The Marquesas

Sat 17 May 2008 22:50
Saturday 17th May
Noon Position 09:27S 139:49.2W
Time flies, as ever. Don't waste it!!
So here I am motoring accross a mirror: the Pacific Ocean on a truly pacific day. The trade winds are what my expert friends call temporarily disrupted by a depression to the north. The day started at three thirty, so that I could catch the last of the moonlight to head out of Hanamoenoa bay on the Island of Tahuata in the direction of Ua Pu: my last stop before meeting Victoria on Nuku Hiva on Tuesday morning.  It is a seventy mile trip today, hence the early start so that we can arrive in daylight. Wonderful scenary yesterday, but I stayed on board rather than risk the sandflies on the beach, and lovely swimming straight off the boat.
Back to the begining; on Fatu Hiva: a 17km walk left me elated, but in rather bad shape physically: a mistake to walk/climb so far the day after stepping off the boat, and after having walked no more than a few paces a day for nearly a month. The landscape was as dramatic as promised and the track was fringed with fruit trees: bannanas and mangoes mostly; my backpack will be sticky for ever!! When we (me and some Dutchmen) finally reached the end of the track ot Omoa, the only other settlement on the Island, we were mighty pleased to part with 60$ to get a boat back to our bay.
After the weekend The Gendarmes arrived in the anchorage, and we illegals were instructed to make tracks for Hiva Oa, the Official Port of Entry, and clear in.
No problem for the bigger boats, they can do eight of nine knots. I was managing a respectable 5.5 knots under my twin headsail, but still found myself ten miles short of my destination at nightfall, and decided to head for a small anchorage marked on the charts off the uninhabited Isalnd of Mohotani. Closing the coast in the evening sunshine was very pleasant, and seven dolphins joined me for the final run in. However, as we rounded the small headland guarding the anchorage everything changed: the light and colour went out of the day, and the wind suddenly rose. The seas became higher as well: the anchorage was at the tip of the Island, and in these particular conditions both wind and swell seemed to enter the bay from both sides. To cap it all what I could still see of the bottom suggested rocks rather than sand: not a secure hold for an anchor. It was however a case of Hobson's choice: heading back out to sea and drifting about with islands dotted all over the place did not appeal, neither did trying to make an unfamiliar port at night. Suddenly a patch of sand appeared under the boat, and the anchor was let go: it held. Down below to hide away from it all, and I closed the hatch to reduce the sound of the swell crashing onto the rocks 50 metres away! A sleepless night, the boat was tossed all over the place, and the anchor chain crunched against the rocks all around my little patch of sand. I was very pleased to get away at first light. As the sun rose the colour came back into the rocks, and the seas settled down: my surreal experience was over.
A simple sail then to Atuona on Hiva Oa and a good decision not to approach at night. The anchorage was rolly, the lee shore rocky, and boats were lying to bow and stern anchors: easy enough to set in daylight but tricky on your own at night!
Atuona a lovely sleepy village, but certainly not third world: metalled roads and new four wheel drive trucks. Prices not as steep as we had been led to believe however, and most things available: including baguettes! Gauguin painted here, living with a fourteen year old native! There is a good museum with reproductions by good local artists, and he is burried on the hillside. I also managed a treck to the Tehueto Petroglyphs, rock carvings to you, up the Faakua Valley: very remote and overgrown: I felt like an original explorer! Indeed so well hidden was everything that it was night before I got back down to civilisation: good stuff. The anchorage was however bad and uncomfortable and that night several boats dragged: it was much nicer the next day on Tahuata, just six miles distant.
So, lots to do and see.