Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 47 Iles Sous Le Vent. Moorea.

There is a little difference of opinion on the quarterdeck. I want to sail through the pass into Opunohu Bay on the Island of Moorea and Heather wants the sails down and to motor in. This is the bay that Cook visited and romantic me wants to enter under sail just like them. A sensible compromise has us sailing between the white foamed reefs with the engine ticking away in neutral just in case. We have sailed across to this island that has been in our sights all the time we have been at anchor at Maiva Beach. At last - the first of the Iles sous le vent (leeward islands), which simply means the collection of islands that are down wind from Tahiti, but the name has rattled around in my head since I was a kid. The Iles sous le vent - how splendid!

Cook`s visit.

We find Francis and Flyer anchored near the entrance to this beautiful bay and join them, carefully placing both anchors and setting them well. Jim of Wylie E. Coyote anchored deeper into the bay a few days ago during the windy week we spent at Maieva Beach and he nearly got blown away. Long narrow bays between high hills can funnel winds and we plan to take our chances on the deep sandy bottom just around the point. Even here, we will feel plenty of action as the squally conditions continue.

Tahiti was a busy real place, but Moorea feels like a dream: as we walk along the narrow roads beneath the palms all seems like a sanitized stage set for "some enchanted island"like Bali-Ha`i in the musical South Pacific. The views from the mountainside are amazing as we look back to Tahiti and onward across the rippled ocean toward our next destinations among the more distant islands. One day we take Edith for an hour`s ride through the lagoon that separates Opunoho Bay from Cook Bay. Here the lagoon is still part fringing reef and the winding passage is marked with random bits of pipe sticking up from the coral. We zig and we zag and finally enter the next bay which contains a cruise ship named after that artist who was hated by officialdom while he lived here but now is that great tourist symbol - Paul Gauguin. We land near the river at the head of the bay, cross the bridge and do our grocery shopping. Our first rule of shopping is to stock up in bulk in inexpensive ports, but our second rule in smaller communities is "if you see it, buy it," because you may never find it again if you wait. This store takes Visa, we have the dinghy to carry a load, so we stock up!

Edith is also our entertainment as Anne and I sail around the anchorage with the lug sail reefed in the fresh winds. We are invited to stop for a visit by Kalamera, a NZ yacht and get to talk about our own home waters and lend them our cruising guides for when they arrive in Victoria. Tahiti is a crossroads for sailboats in the Pacific. Many, like us, follow the path of least resistance with the Trades westward, some turn back north for Hawaii and North America while for others like Kalamera this is a way point on a long journey from New Zealand to North America. Already Scaldis is preparing to start back to California via Hawaii, Wylie E. Coyote will too, en route for Portland Oregon. and Sawleeah is headed back to BC. Shiriri is headed still farther west as are Francis and Flyer.

Before we sail on to the next island in the chain, Heather and I take the precious manuscript for Little Guy aboard Edith and scoot across the bay to a little village to mail it off to Penguin in Toronto. As we hand it over the Post Office counter we are struck by the incongruity of our tropical setting, the story of Patti way back in rural Ontario learning lessons from her horse and the big office tower where the package will be opened. We struggle back to Shiriri against the wind, get ready for sea and sail rapidly back out the passage to begin a night sail for Raiatea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shiriri Saga #46. A Visit with Paul Gauguin.

             Detail. Mahana no Atua. Paul Gauguin.

The lagoon becomes a less than peaceful place as a series of wind and rain storms blow through. The lagoon is often streaked in foam as the waves break right across the reef. After the big introductory thunder squall on our arrival we have been prepared for the worst and as it turns out, that`s always a good way to be. We have lots of chain out on our main Bruce anchor and a second anchor, a heavy Danforth, out at a V angle to it as well. It is annoying to have to tend them because their rodes get twisted together as Shiriri turns with wind and current, but at one in the morning when the wind starts to howl it is very comforting to have all that extra holding power. That extra security also means we can still carry on our normal expeditions ashore to go to town or to visit other boats. The rain also means that Heather can get back to work on the final revision of the second Little Guy book.

Anne finds work again on the mega yacht we met in the Marquesas which is now in the marina at the end of the lagoon waiting to take it`s owner for a cruise. I do boat maintenance. One day Heather and I decide to travel along the coast to visit the Gauguin Museum. We check out the price of a tour and naturally settle for the local Le Truck used by the country people.

