“You’re going to Tuamotos for almost two months? That’s amazing. We can only go for two weeks, since we have no watermaker,” remarked our friends on a catamaran. Fresh water is unavailable in the Tuamotos. Since they are low-lying atolls, all the underground water is briny. There is no “tap water”. The Tuamotans collect limited rainwater for their washing needs, and purchase drinking water in 5 gallon jugs which are shipped from Tahiti. How do we know if we’ll have enough water for two months in the atolls?
Anaho Bay is famous among cruisers as the most protected anchorage in Marquesas. There is no road access which makes it all the more special.
Hatiheu Bay is next door to Anaho Bay, often overlooked due to its neighbor’s idyllic conditions. However, Hatiheu is phenomenal in itself. Whereas Anaho is in a wild setting with just a few scattered tourist pensions (boat-access only), Hatiheu is a wonderul village anchorage with an even more dramatic view of the mountains. Hatiheu has a dock with spring water, clear water for snorkeling like Anaho (very rare in Marquesas!) and access to the archeological sites that we talked about in the last post. The anchorage was also lovely, although more open to the north, which would make it rolly during the summer months (November to March).
Josephine took is to her family’s home where she grew up in Hatiheu, one block from the beach. The property extends back into groves of banana trees, pamplemousse, papaya. Josephine’s dad didn’t speak much French, only Marquesan, but he was amazingly friendly. Within an hour we were all best friends and didn’t want to leave. They sent us off with piles of fruit and we gave them our trailmix packets which the kids quickly devoured.
Usually on a sailboat we look for the most remote, wild locations to visit. This was not exactly the case in the Marquesas. Granted, everywhere is difficult to reach! But here a big part of the experience is connecting with locals – they are so incredibly welcoming and warm. Although a perfect anchorage like Anaho is just around the corner, making friends with the locals in Hatiheu and exploring the village and its archeological sites makes it very worth the visit…
The Hatiheu valley is a “power spot”. Giant banyan trees flank the end of a valley, with a perimeter of rock ridges that are sharp as dragon spines. By now, we know that we can expect to find the remnants of ancient Polynesian villages in this kind of place: it is full of mana.
Unlike the overgrown rocky foundations that we’d see through the bushes as we hiked towards waterfalls in Hakaui and Hakahetau, this area was clear and well-kept, which allows us to see their full magnificence. The main sites in this area are called Hikokua and Kamuihei.
According to Lonely Planet, the sites were discovered by archeologists Robert Suggs in the 1950s, and have been maintained by villagers from Hatiheu since the mid-80s. Further restoration occurred in the late 90s.
A recent Marquesan Festival was held at this site, bringing together dancers and singers from Polynesians from as far afield as Rapa Nui and New Zealand. We heard that 15 pigs were roasted inside earthen ovens to feed the participants. Imagine this place under moonlight and torches illuminating the tribal dancing — it must be a spectacle to behold! If we can, we hope to return here in 2019 for the next Marquesan Festival, as we have developed an enormous respect for the power and majesty of this cultural phenomenon.
We decided not to take Aldebaran to Hatiheu, on the north coast of Nuku Hiva, due to time constraints.
Instead we scored a car ride with Josephine, who was born and raised in Hatiheu. “I’m a special education teacher, I’ve never given a tour before,” she warned us with a laugh. We loaded the Hilux pickup truck with our crew mates (Matt, Diyana, and Melanie) and went on a drive around the island.
Josephine first took us to Ho’oumi, in the south east corner of Nuku Hiva, where there is excellent spring water. We wanted to scope out the dinghy landing to see if we should bring Aldebaran here to load up her water tanks, before heading to the water-parched Tuamotos.
The valleys in Marquesas are so formidable, they were isolated except for access by boat or difficult treks. The French government finally finished a road across to the valleys in the north just 15 years ago. It is peppered with waterfalls and magnificent vistas. Josephine guided us along this road across to the other side of the island.
Three guests were dropped off at the Pearl Lodge in Nuku Hiva, laden with duffel bags. Tired from the long day of travel, they walked to the hotel’s infinity pool, with a beautiful deck overlooking Taiohae Bay. That’s when one of the guests, Matt, noticed a dinghy flying across the bay with… something unusual.
He reached into his duffel bag and grabbed a pair of binoculars, focusing on the dinghy heading straight towards them, driven by two dark figures with unknown intentions.
