Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passage to Fatu Hiva

It was with regret that we left the sheltering waters of Taahuku Bay. We had been spoiled by the few days we had spent in and around Atuona and neither of us looked forward to the beat to windward into trade winds and swells. I rowed out in the dinghy to pull the stern hook from the thick mud of the Bay, hoisted the dinghy on board, and raised our CQR anchor. Just past the breakwater, the big swells began to roll Ladybug from side to side and Rani went below for a Gravol. I put two reefs in the main.

Clear of the island, the predicted 15 knot easterly filled in and we sheeted the main in tight and rolled out the small jib. We were hard on the wind for most of the 45 miles, beating into 5 to 8 foot breaking seas. The wind rose to 20 knots after a few hours and we saw gale force winds in the squalls, the worst as we approached the northern tip of Fatu Hiva. Ladybug will cope with these conditions and the wind vane will steer the boat so long as the sails are balanced (not too much mainsail up). Despite this, sailing in these conditions in closely spaced steep seas is very tiring. The motion is similar to a bucking bronco, with Ladybug pitching and tossing through 45 degrees fore and aft and leaning through 20 to 25 degrees to starboard. The starboard deck was awash for much of the passage and in the squalls, we were forced to reef down the jib to 50 or 60 % of its full size.

Many cruisers avoid this unpleasant passage by making a stop at Fatu Hiva before clearing in at Hiva Oa. We did not do this because we were concerned about getting fined by the customs boat (which had happened recently to another cruiser). In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to stop here first and we would suggest that cruisers en route to the Marquesas who want to visit Fatu Hiva do so before Hiva Oa - especially those boats that do not go well to windward!

It was worth the rough 10 hour passage, however. The Bay of Virgins is spectacular, with towering stone pillars on one side and precipitous green cliffs on the other. The small anchorage was quite crowded when we arrived (8 boats including a 75 foot French beauty) and we took 2 tries to set the anchor in a rocky bottom. A boat beside us had just dragged their anchor and took 7 attempts to reset. Winds have been gusting down the valley and throwing us from side to side, so it is not a peaceful rest stop like Taahuku, but the scenery more than makes up for this.

Our position is 10 28 S 138 40 W in Hanavave Bay (The Bay of Virgins).

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