Duet has been in French Polynesia for
about 7 weeks. We cruised the Marquesas Islands for three weeks
after our arrival. They are really spectacular, they look just like
Jurassic Park, high stone cliffs, lush vegetation. They are also
quite hot and humid, so Duet's air conditioning was working overtime.
After the Marquesas, we visited an atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago
for two weeks, before moving the boat to Tahiti, where she will spend
Our big news is that we have decided to
keep Duet in French Polynesia until mid 2018, rather than continuing
to New Zealand this year. This area has too much to offer, and it
took too much effort to get here, to rush through it. When we return
in late August, we shall cruise the Society Islands and the Tuamotus
We will return to the boat in February
to do some boat work and perhaps a little touring. November to April
is the wet season here and there is some risk of cyclones, so we
don't want to go far from shelter during that time. Tahiti is
infrequently hit by cyclones, it tends to just get brushed, so we
hope that Duet will be well protected.
When we leave French Polynesia, we will
be bound for Australia. Astute readers will note that we are no
longer going to New Zealand, at least just now. We think we will
find the westbound journey to Australia, particularly with just Nancy
and Ron aboard for most of the trip, easier than the southwestern
track required for New Zealand. As is obvious from this post,
however, plans change.
Logistically, remaining in French
Polynesia is easier than you might think. Duet can stay up to 3
years on a temporary import permit. Nancy and Ron hopefully can get,
with some paperwork and an interview, a 12 month visa. Papeete is a
major yachting destination so we can find everything from boat
washers to a 300 ton lift, should we need it. Our insurance has no
restrictions, all that was required was a navigation change, with no
change in premium. We can even extend our duty free fuel permit for
another 6 months.
Now that we've disclosed the big story
up front, let's go back to the start. We arrived in Nuku Hiva, in
the Marquesas Islands around noon on Sunday April 2 after 17 days at
sea. We ran up our yellow “Q”, for Quarantine, flag and had a
beer. This tasted pretty good, we must admit, as, other than our
brief taste of rum at the Equator, we'd spent 17 days as a dry ship.
We then watched our buddy boat Daybreak anchor, and headed over to
her for a celebratory dinner, where much fun was had by all.
Daybreak gifted us several pounds of the 200 pound blue marlin they
landed during the trip and both crews got a much needed night of
The next morning we went ashore and
checked into French Polynesia. This process was made much easier
with help from Kevin, the local agent, who works with our agent,
Tehani, in Tahiti. Kevin filled in all our paperwork, drove Ron to
the local Gendarme office, where our passports and boat papers were
stamped and Ron met the Chief Gendarme, which apparently doesn't
happen to everyone. An hour later we were legal. After that we took
a walk, and bought some local beer, which was $16 a six pack. French
Polynesia is not for the faint of wallet.
Taiohae Bay, Nuku HIva
Nancy even managed to pay a bill, via wifi. It took 45 minutes but who's counting. There are far worse places to be paying bills!
Taiohoe Bay, Nuku Hiva, is a beautiful
bay in the center of the caldera of the old volcano that formed Nuku
Hiva. It is, however, the rolliest place we have ever anchored. We
immediately put the flopper stopper in the water to counter the 1-2
foot swell which ran steadily shoreward throughout the bay. It did
help, Ron took some video of the “level” in front of Duet's
engine room door. With the flopper in the water, we rolled about 5
degrees, without it we were rolling about 10. That said, we were
anxious to find somewhere less bumpy. What we didn't know, and it
was probably a good thing that we didn't, is that there are few
anchorage in the Marquesas that aren't rolly. They are all open
roadsteads, and the prevailing swell comes right in the door. The
only ones that sometimes don't roll are the ones on the north side of
Nuku Hiva but, when we were there, the weather was coming from the
north, so they would be rolling too.
Video of the flopper stopper working is shown below
Flopper Stopper Working
Duet has two dinghies, the big one
which we normally use, and the small one, which is used for difficult
landings. The big one relies on the hydraulic crane to launch and
retrieve it. So, when we first arrived, we launched the big dink, as
it hauls all three of us comfortably and was easy to dock at the
rolly quay. Sean and Nancy used it for a provisioning trip, and to
haul the trash and used oil, after Ron changed the oil in the main
and generator. Taiohoe Bay is very welcoming to cruisers, there is
no charge to dispose of trash or oil, unlike many places we have
Sean ready for ferrying duty.
