Fatu Hiva

After an 18-day Pacific Crossing, and a couple of hours loitering until it was light enough to see properly, we arrived at the Bay of Virgins at Fatu Hiva to be greeted by stunning scenery and some familiar faces. And what a place to make landfall. Not only is the name exotic (although its original name was something more representative of the rock formations), it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Fatu Hiva isn’t an official port of entry and rumours have it that boats coming here first will suffer the wrath of the authorities and be slapped with a hefty fine. I suspect this is an exaggeration. Out of all the boats in the anchorage, only one had already cleared in. And the locals were happy to see us there, if only for our contribution to the local economy. 

The crews of Hullabaloo, Karabat and Wildside (our Atlantic crossing companions) were already in the anchorage. And that evening, thanks to Craig – looking fresh in the picture below –  we all got together for dinner at a local’s house, which was good except for the mild food poisoning. 

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

Craig scrubbing Hullabaloo

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Bill and Moira Krabat

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

One of the surprises from the crossing – how dirty the hull was. Everyone gets this to some extent.

A Stroll Around Hanavave

After 18 days of relative immobility, and another day cleaning the boat, we thought it prudent to give the legs a workout. So, after inflating the dinghy, instaling the outboard, and motoring over to the dock, we turned left and walked up towards the waterfall – finding the village to be every bit as beautiful as the coastline:

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

Copra drying

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Local Church

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Along the way to the waterfall

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More copra production

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Waterfall – without much water

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Maria on the rocks

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Is this the way to Amarillo?

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

Around town

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Tiki on the dock

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The dock

The next day, we went for dinner with the crew of Water Music (another British boat) to another restaurant. This one owned and operated by CiCi (not sure of the spelling) and her husband, Simon. Her food is delicious, and her craftwork excellent. She carves wooden bowls and makes jewellery from whatever natural materials she can find. 

Then, after slacking around for a few days, we thought it prudent to get ourselves to Hiva Oa to officially clear into French Polynesia.

Pacific Crossing Log

Day One – Thursday 25th April

Left Puerto Ayora at 0900 in light winds. Glad to get out of that place. Not only as it is rolly, but a new flood of boats also arrived and anchored on top of everyone.

Engine off at 1015. Genoa poled out at 1530. We caught a tuna at 2000 that night.

Day Two – Friday 26th April

24-hour run: 132 miles

Continuing to roll along wing on wing (with the headsail poled out one way and the mainsail the other). Saw a large fishing vessel on the horizon with more lights around it than Vegas. Then the boobies arrived.

Day Three – Saturday 27th April

24-hour run: 127 miles
Total: 259 miles

A slow 24 hours in light winds. Boobies still with us despite being almost 300 miles from home. These guys are not for shifting. They are using Lady Jane for a hunting platform. When they see a school of flying fish, they are off. Then they come back and poop on the anchor. Nice.

The wind dropped late afternoon after a small squall had passed, so we motored for a couple of hours. But the wind returned at 1900, stronger and from a better angle. That should perk our speed up. We moved the mainsail to the same side as the genoa.

We ran out of propane gas last night. So, rather than wrestle with gas canisters in the dark, we had lukewarm stew for dinner (nicer than you might imagine.)

Day Four – Sunday 28th April

24-hour run: 143 miles
Total: 402 miles

Changed the gas.

Whereas we had flying fish on the deck when crossing the Atlantic, the Pacific serves up small squid. Every morning we collect the remains of these little fellas and throw them back overboard before they glue themselves to the deck – and start to smell. This mornings haul was six.

Five boobies are still with us preening themselves on the pulpit and shitting all over the foredeck. It’s pointless trying to move them. This is their reaction to being told off:

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

We caught another tuna at 1200. But, as we have enough to last us for a while, we unhooked it and let it go.

Then, at 1300 we caught a Boobie.

I imagined these fine-looking seabirds have the extraordinary ability to evaluate what’s in the water with uncanny precision. But this one couldn’t differentiate between a blue rubber squid and a flying fish. And as a result, it got entangled with the fishing line. All I could do is reel him in and lift him onto the boat. Maria was ready with a large towel to cover his head (I can assure you from my bleeding ankle that boobies’ beaks are very sharp) while I freed the bird from the line. Fortunately, we got it free and plopped it back in the water, dazed but otherwise unharmed. It was airborne again after a few minutes. Then, as an expression of gratitude, it joined its fellow boobies on Lady Jane crapping on the bow.

At 1800 we overtook Ulys – a boat we last saw 25 miles in front of us on our second day. Couldn’t see his lights at night though – worrying.

Day Five – Monday 29th April

24-hour run: 172 miles
Total: 574 miles

Flying fish joined the kamikaze squad. We found three of them, and four squids, on the deck this morning.

We decided to encourage the boobies to abandon ship today and rigged up some line, clothes pegs and waxed paper (to make a noise) on the pulpit. It seemed to discourage them, but the more persistent still managed to land. So, things escalated into a three-hour war of attrition: They would land, I’d blast the foghorn; they got used to the foghorn. I’d squirt them with water until they regarded it as a refreshing treat. We both screamed at them, but they thought it mildly amusing.

Eventually, banging on the pulpit and waving a stick around like Tarzan in the House of Commons (I’m sure that’s on t’internet somewhere) did the trick. Or maybe they simply decided to catch a lift from a cargo ship that passed one mile to starboard last night going towards the Galapagos. Whatever the reason, thankfully, they are gone.

We caught another small tuna in the morning (I put it back). But in the evening, we hooked a monster. The reel started screaming, and the line ran out at an alarming rate. I tightened the clutch on the reel, but couldn’t stop it spinning. The rod was bent at an angle we have never seen before. I tightened the clutch some more, and the line stopped running. The fighting began. This was a big fish. It took ten minutes of winding the reel before getting a glimpse of it about 50 metres away. Then it dived. The pressure on the rod decreased. I thought it had given up. But no. Somehow it managed to release the hook. Fortunately, it didn’t snap the line or take the lure. I suspect it was a large Mahi Mahi. But whatever it was – it was a fighter.

Day Six – Tuesday 30th April

24-hour run: 190 miles
Total: 764 miles

Hullabaloo is 447 miles ahead of us at 1300.

We have no birds on the pulpit. And to make sure it stays that way we are leaving the pieces of wood, string and clothes pegs in place until we get near to land (we don’t want others to think the Clampets have arrived.)

No fish. The wind is up to 24 knots.

Day Seven – Wednesday 1st May

24-hour run: 180 miles
Total: 946 miles

The Dyneema loop for the uphaul on our spinnaker pole parted this morning. It hasn’t broken, it has just come out of the end fitting. I don’t think the guys at Selden can tie knots. Without the uphaul, the pole will drop when we take in the sail. So, we need to rig something to stop that from happening. It isn’t a big issue though.

The wind’s up today – consistently between 18 and 22 knots – and the sea a bit lumpy.

Another boat, Ohana, overtook us last night at 2300 in their way to Tahiti (I briefly spoke with them on the VHF). They came past us so quickly it made us look like we were parked up. To be fair though they are around 55 metres to our 12.7 and in that respect, size counts.

Day Eight – Thursday 2nd May

24-hour run: 192 miles
Total: 1138 miles

The wind is still a perky 20 knots but the sea state is kinder, apart from the odd exceptional wave finding its way into the cockpit.

The biggest news onboard Lady Jane is that, despite being kept in different areas of the boat, all the bananas have ripened simultaneously. It’s going to be banana bread, banana cakes, and bananas for breakfast.

Day Nine – Friday 3rd May

24-hour run: 196 miles
Total: 1334 miles

Big seas today with 22 knots of wind which didn’t help Maria’s baking endeavours. She persevered though, and out of the oven came a lemon drizzle cake.

The only sailing related activity of the day was to tighten the leech cord on the trailing edge of the mainsail to stop it motoring (vibrating in the wind). This involved running further downwind, hauling in the boom, tightening the cord, putting the boom back and resuming our course.

Day Ten – Saturday 4th May

24-hour run: 196 miles
Total: 1530 miles

Over halfway now.

The wind and sea state calmed down overnight, making life onboard a lot more comfortable, before perking up to its usual boisterous self by late morning. And that boisterousness led to the cold brew coffee in the french press disappearing down the sink. Bugger.

It was another baking day today. Maria baked some bread and muffins (good), and I baked a banana cake (shit). The bread and muffins have been passed through our fat faces and the banana cake hurled overboard.

