Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anse Amyot A++

Just outside of Anse Amyot, Tuau, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
15 51S 146 16W

This morning we left Anse Amyot and the Tuamotus for Tahiti in prep for the family arrival next week. We leave behind some excellent friends, particularly Dave and Sherry on Soggy Paws who we have been cruising with on and off for 5 months and we will miss them sorely. As a last hurrah we packed as much activity into the last few days as possible. Thursday we had a wonderful dive just outside the entrance, tying off to a blue buoy Gaston has for spear fishing. It was a wonderful gentle wall with a nice plateau at 40-50 feet with wonderful fish and beautiful coral. We also explored shore and met our wonderful hosts Valentine and Gaston who maintain the moorings and have a restaurant. I dove on the moorings with the left over air and confirmed that most are chain wrapped around large coral heads shackled to large line with a lower bouy to keep the line and chain vertical and a second float at the painter. Friday was a 4+ activity day starting with a snorkel with the Manta Rays. Gaston took us through the reef to the spot the Mantas feed and found us a group of 8-10 large manta rays who were in a feeding frenzy, looping in somersaults with mouths open, scooping as much plankton as possible. We took photos and lots of video (will post here once we get WiFi in Tahitti) and it was an event we will never forget. After a quick lunch we headed 1.5km SE along the shore to a yellow bouy Gaston put out on the reef for a dive. This dive had a nice plateau at 25 feet with a 10 foot deep hole with many fish, but the real attraction was a vertical walled canyon, wrapping 250 degrees around you and going down well beyond the 150' visibility. Beautiful coral and colorful fish make this an amazing dive with deep blue below and a visible overhanging cliffs at about 150' depth that we didn't dare dive down to.

After that we finished our air by finding a lost mooring for Gaston as the harbor was getting rather full. Dave and Bill went out fishing in the dingy and then we headed ashore for an amazing dinner by Valentine of Grilled Lobster, Poison Crue, aluminum foil packets of Fish in garlic and butter, coconut bread, rice, and the most amazing coconut based chocolate frosted cake. Stupendous meal for just CFP-2000 ($22) and a box of wine.

Saturday we went back to the canyon dive for a second viewing, then went to the beach in the afternoon and had a pot-luck dinner ashore. It was an exhausting last few days, but ones we will treasure for a long time.

Off to the land of plenty. Word from Fellow Traveler is that prices are reasonable if you pick your products and we will have WiFi to upload some of our great new photos and videos. We should arrive Monday midday, so hopefully I can have a new entry and some multi-media ready by tuesday evening or so.

More Videos uploaded and on their way on Visions YouTube Channel (see link on right pane)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anse Amyot

Anse Amyot, Toau, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
15 48.2S 146 09.1W

We left Fakarava yesterday morning and arrived after a spirited downwind sail at Anse Amyot around 2:00. This is a beautiful little bay though there is quite a bit of current constantly running out from the lagoon. It is an easy entrance and the local restaurant has 10+ moorings to use. We managed to pick up the "big boat" mooring in the center of the group thanks to our friends Estephan and Maria on Puerto Seguro who vacated it for us. This mooring is a 1.5" line tied around a large cement block with lots of chafe gear. Seems quite secure, but different than the moorings we are used to as there is no chain. Not sure yet what the smaller moorings are like.

Yesterday afternoon was too windy and squally to do much of anything but we enjoyed an early dinner and quite night. It is still quite windy (20 kts) but we are headed into shore soon to find out what there is to do around here and make reservations for dinner tonight. A few more days here and we will say goodbye to Soggy Paws and the Tuamotus and head to Tahiti to get ready to recieve our esteemed guests (Sierra, Rob, Emma, & Zak) on the 5th.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

South Pass "Sharkarava"

Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Yesterday we departed South Pass Fakarava after what was an outstanding couple of days. Our adventures started after a late afternoon arrival on the 15th. On the 16th it was still quite windy and the water was rather stirred up so we delayed diving and snorkeled in the South Pass during slack water. South Pass Fakarava is known as one of the best diving sites in the world so we had rather high expectations. The snorkel was good with several black tip reef sharks hanging around the edge and decent fish life, but visibility was poor due to all the wind we have had for a week. Mom noticed the divers at the surface waving arms and yelling to no avail as no-one on shore (where the dive boat was parked) was paying attention. We headed out in our dingy to help and gave the dive master Bill's mask as someone had mask problems and he gave up his earlier.

