Hanapaaoa’s Tikis, Part Deux

Hanapaaoa-0036The Winding Road to Hanapaaoa

After seeing the Giant Pig’s footprint, we drove on a narrow paved lane that climbed the hillside alongside the valley of Hanapaaoa. Copra sheds and small homes with flowering gardens lined the twisting route, leading to views of the valley through breadfruit and coconut trees. Mu pulled over at the end of the road and asked a fellow with a machete:

“Rodrig, ça va? Is the Tiki access clean, can we walk up to see it?”

“Muuu!” Rodrig greeted him with enthusiasm. “Yes, the bushes have been cut, I will take you there.”

Rodrig led us up the path, looking like a happy Greek gladiator, with his white flowing outfit, leather belt, and criss-crossed sandals. He took his time walking up the steep slope, pointing out the downhill area where all the coconuts roll towards. “So that I don’t have to come up the hill to fetch them,” he beamed.


Hanapaaoa-8180An Ancient Banyon Tree Burial Site

A decrepit stone wall terraced the hillside in the next switchback. It was evidence of a Marae, an ancient religious site. “Check it out! Petroglyphs,” said Chris, huffing like the rest of us.

Two figures with outstretched arms were carved into the rough rock. Behind them, a banyan tree guarded the pass into a thin ridgeline. Rodrig moved a few stones next to the spiderweb-like roots of the banyan tree, and signaled us over to see. A pile of old human bones lay in a heap.

“The ancient made their cemeteries under the banyan trees. Their roots are the connection to the spirit world. Almost every banyan tree has a pile of buried bones, if you know where to look,” Rodrig explained.

We stood pondering this fact, considering all the banyan trees we had walked past, and unbeknownst to us, all the human bones that were hidden deep within their roots.


Hanapaaoa-1300072Capt. K, Pierre & the “Tiki Pêcheur”

A clearing with rocks running parallel drew us further upslope. There it was! A stoic rock figure, powerful in stance and expression, stood gazing at us, or past us.

“Le Tiki Pêcheur,” introduced Rodrig, which means ‘The Fishing Tiki’, so named for his power to assist or obstruct the efforts of fishermen.

Rodrig added: “But some people call him the ‘Crowned Tiki’ because he’s the only Tiki we know of with a crown.”

He wasn’t very large, but he was formidable. The tiki had giant eyes, pursed lips, and stood with hands bracing his hips – like a martial artist drawing energy into his stomach. Like a tiger surveying his domain, frozen in time and space, the Tiki stood overlooking the valley.

Polynesians describe power in terms of ‘mana’. Ancient kings commissioned the Tiki statues in attempts to have access to increasing amounts of mana. In its wild, raw environment, the Tiki Pêcheur still pulses today, alive with mana.


Hanapaaoa-8228Rodrig & a Goat Hunt Trophy

Local copra farmer Rodrig holds the skull of an impressive old goat he shot while hunting.   Hunting  for food- including wild boar, goat, sheep and chicken-  is a weekly ritual for many Marquesans.


Hanapaaoa-8240 Mu and the Road to Hanapaaoa

And finally, here’s a panorama of our fearless Marquesan leader Mu overlooking a beautiful bay on the road to Hanapaaoa.




Hanapaaoa’s Tikis, part one


This story starts with a bag of coffee in the Galapagos. “Take this gift to Alec Mu in Hiva Oa,” said Diego, our Ecuadorian friend who had worked in Marquesas on a big yacht.

When we arrived in Hiva Oa we asked around for “Mu”, as he is known, and had him over to the boat with his son. He’s a jovial, stoutly built Tahitian with Chinese ancestry. For a living he trims trees along the roadside (to keep them off electrical wires). He came to Hiva Oa for his two year army service, met his wife, and never left. 


When we sailed to Hanaipa, on the north coast of Hiva Oa, we were surprised to bump into Mu at the local BBQ. “My wife is from Hanaiapa,” he explained, and introduced us to his brother-in-law. 

We were looking to rent a car to visit the Tiki sites on the north coast, and Mu suggested: “If you pay for the rental, I’ll drive you there.”

It was arranged. The five of us jumped into a 4×4 Toyota, bumping with Polynesian tunes, and hit the pavement, climbing out of the steep valley in extremely circuitous roads. 


