Sunday, May 29, 2011

Traditional Double Canoes come to Taipivai Bay

We delayed our departure to the Tuamotus once again so we could see a fleet of seven traditional double canoes, called vaka moanas, come into Taipivai Bay on Nuku Hiva. The Marquesans threw them a grand party and served up a fabulous traditional lunch of assorted fruit and meats that we were invited to partake in as well. Five of the seven voyaging canoes sailed all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. The other two joined them in Fakarava in the Tuamotus, the only other stop before Nuku Hiva. From here they will sail on to Hawaii and then San Francisco. The canoes were constructed mostly out of traditional materials with the help of polynesian experts. Some of the modern modifications include fiberglass hulls and solar powered electric engines to help them on their way when the wind dies. Each canoe is crewed by about 20-30 people representing about ten different south pacific nations. For more information about the voyaging canoes check out the website:

We sailed into Controleur Bay just as the canoes were on the way into Taipivai and we caught up with the last canoe right before they doused their second sail. It was quite a magnificent scene; seven traditional double canoes, some with red sails and some with white, coasting into the dramatically beautiful Taipivai Bay, with several massive waterfalls dotting the distant scenery amidst the lush steeply sloping valley walls, sporadically illuminated by bursts of sunlight as the clouds passed by. Many Marquesans were out in their outrigger canoes welcoming the fleet and singing/chanting words in Marquesan. The crews on the vaka moanas often replied in their own versions of the polynesian dialect. The whole thing really gave us the surreal feeling of being transported back in time.

Soon all the boats were anchored and all the crews were ashore. We hurried to anchor ourselves and pump up the dingy. We picked up Ryan and Alex on Shalimar and made are way towards the black sand beach, weaving through the seven vaka moanas and admiring the unique artwork and craftsmanship while trying to imagine what it would be like to voyage across the sea on one. The welcoming ceremonies were under way as we drew near the large crowd that was gathered around a circle of open space where all the action was taking place. The seven different boat crews were each individually recognized and welcomed and they in turn performed their own customary greetings of some sort. Drumming accompanied the whole ceremony. The Nuku Hiva dancers performed a traditional Marquesan dance called the Pig Dance and then the male dancers invited all the visiting men to come out into the circle to learn a small part of it. This was a lot of fun to watch and pretty humorous to all those present.

After the welcoming and dancing was done, it was time to eat. A huge spread of all types of fruit from the island was unveiled while the locals went over to the roasting pits to get the meat ready. Soon the meat was bought over by the Marquesan dancers while singing and yelling something about food I presume. It appeared to be a variety of meat including pig, goat, and beef, prepared the traditional way and wrapped in leaves. Jared got himself a gigantic leg of meat to gnaw on while I had a delicious bowl of poisson cru, raw fish with garlic and coconut milk.

After eating to our heart's content, we wandered down the beach a ways a ran into some other cruisers partaking in the festivities. A New Zealander named Simon came over and started talking to us and we all had a million questions for him. He kindly answered them all and we learned a great deal about what life was like sailing aboard the vaka moanas. It sounds like the shape of the hulls has gradually been improved for sailing to windward, so much so that the oldest boat of the fleet is much slower than the newest one. It also sounds like they sail pretty well in general and offer a nice stable platform for the most part. The structure on the top of the middle of the boat houses the galley and all the sleeping births are in the hulls. Everyone takes turns steering the boat with the oar like tiller in the middle and going to windward sounds especially interesting. The skipper must alternate having the rudder in and out of the water to counteract the the boat's desire to head into the wind. To do this, you push up and down on the tiller instead of side to side, no easy feat in big sloppy seas when its really blowing hard!

We are very glad that we stayed for this special event and we feel very lucky to have witnessed it. I hope that our friends in California check out the itinerary on the website link above and make plans to go and see the vakas sailing under the Golden Gate bridge. It would be well worth it!

Rough Plans

We may not be able to update again before we head off to the Tuamotus so here's the plan:

We are going to a different bay, just west of here, tomorrow for a big festival they are having to welcome some polynesians arriving on traditional sailing catamarans. After that, we will top off our water and food and head out on Monday or Tuesday. Not sure if we will have internet again before we leave, but our friends on Shalimar have a modem so we can email you from their email if need be to let you know it's time to start checking our position again.

