Matt and I

Apataki’s Local Hooch

We needed to make our way South, so we left the creature comforts and very beautiful island of Rangiroa.  Our next destination was an atoll called Apataki.  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and we had the wind and waves directly on the nose.  Farfugnoogin!  The best time to exit the Rangiroa pass was supposed to be “11:44am.”  However, there were decent size waves and current so we circled for 30-minutes before attempting our departure.  It was not nearly as smooth as entering, but not nearly as bad as Tekihau.  We were out. 

We had 18 hours to enter the pass at the “good” time in Apataki.  If we missed the 0630 time we would have to wait until 12:44pm.  Technically, the sail was only 75nm as the crow flies. However, with wind on the nose we would have to tack back and forth to avoid using the engines.  We use several apps to help us determine the best route based on weather, wind, waves, time, and destination.  Predict Wind offers four routes.  As you can see from the image two routes are a no go as they take us over reefs (green and yellow).  Matt and I decided to follow the blue line and ended up tacking a bit.

Predict Wind Suggested Routes

Predict Wind Suggested Routes

Round About Passage

Sugar Shack had a pretty good run with one reef in the main and jib.  We sailed all day and into the night.  However, there were a lot of squalls creating havoc on the wind so we decided to run one engine after midnight.  We arrived at the North Pass of Apataki at 1945, too late to enter.  So, we decided to head toward the south pass and wait for the 12:44 entrance.  Even though there was a outbound current, we entered with no consequence.  Our friends on “Gizmo” a 60’ M&M crewed catamaran that we met in Tahiti.  Picture of us at anchor across the reef and passe.

Anchorage at Apataki

Anchorage at Apataki

Passage Details:

  • Miles Traveled: 125nm (only 75nm as the crow flies, so we made lots of tacks)
  • Total Moving Time: 24:55
  • Average Speed: 5.0kts
  • Max Speed: 9.8kts
  • Average Wind: 10-12kts
  • Swell was short and choppy

Walk About Around Apataki:

The quay (dock or little marina) is actually located inside the south pass.  Along the pass are several pearl farm houses. These are shots coming into the pass.  You can’t tell, but there is a 3-4 kt current pushing us out and to port.

Apataki Pearl Farms Near Pass

Apataki Pearl Farms Near Pass

Matt and went to shore to explore. We knew it would be a small town as only 350 people live on the island. The poste is located right on the dock at the marina. Photos below show the dock where the supply ship pulls into. 

Apataki South Pass Quay

Apataki South Pass Quay

Many houses had remnants of pearl farming.  Including nets, housing, and these funny plastic hanging things (bottom image).  Our thoughts are that they are used to help facilitate growth and collect food for the shells.

Pearl Farms of Apataki

Pearl Farms of Apataki

Sites on Apataki

We passed by the small airport which has 2 flights per week. A group of locals were enjoying some “hooch” in the shade with some Tahitian music.  They called us over to meet them and share in some of their libations.  Then they gave us some bread and told us where the bar was located.  (Notice that “bar” is not plural).  Instead, we decided to walk around the motu Niutahi before hitting the bar.  We found the local Catholic church made of coral, advertisement for the carenage (ship yard) and met lots of locals along the way.

Apataki Highlights

Apataki Highlights

We stopped in at the local bar where the owner was sitting with the village doctor and a few others.  The doctor is here a few weeks each month and a nurse handles everything while he is gone.  Antonio, wearing the hat on the right) invited us back to his house for dinner.

Apataki Bar

Apataki Bar

Dinner With the Locals:

Emanuel, the doctor, met us at the dock at 1800 to walk us to Antonio’s house.  His dogs had puppies so I was in 7th heaven playing with the fur balls.  Eight fluffy white fur balls and one pit bull.  The pit was obviously from a different family.  However, they all played well together and got equal amounts of love from me.

Family of puppies. Dinner at a local's house

Family of puppies. Dinner at a local’s house

Antonio and his wife Anna were lovely hosts.  We attempted to chat through Emanuel (the doctor) who knew a little English.  They served dinner but for some reason, nobody ate with us.  At first we thought they were serving us first and then they would eat once we were done but nope.  It was strange and we could not figure out what was going on.  But it was super tasty!

Our dinner hosts at Apataki

Our dinner hosts at Apataki

Snorkel the Pass

We timed “slack tide” in the pass so we could snorkel the wall. However, there was still a pretty decent outbound current.  But even so, we tied ourselves to the dinghy and took a leisurely drift snorkel along the reef wall.  It was really lovely with a wide variety of coral and lots of fish.

Coral on the Apataki Pass

Coral on the Apataki Pass

More Pearl Farms

We drove the dinghy around to the other side of the motu to see their large pearl farm operation. The top photo is a fish trap contraption and the other two pics are the large facility for pearl farmers.  That is to say, the community uses this facility to harvest pearls.

Large Pearl Farm Operation in Apataki

Large Pearl Farm Operation in Apataki

Carenage – Boat Yard

The Apataki Carenage (boat yard) is located about 10nm SW from the main village.  We checked it out because you never know when you may need a haul out facility.

Tony, the yard manager, gave us a little tour around the yard and we walked to the other side of the motu.  Boats have to be careful when navigating to the launch/haul out area as there are lots of bommies.  However, they use a trailer to move boats here.  Top left ramp area, bottom left reef during low tide, top right is a lone 15’ tree marking a reef and bottom right is a tree used to hold up a boat.

Apataki Boat Yard

Apataki Boat Yard

There were two large 6-7’ grey sharks hanging out at the boat dock.  I actually pet one!  To illustrate my bravery, so photo below.

Petting some sharks

Petting some sharks

We had a lovely sunset to wrap up our awesome day here in Apataki.

Sunset at anchor

Sunset at anchor

Apataki’s History

Apataki’s 350 residents focus primarily on cultured black pear farming, copra (dried coconut) and a little vanilla.  The population has slowly dwindled as local flee to more populated islands.  But the locals we encountered were incredibly friendly, helpful, and kind.

The Dutch discovered Apataki in 1722 and Capt. James Cook visited in 1774.  In 1902 the supply ship was shipwrecked at Apataki.  This led to 3-months of lost supplies for the surrounding islands.  The domestic airfield opened in 1977.

Surprised by the hospitality at Apataki

We’ve met lots of lovely locals in French Polynesia.  However, the locals at Apataki outdid themselves.  We were so incredibly blessed to meet so many wonderful people at this atoll.  And because they were so kind and generous we are hoping to return.  Perhaps it will be this year or next, but it will be some time in the future.  Indeed a lot can happen between now and then.  But, our hope is to return some day.

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