Mu knows Hiva Oa like the back of his hand. He drove us up random muddy tracks, crawling in four wheel drive, leading to vistas of the island. 

Our first major stop was the village of Hanapaaoa. Mu changed music on the stereo, then said: “This song is about the Giant Pig. During ancient times, the people of another island did not have enough food, so the king of Hiva Oa sent the Giant Pig swimming across the ocean, where it collected many fish, and brought it to the hungry islanders. After they finished the fish, the islanders also ate the Giant Pig. You can still see the foot print of the Giant Pig here in Hanapaaoa as he was climbing into the water,” explained Mu. 


Sure enough, the massive footprint was in the rock by the seashore. The Giant Pig reflects the spirit of gifting and sharing, so integral to Marquesan culture. 

Uploaded via wifi in Hiva Oa

Manta Rays from the Air

6am, Hanaiapa Bay. In the monotone grey of dawn I saw something moving in the water. 

It was far away… could they be little black wingtips gently breaking the surface? 


“Sabrina, there might be Mantas out here!” I hushed.

She jumped out of bed and climbed the aft cabin ladder to peak out the hatch. “Oh God I stood up too fast. Woooo,” said Sabrina, dizzy and excited. I scampered on deck to drop two SUPs in the water, which we keep handy when at anchor. We reached into the dive locker and strapped our masks around our necks. Moments later we were paddling, searching the bay for the black wingtips. 


After a few minutes we came across the Mantas. The  underwater visibility was very poor. Yet, standing up on the SUPs offered a great vantage point to see the beautiful white markings that flow along their black bodies. Each Manta has a unique identifying pattern, which seem to flow out of their flared mouths like the designs on aerodynamic jet planes. 


Laying down on the board made it difficult to see. The higher up we were, the better we could look down upon them. This gave us an idea: “Let’s fly the Honey Bee!” 


Pierre and Chris and a friendly Manta Ray


Back on Aldebaran, Pierre and Chris rallied and took over our SUPs. “Which direction to the Mantas?” Pierre asked, scanning the horizon. “About 100 yards towards the big rock,” I said. 

As they paddled away, Sabrina and I launched the Honey Bee from the foredeck. The drone zoomed over our mast as the sun crested over the valley. 

The glare of the sun now made it difficult to see the underwater creatures. The fellas were paddling around, searching. We flew Honey Bee high up in the air and turned the camera to point straight down. Immediately the distinctive shape of the Mantas clearly popped up on our screen. “Right there!” Sabrina said. 


Chris and Pierre followed the Honey Bee, which we parked high above the Mantas. Given the poor visibility of the water, we were amazed at how well we could see; even fish swimming along the surface showed up clearly. 

Flying forwards while filming downwards is very confusing, but we got lucky with a few moments when everything lined up: the fellas paddling with the Mantas swimming past. 

I’m glad we woke up early and saw them; encounters with marine life are so uplifting! We feel fortunate to see these graceful beings from up close, and share the experience with you (using the cool aerial perspective, thanks to the Honey Bee, and all our Patrons who helped us purchase it!)

See our Patron site and get cool Green Coco goodies as thanks for your support: 


Uploaded with wifi in Hiva Oa

Polynesian work ethic, and a big hike to Hanatekua

I was under the impression that Polynesians are supposed to be, well… relaxed about work. Even lazy. “The tropical sun and family culture makes them unproductive,” is the assumption. 

Copra workers in Hanatekua

In Central America, the joke is that locals will get things done “mañana”… I’ll do that tomorrow!  Here in Polynesia there’s a similar expression: “Fui”. As in, “I’ve worked enough for the day… fui!” It’s like a sigh of tired relief, converted into a word.  

Hiking through the banyan trees on the way to Hanatekua

  In Central America, the joke is that locals will get things done “mañana”… I’ll do that tomorrow!  Here in Polynesia there’s a similar expression: “Fui”. As in, “I’ve worked enough for the day… fui!” It’s like a sigh of tired relief, converted into a word.  

Having pasta salad in the beach hut in Hanatekua

Just like “mañana”, however, the idea of “fui” has become a frustrated joke that foreigners like to tell. Yet I’ve seen Polynesians work as hard as anyone else. How to reconcile this misunderstanding?

Case in point: we hiked almost 2.5 hours to the lovely cove of Hanatekua, which has no road access, and found three Marquesans there working copra. As usual, they weren’t dilly-dallying.