“Excuse me,” Matt turned to the hotel owner, who had just given the newcomers nice flower lei’s. He hands over the binoculars to the proprietor to see for herself. “I think you’re about to be attacked by pirates!”
The proprietor immediately saw this was no joke: it was the Pirate King and Queen of the South Seas, last seen crossing the equator south of Galapagos. She promptly opened the spiced rum stash in the bar for the invading marauders.
Luckily the pirates’ evil intent was tamed by rum cocktails, multiple hugs, and a delicious dinner after a dip in the infinity pool. The Pearl Lodge escaped major harm, but the newcomers were kidnapped and taken aboard the ship Aldebaran, laying at anchor just in front, in the bay of Taiohae.
We now had our new crew members: Matt & Diyana, dear friends from Santa Barbara, along with sister Melanie. They will be sailing with us 700 nautical miles from Marquesas to the central Tuamotos… we are going farRRRRR mateys!
The town of Taiohae is located on Nuku Hiva’s southern coast, only a few miles upwind from Hakaui – meaning, it is a slow and bumpy boat ride.
This is the largest sheltered bay in the Marquesas, and it is a little heaven for yachts. There is free wifi (unheard of!) at the snack bar right on wharf; the laundry is “only” $10-12 per load (in contrast Hiva Oa was double that cost); and the 5am veggie and fish markets are right next to the pier.
Early morning fishermen come back with their catch of yellowfin tuna and throw their filleted carcasses to sharks in the murky water.
Depending on the fishermen, the tuna slabs were either very cheap ($2/lb) or if you’re a sweet talker like Sabrina, sometimes free. Like fruit, fish is bountiful here.
But this is the Marquesas, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and transportation is expensive. We dropped off Adam’s family along with Matt & Judy here, after a wonderful two weeks together sailing north from Hiva Oa. They paid $40 per person for the 1.5hr ride to the airport, to catch their flight back to Tahiti (the flight itself was $700 round trip).
Our hike to Vaipo waterfall in Hakaui Bay, the highest waterfall in French Polynesia, was unforgetable. Also, it was Asher’s 10th birthday! Wow, what a lucky guy to celebrate his first decade out here!
Approaching the Hakaui river valley in the afternoon was like sailing into a Lord of the Rings movie set. The light glowed across the misty ridges like the scenes when Bilbo Baggins enters the land of the elves. The cinematographers went overboard in their editing, but its not real, right? The whole valley pulses with energy and it is so deep and steep, it is best called a canyon, winding its way to the largest waterfall in French Polynesia.
The bay is in the south eastern tip of Nuku Hiva. We made landfall after a fast 4 hour sail from Ua Pou island (Hakahau), going north to cross the 25nm channel with an average speed of 6kts. The 20kt ESE trade wind was just aft of beam at 100 degrees apparent. Aldebaran loves this wind angle, and she tracks beautifully across the 4-8ft seas like a surfboard on a wave.
The bay is entered through a narrow passage that opens up into two lobes. It is also called Daniel’s Bay, after the guy that lived in the corner of this nearly land locked cove and welcomed visiting yachts.
Beyond the valley’s overwhelming mystique, my senses also felt a distinct cautionary note. Something felt dangerous. Ironically enough, within 48hrs I had torn up my forearm, bruised my ribs, and infected my sinuses, all being my first injuries for the year.
Yet, the draw of the place was excessive, and like moths attracted to the light, we readied ourselves for the hike to the waterfall.
Ps. We were able to upload these pics with the slow wifi at the Post office, and also added more photos to our Heiva Festival post, check them out: https://greencoconutrun.com/2017/09/05/heiva-festival/
The first half of the 1800s rival missionaries- primarily Catholic and the Protestant London Missionary Society in lock step with French and British jockeying for political power- increasingly arrived to convert the natives. The Tahitian king Pomaré converted to Christianity, dramatically forbidding traditional dancing and traditions missionaries saw as inappropriate.
Several decades later, Tahitian culture, celebrations and dancing were again permitted by the colonial French government, especially at the year’s major celebration, commemorating French Independence on Bastille Day, July 14.
The Polynesians asked: why just celebrate one day, when we can celebrate the whole month?! Thus began the “Heiva” celebration, with dancing performances and competition during the whole month of July.
