Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

The Marquesas – Nuku-Hiva

I departed the island of Tahuata mid afternoon on 9th May for an overnight sail to Nuku-Hiva, the principal island of the Marquesas. A nice breeze funnelled down the channel between Hiva-Oa and Tahuata providing nice sailing for a couple of hours but once in the wind shadow of the big island Fathom slowed to a crawl. Several squall clouds approached overnight but the wind gradually faded away to a gentle puff and the motor was needed to cover the final miles to Baie de Taiohae. A pretty scene in the morning as the sun rose in the east, a pink moon set in the west alongside the jagged peaks on the island of Ua Pou.

Soon after setting sail it was clear that something was up with my right foot. It had been a little sore in the morning but by evening I couldn’t put any weight on it and was stumbling about the boat. In order to get some rest overnight I took some ibuprofen and supported my foot on top of the lee cloth. It became clear that my foot had been infected through the open blister picked up on the hike a couple days before. I had been careless by not keeping it cleaned with antiseptic and covering it. Asking for trouble in the tropics.

The anchor went down just before lunch in Baie de Taiohae and I caught up with friends ashore that evening. The next morning my foot had swollen up and it was not a pretty site. Luckily Nuku-Hiva is the only island in the Marquesas with a hospital and after walking up from the harbour I was seen quickly by a French doctor who told me the infection was spreading up my leg and if I had left it untreated another 48 hours anitbiotics via an intravenous drip would have been required! My foot was cleaned up, 15 days of antibiotics prescribed and I received a telling off for taking ibuprofen and not paracetamol as the former apparently inhibits the bodies immune system in fighting the infection. I had antibiotics onboard and would have taken them had I not been close to the hospital.

Not being able to swim or wear shoes restricted my activities over the next couple of weeks. It was around this time that I began to notice small little creatures crawling about the boat and every passing day there seemed to be more. It got so bad that when I took a book down from the shelf and opened it up I could see little things crawling inside. Time to investigate! Every cupboard and locker I looked in seemed to house these creatures. What a disaster! It was when I looked in the cupboard under the chart table that the cause became apparent. I had forgotten about a bag of flour purchased in Panama. It had been pushed to the back and the ziplock bag not closed properly. It was now home to a huge community of weevils and flour mites and their resultant breeding programme. The infestation had become so bad that they had spread to any food item on the boat containing oats or wheat and infected all my pasta and spaghetti. It took four long days to remove every item from every cupboard and locker, clean, disinfect and put back. I dumped a lot of food but found someone local who agreed to freeze all the pasta and spaghetti for four days to kill anything inside. I couldn’t bear throwing it all away Nothing wrong with a bit of extra protein right? Lesson learned – all flour, oats, pasta, lentils etc is now in sealable glass jars 🙂

After the weevil cleansing programme was complete Chris on Vancouver 28 ‘Sea Bear’ turned up in the anchorage. It was good to finally meet him and we keenly inspected each others boats. Interesting that the layout of Sea Bear is quite different to Fathom internally with a larger starboard bunk and more shelving around the quarter berth. I met some other interesting cruisers in the anchorage incuding Rupert and his wife Judy. Rupert came alongside one day offering some fruit and after we got chatting discovered that he had grown up in Seaview on the Isle of Wight. I messaged Mum to see if she had known him and it turns out they went to the same school and she remembers going to a party at his house in the 1960’s! It really is a small world.

After the foot and weevil débâcle I thought my run of bad news was over. But after walking round the deck of Fathom with Chris he commentated on the depression in the deck plinth under the mast step. This had been present since I purchased the boat and I had keeping an eye on it but it was now significantly worse. The mast step has sunk further into the deck, a little more on the starboard side, so that the mast heel fitting is rubbing away where it is touching the mast step at an unusual angle. I can feel movement when the boat is going through a seaway. The mast step is also now bowed but with no signs of stress cracking yet. The mast needs to come down, the plinth grinded open, plywood support investigated and likely renewed then re-glassed. It cannot wait until New Zealand or Australia. I hope to get Fathom hauled at a boatyard in Raiatea in late June or early July.

My 34th birthday was spent with Anny and Carl on yacht Muse and they even baked me a chocolate cake. Hard to believe it is a decade since I celebrated my 24th birthday on yacht Babelfish sailing to Tahiti from Hawaii. Seems like yesterday. Wonder if I will be back in the South Pacific for my 44th!

Before leaving Baie de Taiohae I was keen to visit for the first time the vegetable market that runs twice a week at 04.00. That is not a typo it really is that early for some reason i’ve yet to discover. Apart from carrots and potatoes, vegetables are just about impossible to find in the shops in the Marquesas but I was told the best chance of finding anything, including juicy red tomatoes (a real luxury here), is this market. I pulled up alongside yacht Waterhoen in the dinghy at 03.50 last Saturday morning to pick up Adva but on arrival at the market we were told there were no tomatoes as there had been too much rain. Our disappointment was helped somewhat by finding some eggplant and cucumbers. The wait for red tomatoes continues and anticipation grows by the day.

The last task before heading to the Tuamotus was to fill the water tanks. The water is not potatable in Baie de Taiohae so I visited stunning Daniels Bay a few miles along the coast, the setting for a few episodes of the Survivor TV series. In order to fill the water jugs I had to take the dinghy into the next inlet from the anchorage and 100 yards up a river where I tied up to a tree and was met by a local Paul. He directed me to the tap and provided a large fruit basket in exchange for a few dollars. Unfortunately after taking 100 litres the water went muddy so the next day I went back along the coast to Controller Bay in convoy with friends on yacht Vega. Here we finished collecting water and spent the afternoon walking to the local village. A nice evening was spent on Vega before setting sail for the Tuamotus the next morning, 29th May.

Posted on 08 Jun in: The Marquesas (2 Comments)

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