Upon our arrival, we were greeted by people bearing leis (flower garlands) at the airport of Rapa Nui. Rapa Nui is known by most of the world as Easter Island, after the Europeans landed here on Easter Sunday 1722. As we inhaled the frangipani strung in the leis and got our first taste of Polynesia, somewhere in the distance a storm brewed.

One of the most intense storms the island had seen in years hit the island. Enormous waves pounded the shores. Watching the lightening strike over the horizon made us appreciate the true remoteness of Rapa Nui. The storm raised our nerves and excitement about our upcoming voyage to Tahiti.

Photo credit: eXXpedition / Emily Penn

Rapa Nui did not disappoint. It was everything we had all hoped for and more. The energy and dramatic stance of the Moai standing guard was reassuring, reflecting the journey and drama of the months leading up the voyage. The equinox storm was a release of energy – and perhaps a metaphor –  clearing the air and mind of our concerns so that we might look ahead to our journey anew.

For us on the island, it forced us together inside, sharing our excitement about the upcoming voyage. We met the majority of our crew for Leg 8, and the previous crew who were still on the island, allowing us to share stories each other – the bubbling excitement was tangible. We had time to share, eat and talk together and all the while enjoying a little taste of Polynesia.

Luduvic, a local on Rapa Nui carved out nine hours of his busy schedule to give us a tour of the island. People on Easter Island have a special bond with the ocean, because every aspect of their life is deeply connected to the sea. We soon learned the value locals placed on sustainability and ways they’d learned to manage limited resources on an island. As sailors who live on boats which become their own version of an island, they welcomed us with a deep appreciation for the work we were doing. We felt this warmness in many different places, like when in the national park there was watermelon waiting for us at the end of a walk under the burning afternoon sun.

Photo credit: eXXpedition / Emily Penn

The next day we cleaned up Apina beach. The recent storm had washed up fishing nets, polystyrene, cords, ropes and boxes. And to make matters worse, the volcanic rock formations and high energy environment at the rocky coast create a unique problem; plastic and fishing gear are hard to remove from the jagged and sharp rocks, cleaning up is difficult and on uneven and sharp ground and the volcanic rock breaks down plastic to form microplastics.

As eXXpedition leaves the Americas and heads firmly on course for the rest of Polynesia, we carry a fondness for the heritage and culture of Rapa Nui. Our time on Rapa Nui reminded us that we can also have a great impact upon the places along our route, that we can become a voice for islands like Rapa Nui and highlight their stories and relationship to the sea.

On our first evening we learn to navigate as the full moon rises. We follow of course heading off 270 degrees. We look into the Southern hemisphere sky and there is the planet Venus, pointing our way west toward Tahiti…