Makemo and Tahanea

After Raroia, we sailed down to Makemo and then Tahanea. Makemo has a small village which has a population of 600 (including all the children from the surrounding atolls attending the school) out of the total atoll population of 824.

Entering the pass entailed the usual getting the timing of the tide right and paying attention to the flow of water and any standing waves.

On the way, we had a nice view of Ari B with her spinnaker up.


The village was pleasant and we were able to re-provision pretty well.


In Tahanea, it was very beautiful (it is an uninhabited atoll) but we had a really bad weather experience.

Unpredicted by the weather data, we had a massive weather surge come through. All the yachts were anchored somewhere on the north of the Tahanea atoll to find protection from an expected north-west. We were on our own in a half decent anchorage. Just during dinner preparations, the wind started rising and the sea state with it. It was soon a steady 30-35 knots from the west. The waves were running down the atoll and our anchor was holding nicely against the sandy slope of the shore, so although it was strong wind and bumpy we were worried but OK. [In retrospect, this was our last opportunity to up anchor and move to deep water but I suspect that we were already around the bommie from the wind shift and would have had to try to up anchor going beam to the wind on a lee shore and then face the shore whilst we did it.]

All of a sudden, the wind went from 30-35 to 41, 43, 45, 47 and finally 51 knots. The waves built up proportionally. We suddenly dragged and the west set of wind and wave pushed us rapidly towards a rocky shore just 50m away. We had motor on already in preparation. It was too rough to even consider trying to go forward and retrieve snubber, 3 buoyancy buoys, 50m of chain and an anchor. So the only option was to try to keep the bow into the wind and wave and maintain station with the engine.

This we did with some difficulty for an hour or so. During this process, it became apparent that we were firmly snagged with the chain around a bommie. This had the advantage of a precarious security from being blown onto the shore but the price was a shortened scope of chain. This caused vicious bouncing from the huge waves, which we could see crashing massively onto the shore behind us, to start damaging the starboard bow roller. The snubber broke and I went forward and replaced it with another double snubber (to protect the windlass) at the cost of some bruising and a calf muscle strain. But we held firm and the wind abated somewhat but still strong from the west and WNW.

Going forward later with a view to up anchor and move somewhere it was apparent that we were well and truly wedded to the bommie and that the chain was firmly wedged into the damaged bow roller with the second snubber stretched iron tight to the deck cleats. It was not possible to consider working on the bow to free the chain in the conditions.

We instituted a watch system and kept the engine on, gently in forward to reduce the pressure from the chain on the bow roller. This worked somewhat, giving a slightly easier action on the boat.

There was another surge of weather later on but all we could do was have both on deck, think about options for abandoning ship, and adjust helm and engine to minimise the boat action and damage to the bow roller. We thought of cutting chain but that would have meant angle grinder and Honda Generator and working on the bow in less than ideal conditions.

Things abated somewhat again later and after some more helm and engine work, we went back to a watch system with the engine on and gently forward.

Further up the coast, Sancta Anna, a large Polish sloop, rode the storm out successfully with the same strategy of engine on at anchor but they did not get snagged on a bommie.

Further still, the boats in the pass anchorage were able to up anchor in the nick of time and get out into deeper water. They had a water spout pass them at about 150m away. We understand that they later re-anchored and then had to repeat the process. Some boat damage and loss of equipment but no injuries thankfully.

In Fakarava, some boats were lost onto the rocks apparently.

In the morning, Sancta Anna came across and anchored near to us and assisted us in positioning our second anchor in a way that relieved the pressure on the main anchor chain and gave us greater security.

We inspected the chain on the bommie and found a spectacular foul up of chain that we knew we would not be able to free by snorkel. Perhaps by dingy method but certainly only with great difficulty.

We considered retrieving the anchor and cutting the chain as we have spare chain enough to make up a good length with chain links. However, a French sailor that we had met previously had diving equipment and offered to come across the next day and help us retrieve the chain. That night, we had the most beautiful sleep. We were soooo tired.

In the morning, we got to work preparing for the chain retrieval. We took a photo of the chain on the bommie (follows later) and used controlled violence to eventually free the chain from the bow roller. Some 4-5 links were in some way damaged but serviceable. We removed the port side bow roller (2nd anchor) and held it ready to install on the starboard side for the main anchor chain. We removed the damaged bow roller. Getting the bent bolts out and seeing the damage wrought was an eye opener.

