Friday, June 14, 2013

Land Ho!

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We made it to land!
I am writing this post on Thursday, June 6th.  However, this probably won't post for another week or so.  Why?  There is no internet available…anywhere.  My one luxury item that I can't seem to live without is the internet.  (I may have to do a 12-step program upon my return because I did't realize how heavily I depended on it.)

First of all, the Pacific Ocean passage was brutal.  It was brutal on the body.  It was brutal from the lack of sleep and brutal trying to entertain a four-year-old that depends on your constant attention all day long.  If I wasn't at the helm, Lily was there ready and giddy to play with me.  (Unfortunately, she doesn't play by herself, she needs mom, dad or Meredith.)  I'll never do this kind of long passage again.  I won't need to.  Having said this, I am glad I accomplished this ocean crossing and feel like I can draw strength from it when times get tough.  I can tell myself, "Kym, you crossed the Pacific Ocean on a boat, you can do anything if you could do THAT!"
When we finally saw land, the rain was so bad that it was like buckets of water were being poured out on me.  However, this wasn't going to curtail my excitement of FINALLY reaching land.   After 18 days at sea I was giddy to see land regardless of the weather conditions.  (Yes!  That was a record for us-we had planned on 22 days!)
Martin and me celebrating our first sight of land.
The morning that we reached landfall, it started off early and ominous.  I woke up around 5:00am and looked out my window and caught a first glimpse of land, as well as, buckets of rain pouring in every direction.  It was overcast and gloomy and wasn't the paradise that I was hoping to have welcome us after such a long haul.

However, upon seeing land, I immediately smelled "earth" and that was the best fragrance that I had smelled in a LONG time.  Regardless of the rain, I went to the bow of the boat and just sat there taking in the smell.  I never realized until then how much I missed it. Dirt of all things!
Arriving at Hiva-Oa – Our First Attempt
The night before arriving in the Marquesas should go down in our record books as one of the most miserable nights. All of us had survived a long and bumpy night at sea.  The boat was rocking so hard that none of us got a good nights' sleep.  Sue described it as someone "punching her in the face through her pillow" while she was trying to sleep in her bed.  It was miserable.  I was miserable.  By the time we reached the Marquesas, we all just wanted to park the boat and sleep.

The weather was horrible.  Instead of sleeping, we had to get AMARA ready to get into port.  We all put on our foul weather gear and got to work in trying to get AMARA into the harbor at Hiva-Oa where we were to clear customs.

Martin dealing with the elements.
Me, pretending to "deal" in the elements.  Honestly, I just wanted to get on land and get a cup of hot chocolate and sit by a fire.  Wishful thinking.
David, Sue and Meredith assessing the marina.
Our first attempt to get into the harbor was a major disaster due to the weather and mudslides in Hiva-Oa.  It seemed like everything that had been on land was now in the bay.  We saw full trees floating by us, coconuts, wood... everything.
Boats were fouling everywhere (their anchors were coming undone down below making boats swing in towards each other).
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Our first glimpse to the harbor in Hiva-Oa where we needed to check in with customs.  
We knew we had to get out of there and attempt entering again the next morning.  So, we left the harbor and went up about 10 miles and found a little inlet and tucked ourselves in for the night.  Talk about deflating.
Attempt #2
 At the helm.  
What a difference a day makes.
The same harbor, but this time, a little more like paradise.  
The next day we headed back to the marina in Hiva-Oa.  It was amazing to see what a difference a day could make.  The sun was out, the water was clear, and a lot of the debris had already made it's way out into the sea.  This time we knew we could get into Hiva-Oa and clear customs.  
AMARA out in the bay.
The night before, two of David and Sue's friends, Lili and Steve, had already anchored in the marina and called ahead to tell us to anchor in the bay just outside the marina.  There were still a lot of boats and it would be easier if we anchored out there.  Knowing the conditions at the dock and knowing it would be difficult to tie our dinghy to it, Steve volunteered to taxi us over to the side of a makeshift pier (that was barely a pier) where we all quickly jumped off onto land.  Steve then took our dinghy back to his boat to wait for us once we cleared customs and did some quick (very quick shopping for provisions).

Once on land, we hired a taxi that took us up to the police station where we checked in with customs and got our legal documents that allow us to stay in French Polynesia for 3 months.
Martin and Lily waiting to clear customs.
After clearing customs, we headed straight for the grocery store where we stocked up on foods that we had really grown to miss on our passage.  
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One can never have enough condiments. 
While trying to get through town, it was evident that this was not the best day to do any sight seeing.  The streets of the town were a mess and it looked as if the entire town was out helping to get the roads back in order.  We decided it was better to just leave and head for Fatu-Hiva which is known to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Marqueses.  .
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Before we left, we did a little "meet and greet" at Lili and Steve's boat, LI WARD.  Great people.
If I don't say this enough, the sailing community is an amazing community.  EVERYONE that we come across is willing to help out their fellow yachtsman.  The day before, right in the middle of the storm, we had fellow cruisers talking to us on our VHF telling us where to park our boat outside in the bay. We had people moving their boats to make room for us.  Others brought us fresh baguettes.  I get a little teary thinking about all the support we get from other cruisers welcoming us at every port.  Wouldn't it be great if this happened more often in our daily life?  It really is an amazing thing to feel as if you belong to a little community where it only requires a boat.  I am loving this part of the experience.  I hope to take this kind of spirit of friendship home with me.

Just a tree floating by us in the middle of the ocean.  Part of the aftermath of the storm.

We arrived in Fatu-Hiva late into the evening, barely able to see much other than a few hundred feet in front of us.  Again, we were met by a fellow cruiser on his dinghy and he helped us find the right anchorage for AMARA.  It never fails how often others are willing to help.

Knowing this is one of the most beautiful anchorages in the South Pacific, I was eager to wake up the next morning and see this so-called "beautiful anchorage."  So I woke up early the next morning to get my first glimpse of Fatu-Hiva.  

This was my view from AMARA'S bow.  Now imagine the fragrance of Hibiscus and Tiare (which smell just like gardenias) flowers in the air.  It looked and smelled like heaven.  I am amazed at the beauty in this world of ours.  Especially amazed at this little treasure.  
Fatu-Hiva - As close to paradise as you can get.
We plan to walk into town today to purchase some local crafts and then head up to a beautiful waterfall.  
I'll keep you posted!

PS.  Trying new posting application.  So sorry if things don't come out quite as well as I would like.  Internet here is almost non-exisitent and I am taking what I can get!