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

Day Eleven – Sunday 5th May

24-hour run: 191 miles
Total: 1721 miles

We passed another sailboat, Dandelion, this afternoon. They were sailing slowly under gib only because of some damage. They have to hand steer 24 hours a day. That’s impressive.

Later that afternoon we hooked another monster fish but it snapped the line. That’s a big disappointment. We caught four tuna with that setup. So, we have upgraded to a stronger line and, out of necessity, are trying out a new lure.

Pacific crossing and fatu hiva

Day Twelve – Monday 6th May

24-hour run: 183 miles
Total: 1904 miles

It was another lazy day, at least to begin with. Maria baked bread and coffee cakes and I, well, to be honest, didn’t do much at all apart from accidentally drop the red Luci light overboard. I now know how Tom Hanks character in Castaway felt when he lost Wilson. Luci was my friend.

At 1630, we heard the noise of the fishing reel and saw the rod bent over at a wonky angle. I clipped on and went to the back of the boat to reel it in. But whatever was on the end of the line had other ideas. This one made the other fish we had hooked seem like minnows. No matter how hard I cranked up the clutch pressure on the reel, I couldn’t stop the line from spinning. I thought I was going to lose the lot. The reel was getting hot. After a few minutes, and about 300 metres of line, the fish tired enough for me to start to reel it in. But not without a fight. The rod holder was bent out of shape and, to be honest, so was I. Then the fish swam to the left, leapt in the air and managed to break free – taking the lure with it, but fortunately not the line. The leader on the lure had broken this time, but the line is still intact.

At 2215 We passed another boat, Pangea, 4.5 miles to our starboard.

Day Thirteen – Tuesday 7th May

24-hour run: 179 miles
Total: 2083 miles

Today was our daughter’s birthday, so we gave Jasmine a call on the satellite phone. After getting used to the delay (a bit like being on a 1980’s mobile) it worked well enough for us to be understood – and probably improved our rendition of Happy Birthday.

Day Fourteen – Wednesday 8th May

24-hour run: 171 miles
Total: 2254 miles

It’s a bit squally round these parts; a fact I was made aware of early morning when asleep in the cabin. The rain started blasting through the companionway hatch and onto yours truly in 28 knots of wind. Not what you want at any time, but especially not at 0430. And as a consequence of the high winds, the sea state is a mass of confused waves; they are not particularly high, but they do nothing for onboard comfort.

No fish today.

Day Fifteen – Thursday 9th May

24-hour run: 172 miles
Total: 2,426 miles

We changed the sail configuration this morning. That probably sounds grander than it was; all we did was move the boom to starboard to sail wing-on-wing so that we are pointing straight towards the Marquesas. We are now approximately 550 miles away.

Within one minute of putting the lure in the water, we caught a small tuna and got this one onboard just in time for lunch (Couscous, onion, green and red peppers, lime – and tuna).

Day Sixteen – Friday 10th May

24-hour run: 151 miles
Total: 2,577 miles

After an overcast day yesterday, we ran the engine for an hour to fully charge the batteries and get hot water for showers.

It’s difficult to describe what it’s like to have a shower onboard in these rolly conditions. Practically, the only way to come out of the shower without bruises is to lean against the wall at a 20-degree angle. It is not a pleasant experience, but its better for all parties than putting up with a festering body in the tropical heat.

Maria did her Mary Berry thing today and made some bread, and coffee cakes.

Day Seventeen – Saturday 11th May

24-hour run: 148 miles
Total: 2,725 miles

More rolling today and a lot more raining. The downside of sailing downwind is that the rain also comes from behind, so there’s no shelter from it. Several times today we have had to bundle chairs/cushions/iPads downstairs – and put the hatches in place – while the nastier squalls pass by. But the wind hasn’t increased beyond 27 knots and, as we are sailing to the wind, we just leave Lady Jane to it.

Day Eighteen – Sunday 12th May

24-hour run: 150 miles
Total: 2,875 miles

We should arrive in the Marquesas early tomorrow morning but will heave to in the lee of Fatu Hiva until it is light enough to enter the anchorage.

In recognition of our pending arrival, I thought it prudent to cut my hair just in case the locals thought I was a stowaway. I’d already lost the beard; that made me look like an old Richard Attenborough.

Day Nineteen – Monday 13th May

24-hour run: 135 miles
Total: 3010 miles

We have arrived in The Marquesas – and sooner than expected!