Landfall in Paradise


May 25 to June 21, 2002

“The most beautiful places lie at the end of the worst roads” words by Paul Theroux the famous travel writer could also be “the most beautiful places lie across vast seas at the end of the longest voyages.” The Marquesas are the furthest from a continental landfall than any other group of islands on earth. Ariel has just sailed 2,930 nautical miles in 17 days, 24 minutes to arrive in what was once known as Te Henua Enata (Land of Men) by the Polynesians and dropped anchor in Hanavave, Fatu Hiva one of the southern most of the twelve islands covering an area of approximately 807 square miles roughly 500 miles south of the Equator.

Ariel anchored in Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva Marquesas Islands

 The bay, once named Baie des Verges (Bay of Penises), has had an ‘i’ added by outraged missionaries to now make it the Baie des Vierges (Bay of Virgins). Because the Marquesas are the youngest of all the volcanic islands in the south Pacific and the absence of protective reefs due to the cold south equatorial current, the jagged pinnacles, often shrouded in cloud cover, have remained intact creating odd shaped protuberances spiraling up from the shore and cutting into deep valleys. Coupled with the abundant rainfall, vegetation thrives on the steep slopes giving it the reputation of being one of the remotest, wettest, lushest and most authentic.
Hanavave Bay (the Bay of Virgins)  Fatu Hiva Marquesas Islands
Only 6 of the islands are inhabited. Once populated by over 80,000 people before being discovered by the rest of the world in the 18th century then dropping to 2,094, the Marquesas  population is now around 8,000. Fatu Hiva has only two villages nestled along the rugged shoreline at the end of valleys leaving it virtually a semi-wild paradise.

Return to Nature in Fatu Hiva

Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame lived here for 1 1/2 years back in 1937 using it for the basis of his work Fatu Hiva, the Return to Nature. There are many theories as to how the Polynesians arrived here, other than the Kon Tiki expedition failed to prove aboard rafts from Peru, but what is amazing is not only did they came by sea using only the paths of heavenly bodies, wind direction and sea and current movement but were able to sustain life on these islands having only water and a bit of agriculture.

Today the steep slopes are abundant with mango, banana, grapefruit and lime trees. But there is little else. Most of the food products are brought in from Tahiti once a week by ferry.  

                The Marquasan people live a simple life and are very friendly

The Marquesans proved to be very friendly despite their sometimes fierce look due to tattoos. Traditionally tattooing was an expression of an individuals social status then an adornment in the seduction process and finally by warriors it served to intimidate. Both men and women are tattooed but it was the men we found with the most spectacular forms of geometrical designs from their face to the entire body.

 Native opening a coconut

But we found them hardly intimidating and although they speak French, being a French protectorate, we found learning a few words of the Marquesan language helpful and pleasing to the natives.

 Probably the most interesting aspect for us coming from the western world is the people’s lack of interest in money. They have no use for it. If we needed fruits they were often offered and always given if used as exchange for fish hooks, perfume, clothes, hats, sunglasses etc. Their life is simple here, they only ask that we do not turn their children into beggars by giving them candy or offer adults booze in trade for their handcrafts or fruits.

Native Katy trades Tapa for 4 life vests from Ariel for her kids

Fatu Hiva is the only place in the islands that still make the original Tapa cloth made from pounded breadfruit tree bark. We were able to trade for one piece in exchange for life jackets for the kids.


Jewelry made from seeds collected from the local plants made beautiful necklaces and were traded. Rosewood carved bowls, war clubs, paddles, spears, and tiki statues were also used in trade. Nothing was ever pushed on anyone, in fact we had to seek out who made what and tentatively approach them. In the end we found Fatu Hiva one of our favorite places of all the Marquesas.

Herman Melville, Paul Gauguin, and singer Jacques Brel, fighters against hypocrisy were also captivated by the Marquesas and it’s people. As we traveled throughout the islands we could see why they had given up their life in the “civilized world” and gone native.

