Dramatically uncomfortable

When the anchor drops after a long passage, but the boat keeps pitching and rolling merrily, you know you’ve arrived in the Marquesas… Unlike the other archipelagos of Fr. Poly, these islands have no protecting fringe reefs and their coasts and bays are open to the waves and mighty swell of the Pacific. During El Nino years they are supposed to be safely out of the cyclone belt, so we’re happy that we made it here just with today’s official start of the cyclone season. Wherever we went in the Tuamotus, there was no other topic. During the last strong El Nino, French Polynesia was hit several times and the media have triggered a wide-spread panic among the people. Everybody’s expecting the worst, roofs are strapped down to mooring weights and even the woman at the post office in Tikehau gave me an unbelieving stare when I casually mentioned that we were here by sailing boat. Don’t you know that the cyclone season is coming?

The passage here wasn’t easy and last night was extra annoying with squalls that changed the wind directions quicker than we could tack the boat (shit, now we’re sailing right back on our GPS track, let’s tack again…) and when the wind then died down completely, we decided to head for the nearest island Ua Pou instead of motoring another 25 nm to the main island Nuku Hiva. This way we’ve come back to the bay that was our last stop in the Marquesas exactly two years ago (before heading to the Gambier again). A group of dolphins accompanied us in.

The anchorages in the Marquesas may lack comfort, but they certainly have style. Here in Vaiehu at the western coast of Ua Pou we are surrounded by vertical cliffs and towering spires. The bay looks quite protected on the chart, but the swell somehow makes it in anyway. It looks like the ocean’s breathing in first, rocks emerge from the sea, water sparkles in countless cascades down the shore and then the swell surges into the bay, lifting the boat gently, but crashing violently on the cliffs and spraying out from blow holes all around us. This dramatic spectacle is repeated twice a minute, but never gets boring.

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