d 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490
3rd Report 2005: Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotu Atolls and Tahiti
(May 19 - July 16)
When we finished our last report we were almost at the end of our longest passage from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas. As usual Taniwani had been pretty fast in varying conditions:
While not a legal port of entry, we chose Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva for our landfall, reputedly one of the nicest anchorages in the South Pacific. Also the island of Fatu Hiva is at the southeast end of the Marquesas and starting the exploration of the islands from here makes it an easy downwind sail. Over the radio we heard from other boats, that it was generally tolerated to spend a few days in Fatu Hiva, before checking into French Polynesia at Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva.
The lush green headland of Fatu Hiva was quite a contrast after 17 days of various tones of blue. And then the magnificent scenery of steep cliffs opening into Hanavave Bay was overwhelming. What a choice for a landfall!
Quite a few yachts had chosen this pretty bay for their landfall and we found nine other boats already anchored. We thought that was about as much as this small and relatively deep bay can take, but it worked out fine and a day or so later when Endelig and Wetnose arrived we were closer to 15 boats. Still it didn't feel crowded. On shore there is a little village with very friendly people and so extremely tidy that one inclined comparing it with Switzerland. Everything is clean and well maintained, totally different to what we saw around the Caribbean.
Having been at sea for many days we were now eager to hike along the rivers, deeper into the island and thoroughly enjoy the green and the scenery. It was beautiful, though we were initially on the wrong path to the waterfall and had to go back a long way. So only Felix and Harald had another try and eventually found the waterfall and had a refreshing bath in the pool. Felix, who is used to jump from our second spreaders (12m above the water), didn't hesitate to climb up the rock and risk a jump from high up into the pool. We had of course inspected the pool before.
Nobody seemed to bother how long we stayed in
Fatu Hiva, though there is a policemen who would ask you to move on to an
official port of entry within two days, once he spotted you. But we didn't bump
into him and so moved on after enjoying this nice place for four days.
But again we didn't go straight to Hiva Oa, but put in another stop at the island of Tahuata where we anchored in the Bay of Hanatefau, just off another friendly village. Here we spent another very relaxed four days before eventually heading into Atuona on Hiva Oa.
One reason for taking it easy, was that we wanted to delay our check-in date into French Polynesia a little bit, as per default, without applying for an extension, EU members get a three month permit which would just be long enough to drop Felix off at our last French Polynesian stop, by the end of August. But it wasn't hard to wait out in a place as nice as this little bay, with dolphins hunting close by the boat and friendly folks ashore how send out fruits to the anchored sailboats.
The surge also makes it difficult to leave the dinghy at the dock, and sometimes even boarding the dinghy can be a challenge. We met an unhappy sailor who had just lost one of his best shoes when his dinghy was sucked under the pontoon.
From the anchorage it would be a two or three mile walk into town, but it is no problem to hitch a ride with one of the many cars that take this road to get to the gas station and back.
It was a long wait at the police station where we finally checked in. They seemed to take their time, just admitting one sailor at the time, who then had to fill out long forms. In addition, non EU visitors also need to deposit a bond, equivalent to the cost of a return ticket, which is given back when leaving French Polynesia.
By the time we were done with the red tape, the bank had closed and so we had to postpone shopping for a bit.
So we paid a visit to Paul Gauguin's grave which is just above the town in a little graveyard with a magnificent view over the bay.
Shopping was done next morning, at about two times the prices of Panama, but one can get everything that is essential. And after that was accomplished we moved on to Hanamenu Bay at the north-western end of the same island.
We just stood there for one night, together
with WETNOSE, but that evening both boats were invaded by hundreds of small
beetles that seemed able to fly just once. With the mosquito
screens we could keep them outside, but our decks were full of them and for
several days to come, we kept finding some of them.
The next morning we took off for the next island northwest, the island of Ua Pou. For two thirds of the trip we had virtually no wind and were motor-sailing for about 40 miles. Then a dark rain front came through with plenty of wind and we were surfing at 8 to 9 knots towards the corner of Ua Pou.
