Friday, June 23, 2006

Marquesas Landfall

As promised, here is an update on our landfall. The last part of our passage was completely devoid of wind so unfortunately we had to motor, this was pretty slow progress as the propeller had been fouled with so much weed and barnacles on the way we could only make about 5 knots. On the last day the engine had been revving a little every so often, at three am on the night before we were due to arrive we discovered why this was when the engine just stopped on my watch. We had about 5 knots of wind at the time but luckily a calm sea. I managed to get the boat moving very slowly in vaguely the right direction - this involved poling out the jib on my own - no easy task! Andrew meanwhile, just woken up was working on a boiling hot engine, trying to figure out what was wrong. He eventually discovered the fuel filter was blocked, so he replaced it and then had to bleed the engine, but about an hour and a half later we were on our way again. Andrew went back to sleep and I took the final hours of my watch as we approached Fatu Hiva. As the sun came out I decided to put the fishing rod out - I thought I might catch a fish for Andrew when he woke. A short while later and the reel went, I have only brought the line in when there's nothing on it before but this was a huge huge fish. I tried really hard and with all my strength got it to within 10 feet of the boat, by now Andrew was up and I got him to take over as I physically couldn't hold it any more - it kept pulling the line out, going deep, under the boat, in circles who knows. Andrew then struggled with it for another 20 mins, then it went under the boat and got away. Luckily it left our top lure. I think we were secretly pleased it got away as it was so big we would have had difficulty getting it into the boat. Next time I'm going to try a smaller one.

We choose Fatu Hiva as our landfall destination in the Marquesas as we had read that it was the most beautiful and unspoiled of the ten islands, the anchorage features on the front cover of our pilot guide for Polynesia so we just had to go. The rumour has it that the bay was originally called Bay des Verges by early explorers because of the shape of the rocky pillars (a little French test for you). Supposedly the missionaries disapproved and inserted an i making it Bay des Vierges - Bay of the Virgins. We could see the island from about 25 miles out, which is alot further than we would usually be able to make out because the mountains are so high. As we got closer we could back out the jagged cliffs and deep green ravines running towards the sea. The lush foliage covering the peaks was incredible, even the sea took on a green tinge. We spotted the bay and the towering pillars with a few yachts anchored beneath, as we approached a squall came over which cast a perfect rainbow neatly across the opening - we had a cheesy moment and then got ready to anchor. As we came into the bay Zefrin blew a conch horn and all the other boats cheered us in. The anchorage was incredible, the cliffs rising straight up either side covered with trees and palms of all different greens - a testimony to the high rainfall in these islands. Tucked in the corner we could make out the landing for the hamlet but all we could see of it was a little white church and a football goal!! We got ourselves settled and then went to Zefrin for dinner with Kika too. Warwick cooked this fantastic spicy fish in batter. Ragtime arrived at about 10.30 to the same welcome as us, Will and Alyssa were then whizzed over for fish too. It was a bit of a boozy night which hit us all hard after 21 days with no alcohol.

In the morning we ventured ashore and found the neatest little hamlet tucked in the valley. A typical Marquesian statue adorned the harbour wall, outrigger canoes were lined up on the shore and the place just smelt fantastic. We went to find the policeman to check in and were directed to his house, he was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt with a police logo but just pottering at home with his pig tied up out front. He just took a note of our names in a book and said we could stay for a couple of days - Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry so really we should have gone to one of the big islands first but we had been told he was pretty relaxed and he was. The village has one shop and a church, no bakery and the shop doesn't even sell beer - luckily we had enough provisions on board. The trees and flowers in the village were beautiful, huge pamplemouse (like grapefruit but much bigger and so sweet) hung on some trees, limes on others. The people were all so friendly, most of the women just wearing printed sarong or lava lavas, we felt instantly at home. We went for a hike through the valley, were we found many streams, banana trees, mango trees, limes that had fallen so fell into our bag, it really was breath taking we felt like we had come somewhere really exotic. In the afternoon we went snorkeling just outside the bay, we saw lots of different fish and an octopus luckily we didn't see any sharks as there are plenty around these parts.

As amazing as Fatu Hiva was the anchorage was very swirly and huge gusts came down from the mountains making it pretty uncomfortable and it was time to move on so next morning we left and sailed all day to Tahuata. On the way we caught two yellow fin tuna and a wahoo - all about 2 hours - I spent most of the passage gutting and filleting fish! The anchorage we picked is reportedly one of the top spots in the whole of Polynesia - we were not disappointed. It was just like you imagine the South Pacific, a perfect white sandy bay backed by coconut palms and green mountains behind. This spot was not swirly just a gentle swell and breeze - perfect. In the morning we swam ashore. The area was deserted, just a covered area that looked like it was maybe used for meetings or celebrations. The ground beyond the powder white beach was littered with coconuts and limes so obviously a few of each made their way back to ReVision II. We snorkeled and found beautiful coral around the edges of the bay and I picked up some really cool shells (Carolyn later lost the shells in 25 foot of water which Andrew then had to free dive in to rescue them). We had such a lovely day of relaxing which was just what we needed. We did do a few boat jobs too obviously - the genoa had been damaged on the crossing so I had some repairs to do while Andrew did engine jobs. But again it was time to press on so we can see as much as possible. So we are now sailing overnight to Ua Pou. We should arrive first thing Friday, here we will formally clear in and hope to experience a bit more of life in the Marquesas, there is also a museum and craft centre together with a restaurant which I think we will be visiting. We're hoping to find a phone too so we can call home.


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