Sailing Off The Grid In The South Pacific (Part Two)
While the weather was changeable; we hadn’t bargained on so many thunderstorms during our stay on the uninhabited atoll of Tahanea. One night, it was especially bad with 40kts of wind in the squalls and powerful forked -lightning that commandeered the skyline. At times, it was like being at a nightclub, as the clouds around us repeatedly emanated strobe-effect lightning across an otherwise pitch-black sky.
It made us feel very vulnerable. With not much around us on the land, our mast was one of the highest points, so a lightning strike to the boat is always a cause for concern. After a sleepless night, we decided to change anchorage and head eight miles down the atoll to the south-east corner, where we could at least hide from the wind and be in better holding.
Storm clouds overhead
The south-east corner of Tahanea was beautiful. Exploring the motus, we discovered a few sandy beaches and calm water for swimming. Pursuing a Robinson Crusoe experience, we foraged coconuts, using the milk in our drinks and porridge, and eating the coconut meat as a snack, sprinkled with herbs, grilled, or lightly fried.
The motus offered good walks, with an abundance of rock-pools accommodating snowflake moray eels, crabs, jelly fish and even a large empty tiger cowrie – the latter was like finding hidden treasure in Skipper’s eyes!
While walking around one motu, we met Nico, a local copra farmer from a neighbouring atoll, who was on his own and visiting Tahanea for a three-month-long stint of coconut harvesting.
We later learned Nico’s family owned many of the motus on Tahanea. He told us all about the coconut crab; a nocturnal land crab which is prolific in some parts of the Tuamotus. Then showed us which motu we could find them on and gave some tips on how to hunt them in the dead of night. The gauntlet had been thrown down!
That evening, we got together with the crews of the three other yachts in the anchorage and had a very enjoyable beach BBQ; making the fire from driftwood and dining on the fish we had caught en-route, coconuts from the motu and freshly made bread. Afterwards, as the embers of the fire died out and the night sky took over; we took up Nico’s suggestion and went off in search of coconut crabs.
Skipper cooking fish
Having grown-up crabbing in the UK, Skipper considered himself eminently qualified, but he was in for a big surprise! Armed with a torch, ball of string, big bucket and some apparently pointless gloves, he ventured off into the undergrowth with his fellow hunters. Quickly finding out that these crabs are huge, incredibly strong and very aggressive, especially when they tried to escape from the bucket!
Three good-sized coconut crabs were caught on the night hunt and thoroughly enjoyed for lunch the next day – along with two additional coconut crabs that Nico brought – as everyone gathered on board Two Drifters for a sumptuous meal. The crabs were doused in garlic mayonnaise and butter and served with rice, pasta and bread. It was simply delicious!
Two Drifters hosts lunch
As the weather improved, we sent Doris, our drone, up into the sky, to take some photos of the stunning motus and sandbanks. When Skipper took a copy of them over to Nico, he was absolutely delighted. So much so, that he went out hunting again and the next day presented us with two lobsters, a reef crab and a coconut crab, which was very aptly timed for our Valentine’s Day meal. Fresh crab and lobster has never tasted so good, nor been enjoyed in a more romantic setting!
Nico’s motu on the south east coast
Due to cautiousness, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, our recent travels have sadly lacked interaction with locals. So, our meeting with Nico was very fortuitous and his hospitality seemed extra warm and welcoming.
Maybe as it’s not on the tourist trail or perhaps as it’s uninhabited, but Tahanea has a subtle, magical quality that we’ve not seen anywhere else in the Tuamotus. It was every bit as enchanting and special as we had hoped.
Exploring the motus
Pink sandbanks emerge at low tide
Digital Detox – Hit or Miss?
So, how did we fare with our forced 12-day digital detox? Being out of close touch with family and friends was a downside and we really missed the camaraderie of long messenger chats and phone calls.
In the seven years we’ve been cruising, we’ve been very used to having detailed access to the weather at our fingertips, so we found this another pitfall to overcome – especially as we witnessed so many thunderstorms during our stay. When it came time to leave Tahanea, we were very grateful to a fellow-cruiser who was able to download the weather for us via his satellite phone, which made it much easier to plan a safe onward journey.
On the plus side, without the pull of the internet, we suddenly found we had much more time on our hands. It took a little adjusting to, but we soon fell into an easy routine of exploring, cooking, reading and exercising – with sun rise or sunset yoga and paddle-boarding. We also talked more, and devised plans for the days and months ahead.
Being without access to the world news was a mixed-blessing. While we were curious to know what was going on, it was actually a huge relief to be away from the doom and gloom of coronavirus, which has dominated our lives for the last year.
While in Tahanea, the topsy-turvy world we now live in seemed a million miles away and, for a short time, our lives exploring this beautiful atoll seemed incredibly simple, relaxed and trouble-free.
Ferg & Nev
© Two Drifters Travel 2021 Unauthorised publishing of the text or image content in part or in full is strictly forbidden