As our bus rattles along the coastal road ( there are only coastal roads, as the interior is precipitous mountains) the landscape becomes a flicker of tropical colour: the blue sea and the white foam- fringed reefs of the lagoons, various shades of brilliant green fluttering in the wind, red soil and the bright colours of the women`s clothing. Opposite us on the crowded bus, a mother and her teenage daughter are headed home with their baskets on their laps. The daughter rests her head on her mother`s shoulder and goes to sleep. What a lovely picture, and how unusual a sight this would be at home in North America.

Everyone on the bus is concerned that we get off at the right place and with their help we find ourselves on the roadside and walking off down a side road to the seaside museum. We have read in the local paper that some tourists are feeling let down by this museum, as most of the works are reproductions. We laugh at the thought of his valuable paintings actually being here at all, hung on the cement walls of this open-to-the-air building. We pay our modest entrance fees and spend an interesting hour wandering around, increasingly certain that we have just been travelling in his paintings: here are the colours, patterns, scenes and especially his feeling for the special qualities of the Polynesian people. As we leave, a European couple who arrived ahead of us is noisily demanding their money back and yelling at the young female attendants. Obviously they also have read the paper and now, after a good long look around, see a way to get their money back! I hustle myself off quickly before I can angrily intervene. I have noticed that my time among the elements on the deep blue sea has reduced my tolerance for nasty people and shortened my fuse in an altercation. I`m feeling everything in a powerful elemental way.

The bus does n`t make a return trip to town until the next day so we stick out our thumbs. The first car to give us a ride belongs to some university students on a world trip and our final ride is with a French woman who drives us right to our doorstep. We have met an interesting cross section of characters and that makes it a good day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Shiriri Saga #45. Tropical Dawn in Tahiti.

Sometime just before dawn I wake and step on deck for a look around: something I do at least a couple of times a night, even at anchor in a now peaceful lagoon. My sleep patterns have adjusted so well to watches at sea that the old ideal of all night oblivion is an almost distasteful memory from a previous life.

All is well around us as Shiriri tugs gently at her anchor chain among the bright stars that reflect back from the calm water. High up on the dark hillside a bonfire etches palms against it`s flickering glare. Drifting down from the heights is the sound of a Tahitian popular song featuring ukeleles and blended female voices. An all night party is still going on in the predawn hours.

It is such a magical moment that I sit on the cabin top and suck it all in: the firelight behind the palms, the evocative music, the velvety tropic air redolent with the scents of the islands. I sit quietly over the next twenty minutes as the dawn comes flooding over the mountains, and down the hillside almost as quickly as the wind storm of a few days before. The first outrigger canoe of the morning breaks my reverie as it passes close by, beginning it`s practice run for the Bastille Day celebrations just a few weeks away. I step below to make the first morning cup of tea.

I have read many books of the south seas and spoken to some who sailed through these islands years ago and the message is that they are not like the good old days and I know that this must be true as it is of all places and times. I know this, and yet I`ve just had a timeless experience of dawn in a tropical anchorage that has spoken directly to my emotions. There are no second hand experiences to be found in this life we are leading now. There are no filters. All those wild ocean dawns that say that we have survived the night are present now too in this moment of tender sweetness that welcomes me to another day in Tahiti.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shiriri Saga #44. The Big Wind.


We are anchored among a large international fleet of yachts in the lagoon, separated from the ocean by a broad coral reef which causes the ocean waves to break on it`s steep outer face and sends them across to the lagoon in a series of low ripples. We must take a bus into town from here ( Maieva Beach) and check in with customs and immigration. We dinghy into the beach, walk up the path among the palms beside the hotel and catch Le Truck to town. This is busy city life for us country mice but we love Papeete. We buy long sandwiches in buns and eat them down at the docks where many yachts are anchored stern first to the shore. It`s a little overcast and showery but for us west coasters this does n`t ring warning bells like it should.

