Panama Marquesas

One of the many beautiful sunsets during our crossing

Panama - Marquesas

We decided to make a break from our busy lives in Panama by first calling into a remote part of the Perlas Islands for a well earned rest and some relaxation before the long voyage ahead of us.

After a pleasant two weeks anchored off Pedro Gonzales Island, we set out for HIva Oa on Sunday the 17th of July 2011.

As feared, the first couple of weeks were extremely difficult as we encountered difficult and adverse winds and currents and decisions were constantly made to go south or go west and anything in between. Our tactics for this part of the voyage turned out to be not particularly good and we put quite a few extra miles on the journey trying to outwit Mother Nature!

What we did achieve in that first couple of weeks was an escape from the thunderstorms which plague Central America.

our passenger for about 10 days!

We began to feel extremely relieved that we had spent so much time around such storms without being struck by lightning.

Many of the cruising boats close by were not so lucky.

The principal damage was always to their electrical systems which often costs thousands of dollars to replace.

Each day during our voyage we spoke on the SSB radio with the other boats that were making the trip across to the South Pacific at the same time.

Our friend Bill on Galena, was a week or so ahead of us as was Dylan on Uluwatu. Columbus, our Aussie friends Fitz and Trish left the Perlas the day before us but soon increased the lead and even caught up with Galena eventually.

We all motored a fair bit in order to escape the difficult area between Panama and the far side of Galapagos.

Our little group had decided not to stop to see Darwin’s famous islands as we could not afford the high prices they charged for heavily restricted visits. Our feeling is that Ecuador has turned the Galapagos into a tourist trap.

New moon

During our radio schedules we learned that Equa Regis, another boat we had met in Panama with Francois, a Frenchman on board, had broken a spreader and gone into Manta in Colombia for repairs. He then went south of the Galapagos as did Uluwatu and they made very good time indeed. We went north of the Galapagos and our trip was slower.

The rest of our voyage to the Marquesas was fairly uneventful apart from crossing the Equator on Tuesday the 2nd of August at longitude 100.14W!!

We approached Hiva Oa in strong winds and big seas and enjoyed the spectacular views as we sailed along the rocky shore.

Our first view of Hiva Oa

Atuona is the port of entry to the southern Marquesas islands and we got our anchor down by 14.00 local time and our friends soon clambered aboard to welcome us to the island!

Entering Atuona anchorage

After a good nights rest we went ashore to complete the formalities at the Gendarmerie.

On our way to the gendarmerie

Whilst in the village of Atuona we took the opportunity to visit the new Gauguin museum and after shopping (French baguettes and pamplemousse!!!)

Our local diet

we had a very expensive Hinano beer with Fitz and Bill, after which we managed to hitch a ride to the cemetery where Gauguin and Jacques Brel are both buried.

More modern than 37 years ago!At the Gauguin MuseumThirsty!Gauguin's grave looking over the bay

Our driver turned out to be a guy Jeff had briefly met 37 years ago!

He is well known to yachties and now runs a taxi service.

The island has changed quite a lot since Jeff was here last; Atuona was a primitive village, now it is modernized with good roads and shops.

Stravaig at anchor

Stravaig's and Galena's dinghies

They practice every day, already for the festival in December

View of the high mountain in Hiva Oa

Our friend Hernan trying to row through the surf, yes, he did get wet!!

The bay was rolly and uncomfortable and we went around the corner and anchored in the beautiful Han Moe Noa bay on the island of Tahuata. Even this anchorage had changed a bit: a family had build a copra drying shed and strong a barbed wire fence around it. They did not live on the site, so it was still effectively uninhabited. The swell was still quite big but we managed to get ashore and find plenty of lemons and pamplemousse!!

Hana Moe Noa

Pamplemousse are oversized, thick skinned grapefruits with their own distinctive taste, very, very nice!

We were keen to move on to Fatu Hiva and we left Hana Moe Noa but bad weather around the end of the island send us scuttling back. The next day we decided to go to Hapatoni, the 2nd biggest village on Tahuata, so we could try and leave from there for Fatu Hiva.

Resolution Bay on Tahuata

We anchored with Bill on Galena who had joined us and went ashore to explore the village.

So far all the people we met had been very friendly and here was no exception.

Copra drying shed

We bought some things in a very small shop, talked to some people and were told to come ashore the next day as there was a big artisan fair with free food and dancing etc.

The Aranui, a small cruise ship from Papeete was due to arrive, with about 150 tourists.

They also told us a safer place to anchor and we managed to re-anchor before dark.

On shore where we anchored

The next day we were all rowing ashore, which was a long way, when a landing craft showed up and offered us a ride to the village wharf! We went aboard, the dinghies were secured on the side and we went ashore!

Captain of the landingcraft

The landing craft was for transporting the tourist ashore form the cruise ship.

It was a very nice day, with lots of dancing

This man has half his body done with traditional tattoos

and music

and a very interesting selection of local artwork:

Carved wooden paddles

All made out of bone

woodcarvings, bone carvings and jewelry.

