Tag Archives: tahuata

Rain cloud

Passage: Marquesas to Gambiers Part I

What is a passage? To me, it is anything overnight. I am not sure why I categorize it that way, but I do. We could do a 65nm (nm=nautical mile) sail during the day and it would not be a passage. But it becomes a passage if we did the same trip at night. Yep, no logic to my thinking. Most cruisers probably consider a passage to be something longer than 24 hours at sea. A “big” passage is anything longer than 5 days at sea. Now, 5 days does not seem that long in the grand scheme of things. But imagine, being at sea for 5 days and 5 nights, with no proof of life (no birds, fish, land, or boats), and being confined to a space that is 47’ long x 25’ wide while it is being tossed around the sea. Five days becomes an eternity.

As you can tell, I am not a fan of long passages. I am prone to sea sickness which prevents me from being on the computer (writing) and limits my time on the kindle, phone or any other electronic device. Which makes the day a bit boring? Lucky for me, I did no get sick on this passage despite the sea’s best attempt to make the boat uncomfortable.

If you were to take an 800-mile road trip (maybe San Antonio to El Paso or San Diego to San Francisco), it would probably take you about 13 hours (avg. speed of 65 mph). Our 800-mile trip took us 5 days and 4 hours to sail. Just a smidge different, right?

Land lubbers (that’s you!) Here is some terminology which might help you understand this blog better.

  • NM = nautical mile which is 10% more than a regular mile. So, 1.1 nautical miles = 1 mile.
  • METERS = We use the metric system on the boat (not imperial). So, when we reference the sea state it will be in meters. A good sea state is >.5 meter or under 1.5’. On this passage we constantly had a sea state of 2+ meters and on some occasions 3 meters (over 9’).
  • KT or kt = knots which is how we measure the speed of the boat and the wind
  • SWELL INCREMENTS: Big seas are not “that” bad if they have large increments in between each swell. A longer increment allows the boat to climb and descend nicely. However, when the increments become short, >6 seconds, then it becomes really uncomfortable, lumpy, bumpy, and bashing.
  • REEF = a reefed main or jib is when we decrease the amount of sail space. For example, in light winds we will have full sail, no reefs. In stronger winds we might go to 1 reef or 2. In really strong winds we will reef up to 3 which means we have the least amount of canvas up before going to bare poles.
  • WINDS. For this passage, the ideal wind direction is North of East. Anything coming from the South will cause us to turn on the motors or tack a bunch of times.  You cannot very well sail into the wind as you need the wind to fill your sails.

Insurance Stipulation

Every boat insurance policy requires a sail plan where you provide the location and schedule of your boat for the policy period. We submitted our sail plan for April 2019-March 2020 to our insurance company in February 2018 (a long time ago). We received approval to be in the Marquesas for cyclone season as it is “out of the zone.” However, we really wanted to get back to the Gambiers which meant we had to travel 900-miles south during cyclone season. So, we had to get approval from our insurance company to ensure we are covered. The reply was that if we had, and could prove, a safe weather window, we were allowed to go. Great! A safe weather window requires the following:

1. North of East winds (we are heading south so we don’t want south winds)
2. Limited or no squalls
3. Average wind speed below 20kts (preferred)
4. Wind Gusts below 35kt
5. Average waves or swell below 3 meters

We would have waited for a safe weather window regardless of insurance requirements, because, duh! But, it is nice to have a company that trusts our judgement to sail our boat in safe conditions.


We look at several weather sources including Predict Wind (which includes 4 sources) and MaxSea. We can pull a weather report every 12 hours which will give us four different models of the wind, rain, clouds, gusts and waves. Our dearest friend and guardian, Donald pulled MaxSea reports for us daily as well.

Passage Day 2, this is what Predict Wind showed for wind. If you look below the map image, there is a color bar which shows the severity of the wind (left to right). Yellow and green are good, whereas red and dark red are strong winds.

