The Butler – Hiva Oa, Marquesas

IMG_4108It was a bitter-sweet experience arriving in Hiva Oa – sweet because we could officially check in and reprovision, bitter because it was here we had to say our goodbyes to The Butler- aka The Pirate, aka Sherm, aka Geoff Sherman our good buddy and shipmate since early January when he and Mia joined us in St Vincent. As the longest standing member of Team Toucan (what stamina!), we thought it only fitting to put up a little pictorial tribute of his adventures with us…


Ah, those San Blas lobsters!!


Arrival in Fatu Hiva after 300NM across the puddle


Crossing the equator – the pollywogs have become shellbacks


The pirate and his pony


steering Toucan through the Panama Canal


In the first Gatun Lock, Panama Canal

Sherm on spotter watch

Land Ho! On passage to the San Blas islands


Chief rudder holder!

Geoff & Di on the wreck of the Hilma Hooker

Geoff & Di on the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, Bonaire

Why ‘The Butler” you ask? It’s an anecdote from Geoff’s racing days – not only is he a great sailor, but he was a dab hand as a providore and cook on many an offshore race, including the Sydney-Hobart. We weren’t there to witness it, but apparently a particular crew member made one too many requests of Geoff, and the retort was “ I’m not your F#*##ing Butler”. And of course the name has stuck ever since…! Ah, we’ll miss you Me Hearty, it’s been wonderful to have your help and assistance and thank you for sharing this part of the journey with us.

the crowded anchorage in Atuana, Hiva Oa

the crowded anchorage in Atuana, Hiva Oa. Toucan is there at the back somewhere

Hiva Oa is not an easy anchorage – there’s very limited room behind the breakwater so you have to use a stern anchor, and the dinghy dock is a nightmare, a concrete platform designed to reduce dinghies to a pulp in the swell if you don’t use a stern anchor there as well. We tried it once, and then decided it was easier to share one dinghy with Rehua and pull it up on the slipway round the corner. But at least the checking in with the Gendarmerie was pleasant (and free!).

The diabolical dinghy dock, Atuona

The diabolical dinghy dock, Atuona

The anchorage is quite a way from the township, so you either walk or hopefully get a lift – most locals are happy to pick you up if they have room.

We did all the usual chores here – laundry, provisioning (but no propane fills as there’s a strike on in Papeete and all the islands are waiting for propane and gasoline). The cost of food and alcohol here left us gob-smacked, it’s by far the most expensive place we’ve visited, but what a delight to find baguettes and French cheeses!

We also did a tour of the island with Geoff and our buddy boat Rehua. Our transport left a lot to be desired, with very little in the way of suspension to cushion the bumpy ride over the rough roads, but we got some fabulous views and visited the remarkable archaeological site at Lipona.

The view over Atuona Bay

The view over Atuona Bay

the north side of Hiva Oa

the north side of Hiva Oa

It was a rough ride!

It was a rough ride!

The Me'ae at Liponi

The Me’ae at Liponi

The original inhabitants of these islands are believed to have come from Samoa and Hawaii in the first century AD. Me’ae are the traditional Polynesian sacred sites for religious ceremonies, containing the remains of chiefs or priests and decorated with Tiki (wood or stone images representing powerful protective ancestral figures). They were also the sites for human sacrifices and rites of passage such as tattooing.

Tiki of the ancestral chief, Liponi

Tiki of the ancestral chief, Liponi

IMG_4167IMG_4139These stone platforms were used for laying out the dead, who were often embalmed with coconut oil.

On the way to find the Tiki

On the way to find the Tiki

The Smiling Tiki

The Smiling Tiki

The ‘Smiling Tiki’ is supposedly the patron saint of fishermen.

the hairpin bends were a bit hair-raising

the hairpin bends were a bit hair-raising

Atuona is also the burial place of Jacques Brel, the famous Belgian crooner and Paul Gauguin, the post-impressionist artist famous for his paintings of voluptuous Polynesian women. It’s not a bad final resting spot.



the view from the cemetery overlooking Atuona

the view from the cemetery overlooking Atuona

We’d heard you could get a very nice meal at the Pearl Lodge up on the hillside, so we went on Sunday evening. The views and the pool were beautiful (and much enjoyed by the kids from Rehua) but the meal was very disappointing. It seems Sunday night is the regular chef’’s night off, same old story, we should have been here yesterday!

Great setting, shame about the food!

Great setting, shame about the food!

We’d had enough of anxiously watching boats swinging too close to us at night, so we decided to head round to Hanamenu, an anchorage on the northwest coast of Hiva Oa that we thought would be more protected from the swell and gusty squalls. We had a very pleasant leisurely sail up the west coast under just the jib, snacking on french bread and cheese for lunch, but as we approached the northwest corner it all changed. The wind picked up and came hard on the nose, there was current against the wind making for unpleasant lumpy seas, and the rain came down in sheets. We bashed our way into the anchorage under motor and looked dismally at our new temporary home – black sand beach, lots of swell, and sheer rocks on either side. Not quite what we’d been hoping for!

Hanamenu Bay during a lull in the squalls

Hanamenu Bay during a lull in the squalls

The bay must have a reputation with the locals - there's a shrine built into the rock face, complete with solar light for night-time

The bay must have a reputation with the locals – there’s a shrine built into the rock face, lit at night by solar power

The swell was too big to consider going ashore to find the waterfall, so we contented ourselves with a quiet afternoon on the boat. Sadly the next day was no better – Rehua joined us in the afternoon having had a similar experience rounding the north-west corner. So we decided to have an early night and high-tail it out of there at dawn to make the 76NM passage to Nuku Hiva.

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4 Responses to The Butler – Hiva Oa, Marquesas

  1. Chris Lester says:

    Happy Birthday darling sister!!! Not sure if this will be early or late for the big day, as not sure where you are in relation to the Date Line! Hiva Oa looks good and hope you enjoyed the cheese! Some good summer weather here at the moment, but not sure how ling it will last!
    Any way, thinking about you as ever – are you on your own now the Butler has left you?
    All my love to you both.

    • svtadmin says:

      Thanks Chris – I had a wonderful birthday on a remote atoll in the Tuamotus, having a beach BBQ and watching the full moon rising. it could only have been better if family and friends had been there too. Sorry for the late reply, have only got internet again for a day or two, it’s like gold-dust around here! WE’re slowly working our way towards Tahiti, wishing we had more time to explore these amazing atolls, but French Polynesia only give us 90 days 🙁 Yes, it’s just me and him now, although we’re travelling in company with another family on a catamaran so we still have entertainment when we get bored of each other’s company! Glad the weather’s improving over there, I’m sure you’re very happy about that!. lots of love to you xoxo

  2. Geoff Sherman says:

    Hi Toucaneers, thanks for the memories, they are many & very very special! Slowly settling in ,but will take a while to return to any sense of normalcy. Did roast pork for Caroline’s return, was very nice. Sent package to Bucklins today, go to Warringah Mall for Bruce’s watches tomorrow , wish me luck with that place, I’ll need a Valium. Checked out my pics on the TV last night , what can I say- thank you for a very special experience . Enjoy the Tuomotus! Went for a Wednesday race on Manly Ferry today as Rob was away, yes I cooked snags & onions while we sailed. Love you both.

  3. Rosemary Malone says:

    Looks like more magnificent scenery again for you all to admire…wonderful! Happy sailing x

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