We are still in Hiva Oa, one of
the Marquesas islands where we arrived just a week ago. This was such a good landfall as it happened on
1st June, Lorraine's birthday, one of the best birthday
presents ever after 21 days at sea.
The Marquesas are one of the five island groups that
make up French Polynesia, they are 755 miles north-east of Tahiti comprising an
archipelago of 11 islands and an atoll, only six of the islands are inhabited
with very small populations. The island groups of Polynesia were gradually
annexed by France over a period of about 70 years during the 19th and
early 20th centuries and eventually have become French overseas
territories. Today they still have their Polynesian languages but learn French
in school as the official language of this vast region. Despite all this
European control and
influence, cannibalism continued in
some parts and in Hiva Oa persisted until the 1950's. Meeting the wonderful
people here it is hard to imagine this ever having happened.
Since we arrived we have spent time meeting all
the other boats we met by radio on the way across and generally restocking the
boat and doing various jobs including cleaning off the grippy orange coloured
gunge that sticks itself to the hull on these long crossings. We also have a
resident crab on the sugar scoop stern whom we will transport with us for
as long as he/she desires.
During this 3,020 mile crossing, the
shackle on our cruising chute halyard broke and another halyard chafed through
so there have been several trips up the mast to replace them; we have now added
a spare halyard at the mast head in case of any future chafe or breakages so we
shouldn't have to run without cruising chute or spinnaker in future. About 5
other boat skippers have had to go up their masts to do various jobs. The most
serious problem was on another English boat that broke its fore-stay about 250
miles from here. Fortunately they did not lose their mast but sailed rather
slowly for the last part of the passage. Now they have the problem of getting
replacements parts from New Zealand to this rather remote spot. There are no
facilities or resources here for boats other than a 'Mash' type open shower.
water from a tap on the quay and fuel after the fuel barge has been, weather
Hive Oa is very French with good baguettes and a love of the
long lunch hour. The standard of living is high with some very nice houses that
are built on the banks that surround our anchorage. At night it is like being in
Dartmouth with the lights of the houses twinkling from the hills. It is rather a
long walk into the town but so far we have been lucky with the locals giving us
lifts in their air conditioned 4x4 automobiles. Not quite what we were expecting
to find in Polynesia but wonderful to find the local populace of the Marquesas
is a thriving economy. The people are very friendly and helpful even with the
halting French that we speak.
Tomorrow we are hiring a car, with another
English couple, to see the rest of the island. It is very lush and high. There
is agriculture but. we do not really know how the locals make their well endowed
living. They do grow and export coconuts and its products. Another crop is a
fruit called Nomi from which a drug is made that is supposed to be a herbal cure
for just about everything including cancer.
We visited the Gauguin museum
the other day which was very good. They have no original paintings but instead
have many very good copies which means they have so many paintings that they
make a very impressive display. We also visited the reproduction of his "House
of Joy".... where he presumably got the syphilis he died of! We have not yet
visited his grave. The other person who sailed here, lived here and is buried
here is the Belgian singer Jacques Brel, whom some of you may know more about
than we do.
One minor irritation here is that we cannot get a good
Internet connection which means we cannot really update this blog with photos.
It is surprising how much we rely on our computer. The one we had from the start
was repaired in Panama after a power surge but recently made some nasty noises
and died. Fortunately when we flew back to UK in October we bought a second one
which, touch wood, works well. An Australian friend with more technical know-how
than we have has managed to retreive most of our saved files so all was not
lost – we hope!
On Wednesday we will move on to some of the other islands
in the Marquesas and then onto the Tuamotos. The Tuamotos are totally different
as they are all coral atolls and the highest point on them is the tallest palm
tree. We hope to spend 2 or 3 weeks there before we go on to Tahiti and the
Society Islands.....all still part of French Polynesia. We have to pinch
ourselves every now and then to remind ourselves of where we are and how far we
have come in the last year.