On the 17th we dove with the local dive shop, the dive master Niko, a consummate Frenchman (not necessarily rude, just french), led the dive with us and a couple of scot's Stuart & Trish on a 67' sailboat "Rhiane Marie" we had met the day before. We got dropped off "in the blue" and dropped to about 100' before hitting the wall. We climbed up to about 75' and hung on to the coral to hold position when we approached what Niko called "the nursery" where over 100 grey reef sharks were circling in the current. Many were pregnant and there were a lot of juveniles as well. Water clarity wasn't great, probably 50' or so, but still, the site was amazing. After a few minutes we zig-zaged across the pass wall up to about 40' were we saw a HUGE Napoleon Wrass (probably over 100 lbs) who was very friendly as well as many other fish and beautiful coral. The dive ended after about 60 mins by swimming up the beach to the dive shop. In the afternoon we took a dingy trip with Stuart & Trish to the western side of the pass to visit the pink beaches and a small island with human bones. Apparently they don't know how old the remains are, but they were unearthed 15-20 years ago after a big storm. They are now on display with a single skull and many other bones "artfully" arranged...a bit creepy, but kind of cool.

Morning of the 18th Soggy Paws and Nakia arrived through the pass about 6:30 for the morning slack as predicted and at 12:15 we all headed to the pass for our own drift dive towing the dingy. Visibility was better but still not great and we replicated our first dive nicely, dropping first into about 90 feet, just upstream of the shark nursury just inside the break on the eastern side. We drifted all he way through the main pass, past the village and then out he shallower side pass that heads east towards the anchorage. That side pass really moves, probably 4+ knots while the main pass is only moving at 1 knot. We saw many more sharks and really enjoyed the side pass even though it was going by way too fast. The colors are excellent and the coral very healthy.

On the 19th we again dove in the early afternoon (1:15 this time) and hit slack perfectly. Wind was calm now, seas were down, and visibility was much improved (probably 80' or more). We waited a bit longer this time, allowing the incoming clear water to start coming in and it was definitely worth it. We were moving faster, but the water clarity was worth it. We stayed deeper in the pass for longer and found a second "family" of sharks further into the pass. Not quite as big as the first group, but still very cool to see. We stayed down almost all the way back to the boats through the small pass and really enjoyed it. In the late afternoon we visited the eastern Pension run by Manihi and Tila, a Fakaravan couple who speak excellent English (and Italian) who have created an amazingly beautiful island paradise. We arranged for a dinner the following night for all of us (9 people plus their guests).

On the 20th, Bill, Dave, and John went fishing with Manihi in the morning, catching a wahoo for dinner. I opened up some coconuts (best ones so far, very juicy and sweet meat), then reprofiled and sharpened my knife (damaged opening the last set of coconuts), sharpened John's machete (used to open the coconuts) and then sharpened Dave & Sherry's which didn't have any edge yet as it came with a 1mm flat edge from the hardware store in Columbia. In the afternoon we did another dive (noticing a pattern yet) and had the best one yet. Visibility was over 100', no wind, bright sun. We got closer to the sharks, hundreds of them, 2 huge napoleons, a flounder, and many other beautiful fish. As we went out the small pass, there was a school of 4" long fish (sardine like) swimming the other way that we went right through. Very cool, kind of like driving into a snow-storm at night. In the evening we went into Manihi's pension for dinner and had an amazing meal of Grilled Ginger Wahoo and Beef Stew with Cole Slaw and rice and two excellent deserts for CFP2000 ($22) BYOB. Excellent company and a beautiful setting made it a special night.

