Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

Mopelia, day 13 through 16, giant coconut crabs

29 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia September 30 through October 4

I'm getting just as bored writing this as I'm sure the reader is...that is if you are still with me. We have discovered many of the mysteries of this atoll and its gregarious people. But new experiences crop up every day.

We were invited to a Saturday noon meal at Mana and Maureen's. Shortly after, 2K and Le Pukeko were invited as well as Rava, Terai and Hina. Mana promised us coconut crab which we have come to enjoy. But first, he invited us to join him for a crab hunt. We met on the beach at 8:30 with flashlights. Mana and Maureen led us through the jungle to a place where there was a small fresh water hole. We saw a few, small crabs on the way, too small to eat. But when we got in the neighborhood, we started spotting bigger ones. Kjell caught a nice one and put it in the five gallon bucket I was carrying.

Then he spotted a bigger one. We dumped the small one out and in went his big brother. Big brother was pissed off. He was also big enough to reach the rim with a leg and crawl out. I kept stuffing him down but it became clear he would not submit. We then attempted to tie his legs and claws up with a small rope. Mana had shown us how. We got him trussed up but it wasn't pretty.

Magali spotted a big, white one and pointed it out to me. I scrambled through the jungle and paralyzed it with my flashlight. You have only one, quick grab of the back of the shell to capture a coconut crab. Any hesitation or timidity and they can not only escape, but they can crush a finger right to the bone! I got him. Mana stepped in and again showed us how to truss up a crab. I think mine weighted three pounds.

The dinner was a real show with twice as much food as we could eat. Maureen and Mana served coconut crab, benetea (giant Pacific clam), poison cru (raw fish in coconut milk), rice and salad.

Polynesian beer (water, yeast and sugar fermented) was served throughout the afternoon. We drank it sparingly, knowing the power and potential poisons it contains. Strangely enough, Terai, Rava and Hina didn't eat anything. They just drank.....and to excess! Terai explained, "We will eat tomorrow." I guess they didn't want the food to interfere with their intoxication. Again, piles of and food were wrapped for us to take back to our boats.

We hauled Mana's boat on shore and turned it over. Termites had eaten the keel and it leaked badly. Chris, professional boat builder confirmed that my 5200 and some new wood could make the repair. I told Mana if he removed the rotten keel, we would replace it for him with the 5200. He was excited to get his boat operational again. Then Terai mentioned his aluminum skiff had a crack. We will take a look at his boat and try to fix it with a patch, pop riveted in place and sealed with 5200.

That was yesterday. Today, Sunday was a day to sober up and eat for Rava, Terai and Hina. But we heard quite a party on shore at Hina's well into midnight. Kjell and I will visit tomorrow and see if any progress has been made on the boats or if they are sleeping off another party night.

Mopelia, day eleven, Lunch in the jungle

28 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Anouk and Alize were anxious to finish their boxes. We had taken a day off working on them yesterday. Today, they called on the radio right at 8:00 to ask if I was ready for them. They rowed their dinghy over (Chris is a minimalist, no motor). We sawed the lids off the boxes, hinged and inserted the magnets for a latch. I roughly sanded them smooth and rounded the corners with the power sander. The girls then began enthusiastically sanding them by hand.

They dinghied back to Le Pukeko with their boxes and some sandpaper. They will do finish sanding and pick out shells to apply to the lid. We had a total of about nine hours of “class” building these boxes. I am lucky to have two bright, enthusiastic students to work with. It was pleasing to see their progress each day and how hard they tried to do accurate work. My hope is that these simple skills will encourage them to continue building things. Chris, being a professional boat builder will certainly encourage them. Now it is Lisa's turn to help them decorate the box lids with her technique.

Lisa returned from another shore excursion just as the girls left. We had time for Lisa to bake a loaf of her special, sourdough bread she and clean up for our lunch on shore.

It is pretty windy today. But we easily found the buoys guiding us into the beach where Angelique and Terehau live. Their homestead if quite modest, even compared to the other, open-air houses. While most are right on the lagoon beach, theirs is tucked away in the jungle, on a large clearing. Huge palm trees surround their homestead.

We had offered to bring Terehau and Angelique from Maupiti to Mopelia on Uproar. They found another ride but invited us to lunch as a thank you. Angelique set up a beautiful table with red, flowered tablecloth. Pierre joined us and a bit later, Hina rode up on her bike. Hina didn't eat, she just sat away from the table, drinking her home made beer. But that's all we ever see Hina doing! Lunch was curried coconut crab and grilled parrot fish. Terehau was able to wade out in the reef and spear two large parrot fish in spite of the crashing waves. But Terehau is a Vaa'a paddler and racer. He sure has some skills and strength.

The fish is marinated with an Asian sauce and slow grilled, almost smoked. They sometimes use a special wood or coconut shells for grilling. The smoke flavor is better than any Mesquite or Hickory. My piece of parrot fish was one of the best fish I have ever eaten! The curried coconut crab was equally delicious. They prepared a huge bowl but none of them ate it. It was strictly for us. We hardly made a dent and they insisted we take the rest back with us.