Every Friday and Saturday during July, there are village parties in cultural halls throughout the Marquesas. We attended one in Hakahau; it was a memorable night with a delicious dinner and incredible costumes and dancing . There were virtually no tourists besides us and our fellow cruiser friends from the Azores. Pickup trucks (the Polynesian car of choice) were lined up in the soccer field; kids ran around playing tag; old ladies sat gracefully with flowers in their hair.
Three different dance troops performed. The energy is exceedingly powerful and tribal. Every dancer glistened in monoi oil and was costumed with leaves, bone carvings, and tapa dresses. The men re-enacted scenes of warriors in battles, or hunters searching for wild boar, chanting in raw rhythmic pulsation. Meanwhile the women offered a beautiful contrast with their haunting melodic voices and feminine gestures.
The dancers of Ua Pou are particularly famous for their “warrior mana”, and they held the audience captive in their spell, exploding with iconic male and female energies that reminded us of fairy tales.
The inter-village competition is taken seriously but the vibe is light hearted. The nature of the night was revealed when the troupe was slowly backing up, and one big chiseled man brushed up against 9 year old Asher, who sat entranced on the chair of a corner table. The muscled warrior was sweating head to toe, tatooed chest heaving for air, looking his menacing part; until he looked down at Asher and let out a huge smile, melting with mirth.
Then we sailed into Hakahau, which is the main town in Ua Pou, located on the north corner of the island. It is a nice harbor with swirly winds and beautiful views.
Gusty trade winds funnel down the valley; a catamaran even bumped into us at anchor. So we moored with a bow anchor and stern bridle at their ship’s wharf.
The boat was repaired, and our new crew was in good spirits. After a month and a half in the southern Marquesas, we were finally heading to the northern group. The island of Ua Pou was our first destination, we set sail just after dark with strong SE tradewinds sending us flying north.
The island of Ua Pou is not particularly well-known, yet its beauty is tremendous. Every Marquesan island has mind-boggling scenery, usually a mix of vertical rock formation amid steep valleys made dramatic by dark clouds and bands of sunshine. Whereas Fatu Hiva is like a monumental dragon with spikes in its back; and Hiva Oa is a venerable sage; Ua Pou is a crown of jewels. Its 8 granite spires rise at the center of the island, cutting into the thick clouds that spill over the ridgeline.
Our first stop in Ua Pou was the village of Hakahetau. It sits on a bay with perfect protection from the tradewinds.
All afternoon, kids are sliding down the boatramp, playing in the water, while goats chomp the vegetation in the rocks above. We watched a community slideshow, after visiting a waterfall deep in one of Hakahetau’s valleys. It was here that we first met Pascal and learned about the school children’s marine reserve, for whom Green Coco supporters raised $2500.
Manta Rays love the bright lights next to their wharf, attracting plankton and yacht visitors alike. Standing at the wharf, we could watch them for hours doing gentle backloops directly below us, feeding on plankton.
Hakahetau is delightful and easygoing. We decided to return here before long.
I often wondered why some of the largest ancient Marquesan villages were located (at times) in valleys without great harbors or easy access to the interior of the island.
For example, Taaoa is located in a bay with a windy, surf ridden beach, a ten minute drive from Atuona, the current capital of Hiva Oa. In contrast, Atuona is next to the most sheltered bay on the island (where we hauled out our sailboat).
Directly behind Taaoa, however, is a gigantic steep 3000ft mountain peak. This was an amazing power spot! I speculate that villages were built in powerful locations more for the “mana”, or life-force, than for economic reasons or transportation access. What do you think? Maybe someone with internet can verify this hypothesis. If you have a comment to share, write in the Reply section below.
Our friend Mu has the heartiest laugh ever. He made Hiva Oa home for us. For our last night in the island he prepared a feast: “chevre à la broche”, which is wild goat on the BBQ marinated with secret sauces. Dinner was also served with the usual feast of poisson cru and other Marquesan dishes.
Hunting for wild goat and pig is part of Marquesan daily life. There is a bountiful supply of both on every island. Since Mu loves both fishing and hunting, he has a special technique for catching goats: he finds goats that are perched precipitously on a cliff over the ocean, shoots them with a rifle from his rolling dinghy, in such a way that they fall into the water. Then he scoops them up like fish.
This is a very tough shot and not many people can make it. But if you can, it sure is easier than trekking up the steep mountainous valley of Marquesas. Mu tells us this story and then laughs even more heartily.