          Ariel at anchor off the island of Ua Pou

On the island of Nuku Hiva, there is a spectacular hike up the valley of Taipival where sailor Herman Melville jumped ship and wrote of his unusual experiences in Typee published in 1846.

Nuka Hiva was Herman Melville’s inspiration for the book Typee

The lush vegetation with the smell of tropical flowers, abundant with fruit trees and coconut palms was most captivating. The islands are a paradise for hiking. The 5 hour hike across the interior of Fatu Hiva from the only other village Omea was unparalleled.
                                Omea, Fatu Hiva                              View of yachts at anchor in Hanavave
 We ate the fruits of mango and banana along the way, climbed up to over 2200 feet with a change in vegetation from tropical trees full of bromeliads to eucalyptus trees and fields of grasses full of wild snap dragons.



A gentle mist fell, as did a windswept decent with gusts up to 30 knots on the way down. A distress call made by a fellow cruiser who tried to dinghy around from one village to the other made us realize this is still a rugged undeveloped coastline and the view of the villages from the flanks of the calderas of the two valleys attest to that.
                                          Village at Hanavave, Fatu Hiva
           Hakaui Valley Nuka Hiva along King Te Moana royal way where 8000 used to live
But the beauty of these islands lie in their rugged, untouched atmosphere. Hakaui Valley on Nuku Hiva is one of the most easily accessible trails for one of the most imposing sights, the Vaipo waterfall. One of the highest waterfalls in the world at 350 meters is only surpassed by the walk along the river with vertical walls rising to nearly 800 meters. Included are stretches of a paved royal-way once occupied by King Te Moana and Queen Vaekehu and over 8,000 inhabitants of the valley which have long since vanished.

But remains of ancient ‘pae pae’ or ceremonial platforms and tiki statues still remain among the dense foliage leaving one with the feeling of a sacred mystical place gone back in time.


Much of the Marquesas still remain the bewitching islands of legend, with a wealth of archaeological remains still unexplored. To the cruiser who has taken the way of the ancient mariners and ventured beyond the usual cruising grounds there are still those far off south Pacific paradises yet to be explored.


May 25 to May 29, 2002

Log: Anchored in Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva

Eleven boats are anchored in the narrow bay but we motor right up to the front of the fleet to drop anchor. The captain dives on the anchor and finds Ariel sliding in 6 inches of mud over rock so must dive down to hand set the anchor. The wind is blowing in several directions due to land interference so boats are turned in all directions. Ariel is scrubbed down, salt removed from rigging and wenches and all equipment inspected. The shaft at the top of the missen is replaced and halyard end for ended. The bottom of Ariel is covered in barnacles which must be scraped off as it became more difficult each day. We organize our time in between for hiking, getting to know the locals, trading for fruit and vegetables, going to church service where the music and voices of the locals are magnificent and getting to know all the cruisers in anchor, putting faces to the names we heard on the radio net on the way across. Most faired well. Scott Free tore a sail, Eros lost their refrigerator and we had a batten tear through on the mainsail, so just removed it. Now at anchor we find it a busy time juggling schedules with four on board and more work for us two above our own daily chores.

May 30, 2002

Log: Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva to Hanamoe Noa, Tahuata 41 nautical miles
Heading 314
Wind 12 - 14kts N
Seas 1 - 2 feet

6:00 AM motoring off anchorage between 20 boats. S/v Vision arrives and takes our spot. Sails raised, sailing a beam reach at 7.5kts. A lovely sail, almost perfect, across to the small island of Tahuata. 12:30PM arrive at Rapatoni in Baie Hapatoni. The village is perfectly charming situated on a long curving beach bordered by a cement road lined with glass globe street lights. There are only about 10 houses of woven mates and tin roofs with well maintained yards. Some have satellite dishes out front. An 80 year old man invites us up on his porch to see the tiki he is carving We watch the village ladies gathered for a session of making handicrafts of palm leaves and inspect a table of hand carved bone necklaces and wood carvings priced from $35 to several hundred. They are ready to be shipped to the market in Tahiti for Bastille Day. A similar tiki to the one the local was carving was priced at $25. He offered it to us for $2. Left the quiet laid back village and motored Ariel over to a bay at Valhi to ask three boats there about available fruits which there are none. Continued on to Hana Moe Noa known for it’s white sandy deserted beaches and dropped anchor. It is a night with only one other boat at anchor and a cool breeze.

May 31, 2002

Log: Hana Moe Noa to Puama’u Hiva Oa 31 nautical miles
Heading NE
Winds variable 7 - 10kts E
Seas 1 - 2 ft. swells

7:00AM motored into wind all the way to Hiva Oa another of the southern group of Marquesan islands. It is a huge island off our starboard side, lower and rockier than Fatu Hiva or Tahuata but still very green, low grasses all over like a moss covered rock. A thin long waterfall cascades down vertical cliffs to a rocky shore lined with caves. It is wild and beautiful with not a town or road in sight. 1:45PM dropped anchor at Puama’u a small village with some of the best preserved tiki from the 18th century. The site, Iipona, is up a hill in a quiet deserted spot below a stone curved mountain inside a lush green caldera. There are five well preserved tiki the largest known in the Marquesas. Locals sitting in there yard invite us to join them in listening to music and singing while serving up wine in a tin can. Several men are tattooed all over and one most notably on his face. But they are extremely friendly loading us up with grapefruit, limes, coconuts, and guava and point out the Noni fruit used for medicinal purposes. 5:00PM Motoring the dinghy back to Ariel the engine overheats. We discover that while the dinghy was ashore the local children managed to turn on the engine and run it dry destroying the impeller. We are adrift. Steve and Everett swim us to a dock where we borrow the dinghy of the only other cruiser around but Everett is unable to climb from the water into the dinghy. It is not a problem for cruisers to borrow others dinghy’s without permission in an emergency but it is a major responsibility on a captain to have people aboard who must depend on others for their needs. Now realizing this Steve requests Everett plan to use a local dive company if he is going to do any scuba diving in the future.

June 1 to June 3, 2002

Log: Puama’u, Hiva Oa to Hakahetau, Ua Pou 81 nautical miles
Heading 282
Wind 5.5kts NE
Seas 2 -4 feet long rolling swells

3:00 AM Up for an early start to assure arrival before nightfall. Motored all the way into the wind. Warm and sunny day with Spinner dolphins surging through the water toward Ariel then leaping completely out into the air, spinning as they go. Five leap out of the water all in a row at the same time and put on a magnificent show. 5:30PM coming into Ua Pau is another spectacular scene. This coast is rocky and dryer but the center if the island rises up into huge spires of rock like sentinels over green valleys. Ua Pou itself means “the pillars.” Old friends on Eros and Bali Hai are there to greet us with wine, bread and pate in time to watch a beautiful sunset. Next day Eros leaves in search of their dinghy which broke loose in the night. Miraculously it is found in an eddy further up the coast along the shore. Also known as Etienne's Bay we meet this native, fluent in many languages who enlightened us with the Legend of Creation of the Marquesas over a pot luck dinner at his home. Other cruisers are here also on the boats Dreamtime, Reflections, and Pale Fire. So is a reporter from the Tahiti news taking photos and notes as we are asked to share stories or songs of our own country. Next day we are invited to another locals home for a sit down dinner since there are no restaurants. For $15 each we enjoyed a huge feast of local cuisine consisting of chicken, goat, octopus and fish. Also taro, breadfruit in a papaya sauce and a coconut milk sauce, fruits of oranges and banana and papaya. And the main dish, the specialty, Poisson cru made with raw fish in a coconut milk. The family children and grandparents are there to entertain and visit. A German man, Manfried, and his local wife, Teressa have carved out a niche to homestead between two mountain ridges and invite us in for homemade coco candy, duck pate, and a local hooch made of coconut and banana’s fermented for 6 months. It is the most hospitable anchorage except for the dinghy landing which is very precarious on a cement wall among huge boulders. Georgianna takes an unexpected night swim returning from dinner when she tries to enter the dinghy and is promptly rescued by fellow cruisers. Steve works on long overdue boat chores as well a helping fellow cruisers with their computers which seem to all be suffering from the sea air. He installs a new circuit board in one of the inverters, while Gayla packs up the dry bilge for the umteenth time after removing old canned goods from Geo and Ev’s boat Verna dated as far back as 1999. They are brought topside, dried, labeled and repacked in crates, moved to the crew cabin to be used first as several have gone bad. Hikes are a well deserved. We meet up with the locals carving a canoe or piroga by hollowing out a log with a chain saw then discover beautiful waterfalls in virgin like tropical jungles of flowering plants with refreshing lagoons below.

June 4 & June 5, 2002

Log:  Hakahetau, Ua Pou to Hakahau, Ua Pou 5 nautical miles
Heading NE 30 degrees
Wind 20kts. NE
Seas 3 - 4 ft rolling swells

9:30AM Motoring into the wind, main up to steady. Capt. at helm most of the way hand steering and tacking several times close to a lee shore. Came within several hundred feet of crashing waves on shore to keep out of huge swells further off and for smoother ride. 11:45AM Dropped anchor behind a breakwall. A line is rowed out to a mooring buoy near the beach but it does not hold dragging the buoy. Everett, at Ariel’s helm, can not hold her stern to the beach and barely misses a dinghy passing behind when he puts it in reverse without seeing them and Ariel swings over about to hit a floating pier. Capt. jumps aboard and takes the helm in time. Then back in the dinghy with the big 5 pound CQR Steve and Gayla row back out once again dropping it near shore. Ariel is sprayed down and inspected, at the same time trying to not disturb Georgianna and Everett’s nap. Steve checks us into the Marquesas here as it is a main check in point. Clearance papers must be sent on to Papeete Tahiti, headquarters for all islands in French Polynesia. There is no check-in charge but a fax with info about the dinghy impeller cost us $15 to receive and would be $100 for the impeller plus $35 to ship. Things are very expensive here so we pass on that. We find a food store but only need eggs. It is the first store we have seen so Everett buys a jar of pickles for $8 and jar of asparagus for $4. We split the cost of food but this seems extravagant and unnecessary to us. They have impressed upon us several times that money is no object to them so a discussion is brought up in the evening. Steve has asked if they would like to take some time off Ariel in the Society Islands so each of us have a break before continuing on to New Zealand a good five more months away. In the end Everett makes the suggestion that Steve and I go off alone, travel the islands and they would stay on Ariel.

June 6 to June 10, 2002

Log: Hakahau, Ua Pou to Taiohae, Nuka Hiva 25 nautical miles
Heading 343
Wind 20kts. E
Seas 8 - 10ft.

