Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nuku Hiva Circumnav Continued - Wahoo, Diving, and Haahopu Anchorage


After six nights in Anaho we felt it was time to leave the anchorage and continue our counter-clockwise journey. Our new friends aboard MERIDIAN PASSAGE had left for the Tuamotus with plans to return to New Zealand after 18 years of cruising. SCOOTS had left Anaho the day before, and IMPULSIVE was going to remain and eventually return to Taiohae. 

We left Anaho on a bright morning and as we left the bay we entered the ocean in light winds and fairly big swells. Luckily we were more or less going with the swells, and when the wind picked up to 12-14 knots and we traveled on sail power alone it was quite pleasant.

The rugged northern coast of Nuku Hiva

The coast on our left was beautiful and as we traveled west the terrain became less lush and "tropical" and more scrubby, but still very green. Kind of like a very green Baja. About halfway along the coast we spied SCOOTS anchored in their own tropical paradise and we had a short radio conversation with them as we passed. We carried on as we were headed to the northwestern-most anchorage of Haahopu.

The ocean was alive with dolphins and birds, and we even saw a shark fin swim by, so we put out the hand lines for a bit of fishing. 

Dolphins swimming in our bow wave.

We'd heard the wahoo were running and I put my order in for wahoo fish tacos. Tom kind of snickered at me but we agreed that you won't get fish if the lines aren't in so we might as well try.

About ten minutes later we heard a large slap on the water and saw a big silver something under the water. Tuna??? As we pulled the fish in we were thrilled to see it was a huge wahoo! Tom gaffed it, and he dealt the quick death blow with a knife to the brain. People have advised us to never bring a wahoo on board before it's dead due to its razor sharp teeth, and this monster had plenty of them.

Tom with his prize wahoo (est. 50 lbs), caught with a black/purple squid jet head lure.

Since we were only an hour from the anchorage we secured the fish on the swim step and let the cooling swells keep it fresh. As we approached our anchorage we were happily surprised to see that it appeared blessedly calm inside with just one other boat anchored that looked just like Cinnabar's friend PRAIRIE OYSTER from La Paz. (Turned out to be the same kind of boat.)

We dropped the anchor and Tom exclaimed he could see it on the bottom. I leaned over and couldn't believe it. I could see the bottom 30 feet below! This was a first and I couldn't wait to get into the water. But business first.

It took us a couple of hours to fillet the monster but we were rewarded with enough fish to completely pack the freezer. In fact, I had to take some things out to make room. 

We kept the guts in a bucket to throw overboard later that night. No need to chum while we were about to snorkel. We got in the water and couldn't believe the visibility. There were lovely coral gardens on each side of the bay and lots of small reef fish. There was a lot of fishing going on here by locals so the bigger predatory fish were rarely seen. I was so excited to get in the water that I forgot my weight belt so wasn't able to dive down, but the big manta ray that approached us was very accommodating as it swam up to my eye level for a few minutes before swimming back into the deep. We would see big mantas on nearly every snorkel.

Syl's dive buddy. The mantas seemed very curious about us.
As I showered on the back of the boat I realized that we were facing west and would see our first proper sunset since the last night of our passage back in April! We west-coasters are used to our sunsets and we really hadn't seen one since being in The Marquesas.

That afternoon a very nice French couple from TIDOUDOU, the neighboring boat, rowed over with some yellowfin tuna fillets. We invited them aboard for an impromptu happy hour and I prepared a plate of wahoo and yellowfin sashimi with rice and nori wraps. I served it with chopsticks which Marcos and Serena (2.5 years in French Polynesia, ski instructors in France during the cyclone season) had never used. It was quite amusing to see them trying to use the sticks and we announced that fingers were fine. We sent them off a couple of hours later with a bag of wahoo fillets.

It was a very good day and I knew I would have a terrific night's sleep in this flat, calm anchorage.

Serena and Marcos wave au revoir from their lovely Beneteau.

The next morning TIDOUDOU left and later that afternoon SCOOTS arrived to take their spot. We spent the next few days snorkeling, socializing with Eric and Vandy on SCOOTS, and taking advantage of the extremely calm anchorage to get some boat projects completed. 