Morning of the 21st the morning slack was finally late enough to dive on (8:45 slack, 8:15 splash). Mom was having sinus pressure so skipped the dive, but Bill and I joined Soggy Paws for another amazing dive. This time we stayed deeper longer, stopping right next to the sharks hanging out, taking some photos (more in the web-albums soon, I promise). With the current having come in for the last 6 hours, visibility was amazing at 150' or so even with the low light. The downside was that we finished with no current in front of the dive shop, missing the small side pass, but with adjustments to timing I am sure that could be figured out. We then left the anchorage, heading north. We will get to the north pass and internet by lunch time (22nd) and plan to dive there as well the next few days before heading to Toau for our last few days in the Tuamotus.

If any of you want to experience diving nirvana we can highly suggest Fakarava and have some information on a dive shop in the North that works with Manihi to arrange a few days north & Toau, then some time with Manihi and dives in the south pass...can't imagine a much better dive trip.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

hello from Fakarava

16 30.4 S 145 27.4 W in beautiful Fakarava, Tuamotus

Having some drop dead gorgeous weather at last after 4-5 days of howling winds and quite a bit of rain. Apparently we were stuck under the South Pacific Convergence Zone with a couple of troughs and lows controlling the weather and making it pretty miserable. There is not much protection in the Tuamotus against high wind so we were stuck on lee shores when the wind was coming at us at 25-30 knots but it has gotten calm again and so we are happy in paradise once more!!!

Had an easy departure from Tahanea on Sat...timed it to leave one pass on the morning slack and make the 48 miles to Fakarava by the later tide slack. We are lucky to have a fast boat since everyone else we are traveling with had to do it as an overnight not being able to make the 8+ knots to get in between the tides. We motorsailed to keep our speed up and found some good protection behind the atolls we were passing as the sea was still quite stirred up from all the days of high winds. East entrance thru the Tetamanu Pass on the south end of Fakarava and into a very nice anchorage with a couple of other boats already here. Met a really nice couple from Scotland aboard a beautiful 67 ft. fancy boat. Most boats that are cruising are more in the 32-48 ft range so finding someone as big or bigger than us has been rare! Nice people tho' and we hung out with them for a few days before they moved on.

We did our first dive here on Mon. and went out with the dive shop to try to get some pointers we would be able to use later on our own. This pass is noted as being one of the best dives in the Tuamotus if not the South Pacific and it was in fact pretty awesome. The water clarity was not perfect because of all the swell from the last bunch of rough sea days but it was still an amazing dive. Started off going down to about 110 ft and then followed a wall to the "shark nursery" where you can hold onto some coral and sit and watch about 100 or more sharks swimming a little ways in front of you...close enough to see beautifully but not scary (which coming from me is remarkable!) Then drifted with the incoming current thru the pass and over some beautiful, LIVE coral with tons and tons of colorful fish right back to the beach in front of the dive shop. Since then we have gone twice more (Soggy Paws arrived on Tues and we are now diving with them and towing our two dinghys) . We have been staying down for longer and catching the really fast eddy at the end of the pass and drifting most of the way back to our big boats. The water clarity has improved daily since the waves outside the pass have really died down. Yesterday we must have been moving at 5-6 knots thru that eddy and it was a hold onto your swimsuits kind of feeling!!! In the late afternoon we went over to a 2nd little motu here and visited the most wonderful "pension" that a fellow named Manihi and his wife have set up. Beautifully designed in a Polynesian fashion this place is almost luxurious and so charming. Impeccably clean and very well set up it looks like a great place for a total chill dive vacation. Will gather a little more info if any of our friends or readers want to know more...Tonight we are hoping to gather all 4 of the boats here with us now and go to dinner there. Haven't eaten out since Easter so that would be a real treat for moi(the cook and chief bottle washer!).

We plan on staying here another nite or two and continuing to dive daily thru this pass...there may even be a day that we can do two dives if the slacks line up early and late. You need to dive between slack and an incoming tide to keep direction and speed safe! From here we will go to the village (Rotovai) at the north pass and spend a few days before heading to our last atoll in the Tuamotus (Toaa) for a night or two. Then an overnight to Tahiti with our plan being to get there a week ahead of the kids to reprovision and get some boat work done. All in all we are loving the Tuamotus and wish we had a little longer here...Soggy Paws and Nakia(the SF boat) are on different schedules than us so will stay here for another couple of months. I think it is Memorial Day weekend so happy 3 Day weekend to all of you.

