Day Two on Rapa Island
We collected our weatherfax prints of the impending storm as well as our boat documentation and headed off to the council building where the town elders would determine our fate. Rapa Island
is part of French Polynesia, and is governed by the officials on Tubuai Island
, part of the Austral Islands
. Radio communication the previous evening did not sound good. We were not supposed to be at Rapa without permission from the powers to be in Papaeete, Tahiti
. However, we were seeking shelter from the storm, hardly a great excuse for an ocean going tuna troller.
The main town of Ahurei (Ha’urei) was not far down the road along the lagoon. Women were wading around the shallows collecting limpets and snails into their aprons. Rapa was discovered by George Vancouver in 1791 but it was placed under French protection in the early 1800’s. It has remained isolated because of its remote location. (22*29 S. Lat. X 151*20 W. Long.) Vancouver named it “Oparo” and it officially is part of the Isles Bass and not of the Austral Islands. The local officials invited Steve and I into their council room and we all sat around a large oval table to discuss our visit. In my tortured high school French, I explained the weatherfax picture and our mission in the South Pacific to catch tuna. They were not aware of the impending typhoon brushing by Rapa. Their main concern was whether or not we would be a bad influence or spread disease. We ambled back alongside the lagoon to invite folks to an open house.
I made a big sheet cake and lots of lemonade and we scrubbed the boat squeaky clean. All afternoon folks dropped in to see our boat, and the kids to watch cartoons. The language barrier did not prevent any of us from having a good time. The town nurse and his wife and two kids visited for a while. More people brought vegetables and fruit to trade for tuna. We tasted our first salad in months, with escarole and tomatoes. The fifteen square miles of Rapa Island contained a few hundred residents, and we must have met half of them that day.
Don and Darrell were several hundred miles to the northwest on a line to Pago, and were suffering the effects of the nasty weather. Darrell had nearly run out of drinking water to the point that his crew was collecting it from the defrost cycle of their refrigeration system. They maintained a speed of three knots against the rough seas and gale force winds. It was sheer misery for them and we tried not to rub it in that the lobster tasted great along with a salad and a glass of wine. Our watermaker was also making 150 gallons a day and that rubbed Darrell the wrong way too. It was a costly piece of machinery, but worth every penny. We had shared our bountiful water supply with several other boats who ran low. It was an at sea transfer process whereby we ran a long hose to the other boat as it followed right behind us for a few hours. In return we might get a few movies or some Tom Clancy novels. We were supposed to transfer some fresh water to Darrell near Rapa, but he didn't want to wait for us or stop at the island. There was a feeling among many ocean trollers that one must go right from the grounds to port. We knew this was a once in a lifetime chance to experience Polynesian culture untainted by tourism. This proved to be true as our new friends invited us to the school fair the next day.