Galapagos Islands to the Marqueses in French Polynesia

Beer of the moment : Hinano ($4 for a 500ml bottle)

Journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Marqueses in French Polynesia

Wednesday 26th May - Friday 18th June

When we crossed the Atlantic we left with 225 other boats and lots of pomp and ceremony. This time we slipped quietly out of the bay on our own waving goodbye to friends. It was a beautiful day and it was hard to believe that we had 3000 miles to sail which could take us up to 30 days. Trade Secret and Pamina set sail the next day and Meander 4 days later. Lionheart and Eaglewing had already left.

We left Isabella just before lunch and motored for the first couple of hours due to light winds and to clear the hazards around the island. We were also keen to make some water for the crossing. We have a water maker that converts sea water to fresh at the rate of 50 litres each hour.

By day 2 we had steady wind and were able to put up the sails. The Pacific Ocean is notorious for having periods of calm but we were lucky to have good winds all the way. Winds were typically in the 10-20 knot range.  We used the main sail and gib/jGennaker during the first week but then reverted to using just the jib or Gennaker as the main was banging around too much in the swell. 

For the first half of the journey we had the waves on our side (not great), the second half they were on our stern which was much more comfortable. The swell was also reasonably tolerable most of the time - mainly in the 1-3 meter range - although at times it reached 4 meters (not so good). Unlike the Atlantic, the distance between each wave however was less - about a 9 second gap - as opposed to the 16 second gap in the Atlantic, which meant that the swell could feel much worse (lots of banging and slapping as the waves hit the hull).

The best thing about the crossing was that we had a favourable current with us most of the way between, 0.5 and 1.5 knots. This really boosted our daily average mileage and morale. We had a record breaking 170 miles on a few days !

Our days soon fell into a regular pattern. Day time was spent reading and listening to music, changing sails, doing navigation, getting weather forecasts, cooking, cleaning etc... Allan did 8-11, 2-5 on night watch, Bev 11-2,5-8. Nights were spent trying to stay awake !, watching the stars which you can see with amazing clarity, keeping a look out for ships etc.. The moon seemed to rise very late on this trip which meant that there was a lot of darkness during the night when you couldn't see a thing. 

We also spoke to our friends twice a day on the radio. It's a great way to check everyone is safe and to exchange stories - a real highlight of each day. Bev felt much better on this passage thanks to Stugeron ( a miracle sea sickness pill) so we spent much more time in the cabin and even watched a few DVD's.

Allan tried his hand at fishing and after having lost a few lures managed to land a Dorado. This was the first fish we had ever caught and Dorado are beautiful. As it came out of the water its skin turned many different colours. Bev was very stressed at the idea of killing this beautiful thing and as it was her Birthday Allan put the fish back in. We got the mickey taken out of us for that on the net as everyone else was fishing with a vengeance ! It was all blamed on Bev but amazingly the rod never made it back into the water for the rest of the trip.

During the crossing we celebrated our first Wedding Anniversary and Bev's Birthday. We don't drink alcohol on passage but make an exception on special occasions. Hence celebrations for 1000, 1500 and 2000 miles, plus Bev's Mum's Birthday and Fathers Day !

Unlike the crossing from Panama to the Galapagos, we had far fewer equipment breakages on this trip. The wind instrument died on us again which meant that we had to estimate the wind strength - not ideal but manageable. One of the stainless steel rings that connects our safety rail to the back of the steps broke off. But by far the biggest problem happened on 13th June. We have a large and heavy antenna at the top of our mast for VHF, FM Radio, Cellphone and TV which broke its mount. It was swinging wildly and banging heavily into the mast. Although the swell that day was bad there was no option but for Allan to go up the mast. The mast is about 60 foot above sea level so its always daunting going up even when you are stationary. Bev had to winch Allan all the way up which in itself is no mean feat. Once at the top he had to use all his strength to hang on to the mast and stop himself from being flung around in the swell. He had intended to dismantle the antenna and bring it down but it proved impossible to do, so he had to content himself by tying some rope to it so that it could be pulled away from the mast when he came down. When he was down he was exhausted and in a state of shock with huge bruises running up his arms and legs. Whilst he lay recovering Bev tried to tighten a rope to pull the antenna away from the mast. She couldn't manage to stop the banging so put a couple of turns on the winch. The next moment there was a huge crack - so loud she thought that the mast was coming down. She looked up to see that she had winched the antenna off its wires and it was now dangling half way down. Could things get any worse ! It turned out to be a good thing though as we were then able to get the antenna completely down - it would have been hard to leave it up the mast banging around for another week. 

As the days, ticked by the excitement levels built - especially after the mileage counter reached 1000 miles to go and the sea temperature gauge shot up to an amazing 38.5 degrees. . We felt we could then really start to count down.

Then early on 18th June we spotted land - Fatu Hiva. It was a beautiful sight and having spent so many days at sea without seeing anything (except 2 fishing boats), it was a VERY welcome sight. Fatu Hiva is the most beautiful island in the Marqueses and also the most unspoilt. We headed for our anchorage in the Bay of Virgins. It is a truly breathtaking bay with steeply ridged cliffs and unusual rock formations. Palm trees hug the cliffs down to the waters edge. The anchorage is deep - 15-20 meters and strong gusts rip down from the hills so we had to use all our chain and rope. Before long we had cracked open a cold beer and were sat surveying the view. It was hard to believe that we had just sailed 3000 miles - the longest journey we would ever have to do and were now in Polynesia. 

Bay of Virgins

This was undoubtedly our best long journey so far. We had made great time - 22 days in total to go 3000 miles. Pamina made the journey in an amazing 21 days, Trade Secret in 23 and Meander in 24. We subsequently met 2 boats that had taken 60 and 62 days respectively to cross from Panama - we had done this journey in the equivalent of 30 days !  We could not envisage what it must have been like to spend so much time at sea. You get a great sense of achievement from doing a long journey and are transported somewhere entirely different but we much prefer short legs and sightseeing. 

It was great to be in the Marqueses at last. The Marqueses comprise 6 large and six small islands. All are high volcanic islands ranging from 1300 - 4000 ft covered with a layer of deep fertile soil. The first Europeans came here in 1595 and became part of France in 1842. The total population is less than 7,000 now but was more than 60,000 100 years ago.

Friday 18th June

When you arrive in St Lucia after doing the ARC you are welcomed by a cold rum punch delivered to your boat. Unfortunately there were no restaurants and bars in Fatu Hiva so Bev made pizza's for lunch accompanied by cold beer. Having little tolerance for alcohol and also pretty tired after the relief of ending our journey hit us, an afternoon snooze soon followed !

That evening just after dark Pamina arrived so we shone torches and helped direct them into the anchorage.  Very soon they were aboard Bagpuss regaling stories of their journey, Bev cooked a chicken curry and we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate our safe arrival.

A little after 9.00, we went outside to check on Pamina and noticed that Bagpuss had dragged her anchor 200 meters. Luckily it was out too sea but we had to re-anchor in the dark. Not a pleasant experience when you couldn't see the cliffs. That evening we had to do anchor watches to make sure we didn't drag again. A bit of a pain when we had been looking forward to our first full nights sleep for 3 weeks :( 

Saturday 19th June

Next day we took a trip into the village with Henri and Connor from Pamina. The village was very pretty and well kept; we were impressed by the quality of the houses given the locals had pretty much a subsistence standard of living. We guessed French ownership and subsidies played a huge part in this.

Fatu Hiva 

The village is set in incredible scenery - steep but very green peaks and valleys, incredible rock formations, with palm and fruit trees everywhere. A freshwater stream also runs through the village and most locals also keep a few chickens, goats, pigs etc.. in their gardens. 

