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Marquesa islands to Tuamoto islands & crossing to Tahiti

Tuamoto and Society Islands

Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - Crossing from Marquesa to Tuamoto

Left  Hakaheteau on the island of Oa Pou in Marquesa Islands for Tuamoto (Manihi) today at 11am.

Wind is NNE force 4, we are sailing under genoa only at the moment. Log 16639, Course is 228 true, and about 450nm to go.

6 pm main w 2nd reef up, dark stormy clouds ahead of us and to the left ..wind shifting to NW, 8-10 kn.

We have tied the dinghy up at the stern rather than hoisting it on deck. This is a new way and we’ll see how it goes. (Retrospectively, we know now this is not a good idea, not so much due to friction or wear and tear, that was ok as we had secured the dinghy with 5 lines at least, but rather that the big swell caused waves to catch it and for the waves to come up over the back end of the boat and into the cockpit and so everything is covered in salt now).

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Second day out on our way to Manihi and the weather is rough. Have had 30+ knts of wind from SE all day and does not look like it will ease off overnight. Big seas and very overcast and windy. We are now tired and not looking forward to another long sleepless night. Have done about halfway at 8pm.

The good news is that we have wind and are moving fast and also that the wind generator seems to like it so we have full batteries.

We have been steering most of the day, easier on Ronnie. He can steer at night when it is more difficult for us.

Ronnie, our hard working autopilot.

Spoke with Takapuna (Pierre & Dominique) on SSB and realised that we had been half hour out on Papeete time all along. All has become clear… So we are now on Papeete time, which is -10 hours UTC. We needed to know this quite precisely in order to calculate the high and low tides in the Tuamoto archipelago.

Pierre from Takapuna has had an interesting life: often wondered what became of the children we meet and see sailing with their parents around the world;  well Pierre started sailing when his parent sailed from Europe to New Caledonia when he was 9 and he has not stopped since. He has not lived on land in a house since that time and he is now about 41. They are on their way back to New Caledonia after an around the world trip done in record time – just two years for the whole trip.

Also spoke with Music and heard that everyone has left Marquesa now. Both Holly B and Alexander III must be in front of us or already arrived and Music is about 100 – 140 miles behind us.

Amazingly neither Music nor Takapuna have had any wind yet, they are motoring and this is really tough in the current big swells.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Another long and rough day with fairly strong winds although the wind has decreased somewhat (we now have 25-30 knots still from the SE) and big swell. Not that we can complain we are speeding along, going faster and faster – 9 knots even 10 at times with the wind on the beam and the weather has improved so that we now have a fair amount of sunshine too.

But for some reason we are really tired and not at all adapted to this crossing. Perhaps we did not prepare sufficiently and are now sleep deprived and feeling slightly sick all the time. We can’t wait to get there just so that it is over.

Because of the strong winds we have decided to go to Ahe rather than Manihi as the access to the lagoon is safer and the anchorage is supposed to be more sheltered. Ahe is only another 18 miles or so from Manihi.  Looks like we’ll arrive at night… and we’ll attempt the entrance when we get there. High tide is at 2.30 am and the moon is nearly full. Ideal conditions except it is definitely not recommended to enter lagoons at night especially when you don’t know the pass.

I suddenly had a really bad migraine, luckily it did not last for too long only a few hours, but completely knocked me out and I felt very weak afterwards for the rest of the sailing. Also it affected my awareness and alertness and I was not fully aware that we were headed straight for the atoll and only 11 miles to go. Luckily Ivo woke up and took over.

We arrived as promised in front of Ahe at 2.30 am and went through the pass and sailed the 4-5 miles across the lagoon to the village on the SW side. So we entered the pass at high tide as recommended by the books, the high tide that is, not the night adventure. This passed with no incident with the current not more than a few knots so no real problem. We used Cmaps for the sailing the the lagoon and missed all the various coral heads and rocks that might be lurking out there.

The only small incident we had was when preparing to anchor and we hit the coral that forms a natural breakwater to a small harbour by the village. We did not see this barrier and so bumped into it, with no damage though.

