Sunday, March 27, 2011


Taipi vai

Nuku Hiva, part deux

We had a beautiful sail from Taipivai around the eastern tip of Nuku Hiva Monday morning. We snagged a sweet 7-pound mahi-mahi and were chased down by acrobatic dolphins for most of the trip.
I was feeling pretty rundown, and opted to rest after we anchored up in Baie de Anaho, a picturesque and protected spot with coconut groves and white sandy beaches. Unfortunately, my illness worsened and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed, while Chris knocked out various Namaste projects. Sucks being sick in paradise!
But after two days of being an invalid, I awoke Thursday with a new lease on life and we headed out around the point to check out the western adjacent bay, Hatiheu. We grabbed a mooring at the wharf and hiked into this secluded village surrounded by spectacular peaks. After a few wrong turns (classic Marquesan exploring) we found our first destination - Tohua Hikokua. It's an archeological ruin site and well-restored ceremonial plaza with tiki sculptures. These sites consist of raised rock-wall platforms, and open gathering areas.
We headed further upland and discovered Kamuihei, a massive temple complex, which is marked by a sacred and gigantic 120-foot banyan tree. Chris wanted to feel its power a bit closer and decided to climb up 50 feet. This incredible jumble of ruins sits in a quiet jungle, and its mana (strength) is very evident. The location was restored and includes new indigenous gardens, stone walls and building a house on its original paepae, or foundation.
Fully awed by the historical sites, we returned to town to chill at Chez Yvonne's for a few Hinanos. We had heard the food was amazing there and inquired about an early dinner. They were happy to oblige their only customers. I'm so glad we asked - the food was phenonmenal. We feasted on wahoo poisson cru in coconut milk with fried breadfruit and plantains. We made quick friends with Yvonne's cats and enjoyed a relaxing meal before dinghying back at sunset to Namaste.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Man oh Manta!

After a few rainy days in Taiohae Bay, we pulled anchor Saturday morning and sailed over to Taipivai, the famous valley Herman Melville visited in 1842 and later wrote about in "Typee." Tropical precipitation continued to fall, but we were determined to get off Namaste. We dinghyed in and walked into the beautiful village. Chris has been here three times before and befriended a local, Mahina, and we went to visit him at his "kohe ha'e" - bamboo house. He recognized him immediately and proudly pointed to the windsurfing board Chris gave him on his last visit. It's displayed in the front part of his snack shack.
We visited briefly, with plans to return, and then took off in search of some local historical sites. It was insanely hot and humid for me, and brought back memories of my preseason, triple day training at University of Texas. But I armed myself with about a gallon of bug repellent, to fight off mosquitos and the infamous no-no's, and sunscreen to combat the intensity.
We found Site Melville the old-fashion way - by following the "X" on a tree near the road! "Te Ivi o Hou", the tohua or ceremonial site, is located in a remote part of the valley. We snaked down to the river and enjoyed some coconut milk after Chris opened one up with the machete he brought, a must on any Marquesan adventure. We cooled off our heels in the river, which was a "balmy" 75 degrees.
We also checked out the monuments at Pa'eke. Luckily, a local saw us wandering around in search of the trail, and hailed us over to show where it began. It's an incredibly powerful site, constructed around 1700 AD and consisting of 11 tikis, which they believe represent the ancestral gods of the Taipi sub-tribes. It was a gathering place for the warriors and chiefs.
On our walk back to the dinghy, we picked some limes, bananas and mangos. When we stopped by Mahina's, his wife Maeva loaded us up with grapefruits, fresh bread and more mangos. It's a tropical feast on this island, and food is in abundance everywhere!
We cooled off on the foredeck last night and watched the supermoon (it was the closest it's been to earth in 18 years) fade in and out of the clouds.
We woke up this morning to more rain, but the temperature was cooler and refreshing. The skies broke and we went for a dinghy ride to check out the two other small inlets in this bay.
After rounding a point, I spotted a familiar sight - manta wingtips on the surface near the point. All of a sudden, we realized we were surrounded by them. There were around 20 gentle giants feeding! We hopped in with our snorkeling gear and were witness to something I've only read about in books. The manta's were swimming in a circular motion, working together, to corral the zooplankton for efficient feeding. They were swimming so close to us, with their mouths wide open and we could actually look inside and see their gills filtering. It was phenomenal! They seemed completely unperturbed by our presence, constantly swimming close to make eye contact and let us stroke them, and we spent a half-hour watching the manta parade as we free-dove and played with them.
The only thing that got us out of the water was a lunch date on shore with Mahina and his friends and family. We were late, because we forgot to ask what time to come, but as they say "aita pe'ape'a" - no worries. It was fun to fumble through our French and Marquesan and they seemed happy to oblige. Mahina and his buddy entertained us for hours with music, as we feasted on cold red wine, breadfruit, cooked bananas, salad, rice and a bit of savory chicken and pig. They laughed at us being vegetarians, and told me I need to eat meat to "get strong."
It was an awesome day all the way around.
Not sure what our plan is yet. Maybe we'll move to Anaho Bay tomorrow, but we'll let you know.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taiohae Bay