Charly on the sloop Longtemps arrived with Re’jane and we all worked together to finish the bow roller to receive the chain. Charly went down with tanks and we helped from the surface moving lines about etc. We decided to end-to-end the chain as we have 110m and the inner end was essentially new. So we removed the anchor and moved it across the sea floor to where we had dropped the rest of the chain and reconnected it. Then we had the fun of watching Charly’s slow underwater dance as he laboriously unpicked the devil’s knitting on the bommie.

We were all delighted when it came free and we were able to wind in the chain and get the anchor back on deck.

Charly came back on board after his decompress and we had a cold beer to celebrate together.

A French naval vessel had come in to the atoll the previous day and they offered assistance but we were able to thank them and decline because of Charly’s efforts.

Longtemps then went off to dive the pass and we cleared the boat and set off on the 9nm across the lagoon to the “7” anchorage (so called because of the satellite picture that shows a sandbank in a “7” form). We were delighted to discover that friends Alex and Carla (who had maintained contact during the weather show and provided great advice) on Ari B were there just 2 hours ahead of us and Alex kindly came out in his dingy and guided us into the anchorage as it was late and visibility very poor in a tricky anchorage.

A G&T, supper and an early night for another lovely sleep and an awakening to a gentle and truly beautiful anchorage. An amazing contrast to our recent experience.

Raroia and the Covid-19 experience

Will add more pics as and when I have internet access – VERY slow to load here in Raroia at Ngaramoa Village, the only place with an internet access point.

Marquesas to Raroia

We left the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva) on the late afternoon of the 8th March, to take advantage of a favourable weather window for the passage to the Tuomotus, some 450nm to the south south west. It was a good beam reach the whole way and we had a lovely, almost full moon at nights. We made very good progress and had to slow the boat down in order not to get in too early.

We arrived about 07h00 on the 12th March outside the entrance pass and rendezvoused with our friends on Ari B, Carla and Alex, who had left from Ua Pou.

Ari B had entered Raroia before and so led the way. We were around about slack tide but there was still a strong tide coming out through the pass. You can see the standing waves and Ari B ahead of us slewing as she entered the main current. We powered through on high revs and were soon in calm waters.

We went up to the village and obtained a bit of slow internet outside the Post Office and topped up from a very limited and expensive choice of provisions from the small village store (a delightful couple, Charlot and Gerard, who speak good English and are most helpful).

Raroia is an atoll, unlike the spectacular mountainous Marquesas. The atolls are the remainders of what were islands like the Marquesas, now reduced to a fractured rim of reef and sandy islands. It is quite wonderful (after the rolly anchorages of the mountainous islands to the north) to come out of the wind and waves of an ocean into the peaceful, flat quiet of an atoll anchorage. An Oasis in the Ocean.

We went up to the north east anchorage which is very remote and peaceful. Lovely walking and snorkelling.

We had fun gathering land crabs (there is a huge population that we can’t make a dent in). About 6 make a decent meal. There are large Coconut Crabs that emerge at night but we have not taken any of these as they have a much smaller population.

We then heard of the impending Covid-19 restrictions and returned to the village for a quick re-provision and got back to the anchorage just prior to lock down.


Inter-Island travel is banned so we are to remain here for the duration. The French Polynesian officials were quick to implement social distancing, travel and other protective measures and it seems to have worked, with relatively few infections and these contained to 3 islands; Raroia remaining free of the virus to date.

There is a total of 6 boats spread widely apart in the anchorage. We and Ari B keep to ourselves as we have been together and healthy for far longer than the quarantine period and we do not know definitively about the others, although we do know two of the boats.

We have had fun ashore on a spit of sand on the edge of the closest island.

I set up my “workshop” there some mornings as I make some wooden Boules out of Marquesan Rosewood. We had our first game recently.

Walking the outer reef bordering the ocean provides for spectacular views, good foraging and a wonderful perspective on how the rim of the atoll protects the interior environment from the great Pacific Ocean.

Liz does her long swims still and has attracted a loyal following of Black Tip sharks that follow her respectfully around the anchorage.

Arib B hosted a birthday party for Liz replete with chocolate birthday cake, crab starter and duck breast mains.

Daily life on the boat continues with its tasks:

Drying Bananas


Washing and washing up

Making hanging nets for food storage

Reclining in the hammock during the heat of the day


Repairing and deploying the lobster trap (this was not successful and neither, so far, has walking the reef at night produced results).


