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...

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