Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Nuku Hiva to Tahiti

Nuku Hiva and it's port Tahoie in which we anchored is the main administrative centre for the Marquesas. We dinghied ashore to find Kevin an American who runs a yacht services company with a can do attitude. If he couldn't do something he would get in touch with someone who did. He's managed to repair our spinnaker at very reasonable rates, hopefully solve our SSB software issues, and refill all our gas bottles. The internet works well in the dockside cafe which is full of cruising sailors swapping stories over a glass of Pamplamouse and Guava juice which is delicious.

Twice a week at 6 am its possible to buy fresh veg including lettuce and tomatoes on the dockside where large quantities of freshly caught tuna are also cut up and sold. The remnants are fed to the sharks which go into a feeding frenzy just off the dinghy dock. Musicians often come down to the waterfront, and one night Colin and I joined them with the fiddle when they were playing at the birthday party of a young gendarme in the gendarmerie. It was good fun, we were courteously looked after and it was interesting to talk to the birthday boy who was 25 , spoke excellent English and was on 3 month rotations between Martinique, Guadelope, the Marquesas and Iraq of all places. The French seem to have a fast track system for their bright boys. When we announced Peters departure at the cop shop the next day, we were treated like old friends. The paperwork could not have been easier! 

Peter had a great day quad biking over the mountains , some of the tracks he described as like driving over the Crib Goch ridge on  Mount Snowdon , while Colin and I went up into the mountains with a lady called Sabine to go horse riding for the afternoon.  Her farm was about 6,000 feet above sea level and it was interesting to see the lush vegetation change to lichen clad conifers in the hills. Sabines family rent their land from the government. There were plenty of good looking beef cattle and horses on the top. Sabine explained that a few years ago the island had brought in large numbers of New Zealand cattle to improve their breeding, and you could see healthy looking Hereford/ Limousin crosses . With no real winter the cattle stay out all year and some in the interior are wild. They hunt pigs and cattle with dogs and sometimes automatic weapons ! Things in the hills are pretty lawless. 
Peter standing above Tahoie Bay, Kika is down there!
Sabine prepares the ride

They had also tried reseeding the grassland with New Zealand grass but this had been less successful. They don't seem to take off a forage crop largely because the grass grows all year round although Sabine said it was because they couldn't afford the machinery. Most of the Islands food seems to be imported from elsewhere at subsidised prices, despite the volcanic soil being quite rich and able to support market gardening. Despite numerous hens scuttling about the island ran out of eggs when a supply boat came in late. The French support the Polynesian Islands to the tune of a billion francs a month and most of the islanders don't seem to feel any need to have a business culture.

Col and I got settled on a couple of steady horses and Sabine took us on a trail through the forest and hills. Col got thrown by a horse the last time he went riding and was most reassured by his well behaved Marquesan mare. The horses are all very slender but quite strong and hardy and are classically ridden bare back by the locals at quite a young age. The horses in the interior are wild and you got a feel for the vast areas of the island that are far from any road and totally untamed.

Sussanne Liese our friend from Las Palmas has joined us for a month. As a result things  are improving markedly in the catering, provisioning and organisation department. We said goodbye to Peter who has been a star and was planning a few days in Tahiti before heading home.
Susanne works wonders in Kika's oven 

As we had a bit of time on our hands before John Oates our next new crew member arrived, we took Kika on a circumnavigation of the island. We called into Daniels Bay a spectacular anchorage surrounded by mountains and went ashore to hike to a waterfall the next morning. We passed through a small village and arranged lunch with a gentleman called Tahitai for our return . The path wound through the forest along the course of the river , through the remains of large abandoned settlements with alters and carved Tikis. Apparently there were originally 3,000 Polynesians living in the valley. Tahitai's great great grandfather had paid them to sign some piece of paper he had cooked up with the French giving him land rights and then driven them off. As a result there's one extended family living there now.
Daniels Bay
The backdrop at Daniels Bay
Reaching the waterfall at last!

 We got lost in a mangrove plantation but eventually found our way back onto the path marked with small stone cairns to walk into a steep sided ravine at the bottom of which was a small lake which you swam through to get to a very high waterfall. You were sprayed by the waterfall totally surrounded by huge canyons of rock reaching up to the distant sky. An unforgettable experience. Somewhat the worse for wear with insect bites and blisters we had a welcome late lunch back at the village and got back on Kika by nightfall. 

The following day we beat hard against the wind all day to arrive in the lovely anchorage of Anaho bay. Colin and I walked over the mountain to the next bay where there was a road! and a place where you could buy cold drinks even on a Sunday. There were hundreds of Mango trees on the way up. Colin made a few squirrel like stores of Mangos for the return journey and determinedly bashed away at a fallen coconut that eventually produced some juice. More people are killed standing under coconut trees in the tropics than anything else! The view of the bay from the top with Kika lying in the anchorage was a true picture postcard. That evening we had three boat crews over for drinks and a good jamming session with two guitars and the fiddle.
Susanne at Anaho Bay

Colin's mango stash

Its tough out here!
Entertaining fellow yachts aboard Kika

at the top of the pass above Anaho

The next day we lounged around and then went snorkelling off the dinghy looking at Manta rays on the reef. Unfortunately in trying to haul myself back up into the dinghy I re dislocated my shoulder. I swam to the rocks and sat there. Colin went back to Kika and got help from our Austrian  friends David and Bella Sturm who recovered me in their rib. We got back on board and it was the same routine Iv Morphine self administered and Colin did a very slick job getting the joint back in with very little pain compared to last time. I think the capsule definitely needs tightening up when we get home. We went over and had a lovely dinner with David and Bella our on their beautifully maintained Sadler 29, called Admetus.  David likes British boats and expressed an interest in upgrading to a Rival 38 like Kika when we get to Australia. We knew he was interested when he snorkelled underneath to look at the keel, so you never know it may work out.
David and Bella on their Sadler 29

We had a tough day beating around the headland at the North Eastern end of the island to get back  to Taihoie Bay. There was a foul tide, considerable swell and it was hard to lay a course without motor sailing even after rounding the headland.
We returned to diesel , water and provision the boat. John Oates my old ENT buddy from Burton on Trent  showed up at midday on 15 May in a paramo suit ( colloquially called the Ryan Air kangaroo coat for taking extra weight). Despite it's high tech qualities even John had to admit to our friendly Gendarme that he was a bit hot.

On the evening of 15 May we went 3 miles to anchor in Daniels bay and escape the swell in Taihoie bay apparently caused by weather over 1,000 miles South of us. After settling John and Susanne into the boat we set off on the 540 mile trip to Apataki atoll in the Tuamotous atolls at 10 the next morning on the 16 May.

Once we had cleared the Islands a 20 knot SE wind kicked in. We were on a beam reach and cracking along at 7 knots. There was a bit of a sea which affected our new crew members, who coped with seasickness very well. We moved Susanne back amidships from the fore cabin where the motion was more comfortable. On the first night we put in a reef in the main and reduced the genoa . Kika steered well on the windvane and at 6.5 knots the Duogen propellor charges the batteries well.

Over the first 48 hours we covered 300 miles, a record for Kika.  We eat very well courtesy of Susanne who makes remarkable dishes out of leftovers. The SSB radio is now working very well and were getting a good signal to Manihi for E mails and downloading GRIB files which show the wind easing as we near the Tuamotus atolls.

Our plan is to go to Apatiki where there is a boatyard that can haul out Kika at cheap rates. We're not sure if they will be able to sell us the right anti fouling so if they can't we won't haul out and will just snorkel clean with scrapers under the boat 

Approaching an atoll is a hazardous business. Because they lie only 6-8 feet above sea level, you don't see the reefs till the last minute. You get into the atoll by going through gaps in the reef called passes. The tide can rip in and out of these passes so it is important to time entry at relatively slack water and in the morning when the sun is overhead and you can see unmarked areas of coral . We will probably haul someone up onto the spreaders with Polaroid sun specs to act as a spotter. It's no wonder these atolls are referred to by mariners as the dangerous Islands. Our plan is to get near to Apataki and then heave to so as to approach the atoll early in the morning. 

