Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Manihi atoll

Our first day in Manihi was bright and sunny with little fluffy trade wind clouds. The shore nearby was white coral emerging from a rainbow of blues starting deep sapphire near Tin Tin and becoming ever brighter and more dazzlingly aquamarine by the beach. Whilst we had breakfast we could see two white fins with black tips splashing around in the shallows - three foot long black tip reef sharks hunting. Emily was out on her paddle board and got a close view of them.

We set off with the dinghy to snorkel around the coral heads and saw fascinating clams with deeply wavy shell opening and iridescent blue and emerald green lips which retracted as soon as they sensed one's presence. The coral looked mostly dead, but there were some brain corals and a few others. There were Angel fish, zebra fish and various others. After lunch we went on foot to explore the motu (island forming part of the atoll ring) and walked happily under shady trees, spotting large holes made by coconut and land crabs. Wrecked pontoons, pearl fishing equipment and debris from an old shack spoke of recent cyclones, the other of which was 3 months ago.

We were soon across the thin wooded strip and facing the ocean, where the swell broke lightly on the reef. We walked out across a wide shallow area, disturbing a small reef shark. Emily later saw an octopus and more reef sharks. On the shore the coral debris is banked up by the waves, and amongst the grey bits of coral are old shells, one or two of which were worth collecting. Back on the coral beach we saw dozens of hermit crabs all dressed in different shells scrabbling around on the water's edge.

Later that afternoon we took the dinghy a mile back to the village, and walked down a long sandy lane bordered by rather elegant and nicely maintained bungalows. Some on the lagoon side had docks for their boats. Everything seemed very lush and green, and we saw rather inviting gardens with deep shade. The village had three little shops, one of which also opened as a snack bar/ restaurant at 6pm. We found the first store very well stocked with carrots, apples, pears and grapes as the supply boat had just come in. We loaded up and left our bags there for later while we explored.

The village has a nicely presented harbour, dredged of coral to look like a bright blue swimming pool, with smart low dock walls on three sides, and fast open boats moored bows to. Children were swimming in the dock happily, with a little one year old being looked after by his five year old sister while the mothers sat in the shade of a tree.

Once we got round to the pass, we could see the strength of the tide, and watched local boats with big 200 HP engines forcing their way into the lagoon against the outflow. A Commune de Manihi launch was ferrying from the wharf across the pass to the side which connected with the hotel and airport. A little square with seats under a big tree allowed people sit outside the little store and watch the boat traffic. Further on was the pink painted church that had stood out as we entered the previous day. It is dedicated to Saint Jerome, and marked 2013, so may have been rebuilt after a cyclone. The priest was meditating in the front row of the stalls, while we popped our heads in to admire lamp shades made of shells

It was getting towards sunset, and lots of people were gathered outside houses and on the dock drinking big bottles of Henana Tahitian beer. We joined in the Friday evening spirit and beers in hand chatted to a group of fishermen on the dock. Tomorrow, Saturday, was the final Election Day for the French President so there was some talk about Macron and Le Pen, but nobody seemed to know what they stood for. We were invited by a man, one of whose ancestors was an English lady called Leighton, to visit his son's pearl farm on Sunday, and readily agreed. His wife is the mayor.

Saturday was then spent doing maintenance - Anne and Emily festooned the boat with washing, whilst Justin tackled navigation lights, cupboard door locks and dismantled the electric winch for greasing. I dismantled the aft toilet to discover why it was pumping into the sea when one didn't want it to. It was a longer job than I'd thought, but I found that the critical valve was jammed, so I hope it will now function OK. I then dismantled the instrument panel to see why that wasn't working and it was then 2pm and time for lunch. We made a foray ashore and I installed myself in the shade for a happy hour sketching and painting the sweep of the shore round the lagoon, fringed with coconut palms.

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