Hiva Oa

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 1 Feb 2011 20:46
Position: 09 48.216 S 139 01.878 W
At anchor Baie Ta Hauku, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
Wind: light, variable
Weather: Sunny, warm
Total distance: 3887 nm

We came to anchor at just after 7 last night. As usual I tried to sail to
anchor but as we approached the confines of the harbour the winds not
surprisingly went light and baffling, I dropped the mainsail and motored
the last 500 meters. There were three other yachts at anchor here, all
French, I wasted little time, got the dinghy in the water and rowed across
to one of the boats that was obviously inhabited, there to seek some
advice as to clearing in. The boat was occupied by an elderly couple (I
have to think twice about this these days and ask myself whether I in facf
fit into this category . in my anti-submarine warfare parlance, yes, "in
the bracket low', which phrase in itself corroborates the thought which
dates me, though in my defense the equipment this jargon refers to was an
antique even in my day - please excuse the long aside). In an attempt to
make this story less long than it should be, and not to go over old
ground, what is, is etc., i.e. to get to the point, I was told the
gendamerie was closed and would be open at 7 in the morning (see what
reading Melville does to me). With this news I returned to Sylph, had
dinner, listened to some music and went to bed in the V berth with the
fore hatch open and a gentle breeze making for a relatively peaceful sleep
This morning the first order of the day was getting cleared in. The hike
into town is about 3km, actually by dinghy it would be about 500 meters
but by foot you have to walk around the head of the bay which, inter alia,
includes a creek, a lagoon and a soccer field. After a 40 minute walk I
found the gendamerie with no difficulty, in the process I got to try out
my very limited French with one of the locals, "Où et la gandamerie?" I
did not understand the lady's verbal response but the finger pointing up
the street looked pretty promising so a smile and a merci or two in the
way of expressing my gratitude soon had me there. The next challenge was
getting inside, my way barred by a gate and intercom, which when pressed
would only utter some French gibberish. I resorted to the tactic of
pressing on the buzzer until I annoyed the hell out of who ever was on the
other side and could do no other then let me in. Of course the down side
to this strategy is once you have scaled the walls of Jericho the person
or persons on the other side is or are likely to be a little hot under the
collar and to view your entrance as something of an invasion rather than a
peaceful diplomatic quest. This time I was lucky, have stormed the
gendamerie's barricade and having made it to the counter I was greeted by
a pleasant smiling young chap who actually spoke a modicum of English and
did not hold a grudge with the accidents of history that the lingua franca
of the modern world was that of their pipsqueak uncivilized neighbours and
not that of their own superior culture, ignoring the reign of terror of
course, but then again balanced by the not insignificant turmoil of the
English civil war. Where was I? Oh yes, this very nice young man
condescended to speak to me in Anglaise, subsequently the paper work was
soon completed and all I had to do was go to the bank, pay the bond
($1,200 - outrageous, but at least you get most of it back, not like the
$400 call out fee Australian customs is now charging, so I can hardly
complain.) I get to the bank and it is closed and won't be open until
13.30. The sign is in French, no idea why they were closed this particular
morning but it looked like the equivalent of a bank stock take. I look at
my watch, I have five hours to kill, there is just not enough in town to
keep me amused that long so I trudge back to the boat. Back on board I
gather the laundry together, over 32 days of it, and row back ashore to
the fish filleting area which is set up perfectly for yachty laundry, nice
tile counter with tap at a very convenient height. I leave a couple of
bucket so of laundry soaking in plenty of detergent and return to Sylph to
attend to her bottom.
I expect a few barnacles on a long tropical crossing such as this last,
but face mask, snorkel and fins donned, I was very disappointed to have to
confront the extent of the problem, face to limpet. How long has it been
since I anti-fouled Sylph? Less than six months. I have never had such
poor performance from of a bottom paint ever! So I spent a couple of hours
scraping the barnacles off which, with the warm water, was not an
altogether unpleasant task. Once complete, back ashore, I finished the
laundry, rinsing out all the detergent, again not so unpleasant in these
tropical climes, had a shower and shampoo under the open air showers -
luxury, then back tot he boat, hang it all out - the laundry that is,
change into shore clothes and then row ashore and hike into town. This
time in I was lucky, a French surfie, Pierrre stopped and gave me a lift
into town. Back at the banque (I have been studying a little bit of
Francaise and have come to the conclusion that the trick to the genuine
French accent is to make a nasally honking sound very much like a goose,
but I would also like it noted in this same sentence that I think French
is probably the most beautiful sounding language that we humans have yet
devised.) Le banque was open (is "banque" masculine or feminine?),I
encountered language problems of course but here I employ another of my
strategies when dealing with the unyielding foreign bureaucrat, just keep
talking, gesticulating and showing them papers . after all I knew I was in
the right place for what I wanted and it was only a matter of time before
they worked out what that was. Sure enough, the clerk found a solution,
get someone who spoke a little more English then he did. Miraculously,
about 20 minutes later I had managed to persuade them to some how rip me
off to the tune of $1200, (but as noted above I will get most of that
back). Mission accomplished, back to the fortress de gendarmerie. (Why do
they have to keep themselves barricaded so securely from the public? Are
they worried about the paperwork that might ensue if a damsel in distress
with a murderer or rapist on her tail wanted to seek refuge and protection
from this civic institution?) I lean on the buzzer several times and am
once more allowed admittance and am even more surprised to find yet
another smiling public servant on the other side of the counter still very
willing to help me completer their very reasonable and minimal entry
The passport is now stamped.
Next mission, find the dentist. This I did, it was closed but I knocked on
a door anyway (when you don't understand the local language it is easier
to ignore signs) . I was greeted by a hefty young lady with husky voice,
wearing a black top adorned with a sequined silver butterfly and on her
countenance a five o'clock shadow that challenged my fast growing
whiskers. She was very nice, but not very helpful. It turned out the
dentist primarily sees children and has one morning a week for adults
which was booked out for more than two weeks ahead. The receptionist even
looked into my maw but even after seeing the seriousness of the problem
first hand it did not change the incontrovertible fact that I was not gong
to be able to be attended to for over two weeks. She suggested I go to
Nuka Hiva, the capital of the Marquisas (please note alternate spelling),
where there were two dentists attending to adults. At this point, despite
the young ladies kind attentions my chest pains seemed to be seeking some
attention. This prompted me to thank the young lady and ask if there was a
doctor nearby. It turned out the local hospital was right next door.
I walked into this small building, consisting of one corridor with about
ten rooms on either side. I traversed its length and found a likely
looking door, knocked, pushed it open and peered inside, there to find
what I think was a nurse, sans five o'clock shadow. As soon as I mentioned
chest pain she was immediately attentive. Well I have had an ECG and an
xray and a nice consultation from a very relaxed doctor and I am pleased
to say that there is nothing wrong with my heart (??) or pulmonary system
and after a short chat we decided the problem was indeed one of the heart,
but not on the physical side. The doctor offered me some anti-anxiety
medication, but I said, "Nah, I think I will just have a beer," which he
smiled at and thereby seemed to endorse as a pretty reasonable medication
for this particular root cause of my affliction.
Well to be honest this evening I was hoping to find a pub or bar where I
might fill the doctor's prescription and find some human companionship,
but it seems the little village of Atuona is too small to provide such a
thing, I suspect especially seeing as we are outside the cruising season.
So I bought a six pack and am now sharing them with you, which, from the
above, is probably pretty obvious.
All is well.