Our rough Tuamotu iterneray is as follows:

4-5 day passage to Makemo atoll

2-4 days in Makemo

1 day passage to Katiu atoll

2? days in Katiu

1 day passage to Tahanea atoll

3-4 days in Tahanea

Overnight passage to Fakarava atoll

5-8 days in Fakarava (internet possible)

Possible stop in Toau, just north of Fakarava time permitting, then on to Tahiti by the end of June, beginning of July. We will be buddy boating with Shalimar. We will only be checking into the Pac Seafarers Net on the passages between here and Makemo and our last atoll (Fakarava or Toau) and Tahiti (the multi-day passages).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anaho Bay, Our Brush with Luxury, and Our Return to Taiohae Bay

While driving around Nuku Hiva, we were able to see a little bit of the north coast and we decided it was worth the trip up there with the boats to see it in a bit more detail. We left Taiohae Bay on the 20th and sailed upwind to Controller Bay on the southwest corner of the island off the village of Hooumi. On the way there we nervously watched behind us as a huge 120' sailboat passed uncomfortably close to Ryan and Alex. Shalimar (Ryan and Alex's boat) makes Architeuthis look small but this boat made Shalimar look like a toy. Shalimar escaped and anchored next to us for the night. In the morning we all sailed out around the point, up the east coast of the island, and around into Anaho Bay near the northeast corner. We arrived considerably ahead of Shalimar and saw the giant mega yacht already at anchor in the bay. Christine and I anchored while grumbling amongst ourselves about the evil James Bond yacht that had given our friends a scare.

After we'd been anchored for a few minutes, a guy came by on a kayak and asked us some questions about our boat and complemented Architeuthis on her good looks. We, of course, love it when people tell us how great our boat is so we invited him aboard so he could admire the woodworking and varnish. It turned out that Murray was one of a small group of friends who had chartered the nearly new and very very fancy mega yacht called Bliss - the selfsame mega yacht that had scared the pudding out of Shalimar on the previous day. In fact, Murray had been at the wheel. He'd been certain (because the electronic navigation equipment was telling him so) that Bliss was going to pass in front of Shalimar and they probably would have but, as Ryan watched the huge boat barreling toward him unsure if anyone aboard knew there was a fragile wooden boat ahead, he got understandably nervous and started up the engine to try and get out of the way. When Shalimar accelerated, Bliss had to alter course slightly to pass behind rather than in front. Shalimar was on starboard tack and therefore had right of way so, technically, should have stayed on course and maintained his speed. However, I'm of the opinion that in a situation where nobody's racing and you've got a million miles of open ocean to maneuver in the guy at the helm of 22 million dollar high speed mega yacht should cut the little guy some slack and make his pass in a manner which will avoid staining anyone's shorts. We discussed the drama with Murray and he was good natured about the whole thing. So good natured, in fact, that he invited Christine, Ryan, Alex and I over to Bliss for drinks despite the fact that Shalimar hadn't made it into the anchorage yet.

So, at the appointed hour, all four of us loaded into our dinghy and motored over to Bliss. Murray and one of the professional crew members were waiting on the giant fold down swim step thingy on the stern. The crew guy took our line and tied up our dinghy and we went aboard. We met all the people who'd chartered the boat. Aside from Murray, there were two well dressed British couples and the son of one of the couples. As we talked, two crew members in matching dresses with the boat's name embroidered on them continued to appear out of thin air and pour champagne in our glasses - which may help explain why I'm a bit hazy on our hosts' names. There was a Colin and an Alexander and perhaps a John but, regretfully, that's about as much as I can tell you. After a while, we were given a tour of the Bliss's accommodations. The companionway door (if it can be called a companionway at this scale) was a giant translucent double door that silently slid open as you walked toward it. No ducking necessary as we entered the air conditioned interior. It was quite fancy. The galley was literally larger than the entire below deck space on our boat. The engine room was clean enough to eat off of. The state rooms all had the beds meticulously made up with fresh sheets and a little chocolate mint next to the pillow and I came to believe that this bed making and mint distribution thing was a daily occurrence. It was a completely different world from Architeuthis. It was a world that, if given the chance, I probably wouldn't mind becoming accustomed to someday. For now though, I'm happy to be traveling on a smaller scale. If we were aboard a boat like Bliss, I don't think we'd be able to meet and interact with people the way we have. It seems to me that such luxury would have to isolate you not only from the more modest communities that you find on small islands in the south pacific but from the community of cruisers as well. We often approach strangers on boats in anchorages to say hello but, if Murray hadn't approached us, I'm sure we would have been too intimidated by the sheer size and fanciness of Bliss to motor up in our dinghy and knock on the side to say hello.

