Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shiriri Saga #44. The Big Wind.


We are anchored among a large international fleet of yachts in the lagoon, separated from the ocean by a broad coral reef which causes the ocean waves to break on it`s steep outer face and sends them across to the lagoon in a series of low ripples. We must take a bus into town from here ( Maieva Beach) and check in with customs and immigration. We dinghy into the beach, walk up the path among the palms beside the hotel and catch Le Truck to town. This is busy city life for us country mice but we love Papeete. We buy long sandwiches in buns and eat them down at the docks where many yachts are anchored stern first to the shore. It`s a little overcast and showery but for us west coasters this does n`t ring warning bells like it should.

Home again to Maieva Beach by Le Truck and to a large shopping center nearby to stock up with necessary items like baguettes and cheese. Back among the palm trees on the way to the beach, we are hit by a terrific gust of wind and bullet-like rain. We huddle behind a palm and watch as palm fronds fly past and lightning flashes. The instant thunder is accompanied by the sound of ripping metal as tin roofs are torn away. We are in danger here, but all we can think is of Shiriri out in the bay. One mast in sight out in the bay tosses wildly between palms bent double under black tattered clouds.

After twenty minutes, the wind eases a little and we dash for the beach. We look to Shiriri and she is missing, but no, here she has dragged much farther into the bay - in fact the whole fleet has compacted closer to shore. Waves are coming across the reef and poor Edith is full of water in the surf. We drag her into a creek, empty her out and row hard for Shiriri, first edging upwind in the lee of a motu and then across the waves.

David from Francis is on our foredeck getting out our second anchor so we scramble quickly aboard and set the anchor with David carrying it out in his inflatable. We look around. The wind has definitely been dropping. Then it switches 180 degrees and comes rushing down the mountain side swinging us close to Wylie E. Coyote. Anne and I row hard to Jim`s boat and find that not only has he dragged like us, but his anchor chain has been ripped out to the bitter end and that is held by a thin nylon rope that has chaffed badly. We fix that and then row like mad to take the awnings off Scaldis, (they catch the wind) but happily the emergency is nearly over. The wind drops and then comes normally from the original direction. Reported wind speed over eighty knots. Was this the famous Maramou wind of Tahiti or just a super thunder squall? In Papeete, just around the corner they missed it completely and Wylie Jim and the Scaldis folk are puzzled on their return after dark to find their boats have moved of their own accord.

After this exciting introduction, we settle in to life on the hook at Maieva Beach. We make trips to town, visit neighbouring yachts, haul water from a nearby bay and fetch ice for our cooler from a marina farther down the bay. Sailing Edith around the lagoon just for fun or drifting her over the reef so we can watch the colourful fish becomes our entertainment. The present moment is what is important, the rigors of our voyage fade into the background and the next return to our ocean home is somewhere fuzzy in the future. We are adapting to Polynesia.

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