Fatu Hiva, the most beautiful of the Marquesas

Once we finished exploring Hiva Oa, we couldn’t wait to reach the southernmost island of the Marquesas, Fatu Hiva, often described as the most beautiful in this archipelago. To cover the 55 miles that separated us from this island, we decided to make a stop at the island of Tahuata, both to break up the journey and to avoid having to anchor at Fatu Hiva at night. The route from Hiva Oa is generally close-hauled; therefore, we waited for a favorable wind window, managing to sail a single tack from Tahuata to our destination, but with a modest average speed of 4 knots (with 10-14 knots of apparent wind).

Leaving Tahuata at dawn

We arrived at Fatu Hiva shortly before sunset; we expected a complicated anchorage due to the crowded boats that usually gather in the main bay of Hanavave. Fortunately, a couple of boats had left just before, allowing us to anchor in a magnificent “hole” left open in the center of the bay.

Hanavavae bay

Upon our arrival, we were struck by the dramatic scenic panorama that unfolded before us; the rocky spires on the left side of the bay are the most prominent feature. These spires, with their phallic appearance, are quite striking, so much so that the place was initially called “Baie de Vergens” (Virgin Bay). However, the ever-watchful Catholic missionaries added an “i,” renaming it “Baie de Vierges” (Bay of Virgins), and so the name remained “purified.” On both sides and beyond, steep mountains rise, covered in a dark green mantle, creating a spectacular effect.

After a few days, we contacted a local guide who, with his off-road vehicle, escorted us along with other sailors to Omoa, the other village to the south of the island.

On the way from Hanavavae to Omoa
Omoa from above

After an unfortunately failed attempt to replenish our vegetable supplies at a couple of local “magazins,” we witnessed a demonstration of the making of “tapa,” as they are called in the Marquesan language. They are made from the bark of various types of trees, beaten for several days to thin it out and remove the sap inside. This results in a panel that is decorated with characteristic designs of the area where they are made.

Canvas making

Fatu Hiva lends itself to beautiful walks, and among its attractions is a waterfall reachable from the bay in about an hour’s walk. Moreover, the island’s inhabitants are extremely hospitable and eager to help tourists orient themselves, and in many cases, they generously offer fruit from their gardens as gifts.

Walking around Hanavavae
The city hall

Roughly every two weeks, the various islands of the Marquesas are reached by the Aranui, which transports passengers and goods, delivering supplies and collecting bananas, grapefruits, and limes mainly from the locals.

Regarding the sailing community, it was represented by many young people, which was quite unusual in our experience of recent years, and by a wide variety of nationalities; in the bay, boats were anchored with flags: Brazilian, German, French, Swiss, Canadian, American, Australian, and, for the first time in a long time, another Italian flag.

Last two days at Hiva Oa
Tahuata and Ua Huka

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