Each of the French Polynesian archipelagos has its own unique character and we shall remember the Marquesas for their scenic beauty with majestic mountains, hiking routes, exquisite waterfalls, abundance of fruit and friendly Polynesians. Of the six inhabited islands, just a spec in the Pacific Ocean halfway around the world from South Africa, we visited five: Fatu Hiva, Tahuatu, Hiva Oa, Nuka Hiva and Ua Pou.
It took us 36 days, plenty of wind and sail power and just three litres of diesel to cover the 4 044 nm (7 300km) across the Pacific Ocean from Panama to the Marquesas. On weighing Moondust’s anchor at 06:15 on Easter Saturday at the southern end of the Panama Canal, the white full moon still hung in the sky to starboard while the sun peeped through warm orange cirrus clouds to port.
We had a pleasant start to the longest passage we will encounter in our circumnavigation (across this first stretch of the Pacific Ocean) with no seasickness on my part, light winds and a beautiful Mackerel on our fishing line!
We found Cuba to be absolutely fascinating and very different from any of the other Caribbean islands. It felt like we had taken a big step back in time, before the days of modern cars and a permanent connection to the virtual world.
After two weeks when we were finally ‘snorkeled out’ at Jardines de la Reina, aided by a good breeze, we sailed overnight for Cienfuegos, 160 km to the northwest and situated in an enclosed bay. We anchored off another government run Marina Marlin, where, after a lengthy but friendly check-in we were free to go ashore and enter the ‘time warp’.
Following our departure from Antigua, we arrived at St. Martin, apparently the smallest bi-national island in the world; in this case occupied by France and the Netherlands. We dropped anchor in French Marigot Bay and once again cleared in easily online.
We asked Frank and Marijke, who visited us on Moondust recently, to share their impressions as newbies of what it entails to live on a yacht. Herewith their experience….
We gladly accepted Karin and Pete’s generous invitation to join them on board Moondust and loved their company and living at sea and virtually in the sea, as we did a lot of snorkeling! Being Duchies we stem from a sea faring nation, but personally we had no experience at all of life ‘adrift’, therefore Pete had to give us an induction.
He explained a set of necessary rules of conduct on board a ship. They were quite logic for living at sea and concentrated on aspects like safety, living together in a confined space, and the use of water.
For safety reasons one never walks on deck without a firm hold whilst sailing. It is extremely challenging to retrieve somebody who fell overboard because of currents and difficulties to keep track of the exact location of the man overboard.
When sailing, you have to make sure that all hatches and portholes are firmly closed, unless you like sleeping in a soaked bed.
A fire on a ship can be life threatening, so there are special safety measures for cooking with gas.
What struck us was the ‘war against salt’. Salt is everywhere around you, but you don’t want it in your living space because it inevitably attracts moisture. Preventing this is an ongoing battle. Clothing, shoes and towels soaked with salt water are NOT permitted beyond a certain point.
You even try to keep sweet water and damp out as much as possible. You shower in the open on the back sugarscoop, which is a sheer joy.
Sweet water has to be used very sparingly and for us Duchies this required a change in mindset. In Holland we have an abundance of sweet water but on a ship you have to find ways to economise without compromising on hygiene.
When the desalinator, which turns seawater into potable water, is in operation nobody is allowed to use the toilet!
Living on board
The catamaran has four cabins, but nevertheless you live in a confined space. Moondust has an inner and outer living space but we spent most of our time in the outside cockpit area, enjoying the wind, the sea and Cuba Libre sundowners. As this space is covered, it offers shade as well as protection against rain and spray from the sea. This is the nicest spot on board with ample room for everybody.
After we picked our Dutch friends Frank and Marijke up from St George, our first stop was the underwater sculpture gallery at Dragon Bay on the west coast of Grenada. A number of sculptures, created by UK sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, are placed around Molinére Reef in shallow, clear water.
Sadly some of the sculptures have been damaged by stormy sea conditions but there is still plenty to see. The most impressive is Vicissitudes, a circle of figures, all joining hands. Another impressive figure is Christ of the Deep, which is a replica of the original that lies underwater off San Fruttuoso Bay in Italy. Other sculptures include a mermaid, a kneeling and praying figure and a woman sitting on a bench.
Sailing is not all about exotic islands, beautiful sunsets and enjoying G&T’s. On top of doing at least one maintenance job daily, there comes a time when a boat owner really has to do the hard yards.
It was time for Moondust’s maintenance haul-out and, since we could not sail much further north in the Caribbean until the end of the hurricane season in November, being impressed with Power Boat’s prompt e-mail responses and general interest shown, we decided to follow the good references that we got from fellow cruisers and have the work done in Trinidad. We could not have made a better choice!
Ilha dos Lencois is on the seaward side of an archipelago (about 18 x 10km across) on the north coast of Brazil, consisting of 13 islands which nestle together closely. They are mostly mangrove covered and separated by narrow creeks that fill and empty twice daily with the 4m tidal range.
It took us 32 days to reach the Caribbean from Salvador, covering 2 200 nautical miles (almost 4 000km)! Along the way we stopped in Cabedelo and at Ilha dos Lencois, which was perhaps the highlight of our voyage thus far. The latter is a remote island a stone through off the north coast of Brazil, with unspoilt natural beauty and a small local fishing population that is untainted by tourism… the kind of place that we were hoping to ‘discover’ on our voyage.