Saturday, May 30, 2009

Checking in and exploring anchorages

We left Fatu Hiva an hour late on Thursday. As a result we chose to anchor 5 miles south of Hiva Oa in an anchorage that felt like open ocean on the north east side of Tahuatu. Since it was on the east side of the island, strong trade winds blew all night and had anything gone awry with the anchor, the reefs and land behind us would have been our first stop. We kept anchor watch and woke at 4am to leave in the pitch dark. We wanted to get to Hiva Oa to check in with the gendarme at 7am when the office opened. Right as the anchor was up, large gusts began to buffet us and pounding rain commenced blowing sideways. We slowly motored against the force and through uncomfortable waves. Two hours later, we arrived at Hiva Oa, anchored and walked to town. By this time it was 8am but we were taken care of easily and simply. We'd contemplated hiring an agent to check us in (for 450 bucks) but figured we'd try it on our own. It was two easy forms, an hour wait at the post office to buy some stamps to mail the forms to Papeete, Tahiti, back to the gendarme for 5 minutes of stamping our passports, and finished. Two hours of paperwork saved us a chunk of cash we were much happier to spend on food and later, fuel.
As a French "place" (not sure it's official term, it was claimed by the French in the 1800s and still has a representative in French legislature), French baguettes have become one of the staple items and are subsidized by the government. They're about 3 1/2 feet long and sold in most grocery stores. Even more delightful, we found tin tubs of butter from New Zealand. They must be subsidized as well because they were only 2 bucks a pound. The "butter" we ate in Central America was so plastic tasting that I even double checked that "mantequilla" meant butter instead of margarine. So, this is a delightful upgrade. All other groceries are about triple what they might be in the States because of transportation and importation costs, and transportation taxes. Luckily, we still have enough food to last us until New Zealand.

After about 4 hours in Hiva Oa checking in and buying our bread and butter, we decided, there were more beautiful anchorages where we'd rather spend the night. We hoisted anchor and sailed a couple hours to Hana Tefau ("hana" means bay in Marquesan) Here we found beautiful snorkeling, calm water, and only a couple of other boats. Brian spotted an octopus pretending to be a rock, and a moray eel. The variety of fish colors and shapes is similar to walking through a garden in bloom.

We'll stay here through Monday, do some boat chores, snorkel, and go to the church service (the singing is reported to be heavenly here), then off to a nearby anchorage to celebrate our 7th anniversary.

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