The laptop is dead. Long live the laptop
As a likely consequence of heat exhaustion, overwork, humidity or general abuse, my MacBook has given up the will to live. Despite numerous attempts at bringing it back to life, it remains as unresponsive as a politician asked to speak the truth.
And, although the Marquesas are blessed with many things, an Apple store isn’t one. Fortunately, however, now that we have access to the internet, I have managed to enlist the help of Maria’s computer to get my content back and our website updated – but it’s going to take a while to catch up. And we are physically way ahead of this update:
It took two days of recovery, both for the crew and the half-repaired dinghy (for which we need a bigger patch to fix the leak), before we felt ready to make our way over to Hiva Oa. Our main objective was to confirm Lady Jane’s lift out at the boatyard for the 2nd December; the secondary one was to check our legs still worked after spending so much time on the boat.
On Monday 11th November, we entered Tahauku Bay and found a spot to anchor at the back of the fleet of boats, not too far from our last position when last here in May. Then, after setting a stern anchor by plonking it in the dinghy, dropping it some distance from the back of Lady Jane and tightening everything up, we headed ashore and parked our dinghy at the end of a row of local boats near to the boat ramp.
Nothing much had changed around the dockside. The petrol station is still in business, although there’s an increased choice of groceries for sale. The bins are still there (good for us not having set foot on land for a while), and the wild chickens are still roaming around and strutting their stuff. We strolled over to the boatyard, but that, like everything else, was closed because of remembrance day.
With nothing practical to do, we took ourselves for a walk towards the end of the bay and watched as one of the horsemen took his horse for a swim (although sometimes it looked the other way around) then walked up the hill to the old semaphore station. After confirming that our legs were still working, we walked back down, flopped back in the dinghy and headed back to the boat to watch the horses from the Lady Jane’s cockpit.
The next morning, everything was open: the petrol station, boatyard, and Sandra’s yacht services. And, after a brief visit to Sandra’s yacht services at the semaphore station to grab a coffee and the internet code and to make arrangements for her to collect our laundry, we called in to see Vincent at the boatyard.
Vincent confirmed that we are booked in for the 2nd December at 0800 for a lift out and showed us where we would be parked up for the three months we are away. We seem to have bagged the prime spot – right in front of the office. After telling him what happened to the dinghy and outboard, he invited us to bring the outboard over for some pampering. And after leaving the outboard with one of Vincent’s engineers. Maria and I then headed up to Sandra’s place again to use the internet, catch up with emails and update our website.
Hello OCC Sailors
The longest we have left Lady Jane unattended is around three weeks, and that was in the temperate climate of Long Island in the USA. Leaving a boat in the tropics with an average daytime temperature of 31 degrees where humidity tests the resilience of everything from wood to fabric to people, is a different proposition altogether. Consequently, we have been diligently working through a long list of things to do before leaving Lady Jane in the boatyard for three months. One of the things was to sort out our clothes for our trip home. Some hadn’t seen the light of day for over a year (jumpers, fleeces and jeans), so it was time for a cull.
We extracted all our clothes from their lockers, tried them on (not a pleasant task in the daytime heat) and rejected those that didn’t fit any more due to our heat and activity-induced weight loss. The others went into the laundry bag. It took most of the day, but by the time we had finished, we had a large pile of clothes to give away and several bags of clothes to be washed.
Offering some respite, a couple of sailors came over that morning to see us. Dave and Lennie had spotted our Ocean Cruising Club burgee and wanted to say hello. They also offered to bring us bread from the petrol station if they could get any – they could. And later that morning they returned with a freshly baked baguette and invited us over to their boat for sundowners.
In the afternoon we took our unwanted clothes to Sandra’s place so that she could take them to a local school for distribution to those who might want them. And later, we joined Dave and Lennie for drinks onboard their boat, Perigee, for a welcome evening of painkillers and snacks.
Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel
Early on Thursday morning, Maria and I called in at the boatyard to pick up the outboard. The engineer had stripped the engine, removed any evidence of seawater that had found its way inside and cleaned out any corrosion. And after starting the motor for us to check that all is OK, Vincent then produced a wheelbarrow and a willing helper so that we could take the outboard back to the dinghy.
After securing the outboard on the back of Lady Jane, we grabbed the bags of laundry and loaded them into the dinghy in time to meet Sandra at 1030 near the dock. Right on time, Sandra trundled along in her old Land Rover Defender and offered us a lift into town. Ten minutes later, we arrived in the centre of Atuona.
One of the things we didn’t do the last time we were here was to walk up to the Calvaire cemetery – the resting place of Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. The reason we didn’t go was that we were knackered from the walk up from the dock, and didn’t fancy another hill climb. But this time, with no excuse and plenty of motivation to get some more exercise, up we went.
The route to the cemetery can hardly be described as a gentle stroll. It felt more like a pilgrimage – the incline is so acute in places it’s impossible to keep heels on the ground.
Both the graves are at the front of the cemetery near to the large cross overlooking the bay. Gauguin’s is surprisingly understated; constructed in red stone. The only nod to his artistic achievements seems to be a replica of his statue, Oviri, standing sentinel at the head of his grave.
Back in town, we bought drinks from a shop, and sandwiches from one of the popup food stalls and called at the ATM to get some cash before finding some shade to eat our lunch opposite the bank at the Tohua Pepeu. We spotted an artisan shop tucked away in the corner of the square, so after lunch, we headed over to take a look inside. The shop was full of the usual wood and bone carvings and necklaces. And it contained a collection of Marquesan art painted on paper made from the bark of banyan, breadfruit and paper mulberry trees.
The woman who painted these sidled up to us and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “I can do you a special price.” That ‘special price’ was a discount of around 30% off the cover price written on a faded and dog-eared label glued to the back of each painting. Even with that discount, each of the paintings would be over £100 each – a price that felt a bit wrong. We said we would think about it, and we did. A few seconds later, we started our walk back to the dock. That was a good move for us thrifty folks: we found out later from other sailors that the going rate for these works is between $40 and $50. We should have worn our old clothes to look less like cruise ship passengers.
Ten minutes up the hill from Atuona town, a car pulled up in front of us. It was Tino, the sailmaker from the boatyard, who had stopped to give us a lift back to the dock. We gratefully accepted and bundled ourselves into his car. He had just been home for his son’s birthday and was on his way back to give someone a quote for sail repair.
On the way, he pointed out a boat in the bay, previously anchored near us when we left that morning. It had dragged its anchors (all three of them) in a bid for freedom, and was doing well; it had already made it half a mile from its original location.
By the time we arrived back on Lady Jane, boats were already on the way to recover it and bring it back to the bay. And a couple of hours later, it was back where it started – seemingly with no more harm done. Before its attempt at freedom, it was already mastless and battered-looking.
Clearly the holding in the anchorage isn’t as good as one would hope. To be on the safe side, we checked the tension on our main anchor. It was slack. We suspect that when one of the boats displaced when the Aranui 5 came in had dislodged Lady Jane’s anchor from the seabed.
We pulled up the main anchor while paying out some more rope on the stern anchor so that we could reset it. But as the anchor loomed up from the murky water, it was clear something was wrong: a tangle of chain came up with it. The chain wasn’t ours, nor did it belong to any of the other boats around us.
Witnessing our shenanigans, a local guy in a sturdy aluminium tender came over to help. He pulled the chain from our anchor into his boat and kept on pulling until he had the entire 50 metres of 10mm chain in the bottom of his tender. Far from being put out, he seemed quite pleased about this, saying that that he will clean it up and sell it. Then he volunteered to hang around while we dropped the stern anchor so that we could find a better place to set our main anchor. As we returned, he was waiting for us with stern anchor rope in hand. And he helped us reposition Lady Jane, in the not-very-helpful crosswind that had just perked up, by tying a line to our stern and pulling us straight.