The provisioning is pretty good,
considering how remote the Marquesas are. Almost everything comes in
via the supply boat, except for some fruit and vegetables. There
isn't much available on the fruit and veg front, Nancy rapidly
learned that if she saw it and wanted it, she should buy it, as it
wouldn't be there long. The bread was locally baked and very good,
there was excellent cheese and plenty of great NZ butter. We didn't
buy any meat, but everything was available, from New Zealand lamb to
French duck. Most things were expensive, except the bread and
locally grown fruit and vegetables. We did eat out one night with
Daybreak's crew and found the prices quite high. The food ranged from
great to mediocre, depending on what you ordered.
When the time came to refuel, we
recovered the big dink using the crane. Once the recovery was
complete, we noticed that the crane had suffered an arterial
hydraulic fluid bleed. The good news was the dink was already on the
boat, not still in the water. The bad news was that the motor that
drives the crane's power rotation function, which is critical to
safely managing the 750 pound big dink, had what Ron and Sean figured
was a bad seal and needed to be replaced or rebuilt. The crane did
swing around a bit during the long crossing without stabilizers. That
said, swinging around shouldn't destroy the seal, so Ron is looking
forward to taking the motor apart to see what really happened.
One of the things we've learned on this
trip is that stuff breaks. You can either let it stop you enjoying
the journey, or not. We choose not. Someone, we can't remember who,
wrote “tie a knot and go on” to describe dealing with adverse
circumstances. This has become a new Duet saying. So we tied a knot
in the crane and went on by using the small dink for the rest of our
stay. The small dink and motor can easily be deployed manually. The
small dink, however, is slow and quite wet in any conditions other
than flat calm. That said, it ran fine through the remainder of our
trip. Also, unlike Alaska, the water in French Polynesia is warm, so
repeated dousings were not a big deal.
The dinghy dock in Taiohae Bay, photo credit to sailing vessel mysticeti.
After Ron and Sean worked through a
diagnosis of the crane, emails went out to the technical support guys
at Steelhead. Rebuilding the motor is apparently difficult, so we
decided to order a new one, although Ron will also try to have the
old one rebuilt or rebuild it himself. During the next three weeks
we sorted out the cost to get it delivered to Tahiti. The
shipping was more than the part, so in the end we decided to hand
carry it back when we return in August. In the meantime we figured
out a good way to launch and retrieve the little dink. Landing it in
Nuku Hiva with three of us aboard (it's load limit) wasn't so easy,
but we managed it. Then we got organized to depart for the rest of
our tour of the Marquesas Islands.
Sean made a habit of buying the crew ice cream every time we went ashore in Taiohae Bay. We hate to admit it, but we kept doing it after he left.
First, though, we refueled. In Nuku
Hiva this is an interesting exercise involving a med moor, which is
not something we have done before. This operation had been described
by boaters who had gone before us as not something you really wanted
to sign up for, but we had no choice, so off we went. To be honest,
refueling was something that had worried Ron and Nancy ever since we
decided to come to the Marquesas, but we figured if other boats could
do it, so could we.