Eric and Vandy cooling off with their noodles behind SCOOTS

Water In Boat = That Not Good - As if our current To-Do list wasn't enough, the second morning we were there I discovered a pool of water under one of the cabinets in the forward cabin! Luckily it was fresh water so clearly a fresh-water leak in the plumbing as opposed to salt water getting into the boat. It took us a few days of sponging water and sleuthing to discover the source of the problem, which turned out to be nothing more than a loose hose clamp 9' forward up in the forepeak that was leaking drips down the hose all the way to the cabin! After a good tightening and a couple of days of airing out all was back in order. Would that all boat problems were so easy to fix.

Tom gets a reward after yet another boat repair.

Back in Anaho SCOOTS had invited us over one morning (along with MERIDIAN PASSAGE and IMPULSIVE) for "elevenses". This SCOOTS tradition is an 11:00 a.m. coffee break where Eric roasts green coffee beans in an old popcorn popper and then grinds them by hand. Can you imagine? 

Feeling very civilized with our most excellent espresso.

I gave up coffee years ago but gleefully backslid for this caffeinated treat. They continued the tradition in Haahopu and Tom and I happily snorkeled over for "elevenses" and first rate espresso from our generous hosts.

We could have stayed in Haahopu much longer, and we put off leaving for a few days because it was so pleasant, but we had to return to Taiohae to call New Zealand and order our new sails, so we reluctantly weighed anchor, waved goodbye to SCOOTS, new boat arrival MAJA and the mantas, and left what had become our favorite anchorage.

Sadly leaving Haahopu with SCOOTS and MAJA in the background.

Last sunset in Haahopu was spectacular. To the right of the sun is the 700'  high remote island called Motu Iti, approx. 30 nm distant.

Now we are back in the rather uncomfortable Taiohae anchorage, taking care of final business and waiting for a good weather window before we head south to The Tuamotus. 


P.S. We promised SCOOTS (who is still in Haahopu) that we wouldn't tell anyone about our favorite spot, so mum's the word, OK?

P.P.S CINNABAR crewmember and mascot Sharkie is thrilled that The San Jose Sharks have made it into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time ever in 25 years. Go Sharks!!!!

Sharkie wants to know how we plan to get Sharks updates. Don't worry Sharkie, we have our ways.

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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

From Taiohae to Anse Hakatea - A Slice of Paradise with Insect Icing

Nuku Hiva's main anchorage of Taiohae was a terrific place to make landfall and check into the Marquesas. There is an American man (from CA) who owns and runs the Yacht Services company. Kevin and his lovely Marquesan wife Annabella assist the cruisers with checking into a new country, getting parts, re-filling propane tanks, tours, laundry, tattoos, and too many other things to list here. Their services are most welcome and are extraordinarily helpful to the many weary sailors who stumble onto the quay after their long passages.

The endlessly patient and helpful Kevin. What a guy!

However, Taiohae is a big, open anchorage and it tends to be rolly when swells come in from the South. It's very difficult to get boat chores and work done when the boat is pitching and rolling around on anchor. Last week some big swells were predicted (and they came, driving us crazy!) so we tried to conclude our business and escape to nearby Anse Hakatea (aka Daniel's Bay) for a few calm nights.

Anse Hakatea (Hakatea Cove) is only an hour's sail or motor from Taiohae, so it's a convenient trip. A couple of boat friends (Scoots and Impulsive) preceded us and we were happy to see them anchored in the blessedly calm bay when we arrived last Thursday. Mere moments after we dropped the anchor a couple zoomed up in their dinghy, introduced themselves (Moonshadow), and invited us to a happy hour on a luxurious, large multihull called Speakeasy. Our old friends were there and it was fun to meet new friends too. John and Deb from Moonshadow took some great drone shots and video of Cinnabar the next morning which they gave to us.

Drone shot of Cinnabar in Anse Hakatea

But there is always a price, and the price for this beautiful, tropical, calm anchorage was having to deal with thousands of gnats. At about 07:00 each morning we were besieged by clouds of annoying gnats that found their way into and onto the boat, and then proceeded to die at around 10:00 all over Cinnabar. 

