Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands…..

Dear F&F,
June 19-20, 2009

June 19
We got all checked in with the Gendarme today. It was rather anti-climactic after the reams of forms & documents we had to submit with French translations (merci beaucoup to Clark & Vincent in Paris!). As it turned out, our timing was impeccable. We turned in our application for the long stay visa to the San Francisco French consulate office 9 months ago. Six months ago my sister emailed us that she had received a phone call that our visas were ready. She confirmed with them that we could as long as another 3 months to pick them up. March 18 Alberta drove me to the consulate office in SF to collect them. The agent kindly wrote the latest date we could check in as June 30, instead of the standard 3 month maximum June 18th. We made landfall to French Polynesia on June 17th! Is Scott good at planning or what?!!!

Mike got his exit papers from the Gendarme just in time to catch a ride up to the airport. Bon voyage & many thanks to our trusty crew & baker. Without Mike aboard, I bought another baguette. No bread making necessary here. I also got some oranges, 2 green mangos and was told that pamplemousse (grapefruit) will be for sale tomorrow. There are 4 or 5 different markets. Mostly they each have the same exact stuff since the cargo ship just came yesterday. I think we can live a long time on bread & cheese & fruit.

There is a music festival this afternoon & I would love to go but Scott has crashed into low energy & I\’m not sure I can get him to take me ashore again. It is a 2 mile walk into town & rather hot & humid (raining on and off) so I am not keen to go alone. There is a breeze at least today, yesterday none, very sweaty.

\”Giselle\” arrived and invited the crew of \”Uliad\” & us onboard for happy hour. I made sure to take salami & breadsticks so there would be something besides alcohol in our stomachs. Also served were olives, carrot sticks & cashews. We were the 3 boats that kept in close radio touch throughout the passage from the Galapagos. The \”Giselle\” couple, David is British and Mary from Scotland are delightful. \”Ulliad\’s\” crew; Stephen is a family practice physician originally from Minnesota. Kathleen is a social worker originally from San Diego, and 9 year old son Emmet is a sweet boy. We swapped stories & got to know each other during the social 3 hours.

June 20
Scott gave us 3 ladies a ride to the beach today and we walk the 2 miles into the village. Mary & Kathleen (of sailboats \”Giselle\” & \”Uliad\” respectively) had heard there was a produce market on Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. in the park. It turned out after the long trek that it was the same lady selling lettuce, green beans & cucumbers out of the back of her truck as yesterday. Nothing special or new. But having made the trek, I was determined not to return with empty shopping bags, so went to the 3 main markets & picked up some frozen shrimp, brie, peach yogurt, 4 liters of lowfat milk (rare to find anything but whole milk), some still hot eggrolls & some kind of yummy chocolate chip pastry twist. The 3 of us ladies sat in the park & listened to a singing group. Once the man with the bible got up to the microphone to speak I figured it must be an Seventh Day Adventist church group, although I never confirmed this. No one but us were watching or listening in the park at 10:00 a.m. The entire congregation was up on the small stage & the singing in their native language was lovely, but we lost interest when he started preaching in completely incomprehensible Marquesian.

It was a genuine \”death march\” on the way back. I asked the checker at the last store in town if she would call us a taxi. There is a posted sign at the tourist center with 8 taxi drivers phone numbers. She simply said no & ignored me. Hitch hiking was fruitless. So we walked the entire 2 1/2 miles back, now in the heat of the day & me with very heavy shopping bags.

I was in a sorry state by the time we radioed David to pick us up for the dinghy ride from shore to our boats. Scott meanwhile had been a twirling dervish of cleaning. Just getting the salt off the boat is a major feat after being at sea. He had done laundry & hung it. Cleaned windows, floors, dishes & was eager to take my command to clear out the \”man smell\” of the guest cabin & bathroom. Bless him! I rallied enough from my heat exhaustion to take advantage of his energy. Providing him with clean buckets of water. Vinyl cleaner. Toilet cleaner. Window cleaner. Clean rags. Rinse bucket. Repeat.

A group of 5 fellow cruisers went to shore for more music in town tonight, but this time I was the one that wimped. The event started at 8:00 p.m. which may as well be midnight as far as I am concerned. I am just too tired & love to be in bed by 9:00 p.m. at the latest, since I can never sleep past the 6:00 a.m. sunrise. That is why we got the long stay visa for French Polynesia. I trust this is not our only chance to hear native music & see native dancing.

There is so much work to be done on the boat. The mildew has become an epic problem & seems insurmountable in the tropics. I had energy yesterday when Scott was in full collapse, so I fresh water rinsed & vinegar treated all our safety gear & hung it to dry today. It is just one small locker of the many, many lockers on the boat. But it is critical gear that can become useless if the latches freeze up from rust or the fabric rots from mildew. Thankfully so far Scott & I have been able to support each other and not both feel down at the same time.

I am nowhere near recovered from the passage. The amount of work we need to do onboard yet is daunting. All the portlights (low opening windows along the hull sides) leak sea water. The escape hatches under each set of stairs also leak sea water when we pound into the waves. I have complained about seeing the water damage to the wood paneling around all the portlights for a long time. But after Mike reported that he got a full dose of a wave on his head inside the guest cabin it really drove home the need for an upgrade. I regret that we did not do this already from Los Angeles, San Diego or Mexico. We will replace what is necessary, hopefully in Tahiti or at the latest New Zealand. It is unfortunate to pour more money in, but this is our home & we must do all we can to keep her afloat. We must keep maintaining and improving \”Beach House\” to keep her sea worthy as well as wife-approved. I do not know yet if the Wet Blanket syndrome has been resolved. I try to only eat one bite of elephant at a time.

We must wait until Monday to get our fuel permit. There are no docks. We are at anchor. We must dinghy to shore & will have to schlep 170 gallons diesel via 5 gal jugs. It is back breaking, stinky, sweaty work & will take us 2-3 days to load all that we need. Then we can move on to some of the more remote islands that will have clean water for swimming & diving.

Skye emailed the sad news that her last grandparent – Anne Nelson \”ATG\”, Annie the Granny has passed away. We called Skye via satellite phone. The connection was poor and the brief exchange seemed so inadequate. The reality of how far away we are hits me hard and we long to flee to her. She misses us but is strong and handling all that the death of this matriarch entails. She misses Anne but is glad she is no longer suffering. Skye wrote a beautiful obituary that we will post separately. Despite the fact that Scott was the ex-son-in-law, Anne never stopped treating him as family. When he and I married she embraced me as well. That was an honor and privilege that I valued. She sent Scott and me birthday, father\’s day & mother\’s day cards without fail. We were always invited to Gaye & Skye\’s joint birthday parties (June 9 & 10).

Receiving this news gets me to thinking of when I will receive an email from sister Alberta that our now 92 year old father is gone. How will I feel? Where will I be? What will I do? As a wise Chinese acupuncturist once told me, \”Best not to think about it\”. So I breathe and try to stay in the moment.

Hiva Oa, Day #3