Hiva Oa – mixed blessings

(Ed: this post somehow vanished via a combination of poor internet connectivity and a technical blunder by the author, so apologies for it being a bit out of sequence as it relates to our first few days in the Marquesas)

The fourth attempt at a dinghy repair finally stuck and we heaved a sigh of relief when it did. Enroute and after much angst we discovered new friends amongst our fellow cruisers and just how lovely the Marquesians are as this post relates:

Initially the Skipper’s first attempt held long enough for us to launch the dinghy, row the few metres to the shore then walk into town on Sunday morning to register at the gendarmerie.

Having walked only a few hundred metres of the port on our first Sunday we were offered a lift into Atuona by the local GP out and about on emergency house calls. The gendarme was fun once he had decided we were worth abandoning the task of washing his patrol car for and the paperwork was conducted over some light hearted rugby banter as he is a Toulon supporter. Then in the afternoon we walked up to the Sauvatage de Mer station (the French equivalent of the RNLI) on the headland overlooking the harbour entrance – a lovely cool breeze and a shady seat makes this a wonderful spot to sit and watch the sea.

Early Monday morning as I was settling down with my mug of coffee at the top of the companionway to watch the sun come up over the mountains my view suddenly swung. Puzzled I looked around, horrified as Temptress’ stern swung very, very close to our neighbour Sway’s bow and then kept on going until she was facing 180 degrees from where she had been anchored fore and aft. The fore aft anchoring with the stern anchor is necessary in the yacht area of the port as it is very narrow and has little space for yachts unless they are restricted from swinging plus fore aft mooring with the bows facing the ever present swell is more comfortable. Kevin came running up from his bed. The stern anchor line had snapped just above the anchor. First we moved Temptress to somewhere safer away from the rocky shore and Sway then we decided to go on an anchor hunt.

The dinghy was pressed into action as a search vessel and we went trawling with the dinghy anchor dragging it across the soft harbour bottom. Within a few minutes we’d hooked something but couldn’t pull it aboard, Kevin dived down the line only to find the dinghy anchor snagged on a cable on the seabed. Later he discussed with the local yacht agent Sandra the prospect of diving for it in the murky waters full of river silt but she advised not to as there is a large local shark population and you can’t see them coming. Like fools we hadn’t bothered buoying it despite the fact that this was our secondary storm anchor so a vital bit of kit; another item for our Tahiti shopping list plus a new length of warp.

We then had to move out of the harbour to make room for the first supply ship of the week, anchoring in the rolly waters outside the breakwater where the ocean swell echoes back and forth between the cliffs either side of the entrance. Not a pleasant night and to add to our woes as the sun heated up the air inside the dinghy tubes that afternoon it expanded and the patch fell off with a bang and a woosh. Depressing! Excuse the pun. But at least we could move back into the harbour the morning after.

Kevin called Sandra on the VHF who sadly explained she knew of no one on the island that could help. But it turned out most boats monitor VHF channel 9 so heard of our plight and offers of help poured in. The next couple of patches failed even sooner than the first but John from SY Kounami (it means little wave as opposed to tsunami, big wave) had some ideas. He brought over special solvent to clean up the surfaces as well as some glue from his stores. The errant seam was then glued and clamped and left for 24 hours. It seemed to be stuck so the following morning, Wednesday, he and Kevin stuck on a patch and left that clamped too for another 24 hours. Hooray it held when inflated on Thursday morning! Though we’ve been careful since not to inflate it too hard.

Meanwhile the cruising community was wonderful offering us to taxi us ashore whenever we needed. David from SY Enchantress not only took Kevin and our laundry buckets ashore but collected him again when the rinsing was complete. One of the things the Marquesas do not lack is fresh clean water as it rains so often and so hard! The port has taps every few yards and even rudimentary showers for yachties and local canoeists. John & Diane from SY Kounami lent us their double kayak and invited us over for supper.

We had met Susan and David from SY Enchantress briefly in Panama and saw them depart earlier in the day than us from Las Perlas. They took the southern route around the Galapagos Islands to arrive the day after us. As they approached Hiva Oa they caught a large tuna so invited ourselves together with Sean and Sabina of SY Chevaldy for a fish supper. We had a great evening everyone swapping tales of their passage. A couple of days later Temptress’ Indian restaurant offered a curry night for the six of us to which Sean brought his guitar and a fund of hilarious tales as only a culchy from Cork can so we, a collection of Celts were up until the wee small hours laughing and singing. Great for crew moral!

Thursday morning we had to move out again as the Aranui 5 was due at noon, part supply ship ( the front half) and part cruise liner (the back half) she is a regular feature of island life here and is truly gigantic compared to the size of the harbour. New regulations meant many more yachts had to up anchor and join the growing crowd outside the breakwater to give her room to manoeuvre inside. As this white leviathan approached the breakwater she launched two work boats to act as tugs, then as she passed inside, dropped her anchor so she’d be able to pull herself off the quay when she left at 2am. The Aranui brings not only her own tugs but also forklifts to help with unloading and loading. Her passengers go off on tours for the afternoon or leave her to stay at a local pension (B&B) until either she returns or they can fly back to Tahiti. The Aranui brings building materials, food and more then takes copra (sun dried coconut meat) back to Papeete for processing into oil for the cosmetic industry.

Finally on Friday we too could depart as our duty free diesel papers were ready, reducing our fuel costs by half to around 60 US cents per litre. Kevin topped up the main tank and the jerry cans in several trips by dinghy to the island petrol station by the quay whilst I trekked into the village of Atuona one last time for veggies getting a lift back with two local ladies in a pickup truck with bags of local lemons on the back seat. Sandra’s mum sells home grown veggies from her pickup truck stall in the village – a bundle of long beans, a chunky aubergine and some pakchoy will supplement our tinned food for a few days. Back at the petrol station we also bought a big fresh chunk of tuna sufficient for a couple of meals, a bag of frozen cuts of neck of lamb from New Zealand and half a dozen apples fresh off the Aranui. We were ready to leave.