Exactly three years ago we signed the papers for Escape Velocity and moved aboard. After about a month of sorting ourselves out we cast off the docklines and we’ve been on the move ever since. It’s the gypsy life I’ve always dreamed of, changing the scenery as we please. Sometimes we get anchor glue and stay in a place too long, sometimes we get antsy and move too soon and regret it. Mostly it’s just right. Here in Fatu Hiva we’d like nothing more than to stay anchored in this spot, drinking in the awesome beauty of the bay, and believe me, that’s pretty much all we’ve done so far.
It’s been two nights since we arrived and we haven’t even left the boat, happy to have the hook down, enchanted by our surroundings. We spent time tidying up the boat and ourselves and Jack did his best to clean the sea life off EV’s bottom. Today we’ll go ashore.
Unfortunately, Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry and we are technically here illegally. This island is the most windward of the chain and to sail first to a port of entry then come here involves an uncomfortable windward trip. Most boats do that, but many do what we did, come here first then sail to the entry island, in our case Hiva Oa, some 45 miles northwest. The authorities mostly turn a blind eye, and we’re hoping for that too but we don’t want to push it. We will do some hiking today, ready the boat for sea again and move on probably tomorrow.
There are 13 boats squeezed into this tiny bay, and I see another one standing off waiting for daylight to come inside and anchor. Every one of them has crossed an ocean to get here. Yesterday we met the singlehander anchored behind us; he sailed from Germany around Cape Horn, up through the Gambier Islands south of here before arriving in Fatu Hiva, in a catamaran one foot small than ours. There are boats of all kinds, new and old, monohulls and catamarans, and except for one or two, most are of modest size and far from new and shiny. They are equipped with solar panels, wind generators and steering vanes. Their decks are cluttered with jerry jugs of extra fuel and water, kayaks and paddleboards. Laundry hangs from every possible place and the skippers are often on deck tinkering with this or that needing fixing or adjusting. These are intrepid sailors, more interested in exploring the world than in keeping up with the Joneses and we feel a kinship and mutual respect. There’s an unspoken acknowledgement of what it took to get here.
When we first left Stuart, Florida, on our new home we joined the community of cruisers who travel the eastern Intercoastal waterway, sailing north for the summer and south before the frost sets in. A year later we left Florida for the Virgin Islands and became Caribbean cruisers. Last year we transited the Panama Canal and sailed to the Galapagos and joined the Pacific cruising community. While we were in Costa Rica and El Salvador this past year we were again with mostly coastal cruisers who sail between Canada or the US west coast down through Mexico and Central America and back up. We met very few boats planning a Pacific crossing.
Now that we’ve arrived here in French Polynesia we are definitely with a new group of cruisers. You don’t go back to the states from here. The prevailing winds will push us west through Polynesia, Melanesia, to New Zealand, and Australia. While the length of the passage here makes it seem like this is the end of the journey it’s actually the beginning. The wide Pacific and all of its enchanting destinations — Tahiti, Bora Bora, Tonga, Fiji — lie ahead over the horizon, beckoning us. Like the song says, Bali Hai will call you. Come away, come away.
It took three years to get to the starting line.