Hana Tetou bay with Hiva Oa in the background.
Tahuata Island, Hana Tetou Bay
Listing to the lure of the outer islands, the following day we bid George and Louise good-bye, weighed anchor, and sailed to the nearby isle of Tahuata. There we anchored in one its several alluring bays, a place called Hana Tetou. This had all the qualities most itinerant sailors dream of, including ample holding, calm and clear water, and a palm-fringed, white-sand beach. Among the palms grew rosewood, used by the islanders for their famous wood carvings. The terrain directly to windward was low lying, and this encouraged a refreshing breeze to play across the anchorage. The island was uninhabited, save for a small herd of wild horses browsing the hillside. We alone enjoyed its splendor.
We stayed three days, occasionally rowing ashore for stints of hiking, or walking the plank for snorkeling the sparkling waters. Once I broke open a spiny urchin, and used the pieces to attract several interesting varieties of brilliant reef fish. Also while in the water we scrubbed at the green algae that had taken a firm hold on the splash-zone above the Suka's anti-fouling paint.
Hana Tetou reeked with bliss, or so it seemed at first. But after the second day we began sliding into an inferno of itch. This was when we discovered the nanu, a tiny, fly-like insect with a voracious thirst for blood. Its prey had two days of grace between the unnoticeable bite and the onset of the tormenting itch. Meanwhile, the seemingly harmless buggers were chewing our flesh by the droves. On the third day we departed as fast as we could.
In a brisk southerly we sailed for Hana Menu, a deep indentation in the north shore of Hiva Oa. This is a reputed anchorage, but we found a hefty chop working directly in. An hour after anchoring we saw that Suka was dragging toward shore. Unpleasant memories of our night's anchor-watch at Fatu Hiva encouraged us to go while the going was good.
Ua Pu Island, Vaieo Bay
Zoom out to see where we are.
Cruising leisurely through the night, we sailed toward the next island in the group, Ua Pu. This island is distinguished by its striking pinnacles of rock, the result of volcanoes having eroded away, leaving their more solid cores. All along the western seaboard we passed small bays indenting the precipitous rocky coastline. Each bay contained lush coconut groves, an occasional house or red-roofed church, and a few dug-out canoes lying on the white sand beach. Paralleling the coastline wherever possible, and apparently connecting the settlements, was a dirt road: a public service in the name of progress.
Finding a bight that was suitably protected from the wind and prevailing ocean swell, we entered Vaieo Bay. The water was stunningly transparent, and after lowering the anchor 50 feet to the bottom, we watched it settle onto the sand. Prior to touching bottom at that depth, the plow and chain weighed about 130 pounds (discounting their buoyancy, which is minimal). To our arms, the weight felt like that same number of tons, and my next homework assignment was to devise an easier method. To this end I whipped the starboard foredeck bitt tightly with half-inch line, as chafe protection. One or two wraps of chain belayed around the padded bitt would then easily carry the load of the descending anchor, and this is the system we used throughout the rest of the voyage.
We set the anchor firmly into the bottom by motoring the vessel slowly backward. As the chain came taut, Jenny increased the engine power to two-thirds while I watched objects ashore to detect any rearward motion.
With abandon we jumped in and swam ashore, then climbed the steep hills to enjoy exhilarating, panoramic views of the island and its striking pinnacles, of the nearby islands, and the vast cobalt sea stretching away to eternity. The gullies below us harbored trees, and in these squabbled a number of animated, red-throated frigate birds. And gazing into the sea far below, we watched five big manta rays seemingly dancing a splendid underwater ballet.
As we swam back to the ship, I thought I could see the occasional shell fish lying on the bottom. Without my diving mask I could not be sure. Reaching Suka, I hand-walked down her anchor chain to the seabed a few times, just for the fun of it. My reward: a close look at a lion fish swimming idly near the bottom. Back aboard, I grabbed my mask, snorkel and fins, then we inflated the dinghy. Jenny boarded the dinghy and came along for the pleasure cruise while I swam to shallower water towing the dinghy by its painter.
A Large Shark
“Reflexively I shot out of the water like a Polaris missile.”
Within moments a large shark appeared on the scene. This was a new experience for me, swimming in proximity of a fish larger than myself, and one with razor-sharp teeth. Reflexively I shot out of the water like a Polaris missile, landing at Jenny's side in the dinghy. And to think that we had been blithely swimming in these shark-infested waters!
Reason eventually suggested that the shark could not have been terribly dangerous, otherwise it would have eaten us. Therefore, I decided to summon my courage and re-enter the water, and to ignore the beast. Ten minutes later the shark reappeared - mouth agape and heading briskly in my direction. Then came my second launch of the day.
With my third Polaris I landed squarely on Jenny, and by then my nerves were frayed. Fortunately I had collected a few pearl oysters, and subsequently these complemented dinner very nicely.
The spires of Ua Pu.