“They put us in the back of a pickup truck. I have no idea what’s happening or where they are taking us. Maybe someone’s house for dinner. Do you copy?” I said over the portable VHF radio, awaiting Kristian’s response. He had stayed on the boat, at anchor just off Reao atoll.
What started as bizarre and confusing, ended as a truly memorable 24 hours. Let’s back up a bit:
We had arrived in the 12 mile long atoll of Reao at 3:30pm. Like all the other atolls in Tuamotos, Reao is an oblong shaped ring of land which surrounds a large lagoon. Without a pass into the lagoon, nor any good anchorages, we were at a loss of what to do. Everywhere around the island plummeted to great depths of 300 to 500 ft, which is impossible to anchor.
With the binoculars, we could see people gathering by the breakwater, surrounded by small breaking waves over dry reef. With the boat adrift in neutral, Spencer and I shoved our essentials in a dry bag (radio, wallet, water, and long sleeve in case of bugs), lowered the Stand Up Paddle boards into the water, and paddled ourselves in. The clock was ticking as we only had a couple hours before dark to determine if we could safely anchor and visit.
The surge on shore was strong, and we nearly got swept off the cement steps that climbed up the side of the breakwater. The helpful locals assisted us by grabbing our boards and raising them to their makeshift cement wharf.
The crowd bustled around us. The chief introduced himself first. His name was so long, I was at a loss to even try and attempt to repeat it! He then said in French, “You can call me Pierre.” (Perfect, that’s my brother’s name!). The chief was a short, stout man, who stood about four and a half feet tall and carried a stoic expression.
“Welcome to Reao” he said, eyeing us with his head crooked. “How many days do you want to stay here?” His expression was stern with his eyes half open.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “We would love to come visit for a day or two, but we need to make sure we can safely anchor. Is there a spot we can move the boat that is less deep? Otherwise, we will have to take off. We came from Gambier and are making our way to Marquesas.”
Pierre directed me to another breakwater with a launch ramp for small boats, near where ships typically anchor. I radioed the information to Kristian.