Rained in night so catching rain water directing it into opened tanks on port deck. Glad to have the decks washed as always ready to save on using the water maker. Small dinghy is lowered and used to pull up the 85 pound anchor off the stern while Steve gets in water, stands on the bottom and lifts. Then the rope and chain must be fed through the bow of Ariel into the locker. Difficult maneuver with the waves and swaying anchors.
9:45AM anchors up and stowed. Main up and reefed, jib out. Sailing 7.5kts. 1:45PM arrive in Taiohae Bay on Nuka Hiva the most populated and administrative island of the Marquesas. Again the stern anchor is put out. We find this anchorage a wonderful repose with the most food we have seen in weeks, a big local market which starts at 4AM (not so nice) a good place to meet up with other cruisers and meeting new ones: Sea Wolf, Traditions, Sly Fox, Pegasus, Reflections, Vision as well as our old friends on Bali Ha'i, Odyssey, Scott Free to name a few. It is also a good stop for picking up mail, internet and swap electronic charts with other cruisers and burning them onto new CD’s. Piracy on the high seas in it’s newest form! I get a photo of my new grand nephew, Ev gets a packet of mail that cost $495 from Fed Ex and everyone is happy. Steve becomes the computer guru once again helping fellow cruisers, update, downsize, reformat and install. The Pactor 2 and 3 system of email over ham radio net has become the email service of choice. Second is $15 an hour, for the Internet connection in the back of Begots Hardware Store or last you wait all day for the one computer at the post office for $8. S/v Traditions has a refrigeration problem so backs stern to stern with Ariel to use Steve’s 110 volt vacuums pump while the girls stand off the boats and keep the extension cord from dangling in the water. Here we find the locals willing to pick us up and drop us off in their vehicles even for the shortest distant. The kids seem a bit aggressive even to the point of climbing into our dinghies to play and some times malicious as we have already found. Food is not cheap but a $30 buffet meal at a local restaurant turns out to be the best meal we have had in weeks. Prices are high but bargaining at the early local market possible. Traditions gets 30 eggs bargained down from $20 to $15. Lots of fish, yellow tuna, and lobster but we are more interested in vegetables and find a decent selection and even fresh apples shipped in but $1 apiece. A hand of small overripe bananas seemed out of line for $2 and still not a bargain for $1 after getting them free in the other islands. The locals here want Rum in exchange for grapefruit. We have already heard about problems behind us in Fatu Hiva when a single cruiser arrived with his holds full of liquor and sold it to the locals for $4000. It caused a major problem and all cruisers were being kicked out. To smooth it over Kelcey and Jim the two chiropractors on Lady Starlight set out offering their serves to adjust almost 50 natives to set things right and explaining this is not your usual cruiser. So when Everett and Georgianna convinced Steve that the only way to get our grapefruit was to give up our bottle of Rum, principals had to be explained that satisfying our own needs is not always the importance.

June 11 & June 12, 2002

Log: Taiohoe Nuka Hive to Hakatea (Daniel’s Bay) 5 nautical miles
Heading 220
Wind 10 - 15kts. E
Seas swells 4 - 8 feet

10:30AM Pulled stern anchor up this time with Ariel’s windless instead of the dinghy and it worked well. Just outside the big bay which is an old volcanic caldera, we had planned to go to Anaho Bay but the wind would not be favorable. Heading toward the entrance to Hakatea bay which is narrow and hidden behind a rocky protrusion. Although the charts turn out to be correct we had our doubts whether we were in the right place. 12:05PM drop anchor in a nice quiet bay with Ginsing and Sula. Wind comes up so missen is raised while at anchor to keep from rolling. Two computers in our engine room drying out are removed and Steve works on them into the night. Video editing is attempted on the computer while thoughts of arriving in this desolate place it is hard to imagine only weeks ago the TV series of Survivor was being filmed here. But a hike up to Hakaui Valley 2 1/2 kilometers to Vaipo waterfalls took us into an even more desolate world. In the end we found clouded in mist the third tallest falls in the world cascading down into Hauii lagoon among enormous black boulders covered in green moss. A swim into the grotto below renewed our faith that there are still those hidden paradises in lost worlds.

June 13 to June 15, 2002

Log: Hakatea Bay to Anaho Bay Nuka Hiva 27 nautical miles
Heading 300
Wind 21kts E
Seas 4 - 6 ft.

