Passage to Mopelia…..

Dear F&F,
June 4-6, 2010
Passage to Mopelia (mow-peel-ee-uh) (Posted from Mopelia Atoll via HF Radio)

We had a lovely two weeks in Maupiti (mao-pee-tee). Our last day we rented bicycles for about $10 USD each to ride around the island. We got off the main road into the dirt but were redirected by some kind locals. No gears on the bikes so had to walk up one steep hill. It has been a long time since we\’d been on a bike and I felt a bit shaky, but it was fun. Beautiful vistas, a good workout.

We were sad that the lady with whom we had \”reserved\” 2 dozen eggs, at one of the 3 small markets, did not deliver. We\’ll never know if she really didn\’t have any or she decided to sell them to a friend instead of us. No worry. We left the island with 30 eggs. We will cut rations to one each per day instead of our usual 2 each per day. For those of you worried about this intake…it is an old concern about egg yolks causing high cholesterol. Scott has been able to cut his cholesterol medication dose in half on this diet and hopefully can stop it completely when we get the next blood test. Losing 50 lbs certainly didn\’t hurt!

I went to each of the 3 markets almost daily during the 3 weeks. I scored lettuce, tomatoes and bananas. Sadly only one more deliciously sweet grapefruit. It comforts me to have some fresh produce as we head out to an island that grows only coconuts.

We left at 3:00 p.m. in order to have plenty of daylight to see the reef. The distance to our destination was only 100 miles, so we went slowly in order to arrive about 10:00 a.m. The wind was a good angle and intensity to sail. We only needed the main to go the desired speed. We took our usual watch shifts: me on 6-10 p.m. Then I sleep 10-2 while Scott was on. Except at 1:15 a.m. I woke up because I could feel the boat moving in a sluggish way. Sure enough, the wind had died off and we were flopping around uncomfortably in the swell. We turned on the engines, changed course slightly and motor sailed the rest of the night for comfort. I took my 2-6 a.m. watch early since I was already awake. I had armed myself with seasick prevention and did fine. It was lovely to enjoy the stars and bioluminescence (light producing creatures) alongside our hulls. I had a good nap from 6-9 a.m. while Scott approached Mopelia atoll. We passed \”Na Maka\” during the night, the French family on the blue Switch. They used a different sailing configuration (gennaker only) and did not motor at all. They have also been here before, so are familiar with the narrow pass entrance.

We had the plan to enter about 10:00 a.m. as the rising (starting to be overhead) sun would illuminate the coral reef as we entered the eastern facing pass. The conditions were favorable so we went right in even without the benefit of following Jerome\’s lead. It is quite narrow (65 feet!) with only primitive stick markers. No more of the good red and green navigation buoys that we\’ve enjoyed throughout French Polynesia. There is no significant amount of ship traffic to make this tiny atoll a priority.

Once through the trickiest part, I drove and Scott climbed on top of the boom to get more of a bird\’s eye view on the coral heads as we negotiated the reef. It took us nearly two hours to find a place to anchor that looked good to us. To make sure we would not hit a shallow coral head, Scott got in the dinghy with its depth sounder to scout the area \”Beach House\” would swing over in any direction of wind.
When \”Na Maka\” came in later that afternoon, they anchored about 4 miles down the atoll by the \”village\”. There are 2 families: one has 10 people, one has 2. They work copra farming (coconut).
I was very tired from being on and off watch for 20 hours & did not want to move, but Scott knew in the morning I would be keen to dive & it was prudent to talk to Jerome & get whatever local info we could. Jerome and family know these people from being here 3 years ago and they are good friends. I was hot, tired, hungry and crabby but we managed to up anchor and motor 4 miles down the atoll. Scott dinghied to them. Their 3 kids were already playing with the local kids on the beach. Hard to stay grumpy for long in the presence of laughing children.

I still took the night watch 12-3 a.m. despite the very calm anchorage in the lagoon. It is common for me to be awake some during the night.

June 6
Jerome got information on where the \”Seedler\” shipwreck from 1917 was supposed to be located outside the reef. He does not have scuba equipment or a compressor onboard, but is certified, so we took him with us. It was over 30 minutes dinghy ride from where the catamarans are anchored to the reef pass. We scouted a long time searching for the wreck. We found the big link chain and thought for sure that would lead us to the wreck site. We did not find anything but the chain. What we did see was another beautiful coral garden. Like Maupiti in variety and abundance, but the coral heads are overall smaller sized. There seems to be more variety and larger numbers of fish. And we saw each of the common sharks: white tip, black tip & grey reef. The visibility was excellent. Diving at the entrance pass on it\’s south west corner was spectacular.

I enjoyed \”conservation in action\” killing three Crown of Thorn starfish (reef destroyers) with a stick and dead piece of coral. Scott got pricked by a thorn while helping me, youch! I will go more prepared next time with my Hawaiian sling and long knife strapped to my calf. Keeping the spirit of divemaster Ronald (Maupiti). We were happy to see one very large male Napolean wrasse that is a natural predator of the crown of thorn starfish. But they eat other things too, so I don\’t think it disrupts Mother Nature if I destroy these pests when I find them.

Jerome did very well even though he had not been on scuba for over one year. He is an avid free diver (holds his breath, no tank) spear fisherman. This takes a lot of fitness and agility. He tells us that there are abundant lobsters and coconut crabs here that are good to eat. YUM! It was a great first submersion. We still hope to find the shipwreck if there are remnants of it here. We will want to move \”Beach House\” closer to the pass to shorten the dinghy ride. All our dives will be either in the pass, or drifting, towing the dinghy outside the reef. For now we will stay put, likely go ashore tomorrow to meet the people here. See what they need, what we have that we can share with them.

It rained this afternoon and the weather prediction is a bit shaky for a couple days, but that will not necessarily prevent us from diving. We have good protection from every wind direction so no worries. Jerome and Scott are always talking about the next few islands, the route, the timing. It will be nice if we can stay together for a while. Our boat is definitely not 4 year old proof, so we will not likely have the entire family aboard, but we hope to contribute to a shore side potluck perhaps. And since \”Na Maka\’s\” watermaker is broken we have offered them all the fresh water they need. They have installed an effective method to catch rain and fill their tanks that way. We have this system, but since our watermaker is not broken, have not utilized it. It is smart though, because it has been raining some every day.

Cindy and Scott