Nineteen years ago I visited the Marquesan island group on my tour across the south Pacific with the World Discover expedition ship. We spent 12 weeks between Fiji and Easter Island and much of it a blur since we were seeing so many exotic islands in a relatively short time. Combine that with the fact that I was indeed working and contrary to popular belief it was an exhausting job and I didn't get the opportunity to fully explore all the islands. That said, some island groups were so amazing that they are etched into my memory. The Marquesas are one of those island groups. I don't remember every landing we made or bay we explored, but I remember the feeling of being in a magical and beautiful part of the world. The tales of the south seas have always beckoned us with scenes of palm trees swaying in the breeze, white sand beaches, fruit hanging from every tree and the fragrant scent of the Tahitian Tiare or Gardenia wafting along on the breeze. The Marquesas have the added feature of feeling like they are an island group lost in time. Volcanic spires emerge out of the mist with a back drop of primordial forest giving the islands the appearance of a land straight out of the Jurassic period. It really feels like you have come to the ends of the earth when you visit.
Oh yeah, and technically Michael and I met in the Marquesas, so there is a special place in our hearts for this island group. 19 years ago I certainly didn't think there'd be a day in the future when I would be back, with Michael, and our three kids on our own boat. That was definitely not on my radar. That said, it has been awesome showing the kids the islands and sharing our experiences from two decades ago.
Each island has a charm of its own and we enjoyed exploring the 6 islands in the group we visited. Technically there are 12 island in the group, but only 6 are inhabited. Each of the 6 has between 500 and 3000 islanders still on the island. It seems about appropriate for the size of the island, although in fact, when Captain Cook visited the islands in the 1700's there were hundreds of thousands of people living on the islands. It's an old story, European invasion brought diseases and pests which absolutely decimated the indigenous population. Today you can wander around in the valleys and see the remnants of royal roads, house foundations and tiki's everywhere. Archeologist claim that only about 15% of the Marquesas has been excavated. We felt like Indiana Jones climbing around the jungle exploring a long lost ceremonial site, a village or seeing petroglyph's for the first time. Wildlife sightings on land were very sparse if you exclude the feral goat, horse and pig. There are a few endemic birds, but not much of a variety otherwise. If you hear a noise in the trees it is more likely to be a wild chicken than anything else.
The real gem in the Marquesas are the people, by far the friendliest of anywhere we've traveled. They are a happy lot and their exuberance for life is contagious. I've never seen more smiles, more laughter and more genuine zest for life. Few people are trying to sell you something, they often want to trade, but only because there are so many items that are hard to get in the Marquesas. More often they are trying to give you something as a gift. You never have to pay to anchor or to land your dingy or leave your garbage. When the North Americans sail across the Pacific to get here there are a glut of boats in the islands (150 or so). That said, most of them can only stay for a month or so because a French Polynesian visa for North Americans only allows 90 days in the whole island group including the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambiers, and Society Islands. There are a few places that have services for sailboats, but with so few cruisers in the islands throughout the rest of the year, catering to yachties isn't a huge business. Instead it is refreshing to see the locals going about their business much as they would if we weren't visiting. They are generous as they share their island with us and I hope we worthwhile American ambassadors in return.
We spent a wonderful month in the Marquesas, one of the best, most memorable months of our whole trip. Just as these islands are etched in my memory as wonderful places, my kids will also have fantastic memories from our time here and I'm grateful that they had this opportunity to visit such a special place that hasn't changed all that much in the last 19 years.
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron