Tahuatu Island

Our next stop was to be Hiva Oa, but there was supposed to be a 2-metre swell and as it’s known to be a rolly anchorage we decided to go to Tahuatu Island first. Tahuatu lies less than 4 km from the southern end of Hiva Oa and is the smallest of the inhabited Marquesan islands.  The island’s two main villages Vaitahu and Hapatoni are home to most of the 653 residents.

The island has a really interesting history; while Fatu Hiva was the first Polynesian island sited by Europeans, Tahuatu was the first island set foot on by Europeans, or more precisely by Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña in 1595 when he sailed into the little bay at Vaitahu, the island’s main village. He named it Madre De Dios (Mother of God). It was also at this time that he named the archipelago, “las Marquesas”.

The bay was later visited by another famous explorer, Captain James Cook in 1774, when he named the bay “Resolution Bay”.  It was Admiral Dupetit-Thouars who probably had the greatest impact on the bay’s history when he claimed the island for France in 1842, and the local chief, Lotete resisted.  Lotete encouraged the rebellion of his warriors and against the better-armed French, it resulted in a bloodbath.  Several French sailors were killed and are now buried on a hill above Vaitahu. The admiral then built a fort overlooking the valley which remains in an overgrown state.

Vaitahu – 3/6/2021

We stopped at the village Vaitehu and went ashore looking for some internet to download a school document.  A local who owns the restaurant allowed us to use his internet and then offered me coffee and some of his large oranges to take back to the boat with us.  After inquiring about a tattoo artist who is supposed to live in the village for Distant Star, I was taken to talk to another local about it and left Max and Tristan to download the school document.  I was told there was a tattoo artist up the hill, so I radioed Distant Star to come in.  While waiting for Distant Star several other local men came over to discuss the tattooing and then seemed to decide that the village tattoo artist was too expensive and the one in Hapatoni would be better.  This led to me being taken over to the little supermarket to talk to another lady whose boyfriend is the tattoo artist in Hapatoni.  Eventually I left promising to return soon with Distant Star.

Eventually Distant Star came in and we did the rounds of the locals again who were all quite excited.  While Luca and Ashe were discussing it with the lady, I spoke to one of the locals who was at the entrance at the supermarket, I had noticed a few people with band aids on their arms and I asked if they’d had the Covid-19 vaccine.  I learnt that the nurses and a doctor from the hospital in Nuku Hiva had been at the island today to vaccinate everyone with the JJ vaccine, but she thought it had finished at 3 pm.  I radioed Andrew to come in and we made our way to the hospital, more like a clinic and were told they were closing in 2 minutes and unless we could come up with 6 people to be vaccinated, they didn’t want to open another packet and waste any.  Tristan came ashore, Ashe and a reluctant Luca, along with Maya made up our 6 people.  We were very lucky to have received the free vaccine and very grateful that the Distant Star crew agreed to get it done so we could too.  As a type 1 diabetic with a husband with blood pressure problems it was a relief to finally get the vaccine after 18 months of vigilance to avoid getting Covid-19.  15 days and we will be protected, yeah!!  I think Distant Star have decided to wait on the tattoos, it became too difficult to try to co-ordinate. 

Record of Andrew, Tristan and my Covid-19 vaccination. We are so pleased to have gotten it, now we just hope at some stage Max and Ava can get it.

The kids came over to Utopia for card games that evening, while Andrew and I retired to read and promptly fell asleep only to be awoken a couple of hours later by a frantic Max.  Distant Star’s dinghy had come untied, and the kids had been searching the bay in the remaining dinghies but had been unable to locate it.  Distant Star and us took out the boats looking for the dinghy knowing with the heavy rain it would be unlikely to find it and we didn’t.  Andrew and Luka searched the coastline the next morning but couldn’t find it.  The only way I can explain the significance of this loss is if you think of the boat as your home and the dinghy as your car.  Without the dinghy you can’t get ashore, you can’t bring food or people to your boat and in a place like French Polynesia it is difficult and expensive to replace not only the dinghy but the motor.  We will be heading to Hiva Oa on Monday to see if Distant Star can find a second-hand dinghy in the boat yard or on the face book group. 

Hanamoenoa Bay – 4/6/2021

After the dinghy loss last night and everyone who was vaccinated not feeling great (with a range of symptoms from the shakes, fever, tired and achy joints) we moved to the white sandy bay of Hanamoenoa.  Everyone had a bit of a quiet day, other than the kids who swam and talked on the beach. 

Hapatoni – 5/6/2021

We set off on Utopia to head to Hapatoni with the Distant Star Crew onboard and Charisma following close behind.  After anchoring we dinghied to the dinghy dock and headed off to find the artisanal centre that displays the island’s bone and wood carving.  We arrived at the spot marked on the map to find a building filled with mattresses, tables and stacked chairs but were soon greeted by a local who Maya spoke to and said they would set up their crafts for us to see.  Soon there were several ladies setting up their tables and we explained that we would go for a walk while they set up. 

We walked along the Royal Road, a stone terraced road shrouded by temanu trees that skirts the bay and passes through the tiny village. We stopped in to have a look at the stone Catholic church which had interesting contrasts (juxtaposition?) like the traditional bible and one in with the Marquesas cross as well as drums and guitars near the altar for the Sunday service with traditional seating and stained glass windows. Alexis was explaining to the littles the significance of the church, which was very cute.

The royal walkway.

A very pretty little stone church.

The church is an interesting mix of Marquesan and French and old and new.

I find cemeteries interesting, in Italy a lot of cemeteries have tombs above ground, some countries are brightly coloured but here each of the grave crosses has a Jesus on its cross.

We continued to the end of the road and were met with a warning sign to not enter and so promptly turned to return to the artisanal centre.  As we passed some of the homes we were invited to a local’s house to see his bone carvings. We looked at his necklaces with carved seahorses, whale’s tails, manta rays and tikis for $60 US, earrings ranging from $60 – $150, hair combs etc. After looking we continued down to the artisanal centre which sold sandalwood carved bowls for about $100 US, similar necklaces, earrings, rings and ceremonial knives made from marlin bills, etc.  Ava ended up purchasing a tiki necklace and negotiated the price a little.  I ended up going back to the house with Tristan so he could get some earrings that he liked that had the Marquesans cross carved into it.  So with souvenirs purchased we headed back to our dinghy.  One of the locals gave Alexis some starfruit which she shared out. 

There is no supermarket or baguettes sold in this village.  The dinghy dock was safe, and we didn’t use a stern anchor.  We had anchored in this bay our way to Fatu Hiva and found the bay to be calm while we were there.  After an easy lunch and cookies on board Utopia thanks to Max we dinghied back to Vaitehu.  The dinghy dock at Vaitehu is much more difficult to disembark from and really requires someone to drop you off at it and also time your arrival with the waves.  The dock itself is very slippery.  Some members of our group went ashore to find flip flops as some had gone missing with the dinghy and see if there were any vegetables or fruits. The only fruit and veg available we found during our two visits were apples 10 for $12 US and a packet of ten garlic bulbs for $3.50 US.

We returned to Hanamoenoa for a late swim and to spend the night.

2 thoughts on “Tahuatu Island

  1. Glad to hear you could get vaccine!! Enjoyed your post as usual. Enjoying my time with crew of LOVE and LUCK. They miss you all!!


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