Welcome Shellbacks! It’s Landfall in the Marquesas

Welcome Shellbacks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2018 -After the morning came again, we opened our less bleary eyes to the sound of crashing waves on a beach and the fresh morning air.  The humidity is very different than it was in Mexico and we feel, dare I say it for some- moist.  Not wet, not damp.  My skin feels plump and hydrated.  The temperature is neither hot nor cold.  Working our way through morning duties, whoever is not in the head first is in charge of starting the water for coffee.  Thank goodness for creamer as I like my coffee like my days – light and fair. When you don’t have a visual of land, being inside the boat and hearing the crash of waves as well as feeling the swaying, lifting motion as the boat moves in the swell is deceiving.  You feel  like you are seconds away from crashing on the rocks.  Move up to a visual of land, from say the cockpit and you find that you are well off and away from the beach or rocky points.  (Or you should beand if not then you better be taking quick action!).  A small township, a village of houses with a few cars along a road, is set into the hillside stretching down to the beach.  This would be Atuona.  The hills continue almost straight up and very tall into the puffy grey clouds surrounding the invisible tops.  The hint of woodsy and ever so slightly floral scent still graces the air. Everything is lush and vivid green.

Up anchor again, and we are moving into the anchorage of Taahuku Bay.  This is a small bay and there are still thirty some boats in here and the 2018 Puddle Jumpers have already come and gone! I can’t imagine what it looked like with an increase of even fifteen boats!  Coming in here at night would be risky, and in my humble opinion, irresponsible.  Not all boats have stern anchors although most do.  Those that don’t have a stern anchor need wide swing room due to the tidal change and swells and they are currently at the mouth of the entrance.  Wending our way deeper into the shallow bay, through boats and bobbing buoys, we pick out a spot to set our own stern anchor. There are mostly older boats, and from what we are picking up from others talking, several won’t be leaving or haven’t left for a while because of mechanical issues.

We anchored near a lovely Catana catamaran, near the cliffs across the bay from ship dock.  Evidently there is a ship that serves to bring tourists as well as supplies every 3 weeks and a “ghost ship” that brings supplies on an irregular basis but just shows up.  It is very tight in here, and with all the sailboats, I can’t imagine the ship maneuvering in here.  Some of the. Sailboats are aware of the schedule and move during that time only to move back to their spots when the ship leaves.  Well, it isn’t a marina but as always, once settled and it’s off to the races to get work done.  First, we need to check in.

There is always a plethora of discussions at any given time regarding the use of a bond company when visiting the French Polynesian Islands.  If you are an EU citizen, there is no issue for visiting.  If, however, you aren’t, then you have two choices. Use a bond company (which we did) or do it yourself without.  The Latitude 38 which organizes such rallies as the Coho Ho Ho ( Seattle to California), the Baja-Ha-Ha (California to Cabo San Lucas) as well as a few others along the pacific coast, has a loose Puddle Jump rally.  It is through them we learned of these “Bond agents” that we provide their requested paperwork including information of our Long Stay Visa, and $240 +/-.  The bond agent then covers us so we do not have to purchase a one way airline ticket per person, from Tahiti to the US. If you do not use a bond agent, you are required to pay a bond so they can repatriate you (typically $1,000 usd).  This prevents you from becoming a burden on the country resources. If you do this, you will have to present to the bank the day of your departing the country in hopes of getting your bond back IN US DOLLARS as opposed to Pacific Francs which will be useless anywhere else.  Or you can purchase your own airline ticket and provide that information that you are planning on not staying.  Often, if choosing to purchase the airline ticket, a one way refundableticket is purchases at a heavy cost, placed on the credit card until you are ready to exit the country and then cancel the refundable airline ticket back to your card.  We did not want to hassle with the airline ticket, interest on the credit card cancellation, or any other confusion that could potentially pop up. The bond agent also has another lovely feature.  A certificate for duty free fuel. A 30% discount on diesel. As we had to motor some, we needed to refuel and our discounted price was about $4/gallon instead of $5.20 or so. We took on 60 gallons so there was an automatic $70+ savings. We will be able to use this certificate throughout the islands and before we venture off to the next country. We also don’t have the issue of interest during the several months while here or that amount sitting idle on the cards.  As all of our information had been sent to the Bond Agent ( we used Tahiti Crew) and they contracted with Sandra at HIva O’a Yacht services, our check in was extremely fluid and painless.  We radioed in to Sandra who gave us an appointment time. We met her on the dock and she drove us in to Atuona (45-60 minute walk) where we went in to the Gendarmerie (Police) and she translated as well as completed the check in process for us.  A young couple ahead of us were on the “do it yourself” plan and appeared to be struggling a bit more.  We were in and out within 10 minutes.  Sandra is also a resource for other things a cruiser might be interested in.  You can purchase internet time from her and use her lovely benches under a protected awning on an outcropping immediately across from a visible cell tower. She can take your laundry and have it washed/dried/folded and back to you within a day or two for approximately 300pf/kilo.  And if you are interested in island tours, she knows someone who can do that to.  Of course, if you are fluent in French, you can easily find some of these resources yourself.  Most of the reading of other cruisers accounts in Hiva O’a seem to share. The same theme.  This is a place to get your initial check in, necessary re-provisions, fuel and move on. Hiva O’a has a few notable sights that sound interesting. If the roads are passable, then a tour or rental car to the islands tiki which is reported to be the largest in the world.  There is also the burial site of the famed Jacques Brel (who I am not familiar with) and painter Paul Gauguin (who I am familiar with). However, remember what I have said about ‘marina days’?  Once our check in was complete, it is back to the boat and work.  With the rains frequent here, their winter, we can anticipate being able to get much of the salt rinsed off that has accumulated for the past month at sea. (okay, 24 days). We were unable to work on the stainless (which I want to say for the record – is NOT stainless!) rust that was beginning to creep insidiously out from any joint or heavily wave sprayed area.  The cushions were mired in salt water and tiny patches of mold began to appear. We had just made water and could use that as well as the adjunctive rains. Out comes the vinegar and scotch brite pads, denture and tooth brushes, stainless wax and clean cloths.  John took the cushions to shore and used the tap water that is fresh but not potable to clean and rinse out the custom cushions. Various little stuff on the boat, a nice thorough cleaning and vacuuming inside the boat including opening up of all cabinets to allow fresh air throughout, were done. We had sent our laundry off with Sandra who promised to return it on Thursday or Friday.  Tuesday and Thursdays she goes to get the fuel certificates and ours would be ready on Thursday.  Our plan is to fuel up on Friday and leave Saturday.

Wednesday (July 12, 2018) we did more boat work, tidying up, replacing small things and soon John was muttering “Pizza, pizza”.  There is evidently a pizza restaurant/hostel at the beginning of town AND  they have internet!  So off we went.  We were able to hitch a ride into town with Christianne and Feliz.  Christianne’s brother is a doctor, a “female doctor” or a gynecologist but when he is working here, he is the ONLY doctor on the island. They were on their way to the hospital to pick him up.  Her broken English was enough for us to have a bit of conversation for the ten minute drive. We arrived at the hostel around 4:30-5pm.  They do not start serving until 6pm but would allow us to use their internet. Wow.  As slow as the internet is, and it is super slow at 2G (are we spoiled or what?!?), it was a breath of fresh air to catch up with posting photos and messages!  Well, more so for me than for John.  We moved to a table closer into the patio as the rain started in again, a virtual downpour lasting 5-10 minutes. Time passed quickly (or slowly for the internet) and soon we would be ordering a pizza “Royal” and two milk shakes. Our server was apologetic as she only spoke French but we were able to convey our order. I have to say, the vanilla milkshake I had was a piece of heaven!  I could have ordered two more and called it my meal. Cool, refreshing.  The pizza was okay, a soft dough pizza stacked almost an inch high with 4 cheeses!  There was evidence of some whole black olives, canned mushrooms (everything is imported here), and tiny little ham chunks. It was a change from what we have been having and we were only mildly surprised at the $35 bill.  Then the walk back to the marina, in the dark, and in the occasional rain.

Thursday (July 13, 2018) Our new friend on the Catana catamaran was having a problem with a broken hard top and came by to ask if we had any electric/battery drills and bits. It’s John. Of course we do.  John offered to help however the guy was certain he could do it with the right tools, he had the fix until the parts could be sent to him from Catana.  So John loaned him the tools and off he went. We would end up acquiring some of his fresh caught rainwater to use to top off our batteries in lieu of distilled water. We took the day off to go into town and see the cemetery up on the hill where the painter Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are buried.  The sweet cemetery is used and it looked as  if some of the adornments were quite recent even if others with crosses and headstones were quite old, in the 1800-1900’s.  The resting places for Gauguin and Brel are simply a part of the mass, with a few fresh (plastic flowers) and trinkets, but not overpowering to the rest of the cemetery. In fact, if you did not know where to look, you could almost miss them.  We chose not to do the exhibits in town, small museums for each as Gauguin was 600CPF and I am not sure what Brel’s were.  We had walked all around the town, then up the hill to the cemetery and back and our calves/feet were tired from not having our usual five mile a day hikes in and around Mexico.  We stopped at a “hardware store” and raised our eyebrows at some prices before going on to the grocery store.  Here too, we saw prices that raised our eyebrows.  650CPF here and 600CPF there, with a 95CPF to $1usd, it was feeling like there was quite a few $6 items!  Everyone runs around with 3-5 baguettes sticking out of their bags so we picked up a few too (and yes, they are yummy) some eggs, a cucumber, cabbage, and tomatoes. We still have quite a bit of food, it’s really the snacks we are looking for.  However, a small snack size bag of Cheetos cheese puffs or doritos – you guessed it – 650 CPF. $6.50! Okay, I guess we will be eating a little healthier! We have heard and read that cholesterol and diabetes are big here. We picked up our tools on the way back to the boat, the gentleman had fixed his issue on his beautiful catamaran and repaid us with a bottle of chardonnay.


