Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Ua Pou Island - Hakahau bay (Marquesas)

[Kyle]Our last stop in the Marquesas was in Hakahau, on the island of Ua Pou. Hakahau is the main population center on the island, with just over 1000 residents. In spite of this designation, their harbor is not nearly a capacious as Taiohae. Our various guides hinted that there were places where two anchors would be necessary but, like Atuona on Hiva Oa, if we were willing to put up with a longer dinghy ride, we could settle for one if we liked.

Beautiful Ua Pou proved a little frustrating at anchor

It was a short, fast, rough sail. Not being fans of the two-anchor kerfuffle, we planned to use one anchor and break out the motor for the dinghy if necessary. When we got there, however, we found our choice to be between full exposure to the open sea, just outside the gnashing rocks of the breakwater, or tucked inside in relative calm, squeezed safely between two other boats, each on two anchors.

Damn! We hastily dug out our stern anchor and, after setting the bow anchor, went about going through the rigmarole of deploying it. As we went to pull it in, it dragged. The wind was blowing from our right, so we started to swing toward the boat to our left (Pickles). Our bow anchor was doing its job of keeping us straight, so it was quite a struggle to turn Begonia sideways so I could use the engines to back her away from them. A couple of times, it seemed we would hit, but we just managed to avoid it before crawling away. To their credit, the occupants seemed neither annoyed or concerned about any of this.

After a second attempt, Maryanne got our dinghy lowered in record time, with the plan of using it to deploy the stern anchor. As she was getting in, a couple of guys from the boat to our right (Calagorm) arrived in their inflatable asking if we could use some help, which by then was rhetorical. She gratefully said yes and jumped back aboard Begonia to give them our anchor and rode to deploy.

They took it a looong way and dropped it. It held, everybody went for home to relax and then it dragged again.

I went to put the starboard engine in forward and the port engine in reverse to repeat the procedure of turning Begonia bow to the left so I could back away from Pickles on that side. When I did this, the starboard engine strained. I managed to get it out of gear before it died. When Maryanne got out of the dinghy in her haste to hand over our stern anchor, she left the painter long and it had wrapped around the prop. She also dropped her hat overboard, which I was just able to reach. We were really not looking good at this.

I went for my backup plan of putting the port engine in forward to turn and push us forward and right. When I did this, it DIDN’T GO INTO GEAR! I went for reverse and that worked on the second try – I think. It didn’t seem to be developing enough thrust to overcome the wind.

Maryanne grabbed a mask and snorkel and jumped in fully clothed to unwrap the painter so I could have use of the starboard propeller. Once she did, we were so close to our neighbors that I had to put it into gear before she even got out of the water.

She took over the helm and I jumped into the dinghy to once again row out the stern anchor. When I reached the end of the rode, I saw she was getting really close to Pickles so, instead of dropping the anchor, I grabbed it with my legs and started rowing like crazy to pull Begonia away (The other end of the line was cleated to Begonia). Slowly, and with great effort, she pulled away. I thought, “woo, hoo! I can’t believe that worked!” Back on Begonia, as Maryanne was struggling to keep us away from, and using typical British understatement, said to them, “You may want to get out a few fenders”. In response, they put out a big fender – their teenage son in their dinghy. While I was rowing away being impressed by my amazing and unexpected strength, he was on the other side out of sight, using their dinghy as a tug to push Begonia away. Calagorm came out again in their dinghy, towed me to my desired spot and I dropped the anchor. I thanked them and returned to Begonia. We cranked everything up so both anchor rodes were nice and tight and we were comfortably far from anybody. We had made a huge mess of the boat and had a lot of tidying up to do, which we were both too tired to face. When we were done, Maryanne went on a Thank You tour while I opened up the transmission to see what had happened.

It was the same failure that had beset us in M̩xico. My brilliant Bolt Solution had not been so brilliant after all. Luckily, we had bought not one, but two complete shifter assemblies, PLUS, not one, but two more of the taper pins (giving us four) that were actually needed (they are hardened and way stronger than my stupid stainless steel bolt it turns out). Tomorrow, instead of sightseeing, I would be cracking open the port transmission Рagain!

