It is the afternoon of Saturday, June 16th and we are making way from the island of Ua Pou in the Marquesas toward the atoll of Kauehi in the Tuamotus Islands. My mind is wandering and wrapping around our time in the Marquesas, trying to make sense of all our experiences and commit them all to my long term memory.
Even after spending over a month in and around these islands, they retain their mystery. Not only because we don’t speak the languages (French and Marquesan), which always makes places seem mysterious, sometimes in the most frustrating ways, but because there seems to be a deep sense of sadness underneath the much talked of generosity and friendliness of the Marquesan people. I’m not sure if it was the recent political election which undoubtedly stirred up anti colonialist sentiments, or perhaps exhaustion with the cruiser archetype? Cruisers are famous for being unreliable, cheap and very needy – not the best qualities in your largest tourist population. Undoubtedly the population struggles economically and socially with many of the same challenges faced by colonized and marginalized countries around the world. That said, we experienced amazing examples of their famous generosity. One local man brought our friend a truckload full of fruit, much more than she could use so it was shared through the anchorage. He wanted nothing in return, saying “this is just how we are”. We were graciously invited to festivities, dance classes and brought into people homes for meals. I have to say that, the Marquesas are unlike anywhere I have ever been. It is truly a place to “Stop the world and get off” as stated in the Lonely Plant guide.
Checking into the country was made very easy with the help of Tahiti Crew, our agent. We easily got the paperwork we needed for our duty free fuel, and they helped us when the authorities realized that, according to their records, our boat had never left French Polynesia since the last time it had been here (10 years ago). No one boarded our boat and the paperwork we needed to supply was no more than the Registration, and our passports since we had done everything ahead of time with Tahiti Crew (proof of insurance etc). Note: print out LOTS of copies of your passports, boat documentation, crew list, insurance and the bond letter provided by your agent BEFORE you leave land, because, your computer might die and render your onboard printer useless.
Provisioning in the Marquesas was a bit of a challenge this year. We are told that the drought which they are experiencing has made vegetables extremely scarce and many of the stores grow pretty bare just before the arrival of the supply ship (The Aranui). Ua Pou was fairly bare with no fruit and veg section in the grocery stores beyond some sprouting potatoes and old onions. Most of the coolers and freezers were totally cleaned out and turned off. We would trapes to the little shops early in the morning hoping for an apparition of a few heads of lettuce, green tomatoes, a few eggplants or some overgrown bok choy. On the island of Nuku Hiva eggs were so hard to find that I felt guilty if I happened to come across a carton and then was seen with it by another cruiser. Deals were made with locals met in the streets to acquire some pomplemouse and bananas, but two out of three times they never materialized at the agreed upon time and place. It is worth knowing the supply ship’s route as you are hopping around the Marquesas.
Laundry facilities are limited to the spigot closest to the dinghy dock. The yacht agents on Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva do have laundry service. To get our sheets done and a few towels it was about $30 USD, not bad if it is something you really don’t want to run through the 5 gallon bucket, but as a habit, it could get expensive.
I think I have already touched on WiFi in previous posts. The absence of photos in our blog posts should speak for itself. Most islands have a little restaurant, pension or snack shack in walking distance from the dinghy dock where you can buy a drink and suck down the already slow WiFi signal. Many boaters carry WiFi repeaters/boosters and are able to suck it down from the comfort of their cockpits as long as they can score the password from someone. The VINI data SIM cards that you can acquire at the post office and put into your unlocked smart phone allow you to get your email (as long as the attachment isn’t too big), and call or text on WhatsApp, but venturing very far on the world wide web will suck down your data faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Scarily all-powerful facebook must have an unfair advantage because I do seem to get photos posted there. If you haven’t had a chance to see them, click on the facebook icon on our website and check out the photos which accompany our last few posts. Sadly, adding comments to each photo would have taken an impossible amount of time and all attempts to get our monthly videos up have failed. In the end, we were able to get all critical things done, but checking the insta feed was pretty low on the priority list.
Any boat parts or tools you may need aside from the mundane must be shipped in or begged from a fellow boater. Gladly, there is a real comradery in the boating community and parts are readily swapped and given away with the knowledge that paying it forward will always come back around. We have already been given some relays by SV Dazzler, we gave away another relay, we have loaned out our drill and large hole saw and we have borrowed a hot gun since the blade on ours has broken. We also got a new starter motor shipped in from Tahiti to replace our spare that was fried. This starter was about three times the cost we paid for a starter motor in the US, but we are happy to have it and grateful to Kevin and Nuku Hiva Yacht services for organizing it.
As water slips under our keel on our way to the Tuamotus, we are feeling very blessed. It feels good to be underway with the wind on the beam and a new and equally mysterious destination off our bow.
P.S. We had the coolest experience with the dolphins today. As we were becalmed a bit about an hour out, the dolphins showed up but instead of speedily swimming along, it was as if they were sleeping! They moved along with us (we were barely moving) in tightly formed groups just resting or lazily swimming along. I can’t wait to share the video with you, it was like no experience with the dolphins that we have had before. Since they were moving so slowly we could really study them and sometimes we could have probably touched them we were so close.