Monday, May 17, 2010


South Pass Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

I called my dad yesterday to wish him a happy 61st birthday and had to laugh at his attempt to pronounce all the places we have been and are going to. It reminded me of my first few days at Easter Island, thoroughly confused by polynesian's affinity for vowels. I quickly realized that my western mind has been trained to remember consonants and basically ignore the vowels. I remembered reading an article in some magazine discussing typography and the fact that our brains look at shape most of all, so depending on the type-face we will easily look over a misspelling such as "offslnore" and realize we are talking about being out in the ocean, not sleeping loudly with a lisp.

Scott from Beach House helped a lot by explaining that every vowel is pronounced separately, so Toau is pronounced Tow-Ah-oo, which by the way is the next island north of Fakarava. Anyway, that is enough language arts for one blog post....especially for an engineer.

We snorkeled the pass today (not very good vis today so we skipped the dive). We plan to dive tomorrow with the local dive shop as a primer and then be able to dive it ourselves. Tons of sharks, and very pretty coral....can't wait.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tahanea in the Tuamotus

16 51.0 South 144 41.6 West

Greetings from Tahanea, an uninhabited atoll in the Tuamotus that has been our anchorage since Sat. We left Makemo on Fri. and headed towards Katui another atoll that we had heard nice things about. The inside of that lagoon is alot shallower so we were planning on staying inside the pass at the recommendation of another cruiser. However, once we got there we felt very squeezed and decided we were just too big for this place...we remember a similar thing happening when we went to Criehaven (one of old favorite harbors in our Alden 44 but in this boat felt that the harbor must have shrunk) swinging room and too close to all the reefs . So we quickly manuevered our way out of there and spent the night going back and forth a 5 mile stretch off the opposite shore to be protected from waves. We needed to kill time in order to arrive at the next atoll-Tahanea- with the favorable tide/slack water to be able to enter the lagoon. This tide and slack thing is quite complex and means that timing is everything when it comes to the passes. Gram has actually produced a whole spread sheet called the handy dandy tide guestimator as there is very little help out here to rely on. We manged to get to Tahanea and only had to wait 1/2 hour outside before things looked good for entering. This is a wide pass and our best (least scariest) entry. Once in we found a beautiful spot behind a couple of reefs just to the west of the pass. This atoll has 3 passes and our plan was to set ourselves up to be able to move around and dive each of them. We were immediately greeted by 5 or 6 black tip sharks who were very curious about the boat. That variety is non aggressive so we even felt comfortable jumping right in the water. We found a few nice reefs to snorkel on that afternoon and went in to the beach(more like coral shoreline) for a little walk and to machete open some coconuts.

Sunday was Mother's Day and I was treated well by Gram and cooking and our first dinghy drift dive in the northern pass. It was very coral and relatively shallow so we just drifted thru the pass as the tide was coming in. We did learn that timing (again) has to be perfected as we started drifting back out when the tide changed a bit early on us. Luckily because we had been at only 30 ft we could make a rapid ascent with no safety stop and get back into the dinghy and quickly out of the current. We saw tons of fish and a huge manta ray . One grey shark swam by us(they are not the definitively non aggressive variety) so it was good that he just swam away from us quickly. I got a wonderful email from Zak, wishing there were an FTD florist nearby so he could have sent flowers...little did he know that there is pretty much nothing but water and palm trees and very little soil even. Sierra sent mother's day wishes from the 3 of them so I got to be a happy mommy all around.

