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Jan
11

A mooring for Rapa Iti

The main bay of Rapa Iti is infamous for tricky anchoring. Cruising guides mention ‘dead coral rubble’ at the bottom, the bay is very deep (20-30 m) and uneven. Many boats have dragged and fouled their anchors and chains here.
When we got here last year we found that large areas of the bay are indeed covered in live staghorn coral–especially the shallower parts that are inviting for anchoring as recovering fouled gear is easier in less depth.

As we usually try not do damage any coral we were horrified to have our chain grinding down the delicate structures. We thought that a mooring would be the best solution for that problematic situation and presented this idea to the mayor, who immediately agreed and got us in touch with Alexandre, the foreman of the community workers here. After some brainstorming and researching they started constructing a 2.4 ton cement block including rebars. During the holidays work stalled, then they had to order more parts from Tahiti, so the mooring wasn’t finished when we left. Returning this year we found the project still ongoing, but by then all parts had finally arrived and two blocks were ready to go.

The main problem now was how to deploy the heavy blocks as the island doesn’t have a working platform or barge. We built a raft made of 8 gasoline drums (welded together with a frame) and yesterday was the big day: Alexandre brought the blocks and rafts to the big quay with the truck and a nerve-racking experiment started.
After many attempts and near-disasters the block was finally in the shallow water next to the quay and we positioned the raft on top. The excavator lifted the block, we tied everything together and after some readjustments we were excited to see that the float carried the weight–only to watch it slowly tilt into a vertical position. Luckily it did not sink, but remained stable in that awkward position. What to do? In the end we pushed it more than a mile out into the bay with two dinghies (with the help of Mike and Shelly on Avatar–thanks a lot!) all the way worrying that it would sink before we could reach the marked spot.

We made it to the spot, positioned the block and sank the raft together with the whole mooring arrangement. Once it was down we cut the raft free that broached like a metal whale and afterwards we freed the chain, buoys and line–tadah: finished mooring!!

There was lots of working time (thank you, Alexandre!!), expensive material (sponsored by the Commune of Rapa Iti), sweat and adrenaline involved and there were quite a few moments when we nearly gave up.

Now there is a 2.5 ton mooring block with a 16 mm chain, 20 mm shackles and strong line available for sailboats in the bay of Huarei, Rapa Iti, that will prevent fouled chains and save the coral from damage :-)
GPS position: S 27°36.808′ W 144°20.034′

A second mooring will hopefully follow next week–we’ll keep you posted!

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