The local Polynesian people were incredibly friendly and welcoming. One or two invited us to view their woodcarvings but there was no pressure to buy. In fact we soon learnt that if you want anything on the island, they don't want cash but want to exchange for it. One guy was busy trying our shoes on for size when we went inside to view some local crafts !

That evening Henri swapped 4 cans of beer for two local fish and cooked for us. Delicious.

Sunday 20th June

Trade Secret arrived in the early afternoon and no sooner had they dropped anchor than they had invited us aboard for a celebratory drink. Various other boats stopped by and before long a party was in full swing. By 9.00 the Elvis CDs had come out and the guys were doing their best Elvis impressions (very loudly) - much to the amusement of the rest of the anchorage. A great night was had by all and much alcohol consumed !

Monday 21st June

After lunch we took a hike up to the famous local waterfall - a drop of 200m - with Trade Secret and Pamina. The walk took about 2.5 hours and severely tested our legs having not done much walking for the last few weeks. The views were incredible and the waterfall had much more water flowing down it than we had envisaged. We were debating whether to take a swim in the rock pool at the bottom but were glad we didn't when we heard that Emma from Eaglewing had been bitten by a large Eel... ooch ! On the way back we met a lovely local lady who offered to cook us all dinner in her house for $10 a head the next evening. The thought of fresh food having been at sea for over 3 weeks and living on tins was very exciting.

Henri rustled up some pasta for us that evening and we all headed back early to our boats for an early night.

Tuesday 22nd June

In the end about a third of the anchorage came out for the meal - 5 boats in all and it was fantastic. Our host had cooked all local delicacies - boiled banana, fried sweet banana, a local vegetable (unknown) served with a curry sauce, goat (so so tender) cooked in coconut milk, chicken, rice, fresh bread, homemade guava jam, freshly made lemonade........oh it was wonderful and so much nicer because it was in someone's house and homemade. We recalled the goat was tied up in front of the house the night before, so to honour it we made sure there were no leftovers !

Fatu Hiva Dinner 

As we wandered home we stopped to watch some local children practicing their dancing for Bastille Day. They were pretty impressive and the sound of the drums beating was intoxicating and seemed to resound through the whole village. It was great being able to watch something that wasn't put on for the tourists - real village life in action. 

Wednesday 23rd June

We spent most of the day fixing the outboard engine which had stopped working... again. Trade Secret and Pamina took a trip to the main town and returned with gifts of local beer. It was great but at $3 a can to buy ($5 to drink out) we realised we wouldn't be drinking too much of it. Everything here in the Marqueses is very expensive.

That evening we went back into the village to watch the mothers practicing their dancing which was fantastic and soon became the target of fun for the local kids. The young boys squealed with laughter as they threw themselves at the guys and got tickled in return, the young girls had great fun getting the girls to practice their dancing. Bev managed some pretty impressive hip wiggling and was given a thumbs up by her 7 year old teacher Lena. The locals were incredibly friendly and a great time was had by all.

Dancing Lesson

As we headed back to the boats Karen offered to cook Tunisian chicken with some fresh chicken she had bought. It was chicken with prunes cooked in 10 mins in the pressure cooker and tasted fantastic.

Thursday 24th June

Karen and Bev spent most of the day at the local stream doing washing - by then 4 weeks worth. It was great having so much fresh water to rinse with but their shoulders and arms ached like mad the next day. It was hard getting things dry as huge gusts of wind kept sweeping through the anchorage.

Allan spent more hours taking the outboard engine apart trying to fix it and thankfully manage to fix it the next day (or so we thought).

While fixing the outboard Allan caught his necklace on it, broke it and consigned it to the bottom of the ocean. This was quite a loss as Allan had worn the same necklace continuously for nearly 20 years !

That afternoon Meander arrived and that night we hosted a welcoming party for them aboard Bagpuss. It was great to have all the boats in at last. Bev cooked Vegetable curry (Mel is vegatarian) for 8. It turned into an 80's night as all the old tracks came out and very bad singing soon followed the rum punch.