Chris on an rock outcropping along the hike

Even as we talked, they were opening dry coconuts, removing meat, and taking a moment to go fetch us a few huge green coconuts to drink. This isn’t unusual, and frankly I’m always impressed by their keen productivity. If I were shelling coconuts every single day for a year, the hammock would surely be my constant companion, and I’d find every reason possible to procrastinate.


Our sailor legs were incredibly tired from the walk, and we meandered in dazed exhaustion between the wooden hut, the ocean, and the river that flows through the valley. The cove of Hanatekua, like the rest of the island of Hiva Oa, has brownish water, and the beach has occasional swarms of no-nos. It is not a beach destination. Yet the land here is gorgeous. A pleasant river winds its way through wild orchards of fruit trees where the copra guys have temporary homes (they work here all week long, and return home for the weekend) to the coconut trees by the seashore. 

the view of the beach in Hanatekua

The hike itself was spectacular, criss-crossing ravines that revealed views from rocky outcrops one moment, to druid-like nooks of old trees the next moment. Goats scampered on the hillside and the easterly breeze kept us fresh in the shade. 

One of the older copra workers returned by horse along the trail to Hanaipa. He nodded to a younger guy who was slamming down repetitively on coconuts with a huge axe, chopping them in half, sending fermented coconut water flying into the air. The axe-wielder showed no signs that he would be stopping anytime soon, evident from the giant mound of coconuts he was tackling. 

Picking coconuts

Instead of sitting idle the other young guy was cleaning the vegetation around their garden. It’s worth noting that the gardens in people’s homes are impressively manicured, especially when one considers how fast things grow in the tropics, and how much fruit is falling on the ground. 

Talk about hard working! There is no doubt the people we’ve met so far – in eastern Polynesia at least – have a solid work ethic. 


panorama of the beach in Hanatekua


Yet if you ask them to work on the weekend, or after hours, forget it. They are going pig hunting, or relaxing with their family. Personal time is sacred, keeping a smile and good attitude is paramount. So when it comes to getting things done, their priority is not punctuality. People are relaxed about the concept of time. Like the passengers on Air Tahiti flights that get turned around by bad weather, it’s how it goes. 

That relaxed approach is at the heart of “fui” and  “mañana”. People are stress-free, and aren’t about to be rushed by anyone’s demands. This takes some getting adjusted to, and can be very frustrating when you’re on a time crunch. But it’s something we can all learn from, if we want to be as happy and stress-free as many Polynesians are.

Hanaipa’s simple good living

There is a scene in the movie “Big Fish” where the hero traverses a spider-infested path to arrive at an idyllic town where everyone is happy. 

In our case, we battled the no-nos in Hanamenu then struggled upwind for three hours. We wondered if this would be worth it. 


Then the rough waters eased into a broad bay. A magnificent waterfall streamed down onto the rocky shoreline. Blowholes spat powerful jets into the air, and a dry breeze rolled down the valley. The wingtips of a Manta Ray cruised close by. 

We had arrived in Hanaiapa – and it was as idyllic as that make believe town in “Big Fish”. 

The anchorage was sunny and peaceful, which we shared with three sailboats. We landed on the small concrete wharf, using a stern anchor to keep the dinghy off the rocks. 


Picturesque narrow roads were lined with flowers and remarkable landscaping. Fruit trees everywhere were heavy with ripe breadfruit, bananas, pomplemouse, limes and starfruit.

The locals from Hanaipa were frolicking on picnic tables and kids were swimming in the river mouth. We soon discovered it was Sunday afternoon, and a volleyball game and pig roast was underway in the main park. 


 The typical Marquesan barbecue is very casual and tasty. There is always wild pig or goat which an intrepid hunter caught the night before; plus an array of fish; all cooked on a huge grill which people slowly serve themselves from. A big bowl contains sauce to garnish the meats; there are no plates or silverware, usually only over-sized tree leaves which are used to hold the food. The atmosphere is ultra relaxed. 

  To the locals’ delight we unveiled a bottle of whisky. Soon they all wanted pictures with us. 

We stayed several days in Hanaipa to go hiking, explore archeological sites, and relax in the great atmosphere of this town. 