“Where is Aldebaran ?” you may be wondering. The Hiva Oa boatyard put a halt on our blog, followed by fundraising for the Marquesan school children’s marine reserves (which was a big success, thanks to everyone for chipping in!)
Now we will be sharing the remainder of our journey in the Marquesas archipelago.
On the last day of our boatyard onslaught, our new crew members arrived. To recap the introduction of our crew: Adam is an old friend who was sailing with me back in the days of the 29ft Tabula Raza sloop cutting our teeth in the Channel Islands. He brought his wife Kendra and son Asher to join us in Costa Rica last year, and now they were sailing with us for two weeks in French Polynesia. Along with them were another couple, Matt & Judy from San Diego, parents of our long time coop member Robby Seid. It was their first time aboard. It was a crowded boat, but we took everyone because as school teachers this was the only time they could visit us: summer vacation.
Our route: sailing from Hiva Oa south (12 nautical miles) to Tahuata for a few relaxing days snorkeling; then heading north overnight (65 nautical miles) to the island of Ua Pou, and then finishing with another day sail (25 nautical miles) to the island of Nuku Hiva.
The biggest winners of our raffle were the Marquesan kids and their marine reserve: our community raised $2500 for them in just one week! THANK YOU to each one of the 22
participants of our raffle and everyone who helped spread the word.
Want to support even though the raffle is over? Send money via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org with the note “kid’s reserve”.
Thanks to our 22 raffle participants:
Matt & Diyana Dobberteen
Jackie & Jean-Claude Littee
Bob & Susie Beadle
Kristian & Sabrina
Adam and Kendra Goodman
Jay Seiden & Dionne Woods
Keri & Brian Hope
Red shell necklace: Matt & Diyana Dobberteen
Wooden Tiki Carving: Jay Seiden
Shell Lei from Reao Atoll: Adam and Kendra
Tapa of Tiki: Jean-Claude and Jackie Littée
Pandanus Goatskin hat: Roxanne Larsen
Black Pearls: Michael Payne
Congratulation to the winners and a big thank you to everyone who participated, and helped to give back a little bit to the amazing Marquesas Islands.
We will transfer funds next week to the non profit Motu Haka, who is the driving force behind the rennaissance of Marquesan culture, and who are now supporting the creation of marine reserves in the archipelago.
Read more about how we found the prizes during our travels:
Learn about the Kid’s Reserve:
Why Funds are needed:
Announcing our prizes for the raffle! Don’t forget to please share with friends. It is this weekend, August 19th, 3pm PST
These unique handicrafts from our travels could be yours with one ticket for $20, or 3 for $50 (send money via Paypal.com or Wellsfargo.com ‘Surepay’ to email@example.com ). Contributions of $100 or $250 automatically get gifts, as a big thank you!
NOTE: The raffle is to support an amazing project, a school children’s network of marine reserve in Marquesas Archipelago, read below.
About the Kid’s Reserve:
Why Funds are needed:
#1 Wooden Tiki Carving
Origin: Hiva Oa, the main island in the southern Marquesas archipelago.
Story: Our local friend Mu, who guided us around the island and helped a bunch while we were hauled out at the boatyard, introduced us to a wood carver, who made us this cool little Tiki from rosewood (5 inches tall)
EMMA: This island’s marine reserve for school children (the “EMMA”, or Educational Marine Managed Area) is in the north coast, in a bay called Hanaipa, which we visited with Pierre, Lianna, and Chris during our stay in Hiva Oa.
Blog: Read about our visit to Hanaipa here…
Aldebaran’s Route Map of Hiva Oa:
#2 Tapa of a Tiki
Origin: Fatu Hiva, southernmost island in Marquesas.
Story: This island has legendary status with sailors as having the most “beautiful bay in the world”, called Bay of Virgins (Hanavave). It is also famous as the home of Thor Heyerdahl and his fiancée for a year in a “back to nature” experiment, where he developed his theory of Polynesian migration which would eventually blossom into the Kon Tiki expedition. The Tapa is an ancient form of paper or clothing made from tree bark, which is pounded or “tapped” for many hours. This was given to us as a gift by Tahina and her family, who we met in the village of Omoa. It was our first landfall in the Marquesas islands, a seven day passage from the Gambier islands, along with our core crew Spencer and visiting crew Deena.
