“Not all who wander are lost.” -Tolkien
On the 13th of June we arrived into Fatu Hiva which is part of the volcanic island group known as the Marquesas in French Polynesia. The first task at hand was not to crack open a beer and relax but to clean the whole boat top to bottom (literally, hours were spent scraping barnacles and seaweed off the hulls. I was tempted to eat it as salad considering my body had not consumed anything green practically for months. Do all sailors think fresh produce is not a necessary part of diet?). Besides this chore, there was a bit of an euphoric feeling after making the crossing and a few other sailors came over for dinner and drinks. Fatu Hiva was so beautiful I have a difficult time finding a better word to describe it. One day we walked across the island to the other village and back again, this gave us 21 miles to take it all in. It also gave us time to enjoy each other’s company and talk through our experience. Using our legs and chatting out of ear shot from anyone else was elating!
We’ve come to the conclusion that we want a very simple lifestyle. Sometimes we talk about buying land in another country (hmm, what worn torn country can we afford – joking!) and more recently a sailboat (maybe we should start with a rowboat), but we aren’t sure how or if this will fit into a simplistic life. Having more free time makes us want to reevaluate our lives back home. Fewer possessions (do I need so many books?), fewer commitments (maybe we should just stop working- this would free up some time) and more time just to enjoy life. We want travel to continue to be a part of our lives and we bounce around ideas of how to do this with a family.
The rest of our time in Fatu Hiva was spent relaxing on the boat, hiking to a waterfall, taking baths in the stream with flowers floating on the surface (you need to take advantage of fresh water when you’ve got it) and trading with locals for fresh fruit. We were invited over for dinner by two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Anna and Collin on their boat Ithaka. They were a very grounded and kind couple that have really inspiring stories and experiences. They even made us some vegetarian food they were horrified to realize later they’d made with beef broth. Haha. No wonder it tasted so delicious!
Then we stayed a couple nights on Hiva Oa to check in. We visited the French artist Paul Gauguin’s grave and checked e-mail the first time in a month. Woohoo! We had what Ezra called WWWW (worldwide web withdrawal). There was no swimming in this anchorage as we were told tiger sharks were in the area and were relieved when we didn’t have to jump in to scrub the boat some more.
Our last stop in the Marquesas was Tahuata so we could swim with manta rays. It took us a bit of time to find them in deeper water but once we did it was incredible. There must have been twenty of them all feeding on phytoplankatan. They seemed pretty curious and I was a little alarmed when they swam right at me before quick turning away. They were incredible creatures! We took another swim, had a little picnic on the beach and that was our time in the Marquesas.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
Alright, twenty-three days at sea, this is what happened…
For having a lot of time on our hands, the days were fairly structured, to my disappointment (aren’t sailors supposed to be laid back?). We each had a shift for day watch, cooked either lunch or dinner (more about the food situation later), washed dishes and had night watch. Every activity takes a lot longer on a boat than at home. For example, after bumping your way to the bathroom you need to pump flush (unless its our toilet and half the time it didn’t flush which meant going up, throwing a bucket over to get water and bumping your way back to throw it in the bowl), pry your hatch open to throw out your paper and carefully, very carefully, turn the faucet slightly on to use some precious fresh waster. Going pee could easily take 5x the amount of time than it should. Unless you’re a dude and can just pee off the side. I did ask Ez to stop doing this while we sailed though because we heard that a lot of drowned sailors have been found with their flies down.
We did watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets and myriad marine life added some excitement to the days. It was not uncommon to wake with flying fish and squid all over the deck as they made their kamakaze flight on board. Sometimes we saw dolphins playing off the bow and once we heard them speaking (is this what they do?) below in our cabin.
A few days in a French family passed us on their catamaran. We spoke over the VHF and took pictures of each other passing by. This is very exciting when there is nothing between you and the horizon in all directions. Shortly after we saw a pod of whales breaching. Other than that, we saw only one other boat in those weeks at sea. It was just the Swedes and the Americans on a 38ft boat.
In our free time we read a lot of books. Ez read Mark Twain and studied constellations and knots. I read about homesteading, simple living, herbalism and trashy novels. He would stay up and teach me what he learned (he wasn’t as interested in my current educational choices). We listened to books on tape about Buddhism and planned a lot for our upcoming travels. We had great conversations about the future and what we want from our lives. Some nights I would just stare at the dark night for those hours and try desperately not to fall asleep in the process.
Of course I am glossing over all the difficult parts (its not productive to think about how fast you could go 3000 nautical miles in a car versus 5 knots by sail) but by the end we had really enjoyed the experience of the long passage and at times is was incredibly peaceful. I felt more confident navigating, could jibe by myself and started to feel more comfortable sailing overall. This was all until a few days before landfall and we saw cockroaches onboard. That made me ready for land and some alone time. Four people on a small boat can feel a bit crowded and I wasn’t excited for the new stowaways.
we made it!