Fatu Hiva, Marquesas…..

Dear F&F,
June 27, 2009

Since it was another windy rainy day, not great for going ashore, Mary & David again came over for lunch. Our boat is so great for entertaining indoors or out with less motion, so less tendency for seasickness at anchor than on a monohull. On the radio last night I only said, \”I have an excess of beets, please come over\”. Mary shows up with a whole meal! I had already whipped up a menu of my own so just put her food in our fridge, except for the carrot & celery sticks. She also brought me some of her homemade oat cakes, which are the kind of really plain & healthy cracker my Mom might have baked. I would spice them up with at least salt & maybe garlic or herbs of some type. (Later Mary said she usually does make them with a lot of pepper, but not knowing our preference kept them plain.) She says it is easy to make them so I will try. Crackers are one thing I did not see in any store on Hiva Oa. Plenty of cookies, but no crackers at all.

The meal was a big hit. Even Scott enjoyed the beet salad. I made it \”salad compose\’ \” style, which is French for basically arranging the items on the plate, versus tossing them all together. The beets were marinated all night in a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. I sliced them & fanned them around one half of the small plate. Then I put generous scoops of goat cheese in the middle of the arc of beets. I minced some yellow & green bell peppers, red onion & an orange (removing all seeds & membrane bits). That mixture went in an arc opposite the beets. I sprinkled finely diced walnuts over the goat cheese & drizzled more vinaigrette over all. It was beautiful to look at & quite delicious. I was quite pleased with myself.

The second course was ginger cranberry risotto. I did not know I was making risotto, but that it is how it turned out to my happy surprise. I used 2/3rds chicken bouillon & 1/3 coconut milk (canned, unsweetened) cooked it 22 minutes in the pressure cooker with diced fresh ginger. Stirred in the dried cranberries afterwards & they softened while we ate our salad. I never used to cook with such abandon. But having only what is at hand & no ability to dash to the store for this or that ingredient inspires me to be more creative with what is right in front of me. I keep lists of what I have in the pantry, fridge & freezer. I scan my lists and then various ingredients jump out into new combinations to try. Having plenty of time helps cooking be fun & easy, no stress.

After I cleared the lunch table we pulled out our collection of cruising guides & charts of the next island group – the Tuomotus. They are a completely opposite type of island to the Marquesas. The Marquesas are \”high islands\” meaning formed from volcanos and geologically very young. Erosion has sculpted the rocks into dramatic pillars here on Fatu Hiva. The Tuomotus are \”low islands\”, tallest thing is a palm tree. They are very old geologically; sunken volcanos, now just fringing reefs & atolls. There are about 7 primary Marquesean islands, but about 78 Tuomotus. Navigating amongst these low islands is far more challenging. They are difficult to see from a distance of as little as 5 miles and there are many shallow reef areas that you must avoid. In olden times they were referred to as \”The Dangerous Archipelago\”.

We are trying to design our trip so that all sailing can be done during daylight. Or, if an overnight is necessary due to the distance between 2 good anchorages, we will stay well out from any dangerously shallow reefs. Mary & David intend to do a 3 year circumnavigation. They are already one-third of the way around. They snorkel but are not divers. Scott & I are more interested in visiting more of the various Tuomotu islands than they are. We hope to stay to our hearts content at any that have good anchorages & good diving. It was good to knock around the routes & ideas together, even as we understand that we will probably be on different paths after Nuku Hiva (the last Marquesas island we will both visit).

While the trip planning was going on in the salon, I washed the dishes then was eager to use the gift that Mary brought me: a mesh strainer! She had never heard of quinoa & got a good laugh from the story of my first attempt cooking it unwashed. I put a bowl under the sieve & ran water over, stirring it to wash the grains well. I could not believe how brown the water was! And full of chunks of dirt!! No wonder when you buy it at Whole Foods it says \”triple washed\”. So I proceeded to triple & quadruple wash it but had a dilemma that some bits of rock were larger than the sieve. Larger than the quinoa & sank to the bottom of the strainer. So I did my best to spoon out the clean parts & leave the grit in the bottom. I hand sorted any dark bits out. Although upon random testing, some were just darker colored grain & some was a tiny pebble & it was not always so easy to tell the difference. Tedious work, I tolerated it only by chatting with Mary all the while. It took me half an hour to clean a half cup! That was all the patience I had for it & set it aside in the pressure cooker to cook later.

