Friday, May 18, 2012

Ua Pou

We are anchored in Hakahau Bay on Ua Pou island - the 5th and last of the Marquesas Islands that we will visit. The harbour is quite large, but only a small portion is protected from the prevailing swell by a breakwater. We are crowded into this somewhat protected area with 8 other yachts, hailing mostly from France and the UK. We are all anchored bow and stern so we won't bash into each other and so that we face into the swell, which still manages to work its way in here around the breakwater.

The 25 mile crossing from Nuku Hiva was a pleasant sail with 8-12 knots on or just forward of the beam for most of the voyage. We lounged in the cockpit enjoying the ride with one reef in the main and the wind vane steering. However as we approached the harbour, the wind came more and more in front of us and we were set to the west by a current and heavy swell. The last mile was an agonizing motor into heavy swells reflecting off the cliffs at the harbour mouth. I foolishly elected to bring down the main and and the motion while trying to flake and tie the sail down almost threw me from the coach roof.

In the three days we have been here, we have met a few of the local characters including an ex-Australian who has been married to 2 Marquesan wives over the last few decades. Keith can carry on a very effective 'conversation' without the other party even opening their mouth.

We also met Xavier, a retired Frenchman who has lived here for 10 years and swims leisurely around the anchorage chatting with the boaters each day. Finally we chatted with Jerome, whom our friend Randall on Mure had told us about. Jerome - ex French military - runs a pension, offers guided hikes, and serves meals and drinks in his restaurant. The pension commands a fine view of the town and harbour and we enjoyed this view and lovely cold juices while catching up on emails and calls. The mountains behind the anchorage are remarkable for their sudden appearance from relatively low land as well as their steepness and concave shape. They poke out of the nearby hills like spear blades, often shrouded in banners of cloud.

We have been laying in provisions here for our 3-4 weeks in the coral atolls of the Tuomotus, where fruit other than coconuts is rare and veggies non-existent. We have had little success here, despite recent information stating that this town is the best place to provision. Not true anymore I'm afraid. Prices were high for the few veggies we found - $6+ a kilo for tomatoes and $5 for a bunch of green beans. We did find plenty of fruit today and stocked up on the local sweet grapefruit that we found in a school yard as well as citrons (limes) given to us by a friendly Marquesan woman. We also picked a nice breadfruit from a public tree. We have been making breadfruit chips (french fries) from this volleyball sized fruit - frying slices in olive oil and spices.

We also located a stalk of green bananas, which a local carver agreed to drop off at the wharf later in the day. In the meantime he showed us his very creative work - full of traditional Marquesan motifs but with a more imaginative rendition than much of the art we have seen. Rani bought a carved paddle and I have my eyes on a substantial tiki, though where it will fit in the boat - heaven only knows!

We plan to leave for the Tuomotus tomorrow, but this may change if we stay for the dance on Saturday night or I end up buying the tiki, which still needs finishing.

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