Summer in Polynesia

 

We left Ua Pou early one morning at the same time as Rolf and Danielle, our friends with a 43 foot Catana catamaran. Catanas sail extremely well for a catamaran. Outside the harbor, we set both sails, the wind veered a bit and we were suddenly on a reach. Capri was a “happy boat” and despite having 25,000nm under her keel and an equal amount of miles on her old sails, she can still kick up her heels and move.

We blasted along at 6.5 knots, then 7, then 7.5 knots and then by god, Capri stretched her neck and we passed 8 knots. At one point we were over 10 knots, but we had a couple of knots following current. The winds stayed on a reach, blowing 12-15 knots the entire day and we didn’t reef at all. Capri heeled over a bit and simply flew across the waves. We couldn’t get to Nuku Hiva any faster if we tried. Rolf and Danielle’s boat, Yelo, was in front of us (we can’t catch a catamaran) the entire way and when we made landfall late that afternoon, they called us on the radio. They were also completely high from the wonderful sail “God Damn!!! What a wonderful sail!  It just doesn’t get any better than that!” Danielle gushed over the VHF. We agreed, and it took a while before Vinni and I came down off our high – the sailing had been magnificent. This was a sailing day that you pull out of your memory on occasion, remember and relish the beauty of such a day.

Nuku Hive resembled herself. We sailed over here because there was a music festival this weekend and it is one of the high points of the year. Indeed, it was – good music, we brought some of our own beer, bought some shish kabab and spent the evening tapping our feet.

The Catastrophe

But, into every life a little rain must fall – when it is Vinni and Carsten, a little rain means a tropical deluge. The catastrophe that simply mustn’t happen – happened. This catastrophe was of monumental proportions, so monumental in fact, that it threatened to stop our circumnavigation. Vinni was near tears and I must admit I choked up with emotion. How bloody unlucky can we be? Is it us? Or our karma? What have we done I our lifetimes to deserve such a fate? We searched our souls and confessed our misdeeds.

Shakespeare said, “The fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves”. Vinni and I spent some more time contemplating our karma.

Yes dear friends, our ice cube making machine broke down (still today I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it). Suffering Succotash! No ice!  Warm G&T’s! Never!!!!

To think that our circumnavigation should come to so ignoble an end! Life is not worth living without ice cubes.

I tried all the immediate remedies – turned the damned thing off, then on again. No (d)ice. The problem was that there is a little sensor that sends an infrared ray across the top of the ice cube storage tray, alerting the machine that the tray is full and for it to stop making ice. Apparently, the little bulb was burned out. Since the receiver didn’t get a light ray, the machine thought the tray was full and shut down.

The diagnosis was easily made and the fix was also very straight forward. No way to replace the bulb (no spare), so I could simply short circuit the alarm, forcing it to think it was receiving a signal. I took the machine apart. Yes, there it all was, but there were four possible wires, not just two.

Hmmmmmmm

I got out my multimeter and tried measuring my way to the solution. Still no (d)ice. Right about this time, Jan-Luc and Natalie sailed into the anchorage. Jean-Luc is an electrical engineer (aha! A glimmer of hope brightens this, the darkest of nights!). He readily understood the seriousness of the situation and the need for immediate action and came right over. We ripped the machine apart again and he was in complete agreement with my diagnosis. Unfortunately, he couldn’t measure his way to the right wires either. But because he is an engineer, he is braver than I am and he said, “let’s short these two.  If it’s wrong, we’ll just short some others”.

Dear friends – our savior had arrived. The machine began to spit out ice cubes like a pro. We quickly invited Jean-Luc and Natalie for G&Ts (with ice cubes). Our circumnavigation is saved and can continue.

There is a hotel here on Nuku Hiva, built by Rose Corsner and her husband. Her husband died some years ago and Rose sold the hotel because she simply couldn’t run the thing by herself. But she kept the restaurant and even though she also sold that when she turned 80, she is still here and works hard.