On Mon. our wonderful friends Dave and Sherry caught back up to us and within 1/2 hour after they had anchored...rush rush because of the tide timing...we were all off to the southeast pass (we had moved the boat closer to that spot first thing in the morning..there is an abandoned village of sorts there). What troopers those two are as they had been offshore on passage from the Gambiers for 6 nights and still had it in them to jump right in the water...obviously they LOVE to dive. Our timing was much better and we were able to just keep going thru the entire pass and had a longer, deeper dive again towing the dinghy with us. This dive offered some bigger fish, another ray, a small unassuming shark and a really long close viewing of a turtle which was way cool. We were able to just hang over him for a few minutes before he swam away. In the afternoon we went into the abandoned village which had 2 cisterns of "free" water...a real luxury that enabled us to wash our very dirty crew covers in the cooler we keep in the dinghy. Bill came up with the idea to agitate the laundry by stomping on it in the cooler so it was kind of like a grape stomping party and the dance was rather funny but worked incredibly well.
We went back the next morning and did all our sheets feeling like this was too good an opportunity to pass up on...having all the water you could want that is. In the afternoon we did the middle pass as another dive with Dave and Sherry...Aside from a rapid start as when we jumped in there was way too much current it was another great dive and now we could say we had done all three passes on Tahanea. We moved to an anchorage at the southeast end of the atoll. Bill and the other two boats (Soggy Paws and Nadia..some new friends from San Fran.)went out for a lobster hunt soon as it got dark while Gram and I made a sushi feast for everyone.

Yesterday we headed part way back to the middle pass anchorage with a lunch, snorkel stop along the way. The snorkel ended up being the best snorkeling we had ever many fish and one place where you could kind of go inside the crater of the reef, hang onto a piece of coral and be inside the aquarium. It was awesome!!! Made lobster stew with the lobsters that had been caught the night before and had a lovely dinner with Soggy Paws(Dave and Sherry). John and Linda( Nadia )stayed at the snorkel spot for the night. Middle of the night we dragged for the first time ever...the wind had piped up to over 25 and from the total wrong and unpredicted direction so swells formed and must have dislodged the anchor. A bit scary as we had to pull up and move out to deeper waters in the dark. It was a fitful night sleep at best from then on as the wind howled and we rolled around a bit. So today we have a rainy day and have moved another little bit to a place that should offer better protection. Naps seem in order a bit later... Hopefully no more excitement and plan is to leave tomorrow afternoon and do an overnight to Fakarava , most likely our last atoll in the Tuamotus. It is known for its fabulous diving so we will stay there about 10-12 days before heading west to Tahiti to prepare for the Dietz's and Zak's visit. Can't wait for that .Hoping that I have not bored you with details.We do enjoy sharing our experiences with everyone...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Three Days, Three Passes, Three Dives

Tahanea, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

We arrived in Tahanea on the 8th after tacking back and forth behind Katiu untill 3:00 am when I bore off and headed downwind. We timed it to perfection and entered with a light flooding current, finding a great anchorage just to the west of the main (middle) pass. Within minutes of dropping the hook we had 5 3' to 4' black tip reef sharks (later nicknamed "puppy-dogs") circling around the transom, checking us out in a friendly manner. About an hour later we got a call on the radio from a boat approaching looking for pass information. Nakia came in another hour after that and anchored near by. They are a very friendly couple from San Fransisco. In the afternoon we snorkled around the reefs to our east, walked along the shore, and borrowed a machette to open up our 3 coconuts from Makimo. We had an early dinner and got some rest.

Just before lunch on the 9th we got our dive gear ready, got in the dingy, and headed towards the west pass for our first drift dive towing a dingy and our first pass dive. The waves were still quite big outside, so we didn't get all the way out the pass, but we did have quite a nice dive through the pass in 30' of water. As we approached the end of the pass, the tide stopped and then reversed, flushing us back out the pass. The pass was quite wide and flat, with colorful coral and tons of fish. We saw a moray eel, some large groupers, lots of butterfly, angel, and other colorful reef fish, and even our first Manta-Ray that was quite huge. Mom was happy we didn't see a shark We went along for a while, heading back out the pass, then ascended to the surface so we didn't get too far out the pass towards the chop and standing waves that were sure to form as the current went against the strong winds and seas on the outside of the pass. The timing was perfect, we got back in the dingy and headed back to the boat having made our first successful dive. The best news of the day was that Soggy Paws was headed to Tahanea and would be there in the morning.