Making and deploying our anti-Bommie defences – firstly a 15 foot flexible three strand rope snubber, to take the load should the chain get snagged on a bommie close to the boat and secondly four 14.5Kg weight load buoyancy buoys, collected from the reef, to keep the chain from snagging on bommies.

Whilst doing repairs with superglue, I did the unusual and read the instructions of superglue bought in a Marquesan store. They were hilarious!!

As usual throughout French Polynesia, sundowners and sunsets are a great time, with stunningly beautiful scenes.

And equally as usual to contrast with this, the underwater scenery is extensive, varied and delightful.

As there is as yet no sign to an end to the Covid-19 restrictions and as we have no need to adopt any risk, we expect to remain in the wonderful location for several more weeks yet.


Back in the Marquesas

The month in Cape Town went by in a flash. We arrived back after the long multi-stop flight, having seen some more of Liz’s fmily in NZ, to be greeted by local music at the micro-scale Hiva Oa airport.


Work on the boat followed – engine service, bottom paint, new davits for the dingy, replace annodes and various bits and pieces.

Then some gentle cruising around the island until a weather window opened that has us leaving Nuku Hiva for the Atoll of Raroia in the Tuomotus tomorrow afternoon. Should be about a 3-4 day trip. We look forward to totally different scenery – atolls as opposed to volcanic mountain islands.

Ua Pou Revisited

We had a varied sail across fro Tuahatu to Ua Pou – no wind to start and then some spanking beam reach sailing in blustery conditions on the last third. (Ignore the date on the photo, its fixed on the camera now).

Once around the headland, the approach and anchoarge at Hakahau was as good as ever. We had fun watching the kids enjoying their kayak practice after school.


This bit of the mountainside reminded us of a Lion’s Head view of Table Mountain:


We had another very pleasant walk over to the next bay.

Anyone spot Liz in the wave?

Liz bodysurfing (1)

We visited the Pukuee Bar for a well deserved cold one on the way back (and some internet access). Great views over the anchorage.

The Watermaker gave us a Low Pressure warning and stopped working. After much digging and consultation, we dismantled the Booster Pump Switch (having changed filters and done endless other checks) and found that when they assembled the switch, they had put a very poor spot solder on one of the terminals (instead of a male/female connection) and this had just fallen off. Once identified, easy to replace with a good connection and all was well again.

Next we wandered down the coast to Hakaheteu.

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The anchorage was a bit rolly but had spectacular views.

We had another great walk up to one of the Pinnacles. The Lady with the Goat was born in Hakaheteu, is working in Strasbourg and was visiting family on holiday. She gave us our walking directions and also helpful instructions on how to do a full day walk around all the Pinacles (saving that for our trip back down south later).

Bye Bye Ua Pou for now. We will return later. The poor place is going to be inundated by (according to some) about 3000 people in December for a Music Festival. It doesn’t bear thinking about in this pristine location. We are thankfully away for Caryn’s wedding and will return well afterwards. We are benefitting from enjoying all the music preparations by experiencing all the arts, crafts, music and dancing around the islands (see next post) in a more relaxed manner.

Meanwhile, great memories in our wake …….


Cruising the Marquesas

Been a bit tardy on the blog updates of late but what with lack of internet access and complete adaptation to island time, it just didn’t seem a priority.

We have been slowly cruising around the islands and enjoying the wondeful Marquesan people and their amazing “Hiva” homeland.

Here’s a picture of the layout and location of the Marquesas for orientation ( Emily C. Donaldson (2017): Troubled lands: sovereignty and livelihoods in the Marquesas Islands, International Journal of Environmental Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00207233.2017.1364893)


As you can see, we have just started scratching the potential of French Polynesia, let alone the rest of the Pacific Islands!

Here’s another whistlestop through some of the places we have been chilling in.

ANAHO Bay on Nuku Hiva

There will be more on this special place later as we are going back again but it is such a special anchorage (see pic, tucked around behind a headland with 360 degree protection) and such a pleasurable environment (sandy beaches, walking, forest etc etc).



and of course the snorkelling …..


Anse Avaiva Iti

Again special for us as it was our first landfall after the crossing from Panama, so we could not resist another stay.


Fatu Hiva

We had a spanking beam reach sail across from Tuahatu to Fatu Hiva (south western most of the islands).


