Ponderings from the Pacific

Tue 9 Jun 2009 18:27
Position 14:27.84S 146:02.05W

7 June 2009

Greetings everyone from Manihi Atoll in the Tuamotun Archipeligo; about
200NM northwest of Tahiti. Also apologies for not sending an earlier update,
I know a few of you have thought we may have mysteriously disappeared and
adopted an island lifestyle : I think the slow beat of the South Pacific has
infected my communication regime.

Anyway, since leaving the wonderful Galapagos Islands we finished our
meander across the Pacific leg to the Marquesas in an acceptable 19 ½ days
and arrived at Fatu Hiva the morning our friends on Blues. This island is
famous for a the Bay of Virgins that is considered by many to be one of the
prettiest anchorages in the world : crystal clear water surrounded by huge
volcanic spires and tropical forest right to the edge of the water.
Magnificent. We spent a few days there checking out the local village,
catching up with a few fellow yachties and giving Mikado a good clean.

>From Fatu Hiva we sailed up to Hiva Oa to formally check in and replenish a
few basic supplies. Although there is not much to see from a sightseeing
perspective on this island, it has 3 little supermarkets, fresh food
markets, a couple of little resorts and one restaurant/bar run by a Chinese
man called “Make Make” : I worked out after we paid USD $122 for 4
hamburgers, a few beers and a couple of softdrinks, that it was shorthand
for ‘make-make-lots-of-money’. But anyway, we had a great time meeting a few
other yachties there.

Hiva Oa is famous for one of its former residents, a French artist called
Paul Gauguin, and we went to see the gallery which shows some of his
paintings and other works. Apparently he was quite controversial in his day
and his works upset some of the dignitaries in Paris at the time –
particularly the ones that had a more abstract style.

>From Hiva Oa we headed down to the island of Tahuata and enjoyed a few days
anchored off lovely sandy beaches where we could swim and snorkel and laze
about enjoying perfect weather. We caught up with Blues, Ohana and Hilde
there and one night organised a beach BBQ and fire. Superb.

A few of our friends headed up to Nuku Hiva about 90 NM to the north, so we
decided to cruise up there to meet them for a few days. This was a really
nice town and the major centre for the island group. Whilst we were there a
couple of very big “super yachts” came in. One of them called “Nirvana” was
a monstrous 150 feet long and we counted at least 6 crew on board who were
doing the delivery through to Tahiti. Nice work for some.

In the bay we also met John and Lynne off La Graciosa; a catamaran we had
seen a few times from Panama but hadn’t yet been introduced. They are a very
interesting English couple who have been sailing their beautiful 47 foot
Catana for 7 years – John is an ex airline pilot and Lynne is psychiatrist.
In their spare time they run a clinic for the underprivileged in Kenya. They
invited us aboard for one of John’s famous curry nights with a few other
yachties including John Daniels (a very determined 65 year old single
hander) from a little steel ketch called Radiance. I was very interested in
finding out how singlehanders cope on these long passages – it's a pretty
“gutsy” effort to be out there amongst the elements coping with the usual
yacht issues on your own.

Our cruising guidebook recommended going to one of the local church services
on the island to hear the unaccompanied singing and see the locals dress up
in their Sunday best clothing. We went along with a few friends to a
beautifully built Catholic Church (probably the nicest building on the
island with lovely wood carvings adoring natural stone walls) and really
enjoyed the service even though we couldn’t understand a word the priest was
saying. The singing was absolutely magnificent - Polynesians are natural
singers and it was like sitting in the middle of choir.

>From Nuku Hiva we set-off with a few other yachts for the 480 NM leg to
Manihi Atoll. This was an awkward 3-day sail with squally conditions and
very confused seas – making it quite “rolly” on board. But thankfully the
wind averaged 25 knots off the beam and we sailed it quickly : we recorded a
187 NM day and had to slow down on the last night to 5 knots to make a late
morning landfall to enter the pass into the lagoon.

A few of the yachts were successful with their fishing on the way down, so a
beach BBQ and party under the palm trees was organised for all the cruisers
on the second night. Paul on Whitehawk caught a monstrous 7 foot sailfish on
the way down and Finn off Hilde caught a large yellowfin Tuna. Everbody
contributed with side salads and beverages and we rocked on afterwards
aboard Whitehawk until the early hours. After a late start the next day, I
went snorkelling with a few of the guys while Jenny and the kids went on a
pearl farm tour with Bertil and Brita from Blues – Jenny and Georgina were
keen to exchange a carton of Panamanian rum for a few black pearls for
earrings (the local rum in the store is over Aus $50 a bottle so we have
some bargaining power here).

Nick also had his first Scuba dive after receiving a morning’s instruction
from Paul off Whitehawk (a qualified dive instructor). He absolutely loved
it and raved about the sea life and the Moray Eel that they saw. In the late
afternoon we went snorkelling with spear guns in the pass with some of the
locals. This was tremendous; some of the locals can free-dive down to 20m
and then wait at the bottom for the right fish to spear. We timed one guy to
be down there for 2 ½ minutes.

Last night all of the cruising yachts went to a local entrepreneur for his
weekly Polynesian dancing and Buffet evening that he holds in the garage of
his house. This was a real eye-opener with the whole family taking part in
the evening’s festivities – grandma on the Ukele, grandson on the bongo
drum, mum cooking, one of the son’s doing the firestick dance etc..

We will probably spend a few more days here before heading down to Rangiroa
Atoll which is the largest one in the group; about 40 NM long and 15 NM wide
with a population of around 2000 people. From there we will go down to
Tahiti.Til next time

Ian, Jenny, Nick and Georgina
S/Y Mikado