Passage (from hell): Fatu Hiva…..

Dear F&F,
June 24-26, 2009

I am reading a book with this title. Thor Heyerdahl, a young Norwegian man and wife Liv decide to \”return to nature\” in the 1930s just before the outbreak of World War II. He had studied anthropology in college and believed people would be better off living off the land with less use of modern inventions. Thor Heyerdall also wrote \”Kon Tiki\” which you may have heard of. It is interesting to read the book while actually here. It has some black & white photos of the same views out my window. Heyerdahl\’s premise was that it made no sense for the peoples of Polynesia to have come from anywhere except the Americas as otherwise they would have been going directly against the wind and waves for up to 8000 miles.

Getting here was NOT FUN however. Scott saw the weather forecast was such that if we didn\’t sail over here Wednesday, we would have to sit in Hiva Oa another full week. We were kind of \”done\” with Hiva Oa so decided to just come now. We knew the wind & sea would be against us, but I had no idea it would be so horrible. Scott bravely manned the helm the whole way, I was essentially useless. I knew he needed sustenance to get us there, so gave him food & drink periodically. We left at 7:00 a.m. & arrived here 8 hours later. We had the main up with 2 reefs and our smallest headsail out but STILL had to motor to make enough speed / headway to arrive before dark. I took seasick meds, but they just barely kept me from losing my cookies. If I\’d known how rough it was I would have put a patch on the night before. Hoping for the best is not a good strategy for preventing seasickness. The sea swell was 8-12 feet with another 2-4 feet of wind chop on top. Imagine driving your car up & down very steep hills over & over for 8 hours. Slamming & pounding all the way. To stand or walk I had to clutch onto anything I could grab & I only did that when Scott needed assistance with the sails or to take him food. I could not sit for very long. It was like being on a very violent amusement ride & trust me after 1 hour it was not amusing. After 8 I was about as low as I can get. I spent most of the trip curled up in the salon with my back & feet bracing me into position, periodically having to hold onto the table to not get thrown onto the floor. Slow deep breathing was all that got me through. I knew I had to endure it. Through the window I could see Scott sitting determined at the helm. Getting bounced around like a Jack in the Box. Poor guy, covered in sea spray & waves.

We had not prepared the boat properly for the conditions. The elastic from the outside ceiling hatch Sunbrella \”hats\” that shade the interior caught a bit under several hatches so they were not sealed completely. Just the right wave angle & water poured in. For 4 hours I was fine in my spot of the settee, then just the right wave soaked my legs where I was curled up. The guest bathroom got drenched & the water ran down the hallway in both directions. The galley – drenched. The large window coverings up front were unsnapped by the waves. Scott ran forward quickly and rescued them just before they were lost overboard. The power of the ocean is a force to be reckoned with. I reckon I am not very brave in the face of it. I endured it, but it took a huge toll on my psyche.

The anchorage at Fatu Hiva is deep & protected from the ocean swell, but the mountains are high & the wind races down several cuts between ridges, so we have gusts up to 30 knots frequently. Anchoring the boat with that kind of gusty wind is tricky. Scott was at the helm & me on the bow. It is impossible to hear each other in the roar of the wind, so we have hand signals to help us in our maneuvers. We had to stand off & wait for another boat which was wandering around the bay to get anchored so we could see where there was an opening for us. We found a shallow spot close to the shore & thought we set down ok, but the French guy on the boat behind us had a fit, saying we were over his anchor, which we were not. Close to it, but not over it. But he was so persistently agitating that we moved back quite a bit. The bay slopes deep quickly, so you can\’t anchor back too far.
Meanwhile the boat that was wandering before starts wandering again, not happy with where they were. They do not have enough chain or a heavy enough anchor. So they keep dragging. It makes all the boats nervous. We anchored once, then up again & moved ourselves to be centered between the other boats better, not too close to anyone. With the strong winds, the boats swing nearly 180 degrees.

After the rough passage, it was hard for me to feel any kind of relaxation in here. The bouts of roaring wind & consequent noise aboard are not restful. I was distraught & just cried. Scott of course feels terrible for putting me through this. He is tired, but fine & happy to be here. It is a beautiful bay. Postcard beautiful. But I think I suffered from post traumatic stress. Not just from the one day of rough sailing. But from the 17 � day passage. From the 4 miles of walking in the heat with heavy bags. From the 7 hours bumpy road drive the day yesterday. From the 180 gallons of diesel schlepped via dinghy. From the mildew and salt everywhere inside & out. It has all piled up on me and I do not have any more inner resources to cope.

