“There’s quite a few boats here! During the cyclone season there were only 3 boats,” said Marco, a Dutchman who had sailed here with his wife and 9 year old son a few months prior.
Around 20 sailboats were now anchored in the village of Rikitea, on the east side of Mangareva. The boats hailed from 12 countries: Germany, Finland, Norway, France, Israel, Poland, United States, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Austria, Australia.
Most sailors are couples in their 60s and 50s, and a few are solo sailors. There is also a surprising number of cruisers in their 40s and 30s (like us!).
“Gambier is off the beaten path, and it’s more challenging sailing in these higher latitudes. I think this attracts some younger sailors,” reflected Andreas, our Norwegian friend.
Andreas, Maggie, Camila, and Helge on Stella Polaris
An overview pic of the beautiful Stella Polaris, an “OVNI” aluminum sailboat.
Despite the several calm anchorages in Gambier, this spot in Rikitea seems to be best for the strong North wind currently blowing- hence everyone is waiting around until the wind switches direction, so they can all head north to Tuamotos. So basically there’s a slight traffic jam of sailboats waiting for the wind gates to open!
Usually cruisers will meet for drinks in each others’ boats, but since there are so many at this moment a Cruiser Happy Hour was organized at the beach. A “parking lot” of skiffs with outboards lined the sand. Frisbees and soccer balls were played on the lawn, and the beer selection that people brought came from all the countries previously visited: Panama, Ecuador, Chile.
This is Birgit and her garden in Pitufa; along with partner Christian, they are Austrians cruising French Polynesia for four years already. Each of their plants comes from a different archipelago, it seems!
At the end of the evening we migrated to the next door gymnasium where the nightly Drum & Dance practice is being conducted. They are preparing for the Bastille Day festival in Papeete, where they will represent Gambier (more on this later!)
Dance and drum rehearsal for the Gambier group.
It was a fascinating group of sailors to talk to- all are able to repair just about anything on their boats, and come from interesting backgrounds. The older folks usually have rental property and retirement income to support their sailing lifestyle. Meanwhile, the younger folks are scrapping it together with savings, writing articles, visiting crew contributions, and crowdfunding (like us! …if you enjoy our updates, you can support our trip on patreon.com/greencoconutrun …thank you! )
Many people were interested in Green Coconut Run’s model of cooperative sailing, but ultimately didn’t think they could make a timely plan to accommodate visitors like we do.
“People need a schedule so they can take vacation from work,” Sabrina mentioned to the Germans. “We actually really enjoy having a plan and hosting visiting crew. Everyone brings new energy to the boat. Plus, they bring us chocolate and spare parts for the boat!”
With our new sailing friends, we made plans to visit another island, for Michael’s last day here in Gambier, before he flew home to Los Angeles.
Background on the typical approach to sailing to South Pacific:
The vast majority of sailors going to the South Pacific – I heard it’s about 200 boats or so – go first to Marquesas, coming from Panama or California. This includes some “Round the World Rallies” where some 25 boats are traveling together (strength in numbers?).
The cyclone season in South Pacific is between November and April, so everyone tries to arrive at the very end of that period. The result is that the anchorages in the Marquesas, which are already narrow due to their depth, can become downright crowded. Weird huh?
We chose to come to Gambier first in order to avoid those “crowds” – and because we can sail to Marquesas from here, but the reverse is much harder, due to the predominant easterly trade winds.
Furthermore, the anchorage here in Rikitea doesn’t feel very crowded (despite the number of boats here) because it is very large and calm. Everyone is super friendly – there’s a camaraderie and respect as everyone here has gone off the beaten track, which can build to great friendships. We’re happy we came this way, despite the weather challenges (See our blog posts by searching “Gambier storm tactics).
(Post uploaded with wifi in Gambier)