EMMA: The marine reserve for the school children is located in the bay of Hanaui, next to the village of Omoa.
Blog: Read about our visit to Fatu Hiva here…
Aldebaran’s Route Map from Gambier to Fatu Hiva:
#3 Red Marquesan Nut Necklace
Origin: Nuku Hiva, the main island in the northern Marquesas islands.
Story: We took an overland trip to the north coast of Nuku Hiva, which has magnificent bays with dramatic ridgelines, and powerful archeological sites. Our guide for the day was Josephine, who works with special ed kids on the island. We visited her family in the idyllic village of Hatiheu and she gave us this necklace as a gift at the end of a fantastic day with crew members Matt, Diyana, and Melanie.
EMMA: The marine reserve is in the bay of Anaho, next to the village of Hatiheu. It is famous with sailors as the “smoothest” anchorage in all the Marquesas.
Blog: We are yet to share our visit to Nuku Hiva island. Stay tuned!
#4 Pandanus & Goatskin Hat
Origin: Ua Pou, the center for the revival of Marquesan culture.
Story: The village of Hakahetau is in an incredibly scenic location: at the base of a valley with vertical spires of rock jutting into the clouds. This is where we met Pascal, who has been representing the EMMA project in the United Nations, and in discussions to expand the model throughout French Polynesian and all French territories. Pascal told us about the challenges they suddenly experienced to fund their trip to a global conference in Chile, to share their project with scientists from around the world. Living up the valley is Yvonne, a fiery and vivacious woman who makes hats and mats from Pandanus and Goatskin. Our friend Diyana purchased this hat, but then subsequently donated it to the raffle. Thank you Di!
EMMA: The marine reserve is in the bay directly in front of the village of Hakahetau, which is one of the most photographed locations in the Marquesas.
Blog: We are yet to share our visit to Ua Pou island. Stay tuned!
#5 Black Pearls
Origin: Gambier Islands, in the south-eastern corner of French Polynesia.
Story: After our three week passage across the Pacific (and a week-long visit to the Pitcairn Islands), Aldebaran’s first landfall in French Polynesia was Gambier. It might as well be Eden: it is an archipelago of 5 islands inside a large 10nm lagoon, with transparent turquoise water and lush hills with pine trees and other varieties. The lagoon is Gambier is ideally suited for black pearl farming, which is only found in Gambier, Tuamotos, and a few other select South Pacific atolls. We visited a pearl farm and purchased some of their pearls during our visit with Spencer and Deena.
EMMA: None yet.
Blog: Read about our visit to Gambier here…
#6 Shell Lei Necklace
Origin: Reao Atoll, Tuamotos.
Story: Reao is one of the most remote atolls in the Tuamotos, and is rarely visited by sailboats due to its lack of reef pass. It was a halfway mark between Gambier and Marquesas, so we paid a visit during our passage, without much expectation of success. The locals helped us anchor and we were blown away by their hospitality and the remarkable sights in the atolls (including a sunken sea plane in shallow water). Our host was the town nurse: Gautin, a French man married to Marguerite, a Reao local woman, who gave us this necklace that she made from local shells.
EMMA: None yet.
Blog: Read about our visit to Reao atoll here…
— > Want to join the raffle? One ticket for $20, or 3 for $50. Send funds by Aug 19th via Paypal.com or Wellsfargo.com ‘Surepay’ to firstname.lastname@example.org . Contributions of $100 or $250 automatically get gifts, as a big thank you.
Money received after Aug 19 will go directly to the children’s reserve project (via the non profit organization “Motu Haka” in Marquesas).
About the Kid’s Reserve:
Why Funds are needed:
We’ve discovered inspiring projects during our travels but this has been the most mind-blowing of them all: Marquesan school children managing their own marine reserves.
(See our previous posts, link at bottom… it’s the smartest way to protect the ocean that we’ve seen!)
To help fund this grassroots project – and their travel to an global conference in September to share their innovative ideas with scientists – we are asking you to help us raise a couple thousand dollars.
To express our gratitude to our donors we have selected handicrafts collected from our travels to raffle as gifts.
Kick down $20 towards 1 raffle ticket, or $50 for 3 tickets. We have 7 great items to raffle.
–> Raffle Date: Saturday, August 19 (in one week!)