I manage to pull myself together to make us a nice dinner of steak & potatoes. Culinary comfort is a good thing. A bottle of wine helps a bit. Scott goes to sleep early but I cannot sleep, despite medication due to the howling wind & many flapping banging boat noises. I go in the guest cabin, which we made up in a way that I can have half the bed for these nights that I need my own space. The aft half is garage overflow. I close all the windows & put in my ear plugs to try to block the noise. I sleep fitfully because it is so hot & stuffy inside without any ventilation.

June 25
Thursday I am glad to wake up & begin a new day. I know my job is to get a grip. Do whatever I can to make myself feel better. I enroll Scott to help wipe the interior areas that got salted up. Just that helps it feel less like camping. We see that sailing friends from \”Giselle\” came into the anchorage during the night so invite them for lunch. \”They were brave out in that sea, said Scott\”, but we knew they looked at the same weather reports we did.

I have had some insights into my mental state. When you go on a trip, no matter how fun & interesting, there is the traveling part (whether car, plane or train) that is tiring. And sightseeing & being a tourist can be tiring. You are always happy to get home & do the laundry & sort of recover from your vacation. We have not had any chance of that. In Mexico & Central America we spent weeks at many docks. We had internet & Skype. There are no docks until Tahiti.

Becoming aware that what I need is some time \”at home\” to recover from the traveling & not be a constant tourist was helpful. I shared my insight with Scott & he is all for taking whatever time I need to feel better. He is not pushing me to go to ashore to explore until I am ready. I will be glad to take a walk & hike & see the place for sure. But I need some gaps. Some non-travel days & non-tourist days. Days to not only work work, work on whatever the boat needs to make it live-able. But time to write, read, cook & relax. This is not the easiest place to do this because of the gusts of wind that pipe up frequently out of nowhere. And the sudden rain squalls. That is why places like this are so green. Frequent rain. Anyway, I feel a bit more at peace understanding myself and ways to recuperate. This is good.

I open 3 cans of lentils, mix with 1 can of tomatoes serve topped with freshly fried bacon & cornmeal muffins. It was blazing hot in the galley but I wanted comfort food so put up with the heat. If it\’s not raining & we can keep the windows open, there is plenty of nice breeze so it\’s a comfortable temperature. If you aren\’t being blown over. But then it will suddenly downpour. Just fast & hard enough that you can\’t quite close all 7 hatches in the galley/salon area before getting pretty damp inside. The rain may last 30 seconds or 5 minutes.

David & Mary brought a lovely bottle of white Chilean wine, so it was festive. I put my striped table cloth on. It was the first time they were onboard our boat & nice to get better acquainted. They asked to see his underwater photos & videos, which we never tire of seeing ourselves. They brought a book about going through the Panama Canal. Hearing about their experience fascinated me & I wrote down the title in case we ever get that far around. They also brought me 2 avocados & 3 limes, fantastic! Food is always my favorite gift. David thanked me profusely for the tea I had shared when we went to happy hour on their boat last week. He said it is hard to find good English tea, so was very excited about it. Thanks for that Linda, it was a small pack of Crabtree & Evelyn \”Afternoon Tea\” from one of your many goody bags you brought me on all those Wednesdays…It was a fabulous 4 hour lunch with Mary & David. Every moment like salve for my soul.

Since we have not yet been to shore here we have no idea if there are any little stores. And even if there are, we only have about 25 dollars in local currency. We know there is an ATM on Nuka Hiva which will be the last of the Marquesas we will visit. Two more, between here & there.
After they left it was nearly time to think about what was for dinner. I made pasta with sauce of onion, garlic & my green tomatoes. Despite 2 weeks on the counter they were just not turning red, so I used them anyway. Besides dried Italian herbs, I\’ve discovered that crushed red pepper really perks up pasta sauce. The kind they serve at pizza parlors. After dinner we watched DVD \”Ratatouille\” which made me smile.

My nature is to be a happy person. I will find a way to adapt to this life as we go on. I will not just endure it, because it is not healthy to live in a state of tension & unease. The areas with diving opportunities will become more prevalent in the Tuamotos & beyond. The Tuamotos are the island group we will visit after the Marquesas. We will soon explore Fatu Hiva. But for now I am content to stay in & hope to manage some sleep between the bouts of turbulent weather.

Cindy at Fatu Hiva, Days #1-3