We talked for about two hours after lunch. They told us all about their lives and families and we did the same. They wanted to know about our homes and were amazed by my descriptions of Wisconsin winters. Pierre and Hina speak some English but all helped Lisa and me with our French. Terehau had mentioned that he raced Vaa'a. I asked if he had one on Mopelia. He used to but a shark bit the outrigger and crushed it! They are pretty aggressive here.

We returned to Uproar with the bowl of crab and plate of Papaya with shredded coconut for desert. Fortunately, we had planned dinner on Le Pukeko and had two dishes ready to share. We played Farkle dice, laughed and drank some wine and rum and had one of many, enjoyable evenings with our cruising friends.

Mopelia, day ten, Happy Birthday Lisa!

27 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia, day 10, September 28

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

The girls from Le Pukeko called early to ask about resuming wood shop class. We resumed the lesson by marking out and cutting the pins from the previously cut tails. Their skills with the saw had improved a lot from the previous day. It is so pleasing to work with eager students. Alize doesn't like to sit still. She whittled away at the back edge of my workbench while I was working with Anouk. I don't mind the "customization" that kept her busy.

I started Anouk chiseling out the parts of the ends that were to be removed on the back seat of the cockpit. This freed up the workbench to cut the pins with Alize. Suddenly I heard, "Popeye, I have a problem." I looked up and blood was streaming down her arm! We washed it up downstairs and tried to contain most of the blood splatter. She sliced a clean cut across her finger tip. My chisels are sharp! After washing her arm, the cut would stop bleeding when held closed. One band aid thankfully did the trick.

But then Anouk's eyes started to swim. She said, "Everything is spinning around." I laid her on the settee berth and got her a glass of water. We held her hand up to relieve the blood pressure some. I sat and talked with her for awhile and her color returned. A short while later, she was up and working on her box again.

Meanwhile, Alize was planing away on a scrap of Pis Pis I said she could use. She had it clamped in the workbench vice and was vigorously planing shavings with my hand-made jointer plane. It is really fun to sweep curly shavings with a sharp, well adjusted plane. She made quite a pile of Pis Pis curly-ques.

Anouk resumed work like nothing had happened and the girls finally fitted and glued the boxes together. This was another three hour session. One more would be necessary to cut the boxes apart, hinge and finish sand.

Lisa had returned from another beach walk with the ladies. We cleaned up ready for her party. She had baked a flourless, chocolate cake with raspberry and chocolate grenache. I made a pot of duck curry and green Papaya salad. Lisa prepared a pitcher of Margaritas with fresh lime juice. We had been making ice balls in our freezer for days in anticipation of a fun boat drink.

Just give cruisers a reason to party and look out! Festive hardly describes the mood. Kaia had knitted wool/silk socks for our winter return to the US. They also gave Lisa a 2K tank top. Magali sewed together a Le Pukeko bird from colorful cloth with elaborate decorations. It was stuffed with Lavender. Anouk made a wind chime from a coconut shell and urchin spines. Alize wove a colorful bracelet.

We ate nearly every scrap of food and went from Martaritas to wine and rum. Lisa put on her infamous dance mix music and the ladies really got in the spirit. This became too much for the teen age girls, being embarrassed by their mother's gyrations. They retired to the forward cabin to watch videos. The guys retreated to the cockpit to talk boats, fishing, etc. waiting for the ladies to get danced out. They just kept dancing. Kjell fell asleep and we decided to beg the ladies to call it a night.

What fun! The pile of dishes and glasses attested to the depth and length of the celebration! Lisa is officially a year older!

Bora Bora, two rescues in one day

26 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Lisa and I dinghied a few miles to town from our mooring outside the fabled Bloody Mary's restaurant. We had a fun dinner there the previous night with live music.

We were about to arrive at the dock and noticed a local boat with engine trouble. We headed their way and noticed another local fishing boat was also running toward them. Yes, they would like a tow. The other fishing boat was happy to continue fishing. They had work to do, we had none.

Surprisingly, the skipper spoke English. He thought there was water in the gas that killed his engine. We towed the 3,000 pound boat about ½ mile to a dock. He was very appreciative. Later as we were walking down the street, he drove by and asked our boat name. “Uproar!”

After some shopping, we decided to sail to leave Bora Bora's busy downtown and head to the SE corner of the atoll. That involved about 10 miles of sailing or motoring and negotiating some shallow reefs and channels. But it was a beautiful day and the water is so clear, we could easily see rocks to avoid.

A few miles from the anchorage we spotted another fishing boat with the hood off the engine. This was a smaller boat with two teenage boys. I asked Lisa to slow down and just continue at idle. I hopped in Houdinky and motored over to the boys. Yes, they would like a tow (all in French of course). They pointed to a rough, concrete dock. We tied up and started toward the dock.

The younger boy was sitting on the bow, laughing like crazy that my little dinghy was towing their boat. As we approached the dock, a car pulled up. I'm pretty sure they had called mom and dad for help. The parents were most appreciative that we rescued their boys. Rescue is a bit strong. There was no wind and they were just floating in the calm lagoon.

