What we planned to be the perfect ending to our cruising in the Marquesas went south – like, not in wind terms. Hotspur heard a Mayday call on the VHF, we experienced some serious equipment failure and wet, muddy weather threw a wrench in our plans. We anchored in Daniel's Bay, a picturesque and stunning anchorage, to hike the 3rd largest waterfall in the world. It never happened.
While on passage to Daniel's Bay, Jim answered a Mayday call from a woman requesting an "SOS! We need help!" No one responded that we could hear. Jim tried again, requesting nature of the emergency and location. No response. Then a man came on the radio and requested a "Mayday" and then either began a dialogue in French or there was someone answering him in French- we couldn't decipher. Jim tried answering again. But since no one could hear our calls to intercept we got off the radio, fearing that we might be stepping on responses we couldn't hear.
We headed to our destination and while we were anchoring, I noticed the display on our Raymarine C80 freeze up and the depth sounder reading disappear completely. Jim fiddled with it, took it apart, Voltmeter readings, Jim read all the manuals... nothing. No amount of babying would coax it back to life. This was very troubling to us – after Daniel's Bay we were jumping to the Tuamotus... atolls, reefs, coral heads. Jim smartly has the electronic charts downloaded on his Android so we have GPS back-up. But no radar (no way to anticipate boats or upcoming squalls in the dark) and no depth reading. And we just heard about dear, sweet John Berg on sv Seaquell running up on a reef in Hawaii after his electronics went caput. We do have a leadline on board, but it's not the same.
Hiking the waterfall was on Jim's bucket list and he was eager. But the hike would have been like mud wrestling the mountainside – it rained hard every night. We did manage to jerry can fresh spring water up the river. But, we took the dinghy in at low tide... and broke the sheer pin on the propeller. So when returning, Jim and I navigated the surf and took turns paddling with our one oar (the other oar lept off the boat somewhere and escaped) until Jeff on sv Rockstar spotted us and gave us a tow in the rest of the way.
After much deliberation and discussion with friends what our options were (because we really, really didn't want to turn around and go back to Taiohae), we turned around and made a very choppy motor ride back to Taihoe to investigate ordering parts and having them shipped to us. Long story short and for a variety of reasons too mundane to list, we plan to go ahead without the depth gauge and radar until we get to Tahiti and try to resolve our issues there. This limits our excursions to the larger, open bays only in the Tuamotus. No secret anchorages; no toodling around. It is simply too risky without radar at night and knowing our depth.
Carolyne was not too unhappy to return to Taiohae. She and her friends re-connected and she has mulitple invites to visit them in Tasmania, New Zealand and France.
UPDATE ON THE MAYDAY:
As for the Mayday call, I learned from a French speaking cruising friend that someone fell in the water after some festivities in the bay at Taiohae around 2pm Sunday afternoon. Apparently an abulance was called... something about alcohol being involved. It is unclear whether the man fell off the docks or off a boat anchored in the bay. But no one died and Hotspur has a clear conscience.
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