There is only really one viable anchorage called Baie Des Vierges (Bay of Virgins) off the village of Hanavave. It used to be called Baie Des Virges (Bay of Penises) before the Missionaries interfered and had it changed. If you really, really squint and stare hard at the picture, you can just sort of imagine a virgin in the rocks.


Hanavave and its anchorage are really picturesque. If you want to stay incommunicado, anchor on the left of the bay (more sheltered) where the jutting rocks interfere with the Vinispot signal.


The other settlement on the island is Omoa. It is an hour and a half kayak down the coast which is a splendid trip, full of hidden inlets, caves and mini-waterfalls. Sorry, no pics as Liz’s waterproof camera proved not eventually …

The other way to get there (yourself) is to hike the only island road. This takes just over four hours at a goodly pace. We thought about hiking back again to save the expense (for a nanosecond) and then settled in for a bayside lunch, cold Hinano beers and a bumpy water taxi (small aluminium boat) ride back.


The bay was so rough when we left that they could not use the slipway to launch the boat but dropped it in with a forklift truck instead!!


There is also a pleasant forest walk to the Cascades at the head of the valley above Hanavave.


The people on Fatu Hiva were just so nice and helpful. We got invited to the Sunday service in the Roman Catholic church. This turned out to be a uniquely Marquesan “sung mass”. There was a great turnout. The service itself was highly participative as regards members of the community leading various parts and readings. There was a small choir together with soprano and tenor ukuleles, a rhythm guitar and a large and emphatic lady on a traditional drum. The voices were great, not only in the choir but in the audience as well, with lots of harmonising. Even the children participated instead of the normal fidgeting or sleeping.

We had several pleasant strolls around the village and visited with a local artisan who carves in shell, stone and wood. Very good carving work (we have seen enough now to have some degree of appreciation of quality). We bought some items but the smaller stuff as it is all so very expensive here (prices are 3X Panama as a rule of thumb).

The lead artisan is supported by his son, who runs the business now. I have got wood carving tools coming to me from Australia. When they get here, we will return to Fatu Hiva as they have agreed to teach me the Marquesan methods of carving.


This is regarded as one of the best anchorages in the Marquesas (good snorkelling, lots of Manta Rays, beautiful beach, no development). We bypassed earlier in our wanderings as there were still quite a few boats in. This time we have had it almost entirely to ourselves with an occasional second boat dropping in.


Hiva Oa

Although not our favourite anchorage, we had a very pleasant stay when we went back to visit John and Bev on Dandelion (who have finally resolved their engine problems).

The anchorage was very flat and quiet (by comparison with our previous stay). We had some great walks and met up again with Seth and Ellen on Celeste and John and Becca on Halcyon.

Good kayaking out to the island and swimming with the Manta Rays.


Good provisioning done, we were off again …


Ua Pou

Very pleasant sail across and spectacular views on approach.


Nice time in town with friendly locals and a dance and haka celebration. Pleasant walking around.


One of my favourite spots. We are the only yacht in the bay again.


The views are great. On our last visit we got a great rainbow shot of Dandelion. There is good snokelling on both sides of the bay, great walks for hours to north and south and a great kayak down to Baie Hanatefau for more good snorkelling.

The church is a work of art, dominated by a beautiful stained glass window that filters in the morning light most beautifully.

There is a micro-archaeology-dig site (covered in) in the south of the bay at what seems to have been a seaside settlement that provided a dune dig. The researchers drew conclusions about the seafaring capabilities of the early Marquesans through the discovery of various artifacts and their distribution elsewhere in Polynesia; in particular, the source (quarry on another island) and distribution (very distant islands) of a precisely identified stone used to make adzes.

Some of the finds from the dig have been preserved and displayed in the local museum.

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Whilst not detracting at all from the value of the local museums (the Musee Boutique on Nuku Hiva is another worth visiting), it is sad that so much of the Marquesan artifact heritage has been taken away from the Hiva homeland and now resides in foreign, “first world” museums and collections. This systematic deprivation is well documented in “Les Marquisiens: Les Marquisiens et leur art. Ornamentation primitive des mers du sud III. Collections”, by Karl von den Steinen, first published in 1928. A large book (13″X19″), this thoroughly documents a wide range of Marquesan art and artifacts with a commendable but depressing thoroughness in the identification of where these objects now reside. Now there’s a project ……..