To reach the fuel hose, you need to
back the boat up to a large concrete commercial dock and line her
stern up with a single bollard. Setting the boat up for this is a
multi step process. First, you drop the anchor, about 300 feet out,
so you can get enough chain in the water to be sure she doesn't drag
the anchor while being shoved around by the surge of the waves
banging against the dock. Then you slowly back up, paying out the
chain, pick a distance from the dock to set the anchor and set it by
pulling on it, the same way we do every time we anchor. That
hopefully ensures that she will stay put at your set distance from
Then you put on the snubber to unload
the windlass, which another boat neglected to do several days before,
thereby destroying their windlass as the surge yanked their chain
back and forth. After all this you hope you end up close enough to
the dock for the fuel hose to reach, or else you have to do it all
again. The hose is pretty long, so you don't have to get much closer
to the dock than about 20 feet. Frankly, you don't want to get any
closer than that, it's a big concrete dock and not friendly to
Ron calmly managed the anchoring and
the positioning using a combination of radar and Nancy feeding him
numbers from our range finder as we got closer. It worked pretty
well. The big advantage was we had Sean, who could manage the lines,
while Ron and Nancy got the boat lined up. Without him it would have
been doable, but harder. Kevin often serves as a third crew member
for boats refueling and we might have gone with that option, had we
This process is made more interesting
by the continuous sea surging against the dock. The surge causes
Duet to move up and down and forward and back, thereby stressing both
the anchor and the lines from her stern to the dock. The primary
line securing her to the dock (we also had a backup just in case)
made a low pitched rumble as it stretched and transmitted vibration
to the hawse it was attached to. Nancy was not a fan of this noise.
The lines had to be adjusted throughout the process to account for
the stretch and keep Duet properly positioned, so no strain was
transmitted to the fuel hose.
Attaching these lines is an art in and
of itself. First you have to have the stern lined up straight with
the dock bollard, not blowing off one way or another. Duet doesn't
have a stern thruster, so backing down straight was a challenge,
fortunately both days we did this (yes we did it twice, since we used
quite a bit of fuel cruising the Marquesas and wanted full tanks for
the run to through the Tuamotus to Tahiti) we were lucky and the
winds were relatively calm. We also picked days where the surge was
low, and went as soon as the fuel dock opened, as mornings were
calmer than the afternoons.
So there you are, neatly backed up,
about 20 feet off the dock, but now you have to get the lines to the
dock. Fortunately for us, Sean can really throw a dock line. He
learned it as part of his river rescue training. Sean is based in
Vancouver, Washington, on the Columbia River, so his fire department
also does river rescues. He threw the lines. The fuel guy caught
them and tied us up. But what if we try something like this and it's
just Ron and Nancy?
Sean had the answer, he gave us a line
throw bag, which even Nancy could throw it's full length of 25 feet.
So we could have thrown that and then attached a dock line to it.
Actually we did throw it to pass our credit card back and forth when
it came time to pay, and it worked beautifully. Sean uses these bags
on the river rescue boat and also while working as a fireman, in case
he needs to get a line to someone. We highly recommend them, they
would also be handy in a man overboard situation, or to pass a line
or package from one boat to another. We keep ours on the floor by
the starboard pilothouse door, where it is readily available in an
Once we got the lines to the dock, and
the hose to Duet, we started fueling. It was slow, since we were
fueling from a standard gas station pump. We specified how many
liters we wanted, by tank, and the attendant set the pump to deliver
that. When we had filled one tank, we attracted his attention (Sean,
among his other skills, can also whistle rather loudly) and he would
reset the pump for the next tank. The first time, when we took on
slightly over 900 gallons, this process took over 3 hours to
complete. The second time we only bunkered 300 gallons, so that
Fueling at Taiohae Bay
Fuel prices in French Polynesia are
quite reasonable, under $3/gallon with the duty free exemption, which
our agent helped us get. Without it, fuel is over $6/gallon. We have
found having an agent very useful, Tehani has helped with hotel
reservations for Sean, dockage for Duet, paperwork, etc. Kevin is a
great guy, he handles the check in in Nuku Hiva, has rental cars
available and he knows a lot about the island.
The following is a longer video of our trip around the Marquesas. The various places we visited are shown and are discussed below.
Cruising Around the Marquesas
So, after fueling, we set off for Ua
Poa, which is about 20 miles southwest of Nuku Hiva. It's a small
island, famous for it's rock spires. Sometimes you even get to see
the spires, although they are often covered by clouds. We did see
some of them as we headed towards the island. We tried to anchor in
the main bay of D'Hakahau, but it is small and was already full of
So we headed westward around the island
and ended up in an interesting spot in Bay de Vaiehu. It is bowl
shaped and the swell rumbles up the cliff edges and then back out.
