“It was what was called a good passage… but among the most miserable 40 hours that any one of us had ever passed. We were swung around and tossed together all the time like shot in a stage thunder box (cue description of how poorly everyone was, captain throwing up on deck…!) It was in these circumstances that we skirted the windward shore of that indescribable island of Ua-Pu; viewing with dizzy eyes the coves, the capes, the breakers, the climbing forests, and the inaccessible stone needles that surmount the mountains.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson, In the South Seas
I had written in an email home from Hakatea that we were looking forward to travelling to Ua Pou “a leisurely 25 nautical miles away”… well, at least I got the distance right!
The passage was a good five or six hours against headlong winds of 20-25 knots, and was the most rolly sail of our time, to date, on the Pacific. I took the helm at one point, while Xav put in a reef, and was bumped up and down on the seat, stomach turning somersaults as though on a rollercoaster. While I do enjoy a good funfair, poor Francis was suffering, to the point that he announced he was done with sailing and would be jumping ship at the first chance in Tahiti. Then our jib got into trouble - the D-shackle that attaches the sail to the mast through a hoop came flying apart with such force that it was bent beyond all recognition. After we were through the worst, Xavier and I then played tag team sleeping off the seasickness, while Catherine slept the entire passage.
Robert Louis Stevenson, in his memoirs 150 years earlier, had a similarly queasy experience, as described above, though he was passing Ua Pou en route to Hiva Oa, hence 40 hours as opposed to our 6.
We were similarly impressed by the landscape. As we approached the harbour of Hakahau, we wondered at the needles RLS refers to, rising up like a dozen gigantic stalagmites in a crown of mist. Not surprisingly, a more recent guide describes these volcanic spires as “arguably the most striking geological formation on the planet”.
The harbour was tiny and very sheltered, great for winching Xav up the mast to fix the jib! There was enough room for maybe half a dozen boats, unless you are willing to risk the space reserved for the supply ship - and good luck finding out when that is due! It just so happened that it did indeed turn up that very night, so I’m glad we played it safe. We lucked out with the last spot next to Marine, Adrien and their toddler gorgeous toddler Lazlo, with his golden curls of hair, trop chou!, on French boat GAIA, our neighbours back in Shelter Bay by the Panama Canal. Both the view and their company made the passage over from Nuku Hiva more than worth it.