08-26-2018 – Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

It’s hard to believe that another month has passed, and it’s time to send an update! We’re (back) in Taiohae Bay, starting to get ready for the next chapter of our adventures. We’ve received our long-stay visas, so we don’t need to wait around here any more. Our crew mate Baban has found a place on a Brazilian boat that moved on to the Tuamotu Islands more quickly. We have been enjoying ourselves on Nuku Hiva, meeting a few new friends and working on a few projects.

Here are a few photos from the Bastille Day parade that we took just after posting the last blog entry. Everyone was dressed up with flowers in their hair or around their necks. It seemed like half of the town participated in the parade. There was an announcer who told who was coming next and a viewing tent where the town’s officials were seated. Near the beginning, there were two groups of teenagers who performed a couple of traditional dances for the audience, accompanied by a couple of drummers. The girls did a classic Polynesian dance with gentle hip-swaying and fluid arm movements, while the boys did a series of strong squats, grunts and slapping of thigh, chest and arms. After the dancers there was a series of groups like government workers, farmers, and soccer players. Some of the marchers carried banners, flags or small children. It was all very gentle and good-natured, quite different from the military parades that you see in many places! After the parade, there were a few speeches by the mayor (pro-tem) and some other official-looking people – which we understood very little of because they were in French! After the speeches completed, everyone wandered over to the community center where there was a *lot* of food served on some very long tables. There were no plates or napkins, but some people cleverly brought a platter to fill up for their whole family! The rest of us would get one or two items, eat them and then return for more. ๐Ÿ™‚ Almost all of the food was homemade cakes, with a few fruit platters as well. At first there was a long line, then afterwards the people with platters cleared out the rest pretty quickly!

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Our friends Norma and Christian invited us to join them on an easy hike to the top of a local peak where there is an antenna. The antenna was installed when the television series Survivor filmed a season here and needed better communications. That brought this town, this island, into the 20th century. ๐Ÿ™‚ The hike would actually be a pretty long one, with a good bit of elevation gain, but we cheated – as soon as we left the town, we stuck out our thumbs for the trek uphill. French law requires that all passengers use safety belts, which makes it illegal for people to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. Apparently there are only 4 police officers (gendarmes) on the island, so they don’t spend much time patrolling the roads outside of town. This makes drivers much more likely to pick up folks walking along the remote and steep roads elsewhere on the island. It didn’t take long at all for us to find a ride – and the driver was a friend of Norma’s! Cecile is the only social worker in all of the Marquesas, which brings her to each village regularly, including those on the neighboring islands. She speaks English, French, Spanish and of course Marquesan. She was going to the neighboring town of Taipivai which overlooks Comptroller Bay, where we had hiked last month. She took us as far as the turnoff, which is a beautiful windy road that goes up rapidly. The remainder of the trip was a fairly easy 2 or 3 miles up a road that was very reminiscent of the logging roads we used to see in Oregon. It was cool and muddy from rain the day before. We enjoyed a simple picnic at the top, with a spectacular view of the bay where our boats peacefully waited for us to return. Visitย https://merrittsupply.com in case you need any marine supplies prior to your trip.

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The following week we pulled anchor and moved to another anchorage on the other side of the island, called Baie D’Anaho. This beautiful bay cannot be accessed by road, although there is a well-used horse trail that goes by. There’s a farm in the next bay over which packs its produce out regularly, and many boaters spend a pleasant day hiking up and over the pass to the farm to reprovision. We will do so on a future visit, but didn’t manage to get there this time. There were roughly 10 boats in the anchorage when we arrived, nestled into the western corner where the shore makes a bit of a hook, providing a little extra protection from winds and waves coming in from the north. We chose to drop anchor a little further off, so as not to crowd the others. (We also had a problem with our windlass arise while we were underway, which meant that we had a half-day’s project in the morning and we wouldn’t be able to pull the anchor up easily until then. We didn’t want to risk the possibility that we might cause trouble for others during that time.) Our spot felt like we had the best of both worlds: we had the option of being social with the group tucked in the corner, but we also had some privacy from the sight and sounds from the other boats. One night we inflated an air mattress and slept on deck – until it started to rain! ๐Ÿ™‚ We enjoyed watching the night sky creep in and slowly grow dark, and the stars overhead were beautiful! For us, sleeping outside is one of the joys of being in a remote location!

