Crossing the Pacific
Peter and Margie Benziger
Fri 28 May 2010 03:43
Position Report – 10:09.306S/137:15.928W – 83 miles from Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
Hello to all;
This will be the last night of our long Pacific crossing from Panama City to French Polynesia. It’s about 3000 miles as the crow flies but we figure that it will be over 3400 miles by the time we finish our actual route. We motor sailed with no wind much of the first three days then struggled through 14 days of 20-25 knot winds and 10-12 foot seas. Thankfully, the last three days have been glorious - a welcome change for the Captain and First Mate who had had enough of all that rocking and rolling.
I have to say it was much rougher sailing than we expected and that does take a toll on your body. Fixing a meal feels like a contact sport! I'm bruised and battered everywhere from bouncing around the galley and the pots and pans, dishes and food and drinks were constantly flying off the shelves. It seemed like every time I would try to prepare a meal the seas would build and whenever I would open one of the cabinets something would come whizzing out right by my head. Then I would pull a jar of something out of the refrigerator and, in the five seconds it takes to put the top of the frig back in place, the jar would go careening off the counter like a projectile missile! More than one meal ended up on the floor… and I was a madwomen!
Peter reminded me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. So, I finally removed half of all the pots and pans, dishes, glasses and cups in the cabinet, put non-skid pads all over the counter and throw just about EVERYTHING in the sink for safe keeping. It does seem to be working better and I'm much less of a crazy person….if you can believe that!
But, thankfully, now that we’re in the home-stretch, it seems that Neptune has smiled on us and calmed the seas so that we can enjoy our entry into French Polynesia in the picture postcard manner that we had imagined. We are currently sailing with just our beautiful blue, yellow and white Asymmetrical spinnaker (with the clew running through a block on the end of the mainsail boom) and have been averaging 6-7.5 knots for the past three days.
This set-up is perfect because our spinnaker pole is a behemoth – 18 feet long, 10 inches around and so heavy that we have never even tried to use it. The First Mate made a unilateral decision that we were not going to hoist said pole for the very first time while we were in the middle of the Pacific! (She rather likes her teeth and would prefer to keep them in her mouth.) Therefore, the Captain has gerry-rigged the sheet in through the block on the boom and it’s been smooth sailing all the way!
Note: A special “What Would McGiver Do?” section on all the things the Captain has fixed, solved, rigged and repaired will be included in an upcoming email. Suffice it to say, that the First Mate is prone to say, “You are my HERO!” several times each day…
So…back to the crossing but, the truth is….there just is not a lot to say about a 20 day Pacific crossing. Basically, the view never changes. It’s water, water everywhere and not another boat in sight! With the sustained winds at 20-25 knots for the majority of the trip and a beautiful spinnaker run in the end – we’ve covered a lot of distance faster than we anticipated and we expect to arrive in Fatu Hiva two days ahead of schedule.
So for lack of anything else so talk about, let me back up a bit because many people asked about our visit to the Galapagos. We had a great time there with, Amy, who flew in from San Francisco. We booked a four day cruise on a 16-passenger ship since you are not allowed to take your own boat out into the national park. (Well, you can if you want to pay the Ecuadorian government several thousand dollars per day which wasn't in our budget.)
We swam with seals and sea lions, penguins, manta rays, golden rays, stingrays, sea turtles and hammerhead sharks! We saw land iguanas, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs and gazillions of birds including Red and Blue Footed Boobies. We went down underground into giant lava tunnels and up into the highlands where we saw giant tortoises, including Lonesome George, who was the last of his species and almost 200 years old when the Charles Darwin Center finally found him a mate. Happily, he is lonesome no more and with heirs to keep the family name alive. George, you old devil!!!
The topography is a cross between a lush Jurassic Park and a stark lunar landscape. There are forbidding volcanic cliffs jutting out of the ocean, massive gorges and chasms, active volcanoes and massive fields of dried basalt lava flows. There are verdant fields of tall grasses and fern trees and gorgeous, white sand beaches stretching for miles. It is spectacular...
But, we had to keep moving on... And, tomorrow, we arrive in the Marquesas – six inhabited, six uninhabited islands that are the introduction to French Polynesia. These islands are said to be quite spectacular with high mountain peaks rising some 4000 feet above sea level. There is supposedly great hiking through verdant valleys and up the magnificent peaks with many waterfalls along the way, including the waterfall at Hakatea which is the 3rd highest in the world.
