Magnificent Manihi, Tuamotu's. 14:27:00S 146:01:00W

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Wed 16 Apr 2008 13:20

The Tuamotu’s cover a vast area in the South Pacific. In past centuries, navigators referred to them as the Dangerous Archipelago, due to the ever present danger of unchartered reefs and coral heads. There are some 76 inhabited Atolls. Each of these is an enclosed  coral reef, with a number of Motu’s (or low Islands), around the periphery and a central lagoon. Leading into these lagoons are one or more passes, and of these only some are navigable by yachts. If they are, then they are only accessible at slack water, due to the fact that a vast amount of water is pushed over the reef between tides and is then “heaped up” by the wind. The trapped excess water is then released through the pass and it is not unusual to have currents is excess of 8 knots in these passes. This is very dangerous for small sailing craft.  Added to which there is the ever present danger of coral reefs and coral heads. Most of which even if chartered, are based on charts that were drawn up long before GPS was even thought of, and so are very inaccurate. Some reefs are reported to be “out” by as much as 4nm, so night sailing is very dangerous, and radar absolutely essential for spotting these low lying keel killers.  BUT, for those who wish to be adventurous, the rewards are superb!!


The Imray “South Pacific Anchorages” pilot book says of Manihi, and I quote “I cannot recommend this Atoll. Blah blah”. What a load of tosh!!! I don’t think I have ever read a more incorrect or out of date pilot book. This is also the current version! Anyway, despite this pilot book, and because of other factors we went to Manihi. What a fantastic decision that was!


This Atoll is everything you could ever dream of as a paradise in the south Pacific.  That said it was once again a real benefit being a part of the Blue Water Rally. The reason this time was that one of the Rally Directors, Peter Seymour has a friend, who until two years ago was the Naval Commander of the French Navy in the South Pacific. Then the navy wanted to promote him and move him from Tahiti, back to Paris. So he decided to take early retirement in situ’. Xavier is a charming, delightful and extremely helpful man, who has purchased his own Motu on Manihi. More of which later. However, on arrival off Manihi, we called Xavier on VHF, Channel 16 and he then arranged for a local Pearl fisherman (and his neighbour), to act as pilot for us.


We had sailed down to Manihi in company with our buddy boat “Anahi”. As we arrived off the pass, Fernand, appeared in his boat to act as pilot and guide us through the pass and across the lagoon to the anchorage on the East side of the lagoon.




As we had a more powerful engine than Anahi, it was decided that we would go first and follow Fernand, with Anahi behind. The reason being that the current outflow when we arrived was around five to six knots and the channel only has around a metre of clear water under our keel at low water.  Needless to say the dependable Perkins performed perfectly and we just powered our way through the race, and followed our pilot boat to avoid any nasties.


Anahi followed a couple of hundred metres behind us, and all went perfectly.



In fact the channel is well marked and the only real danger is a small coral head  in the middle of the channel at the northern end, which is well marked by a Northerly Cardinal mark. The normal way to proceed to the anchorage is to then follow the navigation marks around the eastern side of the lagoon, to the anchorage. But Fernand, who amongst other things also runs a Black Pearl farm, knows these waters like the back of his hand. So he took us on a short cut directly across the lagoon, dodging pearl farms, reefs and coral heads, directly to the anchorage, which is in a sheltered spot behind a large Motu, in 15 metres of water.


  Des Res? Well actually a Pearl Farm on a reef



There were several other BWR boats already ensconced in the anchorage.



This was a lovely spot. With a nice cooling breeze. So after anchoring over a coral bed ( very interesting and impossible unless you have 100% strong chain), we immediately got out the “marquee”  so we could get out of the direct sun, and enjoy some much needed shade.


Needless to say, within seconds of arriving the VHF radio burst in to life and there was much chat and plans being laid for events and “things to do”, over the coming days. The plan for that evening was to have about 14 people go to the one and only “posh” hotel on the Atoll for dinner. This was called the Manihi Pearl Hotel, and is on the south west side of the atoll some 6 miles from the anchorage. It is beautifully constructed as a tropical hotel with a lot of the hotel rooms built as thatched huts on stilts over the waters edge. The restaurant was very attractive, but……….the hotel had only 18 guests and the service was very disappointing and the meal of average quality and VERY expensive.

Fernand also operates a water taxi, and he took us there and back for a very reasonable fee.  Although the meal was disappointing and the staff less than enthusiastic, we still had a great time with our Rally chums.


The next day was to be a beach cum lagoon day. This was to be a VERY full and fun day, about which I will detail tomorrow. In the meantime here is a taster of what it was like………….