Truthfully in itself the village doesn’t have a lot of charm but again the people you meet make the difference. And this is exactly what it is at the moment, we met Alexandra and Florent friends of Rueben, you remember our favorite Togolais nurse. They were wonderful and shared many of their own cruising knowledge of all the islands they visited in their 8 years around here. A lot of these were less visited atolls and off the beaten track so you may see us in less crowded anchorages soon. The public dock here in Makemo now looks like a marina since 5 boats arrived yesterday! And when we say marina it also includes a commercial dock where the Nukuhave provision boat stopped by last night.
Nonetheless being close to the dock has not been glamourous to say the least, because we made the most of the convenience while pulling the 280 feet or 85 meter of chain out of the anchor locker to untangle it from Bahia de Caraquez. Six months in an estuary with the effect of the twice daily tide, gave the chain a mega twist and it was a challenge each time we were bringing the chain up, the windlass will only be happier about it! In the meantime, we reversed it and renewed the markers; we should be good for another few years. We also started industrial size banana drying, pamplemousse juices and banana jams canning so we don’t lose any produce. We have also been busy putting our water maker back to work while using acid and alkaline bath for the membrane in order to refresh it after such a break. Few trips back and forth to the stores in order to re provision Letitgo and we haven’t seen the last few days go by…
In the follow up of our previous article on pricing, the Tuamotus are definitely more expensive, which doesn’t make sense to us as we are getting closer to Tahiti and transportation costs are lower. Plus they purchase at the same stores in Tahiti the same products as in the Marquesas, go figure? The PPN interpretation is also a little more sporadic, we know the prices and found some major discrepancy from store to store…
Cheap labor is hard to come by these days, well actually we would still have done it ourselves, we had tried to do it straight in the water but in the end the dock was much more useful.
As you can tell from this picture, we are really close, look at our back solar panels!
We may have to wait before we can leave; the stern of the cargo is literally blocking the way out, which is even more impressive in day light.
Somebody got a new truck by the look of thing!
We arrived in Makemo early this morning, after reefing all night long to slow down Letitgo, which was a first in our sailing life. We entered the pass just at sunrise around 6am and anchored in the harbor full of coral heads. After a good rest and a nice breakfast it was time to get the wiggles out. We were on a mission and wanted to locate friends of friends, of course we found the bakery and store! On our way back home we asked the local fishermen where was the best place to anchor as we were just a little too close for comfort to a reef. They all pointed with a smile to the dock and said there!!! So this is where we will be for the next few days to let the weather system pass through.
Compared to Raroia or even Vaitahu we are at this moment back in a major city, there are 300 inhabitants a cathedral and multiple stores and we also have internet, we haven’t taken any photos yet of Makemo.
But let’s not waste time with too much chatter; we know you want to see! So here is what we have been surrounded by:
Our first atoll in view
Very rare a 9 petal tiare flower.
Those ones smell like peach and the color is just fabulous.
View from the pearl farm
This is how the nacre starts to grow, well protected
1-2 years later still growing, once ready you bring it back to the farm.
Here is a man who has mastered the art and precision of grafting
It took 2.5 years of training, and today he will perform 600 insertions in the day.
The nucleus is imported
Once grafted it is reassembled on the line ready to go back on the line.
Ready to go back in the water and wait until the pearl forms, it will take another 14 months.
And how to keep track of it all!
The simplest accounting system of all, one line equals a 20 nacre string.
And after work the boys unwind by kitesurf.
A walk to the store a few kisses and a little chat here and there got us invited to someone’s house to see them working the nacre. We didn’t know what to expect and what this involved, but it turns out that Amandine we had met the previous afternoon is actually the grand- mother and owner of the operation. What a surprise when we entered the shack and discovered a full fledge pearl farm in operation. Even better, we were present for the twice a year inclusion of the nucleus, we received a very hands down crash course on pearl farming from the newest operation around, a family business with a very good vibe.
The green pearl is what sells for the most money at the moment; the process is very labor intensive and reminded us of the winery business model. You collect a seed that you patiently grow to maturity via multiple stages which takes roughly three years. You open then slightly to see if the poach is present, if so you insert the nucleus and a small piece of flesh, 14 months later you will get with a good professional 80% success rate. All this while you put heavy investment out and no return, if you are still interested know that your first four years’ diet will be on rice as you don’t earn any money.
Friends of Vaitahu, we are pleased to let you know that those hard workers were offered some of your delicious fruits on your behalf, your name was pronounced a few times and they too eat a banana with a little black, there are not many pigs to feed and to top it all up we heard that there were two Marquesan living here and. from Tahuata!
Finally today we went again on a chase after butter which we found successfully might we add, truly butter, sugar and fuel are scarce resources in this part of the world. While walking around we started inquiring about purchasing some floaters used in farming here, in order to keep our anchor chain slightly elevated above the choral heads, a trick that will hopefully avoid tangling in it! It went that way, in the last two days we had said hello to a gentleman and when we inquired about purchasing some, he asked: “what is it for?” and once satisfied with our answer simply responded: “Just help yourselves to the pile”. Another care package from the Marquesas was delivered and the smile on his face alone was totally worth it.