Friday (July 14, 2018) John used the dingy to haul diesel to and from the dock.  It took 6 trips and he was tired. While he did that, he sent me up to Sandra’s at the point, sign on to her internet and get caught up with the blogs so you all would know where we are, that we are doing fine, and to do what we intended which was share some of the beautiful things we are seeing with you. There is no snorkeling or diving here as there is black sand and according to the guides and the locals, it is dangerous and should not be done. We knew we would have more opportunity as we visit some of the other islands, and especially in the Tuomotos, so don’t be disappointed now.  French Polynesia has some of the best untapped diving in the world.  I have a friend looking into the black sand and what the rationale is for this.


Saturday (July 15, 2018) More sprucing up of the teak that was cleaned the other day, oil today.  We have decided once and for all to forgo the water pump for our water. So it came out.  We picked up our laundry today and it is fresh and clean. So nice!  John thinks it was 11kilos or around 23 pounds. Price came out to be $35 and honestly, I could not have done the bedding easily, so I was quite fine with the price. I doubt it would be much less in the states.  John also took a dingy spin with another cruiser we met (SV Kokopelli- Brian and Mizzy) as he was having outboard issues and had hoped that the guys on the dock had fixed his possible carburetor issue.  Today it didn’t seem as successful as yesterday. As the anchorage is super rolly for the past few days, and SV Kokopelli is heading to Fatu Hiva as well, if he is still having issues and the anchorage is calm, John has offered to take a look at it.  It is the same 15hp engine that we have.   This should surprise no one that he is finding more mechanical things to do than what we have…..

Our plans are to leave at sunrise Sunday morning, for the winds are from the E SE and we will be leaving for Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva is more remote (read – no internet) and is the southernmost of the Marquesas.  Less than a thousand people live on the island. This is considered a “MUST” stop for all cruisers.  Look it up on the internet.  And look for dinosaurs coming out of the lush green landscape! Waterfalls, white sand (where you can snorkel/dive) and on the cover of many magazines.

Au Revoir!


Extra stuff- for those who want a little more than day to day.

It seems very few locals speak English here, but those that do seem to enjoy practicing what they know. We don’t have the “buen dia” from everybody that we meet, the eye contact, or the smiles that we had in Mexico. We also don’t have the “almost free for you today Amigo”.  Sometimes it is hard to hear French and not want to respond in Spanish as we became more accustomed to hearing it.  Perhaps that will change too.  I did pull a couple of basics out from my junior high French.

Is this really “Paradise Lost”?  If so, we are also looking to find some things.

Firstly, a list of what we “lost”.  During the crossing, a sail flogging must have loosened a sheet (line)  enough to catch a dorad (those white or silver periscope looking thingies on the cabin tops- used for air flow into the boat), and when immediately tightened, flung said dorad off into the sea.  This was not noticed until the next morning. A gaff hook (big metal hook to help with catching a fish) on a boat pole that also did duty as part of the brush system for cleaning the boat.  It normally stayed hooked on the railing along the cabin. Again, during one of those crazy nights, how it did it we are not sure, but it too was gifted to Neptune.  Then, one night as John was on watch, he was turning off the hanging Luci light, a delightful invention of a blow up cylinder with a light inside and a tiny solar panel on the outside that recharged it, when he felt something unusual. The on/off button close is close the removable strip that allows you to move and hook the Luci light on to things- turning off the light and the light letting go in the darkness gave another gift to Neptune.  Then, while we were cleaning stainless stanchions around the boat, the two fenders we keep at the bow were hanging over the bow.  Not our normal practice but it wouldn’t hurt I guess, as boats are snugly packed in the anchorage. Again, a monsoon and some swell, and we were minus a fender. A search of the bay and the beach and the port area showed nothing.  As the tide was going out, perhaps our fender was riding the tide.  We even looked at other boats in the hopes that someone might have picked it up and we could plead our case over possession.  Then the credit card. Excuse me? That doesn’t seem like a “boaty” item to lose like the others.  (Actually- credit cards are very necessary in the boating world where everything seems to cost double for having the word “marine” on it!). This time, it was in the pocket of the captain who thought after hauling 12 gerry cans of diesel (6 trips) and he thought he would take a quick “dip in the pool”, forgetting his credit card was there.  Another search of the rocks, the bay, the beach following the tide showed nothing but a very odd fish creature struggling with food- either small shark or stingray wing was flipping and dancing in circles. Credit cards appear to sink in water and we have two for that account, his and mine. We are now down to one.

3 thoughts on “Welcome Shellbacks! It’s Landfall in the Marquesas”

  1. Such wonderful tidbits of interest to keep us updated and again you amaze us with your ability to write up such excellent and graphic pictorials for our reading pleasure. Love you both and keep on posting.

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