16 – 23 Sept 2015: Hanavave, Fatu Hiva to Hakatau, Ua Pou ~ 09 21S 140 02W
Return to Hanemoenoa ..... Again!
With a forecast of increasing tradewinds we decided to leave spectacular Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva, we thought the infamous wind bullets down the valley into the anchorage were something we were happy to only hear about, and not experience directly. So with a pleasant 15 – 18 knots aft of the beam we retraced our steps north back across to Tahuata. Another lure was sacrificed to a sea monster, but no fish were landed.
Conditions were lovely and as we rounded the bottom of Tahuata the seas flattened but the winds became fluky with strong gusts accelerating down the towering cliff faces. We continued north under double reefed main only, awaiting the expected bullets off this steep sided island, and bullets we did get, might go so far as to call it automatic gunfire! We have experienced catabatic winds in our time, but this was absolutely wild. The water turned black with fury and Balvenie rolled with each punch as 40 knot gusts lasting just a few seconds hit her from all directions.
We passed our first potential anchorage of Hapatoni with 20 knots coming in from the west, not a good thing ~ then we passed the village anchorage at Vaitahu with 40 knots blowing through it from the east, a little breezy. There was nothing for it but to continue a couple of miles north to lovely Hanemoenoa Bay for our third stay, the land is more low lying so no wind bullets, the sea is flat, and a gentle breeze cooled the air, the water was clear enough to see the anchor dug into the white sandy bottom ~ why go anywhere else!
Time For A Change
We spent a couple more days in Hanemoenoa, David and Kim off Maluhia rejoined us after an aborted attempt to anchor in Hanamenu on the northern coast of Hiva Oa, next day Kaimaloa came in also after turning away from Hanamenu on Hiva Oa, guess we won’t try that as an anchorage, sounded quite nice in the cruising guide!
Bypassing Hanamenu meant it was 65 miles to Hakahau on Ua Pou, so it was a departure at very first light for the 3 of us, north west bound. We had a great start, then we got into the wind shadow of Hiva Oa for a couple of hours and had to motor, then the breeze returned and we flew along, tucking in behind the breakwater at Hakahau with plenty of daylight to spare.
It was another fish free day which was just amazing as at one point we had skipjack tuna jumping all around us, so many that we thought one might actually land on deck! No such luck.
Our Fairytale Skyline
Hakahau is a pleasant spot to while away time, the view is sensational and really belongs in some fairytale wonderland set. It changes with the shadows, clouds, sun angles, we have not tired of it and its moods. The harbour is ok, the breakwater softens the swell and with a stern anchor deployed it is a comfortable enough spot.
Ashore there are a handful of extremely well stocked minimarkets, a bakery with crusty fresh baguettes each morning , the community centre sells fresh produce and provides an excellent buffet lunch each weekday for 500CPF (USD5), there’s even free wifi there, sometimes. For excellent regular bread you need to visit the local mechanic who was a baker in France in a previous life, and order in advance. We thought we would pop a couple of loaves in the freezer, take a look at how big they are, good thing there was plenty of room in the freezer!!
Unplanned Overnight Excursion
Kaimaloa moved on, Maluhia stayed, Mezzaluna arrived. They had been successful in catching a tuna enroute so a potluck dinner was planned, but an afternoon earthquake in Chile soon put that idea on hold. We had watched most of the local boats move off the dock, taken out of the water and driven away on trailers during the late afternoon and had double checked the weather in case the wind and swell forecast had changed but everything looked ok.
Then around 5.30pm we had an announcement in French on our VHF radio in which we could pick up some key words, the major one being Tsunami – flip! They kindly repeated it in English when we called them, and yes it was a Tsunami warning for the entire Pacific.
A metre high wave was expected to pass through around 11pm, it may amount to nothing but we had seen first hand the devastation in Thailand and Sri Lanka caused by the 2004 Tsunami, it would have been very foolish to stay so at 10pm the 3 of us set off out to sea. Maluhia had planned to go to Nuka Hiva the following day so went overnight instead, Mezzaluna and Balvenie just sailed around till dawn and returned. There was no sign of damage at all but it was much better to be safe than sorry.
The Aranui III freighter/cruise ship pulled into harbour at dawn one morning, it was on its next round of deliveries since we had seen it in Fatu Hiva. We went ashore to join the passengers watch a dance display performed by a small group of local dancers which was very good but the highlight of our day was getting a tap on the shoulder from very good ex cruiser friends from Auckland, Chris and Hilary ~ first met in Papua New Guinea onboard their yacht Moon River in 2005 and last seen in Thailand in 2007.
They had arrived on the Aranui III and seen Balvenie at anchor and had been trying to find us ashore. What an absolute treat to be able to spend a few hours with them catching up on the last 8 years, so much water has gone under both our keels and our time together was way too short!!
So What Else To Do
We have a full day island tour planned, we will explore those fairytale peaks and see if there are pixies and goblins up there. We are really in “passing time” mode now. Our original plans to cruise all of French Polynesia over the cyclone season have changed as it has turned into an El Nino year. This means that the weather is warmer, the sea temperature is already 2deg C warmer than average for this time of year, there have been way more hurricanes in the Northern Pacific than normal.
All these indicators combine to suggest that the cyclone season in the South Pacific this season may affect the Society Islands and the Tuamotus so we will be staying up here in the Marquesas until probably at least March. We really need to slip into island time now for a few months!! We are too late to make the run home to New Zealand.
So what more do we need here, well skipper would very much like a little bar with a big screen TV showing all the World Cup Rugby matches, both the little bar and the TV have so far alluded us so flaky wifi text updates are sufficing at present but I suspect we will be relocating before the beginning of the final rounds! Rumours have it that Taiohae on Nuva Hiva might be the spot for that.
Slowly Slipping Into Island Time