Uoa Pou is quite picturesque with rugged mountains and many stone spires flanking the shoreline. It is not a big island and the swell makes it around the island from both sides, so that it is hard to find a decent anchorage. We had to sail all around to the northern side in search for a good place and anchored just at sunset in the Hakahetau Bay.
There is a small village at Hakahetau Bay
and we were able to get some fresh fruits and vegetables. Later in the day, the
"ARANUI" a combination of cruise ship and supply chip came into the
bay and two of the four yachts had to move a bit. We were at the far eastern end
and could stay. The "ARANUI" shows up about once a month and then the
local artists come from all over the island to display and sell some of their
artwork to the tourists during their short visit ashore.
Daniels Bay is quite nice: Steep walls come
up at all sides and once inside and in the right hand fork, you cannot see out
to sea any more. Amazingly though, some swell always finds a way in. Swell by
the way, is ubiquitous throughout the Marquesas, and there is hardly an
anchorage where that wouldn't be some motion left in the anchoring boats. So, by
comparison, Daniels Bay is one of the quietest in this archipelago. The downside
is that the water is murky from the rainwater filled rivers and you have to
change filters on the water-makers quite frequently.
After hearing about the mosquitoes, we
skipped the long hike to the waterfall, which is supposedly quite a bit higher
than the one in Fatu Hiva, but apparently not as good to look at. But we did
meet the famous Daniel, a very friendly local, how lives in that bay and has
over many years been a friend of all visiting sailors. That's why the sailors
call it Daniel's Bay. He was quite up to date and it was from him that we heard
that the French had voted against the European constitution. He seemed amused by
all this craziness.
Jonas, a friend of Felix who had been
sailing with us several times before, was expected to arrive shortly in Nuku
Hiva. We found out that the airport is at the opposite end of the main town and
hard to reach and so we first thought of sailing to a bay near by. That bay was
supposed to have a shuttle connection to the airport and a boat connection to
the main town. And so we had told Jonas to try to get to this bay if we were not
at the airport.
But we had a day left and sailed to the main town called Taiohae, and there we found out, that this boat connection from Baie Haahopu was no longer in use and nobody would drive from the airport to that place.
Since three Taxi rides, Felix going there
to pick up Jonas and then back, would have cost more than renting a car for a
day, we went for the later option and rented one of these 4-wheel 4-door pick-up
The road to the airport is paved for about
one third, but after that requires a four wheel car and it takes two hours to
travel the 40 km to the airport. We were rewarded by a beautiful views and an
interesting countryside, had time to explore the bay we first wanted to go to
and then check out the little lazy airport while waiting for Jonas' plane.
It has become a tradition to receive our visitors to their new tropical destination with serious rain squalls, and so it was no different for Jonas. It started on our way back from the airport and by the next day the whole bay was leashed by gusts with flying rain.
Luckily, Taniwani was anchored between two anchors pointing into the swell and that way wasn't rolling too much as Jonas' was known to succumb to motion sickness quite soon.
But Jonas adjusted quite fast and a day later, the rain getting less, we went to the fuel dock to fill up all our diesel tanks and left for two more nights in Daniels Bay, before we would embark on the 520 mile passage to the Tuamotu atolls.
Passage from Nuku Hiva
(Marquesas) to Makemo (Tuamotus)
We had worked out two
destinations in the Tuamotus, depending mostly on when we would arrive, so
that we could enter the pass at about slack tide. The first was Raroia, the
second Makemo. Again Taniwani was too fast, averaging 7.5 knots, so that we
would have arrived at Raroia in the night. In the end we were even a bit fast
for Makemo. When we arrived at the pass an hour before low water, there was
still a strong outflow going and the boiling sea at the entrance looked a bit
frightening. But we decided to give it a try and it was not difficult, just being
jerked a bit left and right of the well marked range line.
