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Overnight Expeditions in Mangareva

By Chelsea McBroom

February 12th, 2014

Ever since the Captain of the Picton Castle mentioned overnight monomoy trips, I had been very much looking forward to it. Port watch went first, lowering the boat and reattaching its pieces – the mast, boom, mainsail and jib. They packed it full of sleeping bags, fruit, frozen fish we had caught, fresh water, bathing suits and towels. Lucky for them it was a very dry day and night when they camped. When they returned I heard stories of playing a game of football with a coconut (the American team lost) and of Vai finding crabs and smashing them against the rocks to be cooked. Their advice was to drown ourselves in sunscreen and bug spray and to watch out for centipedes.

When it as our turn to go next, the supplies were replenished and the backpacks exchanged. A large tarp was brought with a basket woven mat to sleep on. Once we were ready, we rowed to town to get snacks, then before we knew it we were off, sailing towards a distant island. Sam, our new watch officer, had been to Mangareva with the ship last year and had sailed the Monomoy for an overnight trip with that crew and led us to some familiar places along the way. As we got closer to our destination we could see more white sandy beaches and the water took on brighter hues around each bit of coral as we maneuvered around areas where pearls were being harvested.

We anchored by an attractive looking beach and all jumped out of the boat, some swimming nearby with a snorkel and goggles, others swimming to the nearby shore. Maria built a sand castle (a Picton Castle with a moat of course), Nils cracked open some coconuts with the hatchet, and Pania found a swing hidden and made off to a tree. I watched her as she pumped her legs forward and behind, flying through the shade of trees along the shore. Everyone turned a shade of red – the sun felt more direct and it was hotter than usual – our sunscreen was melting off and no one wanted to put clothes back on over their suits. We tacked and rarely jibed in and around the maze of coral, trying not to drag the rudder or leeboard which we passed over peoples’ heads as leeward changed. Passengers shifted their weight with the wind, toppling over one another to prevent the boat from tipping too far or from taking on water.

When we arrived and beached, the crew got out on either side of the monomoy, walking the boat around the bank behind a wall of coral to our sheltered camping spot. The island was home to few families and our neighbours graciously supplied us with bananas, melons, papaya and open coconuts at a stage where the jelly has turned to a foam-like candy. We were caught by surprise when a girl with a fresh white flower behind her ear came around to each one of us greeting “bonjour”, and gave us a kiss on each cheek while we cooked and prepared dinner, then left us with a handful of vanilla beans.

overnight expedition in the monomoy at Mangareva

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