There was a group of perhaps twenty kids attending a camp in the bay when we arrived. They were from all around the Marquesas Islands, mostly a neighboring island called Ua Pou (pronounced “wa-poh”), and they ranged in age from perhaps 8 to 15. The retreat ended a few days after we arrived, and they had a celebration dance performance in a community center in the corner of the bay. The camp counselors invited the cruisers to the performance, and we were excited to see some truly authentic local culture. They had prepared perhaps a dozen different dances, performed to recorded music but accompanied by a little bit of drumming and singing. One of the counselors played the role of emcee, and introduced each entry (in French), interspersing dance performances with silly audience participation events. We were selected to join in the first audience participation event, along with 3 other couples. They gave us a 3′ square piece of paper and asked us to dance together on that piece of paper, but then periodically stopped the music and told us to fold it in half and continue. Whenever the music stopped, any couple that wasn’t on the paper was eliminated. We didn’t last long. ๐Ÿ™‚ The couple that outlasted all the rest succeeded by having the woman held in the man’s arms, not touching the ground at all! The main event, though, at least for us, was the dances the kids had learned. The boys did traditional Marquesan dances, where they stood in a broad low stance and slapped their knees, shoulders and chests as they grunted or chanted war-like phrases. One of the dances was called the Bird Dance and another the Pig Dance, and it was fascinating to see how they mimicked the animals movements. The girls also did traditional Polynesian dances, but we heard later that the style was more Tahitian than Marquesan. These dances were the sensual hip-swaying style, where the arm movements are unrelated and tell a story. It was interesting to see the child emerge throughout this event, where some of the kids were anxious to please while others were going through the paces, some were shy to perform in front of strangers and others were enjoying the limelight – some things are true around the world and across cultures. ๐Ÿ™‚ At the end of the performance, the kids mingled with the audience, and many gave away their flower crowns, leis, etc. Other than these simple decorations, they were all wearing T-shirts and shorts.

One day we went for a little dinghy explore of the bay. It’s pretty big – perhaps 3/4 of a mile across and 2 miles long. Some of the hills are covered with lush greenery and some of it is steep cliffs or volcanic spires. We enjoyed looking at the geological formations and trying to figure out how they formed. In quite a number of places it appeared that the previous rock had cracked and lava had pushed through. The new strips of rock were stronger than the original, and seems to have weathered much better, so erosion left a series of parallel flat walls. We also watched a blow-hole for a while, spending perhaps 20 minutes trying to capture a photo. Definitely more action-packed than watching paint dry. ๐Ÿ™‚

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There was a pretty steady stream of arrivals and departures of boats from the bay. Most days we saw at least one boat leave or arrive. After a few days of departures, there was more room inside the hook and we decided to relocate to be closer to the crowd for a while. We had dinner with people on other boats a few times, reconnecting with our friend Silke who we had met in the two previous anchorages, and getting to know Jan and Doug on a boat called Hannah. A boat we met briefly in Taiohae stopped here for a few nights to clean the bottom before departing for the Marshall Islands. There’s still a constant flow of new people through our lives, with few staying nearby for long.

In our new location, we went snorkeling on the reef that covered a third of the corner. It was the best snorkeling we’ve had yet, with lots of fish life swirling around a variety of coral heads. We spent enough time with our faces in the water that we both ended up with some sunburn on our backs. ๐Ÿ™‚ When we finally decided to go back home, we noticed that there were several mantarays swimming nearby. So we hopped back in the water and hung out with them for a bit. They were circling and feeding, and didn’t mind the extra company for a few minutes. But then they moved on, gliding away gracefully but far faster than we could keep up.