The next morning Bliss was gone and I failed to get up early enough to get any photos (this also might have had something to do with the bottomless champagne glass) of the outside of the boat so here's one I stole from the internet (in order to get an idea of how big this thing is, try to find the person in the picture - hint: it's the tiny ant sized thing near the port side steering wheel):

SY BLISS -  Main

We spent several more days in Anaho Bay. We snorkeled, cleaned the bottom of the boat, went on a little hike, and spent some time with some new friends that we'd met in Taiohae. Pierre Paul and his wife Caroline are both doctors from France who've been working in Nuku Hiva for the past year or so. If I were a good blogger I would have already told you about meeting them about a week ago but, alas, I am not. Anyway, we met them in Taiohae bay and they invited us to their house so that we could use their filtration system to fill our water jugs (the tap water available at the dock is not for drinking). We ended up staying for diner and had a great time talking to them and they had told us that they were going to be at Anaho Bay. So we spent an afternoon aboard Shalimar with Pierre Paul, Caroline, and their three kids. Ryan and I rigged up a swing off the bow so the kids could swing out and jump in the water. It ended up being so fun that the kids had to wait in line while we all took our turns on it. Alex took some pictures of us all acting silly on the swing but we haven't copied those from her yet.

After four days in Anaho, we decided it was time to get going so we left on the 25th in squally conditions with lumpy uncomfortable seas and went back to Taiohae Bay after another one day stop at Controller Bay. We were planning on a quick trip to Taiohae for provisioning and the to head out for the Tuamotus almost immediately but the crappy sea conditions and reports we were hearing from boats already on their way convinced us to give it a few more days. We'll make at least one more brief post before we head off so you'll know exactly where we're going and approximately when we expect to arrive.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nuku Hiva Rental Car Expedition (and a couple of boat pictures)

We teamed up with Shalimar (our friends Ryan and Alex) to rent a little car and tour Nuku Hiva a bit. When I say 'little car', I'm not kidding. I actually had to bow out as driver because I couldn't operate the controls with the seat far enough forward to allow someone to sit in the back seat. Anyway, the car was adequate with me as a passenger and the island was beautiful. For such a small island (well, I guess its the second largest in French Polynesia but it's around 20 miles across at its widest) it has a lot of diversity. The southern coast where we've been anchored is all steep valleys, cliffs, and dense lush vegetation but it turns out there's a desert on the west side of the island (which we didn't get all the way into) and a plateau in the middle that looks like the foothills of the Sierras in California complete with heards of cows and some wild horses running around here and there. A twenty minute drive from hot and humid jungle put us into cool grassy plains and pine forests (pines were introduced after contact with europeans but have spread all over the higher elevations). Ten minutes later we were up on a cloudy windswept ridge looking down at a miniature grand canyon. It was a bit surreal but all of it was beautiful and completely uncrowded. Natural wonders that would have attracted bus loads of camera toting gawkers back home were completely deserted here.

After our tour of the central part of the island, we drove through Taipivai (Melville's Typee Valley) and up to the northeast coast. On the way we stopped at a huge archeological site. We thought we were the only ones there until an old Marquesan dude walked out of the jungle and started talking to us. Luckily, Alex was with us and could translate from French to English for us. It turned out the guy (Alfonse) was the care taker of the site and often worked as a guide for tour groups that sometimes come to the site. He offered to show us around the site and we eagerly accepted. The site was amazing and while it would have been good to see it even without knowing what anything was, it was much better with Alfonse there to explain and Alex there to translate. In addition to being a compendium of historical information, Alfonse was also quite the comedian. He made a number of cannibal jokes and offhand comments about eating tourists that I particularly enjoyed. He probably spent upwards of two hours with us and asked nothing in return. I asked him what he normally charged for tours and we gave him that as thanks. Even with the two dozen or so nasty mosquito bites I ended up with (I was having an allergic reaction to them but seem to be over it now) it was well worth it.

