December 14 2015 1800 UTC, 09°21'S, 140°03'W Ua Pou, Marquesas

The red line shows our intended path from Raiatea to Marquesas and the yellow dots show our actual movement.

It has been a year and a half when we visited this island before. Meanwhile they started work on the town docks to be able to receive big ships like the new Aranui 5 that will carry some 400 tourists in addition to cargo. In the evening, ater we anchored and reset the anchor yet again, we went to the community hall and watched the group practicing their dance for the festival show. After seeing groups of other islands before, this one still has a lot of room for improvement.

I came here with the main purpose to meet my friend Moi again. And by chance he was in the village of Hakahau and we found him after an extensive search over the phone by a local tourist office employee. He didn't change a bit, maybe just put on a little more weight. It is interesting how you make friends with people - Moi and I spent together two days last year (when I met him the first time) and exchanged just a few emails in the course of eighteen months. Yet when I saw him again this time it was as if I've never left. He was happy to see us and next day he brought his family along and we went for a long ride across the island to the village of Hohoi. That village was a site of Marquesan cultural festival in 2007 but even more importantly it is one of the two places on the Earth where you can find 'flower stone', usually dark orange color and designs reminiscent of beautiful flowers with hints of gold. The other place is near Sao Paolo in Brazil! We visited a local sculptor and saw him at work on a big Tiki, destined to go to Dubai in February. About three months of work by him and his assistant goes into the stone before it is finished. Moi took us down to the pebble beach where we could find a few of flower pebbles ourselves. The stone is increasingly rare and to find one or two ton rocks as the sculptor had still in store is quite an undertaking.
Dubai bound one ton weighing Tiki of flower stone rock. After two months it still needs one more month of work.

We said good bye to Moi and his family last night and this morning we were watching Ua Pou festival group boarding the ship that will take them to Hiva Oa. We'll set sail shortly and go back to Nuku Hiva to provision for the passage to Hawaii.

December 09 2015 1700 UTC, 08°55'S, 140°06'W Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Taiohae on Nuku Hiva was our landfall place after the passage from Galapagos in April 2014. But we never saw so many boats here - and this time being out of season. Usually only cruisers who intend to spend the southern cyclone season in Marquesas anchor here. But 2015 is the year of Marquesan cultural festival on Hiva Oa and most of these boats wait here before sailing to Hiva Oa or neighboring Tahuata. And there is also a number of boats that will sail to Hawaii before the end of the year.

That's what we decided to do. I spent hours on my satellite phone and internet trying to find a way to ship replacement batteries here before our deadline to return to Hawaii but to no avail. They could arrive to Tahiti by mid January but it would take another three weeks to get them to Nuku Hiva. So we'll have to charge ours more often and manage power consumption accordingly. I tried the conditioning as prescribed in the owners manual but it is hard to do it with engine's regulator. Batteries did improve a little but are still way down from their usual capacity.

We won't go to see the festival dances and singing on Hiva Oa. There will be almost 2,000 performers (about 200 to 300 from each of the seven islands) and forecasted 5,000 tourists. I like Marquesan singing and dancing but not that much. The Atuona harbor was full of boats a month ago, anchored there and waiting for the festival. I guess if you have time and on your hands (as cruisers mostly do) and don't mind to mingle with thousands of landlubbers in a small space it may be worth it. But not for me! That's why me made a point to see groups practicing their show everywhere we stopped, on Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, here and we'll go to see it also on Ua Pou. And while dancers and singers were not wearing their costumes as they will at the festival, we had much better, front row seats watching their practice. It was probably even more interesting observing their improvement during the practices and watching the choreographers adjusting the movements of dancers. Here on Nuku Hiva we had an additional chance to see the group perform in costumes for tourists from cruise ship Paul Gaugin that stopped here for a day and a night. Quite impressive performance!

We found our friends Olivier and Vivian from Mary Ann and Dave and Jen from Dulcinea already here. Thanksgiving dinner was organized by someone in a local restaurant and while there were no turkeys the food was quite good. I also bottled my beer into 13 bottles, all 2 gallons of it. It came out quite good and it is a pleasure to drink it.

We didn't go around much this time. We researched the island last year and this time just stayed in Taiohae. We did meet our friend Mahina from last year and he helped me buy a ukulele as a present for Taozi's birthday. Now she only has to learn how to play :-).

November 24 2015 1800 UTC, 09°56'S, 139°06'W Tahuata, Marquesas

This is a small island, just south of Hiva Oa. We sailed overnight from Fatu Hiva and went to see Atuona harbor on Hiva Oa, the island of the festival. Small place and crowded with boats, all with stern anchor so that they don't swing around and more can get cramped into the same water. I motored through the maze of boats and anchor buoys and was barely able to turn and find my way out.

There is a bay, famous among cruisers, called Hanamoenoa. As we approached we saw another boat anchored in there and preferring solitude we turned around and sailed to the next one, Ivaiva. Beautiful beach, a house, some horses and dogs around the house but for three days nobody was there. Some moderate swell was coming in and made landing of our dinghy an exercise of timing skills but once on the beach we could walk in the shade of tall coconut palm trees and swim on the incoming waves to anchored Levana and back.
Fresh from Felix' workbench, Taozi's right ear. All typical Marquesan symbols of elements around us.

The main reason for coming to Tahuata was to find Felix, a famous (at least among cruisers) tattoo artist in the main village, Vaitahu. So we weighed our anchor and went around the corner to Vaitahu Bay. A lot of history happened here. Tahuata was the first Marquesan island discovered by Europeans, it was annexed by France and was the place of revolt against French occupation. Islanders actually celebrate the Battle for Independence on September 17th, even though the chief Iotete was defeated. We walked around the village and found Felix, nice guy in his 50s, with his workbench on the porch of his house. As he had time he designed small tattoo for Taozi and after laying one hour on the workbench she got up with a beautiful tattoo behind her right ear. I was impressed and made appointment with Felix for the next day for a tattoo on my arm. I wanted a band made of Marquesan symbols. And the next day, after four hours of work, I had it on my left arm. Two Tiki faces that actually form a third one, Marquesan cross, a manta ray and a collage of some smaller symbols. A permanent souvenir of the islands that I like so much.

There is another village on the west side of Tahuata, Hapatoni. We anchored in a small cove, big enough for only five boats (we were the fifth in) and took the dinghy to the village dock, a mile or so away. I talked to a village lady the I met at the church and she told me that there are only about 60 people in the village when the kids go to school on Hiva Oa. That one is only an hour away with the municipal shuttle. Even though almost empty, Hapatoni is a very romantic place. There is a 'Royal Road' built along the shore, leading to the school and to the diesel generator station and about 100 yards further it stops. It was a romantic walk, although somewhat wet after the rain, along this road, lined with ancient trees.

The next day we returned to Vaitahu and visited Felix again. Taozi wanted another tattoo and got it on her left ankle, another work of art by Felix.

November 12 2015 1900 UTC, 10°27'S, 138°40'W Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

More looking penises than virgins, right?.
Four days passage from Raroia to the Hanavave village in the Bay of Virgins was rather uneventful. I started motorsailing pushing Levana as much east as possible and the last two days we were sailing almost straight north. Second year in a row I celebrated my birthday on a passage. What a better present can one give himself than this - sailing under blue skies (not always) with fresh breeze filling the sails (sometimes blowing too hard) gently rocking on long, slow waves (but crushing very hard sometimes into them). I am quite happy with this life. I do miss some people, kids and grand kids but I'll see them in due time. Bay of Virgins - beautiful bay on western side of Fatu Hiva, often a landing point for man y cruiser crossing the Pacific from east. Why the name as it is now? I have no idea where the virgins are or were at the time, but history has it that time ago this was called Bay of Penises. And that I can see why. But missionaries, among all other things that they spoiled on these islands, spoiled that name too.

Landscape is really amazing. The valley opens through a narrow pass from the wider and higher valley behind and winds blowing into the bay change in a moment from zero to 40 knots. Somewhere on the mountain side behind that valley is a beautiful waterfall and we set out to see it. A miniscule misunderstanding of the directions got us on the wrong path and we crisscrossed the slopes and valleys in a four hour trek without finding it. The next day, armed with better understanding, we got to the waterfall in about one hour. I've seen higher with more abundant water but this one has a perfect swimming pool at the bottom. Cool mountain water was a balm for our tired bodies and we spent quite some time skinny dipping in it. There were no other visitors at the waterfall that day. The path to the water fall (and other paths for that matter) is lined with mango trees and there is an abundance of mangoes to be picked up. Which we did and Taozi cooked mango chutney that is excellent spread on bread or pancakes. I tried similar thing with mango puree but while it was good it didn't take long before it started fermenting.

I don't like walking, but here I walked a lot. Through the village, where we found Madelaine who provided us with fruits or another family with witch we traded some boat things (lines etc) for goat meat, ginger and fruit. We walked to the homes of local sculptors (and I bought a wooden Tiki from Angelo).. I also walked along he road that leads to the other village on the island, Omoa, all the way to the pass with magnificent view of the our anchorage and village below. The valley being rather narrow it makes the village spread along its main road. For more walking, of course. In my opinion, homo sapiens should have developed wheels instead of legs.

