Planning a Cargo Voyage
07 September 2020 | Maupiti, FP
Russ Whitford | perfect
“We are probably heading to Mopelia in a few weeks.”
We had just arrived in Maupiti and took a bike ride around the island (only five miles of road). We were admiring the scenery from a small hill and Tearii who lived there started a conversation with us. When we mentioned Mopelia, he asked if we could take a small package there for him. We readily agreed and gave him our boat card. We had been in Maupiti only two days and planned on enjoying this enchanted, small atoll at least for a few weeks.
Maupiti is only 30 miles west of Bora Bora. Bora Bora is the major tourist destination while Maupiti is relatively obscure. There is an airport with a few flights/week. They have small pensions or resorts but only two restaurants and a three tiny grocery stores. The pass into the Maupiti lagoon is renown for being treacherous. We entered in calm conditions and there was no problem at all.
Maupiti is a miniature Bora Bora. The mountains are stunning, surrounded by turquoise water and sandy motus or barrier islands. As typical of French Polynesia, the people are friendly everywhere, especially in the smaller atolls. One big draw of Maupiti are the Manta Rays. They visit the cleaning station in the morning for dental work. This is a series of coral rocks where Mantas hang out to let Wrasses swim in their mouth and clean debris. Late morning and afternoons the Mantas slowly circle some coral rocks near the pass where they filter feed for hours. Their open mouths look big enough to swim inside.
Unfortunately, the Manta Rays are quite the tourist attraction. The small numbers of tourists in Maupiti all jump in tour boats and swim with the Manta Rays. They chase the Mantas and cause them to swim away. We just lie quietly on the surface and watch them majestically circle. Our quiet presence does not seem to bother them. Lisa and I have watched four at a time circle only five to ten feet below us for about a half-hour.
The day after I met Tearii, a wood skiff pulled up to Uproar with two young ladies and two small boys. They mentioned Mopelia. I said we would be willing to take a package for them. One of the ladies asked if we would take her. Lisa wasn't onboard so I replied, “Maybe.” Angelique asked if I liked lobster and fresh fish. She said her family would give us all we wanted. I gave her a boat card and asked her to text us. The two girls had difficulty starting their outboard motor. Instead of getting angry, they just giggled and pulled like crazy. At last, I offered to help. I held the kill button out while Angelique gave it a pull. Started right up. They had rigged an unsuitable clip for the button. I fixed that for them.
Another two days and we thought we would stay two months in Maupiti. This is a truly lovely place and we were captured by her charms. I saw Tearii in the town and he greeted me, “Iorana, Popeye.” The Polynesians just can't say “Russ.” It comes out as a tortured, “ruse.” So I tell them my name is “Popeye.” It sounds Polynesian and they easily remember it. My grandson, Harlan, calls me “Popeye.”
Two more days and another skiff visited Uproar. They had four adults and five young boys. Mana asked me about going to Mopelia. I said perhaps we would go. Again, he mentioned the lobsters and fish there. Then all five boys climbed onto Uproar, followed by their parents. Lisa and I had been doing woodworking projects and the cockpit was cluttered with tools, wood shavings and dust. Lisa uttered, “I can't do this.” Too late. They all made themselves comfortable.
We apologized but no one seemed to mind the mess. The boys were delightful. Lisa made the little, toy airplanes for each of them, we often carry on shore. Mana asked if we could take him and his wife, Maureen to Mopelia. I said we were taking Angelique and that would make 3 people. Angelique's husband, Tearii (different one) was there and said he would like to go too. Suddenly we had four passengers. Lisa asked about the boys. We really didn't want to be responsible for sailing with children. Maureen explanied that the boys would stay with their grandparents.
Mana explained that he knows the pass to Mopelia well. He has gone there on several yachts in the past. He mentioned he traveled on Allora, our good friends Marcus and Dianne. We said depending on weather, yes we could take them. Then came discussions about how much gasoline we could take, lashed to our rail. They left us two large bags of fruit and vegetables.
Lisa and I took 1 ½ tons of hurricane relief supplies to Dominique along with a young Martinique couple. Sure, we could load Uproar again for the 80 mile journey. But I kept saying “maybe.” I kept saying it depends on weather and our plans are not firm. I also said we would most likely not be returning to Maupiti so couldn't bring them back. They said that wasn't a problem.
We are now quite popular in Maupiti. Just tell someone you are going to Mopelia and you will make friends. We are more than happy to bring supplies and passengers to this isolated atoll. Other cruisers have told us the local people will invite us for dinner every night and bring fish and lobsters daily to us.
Keep in mind that all of these conversations are in French. I'm sure we understand about 80% of each other. Stand by for a report on the cargo voyage of Uproar.