Wel­come di­ver­sion

Yachting Monthly - - PILOTAGE UPDATE -

a co­conut tree and chopped off the top to re­duce windage. Then they emp­tied out the deep freezer, punched holes in the top, put their two small chil­dren in­side and tied it se­curely to a tree. Fi­nally, they each climbed back up their trees and tied them­selves to the trunk. The is­land was com­pletely washed over, and only a very few frond­less palm tree trunks re­mained, but the fam­ily sur­vived. The French gov­ern­ment in Tahiti sent a land­ing craft to take the in­hab­i­tants back to their home is­land of Maupiti, lo­cated 30 miles west of Bora Bora. For many years af­ter the cy­clone, Mopelia’s only per­ma­nent in­hab­i­tants were Hina, a young Tahi­tian girl from Maupiti, plus a reclu­sive French­man and his fam­ily. Hina loves the di­ver­sion from work­ing co­pra that yachties bring, es­pe­cially when some­one is a gui­tar or chess player. Ev­ery time we’ve vis­ited in the past 20 years we al­ways ask if we can have a potluck din­ner on the beach at her place and she al­ways says yes, re­mind­ing me to bake a huge batch of brown­ies. An open in­vi­ta­tion goes out to all the yachts in the an­chor­age to bring them­selves and any mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, and on our last visit in 2015, Edgar, a re­cent ar­rival from Tahiti, who lives a lit­tle way down the beach, brought co­conut crabs while Hina went free-div­ing on the reef for lob­ster.

I al­ways ask Hina if she needs any­thing. Some­times she’ll ask for cook­ing oil, onions or gar­lic, but in­evitably, she’ll say, ‘Don’t for­get to bring ice cream next year!’ As she has only a tiny Honda gen­er­a­tor, which she uses for lights, any­thing cold must seem a real treat. Amanda al­ways teases, say­ing we’ll bring taro and co­conut flavour ice-cream, to which Hina turns up her nose, de­mand­ing ‘Cho­co­late!’

This year we brought ice cream bars from Bora Bora. Poly­ne­sians think it rude to eat while guests are present, so I had to re­peat­edly urge Hina to en­joy her ice cream be­fore it turned into a pud­dle in the trop­i­cal heat.

Af­ter en­joy­ing our re­cent visit with Hina a wind shift to the north­west caused by a pass­ing cold front turned the nor­mally pro­tected an­chor­age into a choppy lee shore, so we mo­tored three miles up­wind, dodg­ing oc­ca­sional pearl floats, to an­chor off Adri­enne and Mar­cello’s com­pound. They’ve now built a cou­ple of houses and own a back­hoe, a speed boat and a truck, but they are as friendly and out­go­ing as ever. They’ve now been joined by two daugh­ters and a son, and hav­ing seen us en­ter the pass they were plan­ning a feast. Un­for­tu­nately the frontal passage meant that soon the wind would be out of the West, pos­si­bly mak­ing the exit from the la­goon im­pass­able. We wanted to stay longer, and Adri­enne even tried ty­ing Amanda to a co­conut tree to stop her leav­ing, but this time we had to set­tle for a short visit and sad good­byes.

In fact, the pass was a true mael­strom and get­ting through with­out bounc­ing off the reef on ei­ther side re­quired to­tal con­cen­tra­tion with quick helm in­puts. Amanda gave the bowthruster con­trol to one of our crew to give even more con­trol at the nar­row­est part and we took two walls of stand­ing green wa­ter over the bow be­fore we were clear of the break­ers. We were very thank­ful for our trusty 95hp en­gine and three-blade pro­pel­ler!

If you plan on sailing to Mopelia, first stop by the mayor’s of­fice on the is­land of Maupiti. Hina’s fa­ther works there and owns a lit­tle shop across the road. There will al­most cer­tainly be some sup­plies that need to be taken to Mopelia, and if you have a freezer aboard, try and squeeze in a con­tainer of cho­co­late ice cream to sur­prise Hina!

Adrien, Mar­cello and the cur­rent crew of Mahina Tiare

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