Conditions inside Taiohae can be deceptive: Inside the harbour, we had blue sky, light winds, and a gentle swell rolling over the bay. Outside the protection of Taiohae, however, the conditions were the polar opposite: average winds of 24 knots, sea state a heaped up lumpy mess, and squall clouds banging down gusts just short of 30 knots.
All this unpleasantness combined to deliver a wet and bone-jarring sail into the wind all the way to Hakahau on the north of Ua Poa. It might have taken only four hours, but it felt like forever. It was a relief to arrive.
We managed to grab a spot just behind the breakwater in Hakahau in 3 1/2 meters of water, near to a monohull and two catamarans. I couldn’t make out if the other boats had stern anchors out, so we lowered the dinghy, and I motored out to our French monohull neighbour to check. He said he didn’t have a stern anchor set, and for that, I was very grateful as it’s a pain in the arse to get out, and an even worse one to get back in. And as a bonus, my new boat friend also told me of a festival in the village that night with traditional music and dancing.
An hour or so later, the JaJapami people arrived in the bay. And a couple of hours after that we all (except Jana who took some child-free time out) went ashore to find the festival. We followed the music and the barbecue fires which led us to the village hall where 2,000 francs per adult (and nothing for kids) paid for entrance and dinner. Given that we found no restaurants open, there wasn’t much discussion. A few minutes later, we were sat at a table and shortly after that – thanks to having small children with us – a mountain of food quickly arrived at our table: Poisson cru (excellent); pork (good); goat (rubbery); rice; breadfruit; bread, and cake.
After studying the tickets, we realised the purpose of the festival: it was for father’s day. And, after one of the staff asked if I am a father, I received a present of a CD. I have no idea what music is on it, although I hope it isn’t any of the cheesy 70’s pop derivative played early on by the band.
The traditional dancing, however, from the graceful hand and body movements of the women to the passion and ferocity of the dances performed by the men, was a sight to behold. Although I don’t think you’d like to meet the fellas during a stroll in the forest.
We called it at night after the dancing display was over, but the music (back to the ’70s again) rolled on until well after midnight.
Hakahau bay consists of a beach, dominated by a local canoe school, flanked by a breakwater to seaward and a promenade on the town side. The whole area is popular with local families who descend here at the weekend with their picnic tables and chairs and enough food and drink to nourish a small nation. Young children swim in the sea, the older ones jump off the breakwater, and the adults sit back and enjoy the time out. It’s a scene enacted in places all over the world.
We parked our dinghy behind the breakwater near the local boats and laid a stern anchor to stop the dinghy being battered against the wall. Walking along the promenade to the town, the locals greeted us with a Kahoa or Bonjour as we continued to the bank to get some more cash, then up the hill to the local church. The church is similar to those in the other islands: wooden carvings, ornate carvings, airy roof. But this one had a distinctly nautical theme with the pulpit representing a boat’s bow. Also like the other church, it had a drum – so I thought I’d give it a try. Although the audience, Maria, was not impressed.
When we arrived back at the dock, somehow our dinghy had sneaked underneath the mooring line of a local fishing boat. As a result, we struggled to get free from the dock. But, without prompting, the kids on the breakwater kindly helped us by jumping in and guiding us free.
The next day we heard an unfamiliar grinding noise from the anchor chain, so I donned a mask and snorkel to take a look at what was going on. I found the anchor chain wrapped around a piece of metal. The wind in the harbour competes with the current to spin the boats around and around; in our case, three times around this discarded lump. There was no way I could hold my breath long enough to clear it, so we set up the Hookamax (it’s a 12v compressor that delivers air through a hose) and I spent 20 minutes unwrapping the chain.
After freeing it I tied a fender to the chain to float it above the obstruction. The float seemed to work, but the next day when we raised the anchor to leave, the chain came up in a tangled ball. Fortunately, another sailor, Ben who was anchored near us, jumped on his dinghy and came over to untangle it – saving us the hassle of relaunching our dinghy and struggling with it on our own. After Ben un-knotted it, we raised the rest of the chain without incident and headed off, with the wind behind, us to the Tuamotus.