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The strange ways of Mopelia…

Published on 01 april 2015 at 0h00

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Early morning August 18th, as soon as the sun was coming up over the horizon, and while everyone else aboard was still asleep, I discretely dropped the dinghy into the water, fired up the 15hp Yamaha motor, and went to check out the state of the pass at Maupiti (see report in Multihulls World #140). The conditions seemed good, with the wind blowing East by North at 15 knots. The current was outgoing, but moderate. The boat had been ready to leave since the previous evening. I got back on board, closed all the hatches, checked that no lines were trailing overboard, got out the lifejackets and made myself a black coffee. If I’d had a Cuban cigar left, I would have lit it this morning, just before going through the pass at Maupiti. It’s about feeling alive again. We made it out into the ocean with no problems, hoisted sail, and set a course for Mopelia, a hundred-odd miles to the west. We didn’t overdo it, as we would have to wait until first light the following morning to enter the lagoon. I spent the night in the salon, to make sure that we were making a particularly slow approach to the atoll of Mopelia. Slow, but safe. Little sleep for me that night. It would be no use ending up on the reef on the windward coast… By dawn Jangada was just on the leeward side of the atoll, two miles from the pass. I put the kettle on to boil, and went to wake up Marin, who had become my second in command for on-board maneuvers. He would be celebrating his 13th birthday in Mopelia in a few days’ time!

Chronicle around the world - Mopelia

Traces of former human activity, which nature is eradicating little by little…

Mopelia (or Maupihaa) Atoll has one small, narrow pass which gives access to the ocean. It is rather prettily named Taihaaru Vahine and is located to the northwest. I spotted it easily as it was getting lighter, thanks to the line of current flowing out to sea, in the line of the pass. With the sails furled, we slowly made our approach. Cyclones have done away with the outer buoyage, and only two little black and white poles fixed on the coral flats remain. The pass itself is fairly deep, but it’s once you get into the lagoon that you have to pick your way between the coral heads. Most of them you leave to port, but there are one or two big ones to leave to starboard. The main difficulty with the pass at Mopelia is the outgoing current. It is sometimes strong, and flows straight down the middle of the pass, meaning that you have to pass very close to the reef, something like 5 meters from either side. There would be no chance of making a U-turn in the middle of the pass, which is around 200 meters long. The current can get up to 6 or 7 knots. I quickly checked the engine rooms. Then, as the sun was climbing above the horizon, we had several goes at getting on the outgoing conveyor belt created by the current. This gave us the exact course for going through the pass. Our approach maneuvers had woken Barbara and Adélie, who stared silently at this new island. A magical ...

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