More Marquesas

Marquesan Land Adventures

So, you may ask, what’s the first thing we did after twenty days on a boat without setting foot on land?  Why, find a small restaurant that served cold beer!  The legs were a little wobbly as we hit the shores of Atuona on Hiva Oa.  We hiked into town about a mile or so and sat down. On the menu: fish and a lot of chicken.  The night came quickly and we needed the rest.  After alternating 3 hours on and 9 hours off of watches, it was great to be able to sleep straight through the night.

offtheboat

Fresh off the boat Alex, Sergei, and Bill on the walk into Atuona

Morning dawned and time for some proper exploration. We pulled out our handy “South Pacific Handbook” (David Stanley, Moon Publications, Email travel@moon.com ) and set about planning the day.  First stop, Paul Gauguin’s grave. The French painter who came to French Polynesia in the early 1900’s is buried on a hill overlooking Traitor’s Bay.  Seems he came to paint and raise a little hell.  He took a 14 year old mistress (common in the early 1900’s in French Polynesia) and had the local gendarmes all a flutter.  Known for great house parties, the locals say… The cemetery also has another semi-famous plot, Jacques Brel.  Brel was a songwriter that sailed to Hiva Oa and never left.

While we were provisioning in the small town, we met Noel. Noel was a large Marquesan with many, many tattoos.  I quickly asked him how much for a tattoo and what styles he could create.  So, in a nutshell, after a quarter bottle of tequila and 4 beers, I now have a bevy of Marquesan tattoo art gracing my right ankle.  Alex got in on the act and got a small fishbone on his right ankle. Bill was hiding and couldn’t be found during all the activity. Sergei flat out decided that the art form was not to his liking.  But, he did decide to film the whole debacle.

A couple of days later we rent a car and decide to go exploring the interior of the island.  Now, roads would be too much of an honor to bestow on the shamble that we encountered. We have a Suzuki Samuri and nothing can shield our bums from the bone jarring blender that is to come. As we are careening off small boulders pointing out local flora, Alex makes an interesting statement.  It went something like this; Jeff – “Look, there’s a banana tree”, Sergei – “I see a mango tree, let’s stop”, Alex – “I see some Kittens”…  Kittens??? We stop the car and on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, someone had abandoned 3 small kittens.  Of course, the trusty and big-hearted OOB crew came to the rescue.  We bundled our small charges up into a box and took them back to the boat.

Now, quite a dilemma had presented itself. We would either have to adopt the three incredibly adorable little rascals or find them a home. A quick glance around the teak and leather interior of the boat gave us our quick answer.  Especially when we were pulling the little guys off the main sheet and the curtains.  Man, can those claws get some grip! Our task for the next day was to find homes for the little guys.

Kittens

As luck would have it, we found a local hairdresser that had come to the Marquesas from France. She had a large ranch and fell in love with those little faces.  Problem solved. Our next stop was the ancient ruins about 8 kilometers away. The Meae (temple in Marquesan) was far back in the brush and we had to search around for the site.  Once there, we marveled at the brute force required by the ancient Marquesans to move such large rocks into a multi-terraced community. There were plenty of tikis about (not like the Brady Bunch one, by the way) and the carvings were very scary looking. Not much of a surprise when you consider that up until the mid 1800’s they were still eating people in these islands.

While we called Atuona home, so did a number of the World Rally boats. Right next to us was Blue Magic, a Swan 65’ ketch from Finland.  One evening everyone off of the two dozen or so boats in the anchorage brought food and drink into the dock at the small harbor. Grilled tuna, pasta, and you name it. Alex even whipped up a batch of his infamous spicy tuna rolls and a plate of sashimi from a tuna that we had caught coming into Hiva Oa.  The sense of camaraderie among cruising boats is great. Everyone helps everyone else out. And no one misses a chance to get together and have a party.

Later that night after a number of people had come back to Out of Bounds, we had an informal jam session with some of the musicians from the other boats.  About 2 AM when everyone had left to go back to their boats, we heard a thump. The four of us looked at each other and went up on deck.  The boat next to us was riding up our port side.  We also noticed that the wind had picked up a great deal and it had started to rain.

We yelled for the other boat’s crew to get up as the winds built and the rain started to pelt us. Their port stern line had chaffed through the concrete and was hanging limply over the pier.  Bill and Alex jumped into the dingy with a spare line from OOB and went and tried to get the boat off of us. Now the winds were really starting to howl and all the lights in the other boats in the anchorage light up.

atuonaanchor

The anchorage at Atuona. Quite and serene one moment, crazy amusement park ride the next...  In the background is the concrete pier where we were tied stern-to when the squall hit.

 So, there we were, stern to a concrete pier hemmed in by a loose boat on our port side and getting pushed into Blue Magic on the starboard side. The wind started to push all three boats towards the rocks on the end of the concrete pier.  Sergei started the engine and shouted above the gathering squall to cut the stern lines, we were getting out of there before we got sandwiched.  Boats all over the anchorage were dragging anchor and bumping off each other. Blue Magic was in bad shape and getting closer to the rocks. Her entire crew was up on deck trying to get her off the dock.  No time to worry about Bill and Alex in the dinghy, we had to leave, immediately.  I tossed off the stern lines and Sergei gunned the engine to squirt us out of the vise between the two boats. I ran forward and hit the anchor windlass to pull in some of the 150 feet of anchor chain out.

As we pulled away, the boat on our port side crashed into the concrete pier as Bill and Alex tried to pull her off with the dinghy.  OOB was now swinging on a huge amount of chain and getting buffeted about by the torrential rains and strong winds. We watched as Blue Magic made it off the pier but her anchor windlass failed.  Eight people sprinted as one to the bow and hauled feverishly to pull the chain in and head for open water.  Gordon, the skipper of Blue Magic, had to serpentine his way through the pandemonium that the small harbor had become with boats scattered like disobedient children.  With a final tug and numerous grunts, Blue Magic freed her anchor and was off.  Off in all directions, that is. The wind was gusting at close to 75 knots, being funneled down into the anchorage by the surrounding hills.

Blue Magic’s bow swung to port and she started to head towards us at a high rate of speed.  Gordon threw the wheel over and Blue Magic swung to starboard and just missed smashing into our side.  They headed out of the harbor and looked to find some room to maneuver.  Bill and Alex returned on the dinghy and climbed aboard. We kept a watchful eye out for other boats breaking free and sprinted back and forth in the dinghy to lend assistance when we could. After about an hour, the squall blew itself out. One boat was beached farther down in the harbor and numerous boats had scratches and dents down their sides.  The boat next to us that originally had bumped into us had a broken SSB antenna and crimped backstays. Terraquita, a rally boat, saw 85 knots of wind on her instruments. We couldn’t tell as we did not have our instruments on.  So, one of the worst storms we have seen since we left the states happened when we were docked.  We’re just grateful we didn’t see this kind of weather at sea.

To be continued…

Other highlights of the Marquesas:
Wild Boar hunting in the mountains above Hanumenu
Waterfall hike on Fatu Hiva
Chain saw breakfast on Tahaa
Beautiful landscapes on Ua Poa
In the steps of Herman Melville on Nuka Hiva
Waterspouts

Jeff Johnson

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