–> Location and Time: 3pm PST, Facebook live, streaming from French Polynesia (internet permitting)
–> Cost: $20 for 1 ticket, $50 for 3 tickets.
–> 6 Prizes:
HOW TO PAY:
Paypal or Wellsfargo transfer to email@example.com
– $20 one raffle ticket
– $50 three raffle tickets
– $100 or $250 for a special gift
Please write “raffle” or “donation” in the note.
About the Kid’s Reserve:
Why Funds are needed:
Green Coco in the last 2 years:
“It all started seven years ago when Beadle purchased the 42-foot trimaran, Aldebaran, and set-up a cooperative model with 30 graduate school friends to allow for a rotating crew on the adventures.”
With huge smiles, elder ladies sang Polynesian songs to the strum of acoustic guitars, swaying in their sarongs and flowers tucked into their hair. They were amidst the July festivities, celebrating with a community lunch. Although lunch time was technically over, our host Pascal kindly asked the cooks to serve us portions of the traditional Marquesan meal they had prepared for their village members.
To our surprise, a huge feast of poisson cru, fire roasted wild boar, taro and banana in various forms was placed before us. As we sat in awe of this generosity, Pascal shifted his immense body and offered a soft-spoken blessing to the meal: “We thank the sun for nourishing this food, may it bring you wonderful health.”
Despite the revelry, Pascal seemed somewhat morose on this day. I asked him how were things with the kid’s marine reserve.
“Well,” Pascal began, in a lumbering manner. “There’s an exciting thing happening in a month, we are taking 10 kids to a conference in Chile. They will share with scientists around the world what we are doing here in Marquesas.”
“That’s fantastic. They are actually presenting at the conference?” I asked, still wondering how this could be getting him down. “Yes, in fact, our EMMA model [educational marine managed area] is being considered as a new, official protected area format. There are six types that are recognized, ranging from “limited entry” to “no-take” to “managed use,” Pascal continued.
“The IUCN (international union of conservation of nature) is the body that regulates this, along with other things like ‘how endangered are species’. The EMMA would be the 7th type of marine protected area. Although it isn’t about enforcement, we see the EMMA as a natural way to weave communities into the fabric of protected areas.”
“What a great idea! I know many people in the States who would be very interested in the EMMA model. So plans for the Chile conference are solid?” I prompted.
“That’s the thing,” Pascal said, looking slightly uncomfortable. “We had all our funds for the trip, in fact we have the airline tickets already, so we are going.
“But the French Polynesian education ministry just told us that our choice of accommodation wasn’t approved. We were invited to stay at a school in Chile, and also at a school with our ancestral cousins in Easter Island, which we will visit enroute, so costs were kept low. But now we need to stay at a hotel or bungalow, an “approved tourist facility”, Pascal intoned with mild disgust, referring to the bureaucrats’ terms.
“I am sad and angry that they only told us this with so little time left. But tomorrow on Monday I will start the day with a clear head and start looking for the money we need,” Pascal nodded solemnly.
I probed Pascal further and he shared that they are short US$7000, which they actually need by mid August ideally, or soon after. The funds need to go to Motu Haka, the non profit organization in Marquesas.
The crew aboard Aldebaran met and discussed whether we can help out. The Green Coconut Run was originally born with two goals: as a community sailing adventure, and as a way to promote ocean conservation.
Here was a perfect example of what we hoped to achieve: come across amazing projects along our travels, which we can help support and share with the world.
We want to work together to help the Marquesan school children and the EMMAs. Want to learn how? Read below.
—-> Here’s how we plan to help the school kids fund their trip to Chile to share their model with scientists from around the world; while supporting the EMMA program and marine reserves in Marquesas.
- Share this post with your friends
- We ask you to contribute $100 or $250 via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org ; the first 20 donors will receive special Marquesan gifts.
- Green Coco will match up to $1500 in funds via our crowdfund site Patreon.com
- Conference in Chile, Sep 4-8, 2017. “International Congress of Marine Protected Areas”
- Network of EMMAs in Marquesas, known as “Pukatai”
- Video about Regional Marquesas Protected Area in the works
- Green Coconut Run’s last two years described by Seven Seas Magazine
We met Pascal during an extraordinary slideshow presentation about the school children in their village.
“Our kids have an important task,” Pascal had said in his resounding voice. “They are managing the marine protected area in front of our village.”
I raised my eyebrows. Come again?