A tiny "gnat drift" of dead bodies. These were all over the boat, yuck.

It was disgusting, but they were easily vacuumed up which became our morning ritual: Gnats arrive at 07:00; gnats get in no matter how many hatches we close, etc; gnats die 10:00; vacuum entire boat inside and out; discover various areas where more gnat bodies have lodged and vaccum those too; find gnats stuck to body parts including inside jog bras (???); get grossed out and jump into the water.

From this bay there is a popular hike up the lush Hakaui Valley to Vaipo waterfall which is the third highest in the world. (Tom and Bruce attempted this hike earlier, but never made the falls as they had started too late.) One day a group of us got together, dinghied up the river as far as we could, and set out up the trail which began at some houses and beautiful gardens and banana orchards. It was here that we met Paul, a resident of the area, and he decided to be our guide which was very helpful. We also made arrangements to have one of the families prepare lunch for us on our way out.

Group of hikers from Impulsive, Scoots, Cinnabar and Confidence.

Paul, wielding his large machete which he used to perform trail maintenance along the way, was well-versed in the history of the area which was once an ancient, bustling town of 30,000 people!. They lived a rich, thriving lifestyle until they were introduced to western diseases, sigh.

Paul's uncle's house; old foundation with new structure built on top.

There are still numerous stone walls, parts of the old stone road, stone foundations, old storage pits for breadfruit, and tikis sitting on pae pae (stone platforms and foundations) along the way. 

Ancient tiki on pae pae (pronounced pie-pie)

We walked through the old town, into the tropical forest, and crossed the river numerous times which was very refreshing.

We could see the waterfall from the trail, and it would be our only view of the entire falls since one you arrive you can only see the bottom of the falls. We 
could hear the thundering water and feel a cooling mist as we walked through a final meadow dwarfed on all sides by towering basalt cliffs that dripped water onto us.

View of the falls from the trail.

After about 2.5 hours of sweaty hiking we arrived at the falls and immediately jumped into the cool water. It was delightfully refreshing to swim up close to the falls in the fresh, cold mountain water.

Tom and Syl enjoying the refreshing water.

Tom's selfie with pamplemousse eaters in the background.

After our swim we gorged ourselves on huge slices of juicy pamplemousse (gigantic, sweet grapefruits). Again, a price would be paid. We were attached by nonos (no-seeums) and a day later would sport the intensely itchy, bubbling bites which these insects gave us for souvenirs.

Our lunch (cost $10 ea.), prepared by the lively Moette and her family, was a delicious feast of local food that included pit-roasted breadfruit, fried bananas, green papaya salad, breadfruit dumplings stewed in coconut milk, poisson cru (Polynesian ceviche), roasted chicken with potatoes, and a big plate of huge chestnuts from a tree on the property.

Chowing down on local cuisine and LOTS of citronade.

We also guzzled bottles of citronade (limeade) made with their limes and fresh springwater which was a godsend after our hot hike.

Our hostess Monette and guide Paul

The families support themselves by selling/trading fruit and making copra from dried coconut that they export to Tahiti.

This starfruit bush was loaded with fruit. 

What a fun day, and it was great to stretch our legs with a long hike after being on the boat for so long. The next day I was extremely sore but a morning snorkel with some manta rays helped ease the aches. Unfortunately, the visibility in the bay was not good, so I couldn't fully appreciate the lovely coral reef and numerous fish around me. I wish I had a picture of all the rays that were swimming around our boat.

The gardens in Hakatea were lush and full of flowers.

Our stay in Hakatea/Daniel's Bay was a good time to complete some boat projects and stock up on fresh springwater in between vacuuming gnats, but we had to head back to Taiohae yesterday (Monday) to take care of some business. Hopefully that will get concluded soon so we can head back to another remote anchorage soon. There are several good ones on the island. In the meantime we are enjoying meeting up with all the other boats that are arriving in Nuku Hiva after their long journey across the Pacific.

More pics of our first 2.5 weeks in Nuku Hiva are here: ALBUM Nuku Hiva