Boat work in Taiohae Bay
As usual, our planned one-week stay in Taiohae turned into three. We didn’t spend the time slacking, though; there was far too much to do for any of that. Besides, we needed to kickstart our bodies into mobility after loafing around for almost a month on passage.
Most of the first week at anchor was dedicated to the boating equivalent of domesticity: boat cleaning, waterline cleaning, maintenance and oil changes. However, I stopped short of diving on the hull because of a problem with my ear. We also helped out Nick, a single-hander we met just before selling Lady Jane. Nick had the unenviable task of having to rethread a halyard from the top of his mast while it rolled from side to side like a metronome. And that had to be done before he set off for Hawaii. All Maria and I had to do was get him up there and safely back again. Nick had to do all the real hard work while clinging onto the mast like a koala.
After completing most of the boat work, it was time to work on ourselves: hauling our out-of-shape carcasses up to the tiki on the hill, where the area has been even more improved, then on a hike up the hills to Koueva and the next day up to the coastal lookout, La Cabana. The latter gifts the sweaty people managing the climb with magnificent views of Taiohae Bay. The effort was worth it, though. We had forgotten just how beautiful the area around the bay is, and it’s easy to slip into focussing on boat-related stuff to the exclusion of all else.
Several cruise ships have been arriving recently, which is a great relief for those working in the tourist industry,
And when the cruise ships arrive, the dancers and musicians also arrive at the quayside to greet the passengers with a bit of Nuku Hiva music and dance. Some of these folks put on a big performance. Although I’m not wholly convinced either the dress or the dance of the guys below is genuinely part of traditional Marquesan culture:
We heard about a local school performance of the Nuku Hiva version of the Haka from Annabella from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva. That was a good evening out. Those young folks are very talented. Here, we met a crew member who had a hard time on their crossing the Pacific from Mexico. However, they could write a book on their experience. In an attempt to stem the suffering, we introduced them to our friend Willem, and they are now safely on their way to Tahiti via the Tuamaotus.
Fully aware that Taiohae Bay is the Nuku Hiva equivalent of Hotel California, we tried to escape the bay after two weeks. But couldn’t. The propeller had become so severely fouled that the maximum speed we could make on our way out of the bay was 2.5 knots. We nearly made it out but decided the smart thing to do was to turn around, go back to where we started from and clean the prop.
I also thought it would be wise to get my ear sorted out at the hospital so that I could deal with problems like these as they occur.
Fortunately, in stepped Niels on the boat Black Moon, who dived on the boat for us, cleaned the hull and propeller, and changed the anodes. All that without diving equipment. And, as a bonus, Niels and Greetje are great company, as we found out after inviting them onboard for drinks following Niels’ marathon diving session.
Our first visit to the hospital in Taiohae was in the first week of our arrival. We went over there to get our Covid booster vaccines. We could neither get them in Mexico nor the US, but there is a very pragmatic attitude to vaccines in French Polynesia: if you need one, you get one. All we needed to do was show proof of previous vaccinations and our passports, and that was that: smile on the face, jabs in the arms – no charge.
Then, on 11th April, Maria and I headed back to the hospital to get my ear sorted out. Leaving Maria at the hospital entrance, I was escorted to the booth where outpatients check in, filled out some forms, and soon I was in the room with a doctor. I told him my problem, gave him my pre-prepared translation, and he said, “To the vacuum!”
Apparently, impacted ear wax is a popular thing in Nuku Hiva, and there’s a room with what I can best describe as an ear hoover in it. After laying down on the bed, the doctor set things up so that he could see into the depths of my cavernous earhole and then inserted the vacuum.
We are not talking about something that looks like a Dyson here; this was a thin tube with very light suction. But that did the trick, and within a few minutes, my ear was clear. Then, the person in the booth liberated me of the equivalent of £17, and I was on my way.
You couldn’t make this up
Things took a turn for the weird after that visit to the hospital.
While looking for local honey at the market, I heard a commotion at the far end of the stalls. When I looked over, I saw Maria grappling with another woman, both working in sync to raise the volume beyond the tolerance of my newly cleared auditory system. Even the dogs ran off.
That other woman was our friend Avelina who we first met at Hao and again in Tahiti, where she was doing her doctoring stuff, just before we flew out to the US to move things aboard Jamala.
Avelina asked us to join us for lunch as she was meeting one of the doctors from the hospital. And that led to coincidence number two. That doctor was the same person, Benoit, who had treated my ear that morning.
As well as an accomplished ear-hooverer, Benoit turned out to be a keen sailor. He has a boat of his own in France, so I offered to show him Jamala the next day.
Then, after Benoit returned to work, we walked over to the dinghy to take Avelina to Jamala. And as we walked past the dock ladder, a face that we hadn’t seen for almost five years appeared. It was Luc, who was the main organiser of the Jimmy Cornell Islands Odyssey Rally in 2017.
We should have bought a lottery ticket.
Wood Carving with Edgar
Avelina had arranged a wood carving lesson with Edgar for the 12th of April and asked if we wanted to join her. We did. And the next day found us dazed but ready to be picked up by Edgar to take us to his atelier at 0730.
Avalina had organised this lesson because of Edgar’s skill and reputation. He seems to be a man on top of his game, and we all hoped that he could transfer just a little of his skill to us minions.
The task Edgar gave us was to carve various shapes into a length of rosewood. He drew the shapes, gave us some instruction on using the tools and let us get on with it under his watchful eye. We found it a lot of fun. And Maria found an untapped skill buried deep within; she was far better at it than me.
After Edgar dropped us back off with our carvings (it was a bit like the end of a school woodworking project), we said goodbye to Avelina at least until Tahiti, and we headed back to the boat.
Later that afternoon, I picked up half the hospital – or at least a significant part of the surgical team in the form of Benoit and his friends from work – so they could see Jamala.
After showing them around the boat, I dropped them back at the quay; then, we prepared Jamala to leave the next day. And this time, we made it out.