I motored back to Uproar and Lisa grabbed my bow line. We continued to the turquoise anchorage. Two rescues in one day.

Mopelia, day nine, wood shop class

26 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia day 9, September 27.

More woodworking.

Lisa mentioned to Magali that I would teach the girls to make dovetail boxes. We got a call on the radio this morning asking if I was ready for the lesson. Fortunately, I had prepared the stock for their boxes the night before. I have some rough planks of Pis Pis wood on board. Pis Pis is really the Polynesian name for this light weight wood. The closest North American species would be basswood or butternut. It would be easy for the girls to work with. But first I had to saw the rough pieces to width and resaw to the correct thickness. Resawing by hand is a lot of work. The saw cut must be accurate or the planks are quite uneven. They are always come out far less than perfect. My hand planes did a good job of making the planks flat and uniform thickness. It filled the cockpit with shavings too.

Anouk and Alize arrived at nine. First, we had a discussion about the Golden Ratio. This is a ratio of about 1 : 0.6 that is commonly found in nature. Early builders found using this ratio when designing structures or furniture was pleasing to the eye. The girls had to perform an algebra problem to determine the dimensions of their box, using the golden ratio and ½ meter of wood they had at their disposal.

They eagerly attacked the wood with my router plane to cut the grooves for the top and bottom plywood. Then they sawed the plank to lengths for the front, back and sides. These were squared up on the shooting board with a block plane. Finally, the dovetail cuts could begin. We examined completed boxes and determined how the dovetails would be cut. Three hours later, the dovetails were cut. That was quite a lot of work so we decided to end the lesson for the day.

Lisa returned from a beach walk with the ladies with of all things, more shells! She is loading Uproar for the shipment back to the US. She hopes to make some concrete sculptures, using the shells for accent and decorations. We will pack Uproar with hundreds of pounds of shells. After all, the shipping is not going to cost us any additional. I'm going to shop back some local lumber as well.

A previous visit to Norma brought up discussions of ships that had wrecked on Mopelia. Norma had a bottle full of ballast stones from an ancient Spanish ship. These were small, smooth stones that had been polishing in the surf for over 100 years. They appear to be granite or marble, certainly not a local stone which is either volcanic or sedimentary, limestone. Lisa found the beach at the south end littered with these stones. There can be no mistaking that these are ballast stones from a wreck. She collected a dozen more. She also found some iron parts encrusted with coral that appear quite old. We will research this further. It would be interesting to learn more about this hapless Spanish ship.

We had a quiet dinner of duck magaret with vanilla sauce and fried potatoes with onions and tumeric. We fell asleep halfway through the hilarious movie, Pricilla.

Mopelia, day eight, the atoll of homesteaders

25 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia, day eight, September 2

Chris from Le Pukeko, has been here for about a month. He and his family have gotten to know the people on Mopelia quite well. He explained to me how Mopelia "works." We had already perceived the rivalry between the Harry/Norma family and the extended Marcello/Adrienne family. The families compete to "claim" the cruisers as their friends. We have been careful to spend time with both families and certainly enjoy the hospitality that comes with it. Rava and Teraix in the south kept asking us when we would move south. They gave us the delicious plate of smoked fish and local beer a few days ago.

We moved south today and didn't do much else. I'll get back to the history and workings of Mopelia. Mopelia was a France Meteo, weather station in the 1950's. Apparently the French government owned all of Mopelia. This is quite unusual as we are told every atoll, island and motu is owned by some Polynesian family. After Meteo abandoned Mopelia, ownership was turned over to the local government administered out of Maupiti, 100 miles away.

The only way to live on Mopelia is to apply for a homestead and promise to produce copra. Homesteaders may not build permanent structures. We had noticed that all buildings are open air with sand floors. There are a few permanent buildings that are remnants of past construction but mostly uninhabitable. Walls are often orange "snow fence" with thatched roofs or corrugated tin. There is only one freezer on Mopelia at Marcello's. He has enough solar to keep it running. There is also a fuel subsidy for everyone here and many fishermen in FP. They pay about $.40/liter of gas or diesel. We pay about $1.40/liter.

Homesteaders are given 200 meters of shoreline and the land to the reef, per family member. Marcello with wife, two daughters and a son (not currently on Mopelia) "own" a kilometer of the eight kilometer motu. Norma and Harry have just 400 meters. The motu is about half kilometer wide from lagoon shore to ocean reef so these homesteads encompass a lot of land.

Another benefit to homesteaders is free transportation and transportation of copra and supplies. But they only get a supply ship once/year when they have harvested 14 tons of copra. We heard that Norma, mayor, is encouraging Piere to work harder. They need everyone to produce to get that supply ship to pay a visit. Norma showed us the communal, satellite phone which she has charge of. She keeps a book with records of who uses it and for how long. The homesteaders don't have to pay for their air time until the copra is sold.

We also learned that Marcello used to be the mayor but somehow, Norma wrested the position from him. It is a strange situation and vibe among some of the homesteaders. We are sorry to know there is some discord among them but there can be no doubt how outgoing and generous they are to cruisers.
Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Sophie our Jack Russell Terrier
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