Third Impressions

Del Viento has arrived in French Polynesia after the 27 day voyage across the Pacific.

“Mom, Mom! Come here, quick!”

Hanavave from up high, the anchorage would be visible to the left, around that mountain.

Windy sprinted on deck. Eleanor was stripping down to her bathing suit, trying to find her mask, and pointing at the giant manta ray swimming in circles and doing summersaults right next to Del Viento.

“Can I go in, can I go in, please!”


When the second ray showed up, Windy joined Eleanor and when a third joined the party, it was enough for Frances to ignore the jellyfish stings she’d gotten on her last two swims and she jumped in too. For twenty minutes, the three chased after the three.

Frances looking down at the anchorage.

We were told to expect relatively low visibility in the waters around the Marquesan islands, and I suppose it is in a relative sense, but we can still see 50 feet in the cobalt-colored water of this deep Fatu Hiva anchorage.

When we arrived, there were 18 other boats here and we were forced to fall back and drop in 138-feet. Despite winds blowing 20 knots on two nights, despite our having only 300-feet of rode out (all chain) for a scope of only a bit better than 2:1, we haven’t dragged. Since then, many boats have left and a few more have arrived. Two current boats are kid boats—one family from Monaco and one from Belgium, six kids between them—and another kid boat, Australians, are due today. As I write this, Windy and the girls are on a hike with the six other kids, aged 7 to early teen.

This is my favorite home in Hanavave.

Rays aren’t the only interesting marine life we’ve encountered. There are eels along the shore that flit about in the rocky nooks. We all watched one quickly slither up from the water about two feet (roughly his body length) to grab a crab on the rocks and quickly carry it back underwater for a feast. There are also these fish that seem to walk on the rocks right at the water’s edge. Crawdads are everywhere, including in the fresh water streams on the island. The largest I’ve seen was about 3-inches long.

Capturing the scale and majesty of scenes like this, with the camera, is impossible for me. Trust me, these pics just aren’t doing it.
This little guy is tied to a tree with a line around one leg. Pigs, dogs, cows, and horses are all similarly kept, in seeming random places, everywhere. Hens, roosters, and goats are the only ones that seem to enjoy free range.

Local boats have dropped by several times to trade. The first time, two men wanted to trade for alcohol. We showed them a bottle of wine we were willing to trade for a dozen fresh eggs. “Oui, oui!” they said, racing ashore with our plastic egg carton. Thirty minutes later they returned, our egg carton empty, explaining that all the eggs had chicks in them. They did bring a handful of oranges hoping we’d be enticed enough to let go the wine, but we declined. They left the oranges anyway, despite what we hope were polite protestations. The next boat was also two men, one of whom we recognized as the Pushy Man, but he didn’t recognize us. These chaps also wanted alcohol, but offered only three pamplemousse. We offered kids’ toys and even some rope for their pamplemousse, but they passed. Finally, this morning a family with two small kids stopped by with more pamplemousse. We showed the same kids’ stuff—a bracelet making kit and a stuffed animal and puzzle and a shirt—and they were eager to trade.


It’s easy to imagine spending 3 months here, settling into the low-key vibe, getting to know individuals by name, and trading away everything we own to stay fed. But we wouldn’t have to trade exclusively. We’re also finding food on the ground, among rotting fruit strewn about, freshly fallen from trees in more remote areas. Yesterday we hiked up to a waterfall and returned with our backpacks full of guava, limes, lemons, a coconut, and Thai basil. We’re reticent to pick fruit from any tree, but feel okay stockpiling the freshly fallen among their rotting comrades.

Frances and Eleanor watching a manta summersault in front of them.

The fruit we all love the most are the common bananas. In D.C. and Mexico, we’d all eat one or so when they came home with us from the grocery store, but most of them wound up in banana bread or the freezer for smoothie fodder. Here, the bananas taste so exquisite, with such a perfect texture—even days after they appear past their prime, that Eleanor—definitely the pickiest banana eater among us—ate 7 yesterday alone. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any banana stalks on the ground. The massive stalk we traded for on our second day was exhausted this morning, so please spread the word that we’re willing to trade.

Oh, the drama.

In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we lived the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Click here to read more from the Log of Del Viento.