A Kiss Under a Rainbow


Today Sabrina and I celebrated our four year anniversary together. We met on this boat, and this voyage is a product of our relationship… so I wanted to share a glimmer of how I feel. 

Sailing the Pacific can be extremely hard work… and I’ve never seen anyone work harder than Sabrina to make life wonderful for those around her. No matter the conditions, she can bake a quiche, clean a bilge, don a harness in a rainy night, organize thousands of photos, or chisel paint for countless hours. 

Although as captain, I am the one driving the boat, it is Sabrina who turns this trip from good to great. 

Like fairy dust, her joyful enthusiasm adds an extra twinkle of magic to even the most mundane moments. Now sprinkle that onto the exquisite vistas and experiences that we reach through sailing.

Despite the laughably exhausting moments, we are rewarded with the most sublime moments. I am lucky beyond words to share them with her. 

Like a kiss under a rainbow under a waterfall. I mean, seriously! Magic is possible. I love you Sabrina. 

Route Map of Hiva Oa

Aldebaran route map along southern Marquesas and Hiva Oa island

Losing track of all the place names?  We do too!  Here’s a map of our route so far along the islands of Marquesas to help orient yourself during our travels…

Map of Marquesas Archipelago (lower image):

We first arrived in Fatu Hiva, after a crossing from Gambier Islands (via Reao Atoll). After that we went to the Hiva Oa, the largest island in the southern Marquesas. We cruised twice to the island of Tahuatu, before exploring the northern coast of Hiva Oa. After we finish the repairs to Aldebaran, we hope to go to Nuku Hiva and Ua Poa, which are islands on the northern part of the archipelago.

Map of Hiva Oa (upper image):

Atuona is the main town in Hiva Oa, also the regional capital of the southern Marquesas. Many sailboats check into French Polynesia here after crossing the Pacific. It has spectacular scenery but we jokingly call the anchorage the “toilet bowl” for its swirly, chaotic nature. The island of Tahuata is just to the south a few miles. The primary anchorages in the north coast of Hiva Oa are Hanamenu (where we got eaten up by no-nos) and Hanaipa (which is as far as we’ll take Aldebaran on the north coast). Further west, the bays of Hanapaaoa and Puamau are exposed to the easterly trade winds, so aren’t good anchorages; but they have great Tiki archeological sites; we want to try to visit them even if it means renting a car.

Pro Tip: Notice how many of the

No-Nos in Hanamenu Bay

The devilish mini-mosquitos that you can’t hear, feel, or barely see: these are the infamous No-Nos (also know as no-see-ums). They plague some of the beaches in the Marquesas.

Only the following day, you’ll feel hundreds of bites on your back. It feels like a book written in Braille, and itches like heck. Such was our fate after visiting Hanamenu in the evening, a picturesque cove with a river and fresh water spring.

The spring was directed into a pool of cold water, which was positively delightful. We met the caretaker of the property, Leon, who was walking out with a shotgun.

“I’m going hunting for pig,” Leon told us, and promptly excused himself. The pigs were coming down from the hills where they sleep by day, and he had to be ready in his tree stakeout.

We retreated back to the boat and woke up the next day with hundreds of tiny itchy bumps on our back. We decided it was time to move on…

Sailing to Hiva Oa’s north coast

Waterfalls cascaded down the steep cliffs of Hiva Oa’s western edge, some of them plummeting directly into the water. It’s an incredible sight after the consistent rain we’ve had. To get there, it took us a lovely 1.5 hour downwind sail from the island Tahuata.

After that, we turned the corner into Hiva Oa’s north coast, and were surprised to encounter turbulent seas – the easterly wind chop was wrapping around the island causing terrible “speed bumps” for Aldebaran. After an hour of slow pounding, we tucked into the first bay, called Hanamemu.

Photo: Timeless pic of Lianna as we sail downwind along Hiva Oa’s coastline.

Beach time in Hanamoenoa Bay

“One of the best anchorages in Marquesas” say some cruisers about Hanamoenoa Bay, a series of largely uninhabited coves just north of the village of Vaitahu. Only one or two houses are found in this bay, which are used primarily as a temporary base for copra harvesting.

White sandy beaches are uncommon in Marquesas, which is one of the appealing qualities of this area… along with the lack of nearby rivers, which makes the water more clear than other places around this sediment-rich archipelago.

We snorkeled along the rock walls, hung out at the beach, relaxing for a moment from the tough cruising life.

Photo shows the crew aboard Aldebaran for this leg of the voyage around Hiva Oa and Tahuata islands, in southern Marquesas: Chris, Pierre and Lianna, Sabrina and Kristian.

Gifts from the Vaitahu School

Homework for the kids: go fetch fruit for Mr. Littée and the trimaran!

We returned the following morning to receive a big box of fruit in appreciation for the lesson that Pierre taught. There were several big pamplemousse (the sweet Polynesian grapefruit), limes, oranges, and a pile of “pommes”, which reminds us of an apple mixed with a jicama.

The class’ teacher Felix is also the school director. In a casual lime green singlet, with the ubiquitous Marquesan tattoo on his forearm, he invited Pierre and crew to his office, where he made a proposal: “Pierre, let’s swap roles for a semester! I’ll teach your class in America, and you come to Vaitahu to be school director.”

Pierre wasn’t quite ready to migrate to Tahuata – after all, he wasn’t sure if Felix would be able to pour drinks at Cavallo Point, which is Pierre’s night job. They compromised and decided to connect their two classrooms as pen pals. The kids are looking forward to practicing their English with new friends in California!

Photo: Pierre and Chris with the Vaitahu class. Chris is also a teacher in middle school English in Monterey, CA.

Mr. Littée visits the Vaitahu School

It was just supposed to be a brief school visit to meet the kids. Next thing you know, Pierre took over and began teaching a class to the oogle-eyed 8 year olds.

Do you guys know the Fibonacci series? asked Mr. Littée. No? Well heres how it goes, he scribbled in animated style on the white board, alternating between English (which they were learning) and French (which the kids speak at school). The class teacher and school Principal, named Felix, would chime in occasionally in Marquesan to add explanations.

We were in Vaitahu, the main village of the island of Tahuata. It is located just North of Hapatoni, about a mile up, nestled in a large open bay. The class was a mix of 3rd to 5th graders; Pierre happens to be a third grad teacher back at San Rafael, California. Within a few minutes there was a crowd of kids from the next door classroom coming to watch Mr. Littée.

The kids were loving it! Our little meet-and-greet had turned into a 45 minute classroom experience. Leave it to Mr. Littée to share his love of teaching everywhere he goes.

Feast à la Marquises

Some meals get etched into our memory banks. This is one of them!

Tahina made us a Marquesan extravaganza with four fish dishes, each better than the last: poisson cru, grilled fish, sashimi, and tuna carpaccio. The side dishes included a delicious breadfruit salad and fei (the local variety of plantain).

All the food came from around the island and was simply divine. Talk about “moan of approval”…

To complete the five star service, we all got showers and fresh laundry. How often do you leave a restaurant smelling better than when you arrived?!

The night was capped with card games, magician tricks by Pierre, ukulele songs by Tahina, and Captain K passing out from food coma on the hostess’ bed. All very reminiscent of a fine Thanksgiving feast back home!

Ps. Deena and Spencer met Tahina during our first visit to Hapatoni, island of Tahuata. You guys were here with us in spirit!

Madam Tahina

This sweet lady made us a true feast for dinner. Tahina worked in a restaurant in Tahiti for several years and is a incredible chef… She returned to her native village of Hapatoni when her sister fell ill. She also did a few loads of our laundry in exchange for perfume and lotion! Here she is shown strumming the ukelele with her nephew singing along. The village of Hapatoni feels like a big happy family.

Hapatoni: View from the Mountain

The village of Hapatoni, on the south-western tip of Tahuata Island, is known for its artisans, especially wood and bone carvers. We were coming for other reasons: to pick up our laundry and eat food! To build up an appetite, we hiked up the mountain. The village is on the bottom left, with a wharf for small boats. Aldebaran is anchored on the right side of the picture, over a mile away; elsewhere in this bay is too deep for comfortable anchoring. The steep mountainsides that surround this village plummet into the ocean. In the distance to the north, the island of Hiva Oa is visible.

Not Monterey

Summer vacations: one of the nicest perks of being a school teacher! Chris looks like he’s as far from his home in Monterey, CA, as is possible… 80 degree water and air temperatures being the notable differences, along with the coconut trees on the beach. First day in Tahuata Island, Marquesas Archipelago

Panorama Under Sail

The island just south of Hiva Oa is Tahuata, a 3hr sail. We got bumpy seas at first, creating a little ‘mal de mer’ for the newcomers — Pierre, Lianna,
and Chris — but soon we were going downwind with a smooth ride. Like all the islands in Marquesas, the easterly winds pile up on the tall peaks, condensing the air into dramatic black clouds.

Spencer sails off to Tahiti

First he got a tattoo and was “missing in action” for 6 hours. Then he decided to jump on a sailboat going all the way to Tahiti! Spencer made a few impulsive (but good) decisions, in his last 24 hours with us.

It was time to go. Aldebaran was not sailing to the northern Marquesan Islands – yet – where Spencer’s return flight awaited him. The haul-out was scheduled for the end of the month, in Hiva Oa, the capital of the southern Marquesan islands. Spencer looked at his three gigantic duffel bags full of gear and souvenirs, which would cost a fortune on inter-island flights, and decided that sailing to Tahiti sounded like a darn good idea.

The new boat’s name was Dancia, a 39 foot Jeanneau captained by a solo Aussie sailor. The fellow was also giving a ride to a girl from Easter Island, who had hitched her way on another sailboat to Marquesas. The three of them would now be crew mates for the next 800 miles going west across the Tuamotos archipelago, all the way to Papeete.

Spencer had just finished sailing 4200 miles with us on Aldebaran over three months. Starting in Galapagos where he flew in to meet us, we sailed three weeks to Pitcairn, then Gambier, and ended in Marquesas – fulfilling many dreams together.

Spencer is a sailing instructor. After the first 1000 continuous miles of our Pacific crossing, he became eligible for an even higher level in his career: blue water sailing instruction. The Pirate King himself appeared and proclaimed him “Master Mariner Macrae” after the appropriate ceremonies were conducted.

“M-cubed”, as we affectionately call him, lived up to his title. Aldebaran’s reefing system was, frankly, a joke before this. Spencer spent several hours on deck while underway in our passage contemplating the running rigging; he made a system that we can now reliably and safely reduce the mainsail. This was a massive improvement in the boat’s operation.

Spence was a fantastic crew mate and we will miss his energy. He became giddy with excitement when asked to teach knot tying skills. He also shimmied in a happy dance during the few times Sabrina served flan for dessert. Even though the heat sometimes took its toll on Spence, he was a good sport and blasted Travis Tritt’s song “It’s a Good Day to be Alive” almost every morning on our stereo. Talk about a morale booster!

Fair winds Spence — we’ll see you again down the road! We are stoked you completed your journey to the South Seas with a sail to Tahiti… we can’t wait to hear all about it.

Photo: One of the apex moments of our journey, arriving in Fatu Hiva (watercolor rendition by Deena).

Ia Orana from California!

This is Deena, guest posting from San Francisco. Ia orana (pronounced like yoo-rana) means hello in Tahitian, and even though I’ve been back for a little more than a week, my heart is still in the islands. In addition to covering my bedroom in shell necklaces and tapa paintings and editing my 3000 (!) photos from the trip, I love looking through my tiny book of watercolor sketches to remember the insanely dramatic landscapes. I’m sad that my boat chapter is over, but excited to find out what adventures will happen next with my favorite crew.

Washing Machine, à la French Polynesia

Doing laundry is a genuine battle in French Polynesia!

After our three week passage from Galapagos, we landed in Gambier, in dire need of clean clothes. Only one person in the entire town was willing to do our washing: an alcoholic, inhospitable German guy who refused to run his machine on the proper setting, despite charging us $30 ($10/load) for allowing us to use his machine.

The clothes were still dirty after going through the 20min quick-spin cycle he set, so Sabrina and Spencer were left scrubbing them in his shower. Irritating to say the least!

While anchored in storms, we began collecting extra buckets of rainwater to wash clothes (in a limited fashion) on the deck of Aldebaran. We longed for the days of Central America, where we happily paid $1/pound for perfectly folded and lovely-smelling laundry.

Two months after leaving Galapagos, we reached the civilized island of Hiva Oa. Laundry was available here, but the cost was nearly $20 per small load of laundry! In our desperate state, we almost paid $150 to wash everything we needed, but it was so absurd we refused.