We anchored right of the nice little village, with friendly people and an easy going life. Quite a different character than in the Marquesas where houses and gardens were kept in a tidy style even surpassing the Swiss. Here one would find a collection of boats and trucks, some working some not, all around the garden. Not really a mess, but more relaxed. The people even more welcoming and friendly.
When we tried to get bread we
found the bakery closed as there was no flour left in the island and they were
waiting for the supply boat that should arrive any day now.
The next two days were more comfortable and we had some plans to go inside the lagoon westwards to the second pass. Then leave from there for Tahanea.
Finally with the wind remaining in the southeasterly quadrant, we were ready for a calm anchorage in the lee of a motu. Neither in Makemo nor in Tahanea this was possible, with the lagoon not surveyed in that direction.
The recommended place was Kauehi which was
far enough to require us to sail through the night. So we planed to leave just
before sunset, but when we had our mainsail about two thirds unfurled the
mechanism locked up and wouldn't move in either direction. So we dropped anchor
again and started to work against time; it would be pitch dark in an hour.
Investigation showed that a spring-pin that secures a bevel gear to its shaft
had come loose and had jammed the gear against the mast. Locked as it was, it is
also not possible to get the mechanism out of the mast. The solution was to
drill a small hole into the mast through which we could knock the spring-pin
back in position. Half an hour later we were under way to Kauehi.
Again we were a bit fast and about two hours ahead of WETNOSE who had left Makemo when our main jammed. Also we just heard ENDELIG on the radio and she was also coming for Kauehi, arriving directly from the Marquesas. We already had detailed instructions for the pass and the course inside towards the eastern corner, so that we waited an hour for ENDELIG to follow us in.
There were many boats gathering at this
place, in particular it was the boats with young kids who wanted to stay for two
weeks and help each other with schooling, but there were intersecting groups,
like a Scandinavian gang and ENDELIG and us. As opposed to Makemo the pass to
Kauehi is much calmer and easy to negotiate and also inside a good part of the
lagoon is charted and coral heads scarcer than in many other atolls. So it was
straight forward to reach the very pretty and calm anchorage behind a row of
little motus. (Motus are small islands that usually make up the rim around an
Naturally we had many a beach party or
joint barbeque on the beach and we spent a full week at this pretty place. Time
flew by, just relaxing or fixing things on other boats and eventually we decided
to move the eight miles north to the village to check out a pearl farm before
leaving this atoll.
The pearl farm we visited the next day was not far from the village. Most farms are dwellings right on top of a coral patch and right next to their fields.
Noel from ENDELIG had prearranged our visit and so we all drove out by dinghy and gathered on their platform. Before looking at the pearls we tried some of the delicious fresh oysters.
We learned about the labor intensive process, how the shells are seeded with nuclei that are imported from the Mississippi. The oyster than coats the nucleus with silver-black mother-of-pearl, a rare color typical for the Tuamotus. Even more rare are those with a green tone.
Good oysters, which produce a nice coat, are used up to five times. To do that the pearl needs to be carefully extracted and a new nucleus placed inside.
Pearls are sorted and ranked based on size,
form and color. We seemed to be experts as we kept picking out the most
expensive ones. In the end we had a nice collection of nine beautiful pearls,
which we traded for partially money and partially spirit. Prices for spirits
like rum or whiskey are quite high and if one bought the stuff in Venezuela like
us, you'd get 3 to 4 times the value trading it here.
The next day we finally took off for the next atoll, for Fakarava. Fakarava is one of the larger atolls and has a pass in the southeast and another at the opposite end. It is not far from Kauehi and an easy day trip to either of the two passes. We chose to go to the southern one, as we heard of excellent diving there.
While the pass winds around two bends it is
easy to negotiate even with a current running. The anchorage is right around the
corner from the pass, across from an abandoned village. Just the dive school
from the northern village maintains a few huts for their guests and usually
comes to the south for a four day diving tour.
