We are sailing along nice and easy at 7 knots, the main
sail out wide, with
fair winds and a following sea-every sailor's dream. We pulled anchor
in Anaho Bay, our favorite Marquesan anchorage so far. We will be following
the north coast of Nuku Hiva until our next waypoint, off the northwest
the island, when we will turn southwest toward Ahe, our first landfall
Tuomotus. The sun is well above the horizon now, flying fish flitting
silver streaks from crest to crest, white tropic birds bright against
"Feast your eyes on those mountains one last time," says
Gunter. "These are
the last ones you'll see for quite some time. Ahead are low-lying atolls
palm trees, high surf at the passes, and sandy beaches stretching for
He knows, having lived with natives on Tikehau, windsurfing, back in
He survived on rice and fish for a week there, until the entire group
ciguatera (fish poisoning) and they survived on rice alone.
We all had a nice period of R&R in Anaho Bay. It had been a forced
refuge from the southwest swells coming all the way across the South
fomented by a gale near New Zealand. The weather forecast for today
further reduced swells every day in the Tuomotus; these are conditions
been waiting for. Swells in those islands mean that passes through the
reefs, some already with 6-9 knots current, would become dangerous and
impassable. After all, the Tuomotus are not called The Dangerous Archipelago
for nothing! Numerous wrecks of ships and yachts stranded on the reefs
testify to the dangers of traveling in those waters.
Not so long ago, most cruising plans were aimed only at sighting and
successfully passing the Tuomotus. Today, with the advent of GPS, better
on-board weather forecasts and accurate depth meters, a few of the atolls
included on cruising itineraries.
The Tuomotus-78 in all, and all but two being coral atolls, extend
miles in a northwest to southeast direction. Their low-lying character
them visible from a yacht only when a vessel is within 8 miles. "Typically,
the motus (islets) on the reefs are clustered to a greater degree on
northern and western sides while the southern sides are often bare,
coral reefs. This is very dangerous, since even in daylight the reef
seen until close-to and the sound of the wind and sea often masks the
the breakers," says the latest edition of Charlie's Charts of Polynesia.
We must plan our approach to Ahe during daylight, preferably on a sunny
with the sun overhead, and during slack tide. It is all very complex,
we'll let you know how we do. Right now, it's over 500 miles away-three
In addition to waiting for a weather window, our delayed passage was
advantageous for another reason: Claudie, on our buddy boat Makoko,
flare-up of a leg injury causing by a run-away dock cart during their
provisioning in LaPaz. After swimming in the Marquesas, the wound had
infected, a dangerous condition in the tropics. Our resident surgeon
member, Armin, ordered "boat rest" and antibiotics for a few
days. He checked
and dressed the wound twice daily; it is now healing nicely. She is
with enough dressings from the Pacific Bliss medical kit to make
without another "boat doctor call."
The snorkeling in Anaho Bay was the best we'd found in the Marquesas.
the reef were like an outdoor aquarium: slivers of bright blue neon
through the soft muted coral and hard brain corals; orange-yellow fairy
basslets, yellow-striped pale-blue goatfish, blue-and-gold-striped and
angelfish, butterfly fish, cardinal fish and parrot fish contrasted
black long-spined diadema (sea urchin). Armin and Jean-Claude came
face-to-face with a green moray eel slithering out of its cave in the
its mouth wide-open and menacing, displaying its pointed teeth (an action
is part of its natural breathing cycle).
But after a few days, that wasn't enough for the guys. "Our men
hunters and gatherers," I exclaimed to Claudie, who was leisurely
seated in the
cockpit, leg neatly wrapped, reading a French novel. I was making use
ship's high-power binoculars to follow their progress. They had taken
Bliss to shore, left her there, and were now shuffling along in knee-deep
water, systematically examining the exposed shoreline at low tide-Armin,
comically color-coordinated in his black reef boots and gloves, green
and hospital-green surgeon's top, carrying our turquoise water bucket-and
Gunter, bare-chested, spear-gun in hand.
Soon they were joined by the Marquesan boy whose techniques they were
emulating. The lad takes Gunter's spear, pokes into the cracks and crevices,
and brings up an mollusk at the end of his spear, all eight legs curling
clawing. He slashed the mollusk back and forth on the rocks, then drops
into Armin's pail. Success! From there, the process is repeated four
and with the pail full, the guys are returning with their catch to Petit
I put down the binoculars, wait for the returning hunters, then hold
dinghy's painter as they climb on board with their catch.
"How does he find them so easily?" I ask.
"The boy said to look for an unnatural pile of small rocks in
front of a small
cave. You push the rocks aside with your hand. Then you pry into the
with your spear. Then either the mollusk comes out, or it shoots out
a jet of
ink, clouding the entire area for 6 to 7 feet. After it clears, you
mollusk, who has been trying to make his getaway, spear him, then while
speared, slash him against the rocks to stun him. Then you turn him
out, which kills him, and discard the guts. Put into the pail and repeat,"
Gunter said proudly.
On board with their prey, Armin pounded the flesh with our rubber mallet.
After that, we boiled them in our stock pot for 45 minutes. We prepared
batches for the voyage to the Tuomotus: (1) a Fijian curry, (2) lime/ginger/soy
sauce marinade, and (3) plain, to be frozen as is.
And Claudie and yours truly? Well, the day before the passage, we became
"galley slaves." Knowing that we will really leave this time,
activity ensues. One would think that we might starve to death along
I make a double batch of oatmeal cookies, adding our last bar of milk
cut into little chips. I also put aside a little Ziploc bag for Makoko's
watches. I bake another loaf of bread, even though the loaf I baked
is still left, and part of the banana bread is in the freezer as well.
all of our remaining potatoes and most of our eggs, putting most of
potato salad, good for lunches during the passage. I check out the status
all the fruits and vegetables, prioritizing the ones be eaten first.
sure that sufficient toilet tissue and paper towels are taken from the
locker and easily accessible. Then I store the blender and bread maker,
the galley of breakables, press in all the locks, vacuum the floors,
out the rugs. Yes, I go a little bit overboard, but everyone does it.
galley slaves claim it's in case of high winds and rolly passages (which
in the forecast) but personally, I think this is the cruiser's version
Mother's Warning: Do not be caught in an accident without clean underpants!
As I complete this story, the Nuku Hiva airport and landing strip at
northwest tip of the island fade into distance. Only the open sea lies
Pacific Bliss glides over the swells, which have reduced markedly
over our past
few days in Ahaho Bay, and we are off on another adventure.