Big Ray in Taiohae Bay
Like Hiva Oa, most boats confined during the Covid-19 lockdown period had cleared off, leaving a relatively expansive area in from which to pick a spot. So, we chose somewhere close to town just outside the no-anchoring zone in Taiohae Bay.
Anchoring here proved to be fortuitous as we picked up wifi from the boat. And, later that afternoon, Giant Ray glided past Lady Jane with his mouth wide open looking like an oversized nautical version of Cherie Blair’s mouth. But, as sod’s law dictates, we had no camera at hand to capture it.
With our wallets and purses emptier than a wadi in dry season, one of our priorities was to stock up with cash. This proved to be a bit of a disappointment as Mastercard cash withdrawals aren’t working any more. A sign posted outside the ATM states something along the lines of ‘Foreign exchange is available only to customers of Socredo Bank, thank you for your understanding.’ We didn’t understand and couldn’t persuade the machine to cough up any cash using our Mastercard cards. Fortunately, Visa did work, and we were able to restock on money, but at a premium. The Visa cards we have are ordinary UK debit cards and are subject to additional fees, unlike the Monzo and Starling cards that are not. This sorely abraded my northern sensitivities.
A free walk along the coast brought us to the Herman Melville Typee memorial to commemorate his brief stay on Nuku Hiva and his subsequent book loosely based on his experiences here.
At the time of writing this, Nuku Hiva is the principal place for yachts to arrive from the east, and the officials seem to be handling things well. We learned that all new arrivals to Nuku Hiva from outside French Polynesia are corralled in Controller Bay and that time at sea counts as part of their quarantine. Additionally, the authorities are calculating quarantine time based on the number of crew onboard to allow for the spread of infection between crew members.
So, the fewer the crew – the shorter the quarantine. Boats cannot as yet clear into French Polynesia, but after their quarantine period, they are allowed to sail between the islands.
The consequence was less risk for us and a greater sense of safety for the locals who knew that anyone tramping the streets had already been through a period of quarantine. So, even someone wearing an Italian t-shirt and comedy shopping bags received a warm welcome.
Bring on the music man
Apart from cash acquisition, the main reason for coming to Nuku Hiva was to buy a ukulele from the local luthier and music maestro, Pori.
After exchanging texts and a couple of phone calls and eventually getting to understand each other, we met Pori at the cafe by the quay. He was there to play for someone’s birthday. We had a bit of a chat, listened to him and the band playing, and a few days later took delivery of a new 8-string Marquesan ukulele. He showed me what the ukulele could do in the right hands, then handed it to me to see what it could do in the hands of an idiot. He then started to give me a lesson.
Polynesian Boot Camp
That man is a strict teacher, but he is excellent. After the first lesson, I felt that I had moved on from remedial class – although getting to know the notes in French was a bit of a challenge. I should have paid more attention to Julie Andrews when I last watched the Sound of Music. I had no idea that Doh, Ray, Me etc. would be of any use later in life.
Pori wouldn’t take the money for the instrument straight away, insisting that we pay him the next day instead. So, the next day we turned up with the money, handed it over and received another lesson. He was leaving for Tahiti the day after but said that we could play together in the morning. I said, OK. He said, see you at 0700. Maria and I rolled up bleary-eyed the next morning and that lesson carried on to 1130.
I must have done something right as I got the Pori fist bump at the end, which I like to think of as the equivalent to Paul Hollywood’s handshake on The Great British Bakeoff. But there’s a long way to go before getting anywhere close to the skills of the Marquesan players. I am sure these folks are handed a ukulele at birth.
Welcome reunion with an old (not so old if you don’t mind) friend.
The last time we saw Eve, on her boat Auntie, was back in 2018 in Virginia after we had sailed (well, motored) together from Bermuda to the US.
Eve had recently arrived in Nuku Hiva where, just outside the bay, she crossed the line to complete her solo circumnavigation of the world. A brilliant achievement. And she is now in the relaxed position where her goal is complete: she can do what she pleases next – no rush to go anywhere.
It was great to be reunited with Eve and spend more time with her over sundowners and ukulele lessons (she too bought a ukulele from Pori.) But, as good as it was to catch up, we felt it was time to move on again. So, after a couple of visits to the hardware store, several visits to the market, the local cafes and the shops, and one trip to the pharmacy (getting drenched on the way there and back) on Saturday 13th June we lifted our anchor and headed off to the Tuamotus.