French Polynesia

Marquesas – Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa

We anchored at Hanavave a small town on the island of Fatu Hiva. Officially, we had to clear in at Hiva Oa first but this was 45 NM. further away and after forty days at sea we just wanted to anchor at the first possible island and rest for a few days.

Fatu Hiva is a beautiful island. It is very rugged and lush and you get the feeling like King Kong is about to appear any moment. The people are very friendly and make you feel welcome. On Palm Sunday we went to church and everyone from the village was there. The women wore flowers on their hair, everyone was waving palm branches and singing. It was a unique experience. There were fruit trees everywhere on the island but what is strange is that it was very difficult to find fresh vegetables. You would think that a fertile land with so much fruits would not have a problem growing vegetables but that was not the case. The locals like to trade goods rather than receive money because there are not a lot of things they can buy on the island so we traded some pencils, hair clips and reading glasses for bananas, pomelos and papayas.

Erwin cleaned the bottom of the boat which was so full of barnacles while I did the laundry which was a huge pile after six weeks. Claude from the “Koukouri” who we met in Panama, caught a huge tuna and since their refrigerator broke down and our refrigerator was almost empty we stored the fish for him. Of course he gave us an ample supply of fresh tuna which we savored for three days. After we did the necessary chores we relaxed and went for a walk to the Cascade waterfalls. With a few other cruisers we had dinner at a local’s home who prepared a nice Polynesian meal. It was really great to have a normal meal after having eaten canned food for the past few days. What’s nice about the cruising community you meet here is that everyone is the same. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a carpenter. We all have the same passion and everyone is willing to help one another.

Thanks to Erwin’s father we were able to order the spare part we needed for the automatic steering pilot. The problem was how to send the package to this remote island in the Pacific. Fortunately, we had a bit of luck because Umberto from the “Holandeserrante” the Dutch man we met in Panama who was sailing with his 90 year old mother arrived seven days after we did. When we told him what happened with our automatic steering pilot he said he had a spare pilot which we could borrow. Since he was also sailing to Tahiti he said we could return it to him once we arrived in Tahiti. This made things much easier for us and we had our package sent to Tahiti instead.

Fatu Hiva was a wonderful place to be but since they didn’t have much here and we also needed to officially clear in we left after seven days and sailed to the island Hiva Oa.

The town of Atuona at Hiva Oa is much bigger than Hanavave. We arrived there in the weekend of Easter so everything was closed for three days. There is a ship that comes here once a month to deliver supplies and provisions. Coincidentally it arrived the day we arrived there so we were lucky because that meant that the supermarkets were well stocked. The bay where we anchored was a 45 minute walk away to town but you could hitchhike and people were kind enough to give you a ride. One time, a delivery pick-up truck gave us a ride but we had to sit at the back of the pick-up truck between all the boxes of eggs. After we cleared in, restocked our provisions and filled our fuel we anchored at Tahuatu island before we went back to Fatu Hiva to trade more things for fruits and to see if our friend Umberto was still there. Unfortunately, he left a few hours after we arrived but through radio contact we agreed to meet each other in Takaroa, one of the atolls of the Tuamotus archipelago.

Sailing to the Tuamotus

Takaroa was 444 NM. (800 km.) away so it would take us about 4 days to get there. It is an atoll with one passage to enter the lagoon. It was very important that we arrived there during daylight because we needed to visually navigate in the atoll to see where the riffs were. The first two days went smoothly and we had strong winds but on the third day we didn’t have any wind so we had to motor the whole day and night. On the last day we had very strong winds and when we calculated our expected time of arrival it was going to be at midnight. We needed to slow down if we were to arrive there during daylight. We rolled in the sail until just the tip of the sail was left but even then we were still going too fast. It was really ironic that we first had to motor for a whole day because there was no wind and now that we had a lot of wind we needed to slow down. We had daily radio contact with Umberto who arrived a day earlier so he gave us information and tips on how to enter the passage of the atoll. It was important that we entered the passage during slack water because the current can be very strong.

On our way to the Tuamotus Erwin caught a wahu measuring 1.10 meters and two days later he caught a yellow tail tuna measuring also 1.10 meters and weighing about 20 kilos.

