Enjoying the airport anchorage, and a Fun Fact
12 June 2016 | Hanamoenoa Bay, Tahuata, Marquesas, French Polynesia
The next stop on our slow circumnavigation of Nuku Hiva was Haahopu Bay, a tiny indentation in the coastline on the northwest corner of the island.
Leaving Hakaehu Bay, with our gigantic bag of fruit, we headed west along the northern coast of the island, accompanied by three- and four-foot waves that were also traveling west. I was very glad that we weren't trying to go the opposite direction! When we reached the northwest corner of the island and turned left to head down the western coast, the waves barreled past, while we glided south on calm seas. With the entire island of Nuku Hiva blocking the easterly swells and the easterly winds, the western, leeward, side of the island provides a pleasant respite from the usual boisterousness.
Only one boat was anchored in Haahopu Bay when we arrived: the beautiful red boat Cinnabar, with our friends, Tom and Sylvia. We anchored nearby and were immediately invited over for dinner to share some of the huge wahoo (that's a fish, for some of you non-fisherpeople) that had attached itself to the lure that Tom and Sylvia had been towing behind the boat as they entered the bay. The fish was delicious and the company was fun.
The water in Haahopu Bay is the clearest we've seen so far in the Marquesas; we were easily able to see the bottom - and the reef fish swimming above it - 25 feet below. We enjoyed snorkeling with Tom and Sylvia near the rocky cliffs. Large manta rays, some 5 feet across, glided throughout the bay, their black and white bodies contrasting with the turquoise water. Tropicbirds, brown boobies, and noddies - black ones and also blue-gray ones - soared above.
One morning, while we were sitting in the cockpit minding our own business, our backstay suddenly went TWANG!!!! and began vibrating. The next second, a full-grown brown booby went THUMP! down onto our deck. It sat there for a few minutes, slowly turning its head this way and that, looking at the deck, the rigging, and us, with what seemed to be a WTF? expression on its face. When it had regained its composure, it flew away, dazed but seemingly unhurt. I guess if your method of obtaining food is to dive face-first into the water, you have to be built pretty robustly; this one obviously was.
Not many people choose to anchor in Haahopu Bay. I'm not sure why; it's a lovely, calm anchorage. During the week we were anchored there, only one or two other boats came and went. And after Tom and Sylvia left, we had the place to ourselves most of the time. We saw more people on land, than on boats: local families camped or picnicked on the beach, and people frequented the concrete dock almost daily, fishing in the shallows or taking one of the small fishing boats that were tied to it.
Known colloquially as "the airport anchorage," Haahopu Bay is connected to Nuku Hiva's tiny airport by a switch-backed dirt road. Before the main road to the airport was improved, it was faster and easier to take a boat from one of the island's villages to Haahopu, and get a ride to the airport from there, than to drive the whole way. Now that the road is better, people just drive.
This side of the island is known as Deserte Terre (the desert land). It's much drier here than the rest of the island. The palm trees and jungle plants common in the wetter parts of the island have been replaced here by scrubby bushes and long grass and unlike all the other places we've been on Nuku Hiva, where the appearance of gray clouds heralded rain, the few gray clouds that appeared over the mountain here usually evaporated before they ever got the chance to rain on us.
Which meant that most nights were clear and made for terrific stargazing. We spent a few nights on deck, checking out star clusters and nebulae with our binoculars. We made tentative plans to take Eric's telescope to the concrete dock a couple of times, but one night the swells were too rough and the next night the sky clouded over, so we didn't get the chance.
Just after sunrise on the day that we were planning to return to Taiohae Bay, we were awakened by some loud scraping and machine noises. Peeking out the window, I saw a small crane, a flatbed truck, some large metal containers, and some men assembled on the concrete dock. The two small fishing boats that were usually tied there were gone. The men were looking out to sea; so I did, too. Just rounding the point at the entrance to the bay was the huge red Polynesian supply ship, the Taporo. As it was headed into the small bay, and as we were anchored not far from the concrete dock, Eric and I decided to leave sooner rather than later. As in, right now. We pulled on some clothes, fired up Yanmar the Magnificent, weighed anchor, and were motoring past the Taporo, waving up at its crew, before we were even fully awake.
Looking back from the open sea, we saw that the Taporo actually anchored pretty far out in the bay, and was launching a small barge to retrieve the items on the dock. We probably could have stayed where we were, and not been in their way, but since we were planning to leave anyway, what the heck, we'd just arrive in Taiohae a little earlier than planned.
A Fun Fact: the answer is, "about three weeks." The question is, "How long does it take for a mud wasp to hatch from an egg, eat all the food provided by its mother, and emerge from its mud nest?" I know this because I watched one of these small wasps make a nest in a small hole in our cockpit, lay an egg, fill the nest with paralyzed caterpillars, and seal it up. Then one day, about three weeks later, I saw a mud wasp standing next to the now-open hole where the nest had been. Now you know, too.
PS. If you notice the location from which this blog entry was sent, you'll see that we've since moved on from Nuku Hiva. More on that next time...