Rubbing elbows with the other kind of cruisers

Ua Pou — pronounced Wa-Po — was yet another surprise in our Marquesas sojourn. We intended to stay a day, maybe two, pick up some last minute supplies, then head off to the Dangerous Archipelago, the Tuamotus. One day turned into three, then four, and before we knew it, we’d been here a week.

The 25-mile passage from Daniel’s Bay was hard on the wind, slow and uncomfortable and we were glad to drop the hook well behind the breakwater in calm water with enough room to swing. As we settled in for the evening we heard loud pop music. Close. It turns out the local boys like to drive a pickup out to the end of the breakwater and blast the stereo while they fish. I can’t say what it does for the fish but it kept me awake. Still, it made me smile that kids are pretty much the same everywhere, and on most of the other islands the towns roll up the streets at night and turn out the lights.

On our first foray into town we learned that the Aranui 3 was due in on Wednesday. That clinched it for us; we’re staying. We’ve wanted to see what the passengers on the combination cargo/cruise ship experience ashore ever since we read about it in our guide books. It’s a genius idea. The ship makes a two-week run from Tahiti through the Tuamotus to every inhabited island in the Marquesas delivering freight and supplies and picking up copra. While the freight crew unloads and loads, the passengers go ashore on excursions, all of which are included in the price. It’s really the only way to visit all the islands if you’re not on a yacht.

A local French expat told us there’d be dancing and said, “You’ll have to move your boat.” We were reminded once again that when there are only a few boats in the harbor and you dinghy to shore and walk to town, pretty much everyone knows which boat you came from.

The ship was due in at 3am Wednesday, and our expat friend recommended we move as soon as possible because “more boats might come in and take your spot.” We took his advice and moved well inside the safe area, then successfully set a stern anchor for the first time to keep us lined up with the other boats. Thanks to Mark and Sue of Macushla for allowing us to liberate a length of old chain they were discarding; that, plus our too-big stern anchor kept EV calm and stable in the slight swell that swirls the tiny anchorage. The ex-pat was right. More boats came in, and by Wednesday there were eight of us and the Aranui, which squeezed in in the middle of the night with a neat pirouette to the wharf.

By then we had a routine, and we walked to the cafe near the Cultural Center for coffee and a pastry. Already the passengers were exploring town and a few were at the cafe. We met a Kiwi lady who wanted to invite us to visit when we get to New Zealand. And we met Jeff, a vibrant 80-year-old who plans to sail his own boat from California to here next year. He was full of questions, especially for Jason, a single-hander. Jeff turned to me and said, “You’re on the catamaran, right?” I asked how he knew and he said, “I recognize your hair.”

We followed the Aranui group as they sampled local foods, shopped the craftsmen’s displays and watched a music and dance presentation, then joined them at a local restaurant for a buffet lunch of native dishes.

By that time we were done for the day and headed home. We had cocktails on the bow and watched the passengers wander back aboard at their own pace and waved enthusiastically whenever anyone took our picture. Jeff especially gave us a hearty thumbs up and a goodbye salute from the upper deck.

The ground crew finally finished loading and the ship eased out of Hakahau Bay backwards as there just isn’t room to turn around. Jeff told us this was their third stop in the Marquesas. They’re in for a treat, I thought, as I remembered all the beautiful places we’ve visited in this piece of paradise.

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One Response to Rubbing elbows with the other kind of cruisers

  1. Jim Kennedy

    Marce: wonderful writing! I am really enjoying your journey – even if it has to be secondhand! Be safe.
    P.S. Hi Jack!!!!!!

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