DSCF1977

Model of the big ocean-going outriggers used by the polynesians to reach Polynesia from Asia

She has an excellent small museum of Polynesian artifacts (well worth visiting) and runs a cruise ship tour company, arranging most everything a passenger from the ship could want while visiting.

DSCF1979

rose corsner

We visited the museum and while talking to her happened to mention that we were members of the Danish Ocean Cruisers Association. “Well, I’m the DOCA contact person for Polynesia – I’ve been the contact person for decades. I get their magazine every time it comes out. I have a few right here”. She dug out five copies and guess what? Each of those copies had an article by us in them. So we could proudly show her that  – by god – there we were.

DSCF1980

A real outrigger made of wood and skins

After a couple of weeks here in the thriving metropolis, it was time to get away from the stress and traffic, so we sailed north around the island to Anaho Bay. Some may remember that we have been here before and simply loved it. We’d chosen a good day for the passage – the weather gods smiled on us, giving us a 15 knot wind from the east and lots of sunshine. Four hours after weighing anchor, we slipped in past the headlands of Anaho.  Well damn! Are we going to have the entire bay to ourselves? We couldn’t see any masts – even when we were almost all the way in.

Of course, there was one mast there – we saw it as we rounded the last headland. But one boat in the bay doesn’t mean crowding. He left the next morning so we had everything to ourselves for a couple of days until Mario, a Spanish single-hander we know came in. Natalie and Jean-Luc showed up a few days later. The bay was full of Manta Rays

and when we dinghied in to the beach and had to walk the last 50 meters or so through the shallow water, small black tipped sharks swam about our feet. A stingray also lives there and we had to walk around him several times so we didn’t disturb him.

Last time we were here, the winds blew directly out of the east and Capri stretched her anchor chain at first and otherwise stayed in a straight line with her anchor. This time the winds swirled around the bay, forcing Capri to make big circles around her anchor. A couple of days after we arrived we starting hearing crashing sounds from our anchor chain and platform.  Uh, oh, apparently our chain is wrapped around some corals down there. We immediately raised the anchor and moved further out into the bay. Life was good for a few days when the crashing sounds started up again. Grrrr. Nothing for it, up with the anchor and move even further out into the bay. This time we moved far enough that we thought everything was honkey-dory.

Well the best laid plans of mice and men……………….Next day crashing sounds again and this time the anchor wouldn’t come up.

GOD DAMN IT!!!

Ok. The water is 30-35 feet deep which is beyond my (or vinni’s) free-diving capacity so break out the scuba gear, on with the bottle and over the side. Somehow, the chain had managed to saw its way underneath some coral rocks. A few of them I could move (with a lot of effort) but the biggest one and the one the chain really was down under, wouldn’t budge. I tried sawing the chain back and forth to get it out from underneath but the sand filled in as quickly as I could move it. By this time, I’d been down over a half an hour and with the physical exertion, I’d used most of my air bottle so I went back up top.

Our neighbors, Jean-Luc and Natalie are both expert divers. Natalie is an instructor so I dinghied over to ask if either of them wanted to give a hand. Jean-Luc immediately grabbed his gear and a few minutes later, we were back down, with me having a new bottle. With two of us, the work was easy and after 10-15 minutes, I could surface and tell Vinni to start taking chain in on the winch.

This time I swam further out into the bay to determine where there weren’t any coral rocks and marked the spot so we could move Capri there. Unfortunately, we’ll probably have these problems again when we get to the Tuamutos. The atolls are filled with “bommies”, coral rock heads that sprout up from the sand bottom. Those that have been there, put fenders on their anchor chain to hold them off the bottom. There is so much you have to think about out here that you never worry about when you are sailing in the Baltic.

Life as a cruising sailors is extremely stressful. After a couple of weeks we felt we had gotten to know Anaho again and it was time to move on. We decided to sail west around the island(we’d not done that before), both so we could see that side of the island and also so we could visit Daniel’s Bay, home to the supposedly third highest waterfall in the world (just under 2000 feet).