Also we added a new experience in our lives; we now can say that we swam with sharks around us in the wild. Black tip sharks were enjoying the surrounding of Letitgo and loved it when we jump in and splashed around.
Unfortunately, we have to leave this afternoon as in two days the wind will start howling 20 knots and we have no protection from the East in this atoll. So we said our bye and promised to be back in November.
Well well well. It turns out we may have to reconsider our average speed calculations! Truly we usually use a 5 knot speed average to be conservative but our last two sails in the South Pacific have been a lot quicker. You see, we had anticipated to be travelling from the island of Tahuata to Raroia in the Tuamotus for 3.5 days and arrived here after only 2.5 days, good luck was with us as the out flow permitted us to enter through the pass without any problem. What a difference 400 nautical miles makes, there are no more pics and green valleys around here, instead a few bits of corals where coconut trees and people live; it was a really different sight as we approached with everything is at sea level.
Some of us didn’t notice due to nap time but Raroia was on ebullition yesterday , the weekly flight came in and our old friend the Taporo was due (still not here, tomorrow may be?) for its monthly visit and this time around it is highly expected as it has not been here for while the magasin is running low. But let us reassure you, with about 4 cars on the atoll and 200 inhabitants it is even more peaceful than Vaitahu city, there is a very calming overall ambiance here. One difference though, work comes from the pearl farm and definitely not from land: indeed nothing grows in sand with limited water. No animals to hunt either so the boys are playing with kitesurf to get the testosterones out of their system.
Our walks around the village show us a church from 1875 and some administration building from 1925. The mode of transportation is a three wheel bike with a large basket in the back which is truly practical for those flat concrete streets. People are relaxed smiling and easy to talk to, we thought the Marquises were isolated we may have to revisit that statement after perusing the two shops in town.
As for photos we will ask for your patience as we are posting at the moment via our good old ham radio.
It took us 30 minutes to get away from the grip of Tahuata, the island didn’t want to show us the wind and we were starting to doubt that the forecast was right. But with a bit of perseverance we found the force from the East at 15-20 knots and so far after 24 hours it hasn’t left us. We achieved 173nm in the first 24 hours (182nm is Letitgo’s record), so we may arrive a little earlier than we planned in Raroia as so far the angle of the wind as cooperated with our wish to start Mid Archipelago and work our way up.
The mood has been subdued onboard, as Valerie is seasick and sleep all day long. Benjamin and I are watching movies or series and the day pass by without much thought. No sight of anything, no fishing and a broad reach ride not the most comfortable in our book.
Just wanted to give you some news and let you know that we left after all, even if some people didn’t think we would us first.
Well we lost touch with the timing of contact with our base station as we haven’t used our Ham radio for so long. So day two was a replica of day one with 160nm movement for Letitgo, we spotted one fishing vessel but for the rest all was calm. If all goes well, we shall be arriving mid morning in our first atoll.
We knew it was coming, but trust us it has not made it easier, to say the least it has been a rather emotional aurevoir… though admittedly knowing that we are coming back makes it a little easier. So it is with heavy heavy hearts that we are pulling the anchor, and a heavy boat! We are ready to give back to the Tuamotus.
In short we can only say Thank you to Vaitahu, for such a wonderful welcome and warmth, you are all leaving an indelible mark on us. All our close friends were at the dock for oursend-off, we have contacts and deliveries to make now in numerous atolls and island. At 18.00 local time or 3.30am zulu we shall have the anchor raised and in 3to 4 days we should be in the Tuamotus if all goes well.
We are a supply ship of fruit and vegetable where they are considered gold.
Mamau Josephine showing us one of her prized piece Tifaifai.
So long Marie-Kreu and Paul, Titi Koki and family, Kiki, Mamau Josephine, Jeanne and Felix, the Timau family, Mamau Jeanne and Papau Louis
And most of all to the children who bring a shining smile to the Bay
Unlike some of our neighbours, we are not in any rush and there are still many things to do around us which is very fortunate. As you can see above on the graphic depiction of our weather system, the white is still between us and our next destination and it has been rather slow to dissipate, hence we need to be patient otherwise we would be running the engine nonstop for days or sit at sea for a while. Left with no other option, we are happily staying a little longer, which means in other words we have time to repair a few more washing machines and discovered the true problem behind the epidemic: The current fluctuates so badly that it ends burning anything left plugged in, the capacitors are the first to go followed by the TV sets. This gives us one more idea for bartering surge prevention multi-plug!
This week we were finally were able to spend some quality time with one very talented individual in Vaitahu, an artist that we missed so far because he had to be in Papeete. His art work is amazing, fine and could last forever. We purchased a few pieces a true souvenir from the Marquises.
Impression on fiberglass.