The morning of the 10th, as Soggy Paws came into the anchorage we relocated to the east side of the main pass, halfway to the eastern most, and smallest pass. We finally settled on a spot, dropped the hook and started getting gear ready again. Soggy Paws joined us for a dive, within hours of finishing their 6 day passage from the Gambiers (what a bunch of troopers). This time the waves were down a bit and we got further out the pass, but still not all the way to the wall. The current was a little stronger, but not too bad, probably 1.5 kts or so. As I got in the water, the o-ring that seals my regulator to the tank blew out and I had to get mom to quickly shut off my tank and hop back in the boat to put in a new one (thankfully I keep spares in my mask case for just this reason). It only took a minute, but by then we had drifted to the western side of the pass while Dave and Sherry were on the eastern side...oh well. We haded down the western channel that goes straight, starting at a depth of 30' and going as shallow as 10' before deepining again on the inside. This pass had steeper walls and agian a bunch of fish and colorful coral. At the end we were let out into some fairly poor visability, but amazing fish. One grey shark that I hid from mom till it was swimming away from us, lots of big groupers and jacks, and a small sea turtle, that was resting on the bottom. I got to within 1.5' from the turtle for quite a while before he finally got startled and swam away. Soggy Paws said the eastern side was shorter, but a little deeper throughout without the big fish at the end. In the afternoon we headed to shore to wash our crew covers using the cistern water from the deserted villiage. There were some locals spending the night there....very friendly giving us all some bread and offering cocunuts and all the water we wanted. We did the laundry in the cooler that lives in the dingy (acting as lockable storage for spare fuel, tools, compas, light, and pfd's. Bill looked quite humorous stomping the laundry with his feet. It was such a treat we planned to go back for more.

Today after some morning laundry we had an early lunch, then headed out the main pass for our 3rd dive/pass/day. The current was ripping at about 3 kts which made positioning ourselves while getting gear on quite hard. By the time we were ready to decent we had already drifted past the wall we were trying to start on and decended down to 50' I was towing the dingy this time and in the strong current I had to fight hard to swim to the bottom as the dingy was towing me along quite quickly and pulling me up at a 45 degree angle. Within a minute or so we were further in the pass and the current subsided to 2 kts or so. Still rather quick and if you blinked you would miss a ton. This pass was more like the western pass, wide and flat with colorful coral, though some dead and bleached spots, aparently from a huricaine a few years ago. Eventually we slowed to a nice pace (1/2 knot of so) as we got further in the lagoon. There were a ton of colorful groupers who weren't scared at all, coming right up to your face. Eventually the coral changed a bit as did the fish and we headed to the surface after our safety stop. Back to the boat, we washed our gear in our cooler we had filled from the cistern, then made a quick dash down to the southeast corner of the lagoon where we will spend the next day or so before heading back north for a night then on to Fakarava either the 13th or 14th. Soggy Paws has to do an overnight to Fakarava and is planning on the 15th, arriving the morning of the 16th if the weather stays the same as the forecast.

Overall a wonderful 3 days, especially nice to be joined by our friends from Soggy Paws.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Katiu, Too Big for You

1/2 mile off western coast of Katiu, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
16 24.6S 144 28.8 W

Our plan worked to perfection. We exited the pass at 8:00 am with a max of 3 knots of current following us out the pass, then we motor-sailed to Katiu arriving at 11:30 to find 2 knots going in, just as expected. We waited half an hour then entered at 12:00 with about a half knot behind us, right on the schedule I calculated using my handy dandy "Visions Tuamotu Tidal Current Guestimator" Excel Spreadsheet (don't worry it will get posted to the documents page as soon as we get WiFi Access so you can play at home. Unfortunately at that point our plan fell to bits as the "anchorage" was only about 80 feet wide by 200 feet long. We tried dropping an anchor and backing into the pier to tie a stern line, but we were afraid we would end up pushed into the pier. Our only other option was to tie side-to the concrete pier, but with a 15 knot wind on the beam we didn't like that idea either. Med moore perpenticular might have been an option, but it would require our anchor chain to cross the pass channel to have enough purchase to keep us off the pier. By then the tide had changed (at 12:10, right on schedule) and we had about 2 knots pushing us out at 12:30 by the time we gave up and left the harbour (not a very long slack current)

