Tahuata, part 2: Hanatefau Bay and Hanatopi

Category: Ships Log
  green panther Hanatefau bay on Tahuata  

Exploring the south of Tahuata island (June 16th - 17th)

Our own bay, dinghy ride, meeting the locals, and a tempermental engine


After enjoying Hanamoenoa Bay for several days we left early one morning and had a relaxing sail south along the coast of Tahuata and admired the lush green vegetation and the steep cliffs growing into cloud covered mountain tops. First we peeked into the Bay of Vaitahu, which harbors the village of the same name. The village of Vaitahu is the largest on the island, but since there are only about 600 islanders in total it’s still a small place. Anyway we were greeted with strong wind gusts and whitecaps in the bay, so we decided to move on to Hanatefau Bay further south. The bay looked beautiful, lined with palm trees and relatively calm. There was no other boat anchored and only a single hut ashore, so we pretty much had the bay to ourselves. We anchored and jumped in for a snorkel since our cruising guide said this bay had the best snorkeling in the Marquesas. The big boulders close to shore were filled with reef fish and several large corals. Unfortunately, the water was also filled with plankton from a recent bloom; the plankton included comb-jellies, pelagic tunicates, salps, hydroids, and some tiny jellyfish that packed a bit of a sting, so we had to cut our underwater exploration short. This however meant we would have time to get our dinghy and outboard ready to explore the nearby village of Hapatoni located the next bay over.


Green Panther in Hanatefau Bay on Tahuata
Green Panther in  Hanatefau Bay

We are now pretty good at hoisting our rather heavy wooden dinghy off the deck and splashing it in the water without scratching Green Panther too much. Moving our outboard engine from the stern rail down into the dinghy without dropping it into the water is a different story and is a balancing act that needs careful attention. Finally though, we were speeding across the bay towards Hapatoni. Okay, maybe more likely slowly putt-putting across the bay since we have a 3.5 hp motor.  Looking for a landing site, we knew already that the beach was a no go because of the heavy surf and the coral heads. Our plan was to land at the wharf and then use a dinghy anchor to keep Lil' Panther off the dock. Well we don’t really have a dinghy anchor, and maybe won’t get one until we hit Papeete, so we brought Alena's dive weights, dive belt and a bunch of rope for this purpose. Anyway we were pleasantly surprised that the wharf had a launching ramp, so we landed there and then schlepped our dinghy up the ramp and moved it on to some grass - we were glad it was relatively easy. 

While exploring the village we ran into three woman, one of them spoke English, and we learned that a new road was build about a year ago linking Hapatoni with Vaitahu and that this road passes close to our anchorage. We later met a guy in the village who is the cousin of the family owing the hut in Hanatefau right where we anchored and he said “I only need 15 minutes to go over there.”  So maybe we walk next time too. :)

Green Panther in Hanatefau Bay on Tahuata, Church in Hapatoni
Church in Hapatoni, Tahuata Island


Green Panther in Hanatopi, ancient pathway
Walking along the ancient pathway in Hanatopi.


We walked along the ancient pathway shaded by mango and palm trees, enjoyed the view of the bay, and snacked on some tasty orange mangos. Back in the village we followed the rhythm of a large drum to the central meeting place, a large wooden hut with open sides. From one of the bystanders, who had half his body covered in beautiful Marquesan tattoos, we learned that this was a meeting of all the woman who live here. They play bingo for money and then discuss how to spend the bingo money for the benefit of the village. Sometimes it is for a village feast.

On our way back to Lil' Panther we met some local kids who offered us some pomme cater (ugly apples) which they cut open for us on the walls of the cemetery. They introduced us to their dogs and insisted on helping us lift our dinghy back into the water. Finally we said goodbye and off we went. Well we almost left, our engine refused to start; it has some problems with the idle jet so you have to start it with more fuel and that can cause the spark plug to flood. While I was pulling madly on the starter string, trying all the tricks I learned to convince the engine to start, Alena was keeping us off the rocks with the oar, and the kids on shore yelled something in French. As we floated out of the wharf a strong wind gust was waiting for us and did its best to push us back onto the rocks, so we both were at the oars now trying to move back behind the concrete breakwater of the wharf. We eventually managed it and some friendly locals took our lines and inspected the engine. After a lot of pulling we finally got it to work and putted back across to Hanatefau Bay where Green Panther was waiting for us. 

Our next stop will be Nuku Hiva, the main island of the Marquesas which houses the Marquesan capitol of Taiohae.


Green Panther in Hanatopi tatooed man
  Beautiful Marquesan tattoos on one of the locals in Hapatoni; for a living he carves sculptures in bone.


One of the many carved wooden posts you see in the Marquesas.


A local wood carver in the village of Hapatoni.


The beautiful paddle he is carving.


Green Panther in Hanatopi on Tahuata
Two of the local kids helping us with Lil' Panther.


Hits: 4157


0 #3 JS 2014-06-25 21:23
Great job on the blog. Enjoying all the details and pictures. Looking forward to the next installments. Happy sails.
0 #2 milton Love 2014-06-25 15:54
Hi Alena
Milton Love here. Love the blog you two put together.

Evan Needham of the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries in the Northern Territory of Australia emailed me - he would like permission "use your graphic of the fish and swim bladder expanding as it is bought to the surface in some of our educational material." Is that okay with you?
0 #1 David & Michelle 2014-06-25 15:19
Sounds like you guys are finally enjoying yourselves - - don't you miss those frantic days prepping to cross?

Have fun!

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