Sunday, May 22, 2011

CMR: Vaitahu, Tahuata, Marquesas, French Polynesia

If weather permits, Vaitahu is an excellent day stop even if the only thing you do is visit the beautiful Eglise Sainte Marie de L'Enfant Jesus Catholic Church. The pleasant village includes several magazins (markets) as well as a tiny museum, administrative building, clinic, and school. Unfortunately, the anchorage can best be described as "difficult" with a steep sloped bottom and a lot of rocks.

I. Location
A. GPS – 09º56.217'S 139º06.675'W

B. Political – Tahuata is an island in the Marquesan chain of French Polynesia. Vaitahu is the largest village on the island. You must check in to Polynesia before you visit this island.

C. Approach – Baie Vaitahu is on the western side of Tahuata roughly 1/3 of the way down. Because the points on either side of the bay are uncharted, it is recommended that you approach from at least a half mile off shore. The bay itself is wide open and unobstructed.

D. Distances
Baie Hananoemoe, Tahuata – 3.5 NM
Baie Hanatefau, Tahuata – 3.0 NM
Baie Hapatoni, Tahuata – 4.0 NM

II. Boat
A. Anchorage – You can anchor in 25' to 40' feet virtually anywhere in the bay. However, the ground is rocky and slopes steeply. If a strong westerly comes up, there is no protection. If a strong south or easterly, the wind can flow into the anchorage from offshore and push boats off the steeply sloped bottom.

B. Mooring – Mooring balls on the northern edge of the bay are reserved for local use.

C. Dinghy – The shoreline is rocky and even in the most settled weather there is a swell and surf. This leaves two options for going into town. You can take your dinghy to the boat ramp at the center of town. Alternatively, you can tie up to the concrete quay (09º56.083'S 139º06.610'W) used by the supply boat. The swell around the quay can be rough and push the dinghy against the concrete. A stern anchor for the dinghy will keep it off the dock while you visit town.

III. Goods and Services
A. Food
i. Magazins (corner store) – There are two magazins in town. The one closer to the water appears to offer a greater variety and is owned and operated by a former French cruiser (09º56.228'S 139º06.509'W) . If you know any French, ask him about his attempt to sail to the Marquesas from Panama. His magazin carries the usual assortment of packaged dry goods and limited frozen and fresh foods. He also operates a patisserie with fresh breads in the morning straight from his industrial oven. The magazins are open the following hours: M-F 7:30 to 18:50, Sat 7:00 to 11:30 and closed Sunday. Stores often close in the middle of the day for a few hours near the lunch hour.

ii. Neighbors – Many cruisers report being able to walk up to homes along the road to purchase or harvest produce. The owner of the magazin will help you identify locals willing to trade or sell you additional produce.

B. Water – (09º56.083'S 139º06.582'W) There is a fresh water spigot at the concrete quay on the north side of the bay. We do not know if it is potable, but it is certainly good enough for washing.

C. Emergency/Medical

i. Clinic – (09º56.231'S 139º06.546'W) There is a small medical clinic in the public building. However, it does not appear to be open at all hours or days. Ask locals for more information.

IV. To Do

A. Cultural
i. Eglise Sainte Marie de L'Enfant Jesus – (09º56.266'S 139º06.512'W) The Catholic church in the center of town is a beautiful combination of local materials and art with European tradition. Church was built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Catholic missionaries to Tahuata. It uses local materials combined with the ballast stones from 19th century trading ships, and it is adorned inside with wood, ceramic and fabric art as well as a gorgeous stained glass window.

ii. Fenua Enata –(09º56.231'S 139º06.546'W) At the public administrative building in the center of town is a monument proclaiming the original Marquesan name for the Marquesan chain which is Fenua Enata, translated as "Land of Men".

iii. Museum - (09º56.231'S 139º06.546'W) A small museum is located in the same complex of buildings as the clinic, administrative buildings, and school. It is open for limited hours on week days. Some cruisers report purchasing locally made hand crafts including bone carvings at this location. Need more information.

V. Reporting Boats
- s/v Don Quixote, Toast Conger, 2011

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