The Magic of the Marquesas

Hiva Oa – another beautiful anchorage

We were quite pleased to eventually arrive somewhere where they had a boatyard so that we could get our engine fixed, our rigging report and be on our way. We only had a three month visa and many islands and atolls yet to explore so we thought we would be here for just 3 or 4 days….. How wrong were we!

The day after we arrived the boatyard sent out a couple of guys to check our rig and engine. The first bad news was that they couldn’t determine exactly what was wrong but the second bad news completely shocked us. They found a couple of broken strands in the starboard shroud – the stainless steel wire that hold a the mast up. Shrouds are made up of about 20 strands but when one breaks it weakens the others and has to be replaced. Ian had checked them before we left for the Galapagos so it must have broken since then. He then went up the mast and saw that the other parts of the rigging were starting to look worn. This meant we couldn’t sail any further as the risk of being dismasted was too great. We also couldn’t motor with one engine – it’s fine when you are going fast but slowly you just go round and round! No good for anchoring and getting into a marina. Both huge money of course…

We ordered two new shrouds from Tahiti which would help keep the mast up but what we really needed was a new rig. Having spent $17,000 on a complete new rig in Australia only 6 years earlier with a guarantee of 10 years, we were not very happy but we had no option. The shrouds duly arrived, albeit the wrong size, but Ian managed to fix that issue and we felt confident the rig would hold until we could get her re-rigged in Fiji in August. A couple of days later a young Dutch couple on their 42ft ketch limped into the anchorage having lost their rig 1,000nm away crossing the Pacific. They jury rigged their boom as a temporary mast, their boathook as a boom and using an old storm sail managed to reach land in 28 days… $100,000 cost and months of hard work ahead on an isolated island miles from anywhere. There but for the grace of God…

Our other issue was the engine. It was shot and we needed a new one. We looked into getting one delivered from Tahiti but they said at least 6 months. We rang Australia and New Zealand – same answer. We really had no option but to order one to be fitted in Queensland and continue on one engine. The Pacific is about the worst ocean in the world to sail on one engine with all the reefs but we had little choice. Hiva Oa was a beautiful little island to be stuck on – and we had friends to keep us company so Ian spent his time going up and down the mast replacing the shrouds and altering the ends to fit the original.

The centre of the town

Hiva Oa had a few good shops – a great hardware store and a couple of well stocked supermarkets. While Ian was working on the rig I spent my time re-stocking the pantry and sorting out the boat. We had managed to gather so much rubbish on board and it was good to have a couple of weeks to stop and sort it out. Esther and Christian were with us and the boatyard was a fun hang-out where we met the other yachties who were also stuck with maintenance issues.

Having a meal with Esther and Christian at Mangoes – the cruiser hangout in Hiva Oa.
A small band playing French Polynesia music in the town.

We visited the main tourist attraction which was the artist Paul Gauguins grave – a famous French painter who died in 1903. He spent his last 10 years on the island and the view from the graveyard was magnificent. It was quite a hike to get there but well worth it.

The French Polynesians are unbelievably friendly and kind. They greet you every morning and I could quite happily leave my scooter outside the shops without locking it. They don’t seem to sell many vegetables in here though. Once I saw avocados and bought about 6 and we found tomatoes on one occasion and everyone got really excited, but carrots, onions and potatoes were the main staple. Had plenty of fruit though and picked up windfall mangoes everyday on our walk. Papaya and small bananas were plentiful and we were there in high season which meant we had fresh tropical fruits every day for breakfast.

The days passed really fast and we slowly got things ready to leave. We were a bit concerned about the one engine but I’m sure we will be ok.

Every morning we watched them practice their rowing.

Christian helped us get our of the anchorage by running alongside us in his dinghy and we managed to weave our way out quite easily and then we were off – only a short hop toTahuanta – a smaller island just a few miles away.

We dropped anchor in a gorgeous little bay and went for a beach walk that evening. It was quite idyllic as there were no houses and the island was typical marquesian with very steep rocky peaks overlooking cute little sandy bays.

The beach on Tahuanta
We even found a small beach hut which was probably well patronized in pre-covid days.

The next day we headed round to next bay where there was a small village. Our friends Mel and Brian from sv Sava who we had been in the San Blas with came round as well and we all got together with some others cruisers for a typical Polynesian dinner put on by Jimmy at his restaurant. This consisted of goat casserole, breadfruit chips, rice and a tuna – It was truly delicious and very filling. Jimmy then treated us to some Polynesian music in the ukele his grandfather had made for him, including an indent on the ukele to cater for his rather large tummy! It was a fun evening and topped off with about 5 manta rays that came round to the dock when we left.

Dinner with lots of cruiser friends at Chez Jimmy
Jimmy giving us a great performance on his ukele

We walked around the village and found their beautiful church. It was only about 60 years old but had pride of place overlooking the bay – they are very religious on this islands and all attend church every Sunday. It seems to be the main hub of the island.

The view from the church.
Inside – so beautifully decorated.
These little wooden catamarans are everywhere and used for fishing, sport and transport.

We spent a lovely few days here, enjoying the peace and crystal clear waters but decided tohead off to the Tuamotos islands to explore their atolls. We had loved the Marquesas but there was lots more to see.

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