Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tahuata - Manta Rays and Broken Furlers

We had a fairly easy though rolly passage back from Fatu Hiva to the island of Tahuta that lies just off our first landfall at Hiva Oa. Unfortunately our roller furler drum mechanism must have separated during the recent beat to Fatu Hiva (probably as we were reefing and unreefing in high winds). The part of the drum mechanism that rotates and has the furling line lifted about 1.5 inches up the foil, exposing grease and rubber seals. The bearings were destroyed or fell out and we are now faced with the task of repairing this and finding spare parts in an area with few services. Until then we will not be able to furl or unfurl the sail under pressure. Our friend Kurt, back in California, has been helping us chase down technical support info with Profurl and numbers for riggers in French Polynesia.

Tahuata has 4 villages, two of which have decent harbours. We are anchored off Vaitahu, the largest of the villages in a bay named by Captain Cook for his ship, the Resolution. Resolution Bay is also known as Prostitute's Bay because during a stand-off between Marquesans and French in 1842, the island chief's daughter offered herself to the French commander to resolve the dispute (he did not accept the offer).

The village of Vaitahu is small and very neatly kept and through it flows a little river. It has the most beautiful church with a very Marquesan Madonna and child in stained glass. The only down sides are a rolly anchorage and a very tricky landing at a concrete pier with a 3 to 5 foot surge and slippery concrete with nothing to hang onto. Nice timing is required and then you have to hold the dinghy off with a stern anchor and tie the painter to a bollard - tricky geometry to both get to shore at the pier and keep the dinghy from bashing itself to bits in the swell!

We spent the last two days at Hana Moe Noa - a bay with a white sand beach a couple of miles northwest of here. We snorkeled for the first time and saw dozens of types of fish we had not seen before. Some are similar but coloured differently from their Mexican cousins and others are new to us. Good visibility and lovely warm water (30 degrees!). We also swam with large manta rays, which were feeding near the boats. They were quite unconcerned by us and swam so close that they alarmed Rani, even though we know they eat only plankton and small fish. The rays are about 4 to 6 feet in wing span and look like they are flying, as they slowly and gracefully beat their wings. They have strong colouring - black and white - and you can see right into their large mouths and along the gills on their undersides as they swim toward you. We also spotted a 6 foot reef shark - our first experience with anything this big.

Our friends on Chapter 2 were anchored beside us and we made the snorkeling trips together, towing their inflatable dinghy while in the water. One problem with using a hard dinghy like ours is that it is not easy to get into from the water without swamping. The inflatable is well-suited for diving or snorkeling expeditions.

We will stay here a couple of days and then head for Nuka Hiva, perhaps stopping en route at one of the bays on the west side of Hiva Oa. Our position is N 9 56 W 139 07.

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