Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thar She Blows...Land Ho

The two cries the old whaling ships loved to hear could be heard on the good ship Astarte on Friday, April 27, 2012.

About 20 nautical miles from our destination, a huge whale was seen spouting water. As we moved towards our Marquesas destination, the whale also was moving closer to us. It was magnificent, dark and very, very large. It came by the boat less than 1000 feet away and not being whalers – we aren't exactly sure what type. But it could have been a sperm whale based on its head shape. It cruised along on the surface for quite awhile and then not long after it passed our boat, it took a deep breathe, hunched and dove showing us its full tail. So huge and yet so graceful in its water environment.

Then on the horizon "Land ho" - the steep cliffs of an island could be seen and on closer inspection, several smaller jagged rocky islands were also nearby. It was something to see land after 35 days.

The islands quite steep with straight sides. Some areas on the top are quite worn down and other parts are very jagged. These are the northernmost islands of the French Polynesian territory. The Marquesas consist of six large and six small islands. Unlike most of the French Polynesian territory, these mountainous islands are not protected by coral reefs. These islands are quite fertile and used to house many plantations – but due to uneven rainfall, they failed. Now the island group is inhabited by native Polynesians numbering around 9000.

We landed on Hiva Oa in Atuona. The harbor entrance is quite hidden and looks quite trecherous with breaking water. Especially because of the setting sun in our eyes and the hazy evening. But as you near you can see an opening and calmer water around the lee. You also see lots and lots of sailboat masts. The small bay of Vipihai is packed with boats as this is one of two places to clear into French Polynesia and the closest one after a 35 day passage. The boats are all anchored with a bow and stern anchor so you can fit more boats in (other than the few catamarans who decided not to play by the rules and are taking up more than their fair share of the space.)

So we went in around 1730 local time (5:30 pm) and found a home in the midst of the pack. It is very tight quarters but we neatly dropped our bow anchor and set it, put out additional chain and dropped back, put in the stern anchor, and then pulled forward on the bow anchor again. Very nicely done – not bad after 35 days at sea. No yelling, no drama!
We opened a bottle of chilled champagne to celebrate the passage making. It tasted great and we relaxed enjoying being at anchor.

It was a long passage – longer than we anticipated. We ran the engine only 25 total hours – most of it the last day as we wanted to get in before dark and not sit out there another day. We were only 50 miles away – but there was no wind so at noon local time, we fired up the engine and motored the last 26 miles.

Another check mark on the bucket list – a long ocean passage. Thanks so much to everyone who sent us notes with encouragement, news and gossip. They made the passage go by more quickly and were our daily entertainment when we did mail call. We appreciate it. We felt all your positive vibes sailing with us.

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