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2 July 03

Dear friends and family,

The season is progressing and the Tuamotus are beckoning, so at 10am Hawaii time we lifted the hook and set off south.  As always, it's hard to say goodbye to these lush volcanic islands with their friendly people, but we can't stay here forever.

Marquesan fruits: pamplemouse, yucca, limes, oranges & coconuts
Marquesan fruits: pamplemouse, yucca,
limes, oranges and coconuts

We had a delightful last full day on Nuku Hiva, walking up the valley we were anchored off.  It started out with a small handful of very modest dwellings, each with immaculately swept fruit gardens.  We soon realized that our trail was actually the old 'hiway', with rugged stone liners on each side and a durable, raised, stone filled interior.  In fact, it used to be called the 'Kings Way'.  This led slowly up past innumerable 'paepae' - the old stone platforms that used to form the bases for their houses.  Apparently, this valley used to support several thousand inhabitants.  A team of archaeologists would have a field day up here.  After about 2 hours we came to the base of a 2,000' waterfall, apparently the 3rd highest in the world.  Picnics and swimming and mosquitoes ensued in natural order.  On our way home we were able to barter for lots of limes, grapefruit, and yucca (manioc) roots.

The Tuamotus are still part of French Polynesia but are very different from the Marquesas, as they're very low, flat, rings of coral with almost no "land" per se.  Usually, the northern and western edges of these coral rings have intermittent islands, usually covered in palm trees.  Most (not all) motus have passes to get through the outer rings to the anchorages inside.  Since the waves are pounding over the reefs all day, filling the central lagoons, these (narrow and coral lined) passes often have a considerable outflow, which can make going through them a tense time.  But once inside, the anchorages are usually flat calm, with lots of beautiful coral and delightful snorkeling.  Since no supplies are available, we'll be living on "boat food" bought in Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador.

Our banana stalk ripened early, causing bananas to rain down as the boat rocked
Our banana stalk ripened early, causing
bananas to rain down as the boat rocked

Our nominal first destination is Raroia atoll, 444 miles from Nuku Hiva (and one of the furthest east before one comes to the French nuclear testing area).  But there are literally dozens of atolls to choose from, all about 30 miles apart, so if we get there at the wrong time or the winds push us further west, we're not worried.  Unfortunately, we'll probably be at sea for US Independence Day, so we'll just have to celebrate the French equivalent, Bastille Day, on July 14, which just happens to be Sue's birthday.

As I write this (4pm Hawaii time, or GMT+10) we're at 9 31' S, 140 20' W, or 35 miles S of Nuku Hiva with 408 miles to go.  We currently have about 15 knots of wind just off the beam and we're scooting along at 7-9 knots.  3 other boats we've been cruising with left today as well and 2 more will follow tomorrow, so we have lots of company.

Fair winds -- Jon, Sue, Christopher and Amanda Hacking

Click here for the Tuamotus Map page.

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