“Our coastline in Marquesas is precious,” Pascal had explained. “We’ll need marine reserves, as other nations have done, but instead of starting with the adults, we are starting with the kids. They are our future.”
Somehow we got it done… Aldebaran repaired and repainted, ready for launch.
– 15 days on dry dock
– Major repair 60 sq ft of fiberglass
– Minor repairs totaling 30 sq ft of fiberglass
– 2.5 gallons of epoxy
– Plenty of sanding discs and face masks
– 1 gallon of primer
– 2 gallons of white topside paint
– 5 gallons of red bottom paint
– Rudder repaired with new bushings
– $1200 in boatyard fees
– $1800 in materials
– 10 bottles of rum gifted
Photo of Crew, from left to right:
– Judy (from San Diego)
– Adam and 9yr old Asher (from Santa Cruz, returning to Aldebaran with mom Kendra) – Matt (Judy’s partner)
– Captain K
– Mu (our kind host in Hiva Oa)
– Vincent (boatyard owner)
– Chris and Willie (helping to launch)
– Freddie (runs the transport boat to Fatu Hiva and Tahuata) – Sabrina and Kendra
“Too much stoke. We harvested too much stoke. Now we’re paying the price!” said Ryan aka Desert Mouse, when we had been stuck in the Ventura Boatyard for nearly four months back in ’15. Such is the yin-and-yang of boating, where the incredible beauty and soul-fulfilling sights of the sea are necessarily balanced by constant hard work and occasionally excruciating effort, all geared towards keeping the boat in good operation.
According to the Catholics, Purgatory is a temporary place of suffering to purify our sins. What are the sins we were purifying at the boatyard, if not hubris, ie. over confidence? That is, the audacity that land creatures like us could navigate across the water, a foreign and unforgiving environment, in our particular case three years of sailing, crossing 10,000 miles aboard a fifty year old boat? Having repented through blood, sweat, and tears, humbled by the noxious demands of sanding dust, we were thus purified and readied to re-embark our journey.
The end was in sight. On Day 13 of our boatyard marathon, our buddy Adam arrived with his wife Kendra and 9yr old son Asher. He’s an old friend from Morro Bay back when I was cutting my teeth with the Tabula Raza, my first 29ft sailboat. Adam likes to say he was one of the “floundering fathers” of our sailing community, since we were together, cluelessly flailing at the start. He and family had joined us in Costa Rica last year on Aldebaran for a week. Now they would be sailing with us for the next two weeks in Marquesas. Naturally, we put the happy family to work on the paint immediately.
Our scheduled day for launch was Day 14, but that was a Friday. It is very bad luck to launch a boat on a Friday, plus it was Bastille Day so the boatyard owner was happy to postpone our launch by an extra day. We paid a French sailor-girl named Celine, who was needing work, to re-paint the ship’s name Aldebaran on the bows, using our mini projector to project the image onto the hull.
The final crew for this upcoming leg arrived that afternoon: Matt and Judy, parents of our long time co-op member Robby Seid. They were joining the boat for the first time. They also got thrown into the last-minute painting mayhem.
On Day 15, we woke up at 3 am to put away the gargantuan mess of tools and materials that had piled up underneath the boat. The trailer-tractor lifted us up at 7am, and to our deep chagrin, the straps on the trailer crushed some paint and fiberglass on the keel. We rushed to make a super quick patch, mindful that high tide was 9am, which is the best time to enter the water. Around 10:30am, as Adam and Matt were still putting on final touches of red bottom paint (that stuff is expensive! $200/gallon, can’t be wasted!) we gave the go ahead to re-enter the water.
(A few examples of delays: To rebuild their broken rudder, the Danes needed a stainless piece fabricated in Tahiti which took 6 weeks. To fix each piece of their broken centerboard, a French couple had been in the boatyard 9 months. The Chilean catamaran that broke its mast was in Atuona for more than a year.)
So among my first questions to the boatyard owner Vincent was about resin and paint. “Yes we have 5 gallons of bottom paint for you,” he said. “But only in red. Will that do?”
Just like that, Aldebaran’s hull color changed from blue to red.
