Friday, May 11, 2012

Anchoring adventure at Fatu Huka and Tikis at Puamau, and sharks.

May 11, 2012
Fatu Huka
Anchorage Position: °26.1673 S 138°55.8661 W

We anchored overnight at the uninhabited island of Fatu Huka about a 20nm sail from Puamau, Hiva Oa at Anchorage Position: °26.1673 S 138°55.8661 W As we approached Fatu Huka the wind was ESE at 15 knots and coming on to soundings near the landmass the sea built. We explored the bight on the Northwest side of Fatu Huka as it seemed to provide good wind protection if you tucked up close to the cliffs. Seas were wrapping around the North end of Fatu Huka and refracting off the vertical cliffs and thundering into numerous sea caves. The bounce back waves combined with the wrap around seas ensured plenty of confused boat motion, but we agreed to give it a try. Depths varied from 4 meters in the bight to 14 meters several hundred yards off. We selected a location that appeared to have the best wind protection and as I held the boat in position, Kathy took a swim to get a good look at the bottom makeup. Kathy found a solid rock bottom scattered with boulders from the size of a barrel to the size of a garden shed... an anchor eating bottom. Kathy climbed back aboard and we prepared to buoy the anchor chain with the idea that the majority of the chain would be suspended off the bottom thereby limiting the likelihood of a fatal tangle with the boulders. It was our first try at buoying a chain so the spacing of the buoys was pure guess work. Too much spacing and the chain would snag on the bottom, too little and buoys would drag the anchor. Our guess was pretty good and we ended up with about 20' of the chain on the bottom. Even so, this was a temporary arrangement as it was only a matter of time until the chain and anchor would tangle with the many boulders. With the boat still idling, just in case, we both jumped in the water to reposition the anchor and adjust some of the buoys. The lack of wind made all of this possible as there was little pull on the anchor chain, allowing the necessary adjustments. Even so, I could see a tangle was imminent. Back on board I gathered up some old line and then dove back to the bottom to secure the line to a few boulders to create a temporary mooring. Diving repeatedly to twenty eight feet to secure the line was a bit taxing, but with warm clear waters it was a fun challenge. With the temporary mooring line tied I secured the anchor chain to the new mooring line with a carbineer to take the anchoring load. Next I moved the anchor, wedging it between a few large boulders as it would now be the back up in the event my mooring line parted due to chafe.

With the boat well secured we enjoyed the countless sea birds wheeling around the vertical cliffs and the thundering swell as it exploded and boomed into sea caves. The refracted swell and bounce back waves were a bit uncomfortable as they would slap our transoms with solid thud that was quite unnatural and unnerving. With two anchor alarms set overnight we jumped out of bed twice due to false alarms with the GPS. I'd rank this as a 9 on the adventure scale and reckon we're the first cruising boat to ever anchor in the NW bight of Fatu Huka. If weather conditions were truly settled and the protection of the islands' lee was not important then one could anchor in 15 meters sand to the North of Fatu Huka. But, this location would not offer any wind or swell protection. On our way to Ua Huka, we noted severalsand patches to the North as shallow as 7 meters and on our way we dropped the anchor on sand in 8 meters at 09°24.6170 S, 138°56.4382 W to do a little snorkeling. Be warned that the current runs strong on these shoals and was setting to the West at 2 knots. The scoured bottom and strong current cut our trip short due to the hard swimming required to hold position. In settled weather one could contemplate temporary anchorage on these shoals, but the swell does stand up a bit in the shallow waters.

May 9, 2012
Puamau, Hiva Oa

We enjoyed a night at Puamau to visit the largest stone Tiki in French Polynesia. Our anchorage position was 09°45.7081 S 138°52.4794 W near Tahanamoa Point where we entered the small bay by keeping the two motus Ana Kei and Ana Momo to starboard. In the bay we found a sand bottom with good holding in 9 meters and decent protection from the Easterly swell. Snorkeling was excellent in the small bay with good visibility, great coral, plenty of fish and a curious white tipped reef shark. We searched for lobster without success, but in the evening we noticed the underwater lights of divers whom were likely finding the lobsters out of their holes.

Heading for shore, we moored our dinghy at the quay with a stern anchor and then made the walk to the settlement. Where the road forks near the 'Snack Shack' we were asked to pay 300FPF or about $3USD each for admission to see the Tikis. Cold beers and limited groceries can be found by following the fork to the right, or you take the left and head up hill for about 20 minutes to the archeological site with the impressive stone Tikis.

May 8, 2012

Baie Hanaiapa to Baie Hanatekua
On our second day in Baie Hanaiapa we headed to shore to sign resident Williams 'Yacht Book'. William was super nice and sent us back to the boat with a stock of bananas, pamplemouse and some green papaya. We then went snorkeling at the Roche Fatutu with Shane from s/v Clover, we started at the huge rock at the entrance to Baie Hanaiapa. Once in the bay looking out at the rock, it appears to have a mans face looking to the right and a womans to the left. Pretty cool. Too bad the snorkeling wasn't better due to cloudy waters. We then tried the NW corner of the bay and the next few point further out hoping to find some clear ocean water. The water was improved and the snorkeling best near Pointe Motupoa where we spotted a pretty big shark with white on all his tips. Thankfully mister white tipped shark just swam on by, taking only a breif passing interest. Having the itch to see what's around the next corner we hauled our anchor and headed a few miles to the very pleasant Baie Hanatekuae to anchor in 6 meters on white sand at 09°42.0815 S 138°59.5946 W. In the morning Kathy took a swim to the white sand beach that rivals Hanamoenoa on Tahuata on a smaller scale. However, there is only room for a very few boats here.

That's all for now.

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