Ua Huka

Ua Huka is a small island of 30 square miles due East of Nuku Hiva, with only 3 tiny towns and 600 people total. We stayed on the southern coast at Ua Huka 5 days before returning to Nuku Hiva to resupply baguettes and pick up Matt.

With Tony aboard, we set sail for Ua Huka at 2:00 am from Comptroller Bay, Nuku Hiva . It was mid-morning when we arrived at the “hidden bay” of Vaipae’e. We had read that the village here had a great maritime museum and excellent wood carvers. But we were scooped. The word had gotten out and the Aranui had gotten there first.

The Aranui is a large ship with the front half a freighter, complete with cranes, and the rear half is a 6-deck cruise ship. The Aranui travels to many of the islands acting as a supply ship – unloading containers with goods and wealthy tourists with Francs. The “hidden bay” is aptly named because it is a narrow canyon and you really can’t see it offshore unless you happen to be looking straight in. But we could see the Aranui 3 miles out, which didn’t make sense at all. There is no dock for a large ship in this small bay. We had seen Aranui twice already. She took most of Baie Takauka in Hiva Oa where she tied to a 400ft long concrete quay. In Baie Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Aranui looked more appropriate. This bay has plenty of room and an industrial wharf. But here she was in Ua Huka, jammed into the hidden bay, which wasn’t much wider then the ship. Somehow the boat got into the mouth of the bay and was tied in the middle with ropes going to both walls. We couldn’t get past her.

So, we sailed on to the next bay called Hane. This bay had normal proportions with a wide opening leading to a beach and a valley complete with a large football field and small town. We saw manta rays in the water and were eager for a chance to swim with them. Max put donned mask and snorkel and dove down to check the anchor. Swimming around in the bay, he got a close view of a manta ray with 10-foot wingspan!

The next day, the three of us went ashore. Here, we played frisbee on a horse mown field and walked through the “town” which consisted of a couple dozen small houses, a store, a church, and the maritime museum. The town was quiet, and everything was closed because it was Sunday afternoon. Back at the beach, we found the families having picnics and playing in the water. It looked like the extended family outings that we see in Mexico. It looks like it would be fun to be a kid in the Marquesas.

Over the next two days we saw many more manta rays and had plenty of opportunities to swim right alongside them. It is impossible to describe how cool it is to swim alongside a giant graceful creature like that. Max got some nice underwater pictures and videos that I’ll try to post.

The museum was interesting. They had a number of old dugout boat hulls as well as some well-done replicas. They also displayed beautiful wood carvings that belong in a museum, but they were for sale! The church in the town was small and well kept. The pulpit was made to look like the bow of a boat.

When we returned to the hidden bay a few days later, Aranui was gone. We anchored in the middle, but it felt pretty uncomfortable. The boat was always 150 feet from a shear wall and the water was opaque brown. We went ashore, played frisbee, and checked out the small town. After verifying that there was no museum or woodcarving display here, we decided to leave. We sailed a few miles around the two giant rock islands of Hemeni and Teuaua, which were covered with noisy birds, to Baie Haavei. We had read that this was private land and through the binoculars we could read signs that said “tabu” posted on the beach, so we didn’t go ashore. We did enjoy nice snorkeling here, complete with manta rays.

In Haavei we had regular onshore waves and irregular gusty winds. This leads to the situation where the boat can be sideways to the waves, which cause uncomfortable rolling back and forth. We correct this by deploying a second anchor off the stern of the boat that keeps the boat from swinging. Initially, we rowed this second anchor into place, but we misjudged the distance and it didn’t hold. Max, who I am now convinced is part fish, dove into the water and swam the anchor and chain to the right position where he buried it in the sand under 15 feet of water. We slept much better with the waves aligned to the bow of the boat.

We sailed back to Nuku Hiva under light winds, which took a whole day but we caught a nice skipjack along the way. Coming back to the familiar Baie Taiohae seemed somewhat peculiar. It is always exciting to come into a new place, but after only a month in the Marquesas, this bay had lost its charm. Perhaps it’s getting time to move on.

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