Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Welcome to the Marquesas Islands

Having received special permission to stop in French Polynesia during the COVID-19 pandemic we made our landfall in Nuku Hiva in the Northern Marquesas. This was a requirement of the department of health to complete a mandatory quarantine period on board. Ideally from a sailing perspective it is nicer to make landfall in the south of the Marquesas and then cruise north – like we did last time we visited these islands in 2006.

I couldn’t really remember Taiohae bay in Nuku Hiva, as we had only spent a night or two here, but the stunning cliffs as we sailed into the deeply indented bay made us feel super excited. Having caught two tuna that morning on the way in we had been pretty busy on our approach, getting that all stored away. We called Nuku Hiva yacht services as soon as we had anchored, as instructed, and were informed that we were in quarantine and to keep our yellow flag flying until such time as we were advised we had been released. As we had arrived on the weekend we didn’t expect a prompt release, so settled into getting Askari all spruced after the passage. We were allowed to receive visitors alongside, but not aboard, and had a steady stream of old and new friends, offering assistance. We were brought everything from croissants, and French cheeses to of course local Hinano beer – we had left Galapagos without a single beer as it was hard to carry from town…..

Champagne to celebrate arrival
A stash of goodies from cruiser friends during our quarantine


We were released from quarantine by a doctor in Tahiti on the Wednesday evening, and were promptly invited to neighbours Debbie and Stephen on Oyster 53, Amelie for a gin and tonic – how strange it felt to be on another yacht. Quite surreal actually and what we found over the next few days was that sailing into this island paradise was like going back in time to before coronavirus. We met and hugged friends and the first hike with Bev was just incredible – lovely views but the best thing was just to be walking again after so many months. It actually has taken us quite a long time to get the walking muscles back again.


Beautiful Taiohae Bay

With Bev -First Girlfriend hug since March
Stretching our legs felt amazing 

Looking towards the town dock

 

a new tiki overlooking the bay

The Marquesans are a wonderful, warm and friendly group of people, living in one of the most isolated places on the planet but with everything provided by these islands where, goats, chickens and pigs run wild, the sea is brimming with fish and the fertile lands mean that fruit and vegetables are plentiful. Though in the French social system, a wonderful climate and sitting outside the cyclone zone and this really is paradise – although I know most Marquesan’s still appear to want more autonomy over public spending, they are governed locally, but also from Tahiti and from Paris ….. 

 

The islanders are fiercely proud of their culture – despite it having been band by missionaries for so many years. Music, dance, tattoos are part of everyday life – when chatting with a lovely local lady, Collette, we learned there would be dancing for the president of French Polynesia who was in town for Marquesas day and we could watch once we heard the drums…. We arrived a little early and had to sit through some speeches in french but the local school kids kept us entertained and then the famous haka dancers arrived – wow! After the ceremony the kids all garnished the president with handmade bead lays, he had so many it was crazy.

Dances for the President of French Polynesia

Ceremonial grounds on the waterfront
Everywhere in Taiohae there's old tiki statues

After a few days of stocking up and enjoying meals out the swell in the bay got the better of us and we decided to make a run for the north coast and explore. We had a fantastic sail in light winds to Anaho bay, just totally amazingly protected and only a handful of other yachts. The scenery was stunning with high moutains all around and clear water. We dropped anchor and then went to explore in the dinghy and found a group of 6 manta rays – I grabbed my snorkel and hopped in – how amazing to swim with these gentle giants. Ashore we found super friendly locals and learned there was a "restaurant" we could book in for lunch – we of course got straight on that. So next day we took a great hike to the local farm and another bay – the farmers allowed us to pick tomatoes, cucumbers and melons – I needed a bit of help with melons having no idea how to pick a good one. We also got given pamplemouse – virtually  free in these islands. We returned to the bay fully loaded ready for lunch a goat curry lunch at chez David’s. We learned that during the lock down, the cruisers in Anaho enjoyed quite a lot of freedom and the friendships were so great that when the yachts were told to go to Taiohae bay the locals refused to let ‘ their cruisers’ go. It was a really special place and we ended up spending over a week there – sharing sundowners and more meals at David’s, we had the local kids on Askari for biscuits and shared beers with the local men. The hike to neighbouring Haiteheu was demanding but oh so worth it.  


View from the window - Anaho Bay

lunch at Chez David's

Lovely Anaho Bay

Holiday time onboard Askari

Friday, June 19, 2020

Pacific Crossing Day 18 - Arrival Nuku Hiva

Yay - we arrived at Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva today at 13.30 local time - 3,000 miles - 18 days and 2 hours after leaving Isabela Galapagos. We have been placed under quarantine, which means know one is allowed on or off Askari, but we did enjoy a swim already. We don't know what comes next, we are waiting to hear from the authorities but are extremely grateful to the FP government for allowing us to make a stop here. Other boats are allowed to drop things off so long as they don't come aboard- we had a warm welcome from Stephen and Debbie on Amelie as we anchored and they brought us a care package of a couple of cold Hinano beers and some fruit. Our friend Bev on Dandelion heard us arrive and of course was straight on the radio to say hello. We felt so welcome.

