Raivavae, about as remote as we get
03 January 2019
If you haven't been to a South Pacific atoll, it will be hard to imagine the geography of these island groups. I won't take the fifty pages Michner does to describe the formation of Hawaii but here goes:
Volcanos forced these islands up from the ocean floor. Magnificant, jagged peaks and protruding rocks make for striking appearances. Reefs of coral form around the island over millions of years. Eventually the islands start to sink but the reef remains and grows. As the mountainous island retreats, a lagoon of water forms between the island and surrounding reef. The surrounding reefs will eventually become low islands of their own accord called motus, and the central island will disappear in the lagoon.
Raivavae is one of the older formations that still has the main island with mountain peaks, about 10 miles in circumference. The lagoon is quite large, sometimes over a mile between the main island and surrounding motus. The motus are large and well formed with beautiful, white sandy beaches. They are the most beautiful we have seen anywhere. None of the motus are permanently inhabited but have camps or huts for picnics, etc.
The sand is so fine that the water in the lagoon is a bit cloudy. This makes navigating the lagoon hazardous. There are huge coral heads just waiting to tear the bottom out of your boat. Lisa or I stand vigil on the bow whenever we go anywhere in the lagoon. There are decent charts but not all of these coral heads are shown. We have circumnavigated the lagoon and anchored in half-a-dozen spots, perilously close to dangerous coral but haven't touched yet.
Even though the water in the lagoon is a bit murky, the silt gives it a beautiful, turquoise color. We were initially disappointed in what we could see snorkeling but moved to some spots near the outer reef that were crystal clear. The forests of coral, giant Pacific clams and schools of small fish made for some memorable snorkeling.
Raivavae is the highest latitude we have sailed since leaving the Bahamas. We are at 23.7 degrees south, right on the Tropic of Capricorn. They have planted pine trees in the mountains and we were able to pick wild raspberries. It is summer here but that means the rainy season. Not only rain but squally weather have been a large part of the month we have spent here. We had one stretch of bad weather that kept us boat bound on Uproar for 5 days (see previous blog). Then we had a week of perfect weather. Now as we prepare to depart it is yucky again.
Weather systems pass about 500 miles south of us moving west to east. The trade winds at our latitude are mostly easterly. The squash zones between create troughs of converging winds which equals convection...squally, rainy weather. Our satellite weather data suggests that we will have unusual west to nw winds for the next week, perfect for our 700 mile passage east to Gambiers. Weather there should be better and we are exciting about exploring this new island group. The premium black pearls in Tahiti come from Gambiers.
This is not the way I like to write blogs, spouting facts and statistics. But thought I should paint the picture as best possible. The beautiful waters surrounding Raivavae are eclipsed only by the 500 people here. Lisa and I bike around the island's 10 mile road about every other day. Christmas Eve we passed out candy canes and small toys to the children on our ride. The people here are a bit shy but have a ready smile.
We have been invited to several village celebrations, given fruit from gardens and help in any way possible. Raivavae does not seem like a vacation stop along our way, we were made to feel at home. Perhaps weather improves in the winter but for now, we are looking for the sunny, tropical weather we have been pointing Uproar toward for 3 ½ years.