July 26, 2018 and we’ve just set sail from Nuku Hiva, sailing close-hauled (against the wind as is usual for Vinni and Carsten – sigh) towards the main island of Hiva Oa in the southern part of the Marquesas. Once again we are forced to return to Denmark due to medical reasons and we’ve been extremely luck to find a place we can get Capri on the hard” in a little boatyard on Hiva Oa. This isn’t a real shipyard, but rather a small repair yard with space for about 20 boats. They’ve given us a slot for August, September with an option for part of October. After that everything is fully booked for the hurricane season that ends May 2019.
Carsten has had two Atrial Flutter attacks over the past couple of weeks and both time his pulse was up to 180+ for almost an hour and a half. We are not comfortable with the situation. After the first attack we went to the local hospital on Nuku Hiva. Carsten’s EKG was normal and the French doctor (who happily spoke excellent Énglish) conferred with a cardiologist on Tahiti and prescribed some medicine for Carsten. We also emailed with the cardiologist in Denmark who had operated on Carsten and he was in agreement with the French treatment. But after the second attack and a long telephone conversation with Copenhagen, we’ve decided to go to Denmark for further treatment and possibly another ablation.
We talked for several days about my just staying on Capri and Carsten flying home alone. But we don’t know how long he will be there – it could be months, so I’m going along, but what about Capri? We can’t just leave her lying at anchor in a bay with no one on board and there are no marinas anywhere in the Marquesas. The nearest marinas are in Tahiti, 700nm for here, and they are all fully booked for the hurricane season. With some help from our Swiss friends, Willy and Marie (both speak fluent French), we managed to find the slot at the boatyard on Hiva Oa.
Hiva Oa is SE from Nuku Hiva, about 100nm, and winds at this time of year are generally from the East or Southeast so we will be sailing close-hauled the entire way unless we get very lucky. Fortunately, the winds are light and we have wonderful sailing in bright sunshine the entire day and as night comes the weather gods (Njord in Nordic mythology) send winds approaching gale force and 2-3 meter high swells and just for the fun of it all – 1 knot current running against us. By the time dawn rolls around we are getting ready to pass through the 2 nm wide channel between Hiva Oa and Tahuata. The current starts running at 2 knots and in those conditions, we are in for tough sailing – to say the least. We are only 12nm from the bay on Hiva Oa where we will get hauled but despite tacking and tacking and trying to get behind Tahuata to find some shelter for the current and wind, we simply have to abandon the attempt to get through the channel.
Instead, we make for a small bay on the lee side of Tahuata, intending to anchor there until the weather dies down. It is less than 10nm to this small bay and we tack back and forth against the gale force wind and the heavy swells. Six hours later, we’re still tacking and now running our engine at full speed in order to make some headway. Despite all this we are only making 2.5 knots of speed.
Oh to be sailing “downhill” (wind at our backs). The constant tacking and spray have us wet, tired, cold and hungry (the joys of sailing!) We finally manage to get close into the Tahuata and find shelter from both wind and swells and now we fly into the small bay.
Inside Hanamoenoa Bay we’re warmly welcomed by our German/Italian friends, Wojtek and Elina and Paul (2 years old). Our Swiss/Swedish friends, Claudia and Bertel are there also and the tell us that they have been following us on the radar/AIS and wondering why the hell we were spending the day tacking back and forth and not just sailing in. Here, inside the bay, there is no wind at all, just a very light breeze so they have no idea what is going on outside. Occasionally, a katabatic wind will come flying down over the cliffs and into the anchorage – but you get used to those here in the Marquesas and don’t really notice them.
That evening a local family sails into the bay and prepares a Polynesian meal for all of us at the discount rate of $10 for all you can eat of barbequed pork and goat and all the Poisson Cru you can could want, plus salad, breadfruit and other veggies. Really good food and a wonderful atmosphere talking and having a couple of beers with all the other sailors there.
The next morning the weather has died down and we have to disappoint Wojtek (triple gold Paralympics winner) that we are leaving and will not be here to help celebrate his birthday. The weather report say the good conditions will only last this one day, the gale force winds will start up again, so we have to go to Hiva Oa or we will miss our time to be hauled out.
