We left Hurepiti without incident and planned to provision for the voyage at Uturoa the capital of Raiatea and the second largest town in Polynesia second to Papeete. The harbour is quite small and having forgotten it was Saturday and changeover day for the charter fleet we could not get in so sailed on toward Farooa bay further south along the east coast of Raiatea. Yet another magnificent bay, large and empty and oh joy some government buoys as well . There is a river at the head of the bay so of course we had to gunk hole up and explore .It was trip that proved very fruitful in more ways than one as we met farmer Andre who showed us his farm on the river bank and taught us about the plants and then gave us a huge bunch of bananas.
The next day we prepared for the forthcoming departure from the tranquillity of the lagoon into the boisterous pacific ocean and after a days provisioning in Uturoa we finally made the exit through the pass into the Pacific . Of course the swell caused the usual rolling which we had to get used to again but soon after departure dark clouds gathered and the journey suddenly seemed much less attractive so we easily agreed to opt for plan B and pulled into Huahine for shelter. We needed three tries at anchoring despite going directly for our previous anchorage spot but this did not prove as good holding as last time … ?
The following morning the sky looked better so we left early before getting too used to the easy lagoon life again .We headed north east with a south easterly wind . It was quite rough and the wind gusted to 30 kts not so great when beating into it . The next day was continuous squalls with rain as well so decidedly unpleasant but at least we were making progress towards Tikehau By 2.00 am the next morning conditions had calmed and we tacked up and down waiting for dawn to make the approach to the pass into Tikehau lagoon . Luckily there is an anchorage just outside the pass and it was fascinating to watch the pattern in the water at the pass entrance as the outflow from the lagoon poured into the ocean. In rough seas and strong winds a lot of water enters the lagoons over the coral reef and can only get out through the pass , this results in a very strong outflow , often strong enough to oppose the incoming tide delaying low water slack and the incoming tide by one or two hours or in some atolls abolishing it completely .So although we had tide table data this does not exactly predict the true timing of the flow of water in and out of the passes . The currents can be very strong so it is vital to time entry and exit correctly and this indeed took up many ( happy ! ) hours of debate .This time we had the luxury of being able to watch from a safe anchorage exactly what was happening to the water and so we glided in smoothly and safely .
We stayed in Tikehau until 7th august enjoying the extraordinarily relaxed life style of the atolls .We bought freshly baked hot baguettes and croissants from the boulangerie every afternoon and hired bikes from the supermarket and cycled as far as the motu ( coral island ) would allow . We found an excellent pension where we ate poisson cru au lait du coco ( raw fish in coconut milk ) a delicious polynesian dish and had some good chats with the owner .We did a day trip around the atoll with Gilles and four Italian honeymooners ,and picnicked on the famed sable rose, again poisson cru au lait du coco .We visited Ile des Oiseaux which lived up to its name ,and later saw giant manta rays . It was hard to drag ourselves away from such a delightful place just the right mix of basic necessities and pristine natural beauty .
There was the usual anxiety about the pass and we waited until our calculated time watching the water and luckily we were safely through.We sailed along the north of Tikehau then Rangiroa the largest atoll and both gave us some shelter from the southerly swell . Once clear though the wind and swell picked up but we could make the course north east to Ahe our next destination.
Ahe is a small atoll and once inside we could see the coral rim all around us. The journey was uneventful but again we had to sail up and down waiting for dawn and the correct time to enter the pass. Ahe was much quieter than Tikehau but surprisingly the shop was open on Sunday morning but sadly no boulangerie on the atoll. On closer inspection it was rather more untidy and run down than other atolls, maybe because it had been hit by a cyclone a few years before and had not recovered. The beaches were less pleasant littered with lots of fishing debris and the inevitable plastic bottles. We had anchored quite far out as usual as we were always worried about getting the chain tied up around coral heads of which there are many in these waters and for the next few days the wind blew so hard we were unable to get ashore again . If we had perhaps we would have discovered more beautiful parts of Ahe but there were no restaurants or pensions to enjoy near the village . The generator impeller had broken during the journey and so we had time to replace it being boat bound.We left on the 12th august and once again managed to time the pass safely .We headed to Fakarava the second largest atoll in the Tuamotos. We had been here last year with Malcolm and Glynis and really enjoyed it but we had missed the south pass so wanted to try and see that as the snorkelling and diving there is legendary.
