Hiva Oa – Tahuata – Kauehi

This Sunday we went for the walk into town to get fresh French bread, shops are open between 9 and 10, just so you can also have a fresh baguette on a Sunday. After that we walked up the hill to the cemetery, where Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are buried. Having done this tourist outing, I was ready to leave.

Peter on Sayonara has his wife flying into Tahiti on the first of July, and was wanting to get there a few days before so he could do some repairs on his boat. I was wanting to sail up with him for a while, he is great company, and I was curious to see how it is to sail together with another boat.

First plan was to leave on Monday afternoon, after Peter had finished checking in to French Polynesia with the gendarme. But the lunch was a little too luxurious (plenty of wines on board Sayonara) that not much was done in the afternoon. So we had another get-together on Sayonara with B’Sheret and Peggy West (who just happened to arrive in Atuona Monday afternoon) with plans to leave on Tuesday morning.

After the morning coffee we started on getting Sayonara’s stern anchor out. Peter still had the dinghy in the water, since last weeks sail I just had been using my kayak, so we were using that to pick it up. Well, the anchor had dug in deep, and there was no way to pull it loose with just the dinghy. So I got my snorkel gear and went down. There is no visibility in the anchorage, because the runoff of a little creek in combination with a volcano sand beach makes the water dark brown. Following the anchor chain down I got to the bottom (only about 2 meters deep there), and started pulling on the anchor stock. That is a very good anchor (a spade) Peter was using, and it took me a few attempts before I got the anchor loose. Then we lifted the dinghy on board Sayonara and I went to look for my stern anchor. This did not come out just pulling it from the kayak, so I used the same recipe (snorkeling) to pull it out of the mud. Monday afternoon a few boats had anchored between Sayonara and Morning Light, so it had gotten quite crowded. But, with a little help of wind and current I was able to pull out the bow anchor without bumping any of the boats around me.

Our destination was an anchorage on the north west side of Tahuata, the island just south of Hiva Oa. First miles were a close reach, so I raised all sails to make the boat point better. While I was on the radio saying my good byes to the boats left behind the wind vane steering line broke (guess somewhere in the past two weeks I would have had time to replace that, but I thought it still had a few miles left in it). So a quick repair was needed. While steering with my feet I was able to install a new steering line and follow Sayonara into the channel between Hiva Oa and Tahuata. We found a nice anchorage just north of the town, with only on other boat in it. A pretty beach with lots of palm trees and a hut. To Peter’s disappointment, the hut was not a bar, but for the copra workers. Beautiful clear water, which allowed for inspection and cleaning of the prop.

Wednesday morning we had a look at the cruising guides and charts to pick a destination in the Tuamotos. The Tuamotos is an archipelago of atolls, in the past known as the dangerous islands, because in the days before GPS navigation between the islands used to be very hard. Nowadays life is a lot easier, the charts need to be taken with a grain of salt (the absolute positions can be off by at worst 2 miles or so), but when keeping a safety margin in mind their navigation should be quite possible. We picked the atoll of Kauehi (don’t worry if you get confused with all the Polynesian names, we neither are able to remember all these names, nor are we able to pronounce them), which has a pass through the reef that is both wide and deep (once I realized that the symbol “6f” on the chart indicated 6 fathoms and not 6 feet, stupid imperial units).

Monday I had downloaded some grib files (weather information) for a week ahead. According to that there should not be any storms coming, but there should be reasonable winds. When we left the anchorage, which had strong kabatic winds rolling down the hills, we seemed to run out of wind almost immediately. At first we blamed the presence of Tahuata to windward for that, but once clear of the island winds did not really strengthen much. Sayonara was taking a slightly different route than Morning Light, to prevent running into each other during the night, but the next morning we were no longer within VHF range of each other.

Last night (Thursday) a squall came over, since then the wind has been a bit stronger. I am trying to sail within 2 miles of the rhumb line to the destination, once I get close to Kauehi there are atolls on either side of the route that I don’t want to get too close to. There is not much going on in this part of the Pacific, rarely see any birds and no sign of fish at all.

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