We hove to during the night and reached the North western pass to Apatiki atoll at 8am in time for slack water. The pass itself was fine ,but there was some choppy water just inside where the end of the flood tide met the ebb . It was 17 miles across the atoll against the wind to the Carenage , so we beat across the atoll narrowly missing an unmarked reef on one occasion. John was very handy as a spotter on the bows. The other hazard was buoys from the pearl farmers. 
We arrived in the afternoon, surveyed the island with its blanched white coral beach, coconut trees and clear water . We picked up a mooring and dinghied ashore to meet Alfred and Tony Lau who live on this tropical paradise.

John revs it up!

The family own the island and five years ago switched from pearl farming to running a Carenage for cruisers. You can store your boat ashore and have it tied down with straps attached to enormous concrete blocks to withstand a cyclone or they can arrange a haul out and pressure washing service where you do your own anti fouling at very reasonable prices. We rumaged around in Toni's store and found an old tin of black Joton anti fouling - perfect!

We strolled round the island, stepping over numerous hermit crabs which scuttled across the path. The island has its fair share of rats imported off visiting ships centuries ago and in the reef sharks get active at night so it's best to go snorkelling in the middle of the day.

We arranged a haul out and had coffee with Alfred. He is a shrewd man . He used to grow peals for the Japanese and even sent his son Tony to Paris to learn about being a jeweller . However when the Chinese got involved the price dropped and he started the Carenage. He wanted to have a cafe and bar for the yachties, but was told that European regulations would have to apply regarding seating, disabled access ,toilets etc. Completely bonkers for a Pacific Atoll in the middle of nowhere and surprising that the French (who like rules only because they can break them) applied these ones.

On Wednesdaday Toni was a bit late getting the lift out organised so we arranged it for the next day and did some Jobs on Kika instead. John took another look at the shower pump which had baffled Colin and I.  He gave the inlet pipe one big blow and triumphantly dislodged a wad of pubic hair( exhibit A - wrong colour for any current members of crew). We really need to glass in a pre filter on the bottom of the shower tray. When I  had previously blown down the pipe air had bubbled out but obviously not well enough. We also changed the engine raw water impeller and after fiddling around with a few other things we seem to have got to the bottom of the snag list- hurray!

We eventually hauled out on Thursday 23 May. Tony led us in with his dinghy past the reefs and then snorkelled under the boat to position the pads on the trailer. He used a JCB to pull us up the slipway and then took the trailer away applying poles tapping the hull to check for the strong points. The pressure wash was not particularly powerful leaving quite a lot of flaking paint on the hull. It was a good job we came out . The Prop anode was very worn despite having been replaced in Panama and the prop cutter bearings and anode required replacing. Colin also banged out a seized seacock on the toilet outflow which we regreased. The bottom of the Joton tin had rusted causing a leak , so we lost a bit of anti fouling and just managed to get the tin to do the whole hull with judicious use of thinners. We finished the job in the heat of the day , got all the protective clothing off and jumped in the water to cool off before Toni put us expertly back in the water. The bill was probably half of what we would have been charged in Tahiti. 
The last lift out was in Ireland, 11,000 sea miles away.
applying the finishing touch to the anti foul

That evening we were invited by Toni and Alfred to a family barbecue. We had a wonderful evening. The barbecue was cooked on coconut husks and the chicken and pork were absolutely delicious. We met a Turkish cruising couple, Salem and Nadine originally from Istanbul. Salem was an orthopaedic surgeon and chairman of his department. However he had left Turkey because of the political situation . The religious parties have taken over turning Turkey from a secular state into a theocracy and interfere with every aspect of life . He told us that 2 million people demonstrated against the government but we're bombed by their own troops. These events go largely unreported because the government owns the media. 