Tuamotus archipelago – Takaroa Atoll

The best time to enter the passage was at slack water which was one hour after low tide when there is no current. We were two hours too early but since the entrance of the passage was wide and calm we decided to take our chance and enter. The passage had a bit of current but it wasn’t a problem as long as we stayed in the middle where it was deep and away from the reefs. At the end of the passage however the opening narrowed and we could see that there was a strong that we had to go through. A fishing boat that passed us signed to us that we had to go full speed to go through the narrow opening. Once we were at the narrow opening the waves and current were so strong that the boat was for a short moment uncontrollable. The boat turned by itself to the direction of the reef and we were so close we thought we were going to hit the reef. Erwin steered heavily until the boat finally was out of the passage. It was a very close call and we were lucky nothing happened.

Because of Takaroa’s pearl industry the lagoon was full of hundreds of buoys which indicated where the oysters were. Once we were in the lagoon we had to zigzag our way to the other side to avoid the buoys. Since some of the buoys were under water, I had to stand in front of the boat and give Erwin signs to go left or right. It felt like we were crossing a mine field.

Takaroa is a beautiful atoll with clear turquoise waters, white beach and palm trees typical of what you see in posters. We just relaxed for three days, went snorkeling and Erwin caught a tasty grouper with the new speargun he bought in Hiva Oa.

One day when Erwin was helping Umberto fix his lights I went ashore alone with the rubber boat to go snorkeling. When I was close to the shore I saw two black tip sharks swimming so I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go snorkeling alone 😜.

We visited one of the pearl farms and the owner was kind enough to give us a tour of his farm. He told us that there was a disease two years ago that killed all the oysters and from the dozen pearl farms here there are only two left. He let me remove a pearl from an oyster and gave the pearl to me as a souvenir. He also gave us one kilo of oyster scallops so we had oyster sashimi and oyster omelettes for lunch for four days.

When we left the atoll this time we made sure we left at slack water. There was no current and no waves so the passage went smoothly.

Society Islands – Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Bora-Bora

After four days of sailing we arrived in Tahiti. We wanted to anchor at a bay behind the airport. To get to the bay we had to request clearance from airport control through the radio to cross because part of the water we needed to sail was at the beginning and end of the runway. When we were at the bay we saw that the “Koukouri” was also anchored there so we had a reunion that evening with the three boats.

We met regularly with the “Holandeserrante” and the “Koukouri” and also helped each other when needed. Claude was able to borrow a car from a friend so he drove us to the DHL office to get our package so our automatic steering pilot was finally repaired. When Umberto’s mother needed to see a doctor for an ear infection we all went to the hospital. We took turns buying baguette every morning. We really missed having fresh bread and the baguette in French Polynesia tasted just as good as the baguette in France. Because Claude had the car for a few days we went sightseeing, drove around the island and had a picnic at the waterfalls.

The price of goods in the supermarkets in French Polynesia is quite high because the taxes are high and everything has to be flown or shipped in. Despite of the high prices we replenished our provisions in Tahiti because there was a huge Carrefour supermarket and it was also the last place where we could find everything we needed.

After almost two weeks we left Tahiti and together with the “Holandeserrante”and “Koukouri” we sailed to the island of Moorea which was just five hours away. This island is where the movies South Pacific and Mutiny on the Bounty were filmed. While we were anchored at Tahiti and Moorea we would constantly see turtles come up the surface for air. After three days we sailed to the island Raiatea. We parted ways with the “Koukouri” who we will hopefully see in the Philippines since they expect to be there before the end of the year.

Our next stop was Bora Bora which was just a few hours sailing. It is understandable why Bora Bora is such a popular island. A big part of the lagoon is not more than 5 meters deep with a sandy bottom which gives the clear turquoise color of the water. Although we did not see any fish in the shallow lagoon once in a while we would see manta rays. Bora Bora and other islands in the Society Islands are more developed for tourism unlike the laid back islands of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus. You see many resorts with wooden huts built above the water which cost $ 500-1,000 per night. We saw all kinds of water recreational activities like parasailing, canoeing, stand up paddling and we were terrorized by jet skis and speed boats. When we went for a hike we saw a few groups of people drive by on their quad motorbikes.

We cleared out in Bora Bora and will stop in the island of Maupihaa before we head to Niue which is 1,000 NM further.