Hiva Oa - 09 48.19S 139 01.91W

Mike and Liz Downing
Thu 27 May 2010 07:51
Sailed from the island of Fatu Hiva yesterday to the island of Hiva Oa, the capital of the southern Marquesas. It was a trip of about 46 miles to the north west and lovely and sunny with good winds and a slight sea, so a great sail. Having sailed all the way it was almost too far - with the wind on the quarter and under full sail we decided to sail right up to the anchorage before taking the sails down. With nowhere to go the genoa wouldn't roll away and with that out it's not easy to drop the main. So it was a quick change of course to run parallel to the coast and a frantic 5 minutes sorting out the problem. The sails then behaved themselves and came down and we motored the short distance into Baie Tahuku, the anchorage for Atuona, the main village.

It's bow and stern anchors here as there's not a lot of room with 15 or so yachts and swell can come into the anchorage, so the stern anchor holds the boat bows to the swell. But, it's only 15ft deep. We had just left the anchorage in Fatu Hiva where, when we left, we were anchored in 90ft! All of our 300ft of chain was out and for the first time since leaving the UK we could see the bottom of the chain locker. The anchorage there was spectacular, but a little unnerving at times as every so often the wind would come whistling down the mountain sides in gusts that threatened to blow us out to sea. We were extremely pleased that even in 70-90ft of water the anchor held for 8 days.

We enjoyed our stay in Fatu Hiva. It included the Whitsun holiday, with Polynesian dancing and a pig roast traditionally cooked in the ground. We hiked into the hills to see a 200ft waterfall and the views from the anchorage were stunning. It gave us a chance to sort out the boat and clean the hull - it was surprising how much dirt and weed grew above the waterline on all the boats during the crossing. Everyone was cleaning. It also gave us a chance to find and sort out our diesel leak, which turned out to be a split filler pipe just above the tank, but behind furniture, so not easy to find or fix. The tank was moving in the heavy seas and it split the pipe. The tank is big (4ft by 3ft 6inch), but not very deep, so as the boat rolled the filler pipe filled with diesel and flooded out into the bilge under the tank. We now have a temporary fix in place and hope to replace the hose when in Tahiti. Hallberg Rassy, the boat's builder, are sending out a replacement hose, which is about 10ft in length. Dettol is great for cleaning the bilges and getting rid of the smell of diesel. For a few days the boat smelled like a hospital!

Atuona is the official port of entry and we have now officially checked in to French Polynesia. Five archipelagoes make up French Polynesia - The Society Islands, including Tahiti and Bora-Bora (still 850 miles away), The Tuamotu islands (76 coral atolls), The Gambier islands, The Austral islands and The Marquesas islands. A total of 118 islands, but spread over 5.5 million square kilometers of sea (approximately the size of Europe).

Hiva Oa is a lot more established and modern than Fatu Hiva - it has about 2,000 people and obviously benefits from French subsidies as the buildings are all brick and spick and span, they have proper village shops with a Post Office, the roads are good and there are quite a few 4 x 4s driving around. It is also very expensive - a standard box of cereal (Special K or Frosties - we're back to European brands rather than American) is nearly £7! Fatu Hiva with a population of 600 had just 2 villages - the small one with 1 shop, the other with 2. In the village we were anchored off, all the houses were generally nicely done prefabs, but it had a brick church and school. The people wanted to trade goods rather than take cash as they have nowhere to spend the money. Rope, lipstick and perfume were all good things to trade. The Marquesans all speak Marquesan and French, the official language, so it's time to forget Spanish and open up the French books once again.

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