We go through the channel on our engine and all the way at the edge to avoid the heavy current in middle, this time we have no problems and it is a comfortable sail. Inside the bay we anchor in front of our friends, Willy and Marie. The bay is small and there are heavy swells careening in and bouncing back from hitting the cliffs on the other side of the bay. This coupled with the strong tide means that we will need to set a stern anchor. The bay is also completely filled with boats, at least 25, so there is no room for us, or anyone else, to swing at anchor. The stern anchor will also keep Capri’s bows to the swells, meaning we will “rock and roll” less.
This is the first time we will be setting a stern anchor and to top it off, in a very muddy bottom. Everyone has challenges getting their stern anchors to bite and hold here. Several of the boats have also had their stern anchors drag when the supply ship, Aranui 5, comes in and uses its bow thruster to lay to the pier. The boats are lying so close that when this happens they smash into each other. You don’t win any popularity contests here if your stern anchor drags and you start swinging out of control. We’re a bit concerned, but we will only be here for 2 days before hauling out, so hopefully we can get through that without problems.
Ok – down with the dinghy and Carsten sails out with our Fortress anchor, an anchor especially good for stern anchoring in eh mud. I try to keep Capri, who already has her main anchor down, away from the other boats. Not an easy task, what with the strong winds, tide and swells. We need two shots at it before the anchor bites, despite our having put on 10 meters of heavy chain and 25 meters of heavy rope. Later we will find out that it is just as difficult to raise this anchor as it is to set it – but when the time comes, we are able to use a winch to get it up. We’ve also learned that we need to set a trip line on the fortress to make it easier to raise. We had no problems getting our Mantus anchor up.
Finally, the dawn breaks and it is time to haul Capri. It is 6:30 a.m. and high tide. We need high tide because we have a 7 foot keel and unless we are at high tide – there is no way we can get Capri close enough into shore to get the huge trailer under her. Normally, Capri is lifted with 2 straps around her belly, but here it is on a trailer. I get butterflies in my stomach every time Capri has to come on the hard – I’m always afraid they will drop her.
A big tractor comes slowly down the ramp, pushing a huge trailer. The tractor has a long heavy wire leading from the back to a winch further up the hill by the boatyard. Vincent, the boatyard owner is in the tractor, his wife is running the winch. Vincent drives the trailer as far out into the water as he can and now we have to sail Capri up onto the trailer.
YAH – try doing this in a boat weighing 12.5 tons with a 7 foot keel and try to get it to hit the trailer at exactly the right point without damaging either the keel or the trailer. Not an easy task under the best of conditions, and definitely not easy when Capri is being buffeted by large swells and gusts of wind.
I’ve decided to be a chicken and let Carsten helm the boat in. I’ve “planted the flag” (gone aground) twice, once in Sweden and once in the Hudson, so this time it has to be Carsten’s turn if anyone is going to damage the keel. I stand out in the bows and try to give Carsten directions on “a little to starboard, a little to port”, since Carsten can’t see the trailer (which is under water) from back at the helm. Carsten brings her in slowly and except for a tiny “bump” right at the end, he hits the trailer perfectly (later we find out that tiny bump gave a small dent in our lead keel).
Now what? Capri is as far onto the trailer as we can sail her, the boatyard personnel are all in the water up to their hips trying to pull Capri the rest of the way onto the it. She not moving an inch. Everyone is looking stressed, not the least Vincent, who promised us that there would be lots of water under Capri. Carsten and I are standing on deck, where we have been told to stay and can do nothing. We’re concerned that they can’t get Capri up and then what will we do? We have airplane tickets to Denmark, leaving in two days.
Finally an extra large swell comes in at the same time that everyone is pushing, pulling and swearing and Capri slides the last few inches up onto the trailer. Now they start hauling the trailer up the ramp and we’re sitting here with our pulse going through the ceiling as Capri sways first to one side then the other.
Jesus! Will she fall sideways out of the trailer? What will happen to us? We’re just sitting here on the deck – will we even survive such a fall? I doubt if I’ve ever experienced anything so horrible.
Eventually we were up the rap and now a friendly fellow sets a ladder up against Capri so we can climb down, but the nightmare isn’t over yet. They need to pull the trailer about 200 meters up a rutted dirt road (uphill). Unfortunately, it has rained cats and dogs the past 24 hours so the dirt road is not a dirt run it is a slippery mud road. The boatyard guys start gathering large rocks from the side of the road to help plug the worst of the ruts and then lay plywood sheets over top of them. The wife starts the winch and Vincent sets the tractor in reverse and Capri slips and slides her way up the hill and into the boatyard. Finally the trailer is set on a concrete slab and Capri can now be pressure washed. She’ll stay on the trailer until tomorrow, when she will be moved to another space and supported by boat stands. We’ll be living on her for the next two days – not an easy task as I will detail later in this blog.