Home again to Maieva Beach by Le Truck and to a large shopping center nearby to stock up with necessary items like baguettes and cheese. Back among the palm trees on the way to the beach, we are hit by a terrific gust of wind and bullet-like rain. We huddle behind a palm and watch as palm fronds fly past and lightning flashes. The instant thunder is accompanied by the sound of ripping metal as tin roofs are torn away. We are in danger here, but all we can think is of Shiriri out in the bay. One mast in sight out in the bay tosses wildly between palms bent double under black tattered clouds.

After twenty minutes, the wind eases a little and we dash for the beach. We look to Shiriri and she is missing, but no, here she has dragged much farther into the bay - in fact the whole fleet has compacted closer to shore. Waves are coming across the reef and poor Edith is full of water in the surf. We drag her into a creek, empty her out and row hard for Shiriri, first edging upwind in the lee of a motu and then across the waves.

David from Francis is on our foredeck getting out our second anchor so we scramble quickly aboard and set the anchor with David carrying it out in his inflatable. We look around. The wind has definitely been dropping. Then it switches 180 degrees and comes rushing down the mountain side swinging us close to Wylie E. Coyote. Anne and I row hard to Jim`s boat and find that not only has he dragged like us, but his anchor chain has been ripped out to the bitter end and that is held by a thin nylon rope that has chaffed badly. We fix that and then row like mad to take the awnings off Scaldis, (they catch the wind) but happily the emergency is nearly over. The wind drops and then comes normally from the original direction. Reported wind speed over eighty knots. Was this the famous Maramou wind of Tahiti or just a super thunder squall? In Papeete, just around the corner they missed it completely and Wylie Jim and the Scaldis folk are puzzled on their return after dark to find their boats have moved of their own accord.

After this exciting introduction, we settle in to life on the hook at Maieva Beach. We make trips to town, visit neighbouring yachts, haul water from a nearby bay and fetch ice for our cooler from a marina farther down the bay. Sailing Edith around the lagoon just for fun or drifting her over the reef so we can watch the colourful fish becomes our entertainment. The present moment is what is important, the rigors of our voyage fade into the background and the next return to our ocean home is somewhere fuzzy in the future. We are adapting to Polynesia.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shiriri Saga #43. Tahiti Ahoy.

                                      The Wind.

We find a light SE wind just outside the Manihi pass and haul out a sail that gets little use, the gennaker, and this pulls us along until dark when we bring it down for safer night sailing. We have a passage between two islands waiting for us up ahead and we are a little nervous: the currents are unpredictable and the islands hard to spot. Fortunately it is a bright moonlit night and the island on the left hand side shows up plainly,- the waves crashing on the reef, the palm trees..... Wait a minute, they are way too easy to see! We have been edged off course. The reef soon begins to recede however as we exit the channel and find more open waters.

Our passage this time will be only four days long with light winds (because we are in the middle of a high pressure cell), but we do catch a spectacular four foot long dorado which Heather cans in the pressure cooker - and vows never again while at sea, as she greenly comes back on deck. On a moonlit night watch she sees the first aircraft we have seen since Mexico coming in to Tahiti not far over the horizon. On one of my watches I see enormous flares over the southern horizon and instantly think of a ship in distress. But really they are too high up and must be in the trajectory path for space junk re- entering the atmosphere and burning up somewhere east of New Zealand.

It is seldom that the wind is just perfect: too much, too squally, or too light as at present but one thing is for sure, we are always hyper aware of it and its subtle variations. Even asleep below we catch the exact tone of the wind in the rigging and are up for a look around if the tone turns to moan. Like in many other aspects of our life on this sea voyage we have developed a personal relationship with this constant companion: it is the invisible force that wafts us across the ocean distances. This deep sense of connectedness with all aspects of the oceanic world will be the most difficult thing to convey to shore folks we meet along the way and often we give up and say that it is an experiential thing - you had to be there. The essence of our experience is so ephemeral and yet so powerful.

From the Journal:
May 21, Day 4. Heather is the first to see land ahead. I crawl out to change watch at 6 am and see her outlined against the rising sun excitedly pointing ahead. At 9 am I start the engine as we need to charge the batteries in preparation for a period at anchor and a little boost in speed will get us in well before dark. Twenty miles to go!
am. At this distance we can see the shapes of valleys and rocky cliffs but no houses or roads. I imagine Captain Cook making this same landfall and seeing just what I see! Or Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian of the Bounty. History never seems in the past at sea.

pm. As we coasted past Point Venus and closer to Papeete a very big squall came chasing up behind us. We ended entering the Papeete channel crab-wise, angled against the wind to avoid being swept onto the reef.

