The Marquesas are widely reported as being the most beautiful islands in the Pacific. For us they certainly represented a wonderful landfall after the long sail from the Galapagos islands, however in our hearts we knew the Tuamotu archipelago was a lot more our style. So we collectively made a decision to wrap things up in the Marquesas as fast as possible, do the necessary paperwork to clear into French Polynesia, buy as much fresh fruit and vegetables as we could and head south to the Tuamotu.
Sailing past the western coast of one of the smaller islands – Tahuata.
South western coast of Tahuata
We were on our way to Hiva Oa to do the necessary check ins when we came across this uninhabited bay. We pulled in to check it out when we heard cries of Le Squnderrrr, Le Squaanderrr – it was Daniel & Stephanie on CayOne whom we hadn’t seen since the Galapagos…
We dropped the anchor and decided to spend a couple of days enjoying this little slice of paradise. The following day a bunch of us got together for a BBQ on the beach. As it turned out it was going to be a good day to practice our French & Spanish as we were the only native English speakers.
The girls enjoying a bit of improvised shade!
Andy & Simon eying off le poulet on le BBQ
we had so much fun at the beach that we decided to continue the fun aboard Squander. Daniel, Andy, Simon, Sarah, Stephanie, Jean Baptiste, Charlie and Clara.
The following morning we got up early and made our way to Atuona bay in Hiva Oa. It’s a very small and uncomfortable anchorage, that requires the use of two anchors to stay put and even so boats dragging anchors seems to be a regular occurrence… we went about doing what we had to. We also got word from Mojgan that she would be flying in to meet us and join Squander for a few weeks.
The old Landies are everywhere here – great cars!
It tends to rain a lot in the Marquesas… so it was nice to get a few hours of sunshine!
Primo tucking into a local refreshment at the Make Make snack shack in Hiva Oa .That evening the Crew aboard Khmazin pulled in – Captain Rupert and his Motley crew of 7 from Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain and the UK – we invited them to join us for a beer at a place that had been recommended to us,
We had heard of Alex Kayser who runs the best Bar/pension in Hiva Oa – www.pension-hivaoa.com – hailing from France originally with a German Father, he found himself in Hiva Oa some 24 years ago, fell in love with a local lady and 5 kids and many years later he still calls this paradise home.
Alex’s wife is a great cook and all the kids get involved when you go and spend a day or evening hanging out at their place – complete with free wi fi, swimming pool, amazing view, pool table and the outstanding cuisine (not to mention the cold beer!!)
Andy, Kate, Simon and Mojgan.
after dinner shot with the family.
Mojgan joined Squander and soon set out to bring Squander up a few notches in cleanliness!
The next morning we decided to hide from the heavy weather that had rolled in to the area at the little bay we had been to some days earlier – all the boats were gone except for us and one other.
The following morning I swam ashore and with no one around decided to explore inland a little – and.. it paid off… Tahitian lime trees, Grapefruit and a Mango tree – I decided to sample some of the local product – YUM!!
The three day sail to the Tuamotu wasn’t overly pleasant as we had winds forward of the beam, big confused seas and overcast conditions most of the way. Copping a wave on the beam.
Sailing with a 2nd reef and staysail the whole way with some stiff breeze in the high 20’s and low 30’s.
But as they say every storm has to end, and we soon forgot our trip as we approached the Northern pass into Makemo Atoll.
Simon hoisted half way up the mast as we avoid the massive coral heads inside the Atoll
Safely anchored – Squander numero uno.
The crystal clear waters of North eastern Makemo
Moji & Don celebrating arrival on land.
Our own private slice of Pacific heaven.
The only 4 humans from horizon to horizon. Squander in the background.
Collecting firewood for the sunset beach bonfire.
After getting our fix of land time, we decided to explore this underwater paradise… I’ll let the photos do the talking
Scissor sail sergeants and an unidentified black and red spot fella.
on the right a Reticulated Butterfly fish
A school of unicorn fish
The Andy Fish searching the depths for sharks.
This huge coral head is poking through the water some 2 miles from shore – it is approximately 10 metres high!!
Our first sighting of the black tipped shark…. and far from our last!
The Large Tridacna Maxima Clam with amazingly coloured flesh.
