Our first anchorage in the Marquases was Fatu Hiva, which is the Southern most Island. The Marquases consists of 6 main islands Starting from the south they are Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Hiva Oa, Ua Pou, Nuka Hiva and west of that Ua Huka.
The islands were first discovered in the 1500's by the spainish and then after visited by most explores to the Pacific including Cook in the mid 1700's.
Johnny and I decided to stop off in Fatu Hiva first as it was the windward of the group and made more sense to pop in here first. We couldn't clear in here as there is no Gendarmerie so we just did a quick pit stop to check out the amazing "Bay of Virgins". It lived up to all the hype with massive steep rock faces that seemed to fall into the sea surrounding us. At the end of the bay was the small village of Hanavave where we were able to purchase some simple supplies.
During the first night of our stay we were accompanied by loud drumming and chanting from the shore. We were later to see through the binoculars the locals both men and women practicing there native dances. It really was a site after spending nearly the last two weeks at sea far from civilization and land.
The next day we were joined by Bill and Cathy off Terrwyn from Canada. A lovely couple whom came by to say hi and see what we were up to. They came onboard and Bill was promptly stung by a wasp that seem to in most places here. Luckily he is a doctor and had all the right ingredience to fix he's allergic reaction to it.
Later on Johnny and I popped around the corner to Omoa the main town on the island, if you could call it that. Here there was a break wall and concrete dock that must be used by the supply ship. We walked around a little and passed the school where the kids were practicing there traditional dancing as well.
One of the main issues with the Marquases is that they are all steep sided islands and only have small bays to anchor in that aren't very deep so they offer little protection to most sailing boats from the trade winds and seas that build up this time of year.
We did find the "Bay of Virgins" to be well protected and it did offer some protection to the swell. We had very little wind in here as well but it was only blowing 15kts outside so there wasn't much to protect us from. I have read of yachts experiencing gusts of wind up to 40kts frequently here but we didn't see anything like it.
After two days here I felt we should head down to Hiva Oa and clear in. Luckily for us Bill and Cathy had informed us that it was Bastille day the following day so we upped anchor early and headed for Atuona in Hiva Oa, which was a 45nm blast!
There didn't seem to be too much breeze on departure so we went full rig but soon after we pulled up and threw three reefs in. It seems we only know either full rig or three reefs? Anything else seems too much or not enough? Anyway it was a blast down there and we made it ashore for lunch and the Bastille day celebrations.
After our normal anchorage palava we got into the end of the bay where it seemed to be well protected. As it's open to the sea with only a partial break wall everyone puts out there stern anchor to keep stem to the seas. We did the same as Spirit doesn't roll she flops! And then we preceded to head into town and to clear in with the local Gendarmerie.
Many of the guides here mention that the locals are friendly so out went Johnnies finger to hitch a ride and after a few false starts we had a lift into town. It was in a old beat up Landy with a cool young chap at the wheel called Alex, I think? Anyway he informed me to lock the door as it had a habit of opening around bends and then we tried to make conversation with our pathetic French and his not so flash English, was better than our French though, pretty easy to better our three words!
He told us he like Vino! And also asked us if we like to smoke. No I replied but then he held out a pipe and insisted we try some of his local herb while we were enjoying the view from a lookout spot above the bay. Then we were off to the local shindig where he dropped us off. Johnny and I found the Gendarmerie and also found out you can only clear in from Mon - Sat from 0730 - 1130. So we headed back to have a million beers and enjoy the festivities.
It was a great afternoon with the locals, watching them dance and also sing some amazing tunes. The kids and all the families were having a ball. It was great and really showed the small community feel these places have and enjoy.
The next two days we hired a car and drove around the Island. It was an experience with Johnny at the wheel but we made it and along the way visited some wonderful bays and villages on the northern side of the island.
The town of Atuona on Hiva Oa is flanked by an enormous ridge that used to be the volcanos crater. It was rarely visible while we were there and was main hidden under the clouds. The whole island has this dark feeling high peaks through out and a very wet green and lush windward side.
After a few days anchored there the breeze started to fill in and we felt it in Spirit with her wild dancing during the nights. She was saying get me the hell out of here. As we had seen some of the island and provisioned we decided to head to Tauata about 8nm from Atuona across a passage to the south.
My guide mentioned some of the best beaches (something rare around here) were located at the northern end and the bay looked pretty protected? it couldn't have been any worse than where we were so off we popped for the wet and wild short passage over beating out of Traitors Bay and through passage while surfing the 3-4m waves. With only the jib up we managed surfing down some of these steep waves at over 12kts. Is was great fun as the wind really funneled through here along with the waves. As long as it's all aft of the beam it's good fun!
We rounded the headlands and spotted Bay Hanamoena where there was seven yachts at anchor. We'd found or spot but it was crowded! So we headed to the next bay south Ivaiva Iti where we had the bay to ourselves.
The land behind the beach is private though so we didn't venture ashore here.
Johnny and I carried out some jobs we had like moving the bow rail forward to give more clearance to the headsail as it was chafing when eased for downwind sailing. With the rain that came through the boat received a great wash and she was again looking tiptop.
