01 Jan - 12 Feb 2016: Taioha’e to Hooumi via Ua Pou – 8 53S 140 01W
We have had a very quiet start to the New Year, hence the lack of blog updates. The anchorage at Taioha'e filled up daily as many of the boats that had gone down to the festival on Hiva Oa slowly made their way north again.
At one point mid January we peaked at 84 yachts at anchor, its a big bay so there was room to accommodate all, but that was a lot of yachts, considering we got down to 12 mid December while the festival was on. But the increase in yachts made for more social gatherings, we are slowly educating everyone as to what “pot luck dinners” are, and we are very lucky to have Henri’s Cafe as a welcoming venue for our parties.
We farewelled the last of the Hawai’i bound boats when Barry and Sylvia on Iolani lifted anchor and sailed off into the drizzle. The joys of radio technology meant that we stayed in contact with them twice daily, right until their arrival in Radio Bay, Hilo, nearly 2,000 miles away.
The first of the “Class of 2016” have started arriving in port from points east, 2 from Panama via the Galapagos and one from Ecuador. One boat has already moved on to cruise the Tuamotus and Society Islands of French Polynesia, but most of us are staying put, awaiting the time when the waters cool down enough that cyclones can't form (current water temperature is around 28c just like being in a tepid bath!). Then we will commence the last year of our circumnavigation - come November we should be home in New Zealand waters.
Food, Glorious Food
Nuku Hiva's population is said to be around 2500 people, so when you add maybe about another 150 unexpected visitors (hungry yachties) it puts a strain on the supply of fresh vegetables. Then along came some heavy rains (unusual at this time of year but caused due to El Nino) which almost washed away the gardens and damaged the crops severely, and the outcome has been almost no fresh vegetables this year.
The few plants that have survived and are producing are reserved for the restaurants (there are only 3!), then the locals, so by the time it gets to the cruisers share there is not much left. Worse still the market opens at 5am, so the “early birds catch the worm”, us latecomers have no hope at all! The Aranui supply ship brings potatoes, onions and carrots but that is all the fresh produce imported here. The local fishing boats bring in fresh tuna and wahoo almost daily, at 500F ($5US) a kilo its way easier and almost cheaper than fishing ourselves!
So ..... haven't seen a lettuce or tomato this year, bokchoy, green beans and capsicums have made a rare appearance if I get to the market early enough, however scurvy has not yet set in. Avocados are now dripping off the trees although the mangoes have finished as have the pineapples. The papaya and bananas just keep on keeping on along with pamplemousse, and sour sop and guavas are now coming into season. Green Salads are temporarily a delicacy of the past, frozen vegetables are now the side order of the day! Being creative in the kitchen has taken on a whole new meaning.
Anchor Up At Last
We eventually did move out of Taioha'e on the southern coast of Nuku Hiva, it was time to clean the anchor chain, shake the cobwebs and birds nests out of the sails and check that all systems were still working. We did a very sporty and salty sail (not quite as per the forecast) south 30 miles to the beautiful island of Ua Pou. There had been a large south-easterly swell building for days with re-enforced trade winds so we hoped to find a more comfortable anchorage at Hakahetau on the north western side of the island, but unfortunately the swell and wind just followed the coast round, anchoring there was not an option.
We continued down the west coast in relatively flat water and anchored in the scenic remote cove of Vaiehu just south of Cap Punahu. This was the first time in months we had an unobstructed view of the horizon, the skies were clear and we sat back and enjoyed a glorious sunset. The overnight swell was manageable but the surge brought the surf pounding onto the steep sided cliff walls, the acoustics were amazing – surround sound at its best, somewhat unsettling though having natures version of Beethoven's 5th playing all night, so we just stayed one night and left in search of something a little more peaceful.
30 + 33 = 7
We turned north again and reviewed our options, the wind had increased overnight and some wild bullets tore down from the magnificent spires on the summit of Ua Pou. We revisited the town anchorage at Hakahetau but it looked rollier than it had the previous day so quickly dismissed it, our options were dwindling, a return to Nuku Hiva was inevitable.
The forecast had showed stronger winds than the previous day, but we had never intended on going back across to Nuku Hiva so soon. Aah but our plans as always were written in the sand, so we battened down the hatches and out we went into the big blue very wobbly stuff, with winds gusting 30 knots in front of the beam (of course) we had a speedy but very lively crossing. There is a first time for everything, and this was a first ever for the espresso machine and toaster (both bungyed down) to fly off the galley bench and dangle upside down by their power cords – thankfully they still work or it would have been a real bad day!
So a few hours and 33 miles later we tucked in behind the headland of Controllers Bay, calm water and normality returned to our lives, phew! We anchored in Hooumi Bay, just 7 miles east from Taioha'e where we had left the previous morning, not quite the result we had hoped for but Balvenie and crew came through their unplanned fitness test with flying colours.
Controllers is a large indentation on the south-eastern corner of Nuku Hiva, with 3 bays tucked up at its head. We stayed the first couple of nights in Hooumi which was a scenic spot. Sundowners entertainment was our very own live wildlife documentary, unravelling over nearly two hours of action packed viewing. The cast – 2 hunting dogs and two wild goats. I'll let skipper tell the story .........
Quite a commotion last night. There we were sat in the cockpit having a quiet rum. All of a sudden loud barking and bleating drew our attention to the rock face a short distance from the anchorage . A scene of nature at its rawest unfolded as we witnessed two dogs bred to track and kill wild pigs chasing a goat across the rocks above us. The goat, with nowhere else to run and not wanting to end up as ”dog tucker”, plunged into the seething ocean below just as one of the dogs made a mad grab for its hind leg. The red mist came down upon the dog and it didn't let go, so with blind enthusiasm for the kill the dog fell into the waters too.
After serious shrieking, squealing and splashing the goat was never seen again and the dog looked to be a gonna too as he got tossed around in the surge desperately trying to keep his head above water. Was it time for audience participation? Should I take the dinghy and save the dog? Will the dog rip into the dinghy? Will the dog rip into me? His hunting pal barked instructions furiously from the cliffs above, was he too contemplating a rescue or just relaying an escape plan? While I took another sip of rum to think about it the dog miraculously managed to claw himself onto a rock and lay exhausted in a soggy pile. Goat committed to the deep but dog back on terrafirma.
End of story? – oh no, that was only the end of part one.
Refreshed and invigorated by his dip within a few minutes he was off again and spent the next hour or so stalking another big goat who had found a shallow rock ledge that the dog, no matter how hard he tried, just couldn't claw his way up to. His hunting mate attacked from above but also couldn't get close without sliding down the rock, the goat had nerves of steel and stood his ground. So these three faced off all evening, their noses just three feet apart. The goat knew if he moved he was dog tucker for sure.
Just before dark the dogs withdrew, seemingly tired of the waiting game. The goat, not to be tricked, stood his ground for over 15 minutes until he was sure they had left, but we could still see the dogs, we knew they were still eyeing him up for dinner. The goat eventually deemed it safe to move but didn't get more than 10 metres before the dogs tore back towards him. As darkness engulfed us all, the goat was safely back on his ledge with the 2 dogs threatening either side.
Quietness accompanied the darkness and in the morning the ledge was empty with no signs of the dogs finally getting their dinner!
Survival Of The Fittest & Smartest Still Rules!