Saturday 26th June

We got up at first light to set off for Hiva Oa to do our official check in to the Marqueses. We were sad to leave this amazing island but time was pressing. We had a bit of a nightmare getting the anchor up as we had a lot of rope out as well as chain due to the depth we were anchored in. With strong gusts howling through the anchorage it took us some time to get everything in. Had a great sail to Hiva Oa (45 miles away) though and arrived early afternoon. The anchorage was very pretty and calm; we dropped bow and for the first time a stern anchor as well. It took a bit of fiddling about with to get it right.

Hiva Oa

Sunday 27th June  

Had a very relaxing day. Took a short walk ashore and invited an American couple over for sun downers - Tiffany and Billy on Claire. They had done the trip from Pamana to Hiva Oa in 25 days - amazing. We had anchored a perfect distance bewteen ourselves and Claire but that afternoon a French boat moored itself in between us, even though there was loads of space elsewhere. As a result for the rest of our time in Hiva Oa we had to continuously change our anchors to make sure we didn't hit him. What a pain !.

Monday 28th June 

Meander arrived at 7.00 in the morning and by 8.00 we were trekking into town with them and Claire, about a mile away. The town was small, very pretty and immaculately kept. Check in was fairly straight forward and then it was onto the bank to get some local cash - Polynesian Francs. The notes and coins are very pretty but huge. We spotted a local snackbar and before long the lure of cheeseburger and chips was irresistible. We had been dreaming of this throughout our crossing and this was the first opportunity to have one. It was great although expensive - $20 each with 2 small beers! Its probably the same cost as England but we have been spoilt by being in places where everything is cheap. Then we took a hike uphill to visit Paul Gauguin's grave (the French painter who had lived in Polynesia). The view from the top of the island, village and bay was amazing. A visit to his museum was less exciting. We paid $6 each to get in and were amused to find that all the pictures were replica's - not even copies but another artists interpretation !. 

On our way back to the boat we spotted another French boat (made from steel) alongside Meander. They had dragged anchor and had hit the front of Meander damaging the rubbing strip and had then dragged down the side making a few scratches and small cracks. Oooch! Although they were happy to exchange insurance details they wouldn't admit liability saying that Meander had fouled their anchor which it clearly hadn't. As you can imagine they were non too chuffed and so our original plan to go out for Pizza turned into take out aboard Meander.  We had also had to re-anchor because of the French boat near us and therefore both boats vowed to leave the next day.

Tuesday 29th June

Matt cooked Mexican Eggs for us for breakfast (delicious) and then Mel and Bev headed into town to check out. Luckily they got a lift there and back from a passing local in the back of their Jeep - everyone drives one here. Its very hot here from early in the morning so pretty exhausting walking up and down hills. They also stocked up on a few provisions - a carrot and 4 small potatoes worked out at a dollar each ! Bev also treated herself to a yogurt maker so that we could make cheap yogurt on board. By lunchtime the engine was on and we made the short hop to a delightful bay on Tahuata, a neighbouring island 10 miles away. Pamina and Trade Secret were already there. The bay was spectacular and one of the famous sailor, Eric Hiscock's, top 3 bays in Polynesia. The water was crystal clear and you could see coral and fish beneath the boat. Bev snorkelled to check the anchor and confirmed that the 43 degrees showing on our sea temperature gauge was probably not far off - it was like getting into a warm bath. That afternoon we snorkelled again and saw a huge ray about 4-5 foot wide - an awesome sight.

Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner made with fresh mince - what a luxury.

Wednesday 30th June 

A lazy day in Paradise. This is really what its all about. Beautiful scenery, white sandy beach, warm clear calm water......Bev made fresh bread ( we couldn't get any in Hiva Oa as its ordered in advance by the locals) and we had a bacon sandwich with our last packet of bacon for lunch. Fantastic. The sunset was fabulous that evening and we had a full moon which meant that you could still see the breathtaking cliffs really clearly in the dark.



© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2016