9:30AM Exit pass is narrow so once anchor up so is mainsail and mizzen to act as wind vane and steady Ariel. Motored to end of island with sails up. 10:03AM Gibed mizzen and main. Motor off. Boat speed 5.6kts. Winds 20kts, seas 2 - 4 feet behind island on west side. 11:15AM Motor on then off as gusts cause boat to slow and out of control. Engine on for new heading of 355 as we continue rounding NW corner. 12:30PM Wind up to 30kts. from NE. Heading 043, motor sailing with gusts up to 35kts, seas up to 10 and 12 feet. Capt. at helm hand steers closer to shore all afternoon. Georgianna is below, unable to deal with the conditions so Everett must come into cockpit to help tail lines until his nap time. 1:50PM Heading 106 going to weather with wind 20-30kts. E. Main up and centered then motoring all the way into Anaho Bay. A wild ride and good practice to know we can handle the boat in such conditions with just two. Ev takes the helm in the calm waters of the bay with big mountains in a circle around us and a coral bed up to 100 feet off shore. Chores are taken care of while Geo and Ev hike over to Hatiheu for lunch at Chez Yevanne a popular known restaurant. Next day Steve and Gayla hike the trail running into pig hunters and locals who explain that the town was once called Typee but different nationalities keep renaming it. But it is one of the most picturesque off all villages situated on a black sand beach surrounded by tall spires of rock and old stone pae pae or stone platforms with tikis along the waters edge. We trade with locals for fruit then must carry it crossing back over the mountain range. A solar panel is spotted on a pole in the jungle, the lines followed to a telephone on a wall of a shed. It is Father’s Day. Steve calls his father. It is the highlight our stay to find we are so isolated yet still connected to the outside world.

June 16 to June 19, 2002

Log: Anaho Bay to Kapuvai Controller Bay, Nuka Hiva 17 nautical miles
Heading 180
Winds 20kts NE
Seas 6 - 10 feet

8:15AM Anchor up. 8:45AM once on a straight course Ev sets autopilot and goes below. Sails are raised with reef as wind gusting, winds blowing off land and seas confused. Motoring close to shore. It is a rough trip taking water over bow, porpoises leading the way. Pass a small rock, very bad navigational hazard, at the entrance staying to the furthest west end of the bay and anchor next to Lady Starlight and Kela both with two children aboard. The bay is lively with kids and Manta Rays. Two rays glide past, their two wing tips sticking our of the water a good 6 feet across. We have four days of swimming with the rays, hiking in search of an illusive waterfall, working on Ariel, and helping out with others computers and stoves. A goat is shot and hung overnight off Lady Starlight. These goats have ravaged the land and are hunted along with the wild pigs by the locals. . S/v Djarrka and Ventana joins us in the bay and the girls hold cooking classes aboard and meals shared by all. Local experiences takes us into their homes trading items like perfume, sunglasses, and old jewelry for a beautiful rose wood hand carved salad bowl and seed necklaces. We pick limes and guava from the trees along paths to old archeological sites up the valley where Herman Melville once lived.
Our only complaints which we all shared were the vicious sand flies of the Marquesas. Even paradise has it’s flaws. We are all excited about moving on to the Tuamotu Islands, next stop!

June 20 to June 21, 2002

Log: Kapuvai Controller Bay to Taiohae, Nuka Hiva 7 nautical miles
Heading 210
Winds 4kts E
Seas 4 - 6 feet

Back to Taiohae the main town to reprovision for trip to the Tuamotu Islands. 9:08AM nice sunny AM but outside the bay the seas are huge and rolling, winds off the land causing confusion. Main up, but motor sailing all the way into Taiohae. Cruisers are anchored all over with stern anchors out. Big market at 4AM so everyone preparing for last minute. We spend the last day in the Marquesas visiting, buying food, a hair cut by Doann on Bali Ha'i . Everett and Georgianna make the 4AM run to the market but forget to pull up the dinghy stern anchor when returning. It gets caught around the prop of the dinghy but no harm is done. Setting off for the Dangerous Islands it is time to think about responsibilities. The Captain had proposed a suggestion to Georgianna and Everett about a break in the Society Islands but no decision or discussion had come up since. The captain had to make that decision for them. An agreement of a” No Fault” was agreed when they came aboard in the Rio. But as convenient as a no fault can be each must still not only take responsibility for themselves but for the boat as well and each do his part. We all agreed 9 months is too long. As we head out for the Tuamotu’s the conclusion is to enjoy the islands and they would leave Ariel once we reach Papeete in Tahiti.

PREVIOUS                              NEXT