Friday, 29 April 2016

Time to Leave for the Tuamotus ….. April 2016

14 – 22 Apr: Nuku Hiva, Marquesas to Raroia, Tuamotus – 16 02S 142 28W

We’ve Left the Marquesas!

Our time in the magical Marquesas has come to an end, 8 months of sitting out the cyclone season has slipped away, and we feel it is safe enough to slowly start heading home.

We weighed anchor from Taioha’e Bay on Nuku Hiva’s southern coast at 9am and headed south.  Our first day out eased us gently back into passage mode, light winds, relatively flat seas, outstanding scenery as we cruised down Uo Pou’s western shores, an early dinner with an interesting sunset as backdrop, ahh life was good.
Then around 9pm the bubble burst, and out of it came rain.  Never have we had so much rain, so hard for so long, anywhere, ever!  Reports from the Marquesas were 4 inches in 3 hours, it was amazing, with it came squalls over 30 knots and the darkest sky you could ever dream of.
With a double reef in the main and a sliver of headsail rolled out we ran off downwind into the inky blackness in front of us.  Not one of our better nights at sea but after the rain comes the rainbow, and the pot of gold at the rainbows end was overflowing with the most beautiful sailing conditions you could ever hope for for the remainder of the passage.
P4160038 P4160039 P4170054
Heading South for 466 MilesP4170059

Raroia is one of the most eastern atolls of the Tuamotus Chain, its also part of French Polynesia and lies almost due south of the Marquesas.  In the light winds we were able to glide along keeping the wind just in front of the beam, magic conditions – until morning of day 4 when the wind eased to under 10knots and backed.

Skipper finally got to play with Big Red, last flown during the typically horrendous passage from Curacao to Colombia in the Caribbean, but we had super conditions during our trip in April 2012 but Big Red has not seen the light of day since.
P4170066Baptism of Fire

By midday day 4 it was clear that wind power alone would not get us to the reef pass by slack water at 3pm, so Big Red got put back to bed and Olive the Volvo was fired up.  Much discussion has been had via email and our ssb radio nets regarding the slack water times for entering these atolls.  If you miss slack you can have up to 8 knots of current with or against you, depending on the pass, size of lagoon, wind conditions and whether the tide is coming in or going out.  So many variables.
We had been told high tide was at 3pm, then the tide would be going out, so the current would be against us. P4210119 Our e.t.a was 3.40pm which we knew wasn’t ideal but thought it would be ok, however we found out later slack water had been at 2pm, we were way too late!!   Also, of course, if you miss slack you have to wait 6 hours till the next one which in our case would have been dark and definitely not an option so it was now or 8.30am the following morning!
We ploughed through the standing waves at the entrance then endured 22 minutes under full power to go 200 metres whilst being swirled this way and that, but we made it, we got spat out into the lagoon, calm flat clear water.  Phew, lesson learnt, might just try and get the timing better next time!

P4190049Another Paradise Discovered
The contrast of these specs of coral atolls to the towering peaks of the Marquesas is huge, these truly are mere dots in the vast Pacific Ocean.

The tiny village here has a population of about 180 yet there is a top quality air strip for the once weekly flight and the best dock we have seen in a long time for the twice monthly supply ship.  Cell and internet is very flaky but all the humble homes have solar panels, some have satellites for tv, a couple even have jet skies.  It’s a very laid back place and we will stay a while as we wait for the weather to settle further west.
 2016 Tuamotus2016 Tuamotus
Meanwhile we have 4 yachts here now, there is snorkelling to be done, beach bar-b-ques to be had, the pearl farm to be visited, the Kon-Tiki landing site to be found, endless anchorages to be explored.  Could be a busy time!
Slipping Into Tuamotus Time

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Move Marvels of the Marquesas ….. Apr 2016

04 - 14 April 2016:  Taioha’e Bay, Nuku Hiva – 08 55S 140 05W 

P4080009P4080020Haven’t Gone Yet!

In the last blog I hinted that were we looking at a weather window to finally leave our cyclone season home of 8 months.  Well the winds lightened some and we didn’t feel the window would be quite long enough for us to sail the whole way to the Tuamotus, so we are still here – but not for long! 

New departure is planned for tomorrow, so here I am at 6.30am writing a blog posting having got up at 5am in the dark to get to the market before the produce arrived.  I am elated to report that I purchased 3 bags of tomatoes from the delivered 10, tomatoes for the first time this year!  Leeks, beans, capsicum and aubergines were also bought but not a lettuce in sight.  Good thing I got everything they had last week and jammed it in the fridge.P4080023

Our Last Tiki Tour

P4080025Our Australian friends Carola and Jim off Koza arrived from Mexico and it was great to catch up with them briefly.  They moved on in the weather window we passed up on and are now already in the Tuamotus while we are still thinking about it!  We hired a pickup for the day with them and finally got to see the interior of this amazing island, what an eye opener.P4080004

First we went up, up and up some more to the high ridge amongst heavy tree cover, then the road wound down to Taipivai where we had sat for a month at anchor earlier this year. P4080031Next we climbed again, we had a wonderful vista of the elusive Trois Cascades that we had spent a day hiking to and never found. The road got narrower and narrower, heavy forest surrounded us, long patches of dirt road became frequent - on we went.

Eventually we popped out on the north coast, stunning Hatiheu Bay lay below us.  On our way down we stopped at ancient paepae sights and sacred petroglyphs, revisiting some we had seen before and enjoying others we hadn’t. The crew of superyacht Dorothea give some perspective to the size of one of the trees at the paepae site, it was huge.

After a lunch stop it was back on the narrow road exploring the north coast then we retraced our steps high up again then took the road onto Toovii Plateau, wow!  This high, cool, flat and very scenic plateau was a beautiful blend of grassed farmland and planted pine forest, it was totally unexpected and we could have easily been in rural New Zealand.P4080038

Its Time      

So we are ready, provisioning completed, fuel yanks full, heavy rain currently doing a great job of topping up the water tanks, bottom barnacle free and slippery.P4080043  Farewells have been said (many times), care and walking of Spot and Goldie the cruiser dogs has been handed over to new arrivals. The weather forecast is being rechecked for the millionth time.

It is just a 4 day passage to the eastern atolls of the Tuamotus, they are small coral outcrops, absolute specks on a map, low lying with very little infrastructure and just small communities.  Most of them have lagoons inside them with a surrounding coral reef, and we will chose the ones that have relatively easy passages to enter and exit.

Walking the dogs will be replaced by swimming with the sharks!  


Monday, 4 April 2016

Nearly Time to Leave the Marquesas ….. Apr 2016

12 Mar – 03 Apr 2016:  Taipivai to Taioha’e, Nuku Hiva – 08 55S 140 05W 


Returning ”Home” To Taioha’eP3100001

Our sojourn away from “the big city” lasted over a month, it was hard to leave idyllic Taipivai but eventually we ran out of money and the closest ATM machine is back here in Taioha’e, so we have returned. 

Enroute we were thrilled to hook another 4 foot Wahoo, its only 6 miles so we nearly didn’t even put the line out.  We are very proud of our efforts as there are not too many fish being caught by the cruisers moving around here, although the local fisherman bring them in by the dozen daily.  So smiles all round for Team Balvenie!

Back Into a RoutineP3280017

We have slotted back into “cyclone season” life here easily, boats have been coming and going at regular intervals and it was great to catch up with fellow Kiwi/Aussie cruisers Phil & Fay on Jigsaw, when they arrived in from Panama.  We first met them in Grenada and last saw them in St Maarten .  It has been refreshing to share that unique kiwi sense of humour over many happy hours with them.  We hope to catch them again soon. 

We have been exercising daily weather permitting, and are normally joined for our walk by Spot and Goldie who have become much loved “Cruisers strays”, its fun to P3280021have these 2 lively locals accompany us everywhere, including our grocery trips when they sit and wait while we shop, we shall miss them when we move on but now would not be a good time to adopt a dog onboard!

Should We Stay or Should We Go? 

The Cyclone Season is finally drawing to the end, however water temperatures are still high and dodgey weather systems continue to form further west.  We gave much consideration to leaving earlier this week with Jigsaw, they have had a dream run and with friends to meet in the Tuamotus needed to move on. 


We decided to stay a little longer, there is a lot going on this weekend as we have the World ARC Rally boats arriving by the hour, over 20 have arrived already.  The weather for their arrival has been atrocious, possibly the most rain in one day since our arrival in August.  Still, they have all had an excellent free boat wash and when the clouds clear they will have the most amazing display of waterfalls they are ever likely to see, we counted 17 plunging down the cliffs when the clouds lifted briefly.  The Rally participants sail around the world in 15 months, makes our nearly 13 years seem very very slow!


Blue skies and hot sun have returned, all but one waterfall has disappeared, laundry is hung to dry from over 50% of the boats at anchor, Rally participants have been lucky to see this stunning place during all its mood swings.


P4030046I had a great Sunday morning hike this morning with the Mezzalunas, Jan off Dulcenia, and of course Spot and Goldie the dogs.   We climbed high up on to the eastern ridge, wild tiny passionfruit the size of grapes covered the path, the view at the top was sensational. 

We have grown to love this remote island group in the Pacific, thousands of miles from continents, we shall miss it.   

Skipper Is Checking the Forecast …. Maybe a Departure Soon!!