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Date: 30 May 2008 19:50:00
Title: BLUE WATER RALLY - SOCIETY ISLANDS- MAUPIHAA OR MOPELIA

Wednesday 28th and 29th May  We left Maupiti Tuesday lunchtime and had a gentle sail through the night – yes ‘sail’ rather than using the engine - even so it really jiggers me up waking up at midnight to do a watch when I’m not used to it! Trying to get my sea legs all over again…..We worked it out today that out of the 12,000 miles we have covered so far we have probably motored many thousands of those miles – terrible reality when you think you are ‘sailing around the world’ but the truth of the matter is, when there is no wind and you have time constraints, you have to use the engine.

 

Anyhow, Maupihaa or Mopelia as it is sometimes called is described in the pilot book as having ‘the trickiest pass in the whole of French Polynesia’ quote ‘  is very narrow and the constantly ebbing current can reach 6 knots or more at times, making a reliable engine and a good set of nerves necessary. Whirlpools occur in the vicinity of the coral patches where ebb currents meet inside the entrance. A very narrow 60 foot wide pass with sharply defined undercut reef edges.’  With our maximum engine speed of 6 knots we were prepared to abort but we managed it although it was very hairy!! I think Paul must have nerves of steel!  An inquisitive bird, unused to humans, flew within six inches of my nose and eyeballed me as I was sitting on the bow seat watching out for coral heads – I could have reached out and stroked it.

 

 

Passe Taihaaru Vahine Coming up the point of no return – look how narrow it is!

 

Imagine this – an isolated atoll in the middle of the Pacific – difficult to get into – destroyed by hurricane Martin a few years ago – the next supply vessel not expected until July – the largest motu five miles of coral ‘sand’ with thousands of coconut trees and mangroves surrounding a huge lagoon - and yet there are two families (11 people) subsisting here!  We delivered the tobacco to Kalimi and his wife Sophie whose family live with them – although their daughter has just been whisked off to Bora Bora by a passing catamaran with severe pregnancy problems - they hadn’t smoked for two months so were pretty elated to receive their gift, although it goes against the grain with me – I won’t even buy duty free cigarettes for friends on principal.  They have lived here all their lives, Kalimi’s father having settled here when he was a child, although they don’t own the land.  However, we understand that they manage some copra (coconut) farming which is collected by the supply ships – but rather than pay them money, which is useless on the atoll, an account is kept for them ashore and when they need anything – diesel for their generator for instance – the cost is deducted from their account and delivered by the next passing supply vessel.  They are surrounded by 41 ‘pet’ pigs and a dog! However, they did have the trappings of a satellite dish and TV in their corrugated iron shack and their old wooden boat sports a two thousand pound Lewmar winch, used for a anchor windlass, rescued from a wreck - which was a great touch.

 

 

Their boat with the Lewmar winch and turtle sanctuary in front

 

 

And very active, happy looking baby turtles..

 

Kalimi’s father originally came from Motu 1, the smallest atoll in Polynesia with no pass into the lagoon and Sophie from Rapa, also extremely isolated. Surprisingly they had no chickens.  We gave them coriander seeds, tinned pate, tandoori mix, soups, mashed potato mix, garam massala, red bananas plus a large mosquito net, felt tips and crayons for their little grandson. The family who started a pearl farm here are long departed back to Tahiti.

 

 

Home sweet home……..

 

 

Piggies in the shade (note the satellite dish!!)

 

 

Bennett walking along the shore with his bird (the only one he was likely to find on this atoll!)

 

 

Windswept coral landscape but lots of vegetation and trees

 

 

Where the hermit crabs are huge

 

 

The stingrays still have their ‘stings’ – they are removed in Bora Bora so that they can be hand fed by the tourists

 

 

The crabs are big too with hundreds of bolt holes along the coral beach

 

 

We all enjoyed a long walk along the beach after the confines of the boat

 

There were five other intrepid yachts at anchor in the lagoon, three German, one Austrian and a French couple with their two teenage children, which is apparently very rare to have so many at once; we each thought we were going to be the only one! We offered payment but because we had brought their delivery, we were invited to join the other ‘cruisers’ for a dinner at chez Sophie’s which was predictably pork stew and rice….. everybody brought their own drinks and extra dishes to share.  Although it was a very eccentric and interesting evening, with piggies nestled at our feet (but sadly one of their number on the plate) I certainly felt there was a defined reserve about we ‘Rally people’ who are perceived to ‘only touch the surface’ and not fully integrate with the local people due to the lack of time in each destination………….

 

 

The dinner was a rather stilted affair – Sophie this end right and Kalimi waving at the other end of the table…..

 

 

With piggies all around us – this little fellow front right had the right idea – skinny pigs don’t end up in the pot!

 

 

 

This morning we woke to a grey day with numerous squalls on the horizon and the weather forecast predicting stormy weather, confirmed by this morning’s radio net where others further ahead than us have already experienced 40 plus knot winds last night.  So we heaved up the anchor quickly, followed our track in as the corals were invisible in the choppy lagoon, and only just escaped through the pass before the heavy swells building up and current would have made it impassable.  Still it was an extremely stressful experience with four knots of current with us, giving us just two knots of steerage……..

 

Exiting the pass with current, wind and whirlpools…….

 

Before we left one of the chaps off another boat came and asked us for a contribution for the meal of the previous evening.  We told him we had been invited – yes he said, the meat was free, but what about the oil they had used cooking it and the onion they had chopped up in the stew – would we like to donate a bottle of gin!!  No said we, we felt we had risked life and limb delivering their package and given enough…….. so we motored out with a slight ‘taste in the mouth’……….

 

We have around 800 miles ahead of us now to Beverage Reef, a tiny atoll recommended by Our Island, where nobody lives and nothing grows – just a lagoon full of fish, and then on to Niue giving Raratonga a miss as all the Rally boats are on their way there and space is very tight.  There is a nasty front coming through so we are reefed down for the night and I am struggling with sea sickness once more………

 


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