Thursday, April 28, 2016

Arrival in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

The moment of our arrival had been on our minds ever since our autopilot packed up and we knew that sleepless days and weeks were ahead of us. We had celebrated the sight of land when we were still about 12 hours away from dropping the anchor. Now that we were actually in a bay where the anchor could be dropped it was a great relief but this did not overshadow the sheer magnificence of the anchorage with its towering mountains and volcanic rock formations, lush tropical vegetation and clear ultramarine waters.


The anchorage of the Bay of Virgins, and its town Hanavave, on the north eastern shore of Fatu Hiva is not that large, probably capable of holding 15 boats at max but 10 comfortably. We had seen two boats leave as we approached the island and now we slowly moved through the anchorage looking to choose a suitable spot to anchor. Dannielle, a French sailor, kindly provided some advice on the local obstacles and we dropped out hook in 80 feet of water, more than we normally like to anchor in, and settled down to make sure we were secure before relaxing.

Now that we could relax we took in the breathtaking beauty of this place which more than lives up to its reputation as being one of the premier cruising destinations in the world. I had seen many a sailing magazine with pictures of Fatu Hiva tantalizing readers to far flung destinations and now we were here, a dream realized.  We sat in the cockpit and for the first time in nearly a month our muscles relaxed. No longer did we have to act against the rolling motion of the boat. No longer did we have to cling on to a hand hold to move about the boat and tonight we can sleep.

Fatu Hiva is the southernmost island in the Marquesas Islands and although not a port of entry we chose it as our point of landfall because it is remote and we did not want to make landfall in a relatively busy place as we wanted time to unwind and recover from the passage. It also makes sense to come here first as any passage from the northern islands would mean that we would have to sail to windward.

We stayed aboard Sarita for the rest of the day, tidying up and enjoying a stable boat. A large rain shower passed by and we took advantage of the fresh water to wash as much of the salt off the boat from the passage which in places was caked on several mm thick and had started to make the stainless railing oxidize.

We lifted the dinghy from the foredeck, where it is safely stored during long passages, put it into the water and put the small outboard motor on for the short journey to shore. We could not wait to see how our legs would react to land after so long at sea.


We tied the dinghy to the substantial concrete wharf and stepped ashore although we felt no effects of being at sea. We walked up the single paved road, past a church, school and small shop where we were greeted by a local man asking us if we wanted some fruit. We had heard that the locals were very friendly and offered visitors fruit and so we took up offer and followed him to his house where his son was carving bone jewelry. WE were given a whole stalk of bananas and a very large bag of pampelmoose, a grapefruit like fruit which is very succulent and not as bitter as a grapefruit. Quite delicious. We thanked the family profusely and said we would be back the following day to give them some suitable gifts.

We walked further up the road looking at the well cared for gardens with bright tropical flowers and were then stopped by a middle aged local man on a bicycle who introduced himself as Jean. He spoke little to no English but we used our poor French to make ourselves understood. Jean kindly gave us a brief tour of some parts of the village and suggested we watch him and others from the village carry out their boxing practice. 

We walked back to the dock, smaller children approaching us for gifts, not in a harassing way but gently. We returned to the boat and came back at 3pm to watch the boxing practice where Amber joined in with the warm up and was then invited to put on the gloves and spar with the French Polynesian Boxing champion. It was wonderful to see them all enjoying themselves but taking it very seriously. 

Earlier Amber and Katya had met a girl called Catherine who wanted them to come and play football with her so we wondered down the street and the girls joined in with the informal game on the dock, kicking a very worn ball along the concrete and up against a large rock wall.

The villagers seem very family orientated and friendly, coming to introduce themselves. One man who had just arrived off a boat counted how many we were and gave us five fresh baguettes which we devoured being the first fresh bread we had had for a month and boy was it good.

The water here is a beautiful shade of blue, crystal clear and quite the perfect temperature: enough to be refreshing but not too warm like the sea of Cortez. We swam about the boat looking at the wonderful scenery.



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