After a couple of delightfully quiet weeks, we received an email saying that a package for us was going through customs and we needed to come back to Taiohae to do a bit of paperwork. We had sent a couple of pump heads for our watermaker back to a shop in the States to rebuild, but were surprised that they would be ready so quickly. So we pulled anchor and sailed around again to the other side of the island. Truthfully, we motored most of the day, because it turned out the conditions were very uncomfortable. Although the winds were good, we overlooked the fact that the previous few days we’d had strong winds, and this meant that the seas had built to higher waves than we’d expected. So we were glad to pull out of the tumultuous conditions and into familiar surroundings. Later we learned that the package that was on its way was not the pump heads that we had thought, but rather a pair of new sails that we hadn’t expected until September. We had planned to travel for a few months with our old sails (one of which is torn badly enough that we’re not really even using it!), and have these sails held here for us until our return in November. Because of the size and weight of the package, it is being sent by ship rather than plane, so it would be another 10 days before they arrived from Papeete. We had been thinking about leaving pretty quickly after fueling up and re-provisioning, but now there’s a reason to delay an additional week… ๐Ÿ™‚ So we’re still in Taiohae, and characteristically we’ve come up with a number of projects to fill our time.

We met a young French man on a boat with his wife and two kids (ages 2 & 3). They are expecting a third baby around Christmas, and will be here for the next several months. They have both found local jobs to replenish the cruising kitty when they’re ready to move on again. Pierre is a good carpenter, and we hired him to install a Plexiglass window in the back door of the pilothouse, our primary entrance. The Plexiglass is left over from a full sheet that we bought in El Salvador when we rebuilt the skylight/hatch in the Office, in the center of the boat. The door itself has quite a story. As you may remember, we had the back door installed a few years ago by a carpenter in Santa Rosalia, Mexico. It had originally been one of a pair of doors used in the foreward part of the boat, which we remodelled before leaving Portland in 2011. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was built by the father of Gail Husen, the first owner of the boat (along with her husband Herman, of course!) It’s solid teak, and constructed beautifully with an arched top and nicely rabbeted joints. Pierre did a similarly fine job cutting out the upper panel, cutting a groove for the window to sit in, and constructing trim pieces to hold it. The curved piece on top was laminated from three strips cut from the original panel. Pierre was excited to see the nice set of tools that we had, and Dan was happy to learn a few new tricks about using them skillfully. The new window is more attractive for an exterior door, and will give us much more all-round visibility when the door is shut, usually because of rain.

We’ve also been designing a new feature to our rigging. We’re adding a pair of lines to the main mast, pulling it aft when the foreward staysail is unfurled and pulling forward. The mast has been bending into an S-shape, which is not ideal. ๐Ÿ™‚ As we’re now in different conditions than the boat was originally designed, we need to make sure that the rigging has the support it needs to handle it safely. These lines, by the way, are called running back stays. This suggestion first came up in 2011, when we stopped in Port Townsend on our way north to Alaska. We visited the well-known rigger Brion Toss, and invited his comments. It’s been a long time percolating, but we’re finally implementing the idea! What we’re doing is adding a new stainless steel cuff around the mast, about 40 feet up, as close as possible to the one the staysail attaches to. This cuff has two tangs on it with holes that we can attach the lines to, running down to a pair of winches on either side of the pilothouse. When the sails are flying to the port side, we tighten up the starboard line, an4d vice versa. Dan has done the metal-work, cutting and welding the pieces to make a two-part cuff that can be bolted in place, and Kathy the work aloft in the mast (would you have guessed otherwise?). We’ll give this new system a try next week when we head off on our next adventure, a 500-mile trip to the atolls of the Tuamotus.

Although the Marquesas may seem like a remote place, the Tuamotus are even more so. ๐Ÿ™‚ We expect to be there for the next two months or so, until the cyclone season begins in November. We might find an internet hotspot from time to time, but they are few and far between. We’ll also be hoping for some fresh vegetables periodically! While we’re in that area, we will be able to get weather forecasts and send and receive email via our Iridium satellite device. This is a huge change from just a decade or two ago! Imagine us diving in the passes of the atolls, sleeping on deck under the stars, and making new friends…

(Here are a few photos from another hike we took with Norma and Christian along the east side of the bay. We probably won’t be able to include more photos until we return from the Tuamotus.)

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