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.