We felt like complete greenhorns. We were terribly embarrassed. I explained to our neighbors that we had actually been sailing for a long time, but this is the first time we ever tried to stop. Both of them were extremely gracious and understanding and said they were happy to be of help. Calagorm, the traditional catamaran to our right, tried to make us feel better by admitting that they had also had trouble setting their stern anchor in the fine sand.

We slept fitfully that night, feeling like heels and in such close proximity to the other boats. Every time the wind would gust, we’d rush out to check we weren’t dragging. At about 0130, I was awake fretting about the wind when it picked up again. Maryanne picked up her phone to see if we were dragging . It turns out she had been up too. We were holding as usual and then we suddenly were not. We leapt out of bed to find ourselves closing on Pickles again. I started the engines and then went aft to go pull on our stern anchor rode, hoping it would reset. It didn’t. Instead, I pulled the whole thing back to Begonia with what I swear is less effort than if I had laid the thing out on a sidewalk and done the same thing. I don’t get it. Our stern anchor is big, heavy and unwieldy. It should have had no problem with this.

We were getting alarmingly close to the other boat. In preparation for the next day’s repair, I had disconnected the port shifter cable. That left us with the starboard engine, which could propel us forward and left or back and left. The wind was already pushing us left. Left was bad – really bad.

Our forward rode ended just far enough to keep our bow from hitting their boat. With judicious power and lots of left rudder, I was able to keep our stern from touching. Maryanne strained our poor windlass pulling up the anchor, since there was no way to shorten our rode enough to keep us away from the other boats and not have it drag.

We were faced with having to put out to a rough sea with one functioning engine, which would no doubt make the transmission repair more difficult. Knowing first hand the consequences of not doing so when going to sea would still be the safest option, we eyed up the harbor again.

We picked the one and only spot in the whole harbor that allowed us to put out ALL of our rode on one anchor and still give is 30m from hitting the other boats, the breakwater or the alarming surf behind. We dropped anchor and backed down with full power on the good engine to make sure it was set. I never use full power. It held. I decided that if somebody else showed up, they would have to go around us, ‘cause we are done with two anchors! We went in to resume our fitful night’s sleep.

I am so good at taking apart transmissions now that I had the thing fixed in an hour the next day. When I went to start the engine to verify that everything works, it wouldn’t start. I spent the rest of the day tracking down a bad connection to the solenoid. It’s always something! The others dinghied over and we explained how we ended up where we were and reassured them Begonia was back to full working order. Even so, I think they were glad to have some extra distance from us. The winds were pretty fresh, so we decided to stay aboard the rest of the day just to be 100% certain we would not drag.

Beatiful Church with absolutely amazing flower displays

We didn’t, and the next day was calmer, clear and sunny so we rowed ashore in the hopes of getting some of the provisions we couldn’t find in Taiohae. We found the same problems there with the signage, only worse. Not only did the streets have no names, most of the stores hadn’t bothered either. If you live there, you just know the bakery is the orange house. We asked around and the friendly people made sure we found the right places. The stores did have a little more to offer, so we loaded up our packs once again.

We repeated the same ancillary tourism style we had practiced in Taiohae. The best thing we found was the church, with its beautiful varnished wood carvings and its elaborate tropical bouquets. In our subsequent wanderings looking for the path back to the harbor, we came upon a dead end in the road as it turned into someone’s driveway.

Beautiful people and sights in Ua Pou - wonderful memories

An older man, looking over three boys asked where we were going. We told him and he said we would have to go back the way we came. We apologized, introduced ourselves and started to leave. This had the usual effect. He invited us into the yard and told the boys to take me to find some pamplemouse for the visitors. Maryanne stayed behind and chatted as best she could with him in French. When I returned, he handed her a bowling ball-sized squash to take. Oh, boy! That guy’s house was about as far as we got from the boat. By the time we got there, the gifts and the groceries felt like I had the whole dinghy in my pack.

Nonetheless, Hakahau is a beautiful, placid little town overlooked by the most sublime towering spires from way up in the clouds. It’s too bad we are certain never to return to its accursed little harbor.

No comments: