When someone with Amanda’s vast experience has a favorite cruising potluck stop, one would do well to listen!

Editor’s note: The voyage to the tiny French Polynesian atoll of Mopelia may be long — especially if starting from Puget Sound — but the food and friendships Amanda enjoyed there are lifetime highlights and are some of her most cherished cruising and culinary memories. Galley Week continues below with three columns about her visits to Mopelia…

Amanda and Ratu at the Mopelia potluck.

Celebration Potluck on Mopelia

From the January 2010 issue of 48° North:

Just after first light, our crewmember Sue spotted a fringe of palm trees on the horizon. The 102 miles from Maupiti to Mopelia in French Polynesia had been windy and rough. We knew it would be as we’d left Maupiti in 25 knot winds to avoid being trapped in the lagoon for five days due to a forecast of consistent reinforced trades. As we neared Mopelia, huge breakers pounded the windward reef of the tiny, nearly uninhabited coral atoll. Our plan was to anchor off the pass to wait until the sun was higher for better visibility to transit the narrow pass and cross the lagoon. But when we arrived at the anchorage, we realized that with winds blasting at 30+ knots anchoring on the coral reef was now rather treacherous.

We decided to try the pass and as we lined up the entrance we were surprised to see only a half knot of ebb current. I felt it was safe to go inside and we smoothly shot the pass crossing the lagoon to the sheltered southeast corner. Five boats were anchored off the beach and, not long after we had the anchor set, Sebastian and Celine — a nice young French couple aboard Touteau, their recently purchased ex-charter yacht — dinghied over to invite us to a birthday celebration ashore that evening.

Upon landing the dinghy at the white sand beach, we discovered we were in for a feast. Kalami, his wife Sophie and their son, plus a couple of friends are one of only two families (with a total of only ten people) living on Mopelia now, down from 100 a few years ago. Several of the cruisers, Kalami and two of his Tahitian helpers, had been out the previous night diving for lobsters. A pig had been slaughtered, several fish and coconut crabs had been caught and I think nearly every boat had made a salad and baked banana cake. 

Potluck Bean Salad

1 potato – cooked and diced into cubes

2 cups green beans – trimmed, cut into
   one-inch pieces and steamed

1 can chickpeas

1 can black beans

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

2 scallions – sliced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 garlic clove – minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

fresh ground pepper and salt

In a large bowl, combine all the beans with the onions, scallions and parsley. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, pour over the salad and toss to coat.

Banana Bread

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup butter

3 cups sugar

3 eggs

6 ripe bananas – mashed

16 oz sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking soda

4½ cups flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease four 7″x3″ inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Most of the yachts in the anchorage were either French Canadian or French thus creating a fascinating evening with conversations in French, Tahitian and a little English. I chatted with Ratu about life on Mopelia; he was staying awhile to harvest copra. He asked if I’d like some coconuts and, in exchange, I offered him some cumin seeds and orange juice to make the following recipe from the remaining pork. Everyone was certainly partaking in the celebration and when we left the beach to go home, the dancing was in still in full swing.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 lbs pork shoulder – cubed

freshly ground pepper and salt

1 onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

½ cup fresh orange juice

1 quart water

2 teaspoons cumin seeds – toasted and
   ground in a mortar

1 can chickpeas – drained

1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in a large casserole. Working in 3 batches, add pork, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 9 minutes. Remove pork. Add onion and garlic to casserole and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add orange juice and simmer until reduced by half. Add water, cumin, and pork. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add chickpeas and heat through, season with salt and pepper, stir in zest and parsley. Serve with rice. Serves 6.

High winds buffeted the anchorage over the next few days keeping us storm bound. When we set our crew ashore for an afternoon hike, we decided to invite Celine and Sebastian to dinner. Celine was finding the swinging aboard Touteau a little uncomfortable, but that may also be because she was pregnant. We’d planned to meet crew on the beach at sunset, but there was no sign of the hikers, Blake, Toshiko or David; and no one ashore had seen them. If they didn’t appear by 9:00 p.m. we’d all start a search. Even though the island was totally flattened by the hurricane about eight years ago, the new coconut trees and shrubs have now created a thick jungle over rocky coral.

Just as I was serving our lamb casserole, our missing threesome arrived, bringing tales of a lost trail and adventures in bush whacking.

Lamb, Feta, Eggplant Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs lamb shoulder – cubed

8 shallots – peeled

3 garlic cloves – crushed

1½ tablespoons flour

3 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 medium eggplant – thinly sliced

6oz feta – crumbled

¾ cup grated Parmesan

Heat oil in large heavy-based pan. Working in 2 batches, brown lamb 3 minutes, remove. Sauté shallots and garlic for 3 minutes, sprinkle flour over, add stock and cook, stirring until boiling. Add lamb, herbs and zest. Season to taste. Cover saucepan tightly, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450º F. Place lamb in a flat casserole dish, arrange eggplant over lamb slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with feta and Parmesan. Bake 25 minutes until golden. Garnish with extra herb leaves and serve with salad. Serves 4.

I had a chance to visit with Celine and admired her enthusiasm for the new life they’ve planned. Having sold their previous steel cruising yacht in Asia and upgraded to Touteau, they will be living aboard in Noumea, New Caledonia while they replenish the cruising kitty and get the baby settled into shipboard life. We hope to meet again next year in their marina.

Celine’s Tarte aux Poivrons – Green Pepper Tart

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon yeast


¼ cup water

¼ cup olive oil

Combine flour, yeast and salt. Make a well and slowly mix in water and oil. Knead to form dough. Press into a greased pizza pan.

5 peppers; green, red or yellow – diced

1 onion

½ tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 14oz can diced tomatoes

hot chili pepper to taste

1 egg

Preheat oven to 450º F. Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté peppers, onion and garlic until golden. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper and chili. Remove from heat, add egg and mix well. Top dough with pepper mixture and bake for 20 minutes or until dough is cooked.

Amanda with the tools of the cocnut trade on Mopelia.
Amanda with the tools of the coconut trade on Mopelia.

Coconut Encounters on Mopelia

From the February 2013 issue of 48° North:

Our planned departure in French Polynesia from Maupiti to visit our friend, Hina, on Mopelia — 100 miles to the WSW — was delayed due to light headwinds. To utilize the calm conditions I choose to teach sail repair and was in the midst of class when we heard a boat approaching. Popping up on deck we sighted Hina’s father, a Tahitian chap, and a young woman all perched on a boatload of bundles and boxes obviously destined for Mopelia

As we were pondering where we could stash the huge pile of supplies the Tahitian chap looked at Mahina Tiare’s name and in a questioning voice said “John?” Incredibly, Marcello had remembered a visit John had made to Mopelia 23 years earlier and written about in Mahina Tiare, Pacific Passages. Back then Marcello and his wife Adrienne were newlyweds, had no children (four would follow) and were living an idyllic life in an amazing thatch stilt house perched over the lagoon.

Marcello quickly brought us up to date. A cyclone had swept across the 6′ high island washing their house and most of the coconut palms into the lagoon. They’d saved their babies by placing them in an old freezer which thankfully floated as successive waves roared over the island. Currently Adrienne and Fiamona, their daughter, were on Mopelia helping their son, Hio, establish a pearl shell farm and build a house.

Ideal conditions prevailed for our sail to Mopelia, although on entering the lagoon it was hard to pinpoint Hio’s settlement amongst the thick coconut trees. I gave a blast on the fog horn and within minutes a few people ran down the beach, launched a boat and came to greet us. Adrienne was thrilled with our visit and John was equally pleased to note she was still full of life and humor. Hio was keen to show us the intricate house he was constructing for which Adrienne and Fiamona were weaving coconut leaves for the thatching. 

Upon offering us coconuts Hio promptly shimmied up and down palms tossing down choice nuts. Adrienne deftly peeled away the husks on a large stake driven into the ground, before hacking openings in the nuts with a large machete. The immature green coconut water was delicious refreshing and the marshmallow flesh was eagerly scooped out with a spoon fashioned from the outer coconut and slurped down. If you live on Mopelia you best become skillful at harvesting coconuts as copra (dried coconut meat) provides the only cash income.

The coconut/lobster gang on Mopelia: Fiamona, Adrienne, Amanda, Jim, Bobby, Hio, Gilles, John, Christine, and Julian with Kat, Gordon and Spencer in the front row.

We were then put to work grating nuts. Adrienne made the task of sitting upon the grater base and grating the meat on the rounded rasp (between her knees) into a bowl fashioned from half an old mooring ball (held by her feet) look easy. We certainly blundered a few nuts by not mastering the method of nut rotation and ended up with a multitude of dark husk in our coconut. Creating coconut milk was a breeze; just wrap up the grated coconut in a clean cloth then wring out the milk. Meanwhile, Hio started the wood cooking fire while Fiamona waded into the lagoon to the lobster pen returning with an armload of bounty for an impromptu feast.

Our remaining time of Mopelia was certainly festive. Dinner parties and adventures were arranged and enjoyed equally by those ashore and the few other visiting yachts of several nationalities. Food and drink was plentiful thanks to the abundance of coconuts and all its variations, which inspired the following recipes; although if you wished for something strong to drink, Hio was always eager to offer a glass of his fiery home-brewed coconut toddy.

Lobster Cakes with Avocado Wasabi Dressing

5 ounces lump lobster or crab meat

1 small shallot – chopped 

1 garlic clove – minced

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1 egg white – beaten

3 tablespoons coconut milk 

½ lime – juice and zest

¼ cup panko

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro – chopped

pinches of salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon chili – to taste

Gently mix together all ingredients. Form into patties and coat with extra panko. Bake 15 minutes in hot oven or pan fry until golden.

Avocado Wasabi Dressing

¼ cup tofu

½ avocado

juice of 1 lime 

1 tablespoon minced onion

½ teaspoon wasabi paste

½ teaspoon minced garlic

pinches of salt and pepper

In a food processor, blend all ingredients together. Chill before serving.

Coconut Curry Granola

3 cups large flake oats

½ cup almonds – chopped

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup unsweetened large coconut flakes

⅓ cup hemp seeds

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 egg white

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons green curry paste

⅓ cup coconut oil – melts

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients. Whisk together egg white and Worcestershire sauce, add to oats. Combine coconut oil and curry paste, add quickly to oats before coconut oil stiffens. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Coconut and Lime Chicken

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons oil

zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1½ teaspoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons curry powder

½ cup coconut milk

pinch cayenne

1 small fresh hot chili

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

fresh limes – cut into wedges

Slice chicken breasts open like a book and pound out into an even thickness. Combine remaining ingredients, except cilantro and limes. Place chicken and marinade in a large bowl, chill 2 hours. Remove chicken and bring marinade to a boil for 2 minutes, grill chicken until done. Serve chicken sprinkled with cilantro, sauce on the side, limes, brown rice, and green salad.

Nutty Coconut Rice

3 cups cooked brown basmati rice

3 cloves garlic – chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup golden raisins

a few pinches of cinnamon, pepper and curry powder

½ cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes 

salt to taste

chopped cilantro

In a large pan sauté garlic in coconut oil. Add spices and pecans, cook 3 minutes. Stir in raisins and rice and cook until heated through. Stir in toasted coconut. Serves 6.

No Bake Coconut Almond Bars

1 ⅓ cups pitted Medjool dates 

1 cup raw almonds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut

⅛ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until combined and sticking together. Press mixture onto a cutting board and form into a square. Cut into bars. Chill until eaten.

Amanda and Parua, and his pet coconut crabs.
Amanda and Parua, and his pet coconut crabs.

Tropical Island Delights and Difficulties

From the September 2019 issue of 48° North:

Riding into a strong easterly wind, a large southerly swell is causing us to roll about so much that last night I ended up sleeping athwartships in the main saloon. There’s not a speck of sand to be found on the sea floor in this area—only hard, flat coral­—so every now and then when a large set of rollers arrive, Mahina Tiare shoots forward, dragging the chain under a coral head after which it snaps up short, causing a large jerk. A safe moorage is often the conundrum here in our port of Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. We love it, but it’s one of the most challenging places to moor between expeditions. The only harbor of Avatiu, located on the north coast, is currently incredibly windy and surgie; hence we’ve taken shelter in the lee of the island.

It’s possible to get ashore through a shallow channel dredged through the coral, so this morning we took a respite from the rolling and visited the local church to hear the unique, powerful singing and admire the ladies in their white finery that includes wonderful hats woven from young coconut leaves. Thankfully, the wind and seas are forecast to decrease soon, but in the meantime, I’m reminiscing about the tranquil conditions of our previous island home.

A week ago we arrived at Mopelia, a tiny atoll 130 miles west-southwest of Bora Bora in French Polynesia, laden with supplies. A 100-pound sack of flour had been wedged between the V-berth, 120-pounds of rice was stuffed into the forward shower, while box after box of supplies filled both showers and our crew’s hanging lockers. This surplus left the dog food cans sitting on the bunk room floor, a plastic drum of green mangoes lashed to the granny bars, and a sack of pamplemousse lashed to the stern pulpit.

Within a few minutes of entering the pass and anchoring off the northern village, we’d swiftly sorted through the supplies before lowering them into our friend Marcello’s waiting skiff. Knowing that we also had goods to deliver to the other eight people living three miles away in the southeast village, Marcello invited us to return the following afternoon for a barbecue.

After crossing the lagoon, Teraitua and Parua arrived to collect their packages and invite us to a beach barbecue that evening. Since the sun goes down quickly in the tropics, Parua suggested we visit ashore mid-afternoon. He eagerly showed us his small garden, as well as his pet coconut crabs — which he keeps in plastic barrels, feeding and watering them daily for months until they’re needed. With swift skill, he then husked and grated numerous coconuts making a killer curried coconut sauce to accompany the crabs. Meanwhile, Tera kept us supplied with young drinking coconuts while tending the fire that held boiling pots of lobsters he’d caught to add to Parua’s coconut crabs. 

As the sun set behind the outer reef, a full moon rose slowly above the palm trees spreading a magical light on our beach gathering. Our dear friend, Hina, joined us and instantly trounced our crew member, Falko, at several games of chess — to his amazement. I contributed chicken cacciatore, curry and naan to the feast, and John had baked brownies…it’s best to bring Hina chocolate if you wish a warm welcome. Hina was soon strumming away on her ukelele and on familiar tunes we all joined in singing.


2 cups plain flour

2 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves – minced

handful of coriander – chopped

knob of butter – melted

In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Make a well and add milk and oil. Slowly mix the ingredients together to form dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap and leave 30 minutes. Preheat grill to medium-high and place a baking sheet under to heat. Divide dough into five balls, roll out into thin circles, scatter with garlic and coriander and gently roll over again to press them down. Grill three minutes, until golden. Brush with butter and serve. 

Grilled Shrimp Risotto
Grilled Shrimp Risotto


1 lb. large shrimp

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided

1 teaspoon lemon zest

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 cups shrimp stock

½ cup diced onion

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup white wine

¼ cup grated Parmesan

chopped scallions

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon garlic, zest, chili, thyme and shrimp. Season to taste, marinate 30 minutes, then grill shrimp. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat stock and keep warm over low heat. In a large skillet heat remaining oil and sauté onion and remaining garlic five minutes. Add rice and stir until coated and opaque. Stir in wine and cook until nearly evaporated. Add 1 cup of broth bring to a simmer and stir until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding both, 1 cup at a time, until risotto is creamy but slightly firm; about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, seasoning to taste, add shrimp and garnish with scallions. Serves 4.  


As always, you can follow Amanda’s adventures at mahina.com. Check 48north.com throughout the week for some terrific Galley Essentials columns from Amanda’s 16 year run, and be sure to come back on Friday for the final Galley Essentials column in the series.