29 June 2011 | Manihi Atoll
Manihi was an excellent stop with the exception of the coral heads in the anchorage. Entering the pass was no problem for us, a little bit scary watching Free Spirit come in behind us. When the current got a hold of them they were almost sideways in the pass heading for the coral edge several times. Philip had to use full reverse along with his bow thruster each time to keep her off the reef. Later the locals told us they were impressed that we made it in without assistance as most boats get guided in and several windup on the reef each year. Still I felt it was pretty easy and Free Spirit would have had no problem if they had a rudder. The next morning we all headed to town to see about getting Free Spirit a temporary rudder made. We went to the village hall where we met the police man who took us to the village employee who was busy running wires for the Hiva celebration booths on the soccer field. After explaining our situation using Lise-Marie as a translator he said he would meet us on his lunch break. In the mean time we went looking for steel. As it happens they had just piled all the scrap steel at the little boat basin and were loading it on a small outboard powered barge with a front end loader. We found an old steel tank of heavy gauge steel and had the front end loader guy transport it back to the other side of the Motu near the generator station where we planned to do the work. Then back to the soccer field to ask the welder how we could get the station unlocked in order to obtain power. He said we would need permission from the mayor for that and also to allow him to do the welding for us. The mayor was pointed out and she readily granted permission so Phillip got to work with the angle grinder cutting his new rudder from the tank while the rest of us wandered off looking for pearls. Most off the pearls in town had been recently shipped off to Papeete but we found a small place that had some. The guy took us out to a shaded table on the edge of the lagoon laid out several towels placed 8 bags of pearls down each bag containing different grades and sizes of pearls. He then told us to keep track of which bags the pearls we were interested in came from and left us there by ourselves with hundreds of pearls. After 45 minutes of choosing it was time to go looking for him so we could find out how much they would cost as each bag had a range of prices, for instance one bag might say $400, 600, 800 and another would say $1500, 2000 etc.. Prices were in Pacific francs. He was busy eating lunch but came along shortly. I purchased enough for a necklace and was very happy with the transaction. After that we noticed the current was coming in the pass so ran back to the boat to get snorkel gear and did a drift though the pass which was very nice with the clear water coming in. The welder showed up at 3:30pm after work and by dark Phillip had a new rudder. The price for all this work? $0, So Phillip insisted he accept some money. Just before dark we heard drums coming from a nearby building and went to watch the local youth practicing their dance and singing for the upcoming Hiva celebration. Later that night while having dinner aboard Ovive with Free Spirit four local guys stopped by and asked if we were interested in trading for pearls. These guys were not from the village but lived on the outer Motus. We did some wonderful trading with them and Seb and Lise Marie would up talking to them for quite a while. That was our first full day on Manihi. The next day I started my autopilot project which consisted of mounting the rudder sensor Phillip had given me on the port side so we could disconnect the starboard rudder from the picture so I would not have to align the rudders every 15 minutes on our next passage to Tahiti. In the middle of that I went over to Free Spirit to go under water and guide his rudder in while he worked above. That went easy and just as I was finishing my project the guys from the Motu showed up and hung out for a while. They brought us Wahoo, oysters and more pearls as presents and did some more trading as well. They wanted to have me try their boat so we all went for a ride with me driving. You stand in a small enclosure at the bow with a steel pipe in front of you that is led through pulleys directly to a 90 horse outboard. The stick is moved left or right and takes a lot of strength to control the outboard without a mechanical advantage. They told us they might see us later that night as they were invited over to Free Spirit for dinner as were we. It turns out that the diner invite was a French/English communication mess up and when they showed up later that night Phillip and Robin were a little shocked to have four uninvited guests aboard. But the shock was only momentary as we went into action to accommodate them with extra plates etc They brought tons of meat for the grill along with vegetables and bread and the rum they had traded for earlier. A good time was had by all with lots of pictures, conversation and of course pearls both as presents and commerce such as when one of the guys asked me for a cigar for his dad after which he gave me some more pearls. About the time they went off to get their musical instruments Dean and I excused ourselves and left the party as I knew I had to dive to the bottom of the Lagoon (about 65' where they were anchored) in the morning and unwrap Free Spirits anchor chain from the coral heads. The next morning I was able to do that and luckily ours came up fairly easily. Leaving the pass was straight forward, just a little bit nerve racking as we were pushed out at 12 knots. The Lagoon water was not very clear except close to the pass similar to our experience 3 years ago in Kauehi but both the wonderful village and the people we met from the outer Motus made it a highlight of the trip so far. Perhaps the fact that it was a new place for me contributed to the experience as well.