The Marquesas Islands Expedition ~ Follow Starboard SUP adventurer Bart de Zwart as he explores the Marquesas Islands for the next 12 days tracing the footsteps of the famous Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl – powered by WindSUP.
You can track Bart’s (Instagram: @bartdezwart) journey via the MapShare website: https://share.garmin.com/BartdeZwartSUPCrossing
Update: Sunday, 29th April 2018
On Ua Pou Island I stayed on the beach next to the local Vaa (outrigger) school where the kids are taught outrigger paddling and swimming every day for ten weeks of the year. The local teacher I spoke to said that the kids love it as much as he does. For him, the life in the Marquesas is good – far away from all the crowds, chaos, wars and materialism of the modern world. Everybody here has time to talk or sit down at the beach and just watch the sun go down. That night we had a peaceful dinner with Joel and Teaki between the school’s outrigger canoes.
The next morning I left for my last island, Nuku Hiva. I was afraid it was going to be many rough hours but it turned out to be a perfect day and a quick trip. After less than 6 hours I came into the bay of Hakaui. This is Marquesas pure. You come in the bay almost downwind with a heavy swell and waves breaking quite close. For the second time, I experienced an exciting arrival at my destination – at least this time it was during the day.
Edging further around the point it starts to get’s calmer as you enter a lush green valley with a distant waterfall in the back where I plan to set up camp for the night. I strand my board on the black sand beach and walk over to a few locals who are working on their hut. Soon the two owners of the valley came, inquisitive to see what had just paddled into their bay. I ask permission to put up my tent for the night. In turn, they had many questions about my expedition, how I travelled and where I have been. Throughout the islands, they said that I have a ‘heart of courage’, as they did, which made me bond instantly with them.
Although they live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, they have a lot of respect for the ocean. The valley is full of fruit trees, palms and other green and it wasn’t long before they offered me some huge mangos and pomelos which I gladly accepted.
In the afternoon I had a hike to the waterfall in the back of the valley. The population used to be more 10,000 people here before the Westerners arrived and with them brought illness and death – now there are only 12 people here.
One can understand that you wanted to live here in such a perfect valley – back then and still today. The waterfall didn’t have much water but is still an impressive site. On the way back I ate with one of the locals who made food for a small boat with a few adventurous tourists who would make the journey over from the main village every day. After days on the water and simple living, it was a great meal consisting of a green mango & guava salad, fried breadfruit and meat with fresh coconut water ~ a feast!
The next day my journey was coming to an end. I had to battle the final 6 miles against a 20-30 knot headwind to get to the main village – Taiohae. The headwind meant that it would take a while longer than expected, but I also had to turn back because I left my boom on the beach, which I had only realised by the time I wanted to rig up to start windsurfing the last few miles.
Then, another small disaster struck – a Man o’ War jellyfish got into my surf shorts and started stinging my butt. I finally got it out after some delicate handling. That afternoon I arrived much later than anticipated – at 3 pm. What a day!
Alexandre, the owner of the valley who also owns a house in Taiohae (the main village on Hulu Hiva Island) kindly offered me a place to sleep at his house so that I could pack my gear up to get ready for the flight out the next day. I felt tired but happy and satisfied with what I had experienced and seen on this journey. The people I had met and the culture I was fortunate to be immersed in.
These last 13 days just flew by ~ the Marquesas and its amazing people have made a deep & lasting impression on me that I will never forget.
Update: Wednesday 25th April 2018
Kaoha (Marquesian for Aloha),
With 70 nautical miles (130km), yesterday was the longest crossing of this expedition. I prepared everything the evening before so I could have a running start at 2 am. I wanted to start in the middle of the night to arrive close to sunset in Ua Pou, my next island. For a few hours I slept on board Dick and Monique’s boat with everything packed already in the water, they also fed me and we had a nice evening discussing boat life. This saved me a lot of time packing up the tent and tying all my gear on the board.
I started paddling in the rain with a light breeze from the back. It was pitch black but and soon after with an amazing full sky of stars, which I used to set my course without looking at my compass every few minutes. It is surprising how fast you get used to the movements of the waves without seeing anything. When the sun came up at 5:30 am there was a good breeze so I rigged up my windsurf sail. This lasted only for 10 min. Then it started to go down and down until there was nothing left. So if unrigged it all and went back to paddle again for the next two hours. It looks like it was gonna be a very long day, and perhaps night…
Fortunately, the wind picked up after I was finally away from them big wind shadow of the islands. Windsurfing a heavy packed board like this is different. There is not much space for your feet, because of the weight there is a lot of pull. I mostly windsurf not using the harness and because I travel only in one direction for many hours per day your neck starts to hurt ~ paddling feels easier but it is slower.
My routine is to paddle or windsurf for an hour and then take a 5 min break to eat and drink something, check my position and course and if my tracker is functioning correctly, and so the hours go by.
At sunset, I was an hour away from the point of the island and 2 hours from my destination. With the moon up I kept windsurfing which was difficult with the bounce back waves. If you sail, you’ll know what I mean.
It is always exciting to enter an unknown port or bay in the dark especially when it is windy and waves are crashing on rocks nearby. I have very good sea charts on my iPhone to see where I was and how the lay of the bay of Hakahau is but this one is special because you don’t see any lights of the village until you almost past it. I made it in safely after 18 hrs at sea but I was totally exhausted.
When I arrived on the beach I asked a local who owned a Vaa (an outrigger) school if it was ok to put up my tent on the beach next to his school. After being seaborne for so long it really took me a good while to get my land legs back and went to bed as soon as I blew up my mattress. Other than the few sailing boats stopping past, not many people visit this island (as is the case for all the islands).
Although this is the main town of this island, with its dramatic peaks and mountain backdrop, it is quiet and sleepy. The school kids have outrigger paddle practice every day here during school.
Teaki and Joel invited me over for coffee and eggs – a real treat in a place like this and after yesterday’s crossing. Working at the paddling school they know all the Tahitian paddlers so we even had some common friends. Today I walked the town talked to the locals and enjoyed the views, but mostly rested. Tomorrow morning I will head for Nuku Hiva – my last island with some exciting and beautiful bays.
Update: Sunday 22nd April 2018
I had three wonderful days on Fatu Hiva, a beautiful island with amazing people. I explored the island, I went to some of the places Thor Heyerdahl went. Even though 18 years later I can totally understand why he chose this island to go back into nature.
I had a nice spot close to the beach but the funny thing was that most locals felt sorry for me and came every day with food and drinks. They couldn’t understand that it was actually nice to be in a tent on the beach to be camping on a beautiful island. The last day I went Ouia this was the bay on the Windward side on the island where Thor Heyerdahl spent a big part of his stay. The walk over there was an Adventure and I still have the muscle ache to prove it. The crossings are tough it’s just a long better than winter serve and takes a lot of energy. Yesterday I crossed to Tahuata. I picked a good day because the last days We have been having a very strong wind, which makes everything a little harder, Yesterday it was perfect, 15 km and from a good angle.
I got to the island just before dark but then it was still a good two-hour paddle to the bay I wanted to camp. So far no dolphins whales or sharks close by but only the occasional bird who checked me out. They make a few circles around me and leave again flying effortlessly between the waves. At one point a Man o’ War jellyfish got between my toes and stung me many times before I got rid of him. I am waking up this morning on the perfect beach with only the company of coconut crabs. I will just rest today because tomorrow is a long crossing to Oa Pou, my next Marquesas island.
Update: Wednesday 18th April 2018
“This morning in Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva. Setting up camp, exploring the island and now a local couple, Keke and his wife brought me dinner.”
“Me’ae IIpona, a visit at the most interesting archeological site in the Marquesas and French Polynesia. On Hiva Oa island, close to Puama’u village where I started my Marquesas Islands Crossing. Here I am next to the tallest stone tiki in French Polynesia, TIKI TIKALI with over 2.5m in heights. I feel small.”
Update: Tuesday 17th April 2018
“At 7 am yesterday April 17th I started my Marquesas expedition from the northeasterly bay Puamau on the island of Hiva Oa. I flew there the day before coming from Tahiti and got by truck from the airport to this place of the island.
I paddled NE around the point and crossed from there in one line to Fatu Hiva, (N of Mohotani island) in very light winds and little speed. I knew that when I was coming around the point that I wanted to make it into a safe bay of Fatu Hiva before dark. But the wind angle looked perfect, despite me realizing that it for sure will be dark in this light wind conditions before I would reach land.
We made landfall in Fatu Hiva in 2006 while sailing around the world, so I know how the Hanavave Bay looks like.
During the crossing, the wind went up and down a lot. Sometimes it even looked as if with all those wind shifts I wouldn’t make the island at all and had to tack another time, sometimes it looked like I had plenty of angles. I arrived at 9 pm at the point of Fatu Hiva, started to paddle again, as the wind died and called Dagmar, not aware that my tracker didn’t transmit to the website, as I could see the tracker results all the time.
I reached Hanavave Bay at 11 pm. A sailing boat just arrived from the Galapagos Islands. The crew was so nice to put me up for the remaining hours until dawn. So I did not need to find a place for my tent on shore in the middle of the night. I was very grateful after a gruelling 16hrs of paddling and windsup. I had a great night sleep.
Right now I am about to explore the island after setting up my tent and gear on a perfect spot overlooking the bay which is astonishing.”
Update: Monday 16th April 2018
The Marquesas Island Expedition: In the next 12 days, you can follow my track through the Marquesas Island’s ~ I am sharing my location on my MapShare website: https://share.garmin.com/BartdeZwartSUPCrossing