When waking next morning and in daylight looking at our surrounding, I am amazed at what we accomplished – not going aground or hitting anything. We are nearly completely surrounded by reefs – how did we get here in the dark????  Well, thanks to a lot of pure luck, our guardian angels and to Ivo’s navigational skills. But let’s try to arrive during the day at the next stop, I am not sure my poor heart can take any more of these high levels of anxiety. Sailing at 6 knots downwind through reef infested lagoon, in the near darkness, unknown territory, I tell you, only fools or intrepid adventurers do things like that.

Saturday, August 28, 2004 - Ahe Atoll

After a sleep from 5am to about 10am we spent the morning cleaning the boat after the crossing. Everything covered in salt and everything felt grimy and ready for a thorough clean up. We then had pancakes and bananas for lunch, then a good scrub down and clean clothes and, at last, a nice long nap in the afternoon before going across to the village of Ahe.

Deep Blue, Music and Fiu in Ahe

Everyone very friendly and obviously generally affluent – drinking cans of coke and beer despite the cost and huge outboard engines on their very big speed boats.

Did not buy a carton of milk because the price for 1 litre is 250 CFO, over 2,5 USD.

This atoll has been devastated twice in recent years by hurricanes and we can see here and there foundations of houses left over where they did not bother to reconstruct anything on the same site.

There is another boat here in the lagoon – Deep Blue – from Portsmouth. Have not spoken with them yet.

The colour of the water here is that beautiful turquoise that all the brochures advertise. However the wind is still very strong – 20 knots ++, so not easy to go drifting around gently in the lagoon to visit.

While we were in the village having a look around a supply ship arrived and docked at the concrete dock. Big event, all the outlying motus (mini atolls) people came speeding in in their big motorboats and everyone sot of congregated at the dock to watch, pick up supplies or just to chat. We of course mingled with the crowd and really got the feel for the local atmosphere.

Unfortunately we no longer have any working camera so everything we saw will have to remain imprinted in our minds rather than on the computer.

Sunday August 29, 2004

Music called us on VHF this morning and they were in front of Manihi unable to enter the pass due to the strong winds and big waves. We suggested that they sail down to Ahe and anchor up in the same place as us. We are now waiting to see or hear from them. They were also thinking of just sailing straight to Rangiroa and from there on to Bora Bora.

Music did arrive here in Ahe early afternoon and came over to chat and share our meal so that they did not have to cook. Same as us, they had felt this was a tiring and rough crossing with the big seas etc. Of course they had also had to motor for the first 30 hours so it was really worse for them than us.


Ahe village, Tuamotos

It seems unlikely we’ll meet up with Alexander III & Holly B again – although we may just see them in Tahiti of course, at least Holly B. Alexander III, as far as we know will go straight to Fiji from here, bypassing Society Islands.

Monday August 30, 2004

We had a rest day (ha, ha), and spent the day working on our “task of the day” – long term cruiser discipline is to do one task a day – this is not a nine to five life, everything takes much longer and much more effort. So Ivo began working on fixing the salt water pump (another corroded contact) and the light indicator on the fridge while I sorted all the charts out and found a home for them that is more accessible. We did break briefly for a snorkel with Music on the little coral reef behind us in the afternoon, sad really to think that we are in this beautiful place with turquoise waters and sunshine and we spend most of the day inside working. Empathise with us long term sailors, we do work hard.  Anyway, at the end of the day, neither the fridge nor the salt water pump was fixed – one problem always hides another… and the boat looked like a bomb had hit it with snorkeling gear on the stern which we had forgot to put away, dishes lying in the cockpit waiting to be washed, the main cabin turned into a workshop with open toolboxes and soldering iron, screw drivers, saws, screws, nuts & bolts laying strewn over every available surface intermingled with half a loaf of bread, the fruit basket, clothes, books, half empty cups and glasses, leftovers from our banana pancake session from lunch, the rum bottle, an open packet of figs, the email modem half open because in the evening the connection failed and Ivo had to find out what didn’t work (we think now that the special USB cable for some reason has died), etc, etc.

Phew, will we be ready to leave tomorrow?