After sorting all this out, we invited him on board for a beer or two to say thanks. Moo (although I’m not sure if that’s how he spells his name) is looking after the boat parked in front of Lady Jane, is a native Tahitian who has been in the Marquesas for years. And he’s a very helpful guy.
After a while, Mike, a singlehanded sailor who we have met several times over the last few months also came along to join us. Three beers (and I would have willingly given our entire beer stocks to this guy), Moo disappeared back to his boat and returned with three more – certainly not anticipated or expected.
Later, we ate with Mike at the local roulotte where they serve a choice of food ranging from the virtuous sashimi and Poisson Cru through to the far-from-virtuous steak and chips. We opted for the latter. It had been a tough day.
Escape from Tahauku
On 15th November, we decided to leave Atuona. And on the way to the petrol station to get some more things, we helped Dave and Lennie get underway by releasing their line attached to a large mooring buoy. Actually, Maria did the releasing and I did the photographing.
Then, after stocking up with essentials such as Diet Coke, we returned to Lady Jane, retrieved our stern anchor, pulled up our main anchor (this time with nothing wrapped around it), and gently sailed back over to Tahuata to enjoy the clear water and excellent anchoring. And to work our way through the remainder of our to-do list.
Our first stop was an uninhabited bay with a large beach on the north-west of Tahuata that we noticed when we passed it on the way to Atuona the previous week. Perigee was already there, so we dropped anchor in a patch of sand nearby and later invited them onboard Lady Jane for sundowners. This cycle of sundowners continued many nights over the time we spent around Tahuata, each time trying to spot the elusive green flash as the sun goes down.
The next day we headed over to the beach, later joined by Dave and Lennie and the crew of a Dutch catamaran who swam ashore together with their two large dogs. Snorkelling here was excellent: clear waters, plenty of fish, and rays that come into the bay to feed off the plankton.
The downside of the bay was the rocking and rolling. A lot of swell enters the bay and makes life uncomfortable – especially with a lot of boat-related jobs to do. So after a couple of days, we upped anchor and motored the short distance to the next bay.
We stayed in Hanamoenoa Bay for over a week, mostly on our own, rolling up our virtual sleeves and working on getting Lady Jane ready for her long layup. And it’s just as well we did. We greatly underestimated the time needed to work through our to-do list: Lifting the floorboards and repainting the keel bolts took a day; servicing the steering and morse system another day; engine oil change half a day.
But the majority of time was taken up by emptying all the lockers, cupboards and drawers to clean and disinfect them before stuffing everything back in.
Some local guys arrived on the first afternoon on a happy Sunday outing. I couldn’t work out what they wanted, principally because they were off their boxes on Pakololo – which they kindly offered to share. I declined this kind offer as a) I fit into the extreme lightweight category when it comes to inhaled drugs and b) we quite like it here and prefer to stay on the right side of the law.
What they wanted was a knife so that they could cut up the fish they caught to make lunch. I gave them the knife and spent some time talking with them with the aid of sign language while one of them cut up the fish. In his relaxed state, it took him ages. Still, better that than losing fingers. That would have ruined his day and our ability to communicate. Eventually, with the job done, he cleaned the knife, handed it back, and said that he would be back with some tuna and some fruit. We were still waiting a week later.
1980’s fish and the mystery of the pamplemousse and the coconut
Inbetween boat jobs, we snorkelled from the boat to the rocks and occasionally to the beach. There’s plenty of fish in the sea here and some that I haven’t seen before, such as the 1980’s-styled striped surgeonfish. I don’t have a photograph of it, but it’s worth a look on t’internet. It’s an unusual one.
Because we were so absorbed in our activities, we didn’t immediately notice the gift of a pamplemousse and a coconut. We found them in our dinghy late one afternoon. Who put them there we have no idea. Maybe it was the Pakolo brothers. But whoever it was we are very grateful.
Next stop: back to Tahauku Bay to get ready for lift out.