May 26, 2011

Adventures with the Aranui

The harbour at Ua Pou is a small bite protected by a breakwater. For the boats that can fit behind the breakwater it’s pretty comfortable—but the swell still wraps round and it’s by no means still. But it’s better than being outside the breakwater—which is not unlike being on the open ocean; just shallower and with a rocky lee shore.

We were on the outside. There was room on the inside but it was being saved for the arrival of the Aranui 3—the 300’ supply vessel/cruise ship that makes two passes through the islands every 21 days (the first to bring supplies, the second to retrieve the shipping containers). The arrival of the Aranui is an event in these little islands; the artisans pull out their wares, there’s live music, tours are available and on the first visit there’s dancing and drumming.

This all sounded so inviting that all the sailors also headed to shore and up to the café (to get the best view) when the Aranui arrived. The first clue something was wrong was when the Aranui stopped outside the harbour entrance and blew its horn five times. Then it deployed work boats which all sped directly toward WGD. Michael had checked with the gendarmes that his boat was out of the Aranui’s way, but now it was obvious the 300’ vessel would like a little more elbow room for what was a tricky manoeuvre.
Jogging down a steep hill in sweltering humidity to save your boat could not have been comfortable. And by the time Michael and Barb were back aboard, the Aranui had sorted out a way to enter the harbour without taking them out.

After the Aranui left there was a general reshuffling of boats. Those of us that had been in the surf line snuck in behind the breakwater, and the ones that had been stacked like cord wood spread out a bit. With 14 boats here the harbour is definitely beyond capacity—but with the trades blowing like they’re on steroids, now is not the time to make for the Tuamotus. We just have to hope there are no other freighters due…

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