We are at anchor in a large bay called Taiohae, on the
island of Nuku Hiva.
It’s the capital of the Marquesas, and a nice little “city”
it is too, with a harbor full of cruising boats from France, Norway, England,
Australia, Germany, the US, Italy, and other countries.
An enormous, privately-owned cruise ship
called “The World” just pulled in and dropped anchor. It dwarfs all the sailboats into bathtub toys. One has to wonder about a heady name like
“The World,” though. Imagine if this
ship ever called for help: “This is The World, The World! We’re in trouble!”
“Yeah, buddy, everyone knows the world’s in trouble. Tell it to your shrink.”
The small but well-stocked markets in town (our favorite
name being “Magasin Bigot”) have everything you could need, except for fresh
vegetables, which are what we need most.
You can fill up with onions, potatoes and garlic, but if you want fresh
veggies you have to find a house where the owner might be selling them, and ask
to purchase some. We’re not fishing
because of the presence of ciguatera, a toxin.
So we ease the lack with gorgeous fresh fruit, French brie, fresh-baked
baguettes, and Bordeaux. Hmm, I’m still not
sensing any sympathy from you.
We carry fruit in these nets now—it’s a good way to store
it. And we don’t know if the tree
pictured below has any fruit on it, but check out the aerial roots—you could
swing on them if it wasn’t over a busy road!
Parlez Vous Eeyew?
in learning French is slow. We can
figure out the weather reports and say Bonjour, Au revoir, Merci and other
basics, but it’s much harder than the Spanish was. Besides, most of the locals we’ve met in
villages speak Marquesan, which is all vowels with much hilarity as Jim tries
to say something. For example, we
learned that in this language, intonation is everything. You know how in Chinese it’s the way
you say a word that indicates its
meaning? Try to say “mother” but use the
wrong tone and you get something like “aardvark,” right? Well, we were told that if you ask a
Marquesan permission to take some fruit from his tree, you need to watch your
tone of voice, because if you say it the other
way, you are asking permission to take his, um, er… “balls.”
I think we need a motto here:
Cracking Up Locals For Decades.
Yes, Karen is soaking wet in this photo. We'll explain later. But everyone is very
friendly, and sign language goes a long way. Our customs agent in Papeete, Tahiti emailed
all her clients a nice tourist brochure, translated into English by someone who
is obviously not a native English speaker.
In glowing descriptions, the brochure invites you to take all kinds of
tours, including one in the Tuamotus where, supposedly, you can sneak up on a
Now I don’t know about
you, but sneaking up on a sleeping whale sounds like a novel way to get face to
face in a hurry with a big grouchy mammal, especially when there’s this twist offered
by the tour operator: “Whales don’t
move when they are asleep, and your guide will show you how to slide into the
water as silently as possible wearing flippers, mask and tuba.” WHOA! Flippers,
mask and TUBA?
Can you just picture
that. A group of divers with tubas,
sneaking up on a sleeping whale. It sounds
like a rather macho South Pacific version of cow tipping. Ah, but perhaps if we all went on this tour, there’d
be no more need to learn French, oui? The
brochure also describes something called the “APNEA Program” for dolphins. Wow. Dolphins
with sleep problems, who knew?
This is Sockdolager in full shade mode.
to show you photos of where we’ve been since
the last photo-post.
This is the lovely
Hanamoenoa Beach, where we swam with manta rays and experienced The
Blunderment. (See "Passive-Aggressive Anchor Techniques.")
To anchor in some of these bays is an exercise in rolling,
so sometimes we employ our “flopper stopper,” a gift from Capt. Peter Frost,
whom we bet wishes he still had it. You
just swing the boom out, dangle it, and watch it work. There’s an X-shaped opening in the plastic
film that opens on the way down and closes on the way up. It reduces roll but doesn’t eliminate
it. Pete, you can have it back in about
Here’s the island supply and passenger ship Aranui
anchoring near us in Vaitahu Bay on Tahuata Island.
Their passengers attended the same church service as we did, in a church built of ballast stones from 19th century sailing ships.
