Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 2) 03.06.08 - 06 .06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Thu 12 Jun 2008 14:05

Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 2) 03.06.08 – 06 .06.08



Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva


Before setting off to our next Marquesan Island, Fatu Hiva, we had to refuel. First George was dropped ashore to act as line-handler. Sally reversed Astra towards the rocky rear end of the petrol station where Ash threw the stern lines to George (more correctly in George’s general direction, onto some very slippery diesel covered boulders) for the latter to tie off to some less than conveniently placed bollards. Unfortunately we did not get a photo: it is a shame because it is hard to imagine a more hazardous refuelling operation (for the line handler, at least). Ash then brought the tender towards the shore for George to throw down the nozzle from the fuel pump. All went swimmingly and none went swimming. 15 minutes later we were underway with the promise of some decent wind for the 48Nm crossing SSE to Fatu Hiva.


We were to get a little more wind than we bargained for. Within minutes of leaving the relative sanctity of our anchorage and getting the sails up, we were hit by a very large squall bringing torrential rain and over 40 knots of wind. Conditions were unpleasant to say the least and we had to reef the main – for the first time since crossing the Atlantic. Over the next 3 hours we had double and single reefs in four or five times as we had to beat into some decidedly English weather. Things were getting pretty miserable until Sally saved the day with some bacon and egg butties for lunch. Throughout the afternoon the squalls lessened in frequency and severity and the sun even put in the occasional appearance. With 5Nm to go we dropped the sails and slowly motored in to what is said to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world: The Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva.         


Fatu Hiva


The most obvious feature of the Bay of Virgins is the gargantuan rocks which dominate the skyline and contribute to the bay’s name. The link between virgins and enormous rocks requires a little elaboration: originally the bay was called the Bay of Penises (Baie des Verges), it being thought that the formations looked phallic. The French missionaries were none too pleased with this scandalous nomenclature and so added an ‘i’ to the name thus making it Baie des Vierges, The Bay of Virgins.  


There were only three other boats with which to share this breathtaking bay: Free Spirit; Trenelly; and On Vera. As we saw activity on Free Spirit we popped over to say hello. Their passage across the Pacific was a little different: they covered the (shorter) distance from Acapulco in 46 days!


In the morning we set off for the Vai’e’enui Falls, a couple of miles up the valley. It was a humid walk under thick boscage. We were more than adequately rewarded for our endeavours when we came in sight of the captivating cascade. George was first into the plunge pool, with Ash a close second. It was a refreshing dip with cool fresh water pouring 300ft from the top of the falls. Sally and Jeremy were content to admire the view with a slice of fruit cake. 


Jason, Fiona and their two year old son Dillon from Trenelly came aboard for drinks in the evening. Young Dillon put Ash “Monkey” Rudd to shame with an impressive display of acrobatics, climbing anything and everything in sight.    


Having limbered up we decided the next day to set out on a lengthier expedition. There are two villages on Fatu Hiva with an 11 mile road connecting them. The villages are both at sea level with the path between them rising to over 2000ft. Not everyone fancied the idea of walking both ways so we decided to take the local means of transport from our bay to the village of Omoa: the out-rigger canoe.


After a very well timed approach to the beach through the crashing surf, we started by visiting the boulangerie to buy some baguettes for lunch. We thought that it would be relatively straightforward to find our way back to Hanavave as there is only one road on the island. Unfortunately this road continues past Omoa for a couple of miles before trailing off into the jungle – something we discovered by setting off in the wrong direction! An hour into the walk we were back where we had started with another three miles to add to the total.


With added direction, purpose and each with a baguette under-arm we started out again. Ash and George formed an advance party, with Jeremy and Sally bringing up the rear. 2000ft in about 5 miles is a decent climb but the views were worth it. The advance party completed the walk within 3 hours; the rearguard managed a very respectable but slightly more leisurely 4 hours (including a lunch stop).     


That evening blistered feet aided weary limbs in propelling aching joints back into Hanavave for dinner; George and Ash went too. A local caterer, Theresa, invited us to come and eat at her house as there is no restaurant in the village. It was a Marquesan feast comprised of chicken, papayas (prepared to have a very similar flavour to sauerkraut), poison cru, and, the crowning glory, some peculiar, poached, pink bananas.


The next day Sally and Jeremy both made excellent headway with their books and gave their muscles a little time to recover. Meanwhile Ash and George continued with the seemingly never-ending task of scrubbing the hull. On this occasion matters were complicated by considerable movement on Astra’s behalf; gusts of up to 35 knots funnelled down the valley causing us to swing to and fro on the anchor chain. Having already cleaned the portion above the waterline from the dinghy, Ash and George donned scuba gear and did their best to wrap themselves around the keel in order provide Astra with an exfoliation. Not only did they leave the hull sparkling, they also got to see three white tip sharks and a spotted eagle ray into the bargain.