I know that I’ve fallen behind in keeping my photo album up to date, but here’s an attempt to get things going. It’s painfully slow out here on the satellite internet available in the Tuamotus, so I haven’t gotten the Marqesas, crossing and remaining Mexico pics up yet.
Well it’s been a while since I’ve had internet access. A lot has happened and I really should have written more along the way, but alas it’s hard to sit down at the computer when you’re hanging out in paradise. Willow and I took off from Ua Pou and made a comfortable 4 day passage to Kauehi in the Tuamotus. We had to slow way down the last day. We would have made landfall in the afternoon and would not have been able to get to an anchorage before dark. In the past the Tuamotues have been know as the dangerous archipelago due to the shallow water, strong currents and the low profiles of the atolls. I don’t think that there’s a bit of land more than 10 feet tall in this entire 1000 mile long island chain. Generally you can’t see an atoll until you’re within 8 miles and making landfall in the dark can be extremely dangerous. Before GPS, people generally just skirted around the north end of the chain and continued on to Tahiti.
We made landfall at Kauehi on the morning of our fifth day out and sailed around to the passage on the SE side of the atoll. Greg, Bonnie and I were all a bit concerned about the entering the pass. We’ve all heard stories about narrow channels, extreme currents and coral heads just under the surface waiting to punch a hole through your hull. Turns out the pass into Kauehi was a piece of cake. We hit it near slack water and even though there was a lot of upwelling going on making it very choppy and scary looking, we didn’t encounter almost any current. Once inside we were treated to the best upwind sailing I’ve done since leaving Washington’s protected waters. Kauehi is roughly 8×10 miles long with a reef surrounding it that may be up to a few hundred yards wide in places. The reef breaks all the ocean swell leaving just the wind waves that can build up in the width of the atoll. Bottom line is that I could sail close hauled comfortably for the first time in a couple of years. I had forgotten just how pleasant it is. We crossed the atoll to the village on the NE corner and dropped the hook in a anchorage full of old friends. It’s gotten to the point that we’re at least familiar with every boat whenever we go into a new anchorage. This time it was Ben and Matt off Veleda who’d played music with on Ua Pou, Eric and Ivonna on Ariel whom I’d met back in Mexico and Alan and Delphine on Rush who Greg and Bonnie had met in the Galapagos. There was also a British boat named Robyn with a couple of guitar players on board and Just Do It with a fun German couple on board. Eric and Ivonna are a Polish couple who’ve lived in the states for many years. Eric plays the accordian, while Ivonna plays bassoon and they both play the full size Roland electric piano they have on board their Cal 46. With all these musicians around in one place, pretty epic jam session parties ensued for the next 3 days. Also I finally got a chance to put my speargun to use in the crystal clear water spearing myself a couple of nice Black Sea Bass.
Ok, having a fullsize keyboard on Ariel was impressive enough check out that Bassoon. Oh yeah to top it all off we were rocking out to the Best of Queen Songbook during this shot. That’s Ivonna, Eric, Emma and Mathew from left to right:
The village on Kauehi wasn’t all that fun, so after 3 days Robyn, Willow and Bodhran all pulled up our hooks and moved to the south side of the atoll where we were treated to swimming pool like water and the best snorkeling that I’ve ever done. It was my first chance to snorkel with sharks and we saw a bunch of Black Tip, White Tip and Gray Reef Sharks ranging for 3-6 feet long. Of course there was also some spectacular coral and reef fish. Ariel and Just Do It came down to the southern anchorage after a couple of days and we had a great beach fire, but the wind came up out of the North the next day building up some pretty nasty waves over the entire length of the lagoon. Robyn and Just Do It were smart enough to take off immediately while Willow, Ariel and I all stuck around and got pounded by steep wind driven waves that would occasionally put my bowsprit under water and eventually parted my snubber line at the chain hook. The next day was even worse, so we all pulled up anchor and moved to the North anchorage where we were able to reanchor in the shelter of the reef, but the next day we decided to take off for the next atoll south.
