Above all else, it’s the Wind…

Everyone talks about the wind here in Rapa. There are few places one can go to get away from it. Today a few of us went on a walk into a valley facing west, looking out onto the “Pacific” (anything but pacified around Rapa) towards New Zealand – a world of experiences away now, even though we departed less than 2 months ago. Walking in a stream in this valley, I suddenly became aware that the sound of the wind was not with us. That ever constant, gale-force roaring had dissipated and I could hear only the gurgling of water pouring down its rocky bed.

Shrimping.smWe’d found a hiding place, peaceful and nicely distracting, as we look for and spear fresh water shrimp, used for bait – when the wind settles enough to go outside the protected harbor and fish. I use the term “protected” very loosely: sure, we don’t get the 6 meter seas of that unpleasant storm we encountered on our way here, but just about everything else.

We’ve been heeled over enough to throw a plate off the counter; yes, past the 1″ fiddle that keeps things from sliding off – and enough force to shatter it into slivers that flew almost everywhere in the boat. “Heeling” isn’t really the correct term, it’s surges that toss the boat like a toy – a 20 ton toy! I’ve since seen the water spouts (tornadoes) that rush through the bay, so I know what causes the tossing about. The sound of one passing through the boat is interesting… for the first few times. It’s partly what’s driven my entire crew off the boat and kept me from getting a good night’s sleep – for a month now!

There have been a handful of periods (1 or 2 days each) that could reasonably compare to a pleasant tropical anchorage, but only 5 or 6 days. We moved Illusion to the commercial wharf at the east end of town and have been at the wharf for two weeks now. The convenience is undisputable, but I had three main concerns: pests coming aboard, dirt and debris blown on deck, and rougher conditions from being side-on to the wind and not being able to stand away from the wharf (no mooring posts on the other side). Unfortunately, all three came to pass!

The convenience of being able to just hop off the boat needs to be tempered by the gusts that can knock you off balance, even walking along the waterfront road requires care and balance. Stand and contemplate the jump to or from Illusion for too long and you may lose your footing. I’ve already seen a few people blown off the wharf into the water. The dinghy is tied on deck now, but I regularly watch it levitate a few inches above the deck during the gusts. I tied some spare line to the bimini frame (the bimini is a sun shade covering the cockpit – I removed the fabric from the frame after a few days here so it wouldn’t be shredded) and tonight took a picture of that line “hanging” almost horizontally in the wind, and not even during a gust – I didn’t want to be outside then.


Every few hours, there’s a particularly powerful gust, causing the boat to lurch, the dock lines groan and things inside shift around (like me when I’m sleeping!). Interestingly, after these particular gusts, the wind seems to almost stop – the lull is startling (once the clatter of the wharf debris has stopped sand-and-rock blasting the hull and deck). The constant roar has finally gone away! But I’ve counted, if there’s 10 seconds of peace, it’s a good lull.

It is so nice to spend time in someone’s house and get a reprieve from the outrageous wind experienced here at the wharf. We have been so well cared for by the islanders, many of whom have offered meals, showers, and equipment, and shared time, knowledge, and contacts for people on other islands. Unfortunately, however, I don’t speak or understand French, so I’m not really able to communicate and while I enjoy my social time here, it’s been a very, very quiet time for me, since I’m not really “meeting” people and connecting in meaningful ways. This alone time has given me a chance to work on some boat projects, but this is still not what I consider “cruising”. The engine rehab work has been so overwhelming, but I’m making progress. We’re about to leave and I’ll be sorry to go and will definitely miss the amazing hospitality, but I won’t miss the wind! We were able to find so little written about Rapa (although wind was mentioned every time) while discussing the trip here that it seemed worth a visit. I’m really glad we came here, but next time I’d like to speak French and not be responsible for a boat!

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