Our solution: we actually left our clothing in another island. Well be back in 5 days! we told Tahina, a lovely lady in the tiny village of Hapatoni, population ~100. She said the cost would be $30 ($10/load) or, she offered, we could work out a trade if we had any perfumes or body lotions. Perfect!

For the bulkier items like our sheets, blankets, and towels we washed them by hand in Atuona. There is a good washing station with plenty of fresh water next to the dock. We spent an entire sunny day scrubbing and hanging clothes. plus the next two days nursing our sore forearms. I never knew this was so much work!

Honey, how much does it cost to have a washing machine for our boat? Such is the type of question we previously thought was ludicrous, but now appears wholly reasonable, should we spend any length of time here in French Polynesia.

Atuona’s Scenery

The anchorage may be chaotic, but the scenery is awesome! Clouds constantly pile up against the tall mountain peak that overlooks Atuona. After a heavy rain, five waterfalls plunge down its vertical sides. We spent the weekend cleaning the boat, inspecting the food stocks, drying the bilges. During our 7 passage from Gambier, one of the benches got wet due to a leaky hatch gasket (which we are now trying to fix, again) so several cans of food were damaged. A disheartening job! Every so often we’d stop and stare at the mountain’s atmospheric display.

“Naná, Deena”

After our relaxing cruise of Tahuata it was time to return to Hiva Oa and drop off Deena. She was flying back home. “Naná” means goodbye in Tahitian…

Before this voyage, Deena had been on three short sailboat trips, ranging from 2-5 days: Panama’s San Blas Islands with an Italian boat, then joining Aldebaran in the Channel Islands, and once again in Oaxaca, Mexico. This trip was in a whole different league… She was aboard for an entire month and sailed 900 nautical miles, with no land in sight for a several days!

This leg was special for the wildly different islands we saw. In a short seven days, we crossed nearly 14 degrees of latitude, heading almost due north. (We ended up in Marquesas at latitude 9 degrees south).

Not only was this a remarkable shift in climate, but we were able to see three distinctly unique archipelagos. First we began in the lagoon-enclosed Gambier Islands, a remote corner of French Polynesia; then went through Reao, an 18 mile ring of low lying coconut trees around a blue lagoon; and finally ended up in the fabled islands of Marquesas, with their sheer size and power.

(You can see the map of our passage on this post:
https://greencoconutrun.com/2017/06/06/map-of-marquesas-passage/ . Our core crew Spencer was also aboard, this being the final stage of his three months on the boat.)

Besides being an awesome crewmember (=staying positive+helping on the boat), Deena also brought unique gifts to the crew: a log of our travels in the form of watercolor paintings.

We will try to share some of her beautiful artwork with our limited internet bandwidth in the next few posts. It captures a subtle feeling that even the best photos struggle to convey.

Deena we will miss you! Big hugs and till next time… Naná, naná…

Manta Rays!

Manta Rays are sometimes very shy, and sometimes very gregarious. We’ve had the best luck spotting them when we are paddling around. Perhaps they aren’t too keen on the sound of the boat motor.

In Hanavave, Sabrina and I were paddling our SUPs in the early morning and came across a school of 6-8 Manta Rays, feeding in the shallows by the point. We wished we had our snorkel and masks!

That afternoon all four of us went looking for them aboard the Lambordinghy. No luck! We snorkeled around a big arch, watching small colorful fish around the rock walls.

We went to the opposite side of the bay to look for Mantas. The fish were very sparse. Furthermore, the water was fairly turbid due to river sediment. This seems typical near shore in the Marquesas; hence this archipelago is not well-known for snorkeling.

On the other hand, the currents at this latitude bring a lot of plankton to the surface. This doesn’t help the visibility, but it attracts a lot of pelagic (open ocean) marine life. This is why Manta Rays are fairly common here, along with deeper water fish like tuna.

As the light was fading, we were just going to have a final swim. Our skiff was drifting along and Sabrina jumped in the water. She immediately poked her head out of the water:

“Mantas, directly below us!”

I plunged into the water. Deena and Spencer quickly fumbled and put on their masks, leaning precariously over the dinghy’s edge. We all saw the two Manta Rays just six feet below Sabrina. They did a slow sweep by her, then gently flipped upside down and went into deeper water.

“Whoa!” We all exclaimed. “They were so close!” It was wonderful to have a brief moment in the proximity of the elusive Manta Rays.

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