Once out of the pass we realized we had only 35 miles to go to Tahanea, but the next tidal option would be at 8:00 at night, so instead we would have to wait till 8:00 tomorrow morning. We sailed under jib alone down to the western side of the island, hoping we might anchor near the alternate small boat anchorage, but when only 100 yards from shore we were still in 250 feet of water, so anchoring was not really an option. Luckily, we realized we had a 5 mile runway of protected water and if we reached back an forth under staysail, we would go slow enough that we could sail 2 hours per leg in rather benign conditions. We set a half mile alarm zone off the beach and will spend the night gybing back and forth. Right now we are making about 1.8 knots boatspeed, dead level, with barely a rock or roll (quite pleasant really, and much better than any anchorage at Easter or Pitcairn. The only real downside is that we have to take watch.

Sometime around 3 am I will roll out the jib and head toward Tahanea with a planned arrival of 7:30 with a planned entry around 8:00 depending on what the pass looks like. I will be sure to take a screenshot of our track after we are done and post it once we get to some WiFi in Fakarava.

Passes and sharks and rats, oh my

About to enter the pass into Katui in the Tuomotus
16 20.9 S 144 21.0 W

Just so you all don't think that this is just nothing but fun and carefree days let me tell you about the stresses of our days in the Tuomotus. I basically hate the passes(narrow entrances with lots of current and standing waves in and out)..they are just too scary and we keep having to come in and out of them to get to the various lagoons we want to visit. My new strategy is to be down below working on emails which is just what I am doing while the guys get us thru the pass this morning. Yesterday Gram was finally able to get back in the water( his finger has healed well and looks like we dodged the infection bullet) so we celebrated by going on a snorkel at the reefs near the pass on Makemo that we had anchored at to be able to leave early today. The coral was like drip castles with lots of pinnacles and quite interesting. Lots of fish including a few rather large orange (unusual) parrot fish. Two black tipped sharks which are nonagressive and only about 4 ft. plus one too big grey shark(said to be possibly aggressive). Don't think I have ever gotten out of the water and back into the dinghy so fast! After the snorkel we went to the deserted village ...a couple of funky houses that are used during coppra(coconut) harvest. We wanted to get a better look at the pass so walked across the island thru the coconut trees. We had noticed that something was knawing at all the coconuts and wondered if it were crabs or rats...just then a huge rat ran just in front of my foot and scared the bejesus out of me.

So a bit of facts(plaguerized from an email Bill wrote recently) on just what an atoll is as that is what the Tuomotus are wholly comprised of. An atoll is the last bit of a sunken volcano. Volcanoes string across the Pacific, even under the ocean floor! The volcano erupts, and you get a high island with mountains. Over tens of thousands of years, the mountain settles. As it sinks, the crater can flood and you get an ocean lagoon inside the walls of the volcano. As it sinks more, only the top of the rim is left, and coral reefs grow all around them.

The lagoons inside the atolls are like nothing seen before. They are large, this one over 30 miles long, and are surrounded by a coral reef. The south facing sides face the bigger waves and swells and are more purely reef. The North facing sides have little palm islands called motus. Lagoon navigation is not difficult as water is very deep (100 - 120 ft) with widely interspersed and steep cylindrical (very steep/vertical and 10 - 30 yards across) reefs just visible at the surface. No need to read depth of the water between them, just avoid the visible reef tops as you move around. It is tiring tho' as Gram and I have to be on the foredeck watching while Bill steers around the reefs we spot. Quite magnificent overall, the area is quite gorgeous and isolated. We have loved the water and the temps are such that we are not even wearing wetsuits to snorkel.. Bill and I were able to do a dive for his birthday (Gram stayed in the dinghy and followed our bubbles which made it a drift dive in the current ). It was very nice and for me my most comfortable dive to date. Wore a wetsuit and stayed really warm the whole 50 min. which is also a first as I usually get cold even in my wetsuit. That in itself may have increased the comfort level by a margin...

