Matt & Christine

Tu Hiva Tiki in Nuku Hiva

Legend has it that god made a “big house” represented by the Marquesan islands.  The largest of them is Nuku Hiva which is the top of the framework.  The tallest peak on the island is well over 4,000’.  Nuku Hiva is the 2nd largest island in French Polynesia and the main island in the Marquesas with a total population of 3k people.

Originally, we were planning on making our way straight to Ua Poa after leaving the Tuamotus.  However, we were in desperate need of provisions and fuel and needed to arrive in a more populated island.  Thus, our arrival to Nuku Hiva.  After all, we had a wonderful, but long stay away from civilization.  For the past 6 weeks we have been off the grid so to speak.  The Fakarava south pass and Tahanea had zero supplies.  Makemo had several magasins but they were mostly empty waiting for the supply ship (which only arrives every 3 weeks). 

Needing a replenishment of fruits, veggies, bread, eggs, and meats, we arrived at the main island of Nuku Hiva.  Sugar Shack was hungry and in need of diesel and gasoline as we had not refueled since Tahiti in early July (4 months prior).  

There are 5 magasins here, some better stocked than others.  Lots of fresh produce including at the veggie market and magasins.  There is also a fish market and fisherman who sell their daily catch each morning (at 0530).  Lots of options!

We know several cruisers here!  Our friends on Maple showed up 24 hours after we did (remember we left Makemo at the same time, but they have a smaller boat that does not point as well as Sugar Shack).  Our friends on Heart and Soul (Dave and Margaret) welcomed us to the baie.  We had not seen them since Valdivia, Chile.  And our friends on Bella (Matias and Ulreka) whom we have not seen since Curacao over 2 years ago are here.  It is amazing to me how small the cruising community is while sailing the vast open waters.

Hike to Baie Colette

We gathered a group of cruisers for a hike to another baie.  There were 12 of us, but we only knew 7 of them (Maple, Heart and Soul, and Bella).  A gent name Williem from Rambler, a couple from Lila (Graham and Janet) were also with us.

Hiking Crew in Nuku Hiva

Hiking Crew in Nuku Hiva

It was a fairly easy hike up a few hills, but it was hot.  We passed a lovely cemetery that was well manicured.

Cemetery in Nuku Hiva

Cemetery in Nuku Hiva

Breathtaking views along the way of the Taiohae Baie where we are anchored.  We are the boat by itself on the far right.

Baie Colette Hike

Baie Colette Hike

We arrived to a beautiful black sand beach and cool waters.  It was great to cool off in the water.  There was a small tiki under a bougainvillea bush too.

Baie Colette Success

Baie Colette Success

Tu Hiva Tiki

Fort Madison was established in 1813.  In 1842 it received military headquarters, barracks, a warehouse, a powder magazine to add to the seven cannon guns.  The French take over the fort in 1842 but then abandon it in 1859.  The Catholic Missionaries take over and turn it into a school and then a hospital.

Fort Madison in Nuku Hiva

Fort Madison in Nuku Hiva

At the fort, overlooking the baie is the Tiki Tuhiva.  It is known to be the highest contemporary sculpture in the Pacific.  It has an iron structure which is completely covered with shotcrete coated with “keetu” (a reddish volcanic tuff used by Marquesan stone carvers.

The woman tiki is 12 meters high and the warrior is 8 meters tall.  It took six months and six people to erect both statues.  The warrior Tuhiva steps forward to master his future with the ancestral strength inherited from “Woman Tiki” the warden of tradition and knowledge.

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Another smaller version of the tiki was found on the Fort grounds as well.

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Celebrating Year Wedding Anniversary – 14 years

Matt and I enjoyed a day at the Keikahanui Pearl Resort to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.  It was a bit of a splurge for us, but we enjoyed every minute.  We enjoyed a very tasty lunch and several bottles of rose while lounging at their pool and using their wifi.  What a great day!

Lunch on our Anniersary

Lunch on our Anniversary

 

We had so much fun hanging out at the pool, drinking rose and enjoying the beautiful day.

Celebrating 14 years together

Celebrating 14 years together

A funny picture of a young boy carrying his chickens around town.

A boy and his chickens

A boy and his chickens

We have been busy here.  

  • Refueled boat (both diesel and gasoline)
  • Filled both dive tanks
  • Topped up propane tanks
  • Did several loads of laundry
  • Water tanks topped off
  • Provisioned the boat
  • Fixed our jib sail
Sail repair

Sail repair

Drone Shots:

Matt took some great shots of the Tu Hiva Tiki with the drone

Tu Hiva Tiki

Tu Hiva Tiki

Aerial photo of the anchorage and the tiki.

Nuku Hiva Anchorage

Nuku Hiva Anchorage

Sugar Shack siting by herself being unsociable.

Sugar Shack in Nuku Hiva

Sugar Shack in Nuku Hiva

 

Nuku Hiva

The Mountainous Islands of Marquesas

What a change of scenery!  It was so nice to wake up to tall, sweeping mountains against a brilliant blue sky.  Of course, I was still partially asleep being we just set the hook 4 hours earlier.  The mountain sides are not particularly green and lush in Baie Taiohae, but they are pretty.  Welcome to the Marquesas.

Most cruising boats plan to arrive to this archipelago when traveling from Panama and Galapagos.  It is a direct route with typically good winds allowing for an 18-30 day passage.  Number of days depends on the boats, sail trim, and wind obviously.  The cruisers we know that have made this passage tended to complete it in 25-28 days.  The exception was Barry with Adventures of an Old Sea Dog who took over 70 days as a single handler. 

Most of our cruisers friends stopped at the Marquesas first.  We, however, have never been here before.  As you might recall, we arrived in the Gambiers when entering French Polynesia.  So, these beautiful and majestic islands are all new to us!

The Marquesas Archipelago

There are five major islands, but a total of 15 that make up the Marquesas archipelago. The major islands include Nuka Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Pu, Fatu Hiva, and Ua Huka.  The first settlement was in AD 900-1,000 by Polynesians.  It wasn’t until 1526 that it was later “discovered by the Spanish.  Today, over 9,400 inhabitants populate the Marquesas islands.

Marquesas Archipelago

Marquesas Archipelago

The Marquesas suffered a great population decline from endemic diseases carried by Western explorers.  The indigenous people suffered high rates of mortality as they had no immunity to the new diseases.  The population was reduced from 78k inhabitants to about 20k by the middle of the nineteenth century.  By the turn of the 20th century, the population was further reduced to just over 4k.  By 1926, it was a measly 2300 inhabitants. Shortly thereafter, the population took a turn and slowly increased to 8,500 in 2002 and finally to 9,400 in 2017.

In contrast to the other Polynesian islands, the Marquesas are all volcanic and high islands (except Motu One).  With steep volcanic mountains that plunge straight into the ocean.  They are also very dry islands, unlike its sister Polynesian islands that are lush and flowing with tropical vegetation.  View of Baie Taiohae the morning after we arrived.

Mountains of Nuku Hiva

Mountains of Nuku Hiva

The Marquesas’ islands are not surrounded by a protective fringing reef which is another difference between the archipelagos.  Coral is only found in one place in the Marquesas.  Coral is at the top of the island Fatu Huku, a rather strange location. 

Different from the Tuamotus

These islands suffer from frequent drought conditions because of their prevailing easterly winds that spawn from the Humbolt Current.  This has led to historical fluctuations in water supply, which have played a crucial role in the sustainability of human populations in certain sections of the various islands throughout the archipelago.

The islands range in age.  Fatu Hiva is the youngest island at 1.3 million years old and Eiao is the oldest island at 6 million years old. 

The Marquesas islands also known as Henua Enana, land of men has created a race of strong people of immense pride and fascinating culture.  The islands are full of natural wonders including 305 meter (1000’) waterfalls that cascade down volcanic cliffs and towering mountains.

Yellow Fin Tuna

Wicked Passage: Tuamotus to Marquesas

Best laid plans change.  Sugar Shack, along with our friends on Maple, had planned on leaving Makemo for the 5-day passage on 3 November.  We checked several weather reports, routing apps, and guestimator for the slack tide at Makemo.  We were all set and excited to make our way to a new archipelago.  Little did we know that a wicked passage was in our future.

Before we left, I attended the local church service on the morning of our departure.  It was a lovely, old, wooden church with high arching wood slat ceiling.  They had several sea shell chandeliers that added to the ambiance as the breeze rustled through them.  The most amazing thing was the choir which had voices like angels.  I did not understand a single word of the sermon, but felt the presence of God and community.

Church on Makemo Atoll

Church on Makemo Atoll

Leaving the Makemo’s East Pass:

Matt and Daryl (Maple) had been out to the pass several times this morning to check the pass.  We were confident that a 10a departure out of the pass would give us an easy exit.  

$hit happens and weather changes.  A squall rolled in right at the time we needed to raise our anchor.  Both boats decided to wait until the storm passed so as not to encounter strong winds and current out the pass.  At 11a we raised our anchor and motored to the pass.  We did not actually get to the pass until 1145 and everything had changed.  Now, we had 3 kts of wind pushing the boat out and sideways.   It was a wicked pass and one that we hope we don’t ever have to repeat.

Enormous waves were crushing over and down on our bow causing the boat to hobby horse.  It was extremely scary and nerve racking but we made it safely.  Our friends on Maple had a much more difficult time as they have a smaller boat with smaller engines.  It was incredibly difficult to watch them pitch pole every which way.  One time a rogue wave caught their hull and they actually flew a hull like a race boat.  Terrifying, but they too got out safely.  Albeit, with more gray hairs.