Another clam the size of an A4 sheet of paper. they close as soon as they sense your presence.
Coral garden just under the water’s surface.
Shark cam…. da…duh….da…duh…. or however the Jaws theme goes!
4M long sting ray.
With the morning’s activities complete, we spotted a boat on the horizon… before long we heard the voice of Rob, Hanne and the kids yelling out to us. we had kept in touch via Long range HF radio for the past 2 months whilst crossing the Pacific, often talking over crackly lines thousands of miles apart. In the end we had arranged to meet here in Makemo.
Sequel III doing a drive by before the games began.
Freya didn’t believe her parents that she was coming to Squanderrr
Angus waits patiently to play (and often beat) the winner of any board game.
With an amazing Pacific Sunset in the background, We gave Hanne some of the freshly caught tuna and she turned it into platters of sushi.
Sequel III and Squander.
We enjoyed a long evening of catching up.
Kids tucking into mum’s artwork.
Andy, Rob and gavin
Moji, Freya, Hanne and Angus
Andy & Rob with a rum coloured glow.
goodbye to another day.
Simon feeling the pressure from an onslaught from the master.
aerial view of the north of Makemo Atoll
After two days we decided to move to the North western part of Makemo Atoll where there’s a small village that is only inhabited during Copra Harvest season. Again we were the only 2 boats and humans there for a couple of nights.
Dropping anchor in North Western Makemo. A view form half way up the mast. Huge coral heads and reef everywhere.
Looking down at Squander.
Sequel drop anchor next to Squander in over 10 metres of crystal clear water.
Andy wasting no time jumping off the back of Squander into an underwater fun park.
The ever inquisitive sharks coming to have a look at the new residents
The local parrot gang
The sneaky Black tip.
And his mate the white tipped reef shark deciding to face the camera and force a change of underwear for the camera man.
Purple coral and Clams.
Moorish Idols and a Forceps Fish on the bottom right.
Lemon peel angel Fish
Andy leading the charge back to Squander via the coral forest.
And our new mate following us.
The next day we got the spear gun out, laid out 6 pairs of fresh undies each and decided to go spearfishing for lunch… the game goes as follows. Spot a medium sized fish, aim your speargun, wait until the sharks have their back turned and then shoot, retrieve and swim as fast as you can back to the dinghy before the sharks decided to eat your lunch.
Aside from the inherent dangers of dozens of sharks milling around, Ciguatera is a toxin found in many species of reef fish. it’s hallmark symptoms of hallucinations were appealing at first until we found out that they are often matched with nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint aches, paralysis and at times death.
After shooting this beautiful Coral trout, we found out from the locals that it’s a no go – DO NOT EAT! So it became shark feed.
Andy spearing a tasty Marbled Grouper which is safe to eat in Fakarava Atoll, but we never found out if it was safe in Makemo. According to the locals, Ciguatera poisoning can be very localized such that one reef has it and another just 3-4 miles away within the same Atoll is fine.
We made a few mistakes that day… firstly we brought back the poisoned fish to the boat and cleaned it off the back of the boat attracting tens of sharks – in future we will probably clean the fish away from Squander.
The sharks are very inquisitive but generally do not attack humans – however when they smell blood or food – the situation changes… they gang up and trash and bite at anything that seems edible… it often starts and finishes within a 5 second period, but the lightning speed with which they appear is heart stopping to watch.
Sharks circling Squander.
Our second mistake, we call “Simon’s mistake” – mixing healthy bravado with a keen interest to check out the sharks up close, Simon inadvertently jumped right on top of a big bunch of fish guts making the sharks believe he was after their food…. they reacted in split seconds and 4-5 large sharks launched themselves at him…. we heard something that sounded like a girl screaming, but Simon denies it so we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt.
He was out of the water faster then he got in and looked at our three confused faces with a mix of panic and stay cool smile. We were sure half of his kidneys were no longer there. After exchanging stares for what seemed like an eternity i finally asked if he was OK…. “YEAH MATE… no worries” came the quick reply.
“No ahmmm….. scratches…. on your right side….?” Simon paused and slowly looked down and we waited for another eternity as he turned the right side of his body to face us – no blood…. on his torso or stomach… phew…. then I saw a big pool of blood forming in the dinghy at his feet where he was standing….