Proper update to follow.... but we did catch two tuna on the way in and are now drinking the champagne x x

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pacific Crossing Day 17 - 18th June 2020

Position 1800 UTC - 18th June 2020
- 08 degrees, 51 minutes South
- 136 degrees, 51 minutes West
Sailing wing on wing with wind
Sea State: 2m swell long period - counter current :-(
Wind: 15 knots from the East North East
Speed over the ground: 5.7 knots
Course over the ground: 258 degrees
Distance sailed towards north Marquesas in 24 hours 138 - has Askari ever gone so slow??

So near but still so far, yesterday we entered a counter current - so frustrating and then a big band of squally weather. Over night we had wind from 2 knots to 24, torrential rain and wind direction East through north. As we monitored the distance we could feel our friday landfall slipping away. Around midnight Andrew got fed up with flogging our sails and put the engine on low revs to keep Friday an option for us - I was so tired I slept right through that. This morning the squalls gave way to a stunning day and the wind returned gently. We still have nearly a knot of current against us but have been making between 5 and 6 nautical miles each hour. That could mean a sunset arrival on Friday is still on the cards.

Today we are trying hard to catch a fish, but at these slow speeds it's probably pretty unlikely. I heard Linde on Zouterik made a lemon cake, so mum message me a recipe and we are about to have that for afternoon tea.

Is it too soon to put the champagne in the fridge??? It's now 2.30pm local as I write this and we have 160 to go - normally we should cover that comfortably in 24 hours and we have 27.5 hours until sunset tomorrow, so we need to average 5.8knots - its going to be close!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pacific Crossing Day 16 - 17th June 220

Position 1800 UTC - 16th June 2020
- 08 degrees, 34 minutes South
- 134 degrees, 31 minutes West
Sailing wing on wing with wind at 155 degrees apparent
Sea State: 2m swell not sea on top slight
Wind: 13 knots from the East North East
Speed over the ground: 6.0 knots
Course over the ground: 235 degrees
Distance sailed towards north Marquesas in 24 hours 150

We may have only made 150 miles towards north Marquesas however its been a mostly calm night with gentle seas and enough wind to just about keep the sails full but most excitingly we have approval from the authorities in Tahiti to proceed to Nuku Hiva - wooohooo! We don't exactly know if this means we can stay a while or simply resupply but we will find all that out when we arrive - for now its just 331 miles away so it looks like we will be there Friday night or Saturday morning local time.

It's just as well as I think Andrew is going a little mad - I woke up this morning to find him with a pile of fishing lures in their boxes - like a small child with matchbox cars; admiring them gleefully. He's been studying all the attributes of each of them - I guess he is keen to catch another fish before we arrive. The thai red tuna curry last night was absolutely delicious - we still have fresh lemon grass and chillis and so many green peppers we will arrive with fresh goodies enough to see us through any quarantine period we may have to comply with.

We are expecting a bit of squally weather tomorrow so today I want to enjoy the sunshine, light fluffy clouds and gentle seas.

Its fair to say we are thrilled and cannot wait to get there now.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Pacific Crossing Day 15 - 16th June 2020

Position 1800 UTC - 15th June 2020
- 07 degrees, 49 minutes South
- 132 degrees, 14 minutes West
Sailing wing on wing with wind at 147 degrees apparent
Sea State: 2m swell with a short wind chop
Wind: 17 knots from the East - slightly north of east
Speed over the ground: 7.0 knots
Course over the ground: 243 degrees
Distance sailed towards north Marquesas in 24 hours 172

Last night we continued sailing poled out overnight and learned that in these seas if we don't put the main sail out to the side we can actually run with the wind on the port side further forward - hence the 147 apparent wind angle not previously seen! It must be something to do with the draft of the main keeping the genoa full. Anyhow this allowed us to run on course in lighter winds and enjoy a comfortable night apart from another night being plagued by fishing related AIS targets. On my watch I actually spotted a fishing boat about 6 miles to the north of us called Tuna Star with huge bright lights. It's now well into the afternoon and the targets are still hanging around - we are getting a bit more relaxed about them and have weaved our way through them. I did get Andrew up when I found them either side of us while I was relaxing listening to my hi brow hamish and andy podcast at 3am.

Today, the wind had gradually eased to around 12 knots and come around to the East North East, pushing us south slowly but the sea has also calmed off and it is absolutely spectacular out here this afternoon. Not a single white cap and just a gently pulsing ocean swell with a long period, our sails puff and yes do crash around a little but you can't help but allow it as its so magical. So we are relaxing and lazing in the cockpit reading - i might even get the bean bags out.

Please let's have a nice calm night without the tuna fishing fleet targets.

We have less than 500 miles to go to our waypoint in the north of the Marquesas.

Life is slow but good.

Third Special Geeky Stat Report for those who care about numbers:
We left Galapagos on Monday June 1st bound for Queensland. A journey of more than 7000 miles which we expect to take 50 days. We have prepared supplies for 60 days at sea and have 20 days of additional reserve.

After 15 days this is how we have done
-Distance sailed 2538 Nm or about 36% of the direct course to Brisbane
-Consumed 116L of diesel of 700L on board which is about 17%
-Water tanks are full
-Food going better than plan with no waste
-Six fish caught- 2 tuna and 4 Mahi Mahi
-All boat systems operational except VHF Marine Radio due to mast head antenna failure. SSB Marine radio and AIS unaffected.

All good at this stage and ahead of plan. We have requested permission from the government in Tahiti to make a technical stop in the Marquesas where if granted we will be able to repair the VHF Radio antenna.
Next geek update at day 20

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