This morning we dropped anchor at Atuona Harbor on Hiva Oa Island, of the Marquesas Island group. The rattle of the anchor chain punctuated the end of the crossing. Since raising the anchor last, in Cabo San Lucas, we’ve traveled 2,844 nautical miles, at an average speed of 5.9 knots, over 21 days, with no significant gear failure or injury. We only motored a total of 14 hours during the passage. Darn good. Our passage time is also good, though we generally followed a philosophy of not pushing the boat, dropping down to reefed main and jib at night, etc. The last approach to Atuona was interesting. We sighted land yesterday afternoon, (serendipitously enough, while on a satphone call to my mother!). To see rising out of the water the small island of Fatu Huku, after nothing but sea all around us for so many days, was momentous. It was sunset, the island was backlight in the west, and the trade wind clouds obscured the setting sun but in turn were aflame with brilliant golds, reds and other sunset hues. Yet another one of those views reminiscent of a William Blake lithograph, hinting at the mystical wonder of the world, which we’ve been blessed with so often on this crossing.
With nightfall, Anson and Devon took on the first shift, until midnight. They dodged squalls and sailed Anthea 20 more miles to landfall. Kim took over at midnight. I was hailed to come topsides around 1:30. It was pouring rain, squall winds were swirling and all hands were needed on deck to shorten sail, run with the squall, and keep in mind our position relative to the nearby islands, in pitch dark with no visibility. Then from 2:30 to dawn we forereached, slowing Anthea to about 1.5 knots to allow our approach to Atuona to coincide with first light. Wind was consistently 18-20 knots during this time. Morning broke with a line-up of more squalls. We chose to ride out the first couple and hoped a break in the weather would allow us to nip into Atuona and anchor before the next one hit. Fortunately, this strategy worked. The steep, intense green slopes, mountains and cliffs of Hiva Oa, bathed in the early morning light and bright from the recent rain, were spectacular to behold.
It’s now almost 5pm. We’ve been ashore, checked in at the gendarmerie, enjoyed baguette sandwiches and had a good first short visit, replete with a hitchhike return to the boat in an old Land Rover. My French is rusty, but serviceable. We are all exhausted and the boat’s a total mess. Kim fell asleep twice while eating her sandwich on a bench in front of a store and has been asleep in the v-berth since we got back to Anthea 4 hours ago. The boat is littered from bow to stern with wet clothing and damp items. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get Anthea shipshape again; this will include diving to clean her bottom and removing the unsightly rim of barnacles that grew on her during the passage – but not here, as apparently this is a sharky anchorage.
I’ll close by quoting the last verse of John Mansfield’s Sea Fever, from which Sir Francis Chichester drew the title of his famous book “The Lonely Sea and the Sky”. Thanks to my mother for providing us copy of this great poem, whose last verse is as follows:
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gulls’ way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife. And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Our long trick is over and we’re all looking forward to quiet sleep and a good dream tonight.
Mark (Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia)