Although we intended to spend just a day at Tahuata after travelling S from Ua Poa, the weather suggested we stay on. The water was clear as a bell, a light wind blew and there was little swell. It just looked too good to go!
After a longer discussion, we also came to the conclusion that we wanted to slow down again and spend Bastille Day in Hiva Oa where the largest population would be. Tahuata seemed to be the perfect place to hang out for a while to wait for the big event.
We had initially had three days in Hanamoenoa Bay. We got some practising with the spinning rod. We have a killer lure on it at the moment that works very well so we have been catching and releasing as the bay has ciguatera in it and we are unsure which fish are safe. Much to her surprise, Hannah caught a 10ld Blue Fin Trevally which had her fighting hard and yelling for help. Perhaps not quite the monster of Death and Glory’s fame but still a cracker and the rod was impressively bent!
We also were lucky enough to meet some very good people. ZigZag and Aislado came in and they had kids! Irena and Georg, Mia and Noah are on ZigZag and are from Germany. The kids are small. Mia is 3 and Noah is 10mths but the grown ups have been living on a boat for the last eight years and crossed the Atlantic for the first time 12 years ago on their first boat. Vaughn, Silvia and their five year old, Zara are from New Zealand and Bulgaria respectively and are heading back to New Zealand. They also have Yana, a student taking a year out from her Theology degree at Heidelberg on board as crew. We cemented friendship with perhaps a touch too much rum and made some sort of agreement to look at business opportunities together (yup – a very, very, good night!). In the meantime, I was able to offer some advice on Vaughn’s HF noise issue and he was able to help plumb in my AIS multiplexer. It nearly works – just need to get a small resistor into the circuit and the damn thing should fly. The help was greatly appreciated as those who know me will realise how much I dislike electronics! I think both boats are going to be going a little faster than us to NZ and we are going to have limited time with them but I am really looking forward to meeting up with them once we get down there.
It was really nice to be in kids’ company again and Irene got everyone in the bay ashore for a BBQ and marshmallows. The kids loved it and the older adults (this is Debbie from Kalliope with Noah) spoilt themselves having fun with the v smalls. Sadly we now are marshmallow-less. Next visitor to Skylark from Europe take note. There will be a request for resupply!
Next best thing after marshmallows is making bread on sticks over the embers. Perhaps not quite the sugar rush the kids’ hope for but still very satisfying. Our thanks to ZigZag for showing us the trick.
We moved down the coast to Hanatefau Bay and the village in the bay 800m S, Hapatoni. The anchorage is small but has good holding on sand. Watch for coral heads, the mantas and white tips here. The snorkelling has an excellent reputation but it is deep.
The village has a good dock but it can be subject to swell. We put a stern anchor out to keep us off the wall. The locals are very friendly. It started with the kids playing by the dock, happy to chat, allowing the baby to kick the football and then offering us shelter as the torrential rain started. Just decent, happy, down to earth kids.
We walked through the village and followed the very old walkway, built with huge stones with traditional raised housing platforms lining it, these days boasting modern housing. Every villager we went past had a smile and a welcome for us. I wasn’t able to find out how old the village is but it must be considerable. Whilst we explored, it was strange to watch Eleanor and Hannah carrying out the duties of big kids for Mia and Zara. They both did well.
We also found a selection of animals. Two pig pens allowed the smalls to coo and throw greenery at the animals.
The Noah related baby carrying was becoming mercilessly competitive between H and E to the point that Dad stepped in and had some fun himself. You forget how small they were!
When we came back down to the harbour to head back out to the boats, we met the small delivery boat bringing some supplies and shopping in to the village from Hiva Oa. There were a couple of sacks of baguettes and we asked if it was possible to buy a loaf per boat. The lady in charge with a big smile on her face, decided that with kids we needed at least two loafs each and no, the villagers wouldn’t accept payment. Thankfully she bent enough to take a small gift bag that Irene on ZigZag offered her to make us feel we were not freeloading. Just plain goodhearted, friendly and kind. For future visitors wanting to trade for fruit and veg with the bloke that lives on the edge of the anchorage, old ropes for the horses, kids’ shoes and batteries were what he was asking for. I believe the village also has a small craft stall which can be opened up for visitors but we didn’t find it.