There was a catamaran there before us, so we anchored in about 60
feet of water in the center of the bowl. The sunset was fabulous,
and we took our daily swim. After a day of cruising, there is
nothing like jumping into the clear, relatively cold (85F) water of
the South Pacific.
The next day we continued on around Ua
Poa, bound for the island of Tahuata, which was an uphill run, into
wind and wave, of about 65 miles. Our arrival in the northern part
of the Marquesas at Nuku Hiva meant we had to beat our way south,
against the prevailing trade winds, to the other islands. The plus
was, once we got there, coming back would be easy. In the meantime,
Nancy slept a good part of the trip, head seas not being her
favorite. Sean took most of the watch, with Ron resting in the salon
in case he needed backup. Head seas aren't Ron's favorite either.
Sean had a great time, as he had not piloted Duet in head seas
before, and even made some video.
Sean is shown below with Sky Diamond, who belongs to his daughter Elizabeth. He took pictures of Sky Diamond in all sorts of unlikely places to show Elizabeth when he returned home.
Tahuata had gotten rave reviews in the
Marquesas Cruising Compendium. There are few cruising “guides”
to French Polynesia, especially the more remote islands of the
Marquesas and the Tuamotus. The Compendiums are prepared by the
sailing vessel Soggy Paws and are a compilation of guidebook
references and cruising reports from those who have gone before us.
They are available free from the Soggy Paws website. We relied on
these extensively. We also had Charlie's Charts for French Polynesia,
which, while out of date, did give us some additional information.
Anyway, the word on Hanamoenoa Bay on
Tahuata was that it was the most perfect beach in the Marquesas.
That alone recommended it to us. We wanted somewhere we could hang
out, sleep late, swim, snorkel, and generally recover from the long
journey, before Sean flew home. Hanamoenoa fit the bill perfectly.
We were the only boat there for several nights. We could walk on the
beach, but not go inland, as the natives who lived there forbade it.
That didn't matter, it was a beautiful beach and the snorkeling was
great. Nancy even managed to teach Ron and Sean a cannonball dive,
which she learned as a child. They couldn't make as big a splash as
she could, which everyone was sure was due to her better dive
technique, rather than a difference in body mass, but they had a
great time trying.
We even did some boat projects. First, though, Ron and Sean discussed which projects to do, from seems to be an endless list
Nancy worked on the blog
Ron and Sean fixed the ice maker, a project which was well received by all.
To celebrate the now working ice maker, Ron taught Sean to make a Manhattan, which, while it doesn't really count as a boat project, was fun.
Sean cooked breakfast several mornings
Ron inventoried all the belts on the boat
Nancy and Sean did some cleaning
Nancy cleaning the boot stripe along the hull. The warm water allows some amazing things to grow, amazingly fast.
Ron revised the flopper stopper system, again
Sean fixed more canvas snaps and cleaned up the fishing gear, again
Sean resting after too many projects
After three days of lazing around at
Hanamoenoa, celebrating our successful voyage, we decided we should
get off our collective sterns and visit what is considered one of the
most beautiful anchorages in all of the South Pacific, Hanavave Bay
on Fatu-Hiva. Reaching this bay was an uphill slog of about 40 miles
but it was definitely worth it. Nancy even managed not to sleep the
Hanavave Bay definitely lived up to
it's billing. It is one of the most beautiful bays we've ever seen.
It's narrow, and the anchorage is in a rolly bowl in front of a
beautiful green valley, surrounded by tall cliffs. The cliffs are
made up of large spires of rock, and the bay used to be known, before
the arrival of the missionaries, as the “bay of the penises”.
This appellation didn't sit well with the conservative newcomers, so
it is now known as the “bay of the virgins”. It's not clear how
that transition was achieved, nor why the new name was considered
appropriate. Whatever it's name is, it's gorgeous.
Duet was anchored in about 110 feet of water, at the outskirts of the anchorage, which was narrow and crowded.
It rains a great deal in the Marquesas, so everything is incredibly green.
That afternoon we were visited by some
local fisherman, who sold us 3 kilos of just caught tuna for $10.
Sean filleted it, we froze some and ate the rest, grilled with salt,
pepper and olive oil. It was some of the finest tuna any of us have
had. The only downside was we didn't catch it. Our fishing has,
despite Sean's talented presence, truly sucked. So far we have only
hooked one very large grouper while playing with spinning rod in
Hanamoenoa Bay. Even if we had managed to catch it, rather than have
it break the line and run off with the lure, Ron wouldn't have let us
eat it. Reef fish here can carry cigeratoa, which is a nerve
disease, so we make a point of not eating them unless we know other
people who have safely done so.
The next day we launched the small
dink, loaded up and headed ashore. As we got closer the valley
revealed itself as being larger and more spectacular than we realized
from the boat. The small harbor was, however, undergoing
renovations, so it was dominated by a large crane busy setting huge
concrete blocks in the water. We hope this isn't to allow cruise
ship tenders to access the island, as that will definitely spoil it.
In the meantime, it is one of the few Marquesas where the cruise
ships don't stop, and it has no airport, so it is relatively
We walked through town, looking for
a path to the local waterfall, which we had read about in the
Compendium. We immediately got lost, and Nancy asked a local lady
for directions. She didn't speak English and we speak no French, so
she took us to her house, as her husband spoke some English. They
invited us in, he drew us a map and they tried to give us a large bag
of pampelmousse, which is a giant tasty version of a grapefruit. It
grows everywhere. We refused the gift as we didn't want to carry it
to the waterfall, but promised to stop by on our way back to collect
Heading into town
Coconut drying before being shipped to Tahiti to be turned into oil
The hike to the waterfall was
relatively easy, although it is important to remember that the
Marquesas are a jungle, complete with mud, bugs, dark dank areas,
huge plants which represent an opportunity to get stung or acquire a
rash, big eels (which may or may not bite depending on who you ask)
in the rivers you cross, the odd horse or cow wandering around, lots
of wild chickens and some incredible scenery. We did reach the
waterfall and spent some time sitting in the natural air conditioning
of it's spray, while munching trail mix and taking pictures. We then
hiked back down and visited our new friends. It turned out he was a
woodcarver, so we bought some of his work, the carvings here are
beautifully done. We all parted friends.
Into the jungle
Up the hill
Rock cairn to mark the way
Sean channeling his inner flower child
Nancy wondering whose idea this was anyway
We found it - the waterfall!
After the falls we returned to Duet,
ate some more tuna and got up early the next morning to head back to
Hanamoenoa Bay. Yes we were rushing, but Sean had a plane to catch.
Before that, however, he wanted to get a tattoo. The Marquesans are
believed to have originated the art of tattooing, and their work is
unique. We also wanted to rent a car and tour Nuku Hiva, an activity
which had been highly recommend by Jerome from Daybreak.
It took two easy days to return to
Taiohae Bay, where it was still rolling. On arrival, we picked up the new Gates Predator Belt for the Naiads, which Sean and Ron promptly installed. We shall see how it does on our next leg to the Tuamotus.
Below Ron is showing Sean the "Krikits" he uses to tension belts
We scheduled Sean's tattoo for
the next day. At the appointed hour we showed up at the artist's
house. Fortunately for Sean, as the artist spoke little English,
there happened to be a nice Brazilian girl there who spoke good
English and French. She was able to help translate Sean's “story”
for the artist. Marquesan tattoos are story based, in Sean's case
his incorporated his job as a firefighter, his family and the ocean
crossing we had just completed. The tattoo was drawn in ink on Sean,
and, once it was approved, the artist set to work.
In the meantime, Ron and I, who came
along as moral support, chatted with the next customer, who turned
out to be an English guy skippering a custom built ketch for a Dutch
couple. They were on a 17 month voyage around the world, having left
Holland the previous year. Much too fast for us, but driven by the
owner's work schedule. We also met a young Brazilian guy, who had
arrived with the Brazilian girl, aboard his father's 80 foot steel
ketch. They had come from Chile, after cruising Antartica, and were
bound for Alaska, via Hawaii. There are some very interesting
cruisers in French Polynesia. It is hard to reach in a small boat,
which tends to separate the women from the girls, so to speak, as far
as cruising skills go.
