30 nautical miles West of Bora Bora lies the tiny picturesque island of Maupiti (11km2), the smallest of the Society Islands, secluded and authentic.
Its atoll has only one narrow pass to the south linking it to the rest of the world. A pass so notoriously dangerous and only accessible in specific ocean conditions, that the island remained uncolonized for the longest time during the European colonization period.
Today, Maupiti is still hard to get in to from the sea, and rarely visited by tourists or sailing yachts. It’s the most quiet and peaceful place with magnificent sceneries, white sandy beaches, legendary rocky peaks, spectacular diving and snorkeling spots, and ancient historical and archeological sites.
The main village is Vaiea, where most of the island’s 1300 inhabitants live, with neat charming houses and a couple of small family shops, a church, a post office and a bakery all connected by one road circling the island.
We remain in Bora-Bora for a month longer than planned, waiting for a good weather window to sail to Maupiti, or rather- to enter through its pass safely. With strong south winds and swell the atoll is inaccessible. So we are kind of stuck in Bora-Bora, but not complaining about it. I don’t think anyone would mind being stuck in Bora-Bora- the most romantic world-famous lagoon.
Stuck in Bora-Bora Photos
Finally, we get the chance we were waiting for, and all the boats waiting to go to Maupiti leave together. We sail with our friends – catamaran Moby and catamaran Cool Runnings. Heading west with light east winds, Cool Runnings and Fata Morgana fly the spinnakers.
Moby prefers zig-zagging, jibing back and forth. Moby is the fastest of the three catamarans, but zig-zagging instead of downwind sailing with spinnaker proves to be the slower option. Cool Runnings arrives first, second is Fata and shortly after- Moby enters the pass on sail, without engines, only to prove, that with good conditions even the most dangerous pass becomes a piece of cake.
A few days of tropical bliss follow.
As we are getting ready to go for hike, a motorboat approaches Fata Morgana in the anchorage on the east side of the lagoon. Aboard are a local couple- a man and a woman who ask us if we will sail to Maupihaa next. We are not sure. Maupihaa is a coral atoll without a volcanic island in the middle 100 nautical miles west of Maupiti and its pass can be even worse than Maupiti’s pass. Its position on the charts is wrong, it is shallower and narrower, with record-strong current and a few coral heads right in the middle.
The man explains that they want to send a small tool to his son Kevin- five kilograms. He makes a gesture with his hands as if holding a box the size of a cat. Besides, our friends Krisha and Adrian from S/V Anka told us a lot about this atoll and recommended passionately to visit it and say hi to Hina, giving us all sorts of tips how to navigate the pass safely. And now these guys need our help.
A few permanent residents live and make copra in Maupihaa. A supply boat goes there only once or twice a year bringing provisions and passengers, exporting the bags of dried coconut. The next boat will be in November. We promise to go there and bring the small tool to Kevin. Then we go hiking.
We climb Mount Te’urafa’atiu at 381m together with our friends. A few viewpoints on the way up offer amazing panoramas. From the top, the 360° view of the lagoon is spectacular.
As we return on the boat, we find two big bunches of bananas neatly attached to the dinghy davits- an offering from the man and the woman to seal the deal. They visit us again to discuss the details and schedule departure time.
“Besides the tool, we also have some boxes with eggs, milk, sugar, flower, oil, rice, and other provisions, some mattresses, clothes and other stuff we would like to send to our son and to some of the neighbors. And can my husband go too? And can I come as well?”- asks the woman. They promise us papayas and coconuts on top of the bananas. So we cannot refuse. Sweet people. The Polynesians have won over our hearths ever since our first island in the Marquesas, and we are more than happy to help them.
“Yes, bring everything and climb aboard! We will sail together to Maupihaa first thing tomorrow morning!”
They show up early the next day with a mountain of stuff- all sort of provisions, boxes and bags which we pile in the saloon, a long wooden spear for fishing, plus “the small tool”- a hundred-kilograms diesel generator, that takes up most of the space in our cockpit. All together, we just loaded our 38-foot catamaran, which is already overweight with tons of old books, with about 400 extra kilograms! I wonder if we will be able to move at all. But the wind is beautiful 15-20 knots behind us, and we are actually making pretty good speed.
We drink coffee and eat breakfast- eggs with fresh bread.
The man, Bowie Tropee, is eager to help with the sailing, even though there is not much to do. He is an experienced sailor who crewed once on a sailboat crossing the Pacific Ocean from Panama. He has been working on a commercial boat too, one of those Aranui boats bringing cargo and passengers between the islands and atolls. The woman, Debora Tropee, is charming. She has many stories, wisdoms and legends and is pleased to share them with us.
The Legend of Maupiti’s Three Mountain Peaks
Long before the time of our ancestors, when the islands were born, a mother and her twins (a boy and a girl) lived on the top of the island of Maupiti. This island was surrounded by a closed lagoon, that is to say, without a pass. Alas, without the pass, the water of the lagoon was not renewed and the fish could not live.
The mother sked her children to go down to the sea and dig a passage between the lagoon and the ocean. The girl went north, but was unable to finish her work, which earned her the name of Hotu’ai (unfinished fruit). As for the boy, he managed to dig a narrow passage in the south, which earned him the name Hotupara’oa (good job!).
The mother congratulated her son but asked him to stay south and guard the pass. The girl, who had been rejected, had to stay north, far from her mother … and since then she has not stopped to look at her and to beg forgiveness.
It is from this time that the island is called Maupiti (the twins) and that the mountain has three peaks- the first to the south, facing the sea (the brother), the second at the center (the mother), and the third to the north, turned towards the center (the girl).
We arrive early, in the middle of the night, and heave-to in front of Maupihaa’s pass for the last hours of darkness, to wait for the morning before entering through the narrow shallow and dangerous cut.
The curren is strong and the pass is so narrow we feel as if touching the sides. But our biggest advantage is the man, who knows the pass, every reef and coral head. He helps us navigate through it successfully.
The morning is golden. A whale takes a single breath not far behind us and disappears. The birds from the small islands of the atoll wake up and arrive to great us curious as we turn on the engines and head for our last stop in French Polynesia- Maupihaa.
Watch our 18-minute video sailing to Maupiti, spending time there with friends and then sailing to Maupihaa with our guests. Sailing Maupiti with Hitchhikers
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