After that, Anne conned us through a tricky piece of lagoon channel navigation to this anchorage past the airport. Scaldis, Wylie E. Coyote and Francis are close by.

Tahiti in one piece. This feels like a great achievement. 7000 miles from Victoria.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Shiriri Saga #42. The Tuamotus. Moonlight over Manihi.

Tuamotu sunrise.

After the long passage to the Marquesas from Mexico, the rest of our hops across the South Pacific will seem relatively short, but even so, after a turbulent exit through the confused waves leaving Daniel`s Bay and the Marquesas we find the reality of bouncing and crashing along reaching across the fresh trade winds to be a nasty reawakening. Back to difficult cooking and sail handling, and keeping watch with it`s lack of sleep, as the watch below regularly gets called up to reef sail. After a couple of days however we adjust to the rhythm and settle back into our routines. We realize that we have made a transition somewhere along the line. The ocean has become our normal place of residence, and the ports along the way are our holiday weekends into exotic worlds.

Leaving Taiohae Bay.
The Journal:
Day 6. May 12. Excitement at dawn. Way off to starboard is a thin line of black on the horizon - like a thin moustache. As the sun gets higher and we get closer it becomes a line of palm trees. Two years ago I drew a picture of Miss Chickpea at the masthead pointing at the land to direct the crew below - now it`s a reality. I just reefed the fores`l. Shiriri was doing 7 knots and that seems excessive for our approach. Now, reefed, she is still doing 5: she smells the barn!
14 miles to the pass on the SW side of Manihi atoll.
Rereading Charlie`s Charts on the entrance details.

PM. OK, our first successful entrance to a coral atoll. I conned
Shiriri from high up on the ratlines of the foremast (so as to see down into
the water on the lookout for shoals and coral heads) as we came through the pass quickly on the last of the flood tide. We then motored slowly across the lagoon against the wind between coral heads and pearl oyster buoys to an anchorage behind a motu ( a coral island on the encircling reef). Very beautiful! Got sails away, wind scoop rigged and Edith in the water. Now, pancakes for lunch.

FLAT CALM!!! - not since Barra Lagoon in Mexico two months ago have we been out of the roll of the sea.

Entering the pass.

In the lagoon:
Manihi is at the northern end of a chain of low atoll islands called the Tuamotus. Before GPS navigation, these were tricky to sail among due to their reefs, unpredictable currents and sometimes overcast skies ( a problem for celestial navigation). Even now, they pick up a goodly share of visiting yachts on their reefs. The passes are still tricky, the holding ground inside the lagoons for anchors sometimes poor and the trade winds are regularly interrupted by lows that bring strong winds from unexpected directions. The lagoons are so protected from the ocean waves it is tempting to relax and let your guard down and forget they are dangerous places to be.


I am regularly having the strange sensation that I am living in my dreams. That dawn arrival at the Marquesas was the achievement of a lifetime, and now we are walking on a coral atoll, hearing the wind in the palm trees and the crash of the waves on the outer edge of the reef. I have read Thor Heyerdahl`s books, especially Kon Tiki, and here I am, not many miles north from where his raft landed on another atoll. I`ve imagined this place all my life and now, by following my dreams, I`ve caught up and am now living in the midst of them!

After the high volcanic islands we have just left, the islands on the atolls are very different: they are barely above sea level and are built entirely from broken coral thrown up by waves onto the reef that encloses the lagoon. The vegetation is sparse and mostly palms. We walk out to the windward side and pick around for shells and, when we are not doing that, we swim among the fish in the lagoon. I scrub the prop with a wire brush and worry about sharks nibbling my extremities, only to find a remora sticking around and having a close look at me. Most of the coral is dead and white, perhaps from storms or warmer temperatures. These islands will be the first to go if ocean levels rise.


