The singing was beautiful and it was all in the Marquesan language.
It was a joy to listen to and be a part of.

Luckily, launching Abu went much more smoothly than the landing. Two
Marquesan men were at the landing and helped our two sets of friends and
then us launch all of our dinghies. It was now dark and we were mighty
glad to have their expert knowledge of the landing and wave patterns.

The next night saw the wind whistling down the canyon increase. The wind
was probably sustained at about 20+ knots, but was gusting to over 50
knots at times. The first boat to drag anchor was our friends on
Calyptus. We watched them struggle to re-anchor. Pretty soon the French
boat on our other side was having anchor drills, too. The anchorage is
small and was quite full with 12 boats. Letting out more scope wasn’t
much of an option as you would then most likely hit someone else, even if
your anchor was holding. We were all the way at the front of the pack and
so didn’t have to worry about someone dragging down on us. We have never
dragged anchor, even in some pretty big blows, and weren’t too worried.

In fact, we decided to take showers. Taking a shower in the cockpit with
high winds isn’t very fun even if you are in the tropics where the
temperatures are warm and even if you’ve heated your shower water. Once
you’re naked and wet, that wind chill is gonna get you.

I had finished my shower, wrapped myself in a towel and was helping Todd
with his shower. He had just soaped up when we heard shouts of
“Mandolin!!!” coming from a boat near us. We looked up, took our bearing,
and … we were dragging. We threw on clothes, turned on the engine and
the foredeck light and had our own anchor drills. Todd picked up the
anchor and attempted to set it three times before it finally caught and
held. The wind was whipping my wet hair about my face and I wondered if
it wasn’t time to put to sea. Of course a few projects were still strewn
about down below, which included the sewing machine sitting on the table,
and the dinghy wasn’t secured, so it could have been a bit ugly if we put
to sea right then. We finally got the anchor set. When we were sure the
anchor was holding, Todd finally got to finish his shower. We figure there
was a rock shelf we were trying to anchor on; once we dropped the anchor
in water a few feet deeper, it held just fine. While we were trying to
get our anchor set again, I heard many voices on other boats downwind
doing the same thing we were doing. The languages were German, Italian
and Flemish, but I’m sure the words were similar to those on Mandolin in

We had been planning to leave in the morning, so it seemed like a good
idea to stow everything right now. We had the dinghy and everything else
secured in about 1/2 hour. The plan was to put to sea if we dragged
again. We shared anchor watches with Calyptus. The rest of the night was
uneventful. In the morning, I had a bit of a start just past daybreak
when I woke up and went out to count all the boats. There was a boat a
few miles out from the anchorage. Oh no, someone has dragged anchor, I
thought. I counted all the boats and came up with twelve. Weren’t there
13? I think of how many boats were anchored when we arrived and who had
arrived since then. I come up with an answer of 12. But my brain is
foggy, so I figure it out several more times in my head. Always 12. I
count the boats at anchor, 12. I count the boats according to who was
here before us and the order boats arrived after us; all are seemingly
accounted for. Well, I guess someone else wants in and is standing
offshore until it is fully morning. Sure enough, a rather large Amel
Maramu is motoring around in the anchorage when we get out of bed about an
hour later.

Todd and I were the first boat to leave the anchorage that morning, and we
knew of at least three other boats also planning on leaving. We wonder
how many more left as well after a pretty bad night. The locals probably
love watching all these boats pack into a small anchorage and then seeing
the anchorage clear out after a good blow. All in all, we are very glad
we made landfall at Fatu Hiva and enjoyed our time there.

The wind was kind when we raised anchor. We put up the main, raised the
anchor and sailed through the other boats out of the bay and on to other
adventures. Who’s scared of a little wind? We’re a sailboat, remember.

Marquesas: Tahuata:

9 degrees 56′ South, 139 degrees 06 West

Todd writes: After our visit to Fatu Hiva we enjoyed a day sail to the
small island of Tahuata. We found a bay to anchor where two other French
boats are anchored. Upon getting to know them we found that they both had
young girls aboard that were attending school in the village. The last
day of school is tomorrow and they looked happy. From the boat we could
see the road to the next town and wanted to walk part of it. While we
explored to find the road we got lost several times. Of course one of
these dead ends turned out to be surrounded with many fruit trees.
Celest, a local man, came out of his home and offered us some pamplemouse.
He promptly went up a tree and started tossing us the large grapefruit
looking things. Our job was to catch them before they rolled down the
hill into town. Soon we had almost more than we could carry. Fortunately
I have gotten into the habit of carrying a mesh bag in our pack just for
such occasions. This favor was returned the next day when we baked lime
squares and took some up to his house. We did eventually find the road
and hiked it one morning. The views were worth it. It’s amazing the
little things we get excited about these days. From the small local store
we bought an ice cream cone and shared it sitting under a mango tree. I
think it is the first cold thing we’ve had in over a month.
Marquesas: Ua Pu

