Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Marquesas, French Polynesia

S/V Aspen – April 27, 2010 – Log #39
Position: 12 degrees 33.0' S 144 degrees 22.0' W
Sailing to the Tuamotus

Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa are several of the spectacular
Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. We visited Typee Valley where
Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame was imprisoned by a native tribe; We
saw where Paul Gauguin disputed the French authorities as he lived and
is now buried in these islands; we visited the bay where Robert Louis
Stevenson penned Treasure Island; and we visited sacred tiki sites and
bone holes where human sacrifices took place as recent as the 1920's.

These young islands show the scars of recent volcanic eruptions and the
huge spires that leap from the earth where their calderas once spewed
lava and ash to form these islands.

The Polynesian people are very warm and welcoming to wayward sailors.
Their language is now French because France controlled these islands for
more than 200 years. Their food also has a very French flair and their
grocery stores carry mostly French brands at a very French price!
Baguettes, croissants and French pizza are found everywhere in the

The local fresh market had a variety of fruits and vegetables to buy but
you had to arrive early, at 4:30 am, to get the best selection! Things
available included many varieties of mangos, bananas, huge grapefruits,
breadfruit, paw paws, and even avocados.

The water in our anchorages was clean again but deep and it would have
been nice to take a daily swim, except for the tiger sharks that swam
around our boat. Since these islands are so young, they do not have any
reefs yet and only the deep ocean flows upon their shores. The
anchorages attract the predators from the ocean and they would love to
feast on a few sailors!

We were one of only a few sailors who also escaped the Marquesas without
a tattoo! The tattoo was first invented here and the tattoos are
spectacular. Many of our fellow sailors are now adorned with these new
symbols of their visit to the Marquesas.

One night we even had a traditional pig roast hosted by Rose Corser, an
American who settled on Nuku Hiva more than 40 years ago and is a
gracious host to sailors from around the world. The roast was really 2
pigs because it had to feed some very hungry sailors!

After checking in with the French authorities we were free to visit the
rest of French Polynesia, at least as far as Tahiti, some 900 miles away
where the WIFI works again, or so we hear.

The fuel in the Marquesas was rationed because of the number of Rally
boats that arrived all at once. Getting our allotment of 200 liters
onboard Aspen was quite a feat. Captain Steve had to scale a 30 foot
wall with a ladder, bring his diesel containers up one at a time, hike
to the fuel station with the containers, hike back to the wall with the
fuel containers, lower the fuel containers one at a time with a rope
into the dinghy that was being thrown about at the base of the ladder by
the huge swells and then motor away from the jetty wall before getting
swamped by the continuous spray coming from beneath the jetty! Bringing
little Aspen to this same wall to pump diesel onboard was not an option
we wanted to try!

So now we have some fuel and have sailed away from the Marquesas, bound
for the Tuamotus, also known as the Dangerous Archipelago, 700 miles to
the west. We should be there by Thursday mid-day, when the slack tide
will allow us entry through a difficult, reef strewn, shark infested
pass into the Atoll's lagoon. The atoll's name is Rangiroa, the 2nd
largest atoll in the world.

We will put more photos on the blog site once we get to Tahiti!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

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