Once Sean was inked, we headed back to
the boat for the day, as he needed to get some rest and stay out of
the sun. We fired up the generator and the A/C and settled in for an
“industrial” day where we do laundry, make water, etc. We had an
early night. Sean was feeling pretty good, but we wanted to make
sure there were no issues with the tattoo.
Happily tattooed. Note the two circles of tattooing are Marquesan, the inner symbol was there already. The artist did a great job of combing the two designs.
The next day we refueled, again. We had
traveled 250 miles in our Marquesan tour, but, more importantly, the
generator was running a lot more than expected, to power the air
conditioning. We wanted to be sure we had plenty of fuel aboard for
the approximately 900 mile journey to Papeete, without stinting on
Once Duet was full of fuel, we anchored
in the bay again and went ashore to pick up our rental car. It
turned out to be a 4 wheel drive truck, with a crew cab and a manual
transmission. Ron drove, Sean navigated and Nancy helped. We set
off, with detailed directions and a map from Kevin, to visit the far
side of the island. The roads are good, concrete all the way, but
it's a big climb from one side to the other. It had been raining a
lot, and we slid backward on one of the really steep bits. Once we
got safely stopped, Sean taught Ron how to use a manual 4 wheel drive
system. After we got that worked out, we proceeded. Marquesans
drive slowly to avoid all the livestock in the road, which includes
dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and cows, not to mention people.
We visited two places. First, a 500
year old Marquesan village with a temple for human sacrifices, which
is now an archeological site. Cannibalism was also practiced there.
It was in the deep dark jungle and was eerie. Nevertheless, Duet's
intrepid crew scrambled all over it, only regretting that we couldn't
read the French information posted at each area. We did find the pit
where they kept the unfortunate victims before their turn on the
alter and the dinner table, and we also found several fine
The banyon tree where sacrifices waited
Sean looking for cannibals
Sean surrendering to cannibals
Nancy taking a break from scrambling over rocks
Nancy and Ron, going for that honeymoon look at the site.
After that we went somewhere a little
more cheerful, a nearby village on the beach. We parked near the
Catholic church, which appeared to be the center of town. It was
surrounded by a green, with several common buildings. It was late in
the afternoon and children were at play while parents and teenagers
were sitting on porches talking, playing music, etc. We walked
around for a bit and then headed back to Taiohae Bay to have our last
dinner with Sean, or at least our last one until we get to Portland
to visit him and the family.
The next morning we awoke to the sound
of a very big horn. A Holland America cruise ship had come to visit
and was anchored right off Duet's stern. Launches were shuttling
passengers ashore. We decided to move up our schedule to make sure
we got Sean to the airport in time, so we set off early to the dock,
retrieved the truck and, following Kevin's map, started off over the
mountains once more.
This part of the island was quite
different from the jungles we had visited the day before. It was dry
and grassy, with many horses and cows, and no fences. Ron dodged
livestock like a local and we arrived at the airport in good time.
Sean checked in, we had lunch together and then, once it was apparent
the airplane was actually going to arrive, we set off back to Duet,
while Sean headed to Papeete for his flight home.
Nancy at the airport.
Once Sean left, the plan was to leave
on the next weather window for the Tuamotus. Unfortunately, the
weather had other ideas. We waited 8 days for a window, during which
time it rained a great deal. When it rains in the Marquesas, muddy
water runs down into the Bays, and floats on top of the seawater.
This fresh water is very dirty, so running the water maker, or
swimming, is out of the question. Not only that, but Taiohae Bay was
even rollier than usual due to the fronts passing by, so we decamped
for Daniel's Bay, made famous by the first season of Survivor, which
was filmed there.
Daniel's Bay was actually named, by
cruisers, after a Marquesan named Daniel, who lived there for 60
years and allowed folks to visit and share his fresh water source. He
is no longer there, but the name remains. This bay proved to be far
less rolly than Taiohae, and we remained there, absent a couple of
trips outside to make water, until we got a window for the Tuamotus.
Weather rolling into Daniel's Bay
Nancy on the beach one day it wasn't raining
Wet weather visitor