Saturday, May 12, 2012

Life is an adventure in Taiohae Bay

A southerly swell rolls in to Taiohae Bay at certain times of the year and this was clearly one of those times. No-one who has lived only on land can understand how truly irritating it is to have your home continuously tipped from side to side and fore and aft, sometimes to an angle of 25 or 30 degrees. I get irritable after a few hours of this and we stayed in this bay for 4 days and nights! Poor Rani. Making meals, eating, and even sleeping are all adventures in this environment.

The reason we were there, along with 30 to 40 other yachts is that this is the largest town in the Marquesas and the only place where one can buy duty free diesel at about $1.20 Canadian a liter. It is also a place where vegetables can sometimes be found - although the best appear at 5 am on Saturday morning and are snatched up and gone by 6 am! Finally, one can access the internet via wifi and a satellite link - sort of and sometimes...

We refilled one propane bottle here with butane. To save the $5 charge at Yacht Services, we (foolishly in retrospect) hoofed our empty tank up the hill towards a white building to which we had been directed. We got lost, of course, and a very kind French lady originally from Toulouse, drove us to the building, only to find it closed. We left the tank with a friendly Marquesan mechanic and returned the next day to meet with Kevin - an American who married a local and runs a woodworking shop and does butane refills. He uses a gravity feed system that required us to leave our cylinder there for the day, while liguid butane dribbled into it. 400 CPF (about $4 US dollars) per kilo - and the small tank took 5.5 kilos using his method (more full than it has ever been in Mexico I believe). He later delivered the tank to the dinghy dock during a deluge - inches of rain in two hours - strapped to the back of his motorcycle. When we came back to our dinghy, we found it filled to the gunwales with muddy run-off. I was badly scraped down one side from where it had been bashed by a dozen other dinghies against the rough barnacled concrete. The local kids were amused by my attempts to bail it dry without sinking it and ending up in the water myself. Refilling a propane/butane tank can also be an adventure.

We also refilled our diesel tank using jerry jugs and towing our dinghy behind Chapter II's inflatable as a sort of fuel barge. To do this, you motor over to a seawall with a ladder and rings set in it that forms the end of the main cargo pier. The swell was so bad that one of us stayed in the dinghy to fend off the sea wall, while the other two scrambled up a ladder and bucket brigaded the empty cans onto the dock far above. To make things more interesting, the giant hawsers that secured a large cargo vessel to this pier were rising and falling immediately above the ladder, making timing critical. We then walked to the fuel station, which serves all the local vehicles for a town of 2500, and waited in line to fill our 6 containers. Next, we lugged them back to the pier, ducking under the cargo ship lines as they rose on the swell, caught a rope tossed from the waiting dinghy and, tying this to each can, lowered the cans to the man in the dinghy. Mike who was in the dinghy had no easy job as he had to catch and stow each gyrating can in the 'fuel barge' tender while fending his own dinghy off the barnacle encrusted seawall as it rose and fell in 5 foot swells. We then returned to the mother ships and filled our tannks, repeating the entire procedure so that we both had extra fuel for our 4 weeks in the Tuamotus. Refuelling is also an adventure here.

Even shopping for groceries is not the simple act it is in a typical small town in Canada or the US. The Marquesans are not great consumers of vegetables and we chased rumours of fresh produce all over town. After 3 days of shopping, interspersed with social visits and boat tasks, we managed to procure a few cauliflower heads (very small), 8 eggplants, 3 taro, 3 sweet potatoes, 2 cabbages, a squash, and a couple of kilos of carrots. Most of these are locally grown, the carrots being shipped in from Tahiti. We supplemented this with some canned green beans and carrots. We hope to obtain lots of fresh fruit in Ua Pou, where we will sail in a few days.

We are currently anchored in the next bay over from Taiohae (known as Daniel's Bay and also the site of the 2002 season of survivor, I believe). This is much more well protected and hence relatively swell-free and is surrounded by rugged peaks and gentle valleys. There is a hike to a 1000 foot waterfall - the tallest in these islands - which we plan to undertake tomorrow. Our friends from Chapter 2 and Sockdolager are here and we will have them over in a few hours for home-made chili and an evening of music.

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