29 April 2006

Biae Tah Uku anchorage, Hiva Oa

Biae Tah Uku anchorage
Hiva Oa, Marquises
French Polynesia

We made it!! Team Sandpiper arrived at the anchorage of Biae Tahuku on the island of Hiva Oa on Wed morning the 27th. We anchored in the tiny anchorage here with about 15 other boats, half of them we knew from Mexico.

We timed our arrival to be at sunrise, which on a powerboat is easy, as you know exactly what speed you will be making. But when sailing, it is hard, as during our last night the wind kept picking up making us go faster. So we kept taking down sails trying to slow down. We made sight of land before sunrise and were able to get the local FM radio station to hear a mix of French/American and island music.

Hiva Oa is about 20 miles long, with high sheer cliffs filled with all kinds of green plants growing everywhere. You can smell the great fragrance of all the flowers growing here miles off shore. We were anchored by 10am, in rain. We had help from the other boats we knew, as we were talking to them on the radio about how to squeeze into this anchorage.

One of the other Puddle Jumpers, Robert on Lavour, had us anchor up next to their boat. Then he helped us get out our stern anchor with his dinghy. Strange to see all these boats and land after so many days at sea.

As much as we wanted to get ashore, we had to first get the awning rigged to keep the rain out of the cockpit. Then we raised our French & Quarantine flags, and inflated the dinghy.

On one side of the anchorage is a small French Amy base. The other side, where we bring the dinghy ashore, is a small dock for ships and a gas station. It seems like everyone here drives a Land Rover, and getting to town is really easy. You just stick out your thumb and you get picked up for the 5 mile ride to town. I think the unofficial rule here is the only cars that will stop to pick you up are pick-up trucks. So you just jump in the back. You don't even have to tell the driver where you want off, as they already know where you are going.

For the last 4 days "Team Sandpiper" had been busy exploring town and getting boat projects completed. We officially checked in the following day of our arrival as the Gendarmerie (French Customs) only works till 11am, like just about all the other businesses here. We hired an agent to post our bond, and we are now officially in French Polynesia for 90 days. Checking in involved walking to the post office to get our 90-day stamp. Then a walk to the bank to pay the agent. It really was easy. One benefit to using an agent to check you in as we are able to get duty free fuel during our 90 days here. This is a big money saver, as diesel is $4 US dollars a gallon, and duty free makes it $2 dollars a gallon.

The town of Atuona is very small (Hive Oa has 2000 people), with a few small stores and one small hardware store. There is no Internet here, and we think it may be awhile before we find an island where we are able to "Log On". So it might be some time before we can get pictures posted.

Everything here is super expensive. We bought 2 cans of Coke at a hotel in town for $3 dollars each!!

It is strange at first so hear the islanders speaking French, eating baguettes, and driving around in Land Rovers. Baguettes are subsidized by the French government. They cost about 47 cents each. It is about the only bread you can get here, so you get a baguette for everything. Amy and I stopped at a snack truck and got the local sandwich favorite, fried chicken topped with french fries on a baguette. MMMmmm!

The grocery stores here have a very limited selection of fresh vegetables. There is a guy who comes in to town in here truck every morning at 8:45, and we were able to get fresh lettuce, pineapples, and cucumbers for our first real salad in a month!!

We also stopped by a bar just down the road from where we land the dinghy and bought a giant bunch of bananas for $5 dollars. At first we though we were getting just a few bananas, and were wondering why the owner of the bar insisted on driving us back to the dinghy. We ended up with a bunch of bananas that weigh more than 50 pounds. They are now hanging off the back of Sandpiper.

One of the things Hiva Oa is famous for is that the artist Paul Gauguin lived here and is buried here. There is a Gauguin museum downtown, and you can visit his grave. But he has a pretty shady past here. He moved here as he really "liked" 13 year old girls, which caused a lot of problems with the missionaries in town. He eventually died of Syphilis, owing a bill for a bottle of wine at the grocery store downtown. The museum leaves out this information.

One boat project that we needed to repair while we were here was trying to get a replacement fuel pump for the generator, as it had failed several weeks back. There are no auto parts stores here. So we found a French mechanic and went to his house to see if he could have a new pump flown in. But when he hooked up the old pump to a battery it worked fine. So maybe we just have a loose wire somewhere.

Another boat project was purchasing electrical wire at the hardware store for our solar panels. My previous wiring attempt was pretty sorry. Our friend Ion says it is probably not a good idea to run power through speaker wires! So now our solar panels are making good power. We lay them out on deck when we are at anchor.

Our friend Ken on SV Panache arrived several days behind us. He single handed his boat here. We plan on staying here till Wednesday morning, as Ken needs to check in, and this is a holiday weekend (May Day). So he can not check in until Tuesday morning. We plan to buddy boat together for awhile. Our next stop will be Hana Vave (Bay of Virgins) on the island of Fatu Hiva , where we hope to arrive after a 40 mile southerly sail Wednesday evening.

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