SLOWING DOWN - FAST TRACK IN THE MARQUESAS
I have updated www.intrepidofdover.co.uk with 12 new photos covering
Pacific and Marquesas, (so you might want to just go
Nuku Hiva is the 'capital' of the Marquesas but you wouldn't think it -
there's no town or even village centre as such. Picture a bay 1 mile wide,
with dramatic bluffs surrounding it on 3 sides, the new dock on the right
side of the bay, (where the Aranui freighter came in with 80
Thursday), then from right to left, the single storey hospital,
small gendarmerie, small Marie (town hall), fort/prison (the oldest and
largest building in town), then (each separated by about 100 yards), 2 shops
and a bank, 2 restaurants, a school, a rather beautiful open to the air
'cathedrale', and finally a chalet style hotel (mostly shut) and
up the hill on the left, a small Pearl Lodge. That's more or less it, apart
from a few houses, a
hardware store and impressive Kou'eva me'ae site up the valley.
We have about 10 yachts as neighbours, spread out over the bay. Chardonnay
(from Sydney) is here, (sea water got into their oil during the passage, and
they arrived with no engine, and are waiting for spare parts - as are
another 2 yachts), Najaede
(NL) who only arrived thanks to our Galapagos radio net - her rudder almost
fell off in mid Pacific (it dropped 2 feet), the skipper managed to hold it
with chain, but couldn't use it to steer so needed the engine to steer - and
via the net, another yacht rendezvoused and dropped off 40 gallons of
'spare' diesel. Another yacht 'Prism' arrived with a dead engine, another
tore the track off their mast, and on yet another the skipper and crew were
hardly talking and each thought the other was trying to kill them when their
dinghy capsized. Long passages take a significant toll on boats and people!
We dinghy in to the old dock near the hospital, and chat to
Roland a modern day 'pirate' who runs a sailmakers shop and who does our
laundry (1000CFP/load, about $10), provides internet, made 2 new
hatch awnings/ferret cages to our design and repaired the tapes on our
bimini ravaged by
sun (and me swinging in under it......).
Ed Collins was the navigator on
the Americas Cup challengers (eg America 2) with and against Dennis Connor.
now skippering Nomadess a
beautiful 72 foot cutter, 18 years old but completely refitted 2 years ago.
coincidence, he comes from Deltaville, Virginia where Intrepid was in the
boatyard for 3 months. Nomadess is owned by John and Arelene also from
Deltaville, who are slowly cruising round the world - its nice to see such a
beautiful yacht being used - so many are stuck in marinas and used perhaps
a few weeks /year, if that. We have been with Nomadess for the last week or
so - nice to
have such pleasant company.
Wednesday we hired a Suzuki 4x4 ($100/day) and buzzed round the
island..........well nearly - it had rained the day before and unknown to
us (and not mentioned in maps or guidebooks) most of the roads are not very
well maintained 'graded' roads - even to the airport for most of the way you
are doing well to manage a slithery 8 mph. But we did see some of the deeply
bays including Baie du Controleur (Taipivai) where Herman Melville jumped
ship from the whaler Acushnet, and wrote his first novel Typee based on his
experiences there. Transport even now is as likely to be barebacked horse as
a 4x4, and its pretty idyllic.
But the best is to come - if you had to imagine a perfect bay, Anaho in NE
Nuku Hiva would come close. Its has an entrance a mile long, 1/4 mile wide,
then widens out into a circular paradise, calm water 8 meters deep
surrounded by waving palm trees, white sand beach, new (growing) coral
dramatic sheltering bluffs that protect us from any wind, and from behind
which the sun and full silvery moon appear in the most dramatic scenery you
can imagine every morning and evening. 4 small houses are on the beach, and
in the valley stream meandering upwards lie some 20 or so pigs wallowing in
knee deep mud, grunting deliriously in piggish, happy as pigs in shit (which
I suppose they are). We walked up to admire the view and photo Intrepid
lying in the bay, then snorkelled amongst coral that looked more like fairy
castles than sea creatures (clarity wasn't brilliant though, and we hear the
sandflies/No-Nos are vicious, Nicky has a worried look....).
However, long distance cruising is often really boat maintenance in exotic
places, Nicky and I adjusted our HF antennae, I repaired a bathroom pump
(broken blade on the impeller), and Nicky unblocked our sea water pump - a
small fish had made a temporary home in the intake, and when we pumped
seawater was ........well, sucked up until he wouldn't fit any more, and
jammed solid. Nicky released him, slightly bent and compressed with a
puzzled look on his face.
Monday we motorsailed the 25 miles to Daniels Bay in SW Nuku Hiva, and in
the early morning hiked a marvellous 5 miles through verdant plantations and
jungle, fording rivers (or clambering over tree trunks) to a me'ae, (in
southern Marquesas they call them Pae-Pae), then up
to the 3rd highest waterfall in the world (every country seems to have
one) - this has been measured at a free fall 900 feet. Trouble is the gorge
is so narrow and convoluted you can't see the whole waterfall at one time,
but I reckon the walk alone is worth it.
The surgeon (Dr Xavier Fine) pronounced my arm on the mend, (and paddled
round later with a
sack of grapefruit - don't get that on the NHS. Unfortunately we were
away in our jeep, but we had him round later on Intrepid for a pastis or 2,
and we now have
15Kgs (34lbs) of grapefruit from his garden). I am fully cured, (but mustn't
wash up for the rest of the year). Ed Collins suggested that the
cause of my infected arm may have been heavy metal in antifoul bottom paint
got into me via a scrape as I was
clearing barnacles, and a number of other boats have reported similar
experiences so its possible. So now I have to wear yellow rubber gloves
(usually I use them as lures......).
I dont want you to get the idea that everything here is perfect - until the
Aranui arrived there was no flour - so no French baguettes - imagine! and
little gasoline (due to a political strike which blockaded the harbour at
Papeete - French culture is clearly well ingrained in French Polynesia), the
lunchtime portions of poisson cru (raw fish marinated in
lime and coconut - delicious) are really too big for comfort - and there
seems to be a
rash of petty thefts - mainly ropes
off dinghies to tie up horses. Ours 'walked' in Fatu Hiva, but that's all so
far. We have to be careful walking under palm trees - the oft quoted
statistic that more people are killed by falling coconuts than die from
lightening and shark attacks put together does not seem as comforting as
But the medical treatment has been superb, (and very 'sympathetique'), we
bake our own bread with our
left over from the crossing, the temperature is a pleasant 30C, and the pace
of life is - well, slow (as is the internet cafe - it took 2 hours to only
update the website). The burly marquesan prisoners play petanque
(boules) in front of the jail every evening, and 100 yards down the road the
rest of the male population plays boules in the carpark. Chris and Jill have
settled in really well, (well, they should - Chris has known Nicky since
they were both aged 2) and are managing to adjust to
the stress of not having zillions of restaurants, bars and entertainment
just round the corner like they do in Sydney. They have both been really
useful while my arm was mending.
We are currently sailing south to the dramatic geological formations of the
island of Ua Poa, where the water is drinkable (Xavier, 'our' surgeon does
recommend the water in Nuku Hiva), and we can fill our tanks. We saw that
Hakahetau Bay had 6 yachts already so we diverted to Hakahau, the main town
The small harbour in Ua Poa has the most dramatic skyline in the world
(well, as they don't have a tourist office I may as well do it for them).
Towering above you as you enter are 8 vertical columns reaching up to 1200
metres (3900 feet), reflecting the setting sun and casting long shadows over
village. We anchored fore and aft to keep Intrepid's bow to the incoming
swell, and tucked well behind the breakwater about 40 metres from the quay.
Which seemed like a good place...........until at 11am we found the quay
loaded with produce, and learned that the
Aranui is arriving at midday. The Aranui is a full size freighter/passenger
ship, and we had to move back 20 metres (as far as we could) , but as she
entered the tiny harbour, dwarfing it, we wondered if it was enough. What we
saw then was ballet by boat - as she entered, she dropped her port (left)
anchor, turned hard to port and swivelled through 180 degrees with her stern
missing Intrepid by .. 20 metres to tie up at the small quay half her size.
No bow thrusters. The whole community sprang into action, offloading goods,
selling artisanal products and snacks to the 40 or so passengers, and most
importantly loading on 20 or so pallets each with 60 blue barrels containing
about 150Kgs of Noni fruit which are exported to Tahiti to eventually be
made into health care products in France and the USA. Each barrel makes $120
plantation owner, and explained the new Toyota 4x4's lined up. By 5pm she
untied, pulled in on her anchor to pull herself round, and steamed off to
Tahiti - and we went round to Rosalie (who sometimes provides lunch for the
passengers , but mainly cooks to order).
Rosalie's cook's brother Mouana (which means Ocean in Marquesan) is a guide
as well as a chorister in the Catholic Church, and next day he took us on a
stunning walk through the
dense plantations and jungle right up to the base of the towering pinnacles,
demonstrating on the way some 25 traditional remedies using plants, herbs,
bark of trees... Absolutely fascinating - I guess this is how the drug and
health care companies do much of their research - and the money provided by
the Noni fruit is proof it works. We learned that the Marquesans feel
kinship with the Maori of NZ, but antipathy with the Tahitians - which is I
guess reciprocated - hence the lack of funding from Tahiti for the
Marquesas. Our walk was a tough 15 km scramble, and when we
arrived at Hakahetau Bay (late) and swam in the pool beneath a 20 metre
waterfall, the kids (on a day out) had eaten all the traditional food partly
meant for us! No trouble, we bought a picnic at the (only) shop, and munched
as we gazed out over the bay, then drove back to Intrepid past the tiny
airport (which slopes upwards at about 15% gradient). If ever you are in Ua
Poa do give Mouana a ring - 925483 - he charges $150/day including
everything, and is well worth it - he is very good.
There was a petanque (boules) competition I didn't want to miss, so after
steak and chips from the local take-away (2 half oil cans on the beach with
glowing barbecue coals - just like Sydney take-aways I believe) Chris and I
entered as the 27th pair (and only foreigners) , and under arc lights went
into rapid practice mode (Chris had never played before). In 10 minutes we
were on against Kana Piriotua and his friend. Veeeeeery serious, first to 9
feet together, you score however many boules you have closest to the jack
than the closest of your opponents boules. Chris and I went into an early 4
point lead, but then Kana and friend had a 6 pointer (all 6 closest to the
jack), and we finally succumbed 9-5. So we didn't win the first prize (which
was a calf, nor the 2nd prize - a goat - really). Shame.
(By the way, a Dutch friend currently in India reminded me that the
Marquesas featured in a
Crosby Still Nash and Young song - Southern Cross - 2nd verse is:
'Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas.
We got eighty feet of the waterline.
Nicely making way.
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you.
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away'.
CSN&Y CD's are regulars on Intrepid so now I think even more of them!! They
also know about midnight watches and deep thoughts).
Saturday we were invited to traditional lunch en famille with Mouana's
family (Kohumoetini), 3 generations, fish, taro, tapioca, a type of small
cuttlefish, everything, on the veranda. But we had to go, so after Chris
gained the Stern Anchor Award First Class for distinguished raising the
anchor, we filled our water tanks to the brim, all had showers and set off
for the Tuomotu Archipelago 470 miles SE - the sort of Pacific Atolls you
see in cartoons, low, coral and sand, palm trees, no water. But just as we
were about to cast off lines, Mouana's sister, Irlanda arrived with 2 huge
'hands' of bananas, perhaps 100 in all. Their generosity is overwhelming.
A fitful Easterly wind wafted us away from Ua-Poa at about 3.5 knots, until
it was just on the horizon............when the reel screamed into action,
and something took over 300 metres of line before I was able to slow it, we
took down the Big Green Monster Asymmetric Spinnaker, and I started to reel
in when it jumped - a 5 foot long Blue Marlin, perhaps 200 Kg with my pink
semi home-made $2 lure in the corner of its mouth. It jumped again, about
100 metres from Intrepid, then again the whole glistening fish a clear 1
metre out of the water just 20 metres from us, almost lazily chomped its way
through the 100lb leader and swam away to sulk (the lure will shake off
pretty quickly I am assured). We have 3 nights, 4 days to go, I am not sure
Jill can cope with much more excitement!
So that's it. Nicky wants the last word: The Marquesas were magical, one of
the best places we have ever visited. I agree.
With all best wishes for a May Day Holiday (if you have one) from the crew
of Intrepid, Andy, Nicky, Chris and Jill.
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