Tahuata – the bay with a very long name…

Pronouncing local place names is becoming easier. We have learnt that the spelling might not be accurate but simply sounding out all the vowels and most of the constanants works. However the length of some place names simply defies our english speaking brain to  work out and remember; one of these is Hanamoenoa – say it with me – A na mo e no a. The letter H is superfluous even in the island’s name it seems as it actually sounds like Ta u ar ta with the first and final syllables short as in tatty not as in tar. To confuse still further some places have French names instead and some islets and landmarks have both.

Baie Hanamoenoa is just ten nautical miles south west from Hiva Oa separated by the narrow Chanel de Bordelaise but a world apart. Gone was the rivery green water and the mountains crowding in. Here the steep volcanic slopes enclose a wide deep bay at whose far end is a beach of golden sand fringed with coconut palms. The crystal clear turquoise waters are so transparent that even in eight metres we could see our anchor lying on the sand below. Here we could swim without fear of being surprised by the ever present sharks. 

Chivaldy and Enchantress had arrived the day before. We joined them and a handful of other boats to enjoy the spectacular scenery, the snorkelling and finally the opportunity to get in the water and scrub our messy waterline. Somewhere west of the Galapagos we’d sailed through some greenish yellow muck that had coated Temptress’ hull for six or eight inches above the waterline and splashed higher at the bow. Armed with a scrubbing brush, a suction handle and a snorkelling mask the skipper did battle for an hour or two. Amazingly most of it came off though it is not yet pristine.

The following day the three crews ventured ashore for a BBQ. The ocean swell creates a huge surging surf up the steep beach so landing and keeping the BBQ and food dry was not going to be easy. Chivaldy’s dinghy was loaded with all the stuff but no engine and whilst Susan swam ahead to scout out things Enchantress’ rib towed the laden dinghy into just before the surf line where we anchored.  A long line (actually several knotted together were needed to cover the hundred or so metres to the beach) was then tied to the smaller dinghy  with the other end attached to the anchored one. Then we swam ashore and pulled the dinghy containing Sabina, Sean and our bags in; as it approached the beach Sean and Sabina leapt out, we grabbed it and ran up above the waterline before the surf could claim a victim. Success!

Ashore we each took steps to avoid being bitten by the sand flies which are reputed to be voracious here, every paradise has a bite. Covered up and sprayed extensively we met a local living in a hut nearby; Steven speaks good English as well as his native Marquesan and French. He has worked on fishing boats and in the tourist industry before deciding on a back to nature lifestyle though we did hear his mobile phone ringing so he is not entirely disconnected. He lent us his table and fire pit in exchange for a few cans of beer whilst he regaled us with titbits about the local wildlife including a warning that he had set traps for the wild pigs in the woods just back from the beach. We had read that when the 19th century plantations became unviable due to the lack of demand for sugar cane back in France the domestic animals pigs, horses goats and chickens were left to fend for themselves as the owners returned to Europe. Now some islands are almost overrun with their descendants; pig and goat features high in the Marquesan diet.

The trip back to the boats was a scary experience. Susan with her flippers and snorkel easily swam back, the other four piled into the dinghies whilst I elected to swim more sedately the several hundred metres home needing some exercise. David and Kevin had just dropped off their tow at Chevaldy when Susan shouted that she had spotted several large sharks near the boats. The boys rapidly turned back and motored fast towards me shouting, my backstroke splashing being just the thing that might attract a shark. I was heaved unceremoniously into Enchantress’ rib glad not to be a shark supper.

The following afternoon at intervals the three boats left the island of Tahuata heading north west for the larger of the islands in the northern group of the Marquesas, Nuka Hiva. An overnight sail of about 80 nautical miles, much like a trip from Southsea to Cherbourg. Temptress left last and we sailed most of the trip under just full Genoa in the light easterly breeze. There were a couple of spells of motoring the first in the lee of Hiva Oa and then second as dawn broke and we approached a rain shrouded Nuka Hiva. In between it was a pleasant dry sail with a tasty Irish stew for supper and uneventful watches for the crew.