After a night’s discussion, we were invited to join ZigZag and Ailsado who were heading down to Fatu Hiva. Although it was a complete change of our plans, the breaking strain of a KitKat was applied and we accepted the kind offer. We headed out with less than perfect weather but with hopes that the wind would both ease and move a little into the N as forecast. Unfortunately neither happened. The W side of the island is in the lee of the spine of hills running down the island. The occasional break in these means small acceleration zones where from 0 to 30+kts is a matter of yards. Stay a mile offshore!
We cleared the S end of the island with 30+kts showing and a 40 mile beat into 2.5m waves in front of us. We quickly decided that we would turn back to Tahuata. The French Lagoon that went past us heading on a far nicer course to the Toamotus was bouncing. Vaughn on Aislado, his stately HR 46, three times our weight, long keeled and with a far better upwind capability decided to continue but still got a bit airborne as they passed us heading back in.
They had an interesting sail and anchored in the dark at the Bay of Virgins. It took them four attempts so as much as I’d love to have had their company for more time, I don’t have any trouble in saying we made the right choice in chickening out. Rather than staying at the S end of the island, we headed back up to the sand of Hanamoenoa Bay to meet up with ZigZag who had also decided discretion was the better part of valour. It chucked it down and squalled for the rest of the day.
We made up with it with a visit to ZigZag for “kaffee unt kuchen” to celebrate Noah’s fourth tooth and then a return visit to us in the evening. Noah is the youngest visitor we have had and is on the verge of walking. We hoped he might achieve this milestone on the flat of Skylark but it wasn’t to be. He made up for it by being cute.
Having decided to go back to our original plan of hanging around Tahuato until closer to Bastille Day and then going up to Hiva Oa, we said our goodbyes to ZigZag the next morning as they headed out for another go at reaching Fatu Hiva.
We made up with the disappointment of not going with them with the visit of three manta rays about 8-10’ across, feeding just behind us. Their slow grace was wonderful to watch as they summersaulted, corralling the plankton they were feeding on. We swam with them for half an hour and got some great video and photos.
We lucked out with the arrival of another French boat, Toomai, with two boys of 15 and 9, and spent another three days enjoying their company. We also had Sequoia, an Open 40 lookalike, with Jean and Tiph on board. I asked Jean how quick Sequoia was and gulped when he said he had hit 25kts in her! The French boats spearfished and after clearing the fish with one of the local boats that went past the bay, ate the product. They did throw away at least two fish that the locals thought would be infected with ciguatera. I’d suggest that you make damn sure you do check with locals on anything you catch as it seems that the advice on what are safe fish varies bay to bay.
After school, the kids played, paddling their way around the bay from boat to boat, the adults circulating, enjoying each others company and just watching the world revolve. Our thanks to Antoine for showing the girls how to make caramel popcorn with just brown sugar. Not sure if our pots will survive it but it tastes very good!
We had one last night of brownies and coffee watching the sun go down before we all headed our separate ways before the weather broke. Toomai left for Fatu Hiva. Sequoia with Jean and Tiphaine headed N for Nuka Hiva and we headed for Hiva Oa. It was a good way to sign off on Tahuata. We left the bay empty, awaiting the next yachts looking for their own little bit of paradise.
I was unsure to the point of rudeness about Hanamoenoa Bay on our first time visiting the island. I was prejudiced due to the big swell we had which made it both a rolly anchorage and difficult to get on to the beach. I should like to make up for it now and say I can see why, all those years ago, the Hitchcocks enjoyed it so much. We saw its best on this visit and it was spectacular.
A great island for kicking back and enjoying the simple life.