Back in Denmark, Carsten and I once again get extraordinary service from the cardiologist at the public hospital and from the cardiologist at the private hospital where the Carsten is referred to for the operation (there is a 5 month waiting list at the public hospital for this type of operation). Three days after we landed Carsten was on the table getting a new ablation. Apparently, the scar tissue from the first operation had healed onto each other allowing the electrical impulses to once again pass and screw up his heartbeat. We agreed with the cardiologists that we will buy a hand-held EKG machine so we can record Carsten’s heart if by some chance he should once again have an attack. Peter, the cardiologist who operated this time, said he seriously doubted if it would happen again. “I’ve burned a 4 lane highway through there” he noted.
Altogether we were in Denmark for 3 weeks and managed to visit friends and old neighbors and once again we are truly grateful to our friends for opening their houses and saying “Mi casa, su casa”. The flight from Tahiti stopped in San Francisco so we chose to take a long weekend there and see Carsten’s daughter, son-in-law and his grandchildren, Frida 5 and Viggo 7.
Back on Capri, she’ll stay on the hard until we have finished giving her a new coat of bottom paint, greasing her propeller etc. We’re finished after a week, but it is weekend and then the supply ship arrives and blocks the ramp, so we have to wait another 5 days before we can get back into the water. It is ungodly hot here in the yard, lying as it does completely sheltered from the trade winds. We burn “shoo-away” incense in the evenings and manage to keep the mosquitos and no-no’s at bay. The mosquitos here don’t carry malaria, but they can carry elephantitis. Some years the local health authorities give free vaccinations against elephantitis – it depends on if the virus is present.
No-no’s are tiny black insects that can barely be seen, but only felt (after you’ve been bitten). One afternoon as I’m cutting Carsten’s hair on the pier, I feel some insects around me, but I can’t see them. The next day, I can see the result. I have leaking sores on both my arms and legs that itch LIKE HELL!!! Carsten, of course, despite sitting still in a chair, has no bites at all. The sores don’t disappear until after 2 weeks. I’ve now bought the local “no-no off” (Monoi and coconut oil) and some cream to take the worst of the itching if it happens again.
So what is it like, living on your boat while it is on the hard? Primitive. Thankfully we can fill the water tanks from the city water piped into the boatyard since we can’t use our watermaker. We’ve hooked up the shorepower even though our solar panels are functioning perfectly. The boatyard has a high cliff behind it and high hills on the other side of the bay so we only get a few hours sunshine per day – not enough to fully charge our batteries. We can make food and the we can get our propane gas bottles filled. Leftovers are thrown over the fence to the wild chickens living there. Dishwashing water we let run out onto the ground. But what about showers and the toilet?
Right alongside Capri is a “5-star” toilet (flush) and cold water shower (you get used to the cold water). Of course, you share these marvelous facilities with the other sailors living on their boats and the cockroaches living under the floorboards of the shower. Despite it being a royal pain in the rear, I crawl down the ladder in the dark to pee before going to bed. I’ll end up regretting that. Once I get into the small “outhouse” and turn on the flashlight, I can see that the cockroaches are having a party by the toilet. We don’t see them during the day when they are under the floorboards, but they come out at night.
Which means I now mandate that we have to find a way to use Capri’s on board toilet – no way am I going down there and peeing with cockroaches running over my feet. No problem with using the toilet on board, except the holding tank only has 3-4 days capacity. We solve this problem by having me holding a bucket up to the outlet in the hull and Carsten opening the tank valve from the inside. Carsten yells when he is about to open the valve, but the first time we try this, I didn’t hear the yell and guess what? The holding tank empties but I don’t have the bucket under it – fortunately, I wasn’t standing directly under the outlet so it missed me, although I did get some m mist spray on me. I curse and swear in all the languages I can (4 in all), calling Carsten every name I can think of. He comes out and says that he barely touched the valve and I can just go get a shower. I’m still cursing as I take the shower and more swearing afterwards, but the shower and clean clothes get me in a better mood and what the hell, the holding tank is now empty. We got better at this chore the second time we tried it.
Since our neighborhood seems to be the cockroach ghetto of the universe, Carsten and I are manically afraid getting them on board. We’ve closed off all the hull openings and wash our shoes before coming on board, but they can crawl up anywhere. The day before we’re scheduled to go back in the water, I find a dead cockroach on one of our bookshelves.
We have cockroach traps scattered all around inside of Capri and apparently he marched through one of them, got poisoned and died. Later that day, Carsten lifts one of the sofa pillows and live cockroach comes running out, Carsten manages to kill it and toss it over the side.
We are really upset by this. Cockroaches are a situation we have tried so hard to avoid, always washing our shoes before going back on board, making sure no cardboard ever gets even close to the boat, washing everything, veggies, cans etc. in chlorine water. We’ve managed to stay cockroach free for 2 ½ years. We immediately go to the supermarket and buy everything from spray to powder that kills cockroaches and their eggs. We spray and spread powder under all our sofa and floorboards and cross our fingers that those two were the only two on board and they haven’t had a chance to lay eggs anywhere. If we can’t kill them, the only place to get rid of them is on New Zealand, where they take their bug control seriously. We’ll have to get a professional to come disinfect Capri. We’ll wait anxiously the next month. Cockroach eggs take about 3 weeks to hatch. At the time of this writing, 14 days have gone by – no cockroaches seen yet.
While we’re waiting for Capri to go back in the water, we rent a car with our American sailor friends, wags and Paula and drive up to Puamau where the best preserved Tikis in the world are. The Polynesians have honored their gods since before time by carving these stone figures. The best known ones are the huge one on Easter Island. What we didn’t know, but now learn is that many of these gods are their forefathers, that they have honored and somehow have elevated to god status. You can buy small tikis everywhere on the Marquesas today – virtually every house has several by the gates and doors.
The drive up to Puamau is breathtaking. This is the wildest, most exotic and dramatic landscape we have seen so far on our trip – The green fertile volcanic islands of the Marquesas. I hope that our pictures can convey some of this exotic landscape.
Two kilometers we before the Tiki’s we come to a snack bar with a large sign that say we have to pay $2 dollars entrée for the Tiki’s. Well the last idiot hasn’t been born yet and we paid our couple of buck each and drove up to the Tikis. Driving back, we take the wrong road and come out onto the main road a few hundred meters before the snack bar. Had we known and turned right at this road, we would have driven right to the Tiki’s without paying. We’re sure that the woman at the snack bar laughs all the way to the bank every time tourists like us shell out two buck each for nothing.
Before Capri splashes we need to fully provision her again, because we can’t be sure we will see any supermarkets the next month or so when we are visiting the smaller islands. Atuona, the town is about 4 km from the docks, so we get our trolley and start walking on our maxi-taxis towards the supermarket. The locals are very good at picking up cruisers headed for the supermarket, but we want to walk, hoping we can walk off a couple of the kilos we put on while we were in Denmark.
Just as an example of the friendliness of the Marquesians. We were standing the check-out at the supermarket with tons of filled bags when suddenly a woman further back in the queue asks us if we are going back to the docks. It is the taxi driver who took us to the airport and she offers to take us back to the docks (4 kilometers) free. An hour later, as I’m standing bottom painting the boat, here she comes again, this time with a bag full of papayas, mangoes and pamplemousse from her garden as a gift for me. How very touching.
We also need to fill diesel on Capri. No way to dock Capri by the station, here you fill up jerry cans and fill your boat from the cans. Fortunately, the diesel station is only 250 meters from the boatyard. Even better, we get to borrow Wags and Paula’s car, so we don’t have to drag the 10 jerry cans up the hill (you get very long arms carrying 20 liter jerry cans). We can’t get the jerry cans up the ladder and use the spinnaker halyard and winch to get them on board.
Finally, the big day arrives and Capri is ready to splash. We’re nervous and hope that this time there is more water under the keel than last time. Vincent isn’t worried and says there is lots of water, after all the channel has been dredged while we’ve been gone. He also thinks he can drive the trailer further out in the water that before. We sit up in Capri’s cockpit and again are reduced to spectators as Vincent drives us down the ramp and out into the water. Unfortunately, Capri doesn’t float off the trailer. The swells and the current keep her from floating free. We try using the engine to back her off but – no dice. After a bit of rocking and some extra large swells and more engine, she finally moves backwards a few feet and – here we go – we’re waterborne again!
