The Tuamotos A sail of four atolls 28th August –16th September 2014

We left the Marquesas on the evening of 28th August and the first night gave us a very confused sea with wind opposite swell which caused a curious and rather unpleasant twisting motion in the boat . Luckily this did not last for more than the first 24 hours but in exchange the wind died so we sailed very slowly but eventually had to motor . We had some rain and cloudy skies but the cocktails continued each evening with the sunsets.

The Tuamotos are a series of atolls very little land but a lot of water and what land there is flat coral and sand with coconut palms growing .Because they are so low lying navigating between the atolls can be hazardous but modern technology of GPS ,chart plotters and radar has significantly reduced the risk so making our journey possible .To enter the atolls we needed to navigate the passes which are natural breaks in the coral reef usually one sometimes two but they are narrow and because a large volume of water flows in and out with the tides significant current and eddies can develop so correct timing for entry and exit with the appropriate tidal flow is essential .

  • Atoll Kauehi   2.9.2014 – 5.9.2014

We timed our approach with the start of the incoming tide hoping it would not be too strong and just float us gently inside the atoll.The water looked fairly smooth initially so we went in and were suddenly taken by the tide reaching a speed of 8kts but otherwise a smooth ride .Once inside all was calm and flat as the reef shelters the lagoon from the waves making a wonderfully calm anchorage .It was about an hour motoring across the atoll to the small village of Tearavero where we anchored near brilliant turquoise water ,the colours were truly amazing . We explored the village meeting most of the locals and we found bread and a few other provisions . We hired bicycles the next day the perfect way to explore the flat atoll coral rim which had a track along it sometimes concrete but sometimes rough. We had a picnic on the beach ,swam and snorkelled in a deserted paradise .We were the only yacht here ! The 4th september was Malcom’s birthday so after a birthday breakfast we visited a pearl farm and had lunch with the owner surprisingly chicken cooked in imported crème fraiche but we were surrounded by 9 pretty puppies ! Apparently the grafting of the oysters to produce the pearl is done by Chinese who were on holiday back home …we decided this was a much pleasanter and healthier working environment than a factory floor on the mainland ! We swam and snorkelled and then rode back in the truck and visited the owners house to view pearls but all the best had already left for China so only low grade ones were left . We had excellent birthday celebrations with champagne and birthday cake and departed the next morning at 03.45 to catch the outflowing tide in the pass which gave us 10kts over the ground into some huge waves with a few loud slams .It is always worse going out as the water meets the wall of sea but we were soon on our way to the next atoll .

Kuaehi pass

Kuaehi pass

Kuaehi church and village

Kuaehi church and village

malcolm's birthday cake

malcolm’s birthday cake

  • Atoll Fakarava 5.9.2014 – 9.92014

Malcom caught a huge dorado soon after we left the pass so it was sashimi for lunch and fish for supper all very tasty . We entered the pass again carried in at around 10 kts with some turbulence but no major problem but there is no doubt these entries and exits are to be handled carefully .It was another hour across the atoll to the village of Rotoava and another beautiful anchorage with brilliant blue water and palm fringed beaches . Again we cycled as far as we could with the pounding breakers on one side and the flat blue lagoon on the other . We found a welcoming French family running a yacht services with laundry , internet facilities ,bicycle hire and excellent coffee ..what more could a yachtie ask for ? Again we cycled as far as we could with the pounding breakers on one side and the flat blue lagoon on the other . We swam and snorkelled and had an excellent dinner in the local pension the price of which included a fresh water shower ! The next day was surprisingly windy no shelter here from the wind only the swell so we stayed on board . We did some provisioning before the next journey the shops are much better stocked than we had been led to expect which was a nice surprise .

at anchor Fakarava

at anchor Fakarava

lunchtime restaurant Fakarava

lunchtime restaurant Fakarava

 

  • Atoll Toau 9.9.2014 -11.9.2014

We had an easy sail here until the final 2 hours when we had to motor due east into a strong headwind ,but we were well rewarded as the bay was spectacular . We did not have to enter the atoll through a pass as there is a natural bay in the reef, Anse Amyotwhich provides excellent shelter .There is a family residence here with a very friendly couple Gaston and Valentine who have thoughtfully laid moorings for visiting yachts of which there are about 200 each year .Again the colours were amazing and the snorkelling was a wonderland of shape and colour . Gaston and Valentine caught a huge number of fish in their traps while we were there because the cargo ship was due to arrive and take it to the dining tables in Tahiti .There was great excitement as the catch was unloaded as several sharks came to watch and eat the discarded fish much to the consternation of Valentine’s dogs who were barking fiercely when they approached too close . We left with 4 large lobsters for lunch !

anse amyot with leading beacons

anse amyot with leading beacons

catch at anse amyot

catch at anse amyot

shark scaring dog!

shark scaring dog!

dogs barking at sharks

dogs barking at sharks

 

  • Atoll Rangiroa  12.9.2014 – 16.9.20

This is the largest atoll in the group and the island of Tahiti would easily fit inside it.

We had a pleasant overnight sail here arriving two hours too early so had to wait for the slack water to enter the atoll through the Tiputa pass .It looked rather fierce as we approached but by the tide tables it was meant to be the start of the incoming tide and therefore the quietest so we entered expecting our speed to increase. Suddenly the opposite happened and our speed fell to 0.5 kt so we were clearly not on the inflowing tide ! It is at these moments we are thankful for the turbo powered engine so at high revs we stayed almost stationary for about 15 minutes inching our way into the lagoon . At last the calm water was under us and we were inside in peace and quiet . There were only a few yachts here and the anchorage was close to the pass in front of a rather luxurious resort . We hired bikes the easiest mode of atoll transport and we saw the extraordinary waters raging in the pass from the comfort of the land . We dined at the very French Relais Josephine overlooking the pass in which dolphins played and sharks could be easily seen in the clear water just under the verandah .The snorkelling was wonderful on a coral reef close by marked by the leading light into the pass with buoys to attach the dinghy all very easy! So the days here passed easily and pleasantly in the sometimes glassy calm of the lagoon. We were delighted to have to wait an extra day for the wind to arrive before we left for Bora Bora . This time we asked the local dive operator about the best time to leave to get a gentle outgoing tide which was 2 hours after the scheduled one! We had a calm exit the speed only rising to 8 kts and no slamming and we went out into the sunset into a huge flock of whirling black birds and were accompanied by a very large dolphin who played under the bow for about 20 minutes glancing up at us to check we were watching him ! A truly exotic departure party!

dinner at relais josephine

dinner at relais josephine

birds fishing off rangiroa pass

thousands of birds fishing off rangiroa pass

 

 

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