We can’t remember the last time we spent so many days holed up on the boat due to weather. But certainly this was the case for much of our time spent in the Tuamotus, the world’s largest archipelago of coral atolls that lies 500 miles south west of the Marquesas and around 200 miles east of the Society islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora etc). With regular, sustained winds of 20+ knots and constant rain showers the main goal for our time in the Tuamotus was severly impacted! Not exactly conducive weather for drift diving!
However, we enjoyed our limited time there, and despite not making it to some of the atolls on our list, due to weather constraints, we enjoyed the few we visited.
Highlights include, in order of the atolls we visited:
* making landfall at Tahanea atoll at daybreak after a challenging 8 day passage from the Tuamotus!
* wandering around the tiny village of Tearavero at Kauehi atoll and meeting a few locals, including the maire (mayor), and especially the children who wanted to practice their English as they cycled around us on their bikes. Picking up very slow internet at the Post Office there, enough to upload a blog post, read a few Facebook posts, but not enough to upload photos. Relishing in the atmosphere as the supply boat offloaded supplies and the community gathered by the pier to collect their goodies. By the next morning any fresh fruit and vegetables were already long gone….
* the anchorage in the bommie field to the west of the south pass of Fakarava atoll. Even though we didn’t get in as much diving as we would have liked we did pop ashore during breaks in the weather to walk on the lovely pink sand beaches and enjoy the tranquility and isolation here.
* drift diving through the south pass, Tumakohua, at Fakarava. Stunning coral, particuarly in the shallows, plenty of reef fish, huge Napoleon wrasse, large schools of brown mottled grouper and the ‘wall of sharks’
* donning our rain gear at 6.30am one Sunday morning to head in for the morning service at the oldest coral church in the Tuamotus at Tetamanu village, south Fakarava. We had been told that attending church services to hear the locals sing was a real treat. On this particular morning one of the cruisers had organised to sing. Despite the ‘service’ being attended by only 2 locals, ourselves and the cruiser and her husband, we were not disappointed. Leslie, a former professional singer has the most beautiful voice and we were treated to her moving rendition of Ave Maria.
* the lovely leisurely 28NM sail, under headsail only, up through the Fakarava lagoon from the south pass to the north, where we anchored just south of the village by the Havaiki Pearl Farm and Resort. IMG 1015, 429 Much of the east coast is protected by landmass so, although we had plenty of wind to sail, we had no swells. When we arrived in Fakarava north we treated ourselves to a few goodies from the local minimarket and some fresh fruit and vegetables from the street stall. Provisions in the Tuamotus are few and far between and any fresh produce all but disappears within hours of the supply boats entering the villages!
* the brief but fast drift dive at Fakatahuna pass on Toau’s east coast, where I felt like Mary Poppins as I hung on to our dinghy rope and flew through the water from depths of 5 to 20 metres. By the time Eric had kitted up and entered the water to join me the drift dive was almost over!
* the wall dive on the outer edge of the reef on Toau’s north coast. As we headed to the marker buoy for the dive spot we were accompanied by a group of spinner dolphins leaping out of the water & spinning right alongside the dinghy! Wow! The last time we were treated to spinners was in northern Zanzibar many, many years ago. What a treat! Then we arrived at the dive spot, tied our dinghy to the marker buoy and went down the buoy line into a caldera of coral swarming with myriad small, colourful reef fish. From here we swam over the edge of the caldera across to the wall. The wall dropped off as far as we could see and it felt like we were falling down, down, down. The weirdest feeling! One minute we were in 10 metres, the next we were in 30! And sooo many beautiful fish, many of which we don’t recall seeing before. (Unfortunately, no photos, as my latest underwater camera got swamped with water at the south pass in Fakarava, when the door to the battery compartment managed to suddenly pop open when I went for a quick snorkel after we had been wandering around the village taking photos. I am certainly destined not to be an underwater photographer, having lost my previous Nikon when I enthusiastically jumped in the water in Bonaire last October and suddenly found myself at 25 metres with an 18 metre camera! Having replaced that camera with a GoPro in Bonaire, which is good to 40 metres, this was stolen along with heaps of other stuff when we were robbed in Colombia less than a month later…. )
Well when I started this post we were in Tahiti provisioning and preparing for the Pacific Puddle Jump Rendezvous this past weekend, 24 – 26th June. This is an annual gathering of many of the yachts that crossed the Pacific from various points in the Americas, as a celebration of our achievments, a chance to reconnect and meet both cruisers and sponsors, enjoy French Polynesian culture, traditions, food and hospitality. On Saturday we all sailed (motored actually!) together across to Moorea, where the party continued on Saturday evening and all of Sunday.
The Rendezvous event was a fun weekend of activities, socialising and showcasing Polynesia and other countries across the South Pacific, all put together by a consortium consisting of the Tahiti Tourism Board, Latitude 38 sailing magazine and a host of other contributors and sponsors. It was an excellent weekend and we would like to say a big thank you to all the organisers and sponsors.
After a few days winding down here in Moorea and getting some long awaited cleaning and boat jobs done, we will head off to visit the other Society islands, before Eric’s visa expires on 18 July and we’ll move on to Tonga…..!