Maupihaa (aka Mopelia)

We reached the tiny, westernmost inhabited atoll of French Polynesia late this morning, somewhat hesitant as it has a bad reputation. This is what ‘South Pacific Anchorages’ says: A number who have visited the atoll consider that there was not sufficient compensation for the trauma of entry and exit…

Approaching we compared Garmin charts and satellite pictures, the chart is about 15 m off which doesn’t sound a lot but makes all the difference in a pass that is just 20 m wide…
The entrance was frighteningly narrow, but clearly visible (it’s deep and the reef next to it very shallow) and marked with 2 white stakes. South Pacific Anchorages claims: Breaking seas on the weather side cause a continuous, generally strong outflow regardsless of the tide.
We therefore expected a countercurrent, but saw that there were no eddies outside, but some chop inside the lagoon and indeed we had 1 kn ingoing current (15 kn wind against current).

Here’s some info for the brave among you who want to try that pass as well: we entered at 11:30 (Tahiti local time, 1:40h before high tide in Papeete). General conditions: swell 1 m SSW (1.5 m the day before), wind 15 kn ESE (several days), 2 days after full moon (spring tide). All markers that are mentioned in the chart towards the lagoon side (2 red ones to mark a reef at the inner end of the pass, a green and a red one to mark the deeper channel at the exit into the lagoon) are missing, so it would be dangerous to attempt entering in bad visibility (we had sunny skies at noon). We just kept to the right as soon as the pass got shallow to avoid the reef in the middle and had never less than 3 m depth.

We had heard that there were just a few people left on Maupihaa and were suprised to see several woodfires ashore. We are now anchored on a sandy patch in the Southeast corner of the lagoon in 3 m of gleaming minty water surrounded by coral heads that come up almost to the surface. There’s a little hut ashore with a boat anchored off the beach and a car(!) parked next to it. Tomorrow we’ll go exploring, say hello there and check whether there’s actually a road for the shiny vehicle (it can’t be longer than 4 miles anyway, because that’s the length of the long motu that stretches along the eastern coast of the atoll–there are no motus in the south and just a little one in the west.

1 comment

  1. Julia Freeland says:

    Hey Guys
    We are on Mary Ann and met you in Prickly Bay, Grenada..a long time ago. We are in the Galapagos, heading your way. We have our dog, Murphy with us. We are having his rabies blood titre updated here to meet the very strict dog entry requirements. How have you found travelling with your cat? Any recommendations for anchorages in the Marquesas? I think you’ll be gone by the time we arrive. Regards xxx

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