There was a collective sigh of relief as we departed the very crowded Tahauka harbor with its ragged concreate docks and headed out to sea destined for Hanamoenoa Bay on the island of Tahuata.
Thankfully (still no AP) the passage was only a short 8nm through the Canal de Bordelais separating Tahuata and Hiva-Oa and when we arrived in this picture perfect anchorage there were about 10 other boats enjoying the location but with plenty of room to spare. We found a spot of sand to drop the anchor in the clear the blue waters and immediately relaxed.
Within minutes we were all in the water enjoying our first swim in 5 days. The visibility in the water was excellent, well over 60 feet so the anchor could be clearly seen.
A clichéd beautiful white sand beach lined with coconut trees was at the head of the bay with gentle waves lapping its shores, tempting us to go ashore and explore. The crew of a Finish boat advised us that there was a hermit living onshore and that under no circumstances should we give him alcohol as he turns a bit mad.
Amber was first to go ashore, swimming the ¼ mile to the beach. I watched closely for the hermit through the binoculars but could only see a wisp of smoke from a small fire that gave away his existence.
Later in the afternoon Katya, Amber and I went ashore again and walked along the beach, the girls collecting shells. As we neared the end of the beach a young man came out of the trees and greeted us. We introduced ourselves and he introduce himself with his Marquesan name, which I cannot pronounce, and his English name, Stephen. We had a conversation which was very easy given his English was excellent. He invited us back to his cooking area where he offered us some fresh vegetables and we promised to bring back some things that he would like. He seemed like a pleasant man with a bit of a wild eye sometimes and was a bit cagey about his past but we felt relaxed and enjoyed listening to his explanation of the area and how he survives. I think a hermit is a bit of an exaggeration since he appears to welcome many cruisers and provide them with fresh vegetables and even prepares authentic Marquesan style meals to many boaters. He also has a mobile phone which he asked us to charge when we went back to the boat. His premises are very basic with a home-made table, day bed and fire on which he cooks his meals. He sleeps under a small shelter, has no electricity, not even a solar light, but does have running fresh water from a reservoir further up the hill although this does run dry for a few months a year and he asks other cruisers to bring him water if possible.
The following day we brought him a selection of foods in exchange for the vegetables that he had given us including a large jar of Nutella as he had requested chocolate. He had not asked for any alcohol so we avoided having to decline a request.
Stephen had prepared a snack made out of an unpronounceable boiled root vegetable and gave us fresh coconuts and showed us how he made the milk from the coconut scrapings. We were all very impressed by his cooking and thought he was a very social fellow but wondered what his life story was that bought him here.
In the late afternoon Stephen asked if we could take him out in the dinghy to go spear fishing. I was glad to oblige and we set out just around the headland. Stephen was in the water only about 5 minutes before he came up with a beautiful blue-green parrot fish and later two other species. We took them back to his camp and he prepared the fish, Amber helping him gut and fillet, and cooked them on the open coconut fed fire. The fish were delicious. Tender, succulent and beautifully tasty with the slightly smoky flavor.
Hanamoenoa bay is certainly a place where you can relax for a few days or even weeks with the swimming, snorkeling, walking on the beach etc, but it was time to head on again.