Bay of Virgins

Restocked and ready to get away from Hiva Oa again, we set out for the short return hop to the island of Tahuata, just to the south. A fairly uneventful sail repeated our path – in reverse – almost to the exact anchorage we had stayed at a few days prior. Looking for something different, we moved on an extra half mile to the next bay south; Ivaiva Iti. There was nothing to do here but relax, which was a perfect fit for our needs at the time. We came here just to wait a couple days for a forecasted wind shift that would allow us a better chance to sail to our next destination.

When that wind shift took place two days later we got up dark-early and hauled up our anchor and pointed Meriwether South-West towards Fatu Hiva, some 45 nautical miles away. The wind had shifted just 10 or so degrees on this day, giving us the opportunity to close-haul sail the full 9 hours, in light winds. It was a welcomed change of pace from the weeks long down-wind sailing of our passage. Meriwether rolls a lot in down-wind sailing, and hardly at all when the wind is forward of the beam.

Although a long day, we were happy to have the gentle breeze and the calm seas for a change. Kerri has been suffering some sailing anxiety since the long Pacific crossing, and we both hoped that a good day on the water (for a change) would make things right again. Help it did. We had the company of another sailboat all day, just a few miles ahead. Although we were not officially racing, when ever two sailboats are in sight of each other and headed to the same location, the race is always on. It is a race at a turtles pace, but over the course of the 9 hour day Meriwether and her crew closed in from 7 miles back to 3! We didn’t win, but we did get there faster 🙂

As we neared the island of Fatu Hiva we could begin to see the splendor of the place. Huge green jungle extended into the clouds above, held down only by the much larger blue skies in all directions. Our anchorage – The Bay of Virgins – is well known by anyone who has seen a magazine cover relating to anything French Polynesia. Sailors flock here, not only for the spectacular view on the anchorage itself, but the village just on shore is straight out of an old weathered book found in a dusty library from the 1400s. The huge spires made a perfect gate of sorts

The anchorage itself can hold a dozen or so boats, and of those about half can drop anchor in reasonable depths. The rest, including us, had to drop anchor in 100 feet of depth. Doing that means letting out all of our chain (220 feet of it) as well as 100 feet of rope. A three to one ratio isn’t necessarily what one looks for when anchoring, but it was was what we had. At least there was a whole shit-ton of weight down there in the mud if the wind had picked up, which it never did. Kerri and I were lucky that we are somewhat experienced at this, thanks to Alaska. We arrived nearly an hour after the boat we followed all day, dropped anchor, and were just about to light up a pipe and pour a cocktail when our buddy boat was still looking for a place to anchor… right on top of ours. I quickly radioed to them, vehemently apologizing as I know they had been run off by others already, but they simply could not anchor here either. Another hour went by as they wandered all over the bay looking for a place to drop the hook, but as the sun was setting they finally motored out and turned South where another bay awaited a half hour away. If it were not for our experience as this deep anchoring, and having the tackle for it, we would have had to do the same.

We eventually did get to the drinking and smoking, just in time for the sunset and the constant baa’ing of the wild (?) goats climbing the cliffs all around the bay. It is a cute, yet alarming, sound to hear out here and there were many-a-goat up in the rocks.

The village of Hanavave is so idyllic it made me want to live there. A short paved road out of town which paralleled the river leading from the mountains to the sea, where both lined with small shacks of varying degrees of standing and falling. All were heavily forested. Some had some small livestock, chickens, or vegetable gardens. Some you had to cross the river to enter the front door. It was a Sunday that we first came ashore and the small church was full of singing churchgoers as we walked past for a quick trip to the local store. Alas they did not have eggs or baguettes at the time we arrived, the two items we were desperate for. One pretty much needs to be at the store at 7am to get either of those, so the next morning I set out early on my own. Eggs would be another day away, but I scored baguettes and a popsicle on both trips so all was good.

The big adventure of during our time here was the hot and muggy hike out to Hanavave Waterfall. The distance and elevation gain were acceptable for this old man, making for a nice first hike into the jungles of French Polynesia. The payoff at the end was a picturesque waterfall with an ideal swimming hole to wash away the unrelenting sweat and grime of the past six weeks. If we were the influencer types, we surely would have done a much more thorough photo shoot. Instead we just enjoyed ourselves in the moment, ate a small snack of granola bars an oranges, then set out to return to Meriwether for a day of work.

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2 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Great pictures as I site see along with you & what you’re sharing!
    I was just thinking this is way better than when you were sharing your transmission problems. 🙂

  2. Rick says:

    Beautiful photos! Master photography of iconic places, just like you did in Alaska.

    3-1 scope is plenty good in deep water.

    You two are living my dream warts and all.

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