Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Highs and the Lows

After a delayed-reaction of the post-passage blues I needed a change of scenery. I got it in Anaho Bay. Keep reading...

(Sylvia)The 3,000 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean was a real challenge, both mentally and physically. While I mostly enjoyed the journey, it left me feeling exhausted and spent. Last week I was feeling quite homesick for Mexico and our dock neighbors at Marina Palmira. Tom and I were both on edge with the stress of trying to function effectively in a new environment and the ever-growing list of boat repairs. I was beginning to ask myself, did we do the right thing by leaving the relatively easy cruising life in the Sea of Cortez for the more difficult and adventurous South Pacific? I was sick of being in the rock-n-rolly Taiohae (main) anchorage and waiting for an important FedEx package to arrive. On Friday May 13 we were told there was an air strike in Papeete (where our package was) and nobody knew when our stuff would arrive. GAH! 

Fearing we would end up hanging around in vain we decided to refuel and head out the next day along with our friends IMPULSIVE and SCOOTS (who were also waiting for packages) and sail up the eastern coast of Nuku Hiva to the northeastern anchorage of Anaho, supposedly one of the calmest anchorages in the Marquesas.

(A side note on getting fuel here - the fuel dock is a treacherous and high concrete pier that has a few big rubber bumpers tied to it. Swells from the ocean smash into this dock with regularity. The dock was built for fueling big transport boats and not cruising sailboats, so we had 2 choices: 1) Put jerry jugs in the dinghy, take them to the fuel dock, climb up the big ladder, fill the jugs, somehow get them back into the dinghy, motor back to boat, empty jugs, repeat until tanks are full; 2) Med-tie to dock, i.e. motor over to dock, drop the anchor a hundred feet or so from the dock, back into the dock until you are 15’ or so from it (feels a lot closer), throw two lines to the guy on the dock, secure lines making sure you are well off the dock, receive the big, fat hose via rope, fill tanks, return hose, get the hell out of there ASAP. On Friday morning we noticed that the tide was high (closer throwing distance to guy on dock) and the bay was unusually calm, so we decided to go for option #2. Thank goodness I didn’t realize the day was Friday the 13th because I was REALLY nervous about doing a Med-tie on this dock. I drove Cinnabar (hands shaking), Tom dropped the anchor and threw the lines, we fueled up, and I didn’t smash up the back of boat. Hooray!!)

Morris (IMPULSIVE) and Eric (SCOOTS) heaved our lines back to us while waiting for the fuel hose. Notice their jerry jugs in the background. There are pros and cons to both methods but we all got fuel at a tax-free discount which made it cheaper by half than Mexico. But will it make up for the expensive beer?

After 4.5 hours of motorsailing up the Eastern coast in big swells we pulled into Anaho and found the perfect, most protected spot inside a row of anchored boats, but after we anchored someone from another boat called us on the radio and informed us we were on a protected reef that had been damaged by chemicals and some locals (who happened to be on that sailboat) would like us to move. We weren’t really very happy about that but after some discussion we ended up moving to a spot where it wasn’t nearly as calm and protected. It wasn’t as rolly as Taiohae but I wouldn’t exactly call it calm. We wouldn’t have minded so much except that after we moved a French boat cruised in and anchored in almost the same spot we left! I was pissed off. 

Note: We did snorkel the protected area and indeed it was a lovely coral garden so hopefully we will be rewarded by good anchoring karma in the future. Also, some boats over there paid the price by the constant scraping of their anchor chains against the coral. Not a good thing.

While we were there Tom checked his email (via the single side band radio, we had no internet) and discovered that our envelope had been delivered the same day that we left! (Thanks Sis for getting it sent in the nick of time.) Some of our friends weren’t so lucky and they are STILL waiting for their packages, delivery dates TBD due to the strike.

Hikers from MERIDIAN PASSAGE, CINNABAR, SCOOTS AND IMPULSIVE with our boats in Anaho Bay in the background. 

We spent a fun week in Anaho snorkeling every day, hiking, touring the area, socializing with our friends, meeting new people and working on the growing list of boat projects. Many people define cruising as "working on your boat in exotic locations"; alas, that is all too true.

Tom made a connector pin extractor (for VHF radio) out of a Hinano beer can in order to solder a tiny broken wire. He repaired the connector and our cockpit unit works again. Clever, oui??

The snorkeling in Anaho was the best so far with fairly good visibility and nice coral gardens. In fact, at the end of one snorkel as I was about to dive down and inspect the anchor, a large manta ray swam up to check me out. I swam with it in a large circle as it arced back over the nearby reef, returned to Cinnabar, and then headed out to deep water. So cool!

There is a community of folks living in Anaho who support themselves by making copra for export and growing fruit and vegies for trade or sale. When a group of cruisers did a rainy-day hike over to the town in the next bay (Hatiheu, aka Hidey-Ho) Vandy (SCOOTS) and I reached the top of the muddy mountain and decided to forego the town and head back down to the anchorage. We couldn't help but notice the billions of small ants that were overrunning the ground, the trees, the hiking/horse trail, and even the sand on the beach. They were everywhere! Whenever an unfortunate insect would land on the sand a group of voracious ants would subdue it and carry it back to their lair. Ugh. We later found out the ants are not indigenous, were accidentally introduced a few years ago (with some shipped-in produce?), and have been tormenting the small community ever since. This tropical paradise has certainly suffered from the introduction of disease, mosquitoes, no-nos, ants and a variety of other ailments thanks to visiting ships and humans from far away.

Tom at an archaeological site with an intricate Tiki statue in Hatiheu. There were an estimated 78,000 natives living in thriving societies in the Marquesas before Europeans arrived in the 1500s. By 1800, less than 4,000 remained due to decimation by introduced smallpox and measles (unfortunately, a common story for many native cultures). Today, the population is ~13,000 . 

The beautiful french style chapel in Baie Hatiheu. There is also a nice restaurant and magasin (store).

Our stay in Anaho did a lot to improve my waning spirits. The daily snorkeling was a HUGE help. I was able to get a bit more rest in the relatively calmer anchorage. Socializing with friends who arrived in Nuku Hiva around the same time as we and were also waiting for FedEx helped, i.e. we were all "in the same boat" (hee, sorry). It felt good to stretch our legs and do some hiking. All in all a good choice to leave Taiohae and go exploring the island which turns out to have a number of pleasant anchorages.

We ended up spending 6 nights in Anaho before continuing our counter-clockwise circumnavigation of the island. More later on our next anchorage, which proved to be our favorite so far.

A fellow cruiser at remote beach in Baie (Bay) Haatuatua, accessible by hike from Anaho. It faces due east and collects flotsam from 3,000 nm-away Mexico. I (Sylvia) declined the hike because I heard the no-nos were rampant. Poor Tom returned covered with bites but he still managed to stop at the veggie farm and pick up some cucumbers for me.


  1. Just know- I'm jealous! Still friends with a woman that our claim to fame with each other is that we washed laundry together in very exotic places. Including Anaho Bay. Lou started fantasizing about coming to visit. If you go to Tuau in the Tuamotus- we have some big hugs to send to the families that live there. Big hugs from here!

  2. What a cute story, thanks for sharing. We will just have to figure out a way to get Lou and YOU to join us somewhere. We will let you know if he hit Tuau

  3. Very random I know but I searched and searched for you lol. I found a card you had sent to my mother when she was going through radiation and chemo therapy. I'd love to maybe just get in touch with you and share any memories you had with her. She was a part of the caray caray blog. Her name on there was mads I beileve. Her name was Madeleine fails. You can contact me by email at :