Cruising Life

May 14 – 21, 2013, Atouna, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here a week already. We keep talking about leaving, but haven’t yet. Perhaps tomorrow?

As we left off dear reader, we had slowed down to arrive after dawn. The excitement about arriving, the uncertainty about what the anchorage would be like and preparing a stern anchor setup lead to less sleep than usual. To our delight the sunrise was glorious and the sky clear when the new day arrived. The vista of the rugged and verdant island was breathtaking. The bay, even though filled with other Puddle Jumpers, was easy enough to manage and soon we were on the hook. Now, it really wasn’t quite that straight forward. There was the small matter of deploying a stern anchor (in addition to the familiar bow anchor) that required a bit of attention and trial-and-error. Fran’s idea was to set the bow anchor and then back down and drop the stern anchor. Richard’s was to do the opposite reasoning that we really have little steering in reverse but great steering forward. We eventually did it Fran’s way but it was as difficult to get into the right position as imagined. But it got done, well at least sort of, later we had to reset the stern anchor. By this time we were tired, but more than thrilled to have accomplished the passage with so little difficulty and while not setting any records, still in a respectable 28 days (26 if you deduct the two on anchor at Isle Socorro).

Fortunately, the Gendarmerie was closed for some repairs on the Tuesday we arrived so our 0900 appointment was no more. That meant a nap before assembling our dingy, Black Beauty (yes, we inherited the name, just like “RED” but it sure fits a large black inflatable). Our agent, the indefatigable Sandra, picked us and the laundry up at 1500 (that’s 3PM boat time) and dropped us off at the bank, which has a lovely little alcove with a view, air conditioned too, with a couple of ATMs. Well, what came next was a shock! We purchased 70,000 CFP of absolutely beautiful cash for something like USD 700. It’s really easy, just drop two digits and you sort of have dollars. Armed with our new trove we toured the “magasin” and got a couple of essentials before hoofing it to the only restaurant we knew of that was open, the renowned pizza place on the way out of town. Due to a slight error in our translation from French to English, we ordered the Sicilian, which turned out to be Anchovies and Capers. Can you say salty fish? But the Hinano beer was cold and Fran negotiated with the proprietor, accompanied by much loud exclaiming in French and arm waving, some sort of rum drink. It turns out that we were, well, early. They open at 1800 (now that’s what boat time? Oh, let’s not always see the same hands!) but due to our muddled state of mind (it had been a long night and a long passage) and the odd 2 hour time difference, we actually arrived just after 1600. We were graciously treated and got our pizza pretty soon after arrival. Now we have to tell you that being graciously treated is the norm here and we love it! Apparently the Polynesian influence softens even a skilled-at-rude Frenchman. After choking down a couple of slices of what was undoubtedly delicious pizza, Fran inquired about getting a taxi home and discovered that they Pick-up Andropov and so it was that we arrived at the dingy dock just as the intensity of the shower abated.

The next evening we had anchor issues (ours, or our neighbor’s, we’ll never know). So, we moved to another location, that we didn’t like, and decided we needed to have an anchor watch – yup, someone awake in the cockpit, ALL NIGHT LONG. We had thought that night watches during the passage were a challenge. Try sitting all night wondering just how close we could get before waking the other person to start the engine and hold ourselves off of the boat next to us. Don’t even ask how close we got. Remember, we’re from Alaska. There’s rarely another boat in the same cove with us, much less the 25+ we’re sharing this small cove with. It was hair-raising. So, the next morning, we moved again. This time, it stuck. Good spot, great holding, would be a shame to leave…

The scenery is more beautiful than we could have imagined. Like Kauai, yet different in some way. The mountains often have clouds ringing them, and even in the sun the clouds add beauty to the scene. It’s very warm here. We are beginning to get the rhythm of living with the heat and humidity. First, we arise early, do what we can in the morning because by late morning and early afternoon, it’s quite warm. All the shops in town close for the French version of siesta. We fully support this idea and have quickly adjusted to the afternoon nap. Then when the air cools in the evening we project some more, visit, have happy hour and go to bed fairly early. (the sun sets by 6 PM and rises about 6AM.) We do keep asking ourselves if there isn’t something we really should be doing – this cruising life is taking a little getting used to. I’m sure we’ll catch on soon. For now, we’re doing our best to adjust.

RED is doing well. The big item when we arrived was to scrape the growth off of his bottom. Turns out, his bottom is fine, we just had to remove some muscles and slime off of the waterline. He looks great now! We also have some very minor items to keep us busy in the cool mornings.

We’ve had lots of fun so far…
..We toured the island and saw many tiki’s, had a traditional lunch including; goat, pork, Poisson cru, star fruit juice, banana poi, rice and Hinano beer (from Tahiti). We shared the tour with our friends from sailing vessel “Nepenthe”, crew from New York City, Los Angeles and two young guys who quit their jobs and after sailing paradise this summer will head off to graduate school. A very fun group who, along with John the tour guide, made the day memorable. Oh, and there were mangos. EVERYWHERE, just for the taking!

..We’ve yet to get to town early enough in the day to acquire the famed baguette’s. Apparently, France subsidizes some items here in French Polynesia, including: baguette’s, butter (canned, mmmmm), and cheeses, but not wine. Tomorrow we will make it in time to get the baguette, really.

..We’ve found the produce ‘truck’ and picked up some beautiful cucumbers and tomatoes for our dinner tonight. They also had the biggest green beans we’ve ever seen (yes, bigger than they grow in Alaska). These were easily two feet long. WOW!

..We’ve spent a total of 1 hour on the internet (hence, no photos with this blog post).

..We’ve pretty much perfected our dingy handling and now land, anchor and secure like pro’s. And we usually get in and out without getting (very) wet. Next we’ll add the engine and see how that goes.

..We’ve been to the three restaurants in town, even had our “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and yes, pizza.

We’re surprised at how many new, nice vehicles there are here. Many Land Rovers, new Nissan trucks, etc. The main industry here in Atuona seems to be tourism, with even a very nice pension (sp?) up on the hill, but the rest of the island seems to be focused on copra production (coconut meat that is pressed for the oil).

We’re regularly reminded that our experience here would be much more enjoyable if we understood the language. As my good friend Patricia, the French teacher says, French is REALLY hard Fran. That and we’ve just spent 5 months in Mexico where our poquito Espala was pretty solid; we’re having difficulty adjusting. As our French tutor from S/V Osprey says – time to get the taco’s out of our head!


Fran & Richard

One Comment

  1. As I sit here basking under the flourescent lights not doing anything to perfect my tan, I can almost here Jimmy sing “One Particular Harbor’ and think of how much fun you’re having.
    Thanks so much for the update!