Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 10, 2018

With Michael Ben Eli in the Marquesas

30.3.18 – Friday – I saw the airplane on the approach to Hiva Oa Jaques Brel airport. My more or less trusted taxi driver Frida was supposed to pick up my joining crew there – Michael Ben-Eli. Michael sailed with me from Raiatea in the Society Islands to Pago Pago in 2010. More information about this interesting man can be found on www.sustainabilitylabs.org. Michael came on board and organized his stuff. We decided not to rush things on the first day and just stayed on the boat.

31.3.18 – Saturday – I walked with Michael to Atuona to see the place and do the obligatory visit to the cemetery and the graves of Paul Gaugin and Jaques Brel. All in all it was a long walk and we cancelled our plan to hike to the petroglyphs in the afternoon. Instead we upped anchor and sailed to Hanamoenoa in Tahuata. Swimming in the clear water of that bay seemed more inviting than sweating on the jungle trail. The gentle, jib only sail was pleasant and relaxing and Michael adopted his favorite pose for such conditions.

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We reached the bay at midday, had lunch, a rest and a swim ashore. The plan for tomorrow is to sail to Fatu Hiva.

1.4.18 – Sunday – At about 0630 we were out of the bay, motored to the north-east of Tahuata and then turned south-east to Fatu Hiva. We trolled a line, this time a 100 pound test, in the hope of not losing the fish caught, as was the case in the last few occasions. It did not take long to get a strike but again the fish got away; it must have been a big one because the ring connecting the hook to the lure opened.

The wind was not very strong so I decided to raise the full main. As I  finished hoisting it up, I noticed that we lost a shackle of a pulley in the mainsheet system. I tried replacing it with the sail up but that was impossible. We had to roll the jib, lower the main, tie the boom to both sides of the boat and then I could fix it. By that time, a two masts monohull was slowly passing us in the same direction. I tried unsuccessfully to catch up but going close-hauled is not the best point of sail for us and the other one turned out to be an Amel Super Maramu – a 54 foot boat.

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In 2011 I sailed as crew with my friends Miri and Zulu from Cape town to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, so I know this boat to be fast and comfortable.(Zulu sailed with me from Ecuador to French Polynesia last year).

We got another strike, sailing at close to 7 knots. Here I made a mistake – instead of just releasing the main, perhaps turning upwind a bit, I decided, maybe after being so impressed with the heave to thing, to do just that. The boat stopped and the fish pulled the rod strongly, bent the rod holder and before disappearing stuck the fishing line to something under the boat – keel or rudder. I succeeded releasing the line by turning into the wind and when I took the lure out I found that again the connecting ring opened almost to a straight line. I re-rigged the lure with a heavier ring and hook; still optimistic.

We entered the Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva and it took two tries to find a good anchoring point; fearing dragging in the strong gusts the bay is famous for I lowered two anchors in tandem. All of this was hard work and I really felt tired. In addition the shut down solenoid of the starboard engine refused to work – again. I was too tired to dismantle it and investigate; instead I tied a line to pull it manually. We went ashore to let Michael see the village. A guy named Jonathan gave us grapefruit and bananas for a promise of some rope.

2.4.18 – Monday – Just after breakfast I heard a voice calling from the outside. An aluminum boat drew near our stern, in it were two women and a man who threw me a rope and explained he had a problem with his outboard motor. He asked whether I could give him some tools as he wanted to try and revive his Yamaha 25 H.P. I gave him whatever he needed.

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The man named Mark succeeded eventually to start his motor, thanked us and was on his way. We were to meet him later on shore to find out that his success was short-lived and that he had to disembark the ladies somewhere before their final destination – Omoa – to where many people went for the arrival of the supply – cruise ship Aranui 5.

We went ashore to go to the waterfall. As always it was a nice hike; Michael found a friend on the way; they both seemed happy to see each other.

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On the way back to the village we saw a man extracting the coconut meat from the nut. I actually have never seen it done at close range.

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The man, who said his name was John, was very friendly and we had a nice talk. On to the dinghy, which due to the ebbing tide was now very low from the dock. I went down into it but Michael, less experienced in the vagaries of dinghies, let go of the dock the moment his feet hit the dinghy’s bottom, the dinghy moved, he lost his balance and found himself in the water. Luckily his phone was in a water-tight bag and no damage was done.

Back at the boat I found out to my chagrin that Two Oceans has moved back a bit and was now too close to our Amel neighbor. No choice but to re-anchor, which with two anchors in tandem is never fun. Aranui 5 came to the anchorage, sending loads of passengers ashore. We decided not to mingle and stayed on the boat.

3.4.18 – Tuesday – In preparation to leave for Tahuata, I started the starboard engine and as usual looked to ascertain that water was coming out of the exhaust; no water! It was perfect just yesterday! I entered the engine room, found the water pump belt not tight enough and did the necessary thing. Out to start the engine – the starter does not turn! What’s going on here? I started the engine by bypassing the starter solenoid using a big screwdriver, fiddled a bit with the wires and tried starting the normal way – it worked.

