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.
Heading South for 466 Miles
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.
Baptism 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. 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!
Another 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.
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!