Marquesas to the Tuamotu Archipelago.

20110608 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 IMG_9758
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!
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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. IMG_9779

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. IMG_9785
The old Landies are everywhere here – great cars!

Le Banque. IMG_9788
It tends to rain a lot  in the Marquesas… so it was nice to get a few hours of sunshine!
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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 – – 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!!)  IMG_9800
Andy, Kate, Simon and Mojgan. IMG_9809

after dinner shot with the family. IMG_9811

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. P5290293 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. IMG_9855
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 IMG_9933
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. IMG_9953
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 IMG_9868
Scissor sail sergeants and an unidentified black and red spot fella.
on the right a Reticulated Butterfly fish

A school of unicorn fish IMG_9872

The Andy Fish searching the depths for sharks. IMG_9876

This huge coral head is poking through the water some 2 miles from shore – it is approximately 10 metres high!!  IMG_9890

Our first sighting of the black tipped shark…. and far from our last!

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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!
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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. IMG_0043
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. IMG_0061

Sequel III and Squander.

We enjoyed a long evening of catching up.


Kids tucking into mum’s artwork. IMG_0343
Andy, Rob and gavin IMG_0065
Moji, Freya, Hanne and Angus
Andy & Rob with a rum coloured glow.
goodbye to another day.
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Simon feeling the pressure from an onslaught from the master.

Google Earth 08-Jun-11 125438 PM
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. IMG_0102 IMG_0105

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. IMG_0129 IMG_0132
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. IMG_0154
Purple coral and Clams.
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Moorish Idols and a Forceps Fish on the bottom right. IMG_0188 IMG_0191 IMG_0196
Lemon peel angel Fish  IMG_0201
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. IMG_0221
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.

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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!   IMG_0241

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!  IMG_0250

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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.IMG_0258
With the coconut game over, we walked around the small island, checking out the deserted huts and abandoned village.  IMG_0270

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. IMG_0273

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. IMG_0277 IMG_0278
Showing the sharks who’s boss…. spear gun in hand just n case!
The afro coral.  IMG_0288 IMG_0291 IMG_0293 IMG_0295 IMG_0296
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 IMG_0314 IMG_0318 IMG_0321
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. IMG_0363
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. (


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 IMG_0397

Surreal sunset French Polynesia style – turning it on for us.  IMG_0401

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,.   IMG_0339 IMG_0351

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. IMG_0364

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.IMG_0366
One of a number of well delivered birthday speeches – Rob held the crowd breathless with anticipation.
The devil’s out!
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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. IMG_0380 IMG_0383 IMG_0387

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!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Caity

    As always Gav, the photos are absolutely amazing!! beautiful sunsets and clear waters..not sure how much i like how close you all got to the sharks though!! scary!.. looking forward to the next. interesting angle of the photo of the ‘engine’..
    have fun xx

  2. Michael

    Sensational … Nature’s colours at their inspirational best! And you can’t beat those 15HP Yamaha engines hey 😉

  3. Carol & Paul Cook

    Your travels are amazing and photos are incredible. We are enjoying land/home/real toilet/dishwasher here at Topsail, NC. July 2 we are off to CO. Plans are to head to the BVI’s in Nov.

  4. MAlkazzi

    Awesome pictures Gavin. Surreal and sublime to say the least.
    I’m very inquisitive about the 15HP Yamaha coral. Is it a local Atoll coral or could they be found elsewhere? What Zoom did you have the camera at to get such a magnificent imagery 🙂
    Take care mate and all the best to you and the crew.

  5. Shirlee

    Beautiful photos, guys, as always. Thanks for sharing your wonderful time. We’re sitting at the dock in brown water and air near Houston, TX, waiting for the truck to show up to take Solstice the rest of the way home to San Francisco. We’d rather be where you are…except for the sharks.
    Safe passages,
    Shirlee and John

  6. Strike

    Nice one guys and welcome back to our corner of the globe.
    See you in syd for a well earned drink boys . Strike


    very good Gavin. very beautiful sunset and outboard. but you have forgotten the law of the spearfisherman- only go for fish with large tails and small pectoral fins. no joke, if you don’t know your fish, it is a good law.

    ps i don’t know why but no one seems to have spotted the HOT G-STRINGED CHICK. HELLO? what’s with the 15hp anyway, i have a scooter with almost 11hp and it’s no ferrari!!! that is, until i ride it -brrrrm mweeeeee mweeeeeeeeeee

  8. Maroun

    absolutely beautiful underwater colours – great pics. I luv how you’re making lots of undersea friends. Bit close for comfort. You guys look a little malnurished as well, eat up 🙂

  9. Wayne

    Hey Guys, Fantastic pics and equally fantastic boat.. Hope that you will call into Nu Zillun, specifically Mt Maunganui on your way home to the Big Red.
    Y’all produce one of the best blogs I have seen. Good sailing and a fair breeze guys and gals

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