Vaitahu was also the adoptive home of Emily Donaldson, from where she was based in conduction ethographic research which you can access here:

This article provides a good insight into her work:,%20Troubled%20Lands,%20Sovereignty%20and%20Livelihoods%20in%20the%20Marquesas%20Islands.pdf

She also published a Marquesan-French-English Dictionary and Phrase Book, a physical copy of which we have been unable to find – we even boarded the Aranui in foul weather in Vaitahu Bay to source a copy but they did not have any. You can request a digital copy from Emily via her website.



Nuku Hiva

We arrived at Nuku Hiva after a pleasant overnight sail from Tuahatu.

The main settlement at Taiohae is a rolly but pleasant anchorage and there is lots to do in the way of walking, snorkelling (some), good provisioning and good medical/dental care.


There was a great veggie market on Saturday mornings at 05h00.

We treated ourselves to a lunch at the upmarket Pearl Lodge with its great views out over the bay.

Freinds Alex and Carla shared a car with us for a tour around the island. The interior is surprisingly Alpine until you get to the other side of the island where it seems that some French bureaucrat has drawn a line and decreed “No greenery here, just desert!”.

The northern bays are very picturesque and of course a pleasant lunch was called for.


We explored one of the archaeological sites until the miggies got the better of us. The sites are mainly former settlements that have become overgrown in the forests – the arrival of the Europeans having devasted the population (by about 90%) through disease, religion, drink and random slaughter. Its amazing that the locals are today amongst the friendliest people that we have encountered anywhere.

With Carla along, some good foraging was obligatory.

There is a modern sculpture up on the hill overlooking Taiohae Bay which has great views and the opportunit to post a written wish into the belly of the “Earth Mother”/Warrior composite figure.

The Cathedral is worth a visit. Like many of the churches, it combines traditional Tiki and similar imges alongside Christian ones and there is a Tiki site alongside. We were anchored right outside the entrance.


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We anchored in the protected Daniel’s Bay anchorage which has spectacular rocky mountain surroundings. The walk up to the waterfall in a canyon was great but they had forgotten to turn the tap on so we did notb see the waterfall.


Our favourite anchorage so far, in the entire Marquesas, is Anaho Bay. We have spent some time there chilling, snorkelling and enjoying the walks.

Hiva Oa

The anchorge at Atuona on Hiva Oa is picturesque but uncomfortable. You can see in the background of the title image the small Maintenance Marquises Boatyard where we hauled out and will leave Windward in December when we attend Caryn’s wedding.

Here is the picturesque part:

And here is the uncomfortable bit:

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Because of the tight space, the shifting winds and the surging swell, you had to anchor close to other vessels and with a stern anchor out. Boats were dragging at all times of day and night. We were woken one morning by the frantic shouts of a single handing and venerable Dutch sailor who was trying to re-anchor and in the process had entangles his rudder on our stern anchor line. I had to dive down in the murky water, avoiding his turning prop and free the line for him.

Checkin with the French Polynesian authorities was painless and pleasant – one form, a smiling welcome and you got to post the form to Tahiti by yourself over the road at the Post Office.

We had several pleasant walks.

Another stroll took us up the hill behind town to the cemetry to see the graves of Gaugain and Brel; the rest of the cemetery was more interesting (short lifespans these folks) and had great views.

We re-provisioned heartily to replenish the stores depleted by over a month at sea but had our socks knocked off by the prices – much dearer than Europe.

Hiva Oa provided our introduction to the French Polynesian canoeing. It is THE sport here and the craft are very elegant. As we write, they are preparing for a major inter-island race.

The haul out at the yard was smooth and we managed to haul, clean the bottom, refresh the ant-fouling and install stainless steel reinforcing and repair the broken welds on the cockpit structure plus splash back in in 4 days.

Andreas and Helena of Wapiti kindly assisted us with the haulout process. UK Health and Safety would have freaked to see us required to stay on board throughout the haulout and move to the working stand. The yard is toi be recommended for price, service, resourcefulness and friendliness.

A last walk took us back to town and a visit to the local culture and crafts centre where lots of goods were on dispolay (no photos allowed, beautiful and far too expensive for us)  and some external displays of Tikis and carvings.

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Thereafter it was spalsh into the water and back to Tuahatu (where we bumped into the Diesel family on Argo) for a couple of days chill before the overnight sail to Nuku Hiva.