Monday, June 8, 2009


We spent five or 6 nights split between two anchorages on the western side of Tahuata. The first one was a double bay. We anchored in the northern lobe, Hana Tefau, and dinghied across to the south end of the southern lobe to tie up at the concrete quay in front of the town.

Every village we have seen has had a beautiful cement breakwater built on the quietest side of their bay. They have navigational lights on them and are a huge benefit to the locals who interact with the ocean on a daily basis. Speed boats zip between islands frequently; fishermen leave at dusk to catch pelagic fish; a large supply and tourist boat, the Aranui 3, visits each island once or twice a month to deposit tourists who buy carvings and eat traditional feasts. The Aranui is 100 meters long and links the Marquesas to Tahiti which is the industrial, tourist, and political capital of French Polynesia. While it deposits tourists, it also deposits 40 foot containers of goods, double-cabbed diesel trucks, and building supplies on the concrete quays of villages.

On Sunday we cleaned ourselves up a bit and dinghied into town. In the middle of the bay, we were suddenly surrounded by a group of dolphins jumping around and in front of us. If I hadn't been in a dress and on my way to church, I would have jumped in with them. They were so close I could have leaned over and touched some of them except they're too wily to let me do that. They dissipated and we carried on.

Churches are all Catholic in the Marquesas. The service was conducted in the Marquesan language except for the homily which was in French. Although, we understood neither, the talking was interspersed liberally with singing accompanied by a guitar, ukulele, and a drum.

Immediately after church, the town started bustling. I thought maybe there was an after church function but it turned out that the Aranui 3 was due to arrive in a couple of hours. The "town hall", mairie, is separated from the church grounds by the cemetery. Each town has one and they are all about the same with carved wooden posts roofed with wooden frames and palm branches, no walls, on a cement slab. Behind the mairie we could smell smoke from a grill. Locals were setting up tables and chairs along the main road and lugging boxes to them, pulling out carvings for display.

We decided to go back to the boat and then return to land when the Aranui arrived, thinking there might be some type of dancing or musical performance on the 4 foot high native drums on the side of the mairie. This turned out not to be the case and we only saw tourists eating food and view the carvings. We did get to hear some ukulele music because two crew of the Aranui were relaxing and strumming songs on the back of the boat as we went past.

While in Tefau, we met a local named Giovanni. He's 19 years old and enjoyed trading fruit for CDs we copied for him. One of my favorite images of that bay was watching Giovanni and one friend paddling across the bay in a small outrigger canoe with a surf board sticking up from the back. Brian hopped in the dinghy and followed them so he could find out where to surf. A bit later, he went around the point to surf with them and came back towing them behind the dinghy. Our 15 hp outboard pulls faster than two rowers, but not by much. The next day, Giovanni and Brian climbed the hill behind the village to a bamboo stand. They cut down and cleaned branches off of a very long bamboo pole. Brian is hoping to use it as a new whisker pole. We'll see.

After Hana Tefau we sailed 5 miles north to Hana Moe Noa (Bay of the Long Sleep) which is uninhabited. We didn't get long sleeps there, we were too busy working. Brian fine tuned our CPT Autopilot so there wouldn't be wires running all over the cockpit, I polished the stove, we spent a whole day sewing and repairing sails. In all that we had time to go snorkeling twice. The fish were again multitudinous and brilliantly colored. There are a few types of hard corals and lots of large dark maroon sea urchins. On the second snorkeling trip, I turned and saw heading toward us a large grey fish, nope, a 4 ½ foot to 5-foot long grey reef shark. This caused me to scramble and look for Brian to grab onto. In my scrambling, I saw the shark startle and dart away from us. This was reassuring. Even so, we got out of the water right away. In all of my research and questioning divers about sharks, I've learned that the reef sharks are not going to attack unless gravely provoked. Even if they do, it's highly improbable they will do a lot of damage. We know some well-traveled cruisers that allow their 4-year old son to snorkel when there are reef sharks around. All the same, if it LOOKS like a shark, I don't feel 100% at ease.

Oa Pou
Our next destination was Oa Pou (pronounce wah pow, it means "two posts" probably for the large spires high in the middle of the island we have a great view from our anchorage). We left Hana Moe Noa at 5:35 pm as the sun was setting and the almost full moon was coming up. With 65 miles to Hakahau, Oa Pou and trade winds blowing on a broad reach, we arrived just at sunrise. There were only 3 other sailboats behind the ample breakwater, and that allowed us to find a decent place to anchor.
Once ashore, we were greeted almost immediately by an Australian man. His ample conversational style was an entertaining monologue about his life and the goings on in Hakahau. We learned where the best bakery is, the cheapest snack shop, who the irritating French man is, etc. He's married to a local woman and has lived here a couple of years.

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