Another catamaran pulled into the anchorage. Scott hailed him on the radio welcoming him to the bay & giving him useful info on where our two boat anchors are & how the wind whips down the mountains. The single handing guy was a jerk. He proceeded to begin anchoring right where we told him to avoid. David zoomed over in his dinghy to shoo the guy away from dropping his hook right over theirs. Then the guy moves around to the left side of \”Beach House\” WAY TOO CLOSE! Scott is so close the guy can hear him without use of the radio. Scott makes a suggestion that he just move a bit further away & forwards. Mr Jerk made a snotty comment & wandered around the anchorage for about half an hour before going exactly where Scott had advised. Oh well, an ugly Americans can show up anywhere I guess. Too bad, because he has scuba tanks in his cockpit. But we are suspicious that he may not be the owner, just hired to deliver the boat somewhere. But in any case, it is a shame whenever any fellow boater acts this way because we are literally in the same backyard & who knows when we may need to pull together to help each other with some kind of situation.

Once we were content that Mr. Jerk was secure & far enough away from doing harm, we noticed a break in the rain & decided to take a quick trip to shore. It was already 3:45 p.m. and the sun sets about 6:00 p.m. It is only a 5 minute dinghy ride to shore & I was happy to have a relatively dry landing. There is a cement wall with a lower shelf that you can tie up to & step out on. Then another big step up and you are on land. How nice to stretch the legs! Mary & I zipped ahead as the guys strolled behind. We found limes lying in the street & put a few in our pockets. The rain came again but we all had our light foul jackets on & water sandals.

The scenery is spectacular. The Marquesans originally named this bay, the \”Bay of Phalluses\” (when you see Scott\’s photos, you\’ll know why!). The Missionaries didn\’t approve and changed the spelling in French to make it the \”Bay of Virgins\”. THIS, they approved of! We saw many areas of landslide, but it was hard to tell how fresh they were. A couple horses were tethered by the road eating grass. There are a handful of small poorly built houses as we see everywhere in the 3rd world: corrugated tin roofs, no windows, chickens running in the yard. Another yachtie handed out hats to a group of kids. Due to boaters giving the locals stuff there is a tendency for them to expect a hand-out from everyone. We were not prepared with any kind of offering & thankfully they did not beg or follow us as they were content with their new hats. I saw a tiny market, but we did not go in. I don\’t really need anything right now.

We walked up the road about half an hour when the rain became torrential again so we turned back. Mary & David dropped us off at \”Beach House\” & went home to \”Giselle\”. I still have all her food in my fridge & their books in our salon. We agreed if the weather was at all reasonable, we would attempt an early start to hike to the waterfall in the morning. Then we can have Mary\’s food for lunch afterwards.

So another lovely day, with our new friends. I am trying to fully enjoy them now & not get pangs thinking about how we will go our separate ways in a week or two, perhaps never see them again. With email we try to keep in touch with boaters we click with. And who knows, maybe we\’ll go visit them in Scotland someday…

After a shower & heating up some leftover pasta, I cooked the quinoa 9 minutes in the pressure cooker. I cautiously took a bite – no dirt! I scooped it into containers with a dab of brown sugar & we\’ll have it reheated with milk for breakfast tomorrow. I have only a small bag of it so will make it whenever I next have the patience to do the tedious washing routine. I will each time think fondly of Alberta (for introducing me to this grain) & Mary (for my new sieve). But I do not think I will ever buy the unwashed kind again, too much work!

This anchorage is quite calm, not rolly. Despite the wind & rain noises I was awake only 1 hour last night & did yoga in bed & the hallway until I got sleepy again. Better idea than getting on the computer for 4 hours! I am feeling calm & peaceful. I am hugely relieved to feel happy again & back in the mindset of knowing not only I Can Do This, but I Want to Do This. This is no doubt the adventure of my lifetime. And with beautiful scenery to explore, entertaining companionship, good food, adequate sleep and a cleaner boat (little by little), all is well in Fatu Hiva.

Thank you for your concerns and support. I apologize if I worry you at times. Please keep in mind how resilient I am when you read the reports of my challenging down days. Scott and I are deeply devoted and take tender care of each other.

Stay tuned. Never a dull moment!
Cindy in Fatu Hiva, Day #4