27 August 2004 - Arrived in Nuku Hiva

So, here we are anchored in Taiohae Bay of the island Nuku Hiva, Iles Marquises (Marquesas), the northern group of islands in French Polynesia, at 08° 55.0' South by 140° 06.3' West. We arrived on Friday morning, just after sunrise following a 23 day passage from Hawaii. It was a fairly tough slog upwind to get here, with uncooperative weather the first two weeks.  We are now catching up on sleep and eating fresh provisions once again.  One of our boat neighbors kindly brought over a sack of limes and bananas when we arrived so we enjoyed bananas flambe, banana pancakes, and we're going to make key lime pie later today.  We had been able to see land since the previous evening, but didn't want to try an unfamiliar anchorage while it was dark, so we slowed down a bit to get to Taiohae Bay in the light.  There's lots of room to anchor, and we see about 8 other cruising yachts here, including one from Montreal, Canada.  We chatted briefly with Jean-Pierre this morning; they have been sailing for 5 years, and now plan on leaving their boat here for six months while they fly back to Montreal next week.  Friday we cleared into the country by visiting the local police ('gendarmes') to get our passports stamped, and the local bank to post a bond which the authorities can use to pay for an airline ticket back to Canada, in case they decide they need to get rid of us.  The bond cost about $2500 for the two of us, but we get the money back when we leave the country.  We also visited the local post office to buy some stamps and a phone card.  All these visits took a while, because the businesses all close between noon and two o'clock for siesta.  Very civilized!  We also bought a steak to cook on the BBQ later, and found some canned butter from New Zealand.  This will be handy, as we can now enjoy butter on our popcorn while at sea!  The store also had some powdered 2% milk, which is a pleasant change from the powdered skim milk we have been drinking.   

When we returned to the dinghy we found it half-floating on the beach, full of sand and water.  We had tied it to a tree so it didn't float away, but the surf had gone higher than we expected and tried to pull it out to sea.  The only thing we lost, thankfully, was a can of WD-40. 

The reason we had brought the dinghy to the beach in the first place was that our dinghy motor wouldn't start, and we didn't want to row all the way across the bay to the docks – it was closer to go to the beach.  On Saturday Barb spent most of the day doing laundry while I took the engine apart.  It turned out that the throttle and choke valves were both seized in the carburetor, probably because there wasn't enough grease on the shafts to resist the salt water.  Yesterday (Sunday) we took advantage of a break in the rain to test out the engine and zip into town for a walkabout (as much as one can "zip" with a 2 hp engine).

The town seems quite nice – there are about 2000 people living here, in smallish houses with huge green gardens.  Lots of banana, breadfruit, pamplemousse and coconut trees are growing in the yards, and we see dogs, goats, pigs, and horses roaming freely. Nuku Hiva is a very hilly island (very pointy hills), and very green.  This is likely due to the large amount of rain, of which we had plenty in the last 72 hours.  In fact, we collect the rain that drips off our awning, and have almost filled our 200 litre tank plus we used another 15 gallons for doing the laundry.

We plan on staying here for a few days while we clean up the boat and do a couple of fix-it chores (like sealing the leaky windows!).  Then we want to see some of the other bays, including one that has the third highest waterfall in the world (200m).  We will probably stay in the Marquesas for three weeks total, before heading for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.  We would like to see more here, but we need to make sure we get to New Zealand by the first week of November.  We think we may stop in French Polynesia on the way back to Hawaii in a couple of years...