Holy sh*t, what a rush! Yesterday we sailed out of Bora Bora bound for the island known as the miniature Bora Bora, Maupiti. We have heard horror stories of boats going aground on the reef near the pass and some with the loss of all lives, so the decision to try the pass was not to be taken lightly. I read and studied the pass extensively, and the consensus was that it was definitely safe in anything under a 2.0 meter swell. I watched the weather and when my GRIBS were calling for a 1.6 meter swell (yesterday) we went for it. There was not much wind and it was squally. I thought it would be better to burn the diesel but have a safer entrance to the lagoon than wait for the wind to fill in but have a bigger swell. After a somewhat rough passage with rain and squally wind we found ourselves 1/2 a mile off the SE corner of Maupiti staring at the massive swells pounding the reef in a huge concession of rollers with tall plumes of spray reaching halfway up the lush mountain in the background. Uh, it looks like they are definitely breaking across the pass. What should we do?
I called on VHF for any vessel that can provide conditions at the pass. A nice American guy came back and told me that he wasn’t at the pass but that he entered a couple days ago and the conditions were worse. I confirmed that when he entered that the waves were NOT breaking in the middle of the pass. He also said that it was very narrow and that the breakers would likely be only 50 feet off the port and starboard beam but to stay with the leading marks at all cost.
At this point we had a decision to make. We could bag it and just push on to Mopelia and miss out on the amazing island off our bow. Or we could push Ellie hard, stay with the marks and try not to freak out too much.
We decided to go for it.
The feeling we had as we approached the pass is hard to describe but I will try my best. To say that we were scared would be a gross understatement. I was shaking. There were enormous barrels to port and to starboard and the pass was extremely narrow with a very strong current flowing out and mixing with the waves, creating a very scary approach. I had Alyssa concentrate on the leading marks and she was yelling, “More port! Now starboard! You’re off the marks!!” I replied to her, “Not helpful! I need you to say port or starboard!” This exercise was made exponentially more difficult as each huge roller buried us in the trough and half the time we couldn’t even see the damn leading marks! So when we rose up on the crest we had to line ourselves up again. Mind you the entire time I am fighting the wheel trying to keep her lined up with the pass and not get pushed beam-to the waves. Just as we were at the line of breakers I felt Ellie rise up on top of a particularly large wave and we started to surf! “Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t!!” Our faces were both pale white in terror. As we were being pushed down the wave Ellie rose up over the crest and the massive wave broke 10 feet in front of our bow! I yelled “Oh sh*t, is there another one of those coming?!?!” Lyss replied, “No! That was it. They look smaller. Go for it!” I pushed the throttle up to 2,000 RPM and kept pushing through the surf while Ellie was yawing violently from the waves mixing with the 4 knot current flowing out of the pass. We were making 2-3 knots against the current and were through the surf break. Then there was a shift to starboard and we had to line up another set of leading marks. We were still pushing against strong current but the main show was over and we were once again in flat water and making our way towards the majestic island of Maupiti.
We dropped the hook behind a motu near the pass and watched the anchor drop all the way to 40 feet and land in the powdery sand that we loved so much in Bora. We let out our chain and buoyed the anchor while watching huge manta rays flying over the coral heads below. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief, congratulated ourselves on our stellar communication under extreme duress, and then promptly poured a glass of wine in a feeble attempt to calm our shaking bodies. We made it and our home is safe. Another successful pass. We concluded that this was ranked the second scariest pass so far. The first being Fakarava North in the Tuamotus, but only due to the fact that our ordeal at Fakarava North lasted much longer with much more strain on the engine.
We plan to stay here for a long while. The visibility will allow for some world class diving. We are excited to hike to the top of the mountain. The locals were all waving and welcoming us in. Our friends on SKABENGA and PRINCESS DEL MAR are here and Bruce has a bunch of kiteboarding gear. Last but not least we don’t want to run that pass in anything at or above the conditions we had yesterday.
Alyssa made the comment yesterday “At least the only boats in here are real sailors.” To which I replied, “I guess so. Or idiots with huge cajones!”
We’re happy to be anchored in another spectacular setting with a whole new island to explore.
**I wrote this a few days ago. As an update, we have been really enjoying the island. We are filling our days with activities such as snorkeling with the giant manta rays, diving the coral heads in the lagoon, spear fishing, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, beachcombing, swimming and relaxing. Here are some pics of our anchorage and the past few days.**
Cheers from Maupiti,
Lewis and Alyssa
August 6, 2014
Motu Pitiahe, Maupiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
16 28.39 S
152 14.99 W