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Date: 03 Sep 2014 22:05:00
Title: Maupihaa

16:46.75S 153:57W

Going back to sea was a bit of a shock to the system. It was just an overnighter, 130 miles from Bora Bora but it was pretty lumpy seas and winds that varied between 10 and 25 knots, gusting over 30. This meant that we had lots of sail changes. We were trying not to go too fast, so that we'd arrive with the sun high enough to see our way through the rather narrow pass, but we were racing along when the wind picked up so we, reefed, then reefed some more, then reduced down to mizzen and staysail - and we were still going at 7 knots. But then the wind dropped and we found ourselves rolling all over the place at only 3 knots, so we put sail back out... and the cycle would repeat.

It's dramatic how the sea changes when the wind goes from 15 to 25 knots. One minute you're looking at the blue of the deep ocean, with turquoise tongues licking the tops of the waves when the sun streaks through them, the next minute you notice the blue has turned to grey - gun-metal grey I'd say, except I'm not that familiar with guns. It's a dark, solid looking colour, metallic but without the shine that metal usually has. A herd of white horses cap the waves everywhere you look and between them the surface looks like runny custard does, when its too hot to eat so you blow it and little wrinkles appear all over it.

Happily, we caught a fish, a lovely little female mahi mahi, not too big, about 20lbs, we got her in the boat quite quickly but it was quite a busy time, what with filleting and vacuum packing her, then scrubbing out the cockpit - her blood seemed to have got everywhere and fish blood is not a pleasant odour in the tropical sun, not good for that queasy feeling when you've been below deck too long!

Maupihaa's pass has a reputation for being rather tricky. It is very narrow and quite long, and always has a current out flow of between 3 and 6 knots. Our charts show two sets of red and green buoys to mark the route in but when we got there there were just two white poles on the reef to mark the entrance. But, to our delight, there was also a dinghy bobbing about outside the pass. It was Ian from Outsider with Paul from Byamee, both from Australia. They knew we were on our way and had taken Ian's big powerful dinghy out through the surf to do some fishing whilst they waited for us. They led the way in and all we had to do was follow their wake through the pass, across the reef, and into the deep waters of the lagoon.

Still, it was pretty exhilarating. There was only about 3 1/2 knots coming out against us so there was no standing waves but just outside the pass the water is very swirly and Phil had to be careful not to turn too sharply for fear that the current would catch us and swing us sideways. Going through the gap the reef is about 20 feet away on each side, plenty of room but no room for something going wrong. Beyond the pass there are two red mooring buoys in line, we had to keep them to port and follow their line straight out across the shallow bit to the deeper lagoon. It can be a little worrying following a catamaran owner to find a path across shallows (catamarans have very little draught) but Ian has a background of mono-hulls so no worries, mate!

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