Passage Making:

After we got through the weather system, we found the wind at 20kts and were sailing along nicely with 8-9kts of boat speed.  That’s really fast for us and we loved it.  Unfortunately, we left Maple behind and lost sight of them within the first 3 hours.

Starting on a tack at 071 degrees, we had a choice to make.  Go on the east or west side of Rarioia.  We preferred to go on the east side as it is shorter, but might not give us the angle we want with the current wind direction.  The weather models had 2 of them going east and 2 going west.  The west models added 30nm to our destination.  We decided to go east.  We turned 20 degrees to a new heading of 50 degrees which allowed us to barely skirt the Taenga atoll and make our way around Rarioa.

During the night, Matt tacked 3 times to avoid getting to close to shore and avoid the Takume atoll.  Now we are close to the rhumb line and should be able to hold this direction for the rest of the 430 miles.

Morning Day 2

The forecast was way off the mark, but we are not surprised.  It seems to me that the weatherman is the only person that an be wrong so often and still keep a job.  Matt looked at 4 different models for the forecast and not one predicted our current weather.  We had 20kts of true wind and 2-meter seas that were steep, choppy fuckers.  Sugar Shack was making an amazing 8-9 boat speed toward our destination which made our VMG (velocity made good) excellent.  But it did make me feel horrible.  Matt was convinced we would see a 200 nm day.  Would be a big day considering we made 86nm on day 1 and only 60% of that was VMG.  We had one reef in the main and 2 reefs in the jib (slightly reduced sail for my landlubber friends).

I felt wicked the entire day and spent my downtime in the fetal position.  As day turned into night our wind picked up and we were averaging 9-10’s which is a bit too much for a beam reach.  We de-powered the boat by taking in another reef in the main and jib.  Matt said it was “the worst sail trim he has ever seen and we are still doing 10’s.”

Morning Day 3

Another choppy, bumpy, bashing, wicked day at sea.  We continue to see high winds and big seas.  I’m still feeling like crap, but carrying on.  We are seeing a 2.8-3kt current pushing us sideways which is odd.  The arrow in the center shows the current, but it didn’t come out in the photo.  This is one of our instruments that we stare at all day and night.

It shows SOG (speed over ground) at 9.4, boat speed over water which takes into account the current at 8.1, True wind speed at 19.7 and our position.  The boat is rocking and rolling so much that the stupid iPhone would not focus on the instrument.  Ugh!

Instrument showing passage details

Instrument showing passage details

We noticed that the high winds are having an impact on our boat as well.  The sunbrella protective cover on the luff of the jib has torn.  That will have to be taken down and resewn.

Ripped jib edge

Ripped jib edge

As the afternoon approached our boat speed slowed down to 7-8kts which was a bit more reasonable.  The waves were not as angry but still choppy.  We did manage to catch a yellow fin tuna that will feed both of us 3 meals.  He was a little guy but thick.

Yellow Fin Tuna

Yellow Fin Tuna

We had a choice to either changing course and heading to Ua Poa or continuing on to Nuku Hiva.  Ua Poa 25 miles closer and we thought we could arrive at daylight.  Whereas we’d have a night arrival in Nuku Hiva which is never good when you approach an anchorage for the first time.  As we got closer, we decided to continue on to Nuku Hiva.  The wind shifted and forced us to pinch so much that it slowed our boat speed down to a respectable 5-6kts.  We’d arrive either anchorage at night and the Nuku Hiva anchorage is known to be a big wide-open bay.  Much safer to arrive in the darkness.

Arrival – Morning Day 4

What a pleasant surprise arriving to a mountainous island, after spending months in the Tuamotus where the atolls are all flat.  The atolls are only as tall as their largest palm tree.  Of course, it was dark when we arrived so all we could see were the outlines of the mountains in the setting moon.

Moon setting behind the mountains

Moon setting behind the mountains

As we entered the bay at 0100 it was another pleasant surprise to see the many lights on shore.  It looks like a pretty bustling village, Taiohae. 

Village lights pre-dawn

Village lights pre-dawn

I am sure you can imagine my relief to set the hook!  We found a 12-meter spot and dropped the hook onto the muddy bottom.  After opening a few hatches, I set to bed while Matt enjoyed a nice frosty and well-deserved beer.

Wicked, Wicked Passage Details:

  • Passage from Makemo, Tuamotu to Nuka Hiva, Marquesas
  • Miles to destination (as the crow flies) 504 nm
  • Miles Traveled:  549nm (around atolls and a few tacks)
  • Max Speed:  12.2kt
  • Average Speed: 6.5kt
  • Travel Time:  84:57

Despite my many comments on the “wicked passage” we arrived safely with very little damage to Sugar Shack.

Welcome to the Marquesas archipelago.  First stop, Nuku Hiva.

Nuku Hiva Island

Nuku Hiva Island