The following day John ,Colin and Susanne went snorkelling in beautifully clear water while I joined Alfred who went to the village to pick up his wife and first grand daughter from the plane arriving from Tahiti. While the girls were getting organised we banged about for 3 hours on the reef outside the atoll and eventually landed a large dorado. It reassured me that we were fishing the lures correctly, but we need to improve our tackle with heavier line , a steel trace and a bungee cord to absorb the shock of the first take. We returned to the Carenage with two grandmothers and a great grandmother . Little Colli who was just two months old sheltered under an oily and bounced about, laughing and smiling all the way . Obviously born to Life on a tropical atoll.

Crystal clear waters in Apataki

We left the Carenage on Saturday 25 May and had a lovely gentle sail downwind for 2 hours under genoa to enter the Southern pass and turn off into a lagoon near the village where we picked up a mooring. We had a stroll round the village and watched a spear throwing competition where the lads were throwing light spears underarm to hit a coconut on a very high pole. They were amazingly accurate .
We strolled past the airport where Colin stood on the runway waiting for a non existent plane to take him away and looked over the dock into amazingly clear water where we watched an octopus change colour as it reached a rock becoming indistinguishable from it's surroundings, with just a long tentacle emerging every so often to catch an unsuspecting fish . The village shop opened for an hour in the evening, so we turned up there to watch a middle aged lady dropping off from the back of her land rover a superb catch of dorado(mahi mahi in Polynesian ), bonito and a huge Tazar with evil looking jaws. She had caught them herself!
Supplies were limited. No eggs or milk until the next boat but such is Island life and we were able to pick up some cold beers.

Sunday 26 May was a hard day. We were headed for Anse Mayo a little inlet on the North West coast of Taou a neighbouring atoll, lured by the prospect of a lobster restaurant ashore. It was only 23 miles but tacking into the wind with an adverse current in the afternoon was hard work. Susanne has a good feel for the wind and will make a good helms woman . As we approached Taou we ceased to make progress and ended up using the iron donkey (engine), lined up the leading marks and eventually picked up a buoy belonging to a restaurant owned by Gaston and Valentine that was unfortunately closed because it was Sunday and again on Monday because Valentine was recovering from an all night party on Sunday night. Goodbye lobster - but that's the way it is on an atoll! They open when they feel like it! No wonder they're worried about the Chinese. We met their pet booby bird instead who got very friendly while Valentine was stroking him , but pecked at the rest of us.
Valentine and the bird!

In the day we went snorkelling with the reef sharks ,Colin to his great joy found a rusty old Columbian machete ashore which he has bought on board together with a variety of coconuts that need splitting. We had the crew of our German neighbours over for dinner although Werner the skipper had moved from Germany to Vancouver 15 years ago.

We left Toau on Tuesday 28 May in the afternoon setting off on a comfortable broad reach for Papeete , Tahiti, 230 miles away. The wind increased to 25 knots overnight so we took in a second reef, goose winged the Genoa and plan to arrive early on Thursday morning after a few hours of heaving to as we were whizzing along at 7 knots for a while. At first light on Thursday we picked up the bearing line through the reef for Papeete harbour , got called up by harbour control telling us we should have called 5 minutes earlier but finally giving us entry permission. We turned to port onto another set of leading marks just inside the entrance , found the yacht pontoon where we stern moored to the quay which was a bit of a performance as we had to change position and fouled our anchor on one of the lazy lines  from our neighbours boat. The tripping hook my mother had bought me  worked well and got us off .We're right in the centre of town which will be good for sorting everything out but today is a public holiday so plenty of time to chill. The pontoon even has fresh water - brilliant!


  1. Great to hear your stories. Sounds fantastic.
    We miss you guys
    Clive and Ju

  2. Aftet wonderful 25days with you I miss to be on board already. We have had a great time and thank you two for give me this opertunity to join you on this trip. Susanne

  3. I have been following your trip with great interest,fab writing. We have recently purchased a Rival 38 and our heading on our first cruise on the south west coast of Ireland next week.