We soon learned why they go through the trouble of coming down south for diving: It seems to be the best in the whole Tuamotus. Our compressor was busy the whole day, as Felix and Noel did three dives, and Jo borrowing Harald's set did two, while Harald had to do the famous drift dive through the pass.
It was fantastic! The current took us a long distance into the pass and around the corner, almost all the way to the anchored boat. Out in the deep part the channel is full with hundreds of sharks waiting for what might drift their way. Usually, but just usually, they do not attack divers, but these beasts are big and many. So there was some excitement remaining with us divers. The pictures speak for themselves.
Fakarava has two charted channels leading
from the south pass to the main village and the north pass, one of them leads
close along the eastern rim and allows one to choose a nice spot for
staying over night. The wind was still blowing from the southeast, so that all
but the south anchorage where we started from were a bit rough. The sailing
however was gorgeous reaching with plenty wind and barely a wave and about two
thirds of the way up, we found a little peninsula that gave us some shelter. It
was a beautiful spot to land and watch the sun set behind Taniwani.
The next day we sailed the remaining distance to the village and met up with ENDELIG, who had sailed there a day before us. It was a Sunday, so that we couldn't really shop anything, but Beate and Henry from ENDELIG appointed to meet at 6 in the morning and go to the bakery together, before we would set sail for the next atoll.
They came back loaded with good stuff and
then we took off for the 40 miles to the northwest end of Toau. Once out of the
pass we found a nice 15 knot wind for a fast beam reach under spinnaker. And
sailing side by side we had a great photo session from boat to boat. The results
The little bay at Toau turned out as a real special place. It is a so called false pass, a cul-de-sack that allows one to enter the atoll, much like through a usual pass, but then it is blocked by a large reef. The result is a perfectly sheltered bay. As we were heading for the leading line a small boat showed up and the guy who later introduced himself as Mana, asked whether we wanted to come into the bay, and if so that he would have a nice mooring for us. He showed us to a mooring and helped us tie up. We were expecting to pay for the mooring, like with the boat boys in the Caribbean, but Mana declined politely and pointed out that he and his family enjoy visiting sailors.
And indeed, this small place, with 40 people, all one family had some kind of a cosmopolitan touch. They live and enjoy their simple life on the motu and are connected to the wide world through the visiting sailors.
We told Mana that we were expecting five more boats on that day and he went and fixed up a few more moorings that had sunken. We were expecting ENDELIG, WETNOSE, 3T, BLOWN-AWAY-TOO, and SEA-FEVER. Most were coming to celebrate Felix' 20th birthday the next day.
Soon Laiza showed up in a
small boat and asked whether we would like to eat ashore in the evening. Since
she would be off to Fakarava the next day, our first evening would be best. For a
small price she would offer all sorts of Polynesian sea food and we should bring
our drinks. It turned out fantastic, from rock clams, to octopus, to fresh fish,
lobsters and poison cru; way more than we all could eat and deliciously
prepared. Then after dinner she Laiza had her lovely daughter show us
traditional Polynesian dancing - another fantastic treat.
It was quickly clear that Laiza was in commend here and so we asked her if we could use her large table at the beach the next afternoon, for celebrating Felix' birthday with cakes and drinks brought from all the boats.
Of course our request was
granted and so we gathered there again the next afternoon.
With Laiza gone, the male parts of the family had a great day and were celebrating with us, but instead of coffee and juices they were working their rum supply.
Part of their living they make
by catching fish and selling it over at Fakarava. Luckily their corner here
doesn't have Ciguatera poisoning, so that they can take most fish. This time
Mana got active help spear-fishing with Felix, Jonas, Jo, and Noel. Felix
got a real big grouper.
Having had not much luck fishing with the line lately, our crew went out the next day again and came back with a good collection of parrot-fish and grouper. In addition WETNOSE had brought some fish from Kauehi and so we ended up again spending the evening at shore using Laiza's fireplace. The local family joined in with some of their fish and seafood and soon we were eating too much again.
