10 – 25 August: Hanemoenoa Bay, Tahuata to Atuona, Hiva Oa ~ 09 48S 139 01W
Landfall in Paradise
Many a sailor has waxed lyrical about the beauty of the Marquesas Islands, honestly after 19 days and 4 hours at sea anywhere calm to anchor would have looked good to me.
On our final approach and with just a scrap of sail up, Balvenie surfed through the channel between Hiva Oa and Tahuata to finally sail into calmer waters and as we turned down the sheltered west coast of Tahuata the swell abated, the sun was shining, and soon we saw a handful of yachts anchored in Hanemoenoa Bay. We had done it, 2984 miles had passed under Balvenies keel since we left Isabela in the Galapagos nearly 3 weeks ago, we had at last made landfall in paradise!
And what a stunning location to make landfall, coconut palms swayed in the breeze bordering the white sandy beach, the water was clear, the bottom sandy, and Balvenie moved with a gentle rock but not much roll.
David and Kim off Maluhia who we had been talking to on our Magnet Cruisers Net swung by to say hi, welcome us to “the other side” and deliver greatly appreciated fresh fruit. We were overjoyed to be here, we had crossed the Eastern Pacific. Only those of us who have ventured beyond the horizon in our little boats would know the sense of relief and euphoria upon arrival in a safe anchorage. We had made it and the rum had never tasted sweeter.
We stayed 9 nights in this almost deserted beautiful bay. Top priorities to start with (after sleeping, sleeping and more sleeping) were to clean the outside of the hull, all sorts of things - dead and alive – hitched a ride across the Pacific, there were barnacles, sea snails, little squirmy tadpole creatures, seaweed and thick black squid ink ~ all attached to our paint work, yep, not the antifoul under the water, these little nasties were all on our white paint.
Everyone that does this passage has the same complaint and there is nothing for it but to attack the paintwork with all manor of cleaning products until the white paint resurfaces. 2 days and seriously sore bodies later Balvenie was once again gleaming.
Jeff and Katie on Mezzaluna arrived a day after us, Wapiti and Olé popped up after their visits to Hiva Oa to join the party. An unobstructed view to the west afforded some excellent sunsets and we all happily slipped into island time. Sundowners were shared together on the boats in the anchorage as the dinghy landings and departures ashore were a little challenging at times in the swell and sensibly not attempted after a couple of rums and in the dark!
Across to Atuona
The trade winds eased and the swell abated so we did the big jump 9 miles across the channel into the small harbour of Atuona on Hiva Oa. There was huge excitement onboard when we hooked a big Wahoo, just 500 metres off the breakwater. It was a fighter though and really did not want to come and join us for dinner but man won over beast and our first Wahoo back in the Pacific was landed, 4ft long and over 12 dinner portions for the two of us, an excellent haul (pay back time for all the lures we lose!!!)
This anchorage contrasted greatly to the one we had just left. Dark shallow waters looked uninviting over the black sand bottom, a black pebble beach lay at the end of the harbour and a large commercial dock was along one side. The small breakwater provided reasonable protection from lingering swell but space was tight and for the first time in our 11 years of cruising we deployed a stern anchor so we would not swing.
Although not the most ideal anchorage it was still picturesque, very sheltered from the wind, flat, gave us reasonable access to town for much needed fresh produce and hot baguettes, plus we could formally check in to French Polynesia.
Boats jobs were attended to, so much easier to perform in flat water. I replaced 4 slugs that had broken on our mainsail during our passage, skipper took Ray the autopilot apart again and found a possible tiny fracture in the wiring so replaced it and now Ray is back in full working order. Had Ray been our only autopilot skipper would have persevered at sea on passage in the lumpy conditions until he found the problem but with the luxury of two autopilots he was able to defer major surgery until now.
Time For Some Tiki Touring
Different countries have unique sayings ~ in Australia if you go away for a few days it might be said you have “gone walkabout”, in New Zealand we might say you have “gone for a tiki tour”. Here in the Marquesas we went for a tiki tour and actually saw some tikis!!! In company with David and Kim off Maluhia and Jeff and Katie off Mezzaluna we engaged the services of John a local and his pick up truck and went off for the day, tiki touring around Hiva Oa.
The weather wasn’t promising to start as low cloud and drizzle initially obscured all the views but as we climbed higher and higher and popped out onto the eastern coast the world turned blue and sunny again and stayed that way for the rest of the day.
We drove up and down on dirt roads, along narrow ledges high above the sea, out on rocky promontories with hairpin bends where only goats should have been ~ this was not an excursion for the faint hearted!!! Every now and then we would descend down to sea level and pass a tiny hamlet of a handful of houses but this was a sparsely populated area, the fact that they had road access at all was absolutely amazing.
Eventually we arrived at Baie Puamau and headed inland the short distance to Iipona, the site of Takaii, the largest stone tiki in French Polynesia, and depending on what reference book you use – possibly the largest in the world, standing at 2.43m high.
Located in the ruins of an ancient me’ae (sacred temple) the setting was glorious with a backdrop of age old mature tropical trees in the foreground and steep cliffs in the background. There were other tikis, statues and petroglyphs on site, along with lichen covered stone ruins of buildings. It was an interesting archaeological site, tucked away in one of the locals back garden!
Lunch was supplied by John (just as well as there is nowhere to stop), so we returned to a shady spot by the beach and adjacent church then indulged in an excellent hot picnic complete with fresh baguettes and an excellent bottle of wine, well we are in France ~ sort of!!
All Restocked And Ready To Move On
Restocking on fresh produce is not that straightforward here. In fairness the 3 “supermarkets” are exceptionally well stocked mainly with produce from France and New Zealand. If it is bottled, dried, canned, frozen or refrigerated you are likely to find it here and we thought the prices were reasonable for the remote location. However it was fresh fruit and vegetables we wanted, and they are not so easy to get.
When it comes to fruit, imported fruit is in the the supermarket fridges looking unappealing but who wants that with all this wonderful tropical fruit around. Everyone has all manor of trees in their gardens so it is almost a case of leaning over someones fence, striking up a conversation in our best French, then asking if they would like to sell any surplus fruit. Most are happy to give it to us so we managed to get bananas, pamplemousse (huge tropical sweet grapefruit), oranges, limes, papaya and a couple of early season mangoes.
However green vegetables just don’t seem to be grown. Seriously mouldy cauliflower was available but not at all appealing, cabbages sometimes at around $9USD each (better than nothing), one day I spotted a bag of fresh watercress so grabbed that and we managed to buy a few avocado off the back of the truck another day. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions are available if the supply boat has been. Anyway we will not get scurvy or go hungry in this “Garden of Eden”, we will just have fruit salad instead of green salad.
With a forecast of strong winds and increasing swells we decided to move on from Atuona back around to Hanemoenoa Bay in Tahuata to await more favourable weather before heading south to Fatu Hiva.
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