We lifted our anchors, that was relatively easy for a change and went out. Sailing with the wind from our quarter was much nicer than close-hauled; in five hours we covered the 37 miles to the south point of Tahuata and then motored another 5 miles to the Hanatefau anchorage near Hapatoni village, where six boats occupied the best anchoring points in the bay. We were a bit close to a Catana catamaran which I met in quite a few islands and watched our distance continuously. The problem in this bay is that the wind goes round and round and so do the yachts – but not always in coordination. After dinner we suddenly drifted towards one another in an unacceptable way. since the Catana was there first we were supposed to move and so we did, going to deeper water further away.

4.4.18 – Wednesday – Early as usual, I went out to the cockpit at 0620 and saw a big pod of dolphins very close to us. Jumping into action, I went into the water with mask, fins and the GoPro. I swam and dived with them for more than half an hour and even succeeded in taking a decent video of few of them underwater. You can see it on https://youtu.be/8c0K1xnqZVo.

After breakfast we went ashore for a hike. Michael liked a house overlooking the Hapatoni bay we saw while arriving; as we came near it, the owner, a white haired gentleman, invited us to come in and take a look. His name was Paul, originally from France, married to a local woman.

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The view from their porch was spectacular. We continued walking on the same road Gili and I walked in November, I even remembered the place where we found papaya and pamplemousse and entered it again, but alas – no papayas today. We continued towards the shack on the beach opposite our anchorage. This time the owner was there, he greeted us warmly:”welcome to my paradise”. He said his name was Te’ee.  and when Michael mentioned he wanted a drinking coconut, he practically ran up a coconut palm, threw down two nuts and expertly opened them for us with his machete. He also insisted that we take some fresh basil.

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Te’ee seemed to be an excitable fellow; he told us he lived there by himself, no wife, for six years. I donated something for him and we turned back to the village. Once we got there I approached a house in which garden I spotted two breadfruit trees. I asked the man there whether he could give us one fruit and he agreed. The fruit was high up the tree and to get it he lifted his ten years old daughter to the roof of a shack below the tree, gave her a long pole with a hook at its end which she positioned around the stalk. A strong pull and the thing was in my hand. Dominique, that was the man’s name, took me over to another tree and picked a big fruit that one could make juice from. I think it is called jackfruit, but am not sure. I thanked Dominique and later in the afternoon brought him a nice length of rope, which I found to be always in demand in the islands.

Back at the boat we spread our “catch of the day” on the table.

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5.4.18 – Thursday – With 65 miles to go to Ua Pou, we started moving at 0600. Again, the starboard starter needed a few taps before agreeing to turn and start the engine. For the first 20 miles we had to motor with both engines – no wind at all. Then the forecasted wind appeared and gave us 6.5 knots SOG and a nice, comfortable ride. When reaching the destination I tried starting the starboard engine but this time tapping was not good enough and I had to bypass the solenoid to start. I’ll ask Kevin to take both starters out and send them for service when I leave next week. We entered Ua Pou Hakahau bay and found a nice anchoring spot, dropping at 5 meters and going back to rest at 3 meters deep sandy bottom.

6.4.18 – Friday – Time to go to Nuku Hiva, but the starboard engine took its time starting, making strange noises in the process and even emitting some smoke. Out of the bay we sailed at good speed with the wind from 60 – 80 degrees at 16-20 knots. I decided to keep the starboard engine running all the way, not wanting to go through the bypass starting procedure. Five miles to the Taiohae bay entrance the reel sang. Together with Michael we slowed the boat down, bringing our catch to then stern and gaffing it aboard. It was an eight kilograms skipjack tuna, not my favorite, but – finally a fish!

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It was certainly too big for our needs, after all we were flying out on Monday, so I had an idea. After anchoring I looked at the shore with my binoculars and saw that the fish mongers were still there. I took then dinghy to the dock and suggested a deal to one of them. “You take the fish and give me just one kilogram”. The man quickly worked on the fish, saving me the trouble and giving me a piece good enough for two meals for the two of us.

In the afternoon I dinghied ashore to  pick up Kevin and my new chain. We took the anchor out and motored to an area we could let the boat drift. We then put the old chain on deck. Then I came to the bow with the dinghy and the new chain and Kevin fed it into the locker; he connected it to the anchor and then, with Michael helping, transferred the old chain to the dinghy. This was done quickly and efficiently, with Kevin orchestrating the operation.

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  Now for the  (relatively) bad news. Kevin did the bypass start on the starboard engine and thought that if we went out sailing, starting it would not be assured. I wanted to take Michael to Anahu bay but clearly it was time to stop and repair. Michael arranged a day excursion in the island for tomorrow so his time would be well spent.

This brings the current voyage to its end; we’ve been to beautiful places and met interesting people. We’ll  be back in June to sail to the Tuamotus and Tahiti.

Until then – Adios from Miki and Michael on “Two Oceans” in Nuku Hiva.

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