Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shiriri Saga #37. Landfall. Marquesas.

Landfall at Dawn.

Very windy, very rough, a midnight conference out in the cockpit. Anne is feeling very bad because we will not manage to weather the windward end of Hiva Oa Island - our first destination in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. Shiriri has spent the day sagging off to leeward as she is swept by wind and current into the windy waters between Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva. We will never make it around to the harbour(Atuona) on the south side of the island. The more we have tried to sail closer to the wind to get around the point, the more we have slipped sideways. Anne, our Navy girl and navigator blames herself for not allowing for the west setting current. Really the problem is that it is so windy that we cannot use the mainsail, and without it`s push from the tail end of the boat Shiriri does n`t go to windward much at all.

Finally we bow to necessity, swing to take the elements on our stern and find peace. The steady bouncing on the knife edge of waves that we have endured for the last long while is over. Shiriri `s stern lifts, a big foamy crest breaks behind and we surge forward on our way to our new destination, - Taiohae Bay,and the main settlement on Nuku Hiva.
I take the late night watch over from Anne and as part of the hand-over she tells me I should see the first land off to starboard in the morning (Ua Huka). So it`s dawn now, where is it? Nothing but a hazy horizon. I do my usual sweep around the whole horizon and voila ( practicing my French) off to port is a tall rocky spire, topped with green vegetation and surrounded by creamy white surf. LAND! (Fatu Huka) Almost it seems anticlimactic, we have been at sea for so long that we had forgotten about it! But even so my heart starts to beat faster.

Through the day the wind begins to ease even though the waves still come roaring up astern. Steering gets a little trickier without plenty of speed but we still have 15 knots of breeze and 55 miles to go. This is awkward as we wish to arrive at Taeohae Bay to make our entrance at dawn and at this speed it will still be dark. The wind continues to drop overnight however so that when I come on deck the dark bulk of Nuku Hiva fills the grey sky beyond the bowsprit. Heather joins me in the cockpit as we approach the entrance. High cliffs, crashing waves and suddenly the bay opens up ahead of us. I turn to Heather and find her fast asleep, curled up in a corner of the cockpit. I sail Shiriri between the island headlands and into the deep bay. The wind falters in the lee of the land and I start the engine for the last leg of our journey up to the head of the bay. We will live after all.

No comments: