Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia
Wednesday May 11 – Friday May 20, 2016
The main port for Hiva Oa is in Baie Taaoa (Traitor's Bay) which becomes two smaller bays, Baie Atuona in front of the main village but not a good anchorage and nowhere to land a dinghy and Baie Thauku where all the boats anchor. This bay has a section inside the breakwater and one outside, being on the south side of the island it is open to the south swells and can be very rolly so most boats try to get into the small area in behind the breakwater. Since this a port of entry it can get very crowded. We first tried to anchor inside and thought we had found a spot, many of the boats in this area use 2 anchors, bow & stern to keep from swinging into each other. We have 2 extra anchors neither of which is easy to deploy especially off the stern. So we anchored among other boats with just bow anchors out. Staying on the boat to see how we and the boats near us would swing. With the tide coming in & out and winds off the mountains boats were turning in all different directions at different times. One boat next to us got way too close so we pulled up anchor to try another spot. Tried one behind some boats with 2 anchors out and decided that was too close also so we went out on the other side of the breakwater and anchored there. It was rolly but we have been anchored in a lot worse so it was not too bad, water is cleaner and more swing room. By this time it was 3 in the afternoon so we just relaxed and stayed on the boat for the rest of the day.
Thursday we launched the dinghy and mounted the outboard motor, fun to do in the rolly conditions. They have several docks one big one for the supply ships and 3 small ones for dinghies. The bigger dinghy dock north of the freighter dock has free non-potable water with connections to use for washing clothes and a cement shower stall. The 2 smaller ones near the fuel station have a connection for potable water. The fuel station is close to the freighter dock so in theory you would think you could pull up and get fuel BUT they do not have a long enough hose so all fuel has to be delivered via jerry cans. They now have the ability to haul boats out via the boat ramp with a hydraulic trailer and a tractor.
The town is 2.5 miles away from the anchorage, a nice 45 minute walk in the morning with a little cloud coverage but can get hot and walking back with supplies could be difficult. Not a problem as the very friendly Marquesans are very willing to stop and give you a lift.
We walked into town that morning to go to the ATM and finally get some local currency. Went to the post office to get a sim card but were told it is only good for phone calls and not internet. They do have another sim card for internet, but it is only available in Nuka Hiva or Tahiti. The first grocery store across the street from the post office had a good selection and baguettes. So we got a baguette to eat as we walked around town, don't understand what their secret is but the French make the best baguettes. Checking out the other stores buying a few veggies before returning to the first grocery store just in time as our clocks were ½ hour off. The Marquesas are UTC minus 9 ½ hours, the rest of French Polynesia is minus 10. We thought we had read this but this was the first time that time mattered since all stores close from noon until 2. Made our purchases and caught a ride back to the harbor. After lunch Steve cleaned more of the boat bottom as I watched for sharks, since this harbor is supposed to have them, but none were seen. The water is so murky I wouldn’t have seen one until it bit Steve, but I kept a lookout for dorsal fins cruising nearby anyway.
Friday morning at 8:30 we met Sandra, she helps with different yacht services, one of them being the check in process. We along with several other boats are checking in, 9 of us pile into her jeep for the first group to be transported. Steve got shotgun, 3 people in the middle seat and 5 of us in the back covered bed ! She takes us to the Gendarmerie (local police) to fill out all the paper work. There are 2 options when checking in, you can either post a “bond” going to the bank and depositing money for a plane ticket to your home country or like us use a service with Tahiti Crew who Sandra works with. For a fee they can waive the bond fee and get you duty free fuel and help with other paperwork (long stay visa). The bond fee is refundable, but you get it back on your very last day in the country in local currency so that would be a lot of $$ to spend that same day. After check in we went to check out the veggie truck. Several days a truck(s) comes in with locally grown veggies. So we were able to get some green onions, eggplant, peppers & tomatoes and a few other things that were not available in the store the day before. Just 4 of us catch a ride back with Sandra, we go with her further up the hill from the harbor to where she has an internet spot. There was a problem so we were unable to get an IP address so still no internet for us. Walked back down to the harbor and we see the boat Jacaranda, they had written several articles for Seven Seas Sailing Association and we had benefited from the information on their blog. We stopped by to say hello and thank them, and wound up on board talking for awhile, they have just reapplied for another year’s visa so are a wealth of information. On Friday & Saturday nights a local food truck comes down to the dock and sets up picnic tables and serves food to cruisers and the many locals down on the dock fishing. We joined Jacaranda and another boat for dinner. Choices were limited, so we chose Chop Suey. It was pretty good, but not what we were expecting for our first meal out in FP.
