Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nuku Hiva to Ua Huka: The Toss Up

(By email)
The mini-festival in Ua Huka Mark and I talked about visiting for months started on December 18th. We really wanted to go – it is one of the reasons we stayed in the northern Marquesas – but we said it would all depend on the weather, as always. We waited in Anaho for a favorable weather window, as close to the starting date as possible, since Ua Huka does not have any good anchorages. The expected and usual (for this season) northeast winds never came. It was the day before the festival and we were facing 15 knots of wind from the east, needing to sail… east! All sailors know what that means: tacking back and forth into seas and wind and doing twice the distance. Not a great prospect.

Luckily, we had an alternative. Cruisers we know would visit Taiohae on Nuku Hiva with their 60 foot motor catamaran to pick up guests and we could get a free ride to Ua Huka! Once there, we were offered sleeping quarters on Gypsy Blues, the sailboat of our friends RenĂ© and Cheryl who we hadn’t seen in 1.5 years. An easy way out! We wouldn’t have to worry about the trip, about the crowded anchorage, about getting to shore safely or about our partly deteriorating anchor chain which could be an issue in deeper water.

We left Anaho, on the north side of Nuku Hiva, at 6am on December 17th under sail, to see what it was like out there. We were willing to give it a try getting to Ua huka on our own and worst case scenario was that we could just fall off and easily coast to Taiohae for our ride the following day. After three hours of tacking, we only made 4 miles in the right direction, only doing 4.5 knots and being obstructed by adverse current. Mark calculated that we would have to do 60 miles instead of the 32 “direct” miles and that we would not get to Hane during daylight hours. It was hard to believe this early on. What to do? Keep on going and having our own home and freedom, or, have a pleasant ride to Taiohae, catch up on a few things and taking the easy way out?

We had been to Hane before, we had a track, the moon was about full, we had time and we could use a bit of real sailing practice, so… we kept going. What followed – as expected – was a tough and frustrating sail, made harder and  more complicated by the fluky winds and many squalls, who would first suck the wind away (less than 10 knots) and then spill it heavily back on us with 20 knots. When the breeze had a slightly northern tendency, we tacked south, when the wind then fluctuated a bit to the south 5 minutes later, we tacked the other way once more. We did this many times; all the while putting a reef in and taking it back out again. Around 4pm, we reached the coast of Ua Huka and for a while we were hopeful about beating nightfall and making it in only a few more tacks, only for the wind to change direction and velocity yet again.

One of the many tacks towards Hane; the sun is setting!

When 5:30pm approached, we were fighting the wind, the waves, the current … and time. We lost. But not by much. We pulled into Hane at 7pm, in the dark, after 13 hours of hard work and doing 70 miles instead of 32! We managed to plop ourselves in a tight spot in the middle of 22 sailboat (we were here by ourselves last time), a feat in itself. Mark and I were exhausted, had sore backs and ripped blisters, but there was a great feeling of accomplishment, especially because we beat the other – bigger – monohull that set out from Anaho, by two hours. We had been crossing routes all morning. The other two boats that had left that morning (from Taiohae) and arrived before us, had both motored the whole way. Irie did great. She was fast and strong, and we are very proud of her!

A crappy anchorage full of boats…

View of the busy bay from the back of a pick-up truck


Wayne said...

Hi guys,

I've been enjoying reading your blog for the past 6 months or so from the beginning and I'm finally caught up... What adventures you've had! I just wanted to say hi and thank you for sharing them with me.

I live in Ottawa Canada and we are in the midst of some serious snowfall right now... seeing your pictures helps bring warmth to these cold days up here!

Someday I'll be out on the water myself, but until then, I look forward to more of your entertaining posts...

Best wishes to you both for the Holidays!


Liesbet said...

Thank you, Wayne, and Happy Holidays to you as well! Enjoy the snow - something we have not seen in a long long while! :-)