Hakatea Bay has surrounded us by natural beauty. The bay is split in two lobes by a narrow, lava-rock jetty. The eastern lobe is surrounded by a valley of palm trees and mangroves lined by slopes and peaks; the western lobe is fed by a small river lined by basaltic cliffs that send crags, crevices, and spires beyond the black sand beach and into the ravine.
Helios rests, entranced, between the two: cliffs plunge into sea 200 feet to port; palms line a white sand beach 400 feet to starboard.
Just five miles and one hour of motoring from Taioha’e Bay, Hakatea has been an ideal, simple first playground for us. We’ve been kayaking and hiking and relaxing. I paddled in the coral nearby and watched as a rock transformed into a sea turtle, which caused me to get too excited and fall off the paddle board. Dominic has been paddling and swimming with rays, perhaps the same ones that spent 30 minutes swimming doing loop-de-loops in circles around the boat. We’ve had reef shark sightings off the bow. This isn’t to say it has been all fun and games. We’ve done our first few loads of laundry onboard in a bucket. Dominic has been bitten by a wasp and stung by a jelly fish. We survived our first journey ashore without any insect bites, but at some point the second time around my right leg was turned into a bug buffet.
We’ve been enjoying a vibrant nightlife in the cove. We’ve been here four nights, and there have been between 10 and 20 boats at anchor throughout. Our first night in, one of our neighbors caught a 100-pound wahoo and invited us all ashore for an evening of barbecue and bonfires. I’ve attended a lady’s amoeba, which is when all the ladies aboard gather around one boat in inflatables and chillax; we’ve participated in a round-up, which is when all the dinghies in the cove raft up and celebrate that the sun is going down.
We do have one neighbor developing a certain amount of notoriety—M5. She is a 250 foot cutter with triple head sails, a 50 foot beam, a sea plane mounted on her stern, and word around the anchorage (and unsubstantiated by proof, we live in a world without internet, which is a world of not-knowing, [but it is a world of knot-knowing! ha!]) is that she is the largest single-mast sailboat in existence and designed to actually sail, as opposed to some mega-yachts that carry canvas for show. Anyway, M5 arrived at the in Taioha’e just in time for the supply ship and guzzled 30,000 liters of diesel, putting all other boats on a 100 liter ration. With our solar panels and strong winds on the Pacific crossing, we weren’t affected. But, from what I’ve heard, leeching all the fuel and then spending the next morning doing aeronautical flybys over the bay, valley, and cliffs, does not make for a well-liked vessel.
At the round-up, we had the pleasure of chatting with an Australian family of four—kids are 10ish and 14ish—on its way home from a three year tour around the world, this being their second visit to French Polynesia. They were warm and convivial and offered themselves up as proof that even when providing an experience like cruising, children will still accuse their parents of destroying their childhood. At the time, the kids were playing on water toys and planning sleepovers with a buddy boat. They had quickly become popular the night before by roasting everyone marshmallows. At the round-up, I asked their dad what parts of his journey stood out as his favorite, he spread his arms wide, balanced himself on his dinghy, and said, “places just like this.”