Scheduled trip - destinations
I believe it unnecessary to belabour the sailing from one stop to another and will only give a broad outline whilst detailing stop-over stuff that may be of interest to forumites. Also, after putting all my thoughts onto paper, the result was too long for one post so I’ll break it into one for each destination.
San Diego to Marquesas - a 24 day trip mostly good weather with two days of calm when a tropical disturbance off
Mexico stole our wind. We were lucky though to have the doldrums off to the east of our track and the ITCZ presented us only with three days of unstable weather but we managed 95, 80 and 95 miles on those days with a bit of motoring. This leg included an equator crossing along with all the photographs of Latitude 00º 00.0’on the GPS and the offerings to Neptune which I find irritating but went along with nevertheless. It’s been said that yachtsmen don’t have to be superstitious but it does no harm.
Nuku Hiva was something of a disappointment for us because we found it not to be as beautiful as it has been described. The village was shabby and more than a little untidy and the facilities for yachties quite dismal when one considers that even in the off season there were about 25 boats on anchor. The wharf was difficult to get on and off of, the toilets were filthy, the Gendarmes were difficult to deal with and the local population seemed totally disinterested in what we thought was their dominant source of income (French Government assistance aside). The anchorage was amazingly rolly with large swells coming straight into the harbour. It is best to anchor with a stern anchor to keep the bow pointing out to sea.
The water is undrinkable and everyone who ignored that fact received treatment at the local hospital for chronic diarrhoea. We were told to drink only bottled water which we did and we were lucky enough to carry water supplies on our boat sufficient that we never required to load any from the island.
Diesel was different and we had to take on fuel. Despite a number of reports of very dirty diesel, we took on 65 gallons of fuel and filtered it through a Baja filter and found no dirt or water. What did come as a shock was the cost. The 65 gals of fuel plus a start battery that we bought cost us €448. Didn’t seem outrageous at the time but the charge to my credit card was an incredible NZ$822!! One can anchor stern to and take fuel directly from the pump (assuming you have confidence in the quality) or, as we did, carry it to the boat in cans. The fuelling station will not let you filter the fuel into your tanks because they say it takes too long and holds up their pump.
Groceries were also expensive with limited range and only two stores to choose from. Everybody obviously spoke French but what was surprising was the inability of most inhabitants to speak any English at all.
The funniest thing was on the evening before our departure, a cruise liner anchored in the bay and the next morning the village had been transformed. All the grass had been cut, the toilets were sparkling clean, the streets were swept and the whole population wore island-style clothing and I firmly believe that the price tags on all local goods had been changed for higher prices! It was a different place altogether to what we had seen the previous few days.
The bond that is required from everyone who does not have an EU passport can range anywhere up to US$2800. The bond is valid for travel anywhere in French Polynesia which includes the Marquesas, the Tuamotus and Society Islands. The bank takes a 6% commission when the bond is paid and when we claimed ours back in Bora Bora, they paid it out on Polynesian Francs so we had to pay another commission to exchange it in NZ for our home currency. The bank in Bora Bora claimed they had no forex. I paid a bond of $1480, my crew both had EU passports.
A final note: if you read your chart carefully, it will probably note that there is a current across the entrance to Nuku Hiva that sets directly onto the rocks on either side. Take this seriously, the current is quite strong. When approaching, stay as close to the middle of the entrance as possible using the transit boards/leading lights on the shore to guide you into the anchorage. Try not to sail in as the winds in the entrance are particularly fluky. We had to sail in because of electrical problems and if some friendly yachties had not lent us a hand, we would have been in trouble.