The main subject of conversation in Taahuku Bay in Hiva Oa was anchoring. What I call gonzo anchoring. On a good day this tiny harbor can hold about 10 - 12 boats comfortably, unless of course a swell is coming and surfing waves are breaking in the harbor. Then all bets are off.
|This was early in the week. Imagine twice as many boats anchoring in this tiny space and then imagine a strong swell coming through the narrow entrance.|
During the week leading up to the huge 10th Festival des Arts des Iles Marquises, with over 4,000 participants and guests expected, the art of anchoring reached new heights. The gendarmes scheduled a meeting at the harbor where they explained that the normally small harbor would be almost cut in half to make room for the new Aranui 5 freighter/cruise ship that would be arriving on Dec. 17th. It was the maiden voyage for the new ship and I’m not sure anyone knew if it would actually fit into the small harbor. Anyways, they drew a line from a yellow marker on shore to the end of the breakwater where they launch the racing canoes. You had to be behind that line, and about ⅓ of the boats in the harbor were not. Add to this the fact that about three to five new boats were arriving each day, to a harbor with seemingly no room. Now to a Frenchman, there is no phrase in their lexicon that means “seemingly no room,” and they just kept shoehorning themselves in here and there. C’est comme ca.
|It was "up close and personal" with our neighbors.|
We were anchored in nine feet of water at low tide, which scared the bejesus out of me, and we had boats coming in and anchoring behind us in even shallower water. Two 42 ft. Lagoon cats came in one day and anchored behind us. I politely mentioned that “the surf breaks right there,” but being French they made that “poofing” sound with their lips, until of course later that night when some big swells came in and the cats were literally rising straight up out of the water with each wave. They moved the next day, only to be replaced by new boats a day later. I finally gave up on warning people.
That said, all the sailboats were incredibly helpful when a new boat came in to anchor, or an existing boat dragged his anchor and needed help. In Taahuku Bay, all boats set a forward anchor, but when a side wind comes it blows the boats close to their downwind neighbor. This is why most boats had one to two stern anchors — to keep them centered in the very narrow harbor.
|This is a typical cruising boat on laundry day.|
The problem came when trying to set the rear anchor. You needed a couple of dinghies to act as tug boats to keep you from hitting your neighbor while you went in your dingy and set the aft anchor. And some of the aft anchors had to be reset several times a day; it was that bad at times. We luckily had two huge aft anchors set at a wide angle that kept us centered in even in the strongest side winds. Still, most days were spent responding to frantic calls for help when some boat decided to go on walkabout.
Our primary project during this circus was trying to get some coats of varnish on our cap rail. It needs to be done religiously every five months, but somehow we always wait until six months which makes it more of a challenge. Everyday Meryl and I would get up at six a.m. and sand and varnish the 98 ft. of teak cap rail on the boat. And each day we would try to view around the mountain peaks to the east to see if any rain clouds were coming, but your vision is severely limited so it was kind of a crap shoot. One day we got about four feet of varnish applied when it started raining, and it can really rain here. We spent the next day laboriously sanding all the little solidified rain bubbles off and beginning the process all over again.
We did manage a few trips into town to do some shopping and connect with the Internet. It seemed that all the locals were busy cleaning up the village and setting up tents for the upcoming Festival. On the weekends a roulette truck parks under the cover at the harbor dock and serves a killer steak and frittes. We went in a couple of times with various boats for a cheap night out. It was fun sitting at the little tables with cruisers from all over the world discussing the fact that it would be impossible to get even one more boat in the harbor, then having three more new boats arrive the next day.
|The local Hiva Oa dancers welcomed each island's team as they arrived at the dock with singing and dancing.|
On Dec. 13th the Tahiti Nui inter island freighter arrived with the first group of dancers, about 100 from the island of Fatu Hiva. The local Hiva Oa contingency lined the shores with dancers and beat out a tempo on their huge drums, welcoming each group to the dock with a rousing song and dance. This went on non stop for the next several days as teams arrived from the other islands.