House on the corner, deep green lawn completely shaded with what looks like an old elm, circled by some colorful annuals, pale verdigris folded tin roof. Maybe a few shrubs in the corner. In my mind I’m hearing Sly croon “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, kids squealing and laughing, Mayberry USA. Hard to say why my Fujinons keep lingering each time I sweep the waterfront from Escape Velocity, but they do. Ok the kids are speaking French, they’re naked in that French way, and there is a palm tree plantation on an improbably steep mountainside that soars above the village to shred the clouds. The halfmoon shaped cliffs seem to cradle the little town in brilliant sunshine while tiny white dots we know are goats make their way over the peaks high above us. What is it with goats? It seems just minutes ago they were busy trimming the grass on the soccer field at sea level. Yes, I said soccer field. How they found enough flat space for that is beyond me but then again, I know that in the Southside of Pittsburgh they shoehorned a football field into a ninety yard long space by only allowing offensive plays toward the only end zone available.
So, as I was saying, Vaitahu, Tahuata, has a church with a nice steeple, a post office and nice tidy houses but where this feeling of nostalgia comes from I’m sure I don’t know. Now if only the williwaws would stop funneling down off the mountains scaring me half to death with their 25 kt gusts I could find myself quite comfortable here. Oh, and how about a little wifi, s’il vous plait?
It took three more days for us to raise the anchor and motor two miles south to the village of Vaitahu. We’d hoped to find wifi here but haven’t. Nonetheless we’re glad we moved. As nice as Hanamoenoa Bay is there isn’t much to look at except the sandy beach and palm trees. Here there are steep rocky mountains dotted with white goats and village life going on right in front of us just a few hundred yards from the boat. Because of the steep slopes we’re subjected to near constant williwaws, sudden gusts of high winds that race down the mountains and push the boat back and stretch our chain out. We share the anchorage with three other boats and we all seem to be well stuck to the bottom.
In the morning we’ll drop the dinghy and go ashore. We hope to find baguettes and some fresh food and maybe some internet. My feet haven’t touched solid ground in quite a while, although Jack swam to the beach in Hanamoenoa once last week. Tomorrow will require both pants and shoes.
This little bay is surprisingly significant in the history of the Marquesas. In 1595 the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña landed here, apparently the first European to do so. Captain James Cook visited almost 80 years later. And in 1842 in this village Admiral Dupetit-Thouars signed the treaty that annexed the Marquesas to France. The tour guide we hired in Hiva Oa had nothing good to say about the French but his beef is with the nuclear testing they carried out in the Tuamotus. John lost several family members from cancer which he attributes to the fallout from those tests. He makes a good point but I don’t think anyone complains about the availability of fresh baguettes and good cheeses.