Vaitahu Bay was named “Resolution Bay” by Captain Cook, and
here’s what it looked like when he sailed in, in an engraving from their delightful
little museum. Compare it with a modern
view of Aranui
These are stone anchors used in ancient times.
Here are some photos from the village, which we enjoyed.
Here’s Brian from Zulu, with a juvenile tropicbird on his
head. Some kids had found it unable to
fly, and were taking “care” of it.
Unfortunately, when birds fall out of the nest or break wings, they’re
usually goners. We all did our best to
tell them to be gentle with it. We've been enjoying time with Brian, Marlene and and their crew, John.
These piggies were merrily nursing away about fifteen feet
from the village’s pool table, which was crowded with adolescents shooting
pool, and dogs laying around under the table.
From Tahuata we had that flat-sea sail up to the north side
of the next island, Hiva Oa, where we anchored in a canyon-like bay called
Hanamenu, which was wide open to the north.
Early the next morning the wind came out of the northeast
and made Hanamenu a lee shore, so we left, intending to sail to the next bay
east, but on getting to sea we found that was not going to happen—a ten-mile
bash to windward to anchor on another lee shore seemed like a bad idea, so we
said, well, looks like we’re sailing overnight the 85 miles to Nuku Hiva, and
did. Here’s where we went first—a bay
called Hakatea, better known among cruising sailors as Daniel’s Bay, on the SW
side of Nuku HIva. What a garden isle we
happened into! We also happened into the best Bloody Marys on the planet aboard Buena Vista
. Deb and Don scooped us up as soon as we arrived.
Daniel’s Bay is familiar to American TV watchers as the
scene of the first “Survivor” series.
But it is a true paradise.
There’s a path to a tiny village of a few homes surrounded by luxurious
gardens, and amazingly, there’s a tidy little phone booth that works.
Check out these gardens!
We thought our northern friends might enjoy seeing what the trees look
like that some of these fruits and grow on.
Bananas are sweet and everywhere. Hang a stalk of 'em in your yard (or off the boat) and let 'em ripen.
grapefruit want to be when they grow up.
The original red hot chili peppers.
A mini-constellation of starfruit.
The Hike That Roared:
There’s this waterfall everyone says you absolutely must see, and it’s a
3.5 to 4 mile hike up a rocky but not steep jungle trail, so we set out late
one morning to see it. Why not join us? Let's go. There are rock
ruins everywhere along the trail, and we’re told 4000 people once lived in this
valley. White men’s diseases decimated
the hundred thousand original Marquesans to less than a thousand. Tribes also warred with and often ate
each other. We came across what
looked like an ancient firepit. Don’t
look too closely inside it. (Kidding,
Today there are maybe 8,000 Marquesans, and they don’t seem to like
or pay much attention to their French government.
The Marquesans had obsidian tools for cutting stone, and
they built some enormous stone walls, pa’e-pa’es (home foundations) and what seemed like roads, that still haunt the jungle. As we walked past an
elaborate stone village structure, it was sobering to think of all the lives
that were lived there—we were probably walking through someone’s living room!
The cliffs lining the valley got closer as the valley grew narrower.
There were several stream fordings.
Views are spectacular—what an overused and inadequate word
to describe something as unique as this.
Trees were right out of a fairy tale.
This waterfall is inside a small volcano that sits
inside a giant caldera that includes the bay and half the island.
The black basaltic rock walls all around it are 2,000 feet high, so high,
in fact, that the walls nearly meet overhead!
This is the view looking straight up:
There’s a deep freshwater pool where lava once bubbled at
the bottom. We swam with some little
critters nibbling eerily at our toes, but it was so cool and lovely we didn’t
care, after 4 miles of stumbling over the rocky path.
Here’s the outer pool (it’s deep, too.) That’s Jim atop the big rock.
Go behind the big rocks to reach the inner chamber.
It’s weird but refreshing to swim there. Although falling rocks are a hazard, wild
horses would not have kept us from a cool dip.
