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Galápagos - Marquesas Islands 9.6. - 8.7.2002

updates: 9.6. 19.6.  26.6.  1.7.  8.7.  

9.6.2002 Pacific Ocean 5° 45' S  105° 42' W
We miss Sulo!
A day after we left the Galápagos Islands, a gannet flew around Kristiina. Hannu and Lissu made a bet, will it land on the deck or not. Hannu lost. After a couple of roundings it landed on the pulpit. It started to clean and brush itself, and was not afraid of us. This was the beginning of Sulo-gannet's journey with us. Even if we were not sure was it male or female, for the sake of equality, we gave it the name Sulo. Now Hannu had also someone to talk to, man-to-man.
The first days Sulo sat on the slippery pulpit brushing it's feathers, and didn't leave the boat. Something was obviously wrong with it's feathers. We tried to give it some flying fish found on the deck, but it had difficulties to get a grasp of it with it the long, sharp bill. After a while it started to go fishing. Sulo's flying missed the gliding beauty, it was more flapping and fluttering. Soon it learned to watch for a shoal of flying fish, rushing after them from the railing, and catching sometimes a fish directly from the air. The cleaning of the feathers continued. The nights Sulo sat head under wing either on the pulpit or on the anchor box. It was not disturbed of the banging sheets or flying halyards above it's head. When someone of us visited the bow, Sulo just stared with it's round eyes. Sulo was a quiet bird, we got no answers how much we talked to it. Sulo started to fly longer and longer trips. Now it was gliding like a real gannet.
One day Sulo decided to move to the stern deck. It chose the small autopilot, steering the windvane, for it's sitting place even it was very slippery. Maybe that inconvenience got Sulo to express it's white, dripping opinion on the pilot, so we had to chase Sulo away. But it didn't mind, it came back. The railing was very slippery, once Sulo felt into water, so we put a broken fishing rod for it. That had a good grip.
Once Sulo was disturbed when Auli was too near with the fish hook, it didn't even come to share the catch. But otherwise it was not afraid of us. The night watches were somehow more companionable when you saw Sulo's shape in the darkness.
Then one day, it went fishing like so many other times, and never returned. Come back Sulo, we miss you!

A week at sea. With the increasing wind, we have improved the 24-hour distance every day: 127 miles, 129, 138, 130, 158, 153 and 159 miles. First we had spinnaker up, but now it's blowing so much that we have genoa and main sail, both reefed. Speed varies between 7 and 8 knots. Weather changes constantly, maybe it's El Niño. Wind is gusty and we get a lot of showers. Sea temperature is 28 deg. C. 
Life in a rolling boat is a bit unconvenient. A couple of days is fine, but now we live this three weeks. It's difficult to sleep, although extra pillows and blankets have been placed for support. The last sense of humor is gone, when you half sleepy spill all the morning coffee around the galley. Nothing can be done without holding hard with one hand. But we enjoy ourselves!
The daily routine with meals, work-out, books, cleaning and so on is rolling well. Until now we have catch two fish, one small silvery ( a mackerel?), which made a good soup, and a bigger, turquoise (wahoo?), which was fried. Both tasted excellent after canned food.

El Niño [ninjo] is a phenomenon, where sea surface temperature increases on the equatorial central Pacific. It starts with weakening tradewinds, so that also the movement of surface waters, which the wind pushes towards west, weakens. This prevents the cold water to rise up from the deep. The warm ocean and the moist air above form deep clouds and heavy rain along the equator from South America to Papua New Guinea. El Niño affects the weather system of the whole earth. Indonesia and Australia suffer from dryness. There are less hurricanes on the Atlantic and more northeasterlies on the US east coast.
El Niño has an impact on fishery, as well. Normally, plankton and other nutrition comes up with the cold water, for the fish to eat. With the absense of nutrition, certain fish species, f.ex. anchovy, disappear on the coasts of Peru and Ecuador. The divers we met on the Galápagos Islands, told us that there is less sea cucumbers this year, and the sea temperature is 3 deg. C above the normal. Actually, the fishermen are the ones, who first gave name to El Niño. The Spanish word means little boy or the Christ child: the peak of the warmening occurs around Christmas on the South American coast.
El Niño appears every 3-5 years and it last 12-18 months. Statistics have been gathered since 1950, and the latest El Niño was in 1997-98.
NOAA gave a statement in April 2002, that El Niño is developing, but it's strength is still unknown. Ocean surface temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees C above average near the coasts of Ecuador and northern Peru. More rain and cloudiness were observed on the eastern Pacific. The scientists are arguing on the possible connections between El Niño and the global warmening.

19.6.2002 The Pacific Ocean   9° 25' S  131° 6' W
The three thousand mile voyage is coming near to it's end. So you can say when there is 450 miles and three days left. We will be at Fatu Hiva, the most southern island of Marquesas by Midsummer.
The rain showers and gusty wind we had the two first weeks have now stopped, but wind increased. Time to time we have the main sail bottom reefed or sail only with genoa during the nights. We have broken the monotony of days by celebrating various things: half way, breaking 1000 miles as well as birthdays and anniversaries of friends and relatives. Celebrating means good food: reindeer, pancakes, pizza, bakings.
We have had luck with fishing after the two first ones only once, a golden, slim fish. The previous guessings of the type of the catch were unsuccesful, so let that be this time. But good, white meat it was. Then someone  took the lure, which brought all the fish. The most typical catch here could be a dorado, a tuna or a wahoo. Unfortunately we don't have a book that would tell the species.
The sea has been surprisingly empty. Only once a big fleet of dolphins, probably spotted dolphins, came  beside the boat. It was fantastic to watch them surf on the big waves and jump into air. As fast swimmers they were soon gone. Earlier we had seen dolphins far away a couple of times, as well as some pilot wales, them from distance, too.
Sometimes waves bring man-of-wars to the deck or cockpit. They are polyps, a bit like medusa, having a translucent airbag, that acts as a floting device and sail. From the bag hangs blue, burning threads. Lissu touched by accident one man-of-war, that was stick on a rope, and her fingers started to itch and the whole arm went numb. Fortunately the area was small, you can get serious - and anyway very unpleasant - symptoms, and there is no medicin. These man-of-wars were very small, only about two centimeters, when you often can see about 20 cm long "sails" on sea, and the threads can be as a long as 30 cm.
For those who have been asking about Sulo, the gannet, we have to tell, that he has not returned.

Sulo, the gannet

We remember the lightness and beauty of the Finnish summer by eating blueberry pie, what a sweet summer taste!

The Pacific Ocean, the largest sea on earth, covers one third of earth's surface. About 25.000 islands have 8,8 million inhabitants. The archipelago of the Pacific Ocean is divided in three areas: Melanesia, which consists of Papua-New-Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fidzi; Polynesia, consisting of New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Islands and thousands of small islands inside this triangle; and Micronesia, located north of equator.
was inhabited during a long period, about 3000 to 1500 BC (according to some sources 500 BC). Polynesians were very skillful seamen and navigators. The Europeans came on the 1800th century. Today, it consists of independent New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga; the autonomous areas of New Zealand i.e. Cook Islands and Niue; Easter Island (Chile), Hawaii and American Samoa (USA), Pitcairn (Great Britain), and French Polynesia (France). Besides European languages Polynesian language is spoken on the islands, which all have own dialect. Maori on New Zealand is one of them.
French Polynesia is as large area as Europe, consisting of 118 islands and atolls. French Polynesia has it own flag, national anthem and currency, CFP franc. The country consists of five archipelagos: Society, Tuamotu, Tubuai, Gambier and Marquesas Islands. Papeete, the capital, is located on Tahiti, where half of the 235.000 inhabitants live.