Predict Wind Chart

Predict Wind Chart

Passage Day 2, this is what Predict Wind showed for rain. You can zoom in on the black box which shows the details of the wind and barometric pressure

Predict Wind Chart Wind

Predict Wind Chart Rain

Passage Day 2, this is what Predict Wind showed for gusts. Now, it looks horrible with the red and dark red patches, but when you zoom in to the black box with the details you see that the gusts were less than 20kts.

Predict Wind Chart Gusts

Predict Wind Chart Gusts

Passage Day 2, this is what Predict Wind showed us for waves. It looks great with a nice beam (on the side) but when you zoom in you can see that they are 1.8m in 7.1 seconds causing a bumpy ride!

Predict Wind Chart Waves

Predict Wind Chart Waves

Two Days Prior to the Passage

We were anchored in Nuku Hiva which is the northern most island in the Marquesas (which is the northernmost archipelago in French Polynesia). We were heading to the Gambiers which is the southernmost archipelago in French Polynesia. So, first we had to head to the southernmost islands in the Marquesas before starting our big passage to the Gambiers. These first two days are not counted toward our actual passage (of 838nm) as we stopped each night making our way south.  With that said, we were still at sea, moving and transiting toward our destination.

Transit toward Southern Marquesas

Departed from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas to Tahuata, Marquesas
On 13 February, we left at 0500 to begin our 85nm trip to Tahuata. We had big seas with a swell of 2-meters, winds 18-24kts coming North of East. We started out with 1 reef in the main, but added the 2nd reef when winds kept gusting over 25kts. Then the wind shifted directly on to our nose forcing us to motor the last 13nm to the anchorage. We dropped the hook, had dinner and went straight to bed.

Total miles traveled: 85nm
Total time traveled: 14.5 hours

Departed Tahuata, Marquesas to Fatu Hiva, Marqueasas
On 14 February we left Tahuata at 0700. We slept in a bit as we had less than 50nm to sail today. The seas continued to wreak havoc on us at 2+ meters and we had a current pushing us backwards at .5-1.5 nm. Still strong winds at 20kts N of E with gusts up to 28-30kts. We were double reefed (2 reefs) most of the day.

Total miles traveled: 46nm
Total time traveled: 8.5 hours

Tune in on 31 March for the continuation of our passage to the Gambiers.

Sunset on Sugar Shack

Tahuata’s Main Village of Vaitahu

We decided to head to Vaitahu, the “main village” of Tahuata which is about 2nm south of Hanamoenoa Baie.  A quick motor and we dropped the hook near our friends on Maple.  This is a super small village with 2 snacks, 1 magasin, 2 churches and a post office.  That’s it.  Small and simple and full of lovely people!

Vaitahu in Tahuata

Vaitahu in Tahuata

A Wedding

The day we arrived there was a local wedding.  Of course, we had to go check it out (from the outside).  It was held in the beautiful Catholic church with an enormous stain glass window.  It is tradition to invite everyone in Vaitahu to the ceremony and then feed everyone in the town.  Even crazy tourists and cruisers like us.  We declined, but it was a super nice gesture.

Wedding island style

Wedding island style

We found a short hike to another cross at the entrance of Vaitahu.  It was only 20 minutes to the cross, but it was straight up hill about 2.7 miles.  It had beautiful views of the bay.

Hike Photos

Hike Photos

A New Tattoo

No, not for me (yet).  Our friend Daryl on Maple got a new tattoo.  It was done the modern way, but still pretty painful.  The tattoo artist works in his carpark with a nice breeze.  It took several hours to draw out the design including strength, family, Marquesan cross, tiki, and more.

Drawing the Tattoo

Drawing the Tattoo

Then the fun began with the outline, then the filling and the beautiful finished product.

Daryl's Tattoo is all done

Daryl’s Tattoo is all done

I went to church on Sunday and was a little frustrated because it was super-hot and I could not understand anything.  For some reason, I just did not have my heart in it, but I did enjoy the beautiful singing, church, and lovely people.

Church with stained glass

Church with stained glass

Vaitahu has two snacks, but the popular one is called Chez Jimmy whichhas the most interesting herb garden made out of used, plastic, wine bottles.  So clever!

