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Friday 14th July 2023 - Quatorze Juillet! Sailing from Ua Pou to Tahanea

Well, the sailing just now, soon after midday, is so very pleasant, as we bounce along very gently in a SE wind on the beam of around 10-12 knots.  It doesn’t bear comparison to the uncomfortable, ‘boisterous’ sail in close 3.5m seas and 20kt winds that we had after leaving Ua Pou, in the Iles Marquises, on Tuesday afternoon, nor the equally rough sail we had to reach Ua Pou from Nuku Hiva a few days before.

The sun is shining from a clear blue sky and the sea has that lovely deep blue colour the you only get in the Tropics in bright sunshine.

Despite not being able to hoist the mainsail fully, as I tried to this morning just before dawn, after releasing the second reef line, we’re making a fair speed of around 5.5 kt and have just under 100 n.ml. to go now to reach our destination - in daylight over Saturday 15th July, hopefully.   (The third reef line now seems jammed in the boom, to add to the broken first reef line inside there already)

I went around to Taiohae Bay Nuku Hiva, from Hakatea Bay last week and had a very sociable time with other cruisers nearby before making for the amazingly dramatic island of Ua Pou, just 25 n.ml. to the south.  The wind was well up and on the nose, so it was a very difficult sail in 22kt apparent wind to reach the small harbour of Hakahau.

It seems that every boat in that small but beautiful anchorage ended up with anchoring difficulties - either dragging their main anchor or being totally  unable to raise their stern anchor easily.     All the boats were frequently pointing in a variety of directions under the influence of the nearby high, steep mountains causing the direction of the strong wind gusts to vary a lot.

While there, having put out a stern anchor that didn’t hold, it finally got caught in my main anchor chain and caused me to drag overnight in the very gusty conditions.  I ended up circling for several hours until nearby cruisers could come to help me.   I had tie to a nearby jetty used by the inter-island ferry in order that they could disentangle the chains - a totally inappropriate dock but at least we got the job done, although my fenders are now no longer white but totally black!
Deepest gratitude to Morgan of ‘Unbelievable’ and Paul of ‘Oneiro’ for coming to my rescue once day had dawned, several hours later.   I slept for 4-5 hors once safely re-anchored that morning!

A weather window appeared and meant leaving for the Tuamotus on Tuesday - but I enjoyed a great motor-sail down Ua Pou’s rugged west coast, its old volcanic cores being seen as incredibly steep-sided spires reaching to the sky from all points on the coast and amazing rocky formations with many enormously big caves at sea-level - quite a fabulous trip and I’m glad not to have missed doing that.

The other benefit of coming down that coast relatively close inshore was being in protected waters - the 3-4m rough seas endured off the north coast of the island calmed right down to almost nothing although the wind varied from very little to sudden gusts of up to 20kt, often on the nose - a good reason to keep the motor going all the way down the coast, necessary to keep making way even with the mainsail hoisted.  (See my videos of the dramatic scenery and of my recent sailing, posted on You Tube (and please  subscribe to my channel) :YouTube.com/@jeannesailingsolo )

Once I had turned SW towards the Tuamotus, away from the SW corner of Ua Pou, we soon felt the strong  prevailing ESE-SE winds and were tossed around in the rough seas.  For over 2 days, we were making excellent speed of 6-7 kt or more - but it was very difficult moving around on board over that time, unlike now - what a change in the conditions!

Unfortunately, at one point in my journey,I discovered a pump running continuously - my freshwater tanks had been emptied.  Clearly, there’s a leak somewhere in the pipework (probably around the hot water tank) and I’d omitted to turn off the freshwater pump when not in use - big mistake!  It’s a good thing I recently managed to get my watermaker working so I can run that from time to time to give a small supply of good water which I’ll have to store in bottles and containers until I make landfall and can try to find (and fix) the leak….

Photos show the dramatic view over Hakehau harbour and some of the highly varied, large volcanic rock formations along the north and west coast, with frequent large caves and occasional well-protected small bays.

On to the Tuamotus now - I’m looking forward to some good snorkelling within the atoll of Tahanea over the coming week - in between seeing to a few essential boat jobs!


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Written by : Jeanne Socrates