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Overnight Expedition in Huahine

By Chelsea McBroom

March 27th, 2014

It was decided at the last minute that I should join the port watch on their overnight trip in the monomoy, our rowing/sailing longboat. It was a Sunday In Huahine, when everything is closed or closes early, and I knew that I would accomplish more on my To Do list on a Monday or Tuesday.

I quickly gathered my things as the Mate Dirk and a few of the crew assembled the mainsail two headsails – a floral patterned flying jib was one of the two headsails. I made sure to bring my foul weather jacket (although had it rained like before it wouldn’t have saved me from getting wet), my hat, water and a sleeping mat. Somehow we managed to fit all 11 people (Kim, Teis, Hugo, Nolan, Alex, the Mate, Denise, Vai, Pania, Averil and myself) and what we had packed, including a cooler of beverages and food for lunch, dinner and breakfast, inside the boat.

We knew right away, as it was a very warm sunny day without breeze, that we would have to row to find wind. So even with all the sails ready, we shipped our oarlocks, and carefully raised each oar to await the Mate’s orders. Try as we might, we didn’t sail much that day. Although it must have been a few hours of rowing in total, we thankfully dropped anchor more than once along the reef where the water was a lighter, clearer blue, to go for a swim and cool off.

The spot we chose to stay for the night was a small beach the Mate had seen from a distance. It was deserted and had a small shack built upon it out of sheet metal and leaves. I assumed it was an area fisherman might go to prepare – it had a counter and a bench, it smelled like fish and had a 2014 calendar hanging on the wall. Once we anchored and tied the Monomoy we could see stacks of cement bricks behind the trees, in the shape of a large house. We were told later that it used to be a resort that was destroyed by a hurricane, now cleared of all debris, but not yet sold again.

Afraid of what the weather might bring, we first began setting up a shelter with a very large tarp we brought with us and plenty of manila. It was a frustrating task – the tarp was acting as a giant sail and would pick up with each gust of wind. I found this ironic considering we were lacking wind to sail there and yet our tarp wasn’t. We tried folding the tarp to have a piece for the bottom or floor, for the side or wall and for the roof of the shelter, but the wind tunnel it created had enough force to pull the lashed grommets from it.

The Mate had been preparing his shelter for the night – the monomoy itself – and I thought of the question I asked myself the last time we went on an overnight trip: “What would Dirk do?” This time we had him with us for me to ask him myself! Like magic he brought out some of the oars from the monomoy and directed us in lashing them together to create a frame, then lashing the tarp to it and raising it up to fold bits of the tarp under, weighted by rocks and logs for a floor. The wind no longer gave us a problem and the shelter was secure all night.

We had visitors join us, a family that brought us cake and fresh bread and guacamole (SO DELICIOUS). The four kids played nearby in the dark and the sounds they made convinced us angry wild animals were coming to attack. It hardly rained until the following morning but I doubt any of us slept. Even drenched in bug spray I could feel the mosquitoes biting at every uncovered bit of skin during the night. It was so hot that being covered to be protected from the bugs meant waking up overheated.

And then there were the sand crabs. Luckily the majority of them didn’t spend their time close by, and if you wandered over to where there were big holes in the sand off to the side, you could hear them crawling. They were about the size of my fist and I woke up on three separate occasions to one crawling over my sleeping-bag-covered feet or near my head which I didn’t notice until I heard it leave. At one point in feeling one at my feet for the second time I kicked my feet up and sent it flying onto Pania’s sleeping mat next to me – she of course woke up with the same start, kicking in the same fashion and I turned on a flashlight. There it was, it’s large claw up in defense and it’s beady eyes upon us. Clearly it thought that if it was still it wouldn’t be seen, because it didn’t leave until Pania kicked sand at it and sighed with relief.

We left the next morning, sailing slowly in the rain, nice and early, giving us a chance for another swim. The rain would quiet and then we would turn and watch as the cloudy mist of rain in the distance crawled closer towards us, “5, 4, 3, 2…” getting us drenched in our sarongs and bathing suits.

Coconut technology is an important lesson

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