Robyn and Ariel had already gone to Raraka, so Just Do It, Willow and I followed. It was mellow passage across and we timed the tide properly to enter the pass at slack. This pass has currents up to 6.5 knots on the ebb and had a number of obstacles, but it was well marked and we had no problems getting in. Once we got into the anchorage we had a hard time finding a place to anchor that wasn’t covered with rocks and coral heads due to the late afternoon light. Overhead light the next day showed that there indeed wasn’t really anyplace to anchor without coral and so with the help of the shifting winds, all of our anchors became hopelessly fouled. If we needed to get out of that anchorage in a hurry we all probably would have had to cut our losses. Fortunately the weather stayed mellow and we spent two nights enjoying the unrivaled hospitality of the folks at the little village by the pass. It turns out that they only had one yacht visit the year before and two the year before that, so when the first boat of the season came in and was joined a couple days later by 4 more it created quite an event. The folks on Robyn and Ariel had been out collecting Coconut Crab all day and were already on the beach with a party going in full swing. So we came in, started playing music and then were quickly swept away to a beautiful fish dinner that they’d set up. We then went back to playing music into late into the night. The next morning Martin off Just Do It went spear fishing with the locals and they had another big feed set up for us with 2 different smoked fish and a huge bowl of possion crue, the Polynesian version of ceviche in coconut milk. Then the rest of us went spear fishing with all the local teens in the afternoon and had another beautiful dinner and night of music making that evening. The folks on Raraka were so generous and friendly that I felt horribly leaving them after just two nights, but the anchorage was really bad and my nerves couldn’t handle staying there any longer. Mathew off Robyn spent about an hour with is mask and snorkel directing me as I motored Bodhran around and alternately tooking and slacked out chain to get it free from the coral heads. We almost had to break out the dive tanks to get to hook dislodged at the end, but finally it came free and we had a lively exit out the pass on an outgoing tide.
We left Just Do It on Raraka while the rest of our little flotilla sailed to the pass at the southern end of Fakurava, the second largest atoll in the Tuamouts measuring 32 miles long by 15 wide. The pass at the south end has a notable surf break and was supposed to have some good snorkeling as well. The anchorage was a bit disappointing having to hunt for a little sandy patch to drop the hook in a sea of coral, but the snorkeling in the pass didn’t. We swam with 100’s of sharks, moray eels, eagle rays, giant pacific rays, sea turtles and all sorts of reef fish and coral. We started snorkeling the pass at slack, but as the incoming tide started in, we pulled the dinghy anchor up and all just hung on the side of the inflatable as the current swept us over all sorts of sea life. The best way to see the pass would have been to dive as most of the sharks stayed down in over 60 feet of water remaining visible at the surface only due to the phenomenal visibility. There were two little resorts at the south pass on Fakurava representing the whole of the tourist infrastructure I’ve seen since getting to French Polynesia. Manahi, the owner of one the resort nearly the anchorage treated Emma from Robyn and I to a great fish dinner in exchange for me playing some music for the guests while the rest of the folks from the boats had dinner at the other resort. Manahi has got himself an amazing spot spanning two motus( islets ) with a shallow pass between them. The dining area is on the edge of the pass with lights shining down into the water attracting all sorts of fish and sharks that go into a feeding frenzy as we’d all throw our leftovers into the water.
Willow and I have now sailed up to the little village on the North end of Fakarava where we’ve found internet access for the first time since leaving the Marquesas. We’ll probably head up to Toau, the next atoll to the north before taking off to meet up with my brothers Alex and Trevor in Tahiti on June 10th.
Ok, so we’re finally getting out of Hakahau tomorrow. We were waiting around for the big canoe race yesterday which has come and gone. It was quite a spectacle with 6 different teams from all over the island competing. It’s amazing how lightweight and fast these boats are. Afterwards we had one last big party up at Sebastian’s place with Ben and Matt off Veleda. So from here we’re heading around to the West side of the island to Hanatefau and will probably be taking off for the Tuamotus sometime next week. I’ll probably find internet access somewhere in the Tuamotus. If not, I won’t be getting another post off until Tahiti.