Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Arrived at Hiva Oa

May 25, 2008  Sunday
Traitors Bay, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands

Surprisingly we were not very tired when we arrived Friday morning and managed to put in a full day getting familiar with Hiva Oa.  After anchoring and getting settled a few minutes we contacted Polynesia Yacht Services to act as our agent while we are in French Polynesia.  The local office is managed by a very nice and efficient woman named Sandra.  Sandra met us at the dock, took our passports and boat papers, and gave us a couple of forms to complete over the weekend.  She will again meet us at the dock at 8 Monday morning to collect the completed forms and to clear us in.  The local gendarme office is only open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. so it was not possible for us to be cleared in on Friday and we must wait until Monday.  Sandra will also obtain a Duty Free Fuel Permit for us; that will take 3 days because the application must go to Papeete, Tahiti and then be returned here.  Not sure if we will hang around Hiva Oa while awaiting the fuel permit; might go down to Fatu Hiva and then come back here to pick up the fuel permit later in the week.

Sandra kindly gave us a ride into the main village of Atuona.  It is about 2 miles over hills so we really appreciated the ride into town.  The walk back was bad enough to give me blisters on the bottoms of all my toes; not sure I would have made it if we had been forced to walk both directions.  While in town we went to the Snack Make Make – a little bar/restaurant.  We each had a simple hamburger and fries for lunch; Bill drank one beer and I had a soft drink.  The tab was a whopping $50 USD!  About double what we thought it would cost.  Don’t think we will be eating ashore often in French Polynesia.  Bill is now glad that we bought all those cases of beer back in Panama.

Late Friday afternoon we worked on removing the marine growth that had accumulated on BeBe during the passage.  You absolutely would not believe how much junk can grow on the boat even though it is moving rapidly through the water.  The entire rear 1/3 of the boat was covered in 2-inch long gooseneck barnacles.  These barnacles were purple and very soft.  More experienced cruisers had warned me that we should remove these barnacles within 24 hours of anchoring.  The barnacles stay pliable and soft as long as the water is rapidly moving down the hull while underway, but they harden when the boat become stationary and the water is no longer flowing by.  Bill screwed a 10-inch plastic drywall spatula onto a wooden broom handle; we got into the dinghy and scraped off thousands of barnacles.  The barnacles were the easy part.  There is also a brown marine growth at the waterline and about a foot up the side of the boat.  That brown stuff is really hard and very difficult to scrub off.  We did less than half the port side before crying Uncle and stopping for the day.  Had good intentions of getting back to work on it Saturday morning, but got invited to walk into town for the local Mother’s Day festivities instead.  So boat cleaning got put off to another day.

Saturday morning we walked back into town -- wearing proper walking shoes this time and I used a walking stick for the hills.  We walked with Amy and Bill from S/V ESTRELLITA.  The reason for this trip into town was to attend a festival to celebrate Mother’s Day.  They had set-up awnings and locals had table-stalls selling all kinds of things.  There was a musical band and cotton candy and one stand was selling grilled meat of some kind.  I bought another pareo that was painted by a local woman and we bought a jar of homemade jam of some unknown fruit.  The woman who made the jam said it was plum but it does not look or taste like any plum we have ever seen, so there might have been something lost in translation.  Amy and Bill bought a gorgeous paddle carved from rosewood that they will use as a wall-hanging when they move back into a land home someday.  The four of us also walked up the road to the largest grocery store; not to make purchases but just to scout it out.  Then we walked back to the festival grounds and made our purchases.  I also bought a few fresh veggies from the back of a nearby pick-up truck.

At the festival we met up with Guy and Karen from S/V SZEL (pronounced sail), a very nice 64-ft boat designed by Steve Dashew.  There were only 10 hulls made from this design and we have now seen 2 of them.  The other one is JEDI and is owned by Nick and Josey.  SZEL is anchored off our starboard stern here in Hiva Oa.  SZEL completed the passage from Galapagos in only 17 days.  Their long, ultra-slim boat is very fast.  At the festival we also ran into Jeff and Kathy from S/V BEATRIX and their crew member Delilah.  BEATRIX is anchored just off our port side.  Delilah decided to walk back to the anchorage with us.