We went over to Music for dinner – first time inside their boat, very cosy and just little a small apartment once inside. The boat hardly rocks, being of steel and heavier than Fiu, so on can easily forget that one is at anchor somewhere. Ken, Mary have lived onboard for ten years now and since birth the kids have only known life onboard.

We had lovely coleslaw, deep fried Spanish makerel and couscous for dinner with white wine and brownies for dessert. What a treat!

Tuesday August 31, 2004 - Crossing from Ahe to Tikehao

We are planning to leave Ahe tonight on the high tide at 5pm and sail overnight to Tikehau where we will then spend a couple of days before heading for Tahiti. We are now talking more and more about all the things we would like to do while in Tahiti, some provisioning and several things need fixing such as the bimini and the genoa 4 has a small tear that needs repairing too. Then the radar reflector fell down a few weeks ago and needs fixing again in the shrouds, the VHF antenna at the top of the mast needs tightening, we may want to change furler sail down to the smaller genoa now, or perhaps put in place the staysail on the inner forestay so that we have another sail configuration option  as we are now slowly entering the are of the Pacific where tradewinds are no longer the predominant winds and we will begin to see lows forming (like the one that just passed this week)  and winds will be less predictable and we’ll most likely see stronger winds from time to time. The engine oil needs changing very soon, in fact we should really do this before we leave the Tuamotos, we need to recalibrate our wind instruments as they seem to always indicate a wind force about 10 knots more than the true wind, at least when we are going downwind…The steering column needs tightening, it has come loose and although we did tighten it once, it is now quite noisy when we are sailing in strong winds. We know that this is not a serious problem, but rather a maintenance problem.

One other yacht was at this anchorage while we were here: Deep Blue, a British couple who had recently bought this 15 year old aluminium boat in Trinidad and were now on their way to New Zealand. Fiona (electrical engineer)  and Lloyd were spending their time upgrading and modifying the boat as they were going along. They left Ahe at the same time as us to sail directly to Tahiti.

Left Ahe anchorage at 4pm to cross the lagoon and be at the pass for 5pm at high tide so that we could be on our way to Tikehau a distance of 120 miles. The entrance to Tikehau is on the western side of the atoll. Very slow going, the wind started out NE 15 knots as we went through the pass then slowed and veered to E 10 knots, sometimes ESE.

It was an experience to go through the pass when leaving Ahe. Although we had timed the exit to be in line with high tide, the race was still quite significant at the beginning of the pass just at the shallowest part of the channel. It looked liked boiling water but fortunately we had the wind pushing us and the tide slowing to slack water so the race was not so significant. But still impressive.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Log at 2.30 am September 1 after 10 hours of sailing is 17176.6. We have done 48 miles since leaving Ahe at 5pm. This is a little less than 5 knots average and at the moment we are even slower, doing an average of 4 knots.

9:08 AM  north of Rangiroa, still 30 nm to go to the entrance ..

We saw another yacht come out of Rangiroa pass as we passed early morning and sometime later were in radio contact with them. Boat is called Charm and is on its way to Suwarrov. They said that Alexander III were in Rangiroa and had been there since Saturday but that they were due to leave tomorrow Thursday.

We entered the pass at Tikehau at 2.30 pm approximately, in other words a little before high tide. However, the weather was so fine, with very little wind and quite sunny that we entered the pass under genoa and with the engine just lightly pushing. The wind , what little there was of it was from the North. Barely a ripple to be seen on the surface of the waters, is this only because of the good weather conditions and will it turn to a raging torrent when there is a stronger wind? Anyhow, we had decided to only go to anchor in front of the small fishing village situated just to the North immediately after entering the lagoon. This anchorage is well protected by a horseshoe of coral and sandbanks, particularly in northerly winds.

Fiu at anchor near Tikehau pass

So we anchored amongst the numerous coral heads that can be seen on the sandy bottom, but that are in 7-8 meters depth, so no risk to the boat, but potentially a nuisance when the anchor needs hauling up again…

As soon as we had anchored we noticed a multitude of fish around us, and decided to throw a couple of lines out to see if we could catch anything. Most of the fish were a sort of elephant fish, quite small silvery and bluish in colour, plus  a couple of groupers and a few yellow stripey ones with a fake eye at the tail end, jew fish I think they are called.

