We won't get a lot of sympathy for admitting this, but we are all complaining of tendonitis in our wrists from eating so much pamplemousse! It is a good problem to have. Life has been good to us, very good lately.
Just over a week ago we sailed into the dramatic Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva just as the sun was setting. It was a rough 40 mile passage from Hiva Oa. Fatu Hiva is usually an upwind sail and sailing here reminded us why we chose not to sail up the North American Continent home and instead take the more oceanic route. Sailing to weather sucks! After 24 days at sea you'd think we'd be able to handle anything the seas throw at us, but alas, the passage to Fatu Hiva kicked our collective butts. We were very happy when we got into the lee of the island Thor Heyerydahl made famous in the thirties. Fortunately it was a short crossing and our misery was short lived.
The story goes that the original name for the bay was Bay des Verges, which translates into the Bay of the Phalli, a reference to the vertical spires that line the bay. The early missionaries weren't a fan of the name and added one letter to call it the Bay des Vierges, or Bay of Virgins. Despite the name, it is one of the most dramatic anchorages we have every seen. The lofty peaks seem to be eternally shrouded in clouds keeping the spine of the island green and beautiful. With the precipitous cliffs crashing into the ocean and the jungle center, it truly looks like the land of King Kong.
The Williwaws gusting off the mountains were intense and never let up the whole time we were there. Fortunately there were only two other boats in the bay and we were able to put out a lot of scope and not worry about hitting other boats. We spent the first couple of days sticking close to the boat, convincing ourselves that our anchor was really holding. Mike tried to dive on the anchor, but the visibility wasn't fantastic and after we dropped the anchor the boat floated back into 100 feet of water, so he could never find the anchor with only snorkel gear. On land we hiked up to a waterfall with a huge outflow of water due to the torrential rains that seem to occur every afternoon. We weren't able to swim in the pools (we couldn't even find the pools due to the volume of water cascading down), but it was fun hiking, following the cairns from one rocky outcropping to another, in the otherwise lush jungle.
We traded with the locals for some of the famous Marquesan carvings. The really impressive artwork gets sent to Tahiti, but we traded for a few utilitarian items. The women wanted perfume and makeup, which we didn't have, but the men wanted 22 caliber bullets and alcohol. I know, a great combination! A cheap $5 bottle of rum at home may cost $40 in the Marquesas. We had a few spare bottles (we use cheap rum to kill our fish, a splash of alcohol over the gills knocks them out), but mostly we traded for 22 shells. The bullets are regulated heavily by the local police, but the islanders need them to hunt the feral goats on the island. When we heard they were in demand we brought a few bricks with us and sure enough, they were a hot commodity. We also traded for unnecessary things on the boat; an old pair of sunglasses, an old watch, clothes, etc.
After we were convinced the boat was safe, even though the winds were still gusty, we took the dingy down the coast to the only other village on the island, Omoa. Omoa is only about 5 miles away, but with five of us in the dingy we puttered along slowly and half an hour later we were finally tied up the municipal pier. The anchorage in Omoa is notorious for being rolly, so most boats anchor off of Hanavave in the Bay of Virgins, as we did, and do day trips to Omoa. We had been anchored in Fatu Hiva for four days, but had yet to meet the other two boats' crews anchored near us. Absolutely coincidentally, mid way through our dingy ride to Omoa, a local boat passed us with the crew of one boat, also bringing them to Omoa to hike across the island, as we had planned. Ironically, they also had three kids, twin 8 year old girls and an 11 year old boy, and serendipitously both crews had all chosen to hike across the island on the same day, at roughly the same time. It turned out to be a lovely hike, hot and steep, but with breath taking views of the mountains, the coast and the impressive valleys. We had great company and although the kids all had a language barrier to contend with, the five youngest kids got along beautifully and had a ball. The hike was tough, but it was a great way to see the island. Really the only way to see the interior of the island since there are very few other trails. The terrain was unfathomably steep so bushwhacking wasn't really an option. After a 6 hours hike, we hobbled back to the boat, while Porter went to play soccer with his new French friends and some of the local kids.
Back in Hanavave, on subsequent days, we continued to explore the coast by dingy, we swam to shore when we wanted to check something out; a waterfall, cave or to swim with a Manta. We kayaked and swam from the boat. We picked local fruit, we were given bag loads of local fruit and we traded for more of the same. There is a serious lack of vegetables on the island, most locals have huge freezers in the front rooms of their homes and much of their food is brought in frozen from the bi-monthly supply ship, but fruit is everywhere.
On one hike up the mountain Michael ceremoniously left a rock he had picked up in 1998 with the assumption that one day he would be back on his own boat to replace it. It took almost 20 years, but we made it.
Although we could have stayed longer, after a week on the island we felt like we needed to move on. Fatu Hiva was a fantastic stop for all of us and one day we hope to be back. Hopefully I can get some photos loaded sooner than later. Wifi is glacially slow in some places, and non existent in others.