The tropical rain is falling, cooling off Nuku Hiva from the high heat and humidity.
According to locals, the low-lying areas of this tropical paradise are unusually dry and the rain is a welcome relief. They haven't had a true "rainy season" for a few years and the foliage is suffering from the lack of water. The peaks and valleys up higher receive good precipitation from the squalls that roll through, and they're bursting with green.
We've had a great few days exploring the island and Taiohae Bay.
There has been a significant resurgence in maintaining traditional Marquesan history and culture and there are several newly restored ceremonial sites along the waterfront, shaded by massive banyan trees. We also visited Rose Corser, a former cruiser who's lived in Nuku Hiva for the past 20 years, and her unique Marquesan artifact museum.
Yesterday, we launched the kayak and paddleboard and toured the eastern side of our bay. We paddled to the point, about three miles, and got a great workout. We dined on the wharf at a great little local spot and feasted on poisson cru, our favorite! We visit the open-air (marche) every morning to devour the local bounty such as pamplemousse (grapefruit), breadfruit, mangos, and fresh veggies, including tomatoes to rival those from Michigan summers. And don't forget the fresh-daily baguettes!
We don't have a definite plan yet, but we're headed to Taipivai (Comptroller Bay) on the southeast side of the island. For all you readers, it's the valley where Herman Melville deserted to and spent six months 'captive' with the tribe. We'll do some exploring and hiking on shore to see ancient tikis and sacred grounds.
We'll likely visit Daniel's Bay, and travel along the protected west coast to scuba dive. Then we'll head to the northeast side of the island and Anaho Bay, which many people claim to be the nicest anchorage in all of the Marquesas. We will give you our opinion on that!

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Isla Clarion

Isla San Benedicto

Whale shark La Paz

Sail to Cabo January '11

Monday, March 14, 2011


We dropped anchor last night at midnight (PST) here in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva. After an easy check-in with the gendarmerie, we returned to the boat to put it back together after all these days of taking it apart :)
Namate is buffed and sparkly, and so are her crew, after her 16-day passage. We're slowly coming back to civilization, catching up with the devastating news from Japan, and getting back in touch with reality. We have wi-fi at the boat - Skype anyone?????
We went for a long walk this evening to stretch our sea legs and ended up at the Keikahanui Pearl for an amazing Marquesan dinner - tuna tar-tar for starters, and then parmesan crusted mahi-mahi with a local root vegetable and crunchy sweet potato tuna for entrees. It started to rain as we were about to embark on our sojourn back to the wharf, so the kind hostess gave us a lift - merci beucoup!
Explorations and adventures start tomorrow.....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Equator celebration