Now we just need to anchor up again for a few days as we wait for our laundry from Sandra. Sandra has been on Tahiti for a few days so our laundry is delayed. Out here there are no laundromats. Washing is done by a local and drying takes a couple of days since no one has a dryer. We do some handwashing on Capri but sheets and towels really need to go into a washing machine. We might be long term cruisers, but that doesn’t mean that we or our clothes have to smell.
Anchoring up wasn’t any easier this time, even though we were only 7 boats. The bay was being dredged, which meant that half the bay was off limits because that was the area being dredged. Our deep keel prevented us from moving too far back into the bay so our choices were limited, but we finally managed to find a spot and set both our anchors. Our neighbor’s dinghy decided to go “walk-about” one afternoon when he had tied it to the dinghy dock and gone into town. We spotted it merrily bobbing on the waves on its way out of the bay – next stop New Zealand. We grabbed “little Capri” and zipped out after it, this time double tying it to the dinghy dock when we got it back. The owner can by the next morning with a bottle of wine as thanks.
One of the other neighbors went into town and his boat dragged its stern anchor, this is the third time he has dragged. We and a couple of other dinghy run over and keep it from crashing into its neighboring boat. I crawl up into his cockpit and try tauting up on his anchor line, but the anchor isn’t biting at all. Carsten uses Little Capri as a tugboat, pushing the boat away, while another dinghy manages to get his stern anchor up and drops it as far back as the line reaches. When the anchor comes up we are all surprised that this fellow is using only rope for his anchor rode, no chain to help hold it down and almost worst of all, he is using floating line. No wonder his anchor is dragging. We manage to lay it and get it to bite, but three hours later, it drags again. This time the owner is back on board. We dinghy over to see if he needs help, but he declines. He comes by later with a bottle of wine as thanks also.
While we wait for our laundry, we visited the local cemetery. Hiva Oa is famous as the final resting place for Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel (famous French singer).
We also visited the Gauguin museum that has a large collection of his works (copies though). It is an interesting museum, lying, as it does alongside his house and studio. Gauguin lived for 6 months in Copenhagen and here I found out why. He was married to a Danish woman, Mette Gad and had 54 children with her. Gauguin, 1848-1903, stayed in French Polynesia several times during his life, first as a child with his family, then as a soldier and finally when decides to move here to live and paint. He lived for several years on Tahiti but ran afoul of the King and moved to Hiva Oa, where he lived the last 3 years of his life. I don’t know when Mette died, she stayed in Denmark and didn’t follow him to Polynesia. The last of his children died in the early 1960’s
We trekked out to Taaoa, a small village 13 kilometers outside of Atuona. Here are many “paepaes” (stone foundations from the early settlements) built by the early Polynesians. We caught a ride going out, but decided that we needed the exercise and trekked the whole way back in 95 F degree heat.
On our way back we plucked pamplemousse, avocados and mangoes (sounds exotic – doesn’t it?) from trees growing alongside the road. Here in Eden, fruits grow freely everywhere and you can just pick them. Carsten goes coconut gathering occasionally – he’s gotten quite good at cracking them with his machete.
Life as a cruiser shouldn’t all work and no play. Now that we have painted the boat and polished her, provisioned and trekked to lose some weight, it is time for a bit of luxury. The luxury hotel up on the hill here, Pearl Lodge Hotel, has a special offer for cruisers. For $30 per each, you get picked up at the dock, driven up to the hotel where you can spend the day lazing at the swimming pool, using their WIFI and enjoying the view. Lunch is included, although drinks aren’t
Well, well, well. Sounds like a crappy deal – doesn’t it? I mean would we want to do that?
Damned right we want to that.
Off we went – Carsten had his usual burger and fries and I had the best Poisson Cru I had yet. (Poisson Cru is raw tuna in coconut milk and lime juice with rice or salad). Carsten washed his down with the local beer and I had some cold white wine.
Heh, he, he – we could get used to this.
At 4 p.m. we were driven back. It was worth every penny.
Now we’re ready to hoist anchor and sail back to the small island of Tahuata only 10nm from Hiva Oa. We sought shelter there on our way down here from Nuku Hiva. The little bay, Hanamoenoa, was a jewel of a paradise and we want to experience it again.