Monthly Archives: January 2020

Cruisers: All Hands on Deck in Ua Pou

The mountains are full of lots of goats.  Most of the time you can hear them but not see them.  When you do see them, they are precariously walking along the edge of a cliff or rock hundreds of meters in the sky.  They are the Ua Pou dare devils.  Occasionally, they will come down to the flat lands and grace us with their presence.  Check out the large, meaty one on the right.

Goats on Ua Pou

Goats on Ua Pou

The main anchorage in Ua Pou has one very beautiful Catholic church which I had the pleasure of visiting. The service was in Tahitian so I did not understand a single word other than “Amen.”  They did have some of the songs projected on the ceiling giving me a chance to try to sing along.  Super amusing as I don’t know the words or pronunciations, but I did my best and nobody tossed me out.

Catholic Church in Ua Pou

Catholic Church in Ua Pou

Cruisers Helping Cruisers

It is always amazing to witness the beauty of cruisers coming together to help one another out.  Being in a super tight anchorage presented a lot of different problems.  Everyone had to put out a stern anchor in addition to the bow anchor to try to minimize movement. “Try” being the operative word.

As we arrived, a French catamaran called Peneque waved us over and told us to anchor near them.  After we set the bow anchor, Matt jumped into Sweetie to set the stern anchor.  Rolan on Peneque, jumped in with him.  This allowed Matt to drive the dinghy while Rolan set the stern anchor (I was on the big boat ensuring she did not hit another boat).  See “How did we do that in Hakahau” for more details on getting here.

When Alrisha and Easy came to the anchorage, we hopped in the dinghy to help them with their stern anchors.

Alrisha Had Some Tough Times

Our friends Bridget and Ferry had a rough few weeks at Ua Pou. On a particularly windy and swelly day all hell broke loose.  Alrisha decided to stay onboard because of the severe weather conditions.  Well, to be honest, most of us stayed onboard for safety reasons.  Around mid-morning, we heard a commotion and saw Alrisha floating toward the reef and learned that she broke her stainless steel 10mm anchor chain.

The folks on Garfulo jumped in their dingy and helped them with the stern anchor, while Matt jumped in Sweetie to meet Alrisha at the dock.  The plan was to tie her to the main dock, use the stern anchor as a bow anchor and then try to find the broken chain (and anchor) for reattachment.  Within several hours, Alrisha was set to head back to the anchorage and Mike (Easy) found their broken chain.  They reattached their chain with a shorter scope and reset the stern anchor.  Later we sold them our old stainless chain which happened to also be 10mm and fit their windlass!  Talk about a blessing!

More Troubles for Alrisha

After the festival was over, Alrisha was in their dinghy heading to the dock when their outboard broke free and went for a swim.  Several local kids swam down and retrieved it using our painter from Sweetie.  They had to flush it and replace some seals, but got her running again the next day.

When we helped Mike (Easy) with his stern anchor, we leant him our old spinnaker line and 10 meters of chain to hold the line down.  Always, help someone when you can as you never know when you will need help in return.

The great thing about our cruiser friends is that they just go and help, they don’t wait to be asked and they don’t expect anything in return. Everyone helping everyone was more prevalent in Ua Pou because of the poor conditions and tight quarters.  However, it’s not just here in Ua Pou, but everywhere. 

Sorry no photos of the tough times as it was all hands-on deck.

Matt in his own private oasis

Killing Time in Ua Pou

We arrived in the main anchorage of Hakahau, Ua Pou several weeks before the Marquesan festival.  Not because it is a great place to be (because the anchorage stinks), but because we wanted to secure a spot in the approved anchorage before the festival.  So, what did we do to entertain ourselves?

Hike Along the Water’s Edge

Matt flew the drone around the out skirts of the bay and discovered a ledge that is only visible at low tide.  We decided to explore the ledge and see how far it would take us around the island.  It was a beautiful walk over lots of large rocks, pebbles, and lava formations.  It was really surprising to see how many fish were hanging out in the tide pools.  not just tad poles, but pretty little butterfly fish, angels and more.  Shocking really.  They must have come in with a wave and got stuck in their new home (bottom images).

Ua Pou Water's edge walk

Ua Pou Water’s edge walk

We found a beautiful little bridge that allowed the giant waves to flow underneath and above.  Perfect photo op for me.  We also found a little blue lagoon with gorgeous plant life and fish all around.  Of course Matt had to climb down and float inside this small piece of paradise.

Ua Pou

Ua Pou

When we returned, the Tahiti Nui boat was pulling in.  To our great amusement they had a large welcoming party to greet the Tahitian performers including dancing, singing, and drums!  My goodness if they do this just as they are arriving, I can hardly wait until the actual festival.

Welcoming the Tahiti Nui

Welcoming the Tahiti Nui

We spent lots of time on shore to avoid being in the uncomfortably anchorage.  However, when conditions were really bad, we were on board to ensure its safety.  Time moved slowly as we awaited the start of the festival.  I was anxious to leave Ua Pou and this anchorage, but my desire to be a part of the celebrations superseded it all!

Local performer humors me

Pre-Festival Celebrations

This Marquesan Arts Festival is an amazing cultural event which occurs every four years. It is a way for Marquesans to reclaim and revitalize the culture of their ancestors and share their rich history with the children and future generations.  The Marquesan history was almost lost in 1815 when the French colonized them and forbade anything related to their heritage and traditions.   This included dancing, singing, and tattooing.  We were lucky enough to be here for the pre-festival celebrations. 

There will be 9 groups.  Each of the 6 Marquesan islands will be represented including Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, and Ua Huka.  In addition, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Mangareva (Gambiers), and Tahiti will send dancers and musicians to perform for each other.  Artists start practicing six months before the event providing visitors an opportunity to enjoy their beautiful voices and drumming ahead of time.

It is a rare treat and a huge honor to be able to witness this spectacular celebration.  We specifically, planned our schedule to be in Ua Pou to participate in this event which only occurs every four years.  Each time it is held at a different island.

Pre-Festival Celebrations

As we mentioned in the last blog pos, it was a tight squeeze to get into the anchorage (see How did we do that in Hakahau”).  With only 10 boats allowed to anchor in a limited space.  So, once we got settled and were confident the boat was safe, we headed to shore for an hour to fly the drone.  We wanted to capture the tight quarters from the sky – but guess what?  We are in a no-fly zone (again) as the airport is in the next bay over – 5 miles away!  Ugh. Luckily Matt was able to get an exception so we will have more drone shots soon.

We did find out that a pre-festival dress rehearsal was being held later in the evening.  Awesomeness!  Our French friends determined when, where, and how to get a table and we were set!  We met at the dock later that evening and walked the mile to the sports center where the event was to take place.

Dress Rehearsal – Pre-Festival Celebration

We were arrived early for the pre-festival at 1830.  Music started at 1900, food served 1930, prayer, then dancing 2000.  Except, it is island time so everything was running late.  We were all struggling to stay awake as it was way past sailor’s midnight (2100).  A nice meal was served on environmentally friendly plates.  They had bamboo cutlery, recycled plates and cups.  Pretty darn impressive for a small island with 2,200 people.  The theme of the festival is recycling so no plastic is allowed.

Recycled products for the festival

Recycled products for the festival

When the music and dancing started, we were full of excitement.  The performers had makeup and paint all over them.  Their costumes are one time use so I was surprised to see how intricate some of them were for a dress rehearsal.  

Performing at the Dress Rehearsal

Performing at the Dress Rehearsal

Costumes and Make-Up

You can see some of the men had painted their thighs black.  Some was just smeared on, but others were intricate designs.  The unfortunate thing was that it came off as they slapped their bodies during the routines.

Drumming Extravaganza

The drumming was amazing and evoked all sorts of emotions. They could make you float high in the sky or feel loaded down with rocks with the pounding of their rhythm.  The dancers did a great job.  They still need some work over the next two weeks before the festival, but they still were pretty darn good.  It is a “pre-festival” fundraiser after all.  The interesting thing was that they all faced inward which gave the audience a view of their backs – no matter where you sat.  I could not understand this at all, was it a mistake?  Nope, all of the dances were choreographed in a way that had the dancers facing each other (like in a circle) and the audience was left with watching their backside. 

Dancers from Ua Pou

Dancers from Ua Pou

Bird Dance

The “bird dance” is a special dance performed by each group showing the rise of the phoenix from the ashes.  This is the first time I had seen this dance performed (even though I had heard about it from many people).  I was floored by the beauty of the dance and the feathers on the dancer.  It was a truly exotic and intoxicating performance.  I thought if I am this moved by one performance at the pre-festival, what will the actual festival be like?   

Pre-Festival Festival

In this little bay is the designated area for cruisers (personal boats), small dock for the local fishing boats, beach front for the canoes and outriggers and another dock for the “cruise ships.”  I say “cruise ships” because they are of the smaller nature.  The Tahiti Nui is the Prime Minister’s yacht and has been designated to bring all of the artists from neighboring islands to Ua Pou.  So, they had to maneuver in and around all the other boats within a really small space which made it terribly exciting to watch.

In addition, there was the Ari Nui which we lovingly call the “mullet.”  Why is that?  Because it is business in the front and party in the rear.  What the heck does that mean?  The front of the boat is the supply ship with cranes and containers and the back of the boat is a cruise ship with guests.  Yep, you read that right!

Celebrating the Arrival of the Participants

The really cool part of watching the arrival of both of these ships was the welcome reception.  Each time a new group arrived, locals would gather at the dock and for a pre-festival festival performance.  Complete with drums, flowers, and some costumes representing their island.  We saw Tahiti Nui deliver at least 5 different groups.  A group of dancers and drummers would gather at the pier and welcome all of its visitors.

Tahiti Nui and Ari Nui

Tahiti Nui and Ari Nui

Also, a small red ferry would bring people from Nuku Hiva to Ua Pou.  They often pissed off the larger boats by zipping around them while they were trying to maneuver.