It's been 13 days since our departure from Isla Clarion and Namaste has been carrying her cargo with care and ease as we cross the Pacific Ocean en route to the Marquesas.
After a rough week of rolly conditions with moderate winds and confused seas, we've settled into the beauty and peacefulness of this passage. We've already sailed roughly 1600 miles with 650 miles still to go before we reach Nuku Hiva, the first of many paradises we plan to visit over the following months.
Our current location as of 6:30 pm PST, is 00'27"S, 132'41"W, steering 220M, with winds less than 10 knots, 2-4 foot swell, and traveling at 6.5 knots under motorsail.
At noon today, we crossed that magical imaginary line in the Pacific - the Equator! We stopped the boat to pay homage to Neptune and the Tahitian king of the sea-Ari'i Moana, which also happens to be the name of our godchild. With the boat hoved-to, we jumped in the 83-degree water, separately of course, to celebrate this rite of passage. After a shot of rum for us and a heavy pour for the gods, they returned the favor immediately. We looked up and a massive pod of short-finned pilot whales magically appeared! The timing of our offering, reaching the equator, and the whales was so improbable that had we not seen it with our own eyes, we would have never believed it. Pilot whales are social and travel in pods averaging between 10 and 50 together. Their sizes ranged from a 20-foot full grown whale down to the much smaller babies. They swam slowly and peacefully around Namaste for a good hour as we watched and took photos. They're known to be extremely curious and unafraid to approach boats. It was a true gift from the gods of the sea and we're eternally grateful.
Over the past few days, we've sailed through and were chased down by a few squalls in the ITCZ (inter-tropical convergence zone (doldrums), the meeting point of weather systems from the northern and southern hemispheres). Occasionally, we changed our course to avoid the menacing rain clouds moving northwest, especially those that looked like they packed a good punch of wind.
We bucked a pretty strong equatorial counter current for 36 hours before it shifted in our favor and we're now motor-sailing at a quick clip. We've had very light winds for the past 48 hours, less than 10 knots. But thanks to our new fuel-efficient prop, we're been traveling between 6-7 knots with our diesel only running around 1300-1800 rpms.
With our Perkins humming away we have plenty of excess power. We've been watching movies and Chris has been honing his James Bond fighting skills on Xbox. Everyone should rest assure, should we ever get boarded by pirates, Catt-007 is ready for action.
We've been doing lots of fishing, with only a little bit of catching, as we troll this vast ocean. On the seventh day we brought in a small and incredibly tender mahi-mahi and gorged on fresh fish tacos. Then yesterday we hooked up a beautiful albacore tuna and feasted on spicy tuna sushi rolls for dinner.
On the dark evening of day nine, four friendly dolphins decided we needed some company on our lonely sojourn south. It was an amazing sight. Their bodies were illuminated by the green-tinted phosphorescents and you could follow their dizzying path as they drafted in and around the bow wake. As quick as they appeared, they darted off to our disappointment.
The new moon appeared to us on Monday night to shed light on this incredible expanse, and we're looking forward to watching it grow and morph as we continue on our trek. The stars have been incredible. We've had some nights with complete cloud cover, but on those nights with only partial cover, the milky way has been picking up some slack for the absence of the moon. The southern cross remains fixed in the sky slightly to port. Venus has been the morning star, and when it first shines, it appears to be a ship on the horizon. However, the radar reads "rien" (French for nothing), and 15 minutes later the planet turns from yellow to white and is well above the horizon.
That's about all there is to report from Namaste. We're counting down the hours now until we pull into Taiohae Bay on the south side of Nuku Hiva.
Much more to come, as always...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

day 6

We're ticking off days and miles out here in the big blue on our passage to the Marquesas. We've covered 700 miles in five full days towards our destination, probably sailing close to 150 miles a day. We're unable to sail directly to Nuku Hiva, our first stop in paradise, because the wind has been out of the northeast. In other words, to sail Namaste southwest with this wind, it would be extremely rolly. So we're sailing on a broad reach trying to tick off some westerly longitudes before turning and heading south to cross the equator. We're just relieved to have consistent wind between 15-18 knots after almost 28 hours of motoring during the first two days of the passage.
This is day 6, since leaving Isla Clarion, and it's been pretty quiet out here. We've seen one ship, on our first day, as well as numerous ocean birds, and the flying fish and squid which seem to make the kamikazee jump onto our boat on a daily basis.
Temperatures and humidity are increasing at a steady rate. We've stowed away blankets and warm clothes and shouldn't see them again for a very long time! It's board shorts and sarongs all the way, and we couldn't be happier.
Our current location as of 10:30 am Pacific Standard Time is 10'01" N, 122'34" W. We have 15-18 knots of wind from the NE, with a 6-8 foot NE swell, traveling at a speed of 6.5 knots, steering 270M.
Much more to come....