Along the way we stopped at the Paul Gaugin museum.  The artist Paul Gaugin lived here for many years and is buried up on one of the hills.  We opted not to walk up the hills to the cemetery (after all, it is just a grave – seen one, seen enough), but Amy and I did visit the museum.  The others waited outside while Amy and I did a quick 15-minute tour because the museum was closing for the day.  The others didn’t want to spend the $7.50 entrance fee for such a short visit but we saw all we were interested in seeing at the museum.  Neither of us knows a thing about art but we decided that Gaugin had a foot fetish because in almost every painting at least one person’s foot was grossly out of scale.

Saturday night we visited S/V BEATRIX for potluck dinner.  Their refrigeration system is broken and they wanted to cook as much as possible and share dinner with the rest of us before the food spoiled.  Kathy and Jeff served grilled shrimp, a wonderful steak, and port tenderloin.  All of it was very good.  I made ratatouille from the fresh eggplant, peppers and tomatoes that I had purchased at the festival earlier in the day.  Bill and Amy from ESTRELLITA also joined us, so that made 3 couples.  As we visited and got to know one another we soon discovered that each of the 3 couples were prior Porsche owners.  Each of us owned a different model Porsche, but we each had our stories to tell of those wonderful cars.

FWIW, IMHO, the French government has completely ruined the native Marquesans.  The French government pays an annual amount to each local person.  Supposedly it is equivalent to approximately 46,000 dollars per year.  Plus all medical and dental care is free.   Because they receive such substantial assistance from the government, very few local people will work anymore.  One cruiser wanted to hire a local person to do numerous boat chores and was told that there is no one on the island that will do manual work --- for any price.  The cruiser ended up hiring another single-hander cruiser to do the work.  Shades of the welfare status that LBJ created back in the states over 40 years ago.  Why work when the government provides for you.

Our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT are now within VHF radio distance and should arrive here at Hiva Oa late this afternoon.  They went to Fatu Hiva first because their guests wanted to see that island before the guests depart here at Hiva Oa.   Their guests/crew have been aboard for 2 months and it is time for them to get back home to businesses and jobs.  They can fly from Hiva Oa to Tahiti and then back to Montreal.

May 27, 2008  Tuesday
Hiva Oa, Marquesas

Yesterday our agent Sandra picked us up at the dock and brought us to the gendarmerie to officially clear into French Polynesia.  It was a simple task and we are glad that we used Polynesia Yacht Services to act as our agent in French Polynesia.  A few others we have met are clearing themselves in and think they are saving lots of money by doing it themselves instead of using the agent.  One guy said on the VHF radio that he and his wife are saving $500 by handling the clearance themselves.  Au contraire!  This guy obviously has not calculated the costs correctly.  Our friends on FREE SPIRIT handled their own clearance rather than using the agent and told us what it cost them.  Sure the actual clearance is free; but by the time they had paid the bond fee and charged their credit card for the cost of airplane tickets back to the US, the total cost difference would have been only $59 more per person to use the agent and avoid all the hassle.  Either one must convert cash to local currency to secure the bond (about $1500 per person) or one must charge than amount to one’s credit card.  If you convert cash there are considerable bank fees; if you charge it to a credit card then there are foreign currency transaction fees of usually 3% (not to mention the credit card companies give you horrible conversion rates).  We are happy that we paid the extra $59 per person and used the agent and avoided all this.  So much simpler.  The only inconvenience is that we also purchased a Duty Free Fuel Permit.  The application must be processed in Papeete and then returned to Hiva Oa; this supposedly takes 3 days.  We do not want to sit in Hiva Oa and wait for the fuel permit.  Instead, we will sail down to Fatu Hiva for a few days and then return to Hiva Oa to pick up the permit and get fuel.  This duty free fuel permit is only available if an agent handles your clearance and will save us approximately 30% on cost of diesel. 

This morning a Customs boat arrived and checked all the boats in the anchorage.  Good thing we got cleared in yesterday.  They went through the boat and looked beneath the floor boards and in several cabinets but did not do a thorough search of the boat.  Only thing that struck us as strange is that they went through every zippered compartment of my backpack.  They even had Bill unzip our cooler bag to check that there was nothing inside it.  Cannot imagine what they were looking for in those little zippered compartments.

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