Day 216, Year 1: From Tahuata to Hiva Oa
Date: Sunday, May 21, 2006
Weather: Beautiful Warm Days with Cool Evenings; A Little Rain in the Afternoon
Latitude: 09 degrees 48 minutes S
Longitude: 139 degrees 02 minutes W
Location: Tahauku Bay Anchorage, Hiva Oa Island, Marquesas
We started our day with a two mile dinghy ride to Vaitahu Bay from our snug little anchorage in Hanamoenoa Bay. Just as Mendana and Captain Cook before us, we made it to the bay, but unlike them, we were not able to land. The wind has actually returned after a long absence and the concrete dock where we were going to land was constantly awash with surf. The only beach in town was also being pounded by surf, so we decided to abort. I was disappointed, but safety is always first. We did get a picture of the church and hopefully of the wooden statue of the Virgin above the church entrance. But that is as much of Vaitahu as we saw this morning.
When we returned to our anchorage, we stopped and visited with Jamie and Lucy on Savoir Livre. We finally learned why a British couple is on a boat flying a South African flag and has a French name. Jamie and Lucy are probably in their late 30’s or early 40’s. Jamie is a retired stock broker and worked all over Europe, in New York City, and in South Africa. When they decided to “retire” and sail around the world, they bought their boat in South Africa and sailed it to the Caribbean. They are a couple who exude energy and warmth and we really enjoyed visiting with them this morning. They were part of our little radio net as we made our crossing and it was great to finally have time to do more than just say hello. While we were visiting, Peter from Shoestring, another South African boat who was part of our radio net, came over to invite us all to come to the beach tonight to cook dinner over a beach fire that he volunteered to build. We had already decided to head for Hiva Oa in the afternoon. Otherwise, we would have loved to join the beach party. I’m sure there will be others.
We then pulled up anchor and motored into the wind the ten miles to Tahauku Bay on the island of Hiva Oa. This is the first time we have had to go into the wind since our crossing from Norfolk to St. Martin, but thankfully this was a short trip. We need to be in the town of Atuona in the morning to officially check into French Polynesia, and Tahauku Bay is the closest anchorage. As we approached the island of Hiva Oa we could see the steep ridges and valleys that fall right down into the water. We had been told various stories about Tahauku Bay-crowded and dirty-so we were a little reluctant to come here. To our surprise, it is actually a really lovely place. It is more of a town than we have seen here to date, certainly not like a village. The mountains rise up around us and the little bay is delightful. We are probably five miles from the town of Atuona, but the “suburbs” here are quite upscale. It reminds us of the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington-just warmer with palm trees. Atuona’s claim to fame is that that artist Paul Gauguin came to live here in 1901 with his 14-year old mistress, Vaeoho. He died two years later and is buried here in a cemetery overlooking the town. Chanson singer, Jacques Brel, also lived here between 1975 and 1978. He is buried in the same cemetery. Let’s hope we get out of here before we become casualties of Hiva Oa!
As we sat here this afternoon, we both realized just how lucky we are to be here doing what we are doing. There is no way for me to describe the beauty we are experiencing. Every time we move to a new anchorage, a whole new world opens up to us. It is really overwhelming. The beauty, the people . . . all more than we could ever have dreamed.