26.6.2002 Hiva Oa, French Polynesia
We have problems with the satellite phone and SSB connections, be patient with updates and e-mails!
The wind decreased two days before Fatu Hiva, so we arrived into the Hanavave-bay surrounded by high clifs on the night to Sunday. The 3000 mile journey was made in 20 days and 18 hours - not bad for Kristiina.

Just before arrival Hannu got a barracuda 
which was 130 cm long and weighted about 20 kilos

Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl, who sailed from Peru to French Polynesia on the Kon-Tiki raft, lived with his wife one year on the Fatu Hiva in the 1930's. They had a minimum of supplies and gear with them, the idea was to live from the nature.
In the small bay was only a couple of boats. The idyllic scene was disturbed by a construction of a breakwall. The roaring of excavators and piles of concrete blocs did not match the place. We spent the first day aboard reparing this and that. Both sides and waterline were full of sea grass, brown algae and some kind of mussels, that were tightly stuck. It took the whole morning to clean the boat.

Hanavave-bay at Fatu Hiva

The silence - despite the excavators - was odd. Things inside the boat stayed where you left them, that was odd, too. At sea the boat is banging and screaming, things move and make noises in the closets, so the silence is notable and enjoyable when you come to land. On Monday we went to shore early in the morning. It wasn't most easy to do because of the swell and breaking waves. We got a good load of water into the dinghy, because we couldn't escape the breaking wave with our tiny four horsepower motor. Lucky that we did not swim. 
The village has a couple of roads, one covered with concrete. Houses are tidy and gardens well kept. On the school yard about 20 children were playing football. We were looking for the Fatu Hiva "tourist attraction", the 60 meter high waterfall for the whole day. At last the third path in the forest was right and we found the spot. It was high, but not very abundant. Beautiful place, however. In the end was a rather deep pond, and  we hopped into the cool water. It was fantastic to have a bath in fresh water and wash away all the swet of the whole day's walk.
Since Fatu Hiva is not an official port of entry, we had to leave. On Tuesday, the 25th of June, we sailed the 45 mile trip to Hiva Oa.

1.7.2002 Hiva Oa, French Polynesia
Iiro arrived with Cassandra to Hiva Oa on Wednesday having solosailed from Galápagos 20 days and six hours. Always happy and active crew Lissu flew back to Finland after spending seven weeks on Kristiina.

At the 1500 inhabitant's village Atuona on Hiva Oa we found all the necessary services: checking in by the police, a bank, croceries, a launrdy service and an internet cafe. Most of the food selections comes from France, and here you can get French bread, baquette. It tastes delicious after home-made bread, even though Auli has improved her baking skills during the year. The tourist attraction here is the grave of the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), who lived on Hiva Oa the two last years of his life. Earlier he had spent some time on Tahiti, Panama and Martinique.
The anchorage lies a couple of hilly kilometers from the village, but it's easy to get a ride on one of the very popular pickup cars. The water in the bay is muddy and does not temptate to swim, in addition there are a lot of sharks, which can attack a swimmer in mistake, the water is so unclear. So, despite the 27-30 deg C warmth, we cannot swim. There are about 20 boats in the bay, all anchored from the bow and stern. Having the bow against the waves reduces rolling, but still this is rather restless anchorage with the constant movement of the boat. The dinghy ride is easy in the shelter of the breakwall, and there is a little dock to get ashore without the danger of turning upside down. Somehow, however, shorts gets either wet or dirty every time.
We got two advice for the touch of the man-of-war: ammoniac, that you have in urea, and vinegar. I think we try the latter first. Thor Heyerdahl had used urea on his voyage on Kon-Tiki.

The anchorage bay near Atuona on Hiva Oa

8.7.2002 Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
Nuku Hiva is our last island on the Marquesas, so here some general information.

