With Covid booming in Tahiti and Moorea, the boat full of supplies and cycling, walking and snorkeling all done – it was time to head west to Maupiti and avoid the much rumored lockdown.
The weather forecast was good. And stupidly, even after 30 months of lies, we still believe the weather forecast and so expected a quick relaxed sail with the wind on the beam. We even left late to avoid being at the pass in Maupiti too early. Our neighbours on Mikado left with the same plan. At least we aren’t the only optimists.
The first hours everything ran according to plan. The wind blew constantly from the North and Artemis ran as if on rails heading straight for the southern tip of Raiatea. This lasted about ten hours and then the wind turned to the east, settling down blowing directly from our destination. We could tack badly to starboard or port. But at least we had wind.
And then the wind became fluky and varied between little and nothing. Happy memories of our Pacific crossing as we changed tack and sail throughout the night. Sailing is definitely a sport.
At dawn we accepted that we were not going to reach Maupiti and considered diverting to Raiatea but decided to continue and spend another night at sea. As soon as we had found our peace with the lack of wind, the breeze increased and soon we were back on our way dodging the occasional squalls. Well, most of them!
We had the first reef in the main and the full genoa out when a squall backwinded us. Before we fully realised what was happening, Artemis was lieing on her side. She turned in to the wind and came up again but not before the water out of the bilge had covered the engine and landed in the galley. Water everywhere and two confused people trying to work out where it came from.
We put the boat back on track and cleaned up and then returned to enjoying the sail. It was, however, not long until the next huge squall appeared ahead of us. The radar measured this one at 12 miles long but suggested we would just graze it. Things were going well and then suddenly we were sucked in. With the wind rising, a line jammed round a cleat at the bow and stopped us rolling the headsail away. Harness and safety line on and Heidi made her way to the bucking bow to clear the line so that we could reduce sail. She returned just as the downpour started. Neill got soaked at the tiller and Heidi used the radar to measure the distance to the end of the squall and offer encouragement.
Once out of the storm, things calmed down, the ocean turned deep blue, the waves dropped, the sun came out and the wind accelerated Artemis to five knots in exactly the correct direction. To complete the picture of perfect Pacific sailing, the green island of Maupiti rose out of the waters directly ahead and we were set to enter the pass before dark.
But sailing wouldn’t be sailing if everything remained perfect and, of course, the wind turned with the reef still four miles away. We could tack but would run out of daylight so reached for the motor starter. Not surprisingly the diesel didn’t start immediately. Lieing an engine on its side and throwing water over it is never going to be helpful. Without an engine, it was impossible to enter the pass straight in to the wind and against the current and Plan B was already being formulated as the engine stuttered to life.
Through the pass, with huge breakers to each side and against the outflowing current, we reached the lagoon and dropped anchor behind the reef and before the backdrop of a stunning pacific dream island. Maupiti!