Kids in Hapatoni

There was large variety of local foods laid out which we were invited to share. A lot of new and interesting flavors and all good!


The plan was to try again to go Fatu Hiva the next morning early: if the weather permitted. If not, we would return to Hana Moe Noa and Bill would carry on to Tahiti. And the weather didn’t co-operate, so we went back and Bill was on his way to Tahiti.

We spend another 3 days in Hana Moe Noa before returning to Hiva Oa to check if our other friends had arrived yet.

We got word from them to say that they had gone on to Nuku Hiva with a few repair issues to deal with.

So we headed to Fatu HIva on Saturday the 1st of October, were we anchored in the spectacular bay of Hanavave.


We were relieved to see Wadda, a cruising boat, anchored there as we had been asked by friends to keep an eye out for them since they were overdue from the Galapagos.

Stravaig in Hanavave, picture courtesy of Wadda

It turned out that Mo and Margaret had had a difficult trip with rigging damage that had which had caused the loss of their radio antenna and rendered them incommunicado.

One of the strange rocks in Fatu Hiva, this one a womans face

Scenery on a walk to the waterfall


The track to the waterfall was easy to follow with these stone markers

drying coconuts

Fatu Hiva is the island from where Jeff had taken 10 young men to play soccer in Ua Pou 37 years ago!!

He was hoping we would find some of them still around and he was not disappointed!!!

Hita, now a woodcarver

and some of his work

Of the 10 young men, we met with 6, all in their 50’s now, married with children and some even grand children!

Cristian and family

They all remembered him and we were inundated with Marquesian hospitality.


We reciprocated as best we could but it was impossible to match their generosity.

Sopi and family

All of them were successful in various ways and we exchanged life stories over many a good meal.

Gilles and his wife on board Stravaig

Jeff still had some photographs of his previous visit and we took the computer ashore to show them. The guys were quite excited about the pictures as they showed their parents and grandparents, none of which their own children had ever seen and they had no other pictures.


Since there is no internet yet in Fatu Hiva, there is only one young boy with a computer and we put all the pictures on a flash drive for him. Every one else then appeared with their own flash drives to get copies which they could display via USB ports on their TV’s.

What a change in local technology!!!

house in Fatu Hiva

When we left the boat was loaded down with 3 stalks of bananas,

about 20 pamplemousse, (which are very heavy!), oranges, lemons, fish and half a wild pig! Also numerous carvings, herbs, tapa cloth and black pearls. We were also given a little bundle of herbs, grass and flowers, which the girls and women put in their hair instead of using perfume; it is called”fleur d’amour” and smells wonderful! Part of the smell comes from Vetiver, a very hardy grass used against erosion of the soil, but here they just use it for the aromatic root.

We were sad to leave after 10 days of a wonderful time!

At this time we had not been able to find out the rules and regs for visas that would apply to us and the local opinion was that we would need to be in Papeete to extend our permits. This had really caused us to cut our visit short in Fatu Hiva, so we set off for the northern group of islands, en-route we stopped briefly-yet again- in Hana Moe Noa, considered a visit to Hanamanu on Hiva Oa, but found that the wind and waves would not allow safe anchorage in the bay., so we continued on to Nuku Hiva. First we went into the bay of Tai Pi Vai, the bay where Herman Melville was held captive by cannibals. We knew that our friends John and Zan on Demara were anchored there.

We had a great reunion and the next day we went ashore for a walk up to the Tiki site.

A long and uphill climb,

it was not very easy to find but thankfully a local gentleman let the way.

It was the same exactly as Jeff remembered it from his previous visit, except that the site was now far less overgrown and looked well cared for.

Zan, John, Jeff and our guide

a big pai-pai

ancient Tiki

En route to the Tiki site we saw the preparations of a new ceremonial site or Pai Pai for the upcoming Polynesian Festival of dance, arts and crafts etc.

This festival will host, Easter Island, Hawaii, New Zealand Maoris, Samoans, Tongans, Cook Islands and all the islands of French Polynesia for their 4-yearly festival in December.

We have decided to stay for this festival, having found out that our permits will allow us to stay in the Marquesas throughout the upcoming hurricane season, meaning till the end of March.

We are now anchored in Taiohae, a bay a few miles from Tai Pi, which is the main center of population of the island. Part of the festival will be held here and two sites are being constructed.

We are being treated to the practice sessions of the local dancers and musicians every night.

Miranda and Petra will be joining us here on the 19th of December to spend 3 weeks with us in the islands, despite every effort they were not able to be with us for the festival, so we will have to document it for them!

Looking forward to seeing them and showing them around here!

And of course I had to put on a picture of my tattoo! I have always wanted one from here and finally got it in Taiohae, I am very happy with it!

No, it did not hurt!

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Anonymous said…
Great fotos, well done on crossing...all the best graham and fam..
Thomasdethier said…
Hello Christo, your passenger for ten days is a Swallow-tailed Gull (adult, breeding plumage), only nesting in Galapagos...

So you are gone again!

A jaleous birder, Thomas
Anonymous said…

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