Ah Siiiiimoooon…. what about your leg…..?
ohhh c’mon guys, can i come back onboard now??
the sharks continued milling around for hours.
Ouch… lucky it was the top side where there was plenty of bone to deter the hungry shark.
We let Simon back onboard and cleaned him up, Moji slipped me an extra $50 to shave Simon’s leg under the guise of medicinal reasons – he protested but we held him down and shaved away.
A few 3M steri stitches, a healthy dose of antiseptic Betadine and the Big fella was back in the game!
The strangest thing happened next – we all suddenly noticed the motu (island)that we were anchored next to and everyone was keen to explore it – on land!
Despite losing a fair amount of blood Don Simon was showing his usual super human strength throwing coconuts at coconuts trying to knock them down.
With the coconut game over, we walked around the small island, checking out the deserted huts and abandoned village.
We found a fresh water tank with crystal clear rain water and not only filled up our boat, but also managed to create a makeshift shower for Moji.
We were ready to pack up and move on to the next Atoll, when Rob from Sequel came over… hey guys, anyone want to come snorkeling with me????
Ahhh…. yeah, sure Rob…. why don’t we dinghy over to that reef really far away…. Simon had to keep his leg dry, So Andy and I volunteered.
Showing the sharks who’s boss…. spear gun in hand just n case!
The afro coral.
Rob and Andy snorkeling in Buddy formation…. strength in numbers!
with everyone safe and sound back onboard we set sail for the overnight trip to Fakarava Atoll. We had a brilliant sail in light steady winds that died just 1 hour before we arrived.
Approaching the southern pass of Fakarava Atoll in still conditions.
Tetamanu Motu in Southern Fakarava
Navigating the shallow pass close to Pension Tetamanu.
Andy unhappy with our catch – getting teased by another sumptuous looking, Ciguatera infected Coral trout. Back you go Fishy.
We dropped anchor in 10Metres of water, complete with shark population.
Andy suited up for another spearfish – we now knew what we could eat.
Happy with Andy’s efforts – a bullet head parrot fish and two marbled grouper for lunch.
We’ve noticed everyone has 15HP Yamaha engines, including our French neighbors. After a great lunch, a few swims, some more fishing (including accidentally hooking a 5 foot shark on one of the rods ) we decided to pay a visit to the great little Diving resort in Southern Fakarava. Tetamanu Diving centre has water front bungalows for 12 or so guests and one of the best sunset bars we have yet been to. (www.tetamanuvillage.pf)
Enjoying a sunset drink as our dinghy hangs of the edge of the pier.
Left to right – Rob, Isabelle (owner), Moji & Simon, Hanne and Andy.
Sunset over the pass
Surreal sunset French Polynesia style – turning it on for us.
Team Squander in high spirits!
The next morning we woke up to a dead clam before the storm. Soon after dark clouds rolled in and the wind howled for the next 4 days,.
Squander sits and waits for the storm to roll in.
BBQ’d “Vlaming’s unicorn fish” for dinner – caught off the back of Squander at anchorage in southern Fakarava.
On the morning of the 6th of june it was time to sail some 30 miles north to the top of Fakarava Atoll for the devils’ birthday – Rob or Damo as his alter ego is known was born on the 6/6/66 – A dinner was organised and we celebrated his birthday in traditional Polynesian style with a touch of Aussiedom thrown in.
A multinational birthday – Rafael (Brazil), Kate (aus), Ashley (Aus), Ash (USA), Gavin, Tony (south Africa), Hanne(Norway) Jo (UK), Karl (South Africa), Nikita (UK), Aussie Rob, Simon and Andy.
One of a number of well delivered birthday speeches – Rob held the crowd breathless with anticipation.
The devil’s out!
The next day we checked out the village, did some kitebaording and caugth up for dinner with Backbeat and Khamsin for a great night of lamb stew and a few drinks.
and so on that note, I’m off to say g’day to some locals at the end of the pier… we will be leaving the relative civilization of this place tomorrow and heading for Toau and Apataki Atolls.
Hope you enjoyed this pictorial feast… there will be more to come!