Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

Hanavave, Fatu Hiva – The famous Bay of Virgins (May 31-June 4)

June 16th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Beautiful, French Polynesia, Marquesas, Our Route, Shore Excursions

After several days spent snorkeling and enjoying the crystal clear blue waters of Hanamenoa, we decided it was time to move on to Fatu Hiva, our last stop in the Marquesas.  To time our arrival at the Bay of Virgins for early morning, we left Hanamenoa just before sunset and headed out into fluky winds.  After an hour or so of bobbing around, then suddenly getting hit with 30 knot winds, then bobbing around, then 30 knots, then bobbing around… we turned on the engine and motored for an hour until we got out of the land shadow.  We had really nice sailing until about 3AM when I went down below to check for boats on the AIS and we got slammed with 30-40 knots of wind from a sudden squall just like that.  Matt, who had been sleeping, sat up and said, “Did something change?”  I stuck my head out of the companionway and said, “Um, I think we should take in the second reef.”  While the wind continued to howl and rain started to come down in buckets, we reefed the main and Matt attempted to furl the jib.  The wind was so strong, Matt couldn’t furl the sail without risking breaking something so we eased it and turned downwind to try again.  Sailing downwind, we were pushing 10 knots with a double-reefed main and partial jib.  Thankfully, the seas were quite calm and we didn’t have to worry about swell.  We furled the jib and turned ourselves back in the right direction, headed straight for Hanavave.  We got there quicker than we’d thought we would and ended up sitting becalmed just outside the anchorage as we waited for the sunrise, watching cloud after cloud of rain pass over the island.  We entered the bay and were immediately taken aback by how gusty it was.  Winds coming off the land were getting up to 25 knots.  We dropped the hook and spent the next several hours regularly checking the GPS to see whether or not our anchor was holding.  While it was initially stressful, I slept easily that night because I knew our anchor had been secure the whole day despite the crazy gusts.

Fatu Hiva is beautiful but we had crummy weather for being in the tropics.  For all four days we were there, we had gusty winds and random rain the entire time.  It was never consistently sunny enough for the deck, or anything on it, to dry out.  That said, the boat felt very “cabin-like” and we spent most days delightfully drinking hot tea, baking bread and brownies, and watching movies.  We snorkeled one afternoon, thinking it wise to check on our anchor, and the water, though rough and wavy, was clear enough to follow all 225 feet of anchor rode right to our anchor, which was nicely buried in sand.

On the one day it didn’t rain, we decided to do the TEN MILE HIKE between Hanavave and Omoa, the only other village on the island.  Now, I don’t know whose stupid idea this was, or which one of us was the idiot who agreed it was a good idea. All I know is that it was a LONG way to walk for people who have hardly walked more than a mile in the last six months, or maybe even the last year! And it was a very long way to walk for people who have barely had to use their legs for the last three months.  Nevertheless, we did it – hiking up the very steep ascent to the top of the mountains just above Hanavave, dodging tractors and caterpillar machines that were working on paving the road.  The road then leveled out slightly for a few miles until it descended into sharp switchbacks down into Omoa.  My guidebook had promised a “windfall of mangos” about halfway in, but apparently it is not mango season because we saw no fruit at all on our entire journey.  For those who might visit here in the future, I can’t say I recommend the hike.  The scenery is pretty and you can really see how steep the ridges of the interior mountains are, but all in all, unless you’re really looking to get the exercise, it’s probably a better idea to pitch in the $25pp the locals charge for a roundtrip to Omoa.

We arrived in Omoa shortly after noon, a surprisingly modern looking (read: French influenced) town and immediately sought out the closest grocery store where we could obtain cold drinks and sit down. We walked back towards the beach and ate our lunch next to the small stream that runs through the center of town.  We later stripped down and jumped into the stream a little further downriver, where it met the ocean.  We were joined by a little girl and her two adorable puppies.  The puppies instantly ran to climb all over us trying to escape their certain fate of getting baths.  We played with the puppies and chatted with the little girl and her aunt until our ride showed up.  The *fast* boat ride back to Hanavave was beautiful!!  Joachim cruised right along the dramatic shoreline so we could peek into the multiple little bays hiding between the steep cliffs and check out the various caves mixed in amongst the rock.

The village at Hanavave isn’t much to talk about.  They have a teeny tiny clinic, a teeny tiny store and a teeny tiny post office.  The people were sort of friendly, but generally seemed like they could care less that we were there. Only one person seemed interested in trading with us and that was a young guy who just wanted rum. The kids are pretty good volleyball players though!!  Each evening, they played near the dinghy dock and our last night there, Matt and I would have joined in if it weren’t for the fact that we could hardly move!!

I’m glad that we saved this bay for last.  It wouldn’t have been the most satisfactory first stop had we went to Fatu Hiva instead of Nuku Hiva, but it was one of the most beautiful anchorages and was a nice way to end our time in the Marquesas.  I wish that we could have had a better experience with the people there, but now that the islands have been “civilized” by the French for so long, apparently cruisers don’t hold the same intrigue for them as they once did.  We’ve been one-upped by TV’s and fancy cell phones, satellite dishes and regular trips to Tahiti.  I was disappointed to not see (or purchase) any tapa cloth. Supposedly, Fatu Hiva is the only island now that makes it in French Polynesia, but we never saw any studio or wares out in either Hanavave or Omoa.  One sight I won’t forget, though, is pulling into the anchorage, looking up at the awesome tiki-shaped cliffs and seeing (and hearing) several mountain goats wandering along their steep ridges.

can you spot the goat?

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