Sept. 14 / Rikitea--Arrival of New Crew
Prepared by Documentor Sam Low
The Air Tahiti STOL aircraft sweeps in over Mangareva's outer reef, flies low over a frothy turquoise sea stubbled with coral heads, and touches down on a cement strip laid like concrete frosting over the barrier reef. We disembark and collect 72 pieces of luggage shipped as cargo, 23 as baggage and 14 as hand carry - essential supplies for the voyage to Rapa Nui. After a short ride on the ferry, a forty foot converted fishing boat, we arrive in the harbor of Rikitea and moor alongside Hokule'a.
Expedition headquarters ashore is in a converted furniture workshop owned by our host Bruno Schmidt. As we unload our gear, heavy clouds scud across the mounain peaks above the vilage, bringing rain. We rig tarpaulins to shelter the crates of food and other supplies we have brought in from Tahiti .
That night, after a Terry Hee dinner of soup, fish stew, teriyaki meat and rice, Chad Babayan welcomes us to Mangareva. "I'm glad you are all here safely." He tells us, "Once we have accomplished a few chores we will be ready to jump off for Rapa Nui."
A lot had already been done. On the wall behind Chad, written on a large sheet of paper, is the work list:
Unload canoe and wash galley utensils, tupperware, water bottles
Empty LPG tanks
Clean foul weather gear
Wash compartments and air out
Inventory supplies and equipment from Tahiti
Repack and reload food
Fill water bottles and load
Many of the items have already been checked off.
After Chad's welcome, it is Nainoa's turn to speak. "I'm not going to kid you," he tells us, "this is going to be a tough trip. But looking around at all the folks assembled here, I know that we are going to make it and do it well and safely. I'm not saying that we will find Rapa Nui because that would be arrogant, but I am sure that if anyone can do it, we as a group can do it."
On the wall behind Nainoa are a series of weather maps from the French meterological station on the hill overlooking the harbor. The maps show a succession of low pressure systems that have moved in an orderly procession over the South Pacific in the last week. Today's chart shows a long front has formed between a low to the south of the island and a high to the northeast. As he talks, Nainoa runs his finger along the front.
"Today, we flew into this weather on the way down from Tahiti," he explains, "and we had turbulence and clouds most of the way. This front is causing the weather we are experiencing now." Nainoa pauses to examine the maps for the previous two days, mentally calculating the front's direction and speed of motion.
"I think the system is moving east south east along the line defined by the front at about 16 knots," he explains, "so that if it continues in that direction it might pass in about two or three days and be replaced by another low pressure system which may bring in westerly winds, just what we want. I've only been here two day, so I can't be sure, but I think that we had better be ready to go on Friday if that happens. It's too early to predict the weather accurately, but I can tell you one thing, when the wind is right, we're going to leave."
As the meeting breaks up, the crew who will sleep in the workshop lay out sleeping mats in nests they have created among crates, coolers and folded sails. The rest depart to bunks aboard Hokule'a or Kama Hele. A south wind sweeps in over the harbor of Rikitea stirrring whitecaps. Rain slants across arc lights bathing the canoe and the escort boat as they pull against their mooring lines, bobbing and yawing in the choppy water of the harbor.