The last of French Polynesia… for now.
We have arrived in the Marquesas. The passage here was our last (fingers crossed) upwind passage. At least until next year. The Marquesas are far enough East, that we should be able to sail due north from here, cross the equator and then slowly veer off West for the Big Island of Hawaii.
Right now We’re in Hiva Oa, the island where we first landed after our Pacific crossing and where I subsequently and unexpectedly lived for three months. This is where our journey diverged; where our plans were foiled and where we were forced to go off script. Its strange, but also fitting, to be departing French Polynesia from the same place we entered.
We arrived in the Marquesas after a five day sail from Makemo. As the sun was rising, we sailed into the waters between Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Mohotani and Hiva Oa. Entering between these four islands evokes a strong sense that you’re entering into a space, almost as if you’re entering a house, the four walls made of mountainous islands, rising dramatically from the Pacific Ocean. As the sun rose, Hiva Oa was directly off our bow. For me, our return was a bit emotional. Hiva Oa had become a home away from home. After sailing throughout most French Polynesia, the Marquesas are by far my favorite archipelago. There’s something special here.
We decided to use Tahauku bay (anchored almost exactly where we were in confinement) to stage our preparations for our crossing to Hawaii. We had some maintenance to do; the usual varnish, engine check up, clean up, rig check etc. We filled up with fuel, running the dingy back and forth with gerry cans to the station. We have filled our cooking gas and we have already provisioned.
Last time I was here I met a Tasmanian man. A scientist and surfer who married à Polynesian woman and has been living in Hiva Oa for the past 5 years or so. We had a beer or two then. I had wanted to interview him in regards to a project he had underway here, but we didn’t have a chance. I reached out to him when we arrived last week. This time around he invited us to come barbecue and camp on an empty lot they have in Hanaiapa with his wife and two children. Hanaiapa is absolutely the most beautiful and utopian place in all of French Polynesia (I’m not biased). It’s a small valley and harbor on the North side of the island. I had spent some time anchored there and I was ecstatic for the opportunity to return. We rented a car and met the family there on Saturday.
Zach and I had arrived early and had a chance to hop in the water for some small, fun surf. We then set up camp in a shelter on the bay and headed to their lot for a fantastic feast. We cooked over the open fire. Dinner was served on banana and Noni leaves, laid on a 100 year old rock foundation of a home that used to be there. We ate by the fire, using head lamps to ocasionally help our fingers find the next bite or find our Hinano (beer) on the ground. After our meal and clean up, Zach and I hopped on the truck tailgate, the kids already asleep in the back seat, and we headed back to the waterfront. The stars against the mountains and valley behind us were stunning. The village quiet and peaceful. The image will remain crisp in my memory.
It wasn’t long before I was asleep in my hammock. After a big day, I could hardly keep
my eyes open. This was the first time I have slept off of J. Henry since January (Colombia). The morning came quickly. We packed up camp, collected some some limes from the trees above us, some mint in the creek and stopped at our friend’s lot for a couple of bushels of bananas. We made plans to catch up before our departure and then headed back to J.Henry.
These new friends in Hiva Oa solidified the island as my home in the Pacific. We met up yesterday evening to say our goodbyes. We were given a box full of goodies as a parting gift: homemade noni juice (to give us strength for our sail), a pineapple, two grapefruits, fresh homemade coconut milk, and a pumpkin for Thanksgiving, which will be celebrated at sea this year.
I love this island. I hope to return sometime, but now we must keep sailing on. We’ll pull up anchor this afternoon and sail overnight to Ua Pou; an island North West of here which is on the way out. From there we will check our weather once more, and if all looks well, we will begin our sail for Hawaii.
Please keep up with our progress. The tracker will be on. We expect roughly 18 days at sea. We’ll hope for sweet weather and perhaps some good fishing along the way. It’s strange to be sailing back into the United States. I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m excited for for the next chapter of this journey to begin.
Thank you for keeping up with us.