With strong winds due in a week (probably remnants of the cyclone near New Caledonia recently) we decided to sail onto Makatea whilst the wind looked mild and we had a calm window to be at Makatea. It sounded an interesting island, the only atoll which has cliffs. After a 125nm passage and a night at sea we approached Makatea around lunch time. It was slightly surreal, as it looked like we were sailing towards the Isle of Wight!
After months of seeing only flat atolls — barely half a metre above sea level, it was a shock to see cliffs that soar 80m into the sky.
There are only three moorings at Makatea and it’s far too deep to anchor, so you slightly hold your breath as you round the island and hope that there aren’t three boats already there.
Good news there wasn’t, but the one boat we could see, a large 80+ft schooner, had it’s masts weaving around all over the place, not a good sign – it didn’t look like a settled anchorage!
We managed to pick up the mooring in front of the very close rocks and stood, rather alarmed, watching the crashing waves at the entrance to the “harbour” area. There was no way we were trying the entrance in a dinghy and the anchorage felt like we were still sailing at sea with a strong swell from the west.
It’s a reminder that you are in the middle of a vast ocean with little or no protection, in cyclone season.
After getting another up to date weather forecast from the coral expedition boat behind us, like them, we made a decision to sail on — next stop was another 200nm to the Society Islands. Unfortunately even though the wind was going to be okay in 24hours time there was a large swell coming from the west and we had no protection in that direction. It would only get rougher. So unfortunately we haven’t seen the old phosphate mining craters, caves, vanilla plantations, lagoons or rock climbing but I gather it’s a great tour round the island if you are luckier with the weather and swell than we were.
We managed to stay long enough to eat a bouncy dinner before setting off on another long night watch. But the next stop is Bora-Bora, how exciting is that, even if it is two more nights at sea!