Sachets for the closet with dried ylang ylang
And finally boat work has caught up on us and this is why you need some tools and various parts. First: the bolt holding the arm of our outboard engine broke clean, secondly: one rebuilt water pump decided it was time to leak badly and lastly the generator starting/pulling cord broke. All of this is over two days; somebody else doesn’t want us to live! Fine, if you must insist we will be there for the confirmations this week-end.
Honda generator provides the energy for that drill.
This time it’s not our fault we promise actually it is, we could live and motor for 4 days and get to the Tuamotus but why would we. As you can observe on the picture below our route going from A to B is showing a lot of light blue and even white, that doesn’t help when you have a sailboat. We love the darker blue and can play nice in the first green after that it’s not fun anymore. So a few more days will be spent in the Marquises, not a problem for us.
We spent the week-end enjoying life, a meal here and there and lots of relaxing on the grass or under the trees depending on your age. Add a drop of religious procession, to move a statue from one house to another and you have a perfect time in the island as May is the month of the virgin Marie. We listened to some more beautiful and peaceful Marquesan songs and got to try the Pumpkin poke (pohe) to die for by the way!
Just for you to admire the support post in this house.
The village is divided in three prayer groups, during the month of October and may they take turn in each of the participant house to take care of the Virgin Statue.
Benjamin here is giving a demonstration on how to prepare steamed Chinese brioches, you see it is Sunday and we craved Dim Sun a win-win situation.
“Confirmations” are next week, there is another wedding here in July and then the Aranui is coming with the varnish for the rest of the church’s ceiling and the list goes on and on… We have even been asked when and where we would like to purchase a piece of land? Truly we could prolong our stay here until the festival in December, finding excuse after excuse; but Benjamin is at this very moment finishing his Math class (with a staggering 99.7% average), so we are setting the date of our departure for the end of the week, of course Mother Nature has her say and there is now an anticyclone deciding to set shop right in between the Tuamotus and here. So beginning of next week looks more like a possibility and the word is spreading, we are being invited right left and center with more intensity.
Two nights ago, we were treated to a magnificent BBQ at Marie-Claire and Paul’s home, who is in complete sync with her surroundings and nature, she simply created amazing amounts of flower treats and some beautiful souvenirs for us to keep and cherish, this was another memorable evening in the Marquesas to say the least. Marie-Claire and Paul’s grand-son Huiata never left our sides and made sure he got his fills of cuddles!
Today we received another surprise by mail: Laurent’s parents booked their plane tickets to come and join us by the end of the year, with that said everyone is expecting us to be back in Vaitahu with them! On the other hand, we also have to get going to explore the atolls and the society islands before they arrive! Will we be on time to pick them up in Tahiti?
To the left is a headcrown made of greens, and on the right is a fragrant one for Letitgo made of ylang-ylang and wild basil
It’s too bad we can’t share the fragrance with you….
And a new fruit has started to blossom, and we were honored to share this treat as it is quite rare around the island.
We dropped Benjamin to school in the morning and were supposed to just walk around to say hello and do our laundry but the day took another turn…
The church of Vaitahu was built some 25 years ago and it was never entirely finished; especially the treatment of the wood on the ceiling. So 6 months ago a varnish was purchased and once Easter and its festivities were over it was time to get down to business! A team was assembled to start varnishing the ceiling, photos were required to memorize this event, and then I was required to calculate the number of extra pots needed to really finish the job, a cellphone showed up for repair. Soon it was time for lunch and we were invited, some tourists/cruisers from the other bay arrived and Valerie was requested to do translation and helped during the buying process of carvings. And here we are back on the boat at 6:00pm we didn’t see the day go by! Truly, you never know how the day is going to evolve; that’s the beauty of the Marquesas, you just need to be ready for it.
Later on in the post you will read about the legend of the Virgin Marie, the best story we ever heard.
Detail of the ceremonial drum.
The senior members supervising the work, Maxime and Papie Louis, and accomplice in mischief!
Jeanne we now know that Louis can clean floor really well, you just need to get him to do it at home.
The Cirque du Soleil has nothing on these guys, but after two accidents they are now required to harness themselves.
Getting closer to God Armand and Moise.
Everybody takes turn, from cooking lunch to setting up the scaffolding and cleaning the after mess.
Now as promised the legend of the Virgin Marie: It happened over the week-end and promise we are not making it up. The young married man below decided to play around with another woman for the second time; his wife became so angry she decided to place her revenge on the statue of Marie at the top of the hill under the white cross. Destroy is a weak word it was more of an explosion really, the villagers found out quickly and the priest was advised.
This symbol had to be removed and disposed in a proper way. The priest orders were to dig a hole in front of the church, as the back one would be exposed to be urinated on and any other place not worthy. So this morning in front of all, the “sinner” came, dug a hole and very piously deposited the remains of the poor Virgin. A plant was then placed on top and the entire island will pass in front of it for generations to come. Now this is one way to deal with such problem, let me tell you he will be teased for a while and reminded of it every time he passes by it.
Peanut is his nickname but one may come up soon to hunt him…
At the bottom of the picture you can see the remains of the statue