Up the East Coast

It is noon and we hadn’t even made it out of Taipi Bay yet. And we had made an effort to start early, getting up with the sun. Such is the life of the purist sailors, which we have become by matter of default. Most cruisers rely on their petrol engine for safety, convenience and comfort. After my failed experiment with equipping Aluna with electric engines I reluctantly installed two old and cranky outboards. Whenever they had a master, patient enough to caress them with the necessary attention, they have been of reasonable help getting in and out of tight spots. Me by myself I lack the patience to harness their power of controlled explosions. So they deteriorate and finally refuse to function. We used them last to get out of Honokohau harbor when launching Aluna in Hawaii. The thirty some days of being drenched in seawater during the passage over here have not done them well and I have not been able to get any life out of them since. Not that I have tried very hard. But I have learned to sail enough to make it in and out of the anchorages we have visited so far under sail alone. It’s slow going and I still employ some of the swear words I have usually reserved for the motors. But you do get to contemplate the scenery and there is plenty of it here.

The steady flow of the trade winds tumbles down on this side of the jagged ridge remnant of ancient crater wall and whirls down onto the surface of the bay in eddies and many much more irregular shapes. Having the sails set up close hauled on either side makes Aluna almost self-tacking and she ghosts along with the winds coming at her from almost anywhere. Some of the gusts are quite violent, bellow the sails and make the bamboo spars crackle. So we’re having the small main sail up and are hopelessly under canvassed. This allows for the mistakes necessary in any learning process. We decide to turn back and anchor for the night in the easternmost finger of the bay, right in close at the beach of Hummi. This turns out to be a sleepy hamlet of singular beauty.

Alunita and Aluna in Hummi Bay, Nuku Hiva

A river meanders out of the valley, with children screaming and splashing in it, a horse chewing on some water cress and one of the gorgeous black herons taking flight as we walk by. All the houses are kept neat and clean, fruit trees kept in the yards and smiling faces in the windows.

The next morning we weigh anchor at eight and this time the wind is more collaborative. By ten o’clock we’re shacking off the last of the eddies at the very tip of Cape Tikapo and stick our noses out into the choppy seas. We’re making our way past a small rock, called Te Oho te Kea, or “sail rock”, barely sticking out of the sea maybe a quarter mile out, and slowly the cliffs of the outer side start appearing one by one in the morning sun. They’re weathered pieces of the Great Sculptor, minarets and ravines, crooks and crannies, nostrils and pimples, all aligned in suspended verticality above the blinding white foam of the pounding waves.

The sea is short and edgy, confused by the reflected swell. Long breaking crests roll towards us and in the distance the hazy silhouette of Ua Huka, the neighboring island to the East, smiles at us like saying: You’re not coming to see me, are you? We certainly would not dare to do that and continuing making way up along the ever-changing shapes. The puffy trade wind clouds are pushed up the mountain slopes and congregate into a flat dark gray cape draping over the center part of the island. Soon the wide Hatuatua Bay opens up, the white crested wave trains racing into it, funneling their energy towards a giant crescent of yellow sand beach at the very end. By now we’re on a beam reach and speeding along. Before long we’re rounding Cape Adam and Eve, a statue of their likeness perching precariously atop a slender cliff, staring out onto the sea, wondering what will become of their many critically wounded children. A short wild downwind run brings us around Motu Iti, the “small island”, into Anaho Bay, our destination. The hook drops awkward onto a coral bed, but for now with the steady winds across the Bay we seem to be safe. I’m not sure how we’ll be able to get it up again, but that’s a worry of another day.

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One Response to “Up the East Coast”

  1. Thomas Says:

    I like that you sail without the crankies. Yes it is good – true to the path….but do I need to swim out your way with my patience in pocket for the mechanical and massage my two bad children back to their push giving spin of screaming and farting?

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