Well pictures are worth a thousand words and I suppose that pictures with captions are worth even more so take a look at the slide show. If you click through to the pictures, on the picasa website, you'll also be able to see a map that shows where each photo was taken.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva

Taiohae Bay was a short day sail (about 20 nautical miles) from Ua Pou. All the islands have been beautiful but Nuku Hiva was extra pretty on approach. It was all big rocky cliffs, green jungle, and giant waterfalls. Nuku Hiva is the biggest island in the Marquesas and it's the administrative capital, main shipping port, and so on for the Marquesas. Knowing all this, I assumed that Taiohae to have a bit of that slimy border town feel to it but was pleasantly surprised to find it only marginally less laid back than the other islands we've visited. People here are still friendly but they seem a bit busier and not quite as enthralled with visitors as the people on some of the other islands. Having lived in tourist destination towns myself, I can't say that I blame them. They have a steady enough stream of visitors here that I'm sure the novelty has pretty much worn off.

One of my favorite things about this island is that I've already read about it without really knowing it. In 1842, Herman Melville came here as crew aboard a whaling ship. He and a friend jumped ship right here in Taiohae bay and, with great difficulty, made their way a couple of valleys east and Melville spent a month or more as guest/captive of the indigenous people there. He wrote a more or less factual account in the book 'Typee'. When I first read the book a couple of years ago some differences in the spellings of place names and my lack of familiarity with these islands left me a bit confused as to exactly where all this stuff was taking place. Since arriving here, I've found an electronic version of the book and Christine and I are reading it now on our Kindles. Being here makes the book even more interesting and it's fascinating to see what has and has not changed here in the intervening 170 years.

The first blog worthy thing we did after our arrival here was to go on a hike with some friends from other boats that we hadn't seen since Mexico. We climbed up a trail through the jungle to a rocky overlook near the mouth of the bay. Check out the pictures in the following slide show and be sure to check out the captions. Christine went through the trouble of adding all those in so we wouldn't have to type so much here.

As you can see in the pictures, we also went to church on Sunday. Well, we didn't actually go in (because I had to fix the outboard on the dinghy again so we were late) but we did hang around outside. The church itself was pretty cool. It's built of big stones, many of which show signs of ancient use for tool sharpening and there are a lot of cool wood carvings (that I failed to get good pictures of). One of the sort of curious things that we saw was carvings of the 'Marquasan Cross' on things in the Church. It's a very old symbol from these islands that happens to resemble a swastika. It, of course, has nothing to do with genocide and predates all that nazi business by many hundreds if not thousands of years but it is a bit odd to see it carved into stuff on a church. The singing in the church was beautiful. With very minimal accompaniment from a guitar and a drum, the whole congregation sang hymns in Marquasan that were unlike any I'd ever heard. If all churches had singing like that, there might be a slightly better chance of me signing up for a conversion. ...but a slightly better chance than absolutely no chance at all still isn't anything to get your hopes up about.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Still in Nuku Hiva

We're still in Nuku Hiva. So far we've done a bit of hiking, rented a car to tour the island, met some really nice French people who live here, and, of course, worked on the boat a bit. We have a bunch of photos to sort through and post and we need to write a couple of proper blog entries. We are going to leave Taiohae Bay today and go to Controller Bay and the village of Taipivai (where Herman Melville stayed as detailed in his book 'Typee'). After a day or so there, we'll head around the east end of the island up to Anaho bay. We'll probably stay there for a few days and then head back here to Taiohae bay for some final provisioning before we head out to the Tuamotus. It's only about 500 nautical miles to the Tuamotus but it doesn't sound like we can really count on getting much in the way of provisions out there so we'll stock up here with enough stuff to make it to Tahiti if necessary. At any rate, we'll post more when we stop back here before heading off to the Tuamotus.

Oh yeah, Ryan and Alex on Shalimar are coming with us to Anaho bay and we're going to see if we can all agree on a route through the Tuamotus as well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tahuata Photos

Here are some more pictures from our day on Tahuata:


Tahuata (not Tuahata as I misspelled it previously) was great. Hiva Oa was probably already worth the ordeal of the passage out here but, in case it wasn't, Tahuata definitely was. According to one of our guide books, Tahuata is the smallest inhabited island in the Marquesas archipelago, has no bank, and just one bed and breakfast type place to stay. There's a really nice anchorage on the island so quite a few cruising boats stop there but it's definitely not what you'd call a tourist destination.

The wind was blowing pretty good on April 20th so it only took us about 2 hours to sail south out of Tahauku Bay near Atuona on Hiva Oa, around Teaehoe Point and through the Bordelais Channel that separates the two islands and around to Hanamoenoa Bay on the northwest side of Tahuata. We anchored in about 25 feet of water clear enough to watch the anchor dig into the sand below us. We spent the first couple of days there working on repairs and projects, snorkeling, and hanging out with our friends Alex and Ryan who followed us from Hiva Oa on their wooden Mariner 40 'Shalimar'.


On May 3rd, 3 guys in a wooden outrigger canoe came into the anchorage and went around to all the boats offering to trade fruit for stuff. One of the guys, Nahau, is a surfer and, seeing our surfboards, tried to tell us about waves in the area. We speak almost no French and none of these guys speak much English so the signal to noise ratio was pretty dismal until our friends Ryan and Alex came to the rescue. Ryan is from California so he's as confused by French as we are but Alex grew up in France and went to University in Paris. She was able to ascertain that in addition to telling us about some waves that could be surfed, the three guys (Fiu, Mohuho, and Nahau) were inviting the four of us to go spear fishing with them the next morning and then eat with them at their place afterward. Christine and I have both been hoping for the opportunity to hang out with locals, get to know them, and see how they live so we answered with an enthusiastic yes.

We waited for an hour or more past the appointed time for our new friends to show up but since we understand that things happen at a different pace out here we weren't bothered. Once the outrigger had arrived, Christine and I hopped into our dinghy, Alex and Ryan got into theirs, and we followed Fiu and Mohuho around the point and out to a little reef a ways offshore. Christine got ready to throw our little dinghy anchor into the water and Mohuho motioned for her to stop. Instead, Fiu dove down 25ft or so and tied outrigger's bow line to a some exposed rock on the reef below and then directed us to tie our dinghies to the outrigger. They know the value of their reef and don't want anchors damaging it.

For the next hour or two, we snorkeled around watching giant manta rays (one having a wing span of at least 10 or 12 feet) swim under us while Fiu and Mohuho collected lunch with their spear guns. They got a large-ish Octopus (I think it was cyanea), some kind of snappers, and some surgeonfish. Given how much I appreciate cephalopods for their intelligence and complex behavior, I had mixed feelings about seeing an octopus struggling and inking with a spear through its face but, since these guys had been nice enough to feed us and invite us along, I wasn't about to complain. The shallowest part of the reef was over 20 feet below us so it took some skill to dive down there, line up your shot, and spear a fish. When they saw that I could make it to the bottom and stay there a little while, one of the guys offered to let me take a shot with his spear gun. I gave it a try and missed my fish and, unfortunately, bounced the spear off a rock. I felt like a bit of a doofus but the spear didn't appear to be bent and it wasn't the only time that day that a spear hit a rock. Ryan let me try with his pole spear too. I managed to touch a fish with that but didn't manage to actually kill anything. Part of my trouble was that, aside from a couple fish I'd seen them spear, I wasn't sure which were good to eat and I didn't want to kill something we weren't going to use. When we were all done, Mohuho, asked me to go down and untie their bow line from the reef below and I felt somewhat redeemed from poor spear fishing performance when I was able (just barely) to get the line up on my first try.