We are starved for fresh at this point...there are no vegies or fruit here as the soil would not grow anything and there are few ships and planes that bring stuff in. We are fine on protein and staples but quite missing salads and fresh fruit...even our bananas are gone!!! Hope that we will be in an atoll that is a little larger and more connected to the mainland of Tahiti with airplanes in a week or so and that there they may have some green for us. Last lettuce was 15. for a pack of Romaine but worth every cent of it. We are eating tuna every other night as we have an abundance of that and so far are not sick of it yet, Will be interesting to see what we will find in Tahiti as reprovisioning will be a definite need.

Hello Fishes!

Makemo, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

This morning we left our idylic beach anchorage and headed towards the north pass in prep for a departure tomorrow morning. We found a great little anchorage just off the charted region to the north-west of the pass tucked amongst 4 or 5 reefs, just in front of the part time village (only inhabited durring copra harvesting season). From there we went on a very nice drift snorkel amongst the reefs around the boat, towing the dingy around with us as we drifted in the currents. The big news is that as it is now day 11 of my finger injury I could finally spend extended time in the water so I finally got to snorkel in the Tuamotus. The fish where cool, the sharks were generally cool, though I liked the "generally non-agressive" 3-5 foot white and black tip reef sharks we saw much more than the "sometimes aggressive" 4 foot grey shark that came by at the end. Best of all where some very cool drip castle like coral formations on the reef off our stbd quarter.

Tomorrow we leave the pass at 8:00 am so we get to Katiu around noon when we expect that pass will begin to get decent. The anchorage at Katiu is actually on the side of the pass, halfway in so there is a bit of current there, though it is supposed to be in a bit of an eddie, so it hopefully won't be too bad. If it is we will move on, but hopefully we can spend a few days there and see this small atoll.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To Each His Own....Beach

16 31.110S 143 49.350 W
Makemo, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

We left our own private Motu yesterday, and with a quick stop in town to change some money and rid ourselves of some smelly garbage, we headed North in the lagoon to find a new anchorage with some good protection from the east. Good thing too as it is blowing a steady 20 kts with gusts up to 30 last night and 24 today. We are nicely tucked in behind a reef that juts out from our own private beach formed at the corner of the island as it bends to the north. We plan to enjoy said beach today (if the wind and passing rain allows). We did a bit of exploring last night when we got in and it is quite beautiful looking, large and flat, perfect for a soccer game (though with just 3 people, it will leave a bit to be desired). There are a lot of small tracks leading everywhere and that same animal is eating its way into all the coconuts. Not sure if it is crabs or rats, but there are a lot of them (lets hope crabs!)

That is all for now. Rain just started so time to batten down the hatches again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bill's Birthday

Makemo, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

We got into Makemo yesterday afternoon after waiting at the pass for an hour to let the current subside a bit. It was uneventful as we hoped it would be. Mom even said it wasn't bad. We met some nice people here who are on a 2 year round the world rally (quite a rush really). One american couple who knew Soggy Paws, two brittish guys who left their wives at home (apparently not sailors) and a very nice british family with 3 kids aged 12, 11, & 9. We invited the 11yo boy over this morning to look through some of the books Zak left aboard as he is an avid reader with similar tastes. He picked out a few books and left a series behind (hope you don't mind too much Zak, but you can always replace them in the States and he has rather limited resources out here).

Today was also Bill's birthday, so Bill and Mom went on a nice dive (40-80 foot wall along the west side of the pass) while I followed their bubbles in the dingy. I am trying to get my chits in now while I can't go in the water so I can get some diving in once the hand recovers. It is doing much better and looking great, so hopefully it will heal without incident.

Tonight we had Poison Crue and Spicy Tuna Maki for dinner. We caught a 50lb yellowfin at 5:30pm the night of our overnight here, so we have about 15 dinners worth of Tuna in the Freezer right now and will need to keep eating Tuna for a while (oh dear will we ever make do?). All is well and we like Makemo quite a bit. We hope to head south-east first to the southern end of the lagoon to some nice looking motus before heading northwest to the other end of the lagoon later in the week.

We are back to satelite internet only for a while (they do have mana-net wifi here in town, but we plan to leave tomorrow so we havn't bought more time on that system), so no more picture uploads till we get to Fakarava.