Saturday I dropped off laundry with Sandra and she had arranged an island tour for us and another couple. We learned afterward that there is a cheaper laundry service and also island tour guides. There is a little shack by the big dinghy dock with notes posted for services available by others besides Sandra, but since this was already arranged we went with it. The tour started at 9 with our guide Pifa, he was great, and having spent time in Hawaii he spoke very good English. He was very personable and informative on the islands history. There are several archaeological sites of Tikis on the island, and we visited 2 of them. The first called Smiling Tiki, in the middle of the woods on someone’s private property that allows tourists to walk to. The other sight called Iipona, is on the far northeast side of the island near the village of Puamau via a very narrow road that was paved in some sections and ruts and rocks in other sections so it was a slow drive with beautiful views all along the way. The site has several Tikis and was where many rituals took place, it also has the largest Tiki in French Polynesia. Marquesans have big families with many cousins, so our guide was always saying hi to a cousin that we passed. The place we stopped for lunch was run by a cousin and his brother and another cousin along with their tours joined us for lunch. Lunch was served family style, and consisted of both goat and beef stew, Possion Cru (fresh raw tuna marinated in lime and coconut milk with Bok Choy), Chinese noodles with vegetables, taro chips, fried plantains and coconut sweet. After lunch, the cousins got out Hawaiian and Marquesan ukuleles and led the group through several songs. Then we went to a nearby beach for relaxation and more ukulele serenading. A ride back across the island to the harbor arriving back at 4:30. We noticed several boats had left so we pulled up anchor and re-anchored inside the breakwater, nice not to be rolling although it is still a little rolly even inside the breakwater.
Sunday May 15th, another boat had left so we re-anchored again! Then since it was much calmer Steve tackled another boat repair. He had noticed that on our radar pole support base one of two bolts preventing it from rotating upside down had sheared off and the pole was twisting back and forth with the rocking of the boat. So he drilled two new holes and tapped them to add two new bolts to hold it in place. Steve went back up the hill to do internet while I cleaned the inside of the boat. We called Steve's son Sean to see if grand baby # 2 had arrived yet, but no. I went up the hill in the afternoon to do internet, slow internet with a month’s worth of catching up to do.
Monday Steve dropped me off early at the dock so I could do hand laundry, after a month we had a lot of that, so were glad to use the water at the dock. Sandra was supposed to bring our other laundry (sheets & towels) back at 8:30 but by 9 she had not shown up so we went back to the boat and I called her on the VHF radio to learn it would be ready the following day. Laundry hung out to dry, hoping for no afternoon showers. VHF radio announcement saying that one of the supply ships will be in Tuesday morning so all boats in the way of the main dock will need to move. That would be us and about 10 other boats.
There is a hotel / restaurant, Hanakee Pearl Lodge that will pick you up and return you to the dock and let you use their fast internet along with a choice of a lunch menu item for $35 each. We called and made a reservation to be picked up at 11:30. YES that is very pricey but it was worth it that one time to be able to catch up on emails and updates. Steve was able to sign up for another service ManaSpot, that we will be able use on the boat. He had tried the day before from the hill but was unable to connect. I had a cheeseburger Steve had a steak, no time to use the pool as we were busy doing internet. They were going to bring us back at 4 but when Steve went to shut down his computer he had 15 updates to install. That took an hour but they were very nice and did not seem to mind us being there as they set up for the dinner. They also lent us an extension cord so we could keep our laptops charged.
Tuesday we pulled up the anchor at 6:30 to go re-anchor outside the breakwater again. Supply ship arrived at 9:30 and spent the day and into the night unloading. The winds & sea swells were much lighter so it was not anywhere near as rolly as the first few days. Good thing as we had to go pick up laundry. Steve cleaned more of the hull. Tried the ManaSpot internet to see how the service was and it was good so now we can sign up on line for additional time to be accessed when we are in an anchorage near a town. Called Sean to hear the new grand baby Isabela was born J.
Wednesday 6 AM moved boat back inside the breakwater, 7 times in 1 week in the same harbor is a record for us!! 8:30 in to meet Sandra, to get our fuel duty free papers which she doesn’t have yet. Then into town to provision since the supply ship was just in. We were already impressed with the good selection they had, all we had heard was that very little would be available. NOT TRUE, a very good selection is here !! But the expensive part is very true. Get a ride back to the boat and unloaded groceries. Since we need to use jerry cans for fuel and we only have ONE, we stopped by another boat Blowing Bubbles that we had met and asked them if they had any we could borrow we hit the jackpot as they had 11 we could use. Back to the dock at 3:30 to meet Sandra for our fuel papers, then over to the fuel station. Tie off at the dock, unload all the cans carry them UP to the fuel station get them filled carrying them back to the dinghy, one at a time for me, 2 for Steve load them back in the dinghy. Steve went to pay and they tell him the papers are wrong for duty free fuel. Luckily Sandra had gone up the hill, by the fuel dock, where her internet place is so Steve walked up there and she came back to the gas station to get things okay-ed. Have to get corrected papers the following day. Back to the boat to unload cans onto the boat and siphon one at a time into the fuel tanks. Done by 6, returning cans to Blowing Bubbles so they and another boat could do the drill the following day.
Thursday just a few things to do before heading out, more internet on the boat still trying to catch up, but it can be very slow. A little more hand laundry at the dock & boat put in order to go sailing.
Friday May 20th after Steve goes in to get a baguette, we get underway by 10:30 AM to travel about 10 miles to the neighboring island of Tahuata.
Link to pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6290015652348011601?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCILh4aXBqL6SDQ&feat=directlink