Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 4) 11.06.08 - 13.06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Wed 25 Jun 2008 18:29

Astra Blog: Marquesas (Part 4) 11.06.08 –  13.06.08


Before leaving Tahuata, Jeremy disassembled the compressor as it had decided to stop working. It has been functioning well since it was last repaired (in the BVIs) and has enabled us to dive in locations where refilling dive tanks would otherwise have been impossible. The capacitor appeared to be at fault: we would be required to return to Atuona on our way to the north of Hiva Oa to see if we could get a replacement.


Atuona was even more congested than last time and it was nice to see lots of familiar faces in the anchorage.  However, we were determined not to spend any more time than necessary in Atuona.  This meant getting the compressor fixed, visiting the bank and doing some provisioning before everything closed so that we would be able to move on the following morning. 


Unfortunately this was not to be, as the capacitor - which a friendly Marquesan mechanic had given to Jeremy - was not the right one for the job and duly blew itself up.  Undeterred and armed with the information from the manufacturer about the correct capacitor we decided to try again in the morning.  The delay was not without its highlights, the inter-island cargo ship Aranui 3 arrived and proceeded to lay its enormous anchor and chain right on top of ours, thus confining us to harbour whether we liked it or not!  Sally and Jeremy made the most of this by going out for dinner at the Pearl Lodge and George and Ash enjoyed the evening in their own way by eating a huge quantity of tuna.


The following day Sally and Jeremy ventured into town once more, while Ash attacked the ever present list of boat jobs and George made a quick sortie into the interior to acquire photos of Paul Gaughin and Jacque Brel’s graves.  Jeremy was the last to rejoin the boat at 1700, bringing with him a fresh capacitor which, although not quite the right one, seemed to do the trick.


With the Aranui 3 still firmly over our chain, we decided to leave first thing the following morning and spent the rest of the evening praying that the Aranui 3 would not haul up our anchor with its own when it departed that evening, inadvertently towing us out to sea prematurely.


In the morning we awoke bright and early and with Sally as Skipper for the day we left Atuano for the last time and headed for the north west coast of Hiva Oa.  As we entered the Canal du Bordelais, a narrow seaway between Tahuata and Hiva Oa, we popped the sails up and cast the fishing lines.  It was all of five minutes before both lines were whizzing off their respective reels and it took some reasonably quick crew work to slow Astra sufficiently to haul in our first yellow fin tuna (15lbs).  Thrilled with this result we sent the lures back out hunting again and got bites from two little tunny, one of which we released unhurt and the other which was unceremoniously despatched by a shark.  As we entered Baie Hanamenu, something with razor sharp teeth severed Jet Head 2’s steel leader wire clean through, sending him to the depths.  Pink Fluffy 2 by way of retribution hooked a delicious bull mahi mahi.


The serious business of fishing out of the way, we entered a deserted anchorage which can best be described as rather like a miniature Grand Canyon.  Jeremy and Sally had a brief ‘chat’ about where best to anchor, while Ash and George busied themselves preparing the tender.


Baie Hanamenu


Going ashore, we found a deserted village. A few dilapidated huts bear testament to recent habitation. It is a mystery as to why such an enchanted spot would be abandoned: looking seaward, a white beach gives way to the cerulean Pacific; walking between and beyond the huts there are all manner of colours, smells and fruits: mango, pamplemousse, lemon, frangipani, and hibiscus. Following the sound of running water we found an ice cold pool at the bottom of a flower-covered waterfall, perfect for a refreshing dip.


As we made our way back to the beach we collected plump pamplemousse and incredibly sweet mangoes. Wild horses pottered between the trees unconcerned that we were scrumping their lemons for our gin and tonics.


Before we tendered back to Astra we thought we would try our hands at coconut splitting. Jeremy employed a rusty mattock head found in one the huts; Ash favoured a similarly rusty saw; George went for the “throw it at a rock” method. Needless to say this last method proved the most successful, if the most energetic as much time was spent chasing the coconuts as they ricocheted off the rocks. Ash, quick to see the error of his ways abandoned his tool and adopted George’s approach. Jeremy persisted with precise blows and eventually prised his coconut apart into two very neat halves, gaining credit for artistic merit!


Having drunk our fill of coconut milk we returned to the tender with a cornucopia of fruit and coconut flesh. To get our spoils back to Astra we had to negotiate the breakers which had grown considerably since our arrival. It would take a lot more than the soaking that ensued to dampen the spirits: of a more idyllic bay it is impossible to conceive.


The next morning we awoke to find a flaw in this otherwise perfect gem of a bay: the deck was covered in beetles! Hundreds of them. It would be interesting to know why the villagers had forsaken their slice of paradise – perhaps they were not keen on creepy-crawlies. Another mystery: the beetles had clearly flown aboard but apparently did not have either the ability or inclination to fly again to avoid a watery grave; dustpan full after dustpan full was emptied overboard.