(Underway, 105 Nautical Miles – Anchored Hanavave, Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia)
As I opened my eyes the thought came to me, this is it, I should go up on deck and see land! What I didn’t expect, was to go up on deck and have to begin steering to avoid hitting the first chunk of rock we’d seen in 19 days.
Coming out into cockpit I found Gregory at the helm. A spot I hadn’t seen him occupy in days. Upon inquiring how we were doing I got a half-assed answer as Greg was much more concerned with what was going on beyond our hulls. I checked the navigation program on our iPad and was shocked to see we were within a mile of some solitary rock in the middle of the ocean. Now scanning the horizon with Greg we both finally spotted Rocher Thomasset Rock. A hunk of rubble no bigger than a couple of Oceanna’s pushed together, that rose a mere meter or two out of the water. With the rock finally in sight I got a “oh good, there it is” out of Gregory.
Evidently we were meaning to head for this lonely spit of ground. I should have known better but I just had to ask, “what are we doing this close to the rock?” Greg answered with the obvious, “I wanted to fish by it.” Before the last word was out of his mouth two of the rods cut through the air with their metallic screams. Fish on!
Gregory set the hooks, we furled the jib, and I steered us into the wind to slow our progress. A direction that just so happened to also be into the rock. A quick check of the depth sounder told me we were in 120 feet of water. A more than safe depth, but after having no reading whatsoever for over two weeks it was a slightly shocking sight.
As Greg fought one fish at a time I manned the helm. Our MVP autopilot was playing at its usually tricks and refused to jump back into action before its mandatory rest period was over. The battle for fish one was a sight to see – giving and going, pulling and reeling. Gregory might vs the unknown swimmer below. Finally the fish was along side and Gregory pulled in the leader line to reveal a shimmering, sizeable yellowfin tuna! With it unhooked from the line and back in the water towing by its tail, battle royal for number two began. And if I thought battle one was a show, this second round was a real spectacle. This particular poisson was an admirable opponent. It had Greg on the run, or rather, it had the line on the run. Whatever ground Greg manage to reel in, this fish took twice as much back. The lopsided give and go carried on for a while with muscle being flexed at each end of the monofilament. Alas the winner was crowned. One triumphant fish swam away with at least a sore mouth, and one sad Gregory packed up the gear with proclamations as to superior size of the one-that-just-got-away.
When the fishing was all said and done, we reset our course and I took the time to really scan the horizon. There it was, looming in the clouds – proper land. A massive hulk of an island awaiting our arrival. The closer and closer we got, the bigger and better it became. A person would not even have to be land deprived for 19 days to find Fatu Hiva incredibly impressive. Its north-south running mountain range reaches soaring heights of 3,150 feet, and its steep, rocky slopes are blanketed in tropical jungle. Our destination was the northwest village of Hanavave. One of only two villages on the island, it’s located in the Baie des Vierges, more recognizable by its English translation Bay of Virgins.
The story goes that the bay’s name underwent a modest change when the missionaries arrived. Supposedly they disapproved of the original Baie des Verges which aptly describes the tall rock pillars that line the bay’s mouth. In their pearl-clutching wisdom they inserted a ‘i’ into the original name deftly renaming the Bay of Penises to the Bay of Virgins.
Regardless of its name it is absolutely spectacular. An anchorage like none other we’ve had the pleasure to stay in. Taking in my new surroundings I can’t help but feeling like someone has put up a 360 degree green screen, projecting some absolutely surreal background for my own personal indulgence.
Land brought stunned amazement, and it also brought friends new and old. Of the new variety, Julie and Ken offered invaluable local anchoring advice and personally welcomed us to the anchorage with fresh bananas and the biggest grapefruit I’ve ever seen. Come sunset we wasted no time catching up with them, CB and Tawn, and Andy and Megan – friends we’d met in Costa Rica – over more than one round of sundowners in Oceanna’s long neglected party cockpit.
And for the fishing record, the final tallies for the South Pacific Fishing Rally (aka Greg Sucks at Fishing Rally – his name, not mine) are:
Wahoo – 8
Mahi Mahi – 5 (though they were the tiniest mahi you ever did see)
Yellowfin Tuna – 2
Skipjack Tuna – 1
Big Eye Tuna – 2
Lures Lost to the Cause – 4