When all the boats were untied, we went in and landed on the sandy beach of the little bay were they live. Nahau, the surfer guy we'd met previously, and Moana, who we hadn't met before, already had a ton of fruit laid out on the table, had the grill going, and were preparing some kind of marine snail (the shells were already gone so I never did figure out what they were). While the octopus and fish was cooking, they gave us coconuts to drink from and showed us how to eat some unfamiliar fruit and how to scrape out and eat the lining of the coconuts after we'd finish drinking the fluid part.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm terrified of eating unfamiliar foods. However, in this setting, not wanting to try to explain to our hosts through Alex's translation why I was refusing to put the snail in my mouth, I managed to eat it. ...not that it was easy. The taste wasn't bad at all but the texture (and probably the thought of what it looked like) gave my gag reflex a couple of kicks that I had to suppress. I made it through the whole meal without anyone noticing my odd food phobias while silently thanking my lucky stars that vegetables don't make up much of the diet around here.


It turned out that all of that was just appetizers. The fish and octopus got done on the grill and they brought out several pots of stuff they'd prepared earlier. We were given plates and offered our pick of lobsters, a couple kinds of crab, coconut rice, shredded coconut salad, octopus, a few different kinds of fish, salted pork, and more fruit than you could shake a stick at. We had brought rum and soda to share and Alex a Ryan brought a bottle of wine. Both were well received.

While we ate, Alex asked them all of our questions and translated their responses for us. They told us that their family had owned the beach and the valley behind it for as long as anyone could remember and that the four of them lived in the village (Vaitahu) part of the year and in this valley the rest of the time. They made a living there by producing copra. Copra is basically dried out coconut innards. They gather coconuts of the appropriate ripeness, bust them open on a stick or metal bar stuck into the ground and lay the bits on a drying stand with a removable corrugated metal roof. When it rains they slide the roof over the copra. When the sun comes out, they slide the roof open again. Once they have enough dried out chunks, they sell them to a boat that comes to the island and takes it off to be turned into coconut oil. On the upside, this work didn't look to be dangerous or particularly strenuous and you couldn't ask for a more scenic job site but of course there's a downside. We didn't ask exactly how much this work paid but it was pretty clear that it didn't pay much. They had no electricity in their valley, no car, and no road to drive it on if they did have one. On the other hand, their water came from a well in the valley, they had pigs running around all over the place they could eat, and they also had access to all the fruit and fish they needed so their expenses were pretty minimal and they did have a few modern luxury items. In addition to the 20 + year old wooden outrigger with a small modern outboard engine, they also had a very fast looking fiberglass racing outrigger. For entertainment, they also had an iPod, a PSP, a cell phone, and some portable speakers


Alex probed them a bit about things they wished they had and general dissatisfactions about living on the island. Fiu mentioned wishing they had some solar panels and batteries so they could charge their gadgets and have better light at night but the main complaint didn't really have to do with something that could be bought. With only around 30 or so different families living on the island (and most of them being related to some degree), it seems that finding a girlfriend is pretty much an off-island activity and without much in the way of financial resources, getting off the island isn't easy. Nahau solves this problem by playing football (or what we Americans, for some reason, insist on calling soccer) in a league that takes him to games all over the archipelago where he has a chance of meeting girl who's not his cousin. As far as I could tell, the other guys just resigned themselves to the lack of female company.


After lunch they took us on a little tour of their valley. Fiu showed us the pig / goat trap they have set up. He even sprang it for us and showed us how to rebuild it. Nahau tried to show Ryan and I how to climb a coconut tree. I only got 4 or 5 feet off the ground before giving up. Ryan did a bit better but, for the time being, I think all the coconuts in the tall trees are safe from us. The valley was beautiful and really reminded me of reading Typee by Herman Melville (though that book is actually set on Nuku Hiva to the north - where we'll be going soon). The only draw back to the place was the bazillions of mosquitos.


After some group photos, we asked them to come by the boat on the following day so we could give them some gifts to thank them. We had offered to load their iPod and PSP up with music and the photos we'd taken so we took those with us back to the boat. They insisted that we take the leftover food and fruit so we loaded up our dinghies and headed off. Fiu and Nahau came by the next day (with even more fruit for us) and we invited them aboard. We managed to have a somewhat successful conversation with them in broken French and English, we played the guitar a bit, and showed them where we'd put the music and photos on their devices. We also gave them a little LED lantern we had that could be charged with a hand crank. We'd just about exhausted our conversational abilities when Alex and Ryan again came to our rescue and helped us say our goodbyes and get their address.