October 29 2015 1700 UTC, 16°06'S, 142°22'W Raroia, Tuamotus

Raroia is one of the jump off points for sailing from Tuamotus to Marquesas. It also has its own claim to fame - in 1947 Thor Hayerdal's Kon Tiki raft crash landed on one of the atoll's motus. A must to visit, of course. After one night stop on Makemo Atoll we sailed overnigh towards Raroia. Very tough sailing, primarily because of utterly unorganized sea. Swell and wind waves were mixing and riding on top of each other and we were crashing hard into them. My first mate doesn't get sick often but this night it hit her bad. I tried to time our arrival to the Raroia pass in the morning and we had enough time to sail with half main and staysail at some 3-4 knots into 25-30 knots of wind as close as we could. Even so we ended about 5 Nm north of the pass and tacked to get to it about 9:30 in the morning. My tide calculation ended to be quite approximate but close enough to get through the pass with about 2 knots of current and small standing waves.

We found our anchorage on the east side of the atoll, across the lagoon from the village. Not as secluded as we were on Tahanea but peaceful and safe enough to enjoy the rest. After two days we went back to the village and bought French propane tank and back on our anchorage I managed to do gravity transfer of the gas to our boat tanks. Slow process, it took a day for one to fill and I was quite proud of my accomplishment, especially since I had to improvise the fittings.
Fierce warrior in a defensive stance, ready to cut attacker. Those claws can really pinch!

We were joined on our anchorage by Mary Ann, a boat the we met on our overnight stay on Makemo. Olivier is French but lived long time in Southeast Asia and found in Malaysia his Chinese wife Vivian. What a joy for the two women, mine and his, to be able to chat in mandarin. No wonder we spent a lot of time together, playing games, hunting lobsters, crabs and just talking. And part of the crew in the nearby pearl farm was Chinese as well, they were all happy to have us for a visit.

Crabs! I don't know exactly what kind are they, but they are good. After catching the first batch and steaming them we realized that there is not much meat anywhere except their left claw - which is significantly bigger than the right one. So the next time we went hunting for them we just cut the right claw of and let the crab go. Sounds cruel but maybe the claw will grow back. Crabs for sure survived the amputations and we enjoyed a number of lunches and dinners of excellent crab meat. It was the first time that I ever saw and ate a famous coconut crab which is almost extinct and can be found only on certain motus around the atoll.

Finally, a day or two before we left we went to find Kon Tiki motu. Really a small one with the reef way out towards the sea. After the crash Thor and his guys were carrying whatever they could salvage from the raft to the firm ground. Only after several days they were discovered by locals and moved to the village. They cured then a sick boy - and the old man is still alive today and lives in the village! There was a small monument erected on that motu at the occasion of the 60 anniversary of the crash day, August 7 2007 by Kon Tiki museum in Oslo.

October 03 2015 1900 UTC, 16°52'S, 144°40'W Tahanea, Tuamotus

Before we left Raiatea I serviced our diesel engine, changing its and transmission oil, filters and even changed the raw water impeller. General opinion on the internet is that that alone is the hardest job on Yanmar 4JH3 engines - unless you have a special Yanmar made tool to do it. It is positioned right in front of the starter so the access is very limited. I labored over it the whole day and finally got the old impeller out. It showed some wear and tear but it was not really bad. Well, now there is a new one in place and before I have to change this one I hope to have the proper tool.
Tending the fire baking fish and potato on our picnic beach.

I decided not to go to Rangiroa and Fakarawa but sail straight to Tahanea instead. It turned out to be the right decision, after some motoring we had a really nice sail and entered the atoll after three days passage. This is an uninhabited atoll, being a reservation for sand piper birds. Some scientist lodges here from time to time to study the birds and a ranger comes once in a while to check the place out. We didn't see anybody the whole time here. Anchored in 17 feet of crystal clear water next to white beach we started enjoying peace and solitude. We made a nice picnic camp on the beach, collecting coconuts and opening them for water and for meat. Jumping into a shallow tide pool to cool of and just lounging in the shade of palms. This is definitely the best place to spend vacation that I found so far.

But even in paradise it rains. We had a day or two of bad weather but the anchorage is well protected from SE to NE and the only wind that could be unpleasant would come from the West, across the lagoon. So I was fixing little things on boat, even found the broken wire that brings power to the helm plotter and fixed it - no more need to have running lights on to have plotter operating.

We have a deadline - have to get to Nuku Hiva by the end of November and there are many islands in between that we want to visit on the way. Sadly enough we need to use the next favorable weather window and leave our paradise behind.