Marquesas Bound

After our
adventures in the Galapagos, we set sail for the Marquesas.
We had originally planned to sail to Easter and Pitcairn Islands, but scrapped
that plan due to it being too late in the season for reasonable weather – who
wants to beat to windward for 3,000 miles and then not be able to anchor
because it’s too rough, then have to heave to outside the anchorage, offshore
for days waiting for the weather to change? No thanks!

Spending 28 days alone with your
significant other with nothing to do but read, write, sleep, stand watch,
navigate, have a smoke, and play Scrabble (weather permitting) gives you lots
of time to think. You have a lot of time to come up with inventive ways to do
potatoes. I’m going to write a cruiser’s cookbook of 101 things to
do to potatoes, pasta, and rice. Without a refrigerator you become very
creative. We also baked bread, sprouted beans, grew yoghurt -all in all I
became very domestic.

After 28 days at sea, we arrived
in the Marquesas with 2 gallons of fuel, and 2
gallons of water left. A little too close for comfort. That’s one good
reason to carry a survivor watermaker. Then you have
something constructive to do for 8 hours a day, make fresh water. Builds up
those arm muscles. And it’s mindless enough that you can still devise new
potato recipes! The best part of cruising is getting there. The
Marquesas are absolutely spectacular. Jagged peaks loom on
the horizon, and as you approach, you realise how inhospitable they can be.
Until you come around the corner, to find a tiny bay sheltered from the wind,
but not from the ocean rollers. Once anchored securely, it’s such a
relief to get off the boat, and go for a walk. Except that you are very creaky
from weeks of inactivity, and that first hike to town nearly does you in. But
once you buy the first hunk of red meat, and fresh butter in a month, you
forget any pain. Fruit is ripe on the branches. Grapefruit as big as footballs
– limes, bananas, coconut, all hanging in profusion off the trees and easy to
barter or trade for.

The first few days after arriving
from being at sea are occupied by chores. Clearing in and posting a bond, jerry
jugging fuel and water, filling propane, doing laundry by hand. You guys don’t
know how good you’ve got it. You throw a load in the machine, dump some soap
in, hit the button, go do something else for half an hour, come back, dump it
in the dryer, push start, go away, come back, fold. I had to lug five-gallon
jugs of water back to the boat via dinghy, after taking our lives in our hands
to get on and off the dock in a 6-foot swell. Washing sheets, towels, sweat
shirts, T-shirts, etc. by hand from one month at sea is more fun than humans
are allowed! Then string lines from one end to the other and hang to dry. It
rained all day, so it was still soaked, but rinsed ten more times! Next day,
take down and fold.

After spending a few days
recuperating, exploring, and having a beach BBQ or two it’s time to
repack the boat. In a 30-footer this means stuffing the V-berth (our bed) with
sails, cooler, canopy, outboard engine, fuel and water jugs. All so you can go
sailing, get hammered for a few days, get to the next anchorage five or ten
days away, unpack dinghy, assemble on deck, pump it up, launch, haul engine up
and over to dinghy after moving 50 LB jerry jugs into the cockpit. So- cruising
is not exactly what it’s cracked up to be. But it builds character. And you
have to justify somehow to the folks back home that you are not just dropping
out and becoming a bum. This is hard work, we just don’t get paid for it!
And it just happens to be in really incredible places.

There were 50 or more yachts all
crossing at the same time, never seeing each other but keeping in contact by
SSB on the "Safety Net" run by Ron on Tempo 11. We didn’t have a
transmitter, just a receiver, so we could listen in. They would say "And
hello to Cassiopee,
we know you’re out there". It was kinda nice –
you didn’t feel totally out of touch. You do feel like you’re in your own
little cocoon- isolated from the rest of the world and at the mercy of the
weather, hoping like hell you don’t break anything or injure yourself – because
you’re on your own, baby!

After a five-day passage, we
arrived at the pass of an atoll in the eastern section of the Tuamotus, called Makemo. There
are a hundred atolls to choose from. After dozens of yachts congregate in the
Marquesas, they disperse once again over thousands of
square miles. I had been to Rangiroa, a larger atoll,
on a previous passage on Pelagic, so this time opted for a smaller atoll
further off the beaten track. The entrance through the pass was more than nerve
wracking. Because the weather had been cranking for days, there was no slack
tide in which to make an easy transit, so we bit the bullet and went for it.
With the 8hp Yanmar cranked up to full revs, we were
at times going backwards with the knotmeter pegged at
8 knots. A little too close for comfort, but once we made it through safely, we
rendezvoused with Tempo 11 and had a great reunion after being out of touch for
2 months.

The weather didn’t let up
for 5 days, so we were held captive anchored on a lee shore surrounded by coral
heads. That’s when you are glad you have a couple of hundred feet of
chain. One unlucky yacht didn’t, and when they came back from having
dinner on another yacht found that their own yacht had chaffed through its
anchor rode, been caught in the current, and sucked out the pass, only to be
destroyed on a reef outside. What a way to end your dream, in a nightmare.

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