Marguesas Islands, the northernmost archipelago in French Polynesia, consists of ten high, volcanic islands. The biggest are Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. Nowdays the population is about 6000, but before the arrival of white man and his deseases, the population has been estimated to 100.000. Still there is elefantiasis desease, spread by mosquitos, which swells limbs big as elephant's legs. The islands are full of old stone foundations of former houses, as well as petroglyphs and stone statues called Tiki.
Because of the remoteness - Marquesas Islands locate in the middle of the Pacific, both Panama and Australia lie 4000 miles away - there are no endemic land animals, all are brought by man. The variety of birds is rich, however. Goats, pigs and horses have become wild, and in some parts they are so numerous, that it is a threat to the vegetation. For instance, the 600 inhabitant's Ua Huka has 1500 horses and 3000 goats. Rats are climbing up to the palm trees eating the nuts, so that metal plates have been installed around the trunks.
The first European on the islands was Spanish Alvaro Mendaña de Neira in 1595, who named the place according to his sponsor. From 1842 Marquesas has been part of France.
In addition to French, the Islands have their own language, which differs from Tahitian, although distance is only 800 miles. Ka-oha in Marquesian means hello!
The climat is sub-tropical, it's warm and humid, during the day about 30 deg. Celcius. The rainy season lasts from April to October. Tradewinds blow constantly between East and South. Marquesas is outside the hurricane area, although Tuamotu Islands, just 500 miles apart, experienced an unexpected hurricane season during the El Niño period in 1982-83.

From Atuona on Hiva Oa we sailed the couple of hours trip to Tahuata. The white, sandy beach bay had clear water, temptating to swim. The bay had temptated others as well, there were about 15 boats anchored. We spent two nights there, mostly swimming and enjoying the stable boat without the swell. During the last swimming tour before departure some kind of jelly fish burnt Auli's arm. Vinegar didn't help. The arm had three whip-like marks surrounded by a large red area, and it hurt! Three red marks can still be seen.
From Tahuata we motored against the wind to Bay of Hanaiapa on the north shore of Hiva Oa. There were no other boats. The village is very pretty with well kept, flourishing gardens and tidy houses. Just when we were dreaming of the plentifullness of the various fruits in the gardens, we met William, the only English-speaking in the village. He has kept a visit book for foreign yachts since 1973, and asked us to sign it. For a gift he would give us fruits. The next day we walked to William's house, a t-shirt and a cap in our backbag for a gift to him. William had four papayas, three grape fruits, some bananas and one bread fruit for us. He was clearly disappointed what we had brought, and we knew the reason before he opened his mouth later in Kristiina: he asked for alcohol, tobacco, perfume or medicine. Quite a price for fruits, which are rottening every where. We gave him some nailpolish and ibuprofein. William's 15-year old grand son, who was with us, asked for music, and he got the Howling Mole cd. We also made some banana-trade with money, two bunch of green bananas costed 1000 francs (10 euros).

Most of the people here live from copra and nono. Copra is dried coconut, of which coconut oil is made. Soap and margarine, among other things, are made from the oil. Cut coconut shells laid to dry in the sun can be seen in every village. The smell is sugary, not very good.
The fruit of a nono-tree is a pear shape and size, and the colour is light green with brown dots. It is not a demanding plant, therefore nono trees can be seen everywhere, from gardens to barren hills. Nono is finally squeezed to juice, which should have several healing effects. The increasing export goes to USA. According to William kilo of copra costs 90 francs, a nono kilo 60 francs (0,90 and 0,60 euros).

Copra drying in the sun

On Friday the ship Aranui, which transits between Marquesas Islands and Tahiti in a three week interval, came into Hanaiapa bay. It is still called the copra ship, although it transports tourists and a lot of other things. About 50 tourists stepped onshore while nono barrels, copra sacks, lime bags and all the other stuff was loaded in the ship.
From Hanaiapa we continued east, to Bay of Puamau, which has one of the best archeological sites of the islands including a three meter tall Tiki statue.

Tiki and Hannu

We left Puamau on Sunday, 7.7., towards Nuku Hiva 87 miles away. After several windy days it was calm, so we had to motor when not sailing slowly. After collecting our mail and filling up some food stock in the "capital" of Marquesas, Taiohae, we will head to Tuamotu Islands 500 miles away.

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