About two days later our good friends onboard Terrwyn sailed passed and anchored in Hanamoena. We headed around in the dinghy and had a few rums with them. While there we noticed how much more pleasant the anchorage was. It seems as though Hanamoena has better protection compared with Ivaiva where you get some major bullets coming down the valley into the bay.
The next morning we upped anchor and moved around to Hanamoena where we anchred about 200ft from the beach in about 20ft of water. It was bliss and well worth the hassle of re-anchoring onboard Spirit we compare it to giving berth ;-).
My local guide to the area mentioned that the town to the south Vaitahu had some very nice artists there. One being a tattoo master called Felix Fii, the other we found was Tekie the bone and scrimshaw artist. Along with these two interesting characters there was good provisions to be had and a church named the "Wholly Mother Of God Catholic Church" that was a donation from the Vatican in 1988 to commemorate the first catholic missionaries arriving in 1838, crazy bastards they were cannibals here then!
The islands is also very traditional with a monument in front of the town hall that declares in French that after 1995 the islands of the Marquases will be known as there original name of Fenua Enata or Land of Men. Another next to it commemorates Chief Iotetes rebellion against the French in 1842, the Tauatans are very independently minded.
The town of Vaitahu is beautiful flanked by an old volcano crater that rises up behind it with superbly steep and green sides that fall down onto the town.
As I love tattoos I thought it very necessary to investigate Felix Fii and to see some of his work. Cathy wanted to head ashore one day so we met the local school headmaster whims spoke great English. He called around and got Felix to pop down and see us. Teiki was also rung and popped down to pick us up and take us to his home and small work space looking out over the bay from hundreds of feet up on the mountain side. His home was surrounded with fruit trees of which we were allowed to take all we wanted when we departed along with some truly beautiful works of art we bought from him.
Felix had even tattooed the local head master so we figured he must be pretty good! His work was very nice and he only worked from inspiration which was the only worry! Cathy even got excited and decided to get a tattoo as well. We made a time for 0630 the next morning then headed back to the boats were we informed Bill and Johnny of our plans for the next morning.
It didn't take long and before we knew it we had four people being branded by Felix. It was quite a laugh with everyone wondering what they'd get and where. I was to go first to make sure he knew what he was doing. Then it was Johnny, Bill and Cathy. All in all we got out of there by about 1530 so it wasn't too bad a day. Below you can see how things turned out. Felix was a true master with his motifs and art work creating beautiful designs that are in a sense a work of art for each of us.
Bill got a wave shaped tattoo that has a teki head within it and traditional motifs through out such as fish and the local Marquasan cross. Johnny got a traditional Manta Ray tattoo that looked great along with Cathy whom had hers done on her left foot and it looked great also. Always wanting a Balin I had one done on my palm and filled with traditional motifs of manta ray, turtle, tuna, teki head and eels.
The following morning Johnny and I had planned to head down to Nuka Hiva to catch up with Butch who arrived a few days before after his 21 day crossing from the Galapagos. We upped anchor early for the 85nm passage over and hoped to arrived around 1600. We motored out a few miles then raised the sails and took off. With a fresh breeze from the south east we were off to a flying start. It didn't last long though dropping out within an hour to nothing!
Johnny and I couldn't believe it as our 8 hr passage had just become an over nighter! We'd planned beers on the back deck at sunset. I rang Butch to let him know we were on our way and that the breeze wasn't being so nice. He stated the wind down there was blowing 25kts and that the beers were in the fridge.
The calm didn't last long and within an hour we were off again smoking down the waves averaging well above 11kts. It was a fun ride down there and we managed to get in about 1630 after 9hrs sailing. By the time we arrived Butch had had a few beers and we were knackered so we put off the party to the following night.
The next day Butch came by early and picked up Johnny. They spent day driving around the island with another couple of Aussie blocks from YOLO (you only live once) a nice big 50ft Catana Cat very roomy compared to Spirit but we're at the bar first which counts most in Johnnies and my book ;-).
We all met in town for lunch about 2pm had a million beers then headed back to the Racket Roller with all the gang for a million rums. It was an awesome day and night with Butch and the gang and we also met a nice fella whom had just crossed from South America on his own and had been at sea for 31 days! awesome to see as he wasn't the youngest of chaps either. He was sailing around the world fulfilling a dream and had his business back home up for sale.
The next day with Racket Roller following us and after we had bought pretty much the best fresh provisions we'd seen since leaving Panama we headed to a little bay on the western side of Nuka Hiva. It's called Baie Haahopu and with the strong winds and large seas from the east it turned out to be a wonderful stop before we headed to Raiatea.
The water was so calm and clear we had a great walk ashore on the beautiful little beach and Johnny dove on the anchor as the bay had heaps of coral bombes so the chain was rapped around them all doing nice figure 8's
After cleaning the bottom of the boat, doing some laundry and odd jobs we had we had a nice dinner with Butch on the Roller and then a perfect nights sleep. Another thing about these trimarans is there fast fun and have heaps of deck space but man at night if there is a side swell she loves doing the flop and when we find a nice bay where the water flat it's such a pleasure to be there. Quiet great nights sleep just perfect!
Next morning we had a Manta Ray swim around the boat right next to us about 12ft across while we ate some fruit and Muesli following this we then set sail for Raiatea about 9am.