Regine, the sailmaker on Raiatea did an excellent job on our genoa, and after a couple of days of explorations on land, the climb of the highest peak on the NW part of the island being a highlight, we got a pretty good weather window for scooting westwards. Mainly thanks to our friends on ‘Parenth’ese’, who has been to Maupiti a couple times before we decided to go with the flow. Raiatea will still be there later on. So, right after breakfast we took off for Bora Bora, some 22 miles to the west. Nice downwind sailing in fine weather and we had the anchor dropped behind a motu just inside the only pass at lunchtime. The forecast predicted light winds and a diminishing swell – down to about a meter- tomorrow, but then the swell will quickly build to 2-3 mtrs, so no time to lose. We relaxed during the afternoon, taking a good look at Bora through the binoculars and then slept a few hours in the evening. Just before midnight we heaved anchor and took off for Maupiti, 28 miles further to the west.
Wind just aft of port beam, full moon on top of us, we enjoyed one of these magical tropical nights at sea. The idea was to arrive just before dawn, to enter between 6 and 7 AM at low slack tide, and before the wind might pick up again.
The only pass is open to south, narrow, and makes a dogleg between two motus before you’re inside the lagoon. There is always an outgoing current, but not too strong, so the only issue is the size of the swells. We circled just outside the pass for 20-30 minutes and it looked good, but it’s always harder to determine the state of the surf from behind, pitchpoling our dinghy on a beach landing in Mexico comes to mind…. Anyway Parenthese offered to go in first, a 50′ alu sloop with a lot more horsepower per ‘ ton of boat’ than Nanna has, so we saw them go in without problem and quickly followed. It was quite easy on the day, but it is a bit daunting with heavy surf both sides of the boat just a couple boat lengths away. We had already heard some horror stories, a few years ago a big catamaran ended up on the reef and even a ferry from Tahiti once. The key is to not negotiate the pass if the swells are over 1-1,5 mtr. Some folks we know arrived here in conditions where the entire pass is nothing but foam and surf, making it impossible. The options then are to chose another destination, or just wait at sea if the forecast suggests the swell might come down. Good visibility obviously helps, and even though it’s well marked and lit, entry at night are for daredevils or locals who do it on a daily basis. On a fast powerboat, it’s another story obviously, since you could ride a wave through the dangerous part of the pass.
Writing this, we’ve been here for almost two weeks, enjoying this gem of a tropical island. Geologically the oldest of the Societies, just a few mtrs over 400 m for the highest peak, 1100 inhabitants, a shallow coral studded lagoon surrounded by loong motus it is very close to the ideal Paradise tropical island.
We’ve climbed the mountains here again, a 7 hour trip, that took us down along a ridge on the opposite side, making it a complete tour of the island. Spectacular view from the top, it took some ropes to ascend the steepest parts, and a good machete to clear an old, rarely used path downhill.
Apart from that we’ve watched yet some more of dancing, singing, and all of those Polynesian sports. The wind has been from due south for a few days, and it’s significantly colder than for many years in this -supposedly strong El Niño year- several of the locals say it’s exceptionally cold. They, and we too, had to dig out long pants and sweaters or jackets for the evening shows.
Tomorrow the swell is to be over 3 mtrs, so we’ll enjoy being ‘trapped in Paradise’ for a while longer before it’s time to start going back westwards. The transient boats are mostly gone now, we still here some on the VHF, at Bora Bora, and the rest of us, who’ll spend hurricane season in either Marquesas or the Gambiers, will have to backtrack for a few weeks to come. Not too bad, plenty of nice spots to revisit on the way, to make passages during the most favorable conditions.
More later on…