Ivo did eventually catch one of these elephant fish but we felt so sorry for it having been so stupid as to bite the hook which only had a slice of banana on it, that we threw it back. Its skin was like a shark skin, smooth one way and like sandpaper if stroking it the other way.  After spending about half an hour doing this off the side and stern of the boat, and Ivo even getting out the spear gun, you know, shoot a mouse with a machine gun sort of thing, we tired of that and Ivo went diving to see if the anchor was alright and also to clean a little of the hull. 

At last clear turquoise waters again Elephant fish in Ahe

During all this time we were looking around us and noticed that the tide seemed to be still coming in, that there was no significant race, in fact, as I am now writing 3 hours later, absolutely no sign of any current in the pass. The wind meanwhile had dropped completely and it looked like we were in for a very quiet night.

We went ashore late afternoon to walk around, spoke with a couple of the fishermen sitting at the waterfront. They said that 4 fishing families lived here. Very calm waters, we could see all the fish feeding in the shallows and even saw a small black tipped shark come in close. The hamlet of these fishermen is very basic, just their rather dilapidated shacks right at the water front, with a coconut grove at the back and then the northern side (windward) side of the lagoon where we could hear the breakers crashing onto the shore.  The fishermen have built “garage ports” for their motorboats, a shady cover on stilts also. On the right hand side of the hamlet looking from our anchorage there is a second very small pass, or cut through the reef barrier out to the sea. It looks a little like a river inlet.

The whole anchorage is extremely quiet, no noticeable movement of the water which is turquoise. On the one side we have the fishing hamlet, on the other side a sandbank with a skeleton of a hut on stilts. Picture perfect.  

As we slowly rowed back to Fiu the sun was setting behind the palm trees and the sky & scattered clouds were lit a fiery red interspersed with patches of blue sky and still some of the clouds a brilliant white colour. The tree line was darkly silhouetted against this sky so we were treated to a rare spectacle of an ideal setting for photography or filing. Pity we have no camera…..

Coming back to the boat we had our sunset drinks sitting up on the front deck near the mast and then Ivo cooked dinner: a potato salad with some ham, onions and sausage. Yum!

We sat outside until quite late just enjoying this incredibly beautiful night and anchorage, never have we had such calm. The water was like a mirror with the occasional turbulence of a fish being hunted by other bigger predators.  The sky was clear and starlit nearly as much as when we are sailing so we could sit in the comfort of the cockpit and look up and dream we were in a trendy Italian built star ship made to look like a 21st century yacht, sailing across the outer space on our way to visit friends in other stars. We are sitting in our clear covered atrium at the back our ship admiring the view as we glide across the deep space. Are we in year 3100?  The few lights around us in the lagoon were other ships busily on their way across outer space too to another star.

During the night waking up briefly– because it was so quiet? – and looking out, the lagoon was as still as a mirror, we have never seen this yet on our travels. What a wonderful place and time.

Thursday September 2, 2004

Woke this morning to an overcast and rainy day… what happened? Still no wind and lots of little fish under the keel. We could see the anchor at the bottom, just resting behind a coral head. We are anchored at about 6 meters depth. Ivo went in the dinghy across to the fish park in the entrance pass where the fishermen were. They chase the fish into this park which is fenced in so that the fish once in cannot escape but still benefit from the current in the pass. Here the fish are held alive in captivity until a supply ship comes in and take them to Tahiti. The fishermen gave us 4-5 small reef fish, all edible according to them, and all on our Ciguatera danger list. Oh well, they are small and presumable they know best. We’ll have them fried for lunch and some we’ll keep and put into a pasta salad later.

I am not too well, a tummy upset so am now on black tea and biscottes. Made bread though this morning which Ivo is happily eating with strawberry jam.

Early afternoon Music arrived and anchored up next to us. We had dinner over on their boat, including yummy brownies that Mary made. They had a good sail down, not much wind so very relaxing for once.

Friday September 3, 2004

Nice weather again today, the wind having shifted around from North west to South and southeast late last night and now in the East, so  we decide to tour the lagoon. We leave fairly early after unwrapping the anchor chain from the various ‘bommies’ (coral heads) and set off northward to stop for an early lunch in one place with beautiful clear waters, brilliant white coral sand and a fringe of palm trees all along the beach. We see baby black tipped shark in the small pools and eels as well as other small fish, and collect shells from the beach. Ivo goes across to the exterior side of the motu (small coral islets that form the edge of the lagoons) and briefly swims in the breakers – absolute madness, particularly when on your own – and when thrown back onshore by the waves does scrape the skin of his ankle. Ivo had also the previous day cut himself on the wire fence of the fish park so has a slightly infected foot now.  Hopefully his last tetanus vaccination is still good.

Anchored in front of Eden in Tikehau Music &  Fiu in Tikehau

We then leave this little place and head across the lagoon for the small settlement we have head about, a religious community called Eden where we can obtain fresh vegetables and also buy pearls.

On the way across Ivo tries to recalibrate the instruments and we are turning in circles – if anyone is watching us and doesn’t know that to calibrate you need to turn the boat twice in complete 360 degree circles, they must think we have gone mad!  Unable to fully re-calibrate, will have to try again some other time.

We then stop at a small coral patch in the lagoon and Ivo goes swimming to see if there are more fish out here than at the edge.  I am standing idly watching from the bow when I suddenly see a shark on the other side of the patch, purposefully on its way around to see whether Ivo could perhaps be edible? It’s an adult shark, not one of these little baby ones, so I am shouting as loud as I can hoping that Ivo will hear me before he comes nose to nose with the shark. Phew, he (Ivo I mean) sticks his head up out of the water and I am able to scream to him ‘shark, shark, big shark, come back to the boat, swim fast, faster…’ By my screaming I probably scared the shark, he dived down then and we could not see him anymore.  And Ivo made it back to the boat in one piece, ducttaped flippers and all. What a fright though for both of us. Of course when we met up with Ken & Mary again later they saw the funny side of this and now call Ivo ‘shark bait’!. Well by this time we could also laugh about it.

There is another boat at anchor here too, an American yacht. Music is there waiting for us and we quickly change and hop in the dinghy with them to go visit the community. 10 people live here, they seem to all be from Tahiti although they are of Chinese origin. This religious community has a leader (of course), seems more like a Chinese business man located in Taiwan, and the main message is about focus on getting back to nature. Which presumably is why they cultivate organic vegetables. We were able to buy lettuce, Chinese cabbage & some spring onion for Music and ourselves, at 500 CFO. They obviously use nightsoil as their compost, at least that is what the smell indicated. Very pretty and tidy little community.  We were able to buy some black pearls too, just a few for souvenirs really.

Tikehau in the Tuamoto islands Eden, a religious community in Tikehau

Came back to the boat and Ken & Mary & the kids came across for drinks and dinner, our turn to do the dishes. We had pasta salad with fish, Ivo made a Croatian dish with potatoes, loads of garlic and the Chinese cabbage which was really delicious and Mary made a salad with the fresh lettuce. What a meal and we were all hungry so ate nearly everything. Had a bit too much to drink, 2 G&T’s and some wine… a slight headache next morning. Never mind we had an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Another nice day, another ‘Sunday’. We have this new week system on Fiu – a week usually consists of 6 Sundays and 1 week day, although there are some weeks where we have 7 Sundays. 

Visited the village in Tikehau, a very neat and orderly little place, each house with a cultivated garden and lawn. The anchorage was quite rolly so we only stayed a few hours to visit the village, then  motored up to the anchorage near the pass just in time to drop anchor as it was getting very dark. this lagoon is a lot tricker to navigate at night than was Ahe as there are no precise e-charts available and a lot more coral heads in and around the channel between the village and the pass.

One of several streets in Tuherahera Meg Brodie from Music

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Left anchorage just inside pass at Tikehau at 6.30am this morning. Went through pass with mainsail up and motored out, no particular current against us despite it supposedly being incoming flow toward high tide.

Log was 17.274, wind is variable E – ESE – ENE 8-12 knots. We have 160nm to Papeete, Tahiti and expect to arrive sometime tomorrow.

Monday, September 6, 2004

During the night we had more wind and made good time for about 12 hours after which the wind then died down again when we were close to Tetiaroa (Marlon Brando’s private island) and about 20 miles away from Tahiti. We ended up motoring for the last 4-5 hours of our journey to Tahiti.

The weather was not so nice the second day, all drizzly and grey with poor visibility. 

We did eventually make it into Papeete harbour at about 5pm, just before dark and moored up stern to the yacht quay which is situated right in the middle of town by the promenade and the traffic.

We went for a quick walk around after arrival and a shower to discover that all shops close early, like really early: 5 – 5.30pm. But there is a McDonald’s just a few blocks from the quay….shame on us!

Tuesday September 7, 2004

The night here was relatively quiet, the traffic dies down early and the area where the yachts are moored is protected by a breakwater wall against all the big ferries and freighters’ backwash.

When we had arrived last night we had been told by the skipper of Tumbleweed, a small American boat nearby us, that there had been a lot of theft onboard the yachts here. Deep Blue, the British yacht we had met earlier in Ahe, had been boarded at night while they were asleep and a lot of their electronics and valuables had been stolen. However, the police had actually seen the thieves get onboard and had arrested them. So about an hour after the burglary, the police came and knocked on the boat to wake up Fiona & Lloyd to hand back all their stuff! A German boat at quay had been boarded twice and the second time the owner had actually used his gun to shoot at the intruders.

This could be why there are so few boats here at this mooring, unless of course it is also because it the low season.

The first thing we did this morning was to go to the immigration (why??) and of course they then insisted that Ivo as non Eu citizen post a bond in order to be allowed to stay. So the next 24 hours were then spent checking out both the various travel agencies for the possibility of obtaining a refundable ticket with little or no penalty, and the various banks to see what the procedure and cost would be to place a bond through them.  The cost of the bond is 830 USD and the banks would charge in total about 60 USD in fixed and exchange commission, plus of course there is the requirement to post the bond in local currency and therefore exchange hard currency to CFO twice, the second time when the bond is refunded. A complete rip off by the banks, even the immigration officer admitted to that.

So we found a travel agency who would charge a cancellation fee of “only” 50 USD.

Music, our Kiwi friends arrived just before dark and said they had heard from Holly B who had been close by and who had tried to call us over the VHF. They had been anchored down at Phaeron bay and had come up by bus to go to the nightclubs and had therefore seen Fiu at the quay. They also said that Caroline and we think Julian, had both caught Cigutera and were still in Rangiroa.

While we were in Tikehau  we met the crew from “Dark Magic” an American yacht who told us that they had caught Cigutera in Fatu Hiva and had been very ill for about one month, necessitating hospital treatment. They had bought fish off a local fisherman so had trusted that the fish was edible! That could easily have happened to us, we also thought that the fish would be safe if the fishermen said is was. Well, we now know to not even trust that.

Luckily we are extremely careful and would rather throw out any doubtful fish than eat it.

After the day spent checking out the agencies and banks, going to the internet café (10 USD per hour), and looking for a camera shop to possibly buy a new one since we no longer have one since Fatu Hiva we are exhausted and retire early.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Yesterday was a long and tiring day, we are no longer to all the noise and pollution as well as all the administrative hassle.

We were able to hand the Olympus camera in to a camera shop’s repair centre and are now waiting to hear from them whether they can repair it.

Music cleared in and out at the same time so avoided this current hassle we have with the bond. But we did manage to obtain a ticket and have Ivo cleared in today, with permission to stay a month. In the end it cost us nothing, because even the cancellation fee we did not pay since we only had the ticket an hour, more or less just so that immigration could take a photocopy of the ticket.

Music left early morning for the better anchorage about three miles to south along the west coast, inside the main barrier reef, just after the airport. This anchorage is in front of the Taina marina and very close to the big supermarket, Carrefour.

We also left for this anchorage in the afternoon and managed to refuel in the marina before dark. Because we had all the right papers (the clearance paper with duty free fuel authorization from the customs office) we were able to buy duty free fuel which represented a significant savings. We paid 50 cents USD per litre instead of nearly one dollar.

In a few days we'll sail to Moorea, Bora-Bora and other Society Islands.

 [To be continued ]