We had a pleasant sail overnight towards Farakava passing Taou and Apataki atolls and reached the main pass into Fakarava slightly too early so tried heaving –to and waited for the inflow to begin at our calculated time . Heaving –to is rather tricky on Baringo with the slutter rig as the solent jib is not quite enough to balance a double reefed main but we managed to drift at about 1.5 kts which was preferable to sailing at 7.00kts . It was curious that Baringo seemed to sail fast when we wanted to go slowly ! We entered the pass (which is the widest in the Tuamotos )slightly earlier than we had calculated only to find the inflow was well underway and we were pushed in at 9kts.
We made our way over to the village of Rotoava and anchored very near our old spot from last year . The colours were spectacular and there are beautiful overhanging tress lining the lagoon a much softer look than the ubiquitous coconut palms.
We found our old friends Aldric and Stephanie at the very welcoming Fakarava yacht services and had the usual cups of delicious coffee while using their internet . We stayed put for a few days swimming off the boat which baby sharks soon adopt as their home living under the hull appearing only when scraps are thrown overboard .They are harmless black tipped sharks but still I prefer not to take the goggles while swimming around the boat . We hired bikes and found the wonderful PK9 beach totally unspoiled and deserted with wonderful coral and fish in clear turquoise water just a few meters off the beach . We saw the old lighthouse on the way back an easy landmark on the atoll in daylight but no longer functioning.
On Tuesday 18thAugust we motored to the south pass about 35 miles away .Luckily there is a well buoyed track but we still kept a good lookout for any shallow water with coral reefs .We followed the coast of the atoll passing one beautiful deserted beach after another each edged with brilliant turquoise water.We anchored off Motu Hirifi at the SE corner and much to our surprise found a restaurant on the beach there and met Liza and booked dinner the following night.
The next day we woke to a northerly wind which meant there was some swell in the lagoon but we could still swim and had a walk along the magical tropical beach before our delicious supper chez Liza .Sashimi followed by grilled parrot fish and frites and we had an interesting chat with Liza who is so hospitable and friendly .We discovered that her son in law who was there is a diver which was very reassuring as there is always the worry of getting the anchor chain around coral heads and there was certainly not much other help here.The next day brought black clouds and rain so we moved to anchor close to the south pass with the intention of leaving Fakarava through this to try and get to Tahanea an uninhabited atoll just to the south . The weather did not improve and the wind remained strong around 25 kts and our dinghy excursion to the pass did not inspire confidence as there water was chaotic with eddies and currents. We decided against the legendary drift snorkel but found some beautiful living coral and plenty of fish just off the beach and felt much safer . The timing of the south pass exit was taxing to say the least . We needed daylight, slack water and a light wind to avoid any wind over tide which would create large standing waves in the pass ! So in the end we decided discretion ….and headed for the wide north pass to exit. It was another pleasant sail through the lagoon and a quick anchorage in Rotoava to wait for the correct exit time but then the trouble started. After a pleasant and refreshing swim to set ourselves up for the night sail to Tahiti we could not get the anchor up, yes it was wrapped around a coral head and time was ticking by towards slack water for the exit. Finally with some gentle coaxing it came up and then almost immediately we were in less than 1.0 meter depth over a previously unseen coral reef, alarm bells all round but we miraculously just missed hitting it. Shaken and Stirred we motored to the pass and made the way through just before dusk still in slack water so it was out into the night and the ocean towards Tahiti to meet Vanessa and Antony for their holiday aboard Baringo .