All in all it was an amazing experience. It was great to meet these guys who, in terms of material wealth, don't have much but exhibit such generosity and dignity. They knew that we had stuff that they would like to have and made it clear that they were willing to trade what they had for it but never asked to be given anything and never complained or showed the slightest irritation when they asked for something in trade that we were unwilling to part with. It was also really cool to meet people who have such a strong connection with their home. Being from a country populated predominantly by immigrants, it's amazing to me to imagine living in the valley that's belonged to your family for as long as anyone can remember.

Tattoos in Ua Pou

Our trip from Tahuata to Ua Pou did not pan out as we thought it would. What we estimated to be about a 12 hour passage took us about 17 hours and we were faced with the choice to heave to till morning or attempt the anchorage at night. Fortunately, the anchorage at Hakahau was pretty well lit up by lights lining the breakwater and all around the little cove. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of space to tuck into behind the breakwater where the best protection from the surge was and the other two boats there had both bow and stern anchors out. We managed to get ourselves situated right between them without too much drama, although the guy from the boat to starboard zoomed over in his dingy to try to help us out right in the middle of it all causing a little confusion. We paid him a visit the next day on our way to shore and it turns out that he, Eric, actually lives in Ua Pou 6 months of the year on his boat with his wife, Marielle, and two small daughters Make and Yaelle. Eric and Marielle are both doctors at the local hospital. They made their way over from France about 3 years back and cruised all over French Polynesia before settling in Ua Pou. They say that Ua Pou has the nicest people of all the places they've been and that it is their favorite island. Eric also had a very nice tattoo that we asked him about and he informed us that his good friend Kina was the man to see for a tattoo of that quality, thus began our tattoo mission.

Eric invited us over to their boat, Le Ouistiti (The Monkey in french?), that evening and we talked more about how we could go about getting tattoos from Kina. Turns out Kina lives in a village on the other side of the island but he usually comes to Hakahau once a week to see family. Eric was nice enough to call him for us and arrange a meeting. Eric and Marielle were really cool and we learned a lot about the region from them, including the best place to haul out the boat if we decide to do something about the boot stripe and bottom paint before New Zealand.


We spent the next couple of days checking out the sleepy little village of Hakahau, working on the boat, and Jared tried out the little surf break in the anchorage. Then on Tuesday we met up with Kina and headed over to his sister's house. Bill and Sue from Dilligaf came along so Bill could get a tattoo and Alex and Ryan from Shalimar came as well to observe and of course, as always, to translate (thanks Alex!). Kina's very pregnant sister, her husband, and her mother gave us a warm welcome and we felt comfortable at once. I volunteered to go first and Alex helped me discuss what it was I wanted with Kina. A man of few words, he sat there nodding and holding his chin looking very serious. You definitely got the sense that he takes his art very seriously and really puts his whole heart and mind into understanding his subject as best he can. I had decided on the area around my ankle bone and that I wanted a shark, a symbol of the journey there, a symbol of my love for Jared, and a symbol for the family I hope to have in the future. After he did a rough sketch on my ankle and I confirmed that it looked good, he got to work. It definitely hurt a bit more than I thought it would, kind of like I was being cut into with a knife or something. I winced a lot and was breathing pretty hard to get through certain areas, but I didn't cry. It was over within the hour, thank goodness! (I don't know how Jared managed to sit for a total of 20 hours to get his squid tattoo.) The result is a amazing and I am so happy with it. I really love the way some polynesian tattoos accentuate the natural lines of the body and that is exactly what I got. Jared took video of him describing each little detail so we would never forget. Jared was next, and then Bill. They both chose to get bands around their arms below the elbow. Jared's has a special symbol to represent his grandfather and father because of all the invaluable mechanical knowledge that was passed down through them that led to Jared having the necessary skills to do this trip. He also has a symbol of our marriage and one for the journey here.




We sat around with Kina's family all morning talking with them and sharing photos (I brought the iphone which has some wedding pics) and information about the island and their lives. They went outside and came back in with bags full of oranges and limes for all three boats. Such generous and friendly people! We were thrilled to once again get an inside look at how people live on these islands and spend some time with them. We can't thank Alex enough for all the translating and Eric for arranging it all for us.