On the way back, the skies opened up and poured like we’ve
never seen. Drops nearly an inch across,
and close enough together to make you think about guarding your nose or donning
scuba gear. It was deafening, and it
turned the narrow path into a stream. We
walked for a couple hours in the downpour, soaked through and loving the
coolness of the warm rain, but also listening for signs of flash flooding.
We met a young-ish Marquesan couple named Tikei and O’a, who
asked us if we wanted fruit. Tikei is
the guy in the earlier photo, and what a character! Half his face is elaborately tattooed, and it
looks great on him, with his outrageous boar’s tooth, sheep horn, obsidian
chisel, cone shell necklace and his warrior demeanor. They served us a whole papaya sliced into
juicy pieces, and asked us if we wanted more. We were thereby saved the ignominy of
mispronouncing the word “fruit.”
What we really appreciated about this couple was that they
handed us a price list—most of the time you hesitate to ask for fruit because
you never know what to give them for it, and half the time they won’t accept
anything, and you feel like you’re taking advantage. Their fruits were cheap, so we bought all the
mangoes and limes we could carry, then gave them each a gift—a fishing lure for
him, bright pink nail polish for her.
They were thrilled. She turned
around and gave us a breadfruit and some long fresh string beans, and he
grabbed his machete and whacked off a bunch of bananas!
We laughed and groaned at the load, but fresh fruit is so
delicious and abundant here, and vegetables so scarce, that eating local is the
only thing that makes sense. We trekked
back to the dinghy, which was filled with water, dumped it out, rowed back to
the boat in the rain, and felt, for once, clean and cool, happy, and
So how to prepare a breadfruit when you can’t dig a six-foot
deep luau pit in the ground? With a
knife, peel off the bumpy green covering, slice the white flesh razor-thin, fry
the “chips” in olive oil til they're light brown, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and enjoy. They really are good.
We took the breadfruit chips over to Ladybug
enjoyable evening of sea chanteys and golden oldies with Chris and Rani plus Mike and Karen from Chapter Two
. We also enjoyed a visit from the crew of Beau Soleil
. Check out the review of their new Cordon Rouge Cook Book
on the Book Reviews page at the left.
You can see from the photos how beautiful it is here in the
Marquesas. But swimming in many places
is not advised because of sharks. For
example, we were told that a six-meter tiger shark patrols the mouth of
Daniel’s Bay, and a lot of smaller ones swim around inside. SIX meters?
That’s nearly 20 feet. Okay, no swimming there. We can swim in Taiohae, where we are now,
right? Well, maybe not. Last night we watched fishermen throwing tuna
carcasses off the pier right next to where we tie up our dinghies—and the water
roiled with sharks. Yeesh.
First a piranha-like school of small fish snapped instantly
at the scraps, then everything turned into a frothing whitewater rapid as half a dozen
bull sharks about 6 or 7 feet long attacked whatever was in their way, even, at
one point, the end of an inflatable dinghy!
Luckily, it was not ours. Here’s
a photo of the feeding frenzy as it was getting cranked up. I’m
standing over the dinghies, and note there’s no railing on the pier. If you fall in, it’s over.
I was not happy at the prospect of climbing down a slippery
steel ladder and across a bunch of rocking dinghies during a shark-feeding
frenzy, but that’s exactly what we did. At the pizza restaurant last night there was a woman with her arm in a twisted cast. She had been bitten by a shark a couple of days ago. We aren’t in Kansas anymore.
The next few days will be spent here—except for the sharks it
really is a lovely town, and we've enjoyed more time with old friends and new ones, from Buena Vista, Gato Go, Zulu, Picara, and Condesa del Mar.
In a few days we will sail around to the NE side of the
island, to Anaho Bay, where we’re told there is good fresh water, and, we hope,
no big sharks. Then we’ll sail to Ua Pou
to see that gorgeous island. Once a
weather window opens we’ll make the 450-mile passage to the Tuamotus. We wanted to post lots of photos now, since
it may be awhile before we have a real internet connection again. It'll be back to word pictures via Ham radio
for awhile, until we get to Tahiti. Thanks for all the comments and emails, we really enjoy them.
One more lousy sunset for you: