On the fifth morning of our soggy upwind passage, a green smudge took shape on the horizon. The spray from the confused seas coated every surface on deck with a crusty layer of salt, and wormed its way through every portlight and hatch, dripping onto the berths and settees with irritating persistence. The unpredictable upwind motion tossed us around like a snow globe in the hands of a rambunctious child. We were bruised and exhausted. The anticipation was palpable.
This upwind bash, while uncomfortable, had always been part of the plan. After crossing the Pacific on our Valiant 40, Halcyon, my husband and I started cruising the South Pacific in the Gambier Archipelago, in the southeast corner of French Polynesia, then slowly explored north and west through the Tuamotus. From there, we could have sailed downwind to the Societies, but we were not willing to miss the striking beauty, abundant fruit and friendly people in the Marquesas. So we turned northeast and sailed 800 miles upwind. We were soon rewarded for our determination.
Precipitous volcanic spires dotted with audacious mountain goats embraced a lush green valley that sloped down toward a sheltered lagoon big enough for only a handful of boats. We dropped anchor in this embracing niche of Ua Pou, celebrating first with a refreshing swim and a long nap, then a long, slow meander through the tiny town of Hakahau. Every tree seemed to be overloaded with ripe mangoes, papayas, bananas or lychees. Everyone we saw stopped to welcome us with a warm smile. With each step, the fatigue and distress of our upwind clobbering melted away, and was replaced with wonder and contentment.
Looking for more information on Pacific route planning to the Marquesas and beyond? Start here:
Reflections on Marquesas by Michael Robertson
Celebrating Polynesian Culture at a Marquesan Festival by Neville Hockley
Sailing into Paradise by Michael Robertson
Pacific Passage Planning by Alvah Simon
Pacific Weather Routing by Birgit Hackl