April 5-April 22 2022
French Polynesia is composed of 3 main island groups the Marquesas,the north eastern group of 6 main islands, the Tuamotu archipelago ,a group of 30 atolls, and the better known Society islands, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and 5 lesser known islands. These islands are spread over several thousand sq miles and are located roughly half way between Panama and Australia.
Marquesas- Nuku Hiva:
Our first landfall after 19 days at sea was Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva where we checked in with the Gendarmerie. Taiohae Bay is a rolly anchorage that serves as the required entry port for the Marquesas and for us French Polynesia. The Marquesas are beautiful ,lush ,green and strikingly tall 3000-4000 ft volcanic islands with pounding surf and a limited number of calm anchorages. After checking in with the Gendarmerie we sailed 5 miles west to spend a few nights at Baie Anse Hakatea ,AKA Daniel’s Bay , a beautiful calm anchorage. Next morning we went ashore for a hike to one of the islands tallest and we were told most beautiful waterfalls. One of the islands early family’s have staked out this remote part of the island , creating a ”garden paradise”. We were invited to have lunch after our hike and set off for what we were told was a ” flat trail 2 hour hike”.
Four hours and several 1000 feet elevation later we returned to have a lunch of goat stew and a Marquesan fruit salad. The hike was exhilarating, beautiful and welcome exercise for our legs after being on the boat for 3 weeks. Our hosts were delightful, friendly and spoke better english than our Marquesan sharing with us much of the history and culture of Nuku Hiva. There are 3 languages spoken in French Polynesia: French, Tahitian and Marquesan. The schools in the Marquesas and Tuamotus are taught locally K-8 and then all children wanting to go to ”high school” but not required, move to Papeete for grades 9-12.
The Marquesans pride themselves on being very different from the natives of other islands in the Pacific. Their history is very war like and aggressive, having practiced cannabalism historically. In fact in 2011 there was a german sailor who was killed and cannabalized, hence the explanation for the below picture.
We return to Taiohea Bay for several days of hosted festivities including horseback riding on the beach, traditional Marquesan music, art and food culminating with a traditional celebratory feast in our honor. It was a very moving display of the intensity these very proud people have for their culture and ancestry.
We had initially intended to visit some of the southern Marquesas islands including Hiva Oa where Paul Gauguin had spent his last years but we ran into strong SE winds and seas that forced use to go to plan B.
We put the wind on our beam and sailed to Fakarava in the Tuamotus.
I have been asked if it makes me nervous sailing far from land. Not too long ago I got apprehensive sailing at night or getting out of the site of land. Now it is second nature. Sailing around the world is more or less like every big project I have ever accomplished , it becomes much more manageable and less intimidating when you break it up into smaller chunks. In this case smaller passages. This Pacific crossing is the largest chunk but in many ways not the most challenging. For the most part the weather, wind and seas have been as predicted with 10-20 knots trades from the sotheast . Just a long way from home if something goes wrong.
Three days later we are basking in crystal clear turquoise water teeming with all manner of fish including more sharks than any of us have seen before….Mostly reef sharks and spectacular to watch. We had been told to allow plenty of time for these atolls and for good reason. The islands are sparsely populated and infrequently visited. The locals are very friendly and welcoming to sailors. Honestly we could spend months here. Many of the atoll’s passes are too dangerous/shallow to enter so of the 30 islands there are only a handful that are accessible to Infinity. We chose Fakarava and Rangiroa two of the larger with ”easy” passes… Both passes had 3-4 knot currents and standing waves at “slack water”. Tide tables in the Tuamotus must be taken with a grain of salt. Unlike in America and Europe they are more art than science.
Diving and snorkeling in Fakarava is the best we have seen so far . The water is crystal clear, coral vibrant, thousands of fish ,rays and hundreds of reef sharks. We would drift snorkel on inflowing 2 kn current through the passe floating 5-15 feet above the reef for several kilometers. An extraordinary experience.
On to Rangoroa the largest atoll over 100 kilometers in circumference , where we enjoyed more diving and snorkeling. The high light was a dive with dolphins where we scratched petted and played with them at a 30-40 ft depth. Words can’t describe.
The Tuamotu islands are home to most of the Tahitian pearl farms and we were privileged to be invited on an extensive tour of Gaugauin farms . The pearls are grown in oyster shells with the best shells producing a series of 3 different pearls over 12 years. Every 3-4 years a new larger pearl is harvested. A highly controlled process that is more environmentally sensitive than harvesting natural pearls as it preserves the oyster.
As I look back over the past 6 months of posts I think from a readers perspective they all must start to sound similar; all feature oceans ,weather, sunrises, sunsets, boats, fish and travel locations etc.
It occurred to me that I might add interest to the blog by sharing personal thoughts that are germain to sailors and non sailors alike. Perhaps by injecting some of my observations, opinions and philosophy about various life and sailing topics. Sailing and time on the water provides an environment that enables introspection we just don’t have the time or inclination for in our busy work a day routines. Not saying you have to agree; just my shared observations and one man’s opinion that if nothing else stimulates thought. I’d love to get your feedback and suggestions for additional topics.
So lets start with the WHY…. Why at my age am I doing what many friends consider crazy and a little dangerous?
My background is one of a reasonably competent coastal sailor not a blue water sailor. There is quite literally a world of difference.
I was introduced to sailing in college and over the years constantly found myself drawn back to it when ever geography and time allowed. This became a more serious advocation when living in Vancouver, Canada where I took all the basic sailing courses through coastal nav, night sailing , offshore passage making, even taking a celestial nav course.
Then the more serious next steps of regular Mooring’s rentals in the Caribbean, sailing with friends on the west coast, NewEngland and finally getting my own boat “Golden Opportunity” a Sabre 454 . We sailed her from an offshore delivery in Mexico to San Francisco where we enjoyed many years sailing out of Richmond Yacht Club. From there we took “GO” to Seattle where we spent over 5 years exploring Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, Canadian Gulf islands and up to Desolation Sound and northeast Vancouver Island,BC.
Always in the back of my mind wondering what it would be like to sail around the world.
Fast forward to the spring of 2020 . Remember COVID… who could ever forget. Locked down at home, fast approaching retirement and wondering what I’m going to do post retirement that will give me the same passion and “juice” I enjoyed with my radiology career. I have seen many professionals retire with no goals or passion, it wasn’t pretty. Many died prematurely. I was determined not to let this happen to me.
My father was a strong advocate of being a “Life Long Learner” a habit I adopted early in life. It was time to take a big step.
About this time I received an email invite to an Oyster Yachts Webinar showcasing the previous Oyster World Rally. That night I had the answer to what that big step would be. I would go on the 2022-2023 Oyster World Rally.
Reaching out to Oyster’s USA headquarters in Newport,RI I spoke with Dan Wurzbacher ,Oyster’s head of US sales. Dan and I had met years earlier when I had first explored buying an Oyster . He remembered me and working together over the next 2 months I had the last Oyster 565 available on order. Just in time for the start of the next OWR.
I won’t bore you with the hundreds of questions that led to my decision but let me boil it down to a few key factors;
I was retiring so I had the time.
My personal life before Gail involved my children McKenzy and Cooper. They were both enthusiastic supporters.
Financially it was doable.
My biggest concern initially was “How am I going to do this”? A better question often is not “HOW” but “ WHO”. “Who am I going to get to help me do this?” The answer to my “who” was Oyster support.
To buy a boat and sail around the world myself would take at least 5 years of preparation. Most of my sailing friends are either still working or too old/ not interested in an adventure like this. Besides crew I needed help with trip planning , logistics, boat maintenance /repairs etc . The OWR provided all of this and more.
So here I am over 12000 miles into my odyssey. There have been a few hiccups along the way; both expected and unexpected. There is not one regret.
A few after thoughts:
Thoughts on danger:
I recently read a book. “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson who offered a few insights on why an element of danger provides greater passion and energy.
We should not seek to illuminate risk from our lifes but rather optimize it. Life has more interest when we live on the edge and we therefore remain more interested and interesting.
Lots of time to read or listen to audiobooks on a boat. I’ll offer a “Book of the Month” suggestion … promise only 9*or 10* ratings. Many may find my list boring as they are almost all non fiction. “12 Rules for Life” is 9+fascinating and insightful with answers on our individual and society’s challenges.
Shortly after starting down this path I met a very special woman, Gail Krivan. Gail, a non sailor, has a busy medical practice and was not in a position to close her practice. She has been enormously supportive in encouraging me to follow this dream. We have adjusted schedules to meet for 1 to 3 weeks at each major stop along the way. We plan to continue this schedule for the next 12 months. There is truth to the old adage “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” 😎
The rally ends in Antigua April 2023.
Next stop Tahiti and her sister islands.