Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 3) 07.06.08 - 10 .06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Fri 13 Jun 2008 03:44

Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 3) 07.06.08 – 10 .06.08



Fatu Hiva to Tahuata


The radar was clearly not functioning correctly as it did not show the island a few hundred yards away. This was a concern as the radar will be essential for navigating amongst the atolls in the Tuamotus. As a result we were required to start our journey with a series of concentric circles in order to reset the heading sensor. This did not appear to do the trick so we had to depart without an operational radar.


Once we had cleared the headland we set the sails and blasted off in the direction of the south west tip of Tahuata on a broad reach. With the wind consistently around 30-35 knots, Astra was in her element, storming along at 9-11 knots SOG.  A particularly athletic pod of dolphins kept us company, often clearing the water in unison, flipping, and surfing down the waves.


The sailing conditions were perfect until we reached the imposing, craggy, southern promontory of Tahuata when we were hit by an unpredicted, violent and almost instantaneous wind shift through 120 degrees causing a crash gybe against the preventer. As we only had a few miles to go to our destination we dropped the sails and motored in to our first port of call on Tahuata.   




We stopped in three bays in Tahuata, the first of which was the tiny settlement of Hana Tefau.  We anchored at the north end of the large but beautiful and calm bay which made a very pleasant change from the gusty conditions experienced in Fatu Hiva.


After a leisurely lunch, Jeremy and Ash set about trying to figure out what was wrong with the radar.  While Ash was checking the connections up the mast and trying not to drop anything on George’s head, Jeremy was tinkering with the connections at the other end in the depths of Astra’s interior.  Something they did seemed to fix the problem and the radar started functioning normally again.  Unfortunately due to the rather unscientific nature of the exercise we are not sure exactly what was wrong or how we corrected it!


Relieved to have a functioning radar system again, Jeremy was able to relax a bit while Sally, Ash and George went for a snorkel along the rocky shoreline.  The visibility was top notch and there was plenty of marine life to enjoy including turtles, rays and a multitude of extraordinarily colourful fish many of which were completely new to us.


It was a very peaceful night and everybody awoke much refreshed.  A shore party comprising Sally, George and Ash headed for the village in search of fresh bread.  When we landed we were surprised to find the place seemingly deserted.  Walking along the ancient Royal Road, we passed a beautiful church; at this point it dawned on us that it was a Sunday as the entire population of the village seemed to have managed to squeeze inside. With no one around to tell us where we could find some bread we continued along the road towards an ancient religious site. Once the setting for cannibalistic rituals, it now houses a large cross and a Catholic shrine.  


By the time we made our way back to the village the street was buzzing (in Marquesan terms) with people in their Sunday best. The locals were exceedingly friendly; when we were unable to buy any bread from the village shop, the lady in front of Sally in the queue insisted on getting an armful of baguettes from her house for us. One thing led to another and a little while later we left bearing gifts of bread, pamplemousse and oranges.  


In the afternoon, we went diving in the bay. George and Ash went first to check that there were no sharks, and having assured Sally that there was none to be seen and having refilled the tanks Sally and Jeremy went down afterwards. In addition to some interesting rock formations, we also saw turtles, a green moray eel, spotted-eagle rays, and an octopus.


Our second bay on Tahuata was Vaitahu. Like most places in the Marquesas it has several soubriquets due to its rich history. Named by Captain Cook as “Resolution Bay” after his ship’s name, it is also known by the French as Baie de Putain (Prostitute’s Bay). We were to make only a quick stop in Vaitahu because the anchorage was uncomfortably lumpy and the strong wind was threatening to flip the tender. We did nip ashore to get George to the doctors as he had a worsening infection from an insect bite on his arm. A refreshing change from the NHS, he had a two minute wait before seeing the Doctor who was able to provide an antiseptic cream and antibiotics with no need for payment or any tedious forms to fill out.


The process was made more interesting by dint of the fact that the Doctor was what Western eyes would regard as a transvestite; it is a common custom in the Marquesas to raise a third son as a daughter! George, also a third son reflected that he is quite happy that they do not have the same custom in England.


Medical business out of the way we made our way round the next headland to Hana Moe Noa, our last anchorage on Tahuata. Our otherwise perfect approach was slightly marred by our fishing lure catching a large chunk of rock on the seabed. We did not notice until after we had anchored by which time “Jet Head 2” had become firmly lodged requiring Ash to do a bit of rescue free-diving in 10 metres of water.


We were pleased to find Adventure in the bay who had already rallied the other few yachts together for a barbeque on the beach. Before that we had lots of time to dive and snorkel and saw two large manta rays.


The Marquesas have few sandy beaches, but this one was a real cracker! While Sally went off with the girls from Adventure in search of fruit, Jeremy, Ash and George built a fire. Soon after sundown we were enjoying a spread that belied our remote location: pasta salads; potato salads; lamb chops; homemade burgers and kebabs; hot dogs; fresh baguettes; sailfish steaks; the list goes on.