Wine bottle garden at Jimmy's

Wine bottle garden at Jimmy’s

A couple of beautiful sunsets to wrap up our evenings and we’ve fallen in love with Vaitahu.

Sunset on Sugar Shack

Vaitahu Sunset on Sugar Shack

Tahuata: Harmony Bay

After almost a month of living in a $hitty anchorage we were ready for a quiet bay.  We left Ua Pou for a serene bay on Tahuata (prounced “ta-who-a-ta).  It was a 60nm sail heading south.  We enjoyed a lovely day with full sails and light winds.  With an average of 6-7 kts in boat speed we had hoped to catch a fish on our passage.  Matt had 3 lines out. 

Fishing, not catching

The first zing ended abruptly with a lost lure and no fish.  The second zing was even shorter with no actual hook on the fish.  The third was a doozy.  We caught a large 100lb+ yellow fin tuna.  Matt fought bravely with this fish for 3 hours.  Reeling him, then the fish dove deep and/or swam away from the boat.  Then we reel him and rinse and repeat for 3 hours.  Matt was exhausted and had blisters on his hand from reeling it in for so long. Just when we thought the fish was either tired or dead, the reel went zing again – smoking fast almost to the braid.  Then nothing.  A damn shark took our prize and left us with nothing, not even the lure.  That was 3 bites, 2 lost lures, and 1 three-hour fight.

Its called "fishing" not "catching"

Its called “fishing” not “catching”

When we pulled into Hanamoenoa bay it made up for the disaster fishing day.  The beauty was astounding.  Manta rays, dolphins and a few sharks call this oasis home.  A sweet sandy beach lined with palm trees lays serenely at the base of the green mountains.  Only one person, Stephen, lives in this picturesque bay.

Drone shot from shore toward the anchorage at sunrise.

Tahuata at Harmony Bay

Tahuata at Hanamoenoa Bay

Another drone shot from the sea facing the shore.

Hanamoenoa Bay

Hanamoenoa Bay

We were invited onto Flip Flops for Christmas lunch along with our friends on Maple.  A few other boats stopped by as well for the pot luck.  It was a lovely day meeting new friends and enjoying tasty food.


Wayne flew in to Hiva Oa the day after Christmas.  Matt and I left Hanamoenoa bay at 0515 and motored over to Baie Tahauku in Hiva Oa.  It was only 10nm away, but it was directly into the wind, waves, and current.  We managed to arrive 2.5 hours later which was great as we had a lot to do before Wayne arrived at noon.  We filled up on gasoline, made a quick provision run at the local market and returned everything to the boat.  Then we grabbed the empty beer bottles and cart and walked 2.8 miles to the village.  We return the empty bottles and buy new full ones at a cheaper price.  We loaded up on beer and more provisions and nabbed a ride back to the dock.  Just as we finished unloading, Wayne arrived.

Hiva Oa Main Anchorage

Hiva Oa Main Anchorage

We unpacked all of our treasures that Wayne so graciously brought to us.  A trip into town to explore in greater detail was in order.  We hoofed it back into town in search of food, but ended up finding beer.  We were all tired so we did not make it a late night.  Some fun photos in Hiva Oa’s main village of Atuona

Hiva Oa Explorations

Hiva Oa Explorations


We left early the next morning for Hanamoenoa bay. Back in our new favorite anchorage!  The water is a turquoise blue and you can see all the way to the white sandy bottom sea floor.  We tried to snorkel with the mantas but they swam away from us.  So, instead we enjoyed the pretty fish and cool waters.

Stephen came by the boat around dinner time and showed us how to make a traditional Marquesan meal.  He brought some octopus and coconuts along with a coconut carving tool.  He showed Matt how to cut the octopus and showed Wayne how to carve the coconut.  Once the coconuts were carved, we squeezed the milk out of the shavings.  The sauce turned out good, but the boys said the octopus was a bit “chewy” and needed another 20-30 minutes of boiling, but the sauce was tasty.

Dinner local style

Dinner local style