This was a little shocking at first but it reminds us of the red stripe at the bottom of the Californian flag. Some folks say that red might make the boat go faster, since that’s the color of all Ferraris. Incidentally, red was also the hull color when the previous owners Bob and Jackie owned the boat. (Aldebaran’s name in the 80s and 90s was “Picante”, as Jackie was a culinary writer and loved to cook aboard the boat… go figure! we are continuing that tradition)
Days 1-4: cut off delaminated fiberglass, grind sharp edges, sand the boat Days 5-7: deal with the Gremlins
Days 8-10: fiberglass the repairs
Day 11: apply primer to all the repair areas
Day 12: apply bottom paint (red!)
Day 13: apply white topside paint (to everything but the boat’s deck) Day 14: request one extra day, and continue to paint topside and bottom
Day 15: continue to apply bottom paint until 10 minutes before entering the water
For anyone that has seen Aldebaran out of the water, you realize there is a LOT to paint. We woke up on Day 12 and called our friend Mu: “We need your help! We’ll pay you with rum!”
Photo: Soso painting Aldebaran’s new red hull. Besides having awesome tatoos, he is a wood carver, and I commissioned him to carve a relationship tiki as a surprise to Sabrina, in celebration of our four year anniversary 🙂
During our stint in the boatyard, Sabrina and I took time a few evenings to recharge our batteries, and help make our two week marathon-sprint of boat repairs a little more bearable.
Every Wednesday evening at the “Search and Rescue’s” lookout station, a five minute walk from the boatyard, a BBQ fundraiser is held which lots of cruising sailors attend. Enjoying a $5 can of Hinano beer with a music jam by the open air fire, we met quite a number of young people cruising the high seas. Most of them were “hitchhiking” on boats (via find-a-crew type of websites), serving as crew members to help run night watches across the long Pacific passages. But there was also a surprising number of young sailboat owners (in the 25-45 year old range). This was very different from what we are used to back in Central America, where the overwhelming majority of boats were owned by retirees.
These younger sailors are normally looking for work along the way, or planning to sell their boats as soon as they arrive in New Zealand or Australia, and several also receive contributions from their crew members.
(Photo: a Swedish couple with dog and hitchhiking German fellow Durant balancing gingerly on an inflatable kayak, the only ‘dinghy’ aboard their 30ft sailboat powered by outboard-only, that they took around Cape Horn in a westward direction, after learning how to sail just months before underway in the French winter. These folks are seriously bad-ass)
The boatyard was as nice a community as we could hope for, and we were often invited to have lunch or dinner with other sailors on their land-locked boats. This helped our morale to carry on the daily toil of sanding fiberglass and filler, which seemed to never end.
Our energy level began to waver in the last week of work, and Sabrina and I took turns “crashing”. Our bodies were simply too run down by the intensity of the work. Beyond the dust, heat, and exertion, the worst physical effect of working with the heavy duty fiberglass from the boatyard was the unbearable, itchy rash it left on our skin.
We never experienced this problem before with the thin fiberglass we use back home. However, the thick fiberglass shards got through all four of the protective suits we had purchased, to the point we could no longer wear them; or for that matter, our long sleeve work clothes that were now also contaminated with fibers. The only saving grace was the cold pressure shower 30 yards from our boat, which we now used obsessively to cool off and wash off the grime.
In retrospect, we should have paid the local lady to launder our work clothes (@$20 per load!) but we were so disgusted by the high cost that we forgot about that possibility. My clothes made me itch like a madman, so I ended up working in old boardshorts and running into the shower every two hours to wash off my body.
Our departure from California in 2015 was at the tail end of four months of work at the Ventura Boatyard. I hoped that in the future we’d never have to do all that grizzly repair work of fiberglass and sanding the boat on our own again. I hoped we’d be able to hire help in affordable countries down the road. As fortune would have it, we ended up doing a haul out in Marquesas where labor is expensive.
The only thing that kept us in overdrive through days 10-14 was that the end was in sight. We frantically worked to make the most of the miraculous sunshine, which we knew could be interrupted by torrential rain any day. We were determined to finish since our friends were joining us in a few days, and Purgatory would soon be over and Aldebaran would be back where she belongs… in the water.
Try getting all the materials in advance to build a house, and never once running to Home Depot for the nails, screws, or pieces of wood that were overlooked. The Pitcairn Islanders that we met on our first landfall in Polynesia have to do this – their supply ship, the ‘Claymore’ only comes every three months, assuming the weather is fine. This is also what we had to do in Hiva Oa Boatyard, in order to not be stuck there for weeks.