Visiting Easter Island (Boat-Based)

Hanga Roa Ashore

The anchorage from shore, showing the only two vessels: Nine of Cups and a Chilean submarine.

A wide-angle view of Hanga Roa's "harbor", just big enough for a few small boats and connected to the ocean by a short shallow channel.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 (Day 13 at Easter Island)

I spent a very restless night and got poor sleep; it also was chilly and I had trouble getting comfortable. Several times during the night I got up to check Nine of Cups' position as squalls blew through. I used several sets of streetlights and radio tower lights that lined up in obvious patterns. Every time I checked the lights they were in the same pattern, so our anchor was holding well. The wind was pretty consistently from the south-southeast, which is a reasonable direction that doesn't cause any real problems.

We kept our distance from the sub, but we swung to the wind, waves, and current quite differently. Being deep draft and very massive, the sub responded more to current and reacted very slowly. Relatively speaking, Nine of Cups was much lighter and had more windage. Therefore, there were times when the two vessels were at odd angles that temporarily reduced the separation, but it never became a problem. Of course there was no way to know this in advance, so it caused me some anxiety during the night as chubascos blew through. When morning rolled around, I got up early (just after 8:00 a.m.) and looked topsides. Using my daylight marks, I saw that we hadn't dragged or swung at all, and we were still a safe distance from the sub.

We all had a conversation to decide what we would do today. Marcie wanted to go ashore to do provisioning and banking, plus she wanted to spend more time at the artisan's market. I'd like to spend a few hours ashore taking pictures, plus a few other chores and helping with provisioning. However, I wanted to hire a panga to take us in and out through the surf line. The last time we were at Hanga Roa, I never did get any shore time because the dinghy flipped and we had to be rescued.

We agreed on a plan and Marcie tried calling Orca Dive Center on the radio. They rent pangas and drivers and they were the people who helped us last time. They didn't answer the radio call, so Marcie called the Armada to see if they knew where else we could hire a panga. Strangely enough, they had never heard of the term "panga" (which is an Ecuadorian colloquialism) and Marcie spent a confusing minute trying to explain in so many other words what a panga was. No sooner had she straightened out the Armada when Francisco on the submarine broke in on the radio and asked a few questions about our schedule, then he volunteered to provide us with shuttle service to and from shore in their super-duper commando dinghy. This was a fantastic offer and Marcie quickly accepted with muchas gracias. What a terrific deal, and it keeps getting better. Hooray for the Chilean submarine service, what a bunch of great guys!

Francisco also said that they would like to reschedule our visit for 9:00 a.m., but unfortunately we had to decline and ask for a later time because we needed to get our shoreside business done in the morning before the stores closed. Francisco agreed on 3:00 p.m. as an acceptable time.

Meanwhile, I rushed to get ready, since the dinghy was going to pick us up just after 9:00 a.m. I flew through my morning routine, jammed my camera and paraphernalia into my day pack, and rushed into the cockpit just as the dinghy arrived. I didn't even have time to tie my shoelaces before I clambered down into the dinghy and we shoved off.

Their dinghy was a heavy-duty military inflatable with super-strong black tubes, sturdy metal floorboards, grab lines, PFD harnesses, and twin powerful outboards with a steering console. It was the type of dinghy the sub would use to drop off commandos on an enemy shore in the dead of night. And, there were two actual commandos operating the dinghy—tough as nails, crew-cut, and dressed in camouflage suits with military boots—their uniforms even said "Commandos". So we hitched a ride to shore with two commandos in an assault boat from a submarine!

Marcie is a great ice-breaker and immediately struck-up a conversation with the commandos, in Spanish, of course. They dropped us off at the town pier and promised to come back for us at 1:00 p.m. Marcie and I set off on our chores, separately at first, although we met up later to do the provisioning.

A closer view of the harbor area, including Ahu Tautira. Orca Dive Center is the yellow building at left.   Marcie and the moai. A typical moai weighs more than 12 tons.

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