9 degrees 21′ South, 140 degrees 06 West

This passage required an overnight sail from Tahuata. It is amazing to
see the differences in each island in this group. Fatu Hiva was the
young, steep, green island. Tahuata was smoother, had lots of fruit and
nice people. Ua Pu is the island of spires. Volcanic plugs that have not
been eroded away stand out against the clouded sky when you can see them.
Mostly they just keep their heads up in the clouds. Looking up the canyon
from where we are anchored reminds us of Yosemite with the tall cliffs and
spires on each side. As we were exploring town and taking a break to
drink some water on the steps of the church, we met Etiene who lives here
and Eric the captain of the French Navy ship that anchored just after us.
We accepted their invitation to dinner near the beach and offered to bake
cookies for desert. The evening turned out to be quite a gathering as
most of the Navy off the ship, several Marquesans from town and 5 boats
worth of cruisers showed up. Bread fruit, pate, baguettes, chicken,
steak, and other local dishes made quite a spread for all. After we were
quite stuffed, the young Marquesan men performed some of their traditional
dances, which started a bit of a talent show. The Navy sung songs, the
Swiss lady lead the Marquesans in another song. The Italians performed
loud skits. Jennifer the other American and us got up and showed them how
to do the Hokey Pokey. What a hoot.
The next morning we tired of the rolly anchorage and sailed for Taiohae
Bay, Nuka Hiva.

Marquesas: Nuku Hiva

08 degrees 55 South, 140 degrees 06′ West

One of the largest boats we see upon entering Taihoe Bay is the 86 foot
wooden schooner Astor. ( These are the people we met on the
Amateur radio during the crossing. Waves and smiling faces were seen all
around as we finally meet in person. Taihoe bay is the largest town
(city) in the Marquesas, but isn’t that large at all. We were able to
walk the beach front in about 30 minutes on our exploratory walk to find
grocery stores and a cute little cafe for Ellen. The cafe is going to
have to wait for Papeete, but we did find some good looking restaurants
that we will try out. The Saturday morning market was a big hit featuring
fresh fish, vegetables and baked goods. The only downside is that it
starts at 5:00 a.m. sharp and everything is pretty well picked over in the
first 20 minutes. Our shopping bag was filled with $1.00 heads of
lettuce, bok choy and a $3.50 bag of carrots. We also scored a croissant
and cinnamon roll. After a quick trip to the store for baquettes we were
finished with our shopping for a few days and went back to the boat for a
nap. At least the church service on Sunday was at the reasonable hour of
8:00 where the singing was beautiful. The only internet connection in
town was $20/hour but we took it anyway to send out our trip log and read
our full inbox of messages. Fourth of July was celebrated aboard Astor.
While there weren’t any fireworks the food and company was excellent. One
afternoon at high tide I took the dinghy and a few of our jerry jugs over
to the fuel pier and was stunned by the $4.00 per gallon price. Thank God
we are a sailboat. Fortunately we should be able to get tax free fuel in
Papeete. The check-in procedure was quick and easy. The gendarme spoke
excellent English and was very friendly. He helped us fill out the
necessary check-in and customs forms. The letter that we had from our
travel agent in the states saying that they had our credit card on file
and could issue us tickets anywhere was sufficient so that we didn’t have
to pay the bond here. The bond is an amount of money per person for a
plane ticket to your country of origin in case you are not able to leave
on your boat. While we can see the reason for this, we weren’t looking
forward to losing several hundred dollars in transaction fees, currency
differences etc. We would rather spend this money on goods and services
while we are here. The last step is to see if this letter will work when
we get to Papeete, the official check-in point for French Polynesia.
(Update: It didn?t work)
After the fast pace of city life (not really), we set sail for Daniel’s
bay, just to the west of Taiohae bay. We took a long tack out and back so
that we could run our engine long enough to make water. One of the main
attractions of this bay is the hike to the waterfall, which we did and
thoroughly enjoyed. Walking on an ancient hand laid rock road, passing
ancient foundations for villages and even seeing two tikis was only the
half of it. There were forests to walk through that appeared to come
right out of a Tolkien novel, then a magical swim in the pool at the base
of the fall all by ourselves. We met Steven who lives at the village on
the bay where we anchored. He offered to get us some fruit the next
morning, so I came in and we walked around picking limes, pampelmouse,
starfruit and two large stalks of bananas. I gave him some fishing gear
and a length of three strand line.

This morning was a sad morning however as we noticed that Freda our pet
duck decoy for the last 5 years was gone. After searching around by oar
and later with the help of Steven’s outboard skiff we were unsuccessful in
finding her. We figure her reasons for leaving could be several, but the
most likely being the discovery of a boyfriend who helped chew through her
leash. Or perhaps the fact that since we put new bottom paint on in La
Paz there wasn’t enough slime around the waterline to eat and she got
hungry. Either way she picked a good island to enjoy her freedom. We are
still sad, and hope that in the future another duck will adopt us.