French Polynesia is located in the middle of the South Pacific and includes 5 groups of islands: the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Society Islands, the Australs and the Gambier. Our first stop would be the Marquesas, approximately 3,000 miles from the Galapagos, which would be our longest passage to date. We settled into a routine quickly and enjoyed the challenges accompanying a passage such as this.
We had days with too much wind, too little wind and winds coming from the wrong direction but we quickly adapted with various sail combinations. Aside from one injury while at sea (the Captain broke some ribs after getting knocked into the cockpit by the boom) we had a spectacular passage, and landfall was met with mixed emotions.
Each day we trailed our fishing lures behind the boat and were able to fill the freezer catching numerous mahi mahi, tuna and wahoo.
Our prize catch was a 56" wahoo which resulted in over 30 steaks in the freezer and a very happy crew!
Isles Marquises (Marquesas Islands)
After 22 days at sea, we finally made landfall at the southernmost island in the Marquesas group which is Fatu Hiva. The mountain peaks reach over 3,000 feet and with it's abundant rainfall and lush vegetation, it is the most beautiful island in the Marquesas.
We entered "Baie des Vierges" (Bay of Virgins) on the western side of the island in the early morning light and it was the most spectacular anchorage we had ever seen. Lush green steep-sided mountains surrounded the bay. At the head of the bay, large rocky spires are the focal point. The bay was originally called the Bay of Phalli (I think you can see why in the picture) until the missionaries arrived on the scene and disapproved, so they renamed it Bay of Virgins!
After so many days at sea, we were glad to get ashore, stretch our legs and do some hiking. One such hike led us to a 200 foot waterfall. We spent about a week in Fatu Hiva enjoying the laid back lifestyle of the island, the friendly people and the beautiful surroundings. We bought some wood carvings from a young local craftsman and even had him carve some wood trim pieces for our nav station.
Then it was on to some of the other islands in the group. Our next stop was the largest island in the Marquesas, Hiva Oa. We anchored in Baie Tahauku which offered some protection from the ocean swell behind the breakwater. Swimming was inadvisable due to the large shark population. We spent a couple of days here, stocking up on fresh baguettes and delicious local fruits. This is also the island where the French artist, Paul Gauguin resided and a visit to the museum and surrounding grounds was enjoyable.
We then made a stop at Baie Hanamoenoa, the most popular anchorage on the island of Tahuata. Here we spent a few days snorkeling in the pristine waters. The last island we visited in the group was Nuku Hiva, anchoring in Baie de Taiohae. Taiohae is the largest town in the Marquesas and we were here during the "Bastille Day" celebrations. There were parades, Polynesian dancing and drumming, and beautiful flower garlands along the main street. We met up with a lot of other cruisers here during a happy hour held by Rose Corser, an American who has lived in Nuku Hiva for over 25 years. She owns a resort which is located on the side of the mountain and has a spectacular view of the bay. We all enjoyed her delightful stories of island life.
We explored several other anchorages around Nuku Hiva, one of our favorite being Baie D'Anaho, one of the calmest anchorages in the Marquesas. The crystal clear water and surrounding coral reef provided excellent snorkeling, and each afternoon we were entertained by a group of manta rays coming in to feed. We spent several days here with our friends, Aglim and Kian on their 33' Prout catamaran "My Chance". Aglim, from Turkey, is only the second person from Turkey to circumnavigate and the first to do it in a catamaran. He is a national hero and their journey is being followed closely by the Turkish sailing magazines.
Iron Mistress at anchor in Baie D'Anaho
Two miles west of Baie D'Anaho was the delightful village of Hatiheu. Bordering the waterfront is a collection of tikis and intricately carved arches which add a special ambience. High up on one of the spires overlooking the village (you can see the white speck in the photo), is the Madonna of Hatiheu. It is a white statue built in 1872 by Frere Blanc. We often wondered how it stayed perched up there for so many years.
All along the waterfront were several small restaurants and markets. It was here that we were able to stock up on fresh fruit such as bananas, oranges, pamplemousse (a delicious juicy fruit similar to grapefruit), lemons and limes.
As we were approaching the end of July, it was time for us to get ready for our next passage.... the Tuamotus.