We visit with the Flyers, who arrived the day before us and with David and Lisa on Francis who we had met in Taiohae Bay. Heather and Anne get deep into some recent Harry Potter books short term loaned by the Flyer girls. It seems strange to be reading while in exotic locales, but reading is a major cruising interest and trading books a secondary motivation for getting to know new boats in anchorages along the way. We all expand our reading preferences of necessity and hope to trade with cultured wealthy people who have the best quality to exchange for tired tattered paperbacks. There is something about reading that brings complexity and colour into lives that encompass stretches of boredom with moments of terror. The more experienced we get, the less terror and the more need for books! The stories we read are so vivid to us out here, as we ourselves lead a life squeezed down to the essentials.

One day, Heather and I row ashore in Edith and then I quicky row back to Shiriri to get my forgotten sandals - walking on the coral is too rough for my bare feet. Back at the beach, I find Heather has attracted the attention of a herd of pigs and is prepared to fight them off with a stick while standing up to her knees in the lagoon. That night I write up the days events in the journal and in my sketch I dramatize the pig story by placing Heather half way up a palm tree. Artistic licence, yes, but the treed image is somehow more true to the dramatic moment and , more importantly, sure to draw an indignant shriek from Heather. We make our own entertainment in whatever ways possible.

The Flyers come over for supper one evening and it is so hot we eat out in the cockpit in the bright moonlight. Below us in the clear water a squadron of rays is gliding past in formation. Above us, puffy clouds drift slowly downwind. Beside us the wind rustles in the palms on the motu. We have definitely arrived in the South Seas.

Low ragged rain clouds and stormy winds from a cold front reaching up from the southern ocean have us pleased to be tucked in behind the motu and not at sea. The palms bend and toss their heads and we stick with our boat. Our anchor is in a patch of coral sand and sometimes that is underlain by hard smooth coral that will not hold our anchor. Shiriri is anchored with a couple of coral heads behind us and cannot really let out too much more chain. We run the engine during the stronger gusts to cushion the wind pressure. All is well `til next morning when the wind shifts and comes across fifteen miles of lagoon. All the yachts swing to face the wind and those close inshore are now very close to the beach and each other. In the change of direction our anchor rode wraps around some lumps of coral fifty feet below which hold us firmly enough even as it saws away at our chain. Slowly the trade winds pick up again over the next couple of days and all returns to normal. Now we can make our next move on to Tahiti. This stormy interlude has reminded us though, how exposed we are to misadventure and the advantage of traveling with other yachts: we are not just here to be fair weather friends; we can help each other if we get into trouble. We hear stories of incredible efforts made by yachts to assist each other and are proud to be part of such a community.

With her engine mounted on the stern, Edith carries us along the edge of the lagoon for a final visit to the little village at the pass. We wander the white coral streets between the concrete block homes and try to feel what life is like for the local people. For us, it is the far side of the world and the isolation would be very difficult for us folks from busy Saltspring Island to adjust to. That is more a fault with us than with this coral island world. The pass is filled with beautiful little fish and the current is ebbing out the pass, which is what we came to find out. We rush back to our boat, hoist Edith back onto the cabin top, struggle to get our anchor chain unwrapped from the coral, wave goodbye and wind our way carefully back through the lagoon between the coral heads and out through the swirling currents of the pass into the waves again. Destination: Tahiti.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shiriri Saga #41.Paradise ain`t Paradise.

Finding Shiriri in the crowded anchorage.

Several days go by as we lie at anchor again in Taiohae Bay. Heather gets some cortisone cream at the hospital for her itchy rash. Turns out that the deet in the bug lotion we lathered ourselves with in the noe noe inhabited bays at the north of the island reacted on Heather. It will take a few days for her to recover so we settle in to boat maintenance, trips ashore, visits with other yachts and generally finally take the break we really need.

Out on the bowsprit fixing the forestays`l.

We become aware that the cruising life is not all sweetness and light- we know that of course, first hand, but now we see and hear of interpersonal conflicts, of crews jumping ship or being chased off. The long passage that all the yachts have recently completed have either bonded people together or split them apart in the stressful, insular world of a sailboat, bouncing and splashing for weeks on end. Everyone can present a nice face to the world for a while when things are calm and predictable but lack of sleep, fear and close quarters can cause problems. We all need to seize the opportunity now to go off in separate directions , make new friends and find some solitude while we are in harbour.

