Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Picton Castle is swinging at anchor in the lagoon of Rikitea, Mangareva, Gambier Islands of French Polynesia. The Gambier Islands consist of an outer ring atoll with big islands inside the reef about 300 miles NW of Pitcairn Island – truly one of the most beautiful settings in the South Pacific and, extra bonus, a delightful anchorage and that’s saying something.
After Pitcairn Island I was planning to by-pass Mangareva, head straight for Tahiti to catch up on some of the time that Hurricane Sandy set us back last October, but from Pitcairn Island we sailed right into a long trough of remarkable longevity giving us a thousand miles of strong headwinds and squalls – so we ducked in to Mangareva last Thursday, and looks like we will be here until the coming weekend when it appears this trough will be breaking up – we will end up being here for over a week it appears. Out of the seven times I have been hereabouts, this is the 4th time I have sailed through this part of the world at this time of year and I have not seen the like. On the other three times we were here it was August with cooler conditions anyway, but apart from watching out for heavy squalls and wind shifts, shifting anchors a couple times, it is kind of like a forced little break for us in a way, having been pushing pretty hard for some time and the lagoon at Rikitea is an amazingly beautiful French Polynesian spot with lovely friendly people.
The ship has to pass over and through three reefs to get to the inner lagoon anchorage of the village of Rikitea. Very well protected from foul winds here. The lagoon has good holding once you get your anchor down deep and set well. As we have a 1,500 pound old fashioned stock anchor with plenty 1-1/4″ stud-link chain, we manage OK. The standard of living is high here (probably due to black pearl farming and French support) so we do not get the supplications we sometimes get at other less worldly islands. Folks are friendly but leave us to ourselves unless we make a wee bit of effort and then they are extremely friendly, just polite and maybe a bit shy at first.
Under the mates’ leadership the crew are also making great overnight sailing expeditions in dory and longboat to outer islands some three to four miles away. Good fun that and very good seamanship and experience in boats, which is, of course, very much the idea. The small supply ship from Tahiti pulled in through the narrow, windy, coral-head strewn pass last night through a rain squall, this should relieve the paucity of Hinano beer that the island currently suffers. Much rejoicing on the island last night, probably more tonight. And a fine looking little 500 ton freighter she is, the Nukuhoa – Papeete, looks brand new she does. Now that’s a good job, supplying all of the French Polynesian islands in flour, rice, clothes, motor bikes, propane, petrol, beer, wine and so on.