But this was not the end of these
incredible dinners: Wolfgang of WETNOSE had been dreaming all the time about
having such a Polynesian pig, that gets buried together with hot stones to
slowly cure in five to six hours. He didn't have to ask Laiza twice and soon the
pig was getting prepared. By the time we had nine boats in the bay and all
joined into this great dinner that now comprised the pig plus loads of sea food
We spent almost a week in this incredibly nice place which was also well sheltered when some day a huge rain front went through. Reluctantly we dropped our plans to make another stop at neighboring Apataki atoll and rather hang out here another day before eventually starting late night for our trip to Rangiroa.
Rangiroa turned out more touristy, with a
fancy beach resort right across from the best sheltered anchorage. Still the two
villages there didn't seem much effected.
A real advantage was the perfect access to
the airport: A short dash with the dinghy to the airport pier and right into the
open departure and arrival hall. Here we were expecting Flo, another friend of
Felix who arrived right on time. In order to let Flo aclimatize we spent a few
more days in Rangiroa including a day tour to the Blue Lagoon at the western end
of the atoll. With 20 miles each way it was a long and busy day.
The next day both ENDELIG and TANIWANI weighed anchor at first light to head for Tahiti. The plan for both boats was to go east around Tahiti and spend a few days at the southern peninsula, before working up the west coast toward Papeete. A thrid into our trip, the wind veered to the southeast and we had to sail relatively close hauled. Unfortunately ENDELIG didn't make enough speed on that course and was worried not to arrive at daylight. So they had to revert to plan B, sailing straight to Papeete. We stood our course as TAIWANI was just moving along quite fast and we were at our anchorage at 1:30 pm the following day.
We were received by towering and lush green
mountains, much like in the Marquesas, but now with a surrounding coral reef
protecting the shores and bays. This provides for a lake like smooth water once
It is also a good place for all the toys, like wind-surfer and wakeboard and now Flo had his chance for a first try of the wake board. As can be seen in the picture he grasped it quite fast.
After a day at the quite remote southern half of Tahiti we moved the short distance to the narrowest part of the island, a bay called Port Phaeton with a little town.
trip was inside the fringing reef and it felt like cruising the shores of a lake
with nice little houses at the waterfront.
In Port Phaeton is an idyllic little marina with a ship yard and some folks leave their boats here when returning home for some time.
We didn't go into the marina, though given the size of boats we saw inside it should be possible. We just anchored off the marina in the well sheltered bay.
For the first time since Panama we could go
shopping and hitched a ride into town to a relativly big supermarket, filled two
carts with all sorts of good things that we didn't have in a while. When we
whether they could call us a taxi back to the marina it seemed not so easy,
but a friendly young man said he'd drive us and waited for our huge load to get
checked out. His pick-up Defender was perfect to throw on all our stuff. While
he drove us to the marina we found out that he has a little restaurant in town
and was just shopping to get some missing stuff. Being in a hurry to go back to
his place, he had to turn down our invitation to come on board for drink.
The next day our three young men set off to
explore Papeete and they came back all excited about the bustling town and
wanted us to sail there right away. And so next morning we took off for the 35
miles to Papeete. There is a choice of going into the heart of town or south of
the airport to a big marina. Again our folks had already med friends from other
boats and also found being in the middle of town would be more fun. And so we
postponed the marina for after the weekend and after Jonas would have left us.
The town cay turned out not so bad even with water and power available. Mooring is Mediterranean style, stern-to and the feeling is quite equivalent: With the main street right behind the boat and two Italian boats next to us and their women conversing loudly in their language, one is inclined to double check the GPS whether we are really in the southern hemisphere.
Anyway, the contrast to the previous months
is fascinating and for a few days this is actually fun and with an Internet-Cafe
right across the street it is even possible to upload this latest report now to
In two days Jonas will leave us, and after we get a small repair done on our spinnaker, we want to move on to Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa and Raiatea where Flo is to leave us in three weeks. Then another three weeks with Felix still on board, before he leaves us from Bora-Bora. By then we should have the next update ready.