We are invited aboard a fancy mega-yacht, for drinks one evening by the youthful crew and begin to appreciate the upper crust of ocean cruising. We are cautioned to keep our fingers off the stainless steel rails as we scramble aboard as the crew spends all it`s time polishing while waiting for the owner or his friends to fly in for a quick holiday. Gin and tonics, rosewood paneling, a fireplace: sooo different a lifestyle. Soon, off they will sail to the next prime locale a thousand miles away. Anne arranges a few days work with them to top up her cruising kitty. On the way home in the dark we row through a forest of masts twinkling their anchor lights and are glad we brought a flashlight with which to spot plain old Shiriri.

Heather`s hair cutting skills are in high demand among our friends while her itches finally respond to the cream. The rest of the crew carry water and fuel in several trips from shore which is always exciting in the surging waves. In company with Flyer we leave Taiohae Bay for the last time and sail around to a bay on the south-west end of Nuku Hiva; Daniel`s Bay. Here we met Daniel and Jean living in their simple little house on the beach. The noe noes are fierce and kept at bay by smudge fires. Such an idyllic south sea scene in photographs, not so splendid in real life when age, illness and isolation also live among the palms.(as Gauguin himself found) We hear later that this little bay was taken over for a Survivor TV series: the place was sprayed to get rid of the bugs and Daniel and Jean got a new house somewhere else. Now that is progress for this lovely little bay, from survivors in nature to survivors in an artificial reality tv society.

Next morning, I rig up the storm trysail so it can be hoisted on the mainmast to give some drive from the stern of the boat for upwind work when it`s too windy for the mainsail. If we had that set up when we approached Hiva Oa we would have made it around the point. Out we go through the splashy waves at the entrance and set course for the Tuamotu Islands further down the trade wind path.

Back out the entrance to Taiohae Bay and turn right for Daniel`s Bay.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Shiriri Saga #40. Atiheu. A glimpse into the past.

                          Atiheu Bay.

The neighbouring bay has a village because it is connected by 4w drive road to Taiohae Bay and it also has an archeological reconstruction of an old Polynesian village. We sail around and anchor on a rocky bottom in a much more exposed bay. Getting ashore through the crashing waves at the concrete jetty is really exciting. Our technique is to drop a stern anchor, with a section of bungee cord set into a slack bight of the line, over the stern as we approach, nose up to the dock and take turns stepping off as the waves permit, and then slacking off on the bow line so Edith will back off and bob a few feet off the dock until we return.

                                Heather leaps for life.

The village looks like a series of paintings by Paul Gauguin: the church set on the hillside backed by the forested slopes, the children washing a horse in the surf on the black volcanic sand beach. I`ve always admired his Polynesian paintings and thought them patterned and imaginative. Now I see their reality with fresh eyes. The village is clean and neat with a free medical clinic. We climb the road inland to the old settlement. This feels like we are walking in the shoes of Herman Melville as we wander around the big old stone platforms and among the reconstructed palm thatched houses. Only when mosquitoes and blackfly (noe noes), introduced from ships water barrels, made living in the forest uncomfortable did the people move to the more exposed and windy coast.

It starts to rain and the bugs are fierce in the palm thatched houses so we cut banana leaves as umbrellas and skip back to the boats who are jinking uneasily in the strong offshore wind. We loose Edith`s stern anchor snagged on a rock, so next morning Anne and I borrow a grapnel off Moonlighter and go back to jig for it successfully in twenty feet of crystal clear agitated water, while Heather cans mangos back on bouncy Shiriri. We then leave our friends to continue to circumnavigate the island while we head back to Anaho Bay for the night in preparation for an early start going back around the north end. We do not intend to sail too far down-wind only to find that we will be unable to beat our way back up the south side of the island against the trade winds.

Shiriri sees two stone guardians as we struggle around the point.

We do make an early start but even so it is a touch and go as poor Shiriri inches around the north cape (C. Matauaoa) against the strong trade winds. Once around the point, the wind eases a little but we are still battling through the backwash close to the cliffs all the way to the southern point. Sails are trimmed tight and the engine labours for several hours until we swing back toward Taiohae Bay, past Typee Valley. Oh, we would have loved to stop there for a while, but we are being drawn forward by a timetable that must have us at the other end of the Pacific in a few months time. Also, Heather has a rash that needs medical attention at the hospital.

                         Moonlighter sails off to circle the island.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shiriri Saga #39. Restless, in the Marquesas.

                                           Anaho Bay.

Was it the loud pounding of the surf as it crashed ashore last night that has us on edge? Whatever the reason, we decide on the spur of the moment to accompany Wylie E. Coyote around to a bay on the north coast of Nuku Hiva. We really have just arrived, but here we are again, heading out of the bay we were so recently so glad to achieve. We have a case of restless, move-on-itis.

We pass the Baie du Controleur where Herman Melville based his book Typee, round the corner and motor sail slowly through sloppy seas that reflect off the most spectacular coast we have seen yet. The Marquesas are high, recently formed volcanic islands with little coral reefs attached to the rims of bays. The steep mountainsides are coated in a low green vegetation from which volcanic necks stick up like Easter Island statues and fairy castles. Fine spiky mountains of improbable shapes reach high up toward the clouds. Our eyes are so focused on high that we forget to notice that Anne has a fish on the line until we finally round the north cape and approach Anaho Bay in the evening light. This is even more spectacular in the warm light that casts such dramatic shadows– an amphitheater of pleated, buttressed cliffs complete with coconut palms and white coral beaches. Just in time we notice the tight fishing line, haul in a twenty pound yellow fin tuna, wack it with the yacht club (wooden) and drop anchor behind a headland.

Jim paddles over to share our fish supper. He brings cold drinking water from his fridge which is very welcome in the humid tropic air. Over supper the conversation comes round to the herd of goats we saw on the way into the bay. He has a hunting bow, as do we, and is hot to live off the land. I`m not enthusiastic, we used to keep goats for many years when our children were little and we had a normal love / hate relationship with them, but really, the thought of anymore killing in this paradise does not appeal. We give Jim the tuna to take home to his freezer as he leaves and soon after hear a tap, tap, on the hull. In the dark, there is Jim back again, holding up the glowing tuna. We had been talking of the effect of the French nuclear tests on these islands earlier and now just look at this fish! After pausing for effect as long as possible, we say that it is normal bioluminescence in the flesh and not strontium 90.

Despite the reminder that the nasty bits of civilization can reach even to these isolated islands, we settle down for the night, well pleased that we have found this quintessential south seas anchorage.

                             Mango picking.

The Journal:

Anaho Bay.

April 23.AM. Bright and early, we rowed ashore and pulled Edith well up on the beach. We asked a local girl about picking wild fruit. She pointed to the beach trail so we walked along through coconut palms, breadfruit, mango, lemon, and orange trees, as well as all sorts of vegetation for which we had no names. On one side, a white sand beach with black lava rocks and gentle surf, on the other, the palm covered hillside rising up to the foot of the mountains. After the ocean crossing, we are ravenous for fruit so we filled our rucksacks. We dragged Edith back down the beach and rowed back out through the coral reef and home to Shiriri.

PM. Haircuts and showers. Moonlighter arrived. Pot luck supper on their boat (our tuna). Flyer will arrive tomorrow.

Gusty winds and rain squalls overnight.


April25. A gusty night. A little unsettling with a coral reef under our lee. Too hot to leave the hatches and scuttles closed, so when it rained on my face it was time to close up, wait `til the downpour stopped, open up, back to sleep, and again and again.....

This morning I did boat things - fixed John Henry, re-rigged a nylon snubber to stop the anchor chain grinding against the bobstay. Anne and I did a bottom scrub with the long pole and brush.

Anne and Heather did a tentative time line to New Zealand. It tells us that we need to keep moving.

Maybe Sawleeah is headed this way!

April 26.Anne and I had another go at scrubbing the bottom; Anne doing the in-water stuff and I with the pole brush. Together we have it pretty clean (until Tahiti?)

H. Did a wash with the fresh water I bailed from Edith. Jim from Moonlighter came along and took Anne and I ashore across the coral reef in his dinghy- a mango raid. We found a nice mango tree, Jim pulled out his mango lacrosse stick while I cut a long sapling and lashed them together. Soon with Jim up the tree snagging the fruit, our packs were full (future jam and preserves)

A pizza party is planned for tonight so Heather and Anne are going through our flour supplies. Anne will make the crust for W. Coyote, 30 Something (just arrived, 36 days from Mexico) and for Sawleeah if they arrive on time.

Sawleeah did arrive and we had a great party aboard Moonlighter who has the most room.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 38. Taiohae Bay. Marquesas Islands.

Hau tree and fallen blossoms,Taiohae Bay.

In the shadow of the high volcanic ridge, it is still very early dawn as we motor up Taiohae Bay toward the anchorage off the little town. Those are street lights we say incredulously. Then as I furl our forstaysail, an outrigger canoe zips out of the shadows and passes just in front of the bowsprit. This will be an island of contrasts.
A little kayak is now paddling out to us from the anchorage and we recognize Jim of Wylie E. Coyote with some tropical fruit (bananas and pamplemous) clustered before him on the narrow deck. He has kept watch for us to enter the bay and has come out to greet us, Polynesian style. When we are quite sure there are no maidens in the offing to welcome us as they did for ships of old, we welcome him aboard as we round up and anchor amid the large international fleet of yachts.

Heather thinks we will all want to have a nice long nap at the end of our voyage, but Anne and I can not wait to get ashore and soon Edith has been flipped upright from her home on the fore cabin and lowered overboard by the main and fore halyards. We all row ashore toward the concrete dock over the broad swells that reach even into this deep bay. Getting ashore is tricky, as the waves lift us up and down beside the dock. One at a time we make a leap for it on a crest.

We visit with Jim and Lindy of Moonlighter who are washing clothes at the dock stand pipe and following their instructions, we stagger and weave our way up the hill to the Gendarme to report in and get our cruising permit for French Polynesia. By the time we arrive our legs have adjusted to solid ground somewhat, and we are pleased to have Anne with her Canadian accented French to handle the formalities. Whether it is Anne, or her intriguing accent but he is most friendly and obliging! This is such a beautiful and together place with such friendly people.

In the evening we visit Wylie Jim and send a “We`ve arrived!” message to Gwyn back in Victoria by way of his HF e-mail. Now we and everyone back home can relax and stop worrying. We all sleep `til morning. What luxury!

We are up before 8am ( late, by local standards, everyone is up and out before dawn to get their marketing done before the heat of the day), walk the shore road and find that the local small grocery stores have no fruit for sale because everyone grows their own! The traffic consists of new Land Rovers, trucks, scooters and people on horseback galloping by. Naturally we buy some baguettes and cheese, beginning a habit we will maintain right across the French parts of the South Pacific.

In the afternoon, Anne and I scrub the slime off our boat`s sides above the waterline gathered in weeks of heeling over. We can see that the parts “protected” by antifouling have a fine crop of goose barnacles that have caused a lot of drag in the latter part of the voyage, but they will wait for another day.

Heather uses out little apartment style washing machine to do load after load of dirty clothing. Soon our rigging sports a fine collection of multi-coloured apparel flags. Wylie Jim asks if she will wash his collection as well if he hauls water from the dock so he and I spend some hot hours hauling water in Edith.

We have arrived at Easter time, but by the time we get ashore the next day the religious procession is over so we walk along the road that winds up a valley among the old stone house platforms to see where the locals live. The setting is fantastic: the bay is formed from an extinct volcano and the surrounding land forms an amphitheater that rises brightly green and steep into the rain clouds skewered on the peaks. The homes, half hidden in flowering and fruiting tropical trees, are mostly simple bungalows mixed in with a few big stone and thatch houses that have climatically sensible open weave wall panels. We pass goats, chickens and pigs but are stopped eventually by a big black boar eying us from the side of a splash-through and wagging his tail. We think carefully - happy dogs wave their tails, angry cats do the same..... so male pigs?? We decide it would be a pity to have survived our voyage, only to be taken out by a Marquesian pig so we wander back down hill, past the stone Tiki carver`s place and the intriguing sign that says OOTAT but resolves to TATOO when viewed from the other side.

We find Edith surging up and down at the dock even more wildly than usual because the swells have increased during the morning, so we leap wildly at the top of the cycle and row home to Shiriri who is also swooping up and down as the surf crashes on the coral beach behind her. We are a happy bunch of sailors, soaking up the sights and smell of our first south seas landfall.