Despite having studied the weather forecast and ascertained that we would have wonderful weather, it rained the entire time. We sailed just on the front edge of the rain and it caught us a couple of times – but we never got seriously wet. Finally, late afternoon we turned into Daniels Bay and further into the small, protected cove. There were a couple of boats here already, Frank a single-handing German whom we know and Moggy, an Australian catamaran we also know. Moggy is BIG – 58 feet long and 31 feet wide. It is a bit of a project boat Lynne and David bought in the US and are fixing up.

We were unlucky a while ago when one of our scepters broke in the welding. This is actually quite serious since it is in our guardrail and right where our life raft is attached. With the broken weld, we didn’t dare keep the raft there and moved it to the coachroof which is less than ideal. Unfortunately, there is no one in the Marquesas that welds stainless – a repair would have to wait until we got to Tahiti.

A repair is actually quite simple, assuming you have a welder and know how to weld stainless. We don’t have a welder on board and while I can weld regular steel, I don’t know how to weld stainless. We were talking with David and Lynne and as usual with cruisers, at some point the discussion turned to the repairs we needed on our boats. As a joke, I noted that we didn’t have any serious issues, but if they happened to have a stainless welder on board and knew how to weld stainless – well, then I had a small job for them.

David looked at me and said, “well, we do have a welder on board and I do know how to weld stainless………”

Right. Vinni and I immediately repaired to Capri and I got out my tools and crawled down into the lazaret and unscrewed the rest of the bolts on the railing. Thereafter into the dinghy (with a 5 foot right angle railing and over to Moggy where David stood ready with the welder. Shortly thereafter, the railing was as good as new. Back to Capri, down in the lazaret and bolt everything up and it was time for a beer. The entire operation only took 3 hours. So, while I’ve made all that sound easy as pie, it wasn’t of course. Unscrewing this railing meant that I had to go down through the gas locker to get into that part of the lazaret. Going through the gas locker meant that the entire gas installation had to be disconnected and when all that was done, it was time for this elderly, slightly overweight man to try to shimmy down the gas locker hole. The hole is just exactly big enough that I can get down there, but I cut myself on the fiberglass every time.

The targa bar was also in the way. When we mounted that no one had thought that I would need to unmount the railing, so it took some twisting and turning before we could get the railing out. Naturally, everything I just described had to be done in reverse when the railing went back on.

It is truly amazing how much help you can get from other long term cruisers. No matter what you need, there is almost always someone in an anchorage that is either an outright expert or at least very good at it. Vinni and I try to pay our debts to those that have helped us forward by helping other cruisers every chance we get. Imagine, with no one in the Marquesas that can weld stainless, we drop anchor alongside Moggy.

Thank you Moggy and David.

Daniels Bay is named after the Marquesan couple, Daniel and Antoinette that lived there for almost 60 years. Both are gone now although their descendants still live there.

The bay is very protected and we lie at anchor here unable to feel the swells. There are some katabatic wind gusts during the day that make the rigging howl, but otherwise everything is peaceful. A young Manta Ray swims past our boat every day and a sea turtle makes his appearance several times per day.

Unfortunately, there are no-nos. No-nos are an almost invisible insect that bites and leaves small red boils that are both painful and itch like crazy. You can’t see the insects and you don’t feel their bite until several hours afterwards, which means that many people are completely covered with bites before they start to feel them. No-nos generally don’t bite me, but they do like to bite Vinni who puts on layer after layer of insect repellent, both the local version, a type of oil and the commercial “Off”. Despite all this, she gets bitten 8-10 times on our trip into shore.

Daniels Bay is home to the 3rd highest waterfall in the world – right around 2000 feet. It is a 2-3 hour trek through the brush to the falls and since Vinni and I are lazy, we decide to wait until February when our friends Lene and Ove come visiting to make the trek – after all, no reason to do this twice.

Late one afternoon a large grey catamaran sails in and drops anchor. Next morning their dinghy sails by us loaded with young people on their way to the beach. As they pass they all yell out in unison “God Morgen” (good morning in Danish). Well hell – a boat filled with Danes. It turns out that Atlas is a 55 foot Lagoon that Jacob and a partner purchased used and are now running a live-aboard diving boat. Unfortunately, for them, the boat has cost them much, much more in repairs and maintenance than they had figured. They keep having to invest more and more of their own money – the boat is not paying for itself yet.

A couple of days later we sail the five nm back to Taiohieu Bay. We’ve been gone almost a month and our larder is almost empty of the basics, especially fresh vegetables.

DSCF2018

Even our fruit larder was getting low

Our arms could almost reach the ground after lugging all the heavy shopping bags the mile or so back to the boat from the supermarket. We needed almost everything. One of the supermarkets had Danish salami – so we bought four of them. When you’ve been gone as long as we have – even a small reminder of home is good and these salamis tasted very good indeed.

When I say supermarket, you need to realize that these are Marquesan supermarkets – they are smaller than your average 7/11 in the US – the assortment is not huge, but you can what you need.

At the moment there are four (4!) Danish boats here in Taiohieu Bay. We’re here, Atlas, Moana another live-aboard diving boat, and then Martin came in his 45 foot Lagoon catamaran. We met Martin at the Panama Canal (I was a linehandler for him when he transited) when he was sailing a 40 foot monohull. He was planning to circumnavigate in it, but fell in love with this catamaran in Tahiti. He resolutely put a “For Sale” sign on his own boat. Some people are luckier than the law should allow. A couple of hours after he put up the sign, a French couple knocked on the hull – “is it really for sale?”. Absolutely and the next day, after a test sail they signed the papers and handed over a check. Martin immediately walked down the pier and bought the catamaran. Martin gave Vinni and me a guided tour of the cat. It is only 18 months old and looks like it just came out of the showroom. We decided that if we ever circumnavigate again (fat chance!!) it will be in a cat. Wonderful luxury and it lies completely still in the water, you don’t feel the swells at all. The only negative about a cat is that they don’t sail upwind – but as Martin said – that’s why God invented the diesel engine. In reality, it is a small floating apartment – probably the reason they are also known as “condomarans”.  We can also be just a wee bit jealous when we think about sailing in the rain and storms. While we’re out in the cockpit getting wet and cold, Martin will be sitting inside at his console in shorts and a t-shirt with a cup of coffee in his hand, steering. Life just ain’t fair!

But we love Capri and we are going to sail her the whole way around and back to Copenhagen. We had Elsinore Castle to port when we sailed out and we WILL have Elsinore Castle to starboard when we sail back.

We’ve frequently told you that “now we have a bit of internet” or “we’ll have no internet the next many weeks”. Here is a picture of our internet café on Nuku Hiva.

dscf1973

our local internet cafe

Just because it is an internet café doesn’t mean it works like things do in Denmark. The net doesn’t always work and when it does it is sometimes slooooooow. The other day, when I tried to load our blog about Tahauta I spent the entire day (yes from 9 a.m. to 5p.m.) in the café trying to load pictures. After 8 hours I gave up and dinghied back to Capri. I came in again the next day and after 6 hours, I managed to load the few pictures on that blog. The videos wouldn’t load – that needed two more days.

Being a cruiser requires unlimited patience and just to make matters worse, the café serves coffee but not beer.

Damn, but life is unfair.

We described the Marquesas as the Garden of Eden, which it certainly is. One of the advantages to being in the Garden of Eden is that fruit grows everywhere and Vinni and I go scavenging regularly. Fruit does grow everywhere, but the trees all belong to someone, so you can’t just start picking as you please. When you see a pamplemousse or mango tree, you go in and knock on the door and ask if you can buy some fruit. The answer is always “No, you can’t buy” but we can take as much as we can carry. The Marquesans place a honor in giving away fruit. One house we asked at said we couldn’t buy any mangoes and besides the ones on tree weren’t ripe and they were also high up and difficult to get hold of. But she happened to have a crate of fresh picked mangoes in her car and we could have as many as we wanted.

Unbelievable how happy they are to give fruit away and how happy we are to get it.  Vinni and I had a good eye to a pamplemousse tree that grows along the road we walk to the supermarket. It literally is bowed to the ground with heavy fruit and several of the branches grow out over an empty lot. One day on our way back from the market, we edged over to get a closer look at it and see if they were ripe. They certainly were ripe and up in the garden, three men were sitting and fixing all that is wrong in the world when they spotted us down by the tree. They waved to us to come on in and when we asked if we could buy some they said just take what you want – they just fall down and rot anyway. Then he picked some carambola fruit from another tree and it all ended with Vinni and me barely being able to carry our bags back to the dinghy so heavily ladened were we.

Coconuts are everywhere, lying alongside the road and if we don’t take them, the will eventually rot. We always have several coconuts in our net and I’ve gotten pretty good at dehusking them with my machete. We’ve begun to make our own yogurt – it is actually easy and tastes better than the store bought. Breakfast is usually fresh mangoes, papayas, coconut, raisins and a bit of muesli with yogurt. Wonderful fresh breakfast. We’re getting to be little homemakers as cruisers. Making yogurt is a sometimes thing. The boat has to lie still when you make yogurt –the yeast doesn’t like to be moved. So when we have swells – we can’t make our own.

Life out here is different and one of the things we wonder about are all the ownerless dogs. Not that we are surprised that there are ownerless dogs – it would be strange if there weren’t any, but these are very friendly. It is clear that they are used to people and don’t fear them, meaning that no one throws rocks at them or otherwise beats them. Many house have water dishes out front for them. They must get food from somewhere – we don’t see them rummaging around in the garbage cans.

The other night we were at a local restaurant that had organized a dance show – and what a show it was. The men performed a number of their native dances in costume and it was the best dancing we have seen out here.

Christmas is almost here and out here Santa Claus is depicted in baggy bathing shorts with a cold drink in one hand and a surfboard in the other. He arrives not in a sled with reindeer but in an outrigger canoe with eight rowers. I guess you can say he has integrated himself. We have our little Christmas tree and our elf hats that Ove gave us when we sailed, so we can be Christmassy on board.

DSCF1995

just as nice as a big tree

DSCF1985

polynesian christmas elves in person

At the bottom of our liquor cabinet, I found a couple of bottles of Glogg mix (gluhwine) so we have invited several of the other boats over for Glogg and brownies. That will be fun, although we have told them to bring some cold drinks since we don’t know how hot wine is going to go over in 90 degree F weather. Normally, Glogg is associated with winter, cold weather, snow and Christmas, meaning Christmas trees etc. Out here, the lights go up in the palm trees and snow is something you see pictures of.

DSCF1990

But Vinni made Glogg dressed in her bikini – the temperature was 85 degrees F when this picture was taken. The Glogg afternoon was a resounding success – they drank all of it (cruisers are a thirsty lot) and ate all the brownies.

For Christmas eve, Henri, the owner of our internet café, made a Christmas dinner for all of us. No duck or goose, but tuna shisimi, mahi-mahi Poisson cru, wild goat marinated in coconut and curry sauce, grilled wild pig, French fires, breadfruit, poi (pureed breadfruit – this is a local treat and an acquired taste – we thought it tasted like glue), salads, chicken and god knows what else – the tables were almost falling down. $20 US per person, bring your own booze and I guarantee no one left that table hungry.

DSCF2001

Christmas eve at Henri’s – after the dinner

Christmas day the cruiser arranged “Potluck” lunch – bring along something. The 15 boats had outdone themselves – there was, naturally more food than we could possibly eat, we made a quiche Lorraine,

DSCF2006

our quiche

and there were salads, fresh baked breads, lasagna, rib-eye steaks – you name it. There was so much food and despite all of us loosening our bathing suits – we simply couldn’t eat it all.

DSCF2013

part of the feast table

 

DSCF2015

at the potluck party

It was a great afternoon and this evening Vinni and I are having Confit du Cunard – duck fried in duck fat, potatoes and a tomato salad. We have a nice red wine (from a box) probably a vintage 3 o’clock (wine is ungodly expensive out here). We’ve managed to drink the last of the California wine we brought with us from Charleston.

But it will all be fine.

The days go by and Christmas peace has settled over the Marquesas. Difficult to believe, but the locals are even less stressed now than normally (they don’t suffer from stress out here). Everyone takes a holiday and each day is filled with family lunches and dinners. There is a speedboat ferry that goes every day to Ua Pou (25nm) an it is filled with families going both ways to enjoy the holidays. Everyone here on the islands is family in one sense or another.

New Year’s has rolled around and Vinni and I had two choices for New Years Eve. Natalie and Jean-Luc know the hotel manager here quite well – it turns out they worked together in the Caribbean some years ago. The hotel has a New Year’s Eve party, of course. They have a good chef so the food will be excellent. The locals are having a big a party in the community house – 250-300 persons, lots of food and you can buy beer and wine. The local party costs $25US per person and includes the food and a bottle of wine per couple. We decide to party with the locals and don’t regret it for a minute. Jean-Luc and Natalie went to the hotel and said afterwards that it was boring and a flop – although the food was good. The local party wasn’t boring at all.

DSCF2025

The band played all night

DSCF2055

The party in full swing

DSCF2029

we stayed relatively sober, to celebrate the holiday I put on my new Hawaii shirt

Lots of music and dance shows. A lot of the cruiser girls had gone to dance lessons for the past month or so and they also performed. They danced really well (shake that booty!) and got lots of applause. The local dance groups all gave performances and they were fantastic. Even little girls age 6-8 could shake their behinds and wiggle to the music as well as the grown-ups. Check out the video and also the young fellow  – I have no idea how he manages to move his legs that way.

 

A great evening and we were really tired when we finally got back to Capri. One of the locals, who lives up on the hill had purchased some fireworks and had a small display for the benefit of everyone in town and on the water.

I’ve noted previously that all land out here is owned by the county. That isn’t completely correct. A number of locals claim that they have ownership documents to some of the land. For years the county has simply ignored them. But this is France and several of them took it to court and won. The court found that the county had to open their records and also to evaluate the rightfulness of the claims, even though the papers were hundreds of years old.

Of course no one thought that the locals would be able to prove that they were the rightful heirs to the claims, but everyone had forgotten the Mormons. The Mormon missionaries got here many, many years ago and Mormons are heavily into genealogy. I’m no expert on Mormonism but apparently the Mormons believe that there are many layers of heaven and if you pray enough for your forefathers (and mothers) then they will move up through the many layers of heaven and be closer to God. Since you have to know who to pray for, Mormons keep close track of who is who and who is family with who. That means there are written records documenting almost all the family relationships here in the Marquesas and that the locals actually can prove they are the rightful heirs and there are several cases now winding their way through the courts.

My birthday is January fourth and Vinni went overboard to celebrate, finding a small Danish flag she could put in an egg tray so I’d have a small flag up for breakfast. It was a good day (sunshine) and I’ll get my birthday present in February when Ove and Lene come to visit. It is a drone so we’ll be able to have lots of pics and videos of Capri and the islands and atolls we anchor at.  What a great toy – I can’t wait.

DSCF2070

my birthday flag

We’ll end this blog here – the rest of our “Summer in Polynesia” you’ll hear about in our next blog. Here’s a final video – we are now on our third Danish flag – the other two are simply so weather worn that they have become transparent – and just so you don’t think that we do nothing all day (ok – almost nothing) the back end f the video show me working (Egads – work?  if work is so good for you – why don’t we make the sick people do it?)

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s