The main island of Nuku Hiva is best known for the Valley of the Cannibals! Yikes!!!! Apparently, sacrificial ceremonies took place here right up into the 20th century. Hopefully, they’re not looking for volunteers these days! There are several sites that you can visit where these ceremonies took place. Back in the day, entry was taboo so they were “guarded” by stone “Tiki” sculptures – little fat guys that are sort of a cross between a Buddha and a Munchkin as far as I can tell from the pictures. The other more dubious claim to fame Nuka Hiva has is that “Survivor” was filmed here a few years ago.
However, the wind has dictated that our first port of call will be Fatu Hiva, the island farthest to the south – also described as the most authentic of all the islands in the archipelago. Fatu Hiva is a semi-wild paradise inhabited by just 600 residents who live in two towns connected by the one road on the island. Due to excessive rainfall, fruits and vegetables are plentiful on the island and we are looking forward to fresh produce. We are also looking forward to visiting the infamous Baie des Verges or Bay of Penises. Oh My!!!! Apparently, the so-called phallic protuberances along Hanavave Bay inspired the name but outraged missionaries in the 20th century added an “i” to make it the more civilized Baie des Vierges (Bay of Virgins).
Anyways, at sunset, the bay is supposedly drenched in purple and the surrounding peaks give off a brilliant bronze reflection which is quite amazing. Since Fatu Hiva is almost impossible to get to from the other islands via any sort of public transportation, very few tourists get to experience this magical site. We will be among a lucky few that have shared this spectacle, including Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame who lived on Fatu Hiva for 18 months beginning in 1937.
Several days later…..
I am updating this report and I can say with confidence that, if Paradise was lost, we found it on Fatu Hiva! Without doubt, the most beautiful island/anchorage that we have ever visited…and the local residents were some of the sweetest, most hospitable people we have ever met.
We approached Fatu Hiva from the south and the anchorage is difficult to see until you are almost looking at a 90 degree angle and then you realize that the aforementioned “protuberances” are actually several giant rock formations, covered with lush tropical foliage, that are better described as 400 foot isosceles triangles or pinnacles on either side of a well protected anchorage. They are, indeed, spectacular and are the “gatekeepers” for this incredible harbor which leads into and around a jetty to a little beach and a public dock at the edge of Hanavave - one of only two towns on the island.
Hanavave has a population of around 700 people who live along a river which flows down through the volcanic crater, or caldera, from several thousand feet above. There are several deep steep ravines which all funnel down to the little town. The other town, Omoa, has another 1100 people and the two are connected by a partially paved road. We were told that it was several hours walking distance up and down several incredibly steep mountains. We had absolutely no interest in attempting to mosey on over to visit the neighbors. And why should we? We had already found our little slice of heaven…
The dock is positioned at the end of a deep anchorage which opens to the west. We anchored in over 65 feet of water along with several other BWR boats that had arrived the previous day. It was a wonderful reunion with friends we hadn’t seen in three weeks and we all agreed that this was the most spectacular anchorage we had ever seen – like something out of a James Michener novel!
That night, we had dinner (8 of us) at a family home and we ate chicken and fish and yucca and breadfruit and bananas and mango and it was DELICIOUS! The father played the guitar and the mother and the daughter and grand-daughter sang. Would you believe that one of the few English songs they knew was "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine"? We used to sing that to our daughters when they were little girls!!!
The next day, along with Norman and Sarah from Norsa, we hiked a couple very steep miles up the caldera through heavy vegetation - to a beautiful waterfall and a deep, cold, freshwater pool where we swam and stuck our heads under the water that was falling from 500 feet over the cliff. It was pretty awesome!
After two fabulous days in Fatu Hiva, we sailed to Nuka Hiva where we've finally met up with all the BWR boats. I think I’ll stop this update now as it is much too long and send a follow up in a couple days.
For those of you who don’t know our schedule, we will be leaving the Marquesas on April 23rd for the trip to Tahiti (17-18 days) including a stop in the Tuamoto's which are supposed to be really stunning although very shallow water with a lot of dangerous reefs. We should all meet up again in Tahiti around May 10th. This time we expect to be sailing in groups just in case any0ne gets in trouble on the reef. Everyone keeps saying that they are going to FOLLOW Peregrina since we have a 6 1/2 foot draft. They want us to go first and make sure it's deep enough! HAHAHA… I hope they’re joking!
For anyone who is interested in meeting up with us….make your plans and then let us know. We will meet you anywhere on the BWR route!!!
More later…Lots of love from Margie and Peter