Under the stars of the Southern Hemisphere we set sail for the atolls of the Tuomotus Archipelago – 3 days and 2 nights of some of the roughest sailing conditions we have seen for many months…back to the days of pirouettes around the boat and extreme caution when opening the fridge door for fear of being struck by flying food stuff! At night we would have snacks available to keep hunger at bay (very little food prep was being done due to the conditions) packets of Scotch Finger biscuits and assorted muesli bars….one night James was on watch and an alarm went off at the steering pedestal. Without glasses on or head torch alight he returned from disarming the noise to the protection of the cockpit and dug his hand into a container of peanuts. Unable to get any out he upturned it into his lap but unfortunately for him it was his water bottle!
Timing your arrival to your chosen atoll is imperative and we sailed through Makemo pass at the right time and even then the current was strong. Once inside the lagoon, we hoisted Rachel up to the first spreaders to keep an eye out for the myriad of coral outcrops (bombies) and slowly made our way to our anchorage about 8 miles from the entrance. The South Pacific delivers here in Makemo, some of its most remote and idyllic settings in this area. To top it off, just up the white coral beach, a BBQ and traditional hut with an old table inside made for beach barbies and a bonfire set the tone for our days ahead. Negotiating the bombies in the dinghy was a whole nother matter, particularly after a few sundowners on the beach! In the dark one evening we hitched a ride back to our boat with our friends from Meteorite…Hugh sped up once we were many meters off the beach when Andy turned to tell him to slow down. Too late! He was catapaulted spear like into the bay with torch and grin still in place. Our laughter rang out loudly across the lagoon.
Slowly but surely we have been making our way, sailing and enjoying this amazing region. We had to make a dash to Fakarava to get Rachel on a plane back to the UK to visit her sick uncle so James and I have been sailing two up since the end of May. This has meant a lot more work for both of us on the boat but has certainly helped in honing my skills both sailing and cleaning!! In Fakarava south we dived “The Wall of Sharks” – indescribable! Holding on to the coral 20 meters below the surface of the pass with 3 knots of current ripping through the small inlet into the lagoon from the ocean and all above our heads were hundreds of sharks with their gills open swimming into the fast moving water oxygenating and preparing for night feeding. Hundreds of other varieties of fish, marine life, and coral abound making the diving and snorkelling here top class and if I ever go missing you will find me here!
There has been only one other experience that has surpassed this…at Rangiroa we were lucky enough to be up close and personal with a female dolphin in 10 meters of water…not just stroke, but cuddle and rub her whole body from head to foot as she stood on her tail vertically in the water with eyes closed as if she was in a massage parlour and in seventh heaven. We had been told about this particular 2 year old dolphin – her mother had given birth again and she had been sidelined and craved affection. Never in our wildest imagination did we think we would be lucky enough to come in to contact with her.
Dinghy exploits are worth a mention also – particularly as my family well know my previous horror stories about driving the tender from “True Blue”! Firstly, “Winkle”our new dinghy is fantastic! Press a button to start her, power tilt, electric pump to clear any water intake etc, etc! As we have not had access to any marinas since we left Panama City, dinghy transport is very important. Unfortunately not all outboards are as easy to handle as ours and there have been several occasions when the girls have had issues while in transit! One evening, Nicky from “Calliope” collected 3 ladies (including me) for a book club meeting onshore in Nuku Hiva. Once we were all onboard she successfully started the outboard and put us in forward gear…but we went backwards and in ever increasing circles. Husband Charles was delivered to the dinghy to sort out the problem admidst the laughter and hilarity. Debbie, Janice and I also hit a coral reef after returning from a successful dive in Fakarava south…the dinghy and outboard from “Meteorite” mounted the reef late in the afternoon when the sun was going down and there we sat! We did manage to drag her off the coral but were not able to start the motor – oops! To the rescue – James and Hugh! The only problem was a piece of coral had become lodged in the propeller and once removed we were good to go. We, the girls, were proud of our ability to get the boat off the reef and not panic…our clear thinking and the hand held VHF saved the day! Of course there was much mirth post event (and a few giggles during).
Our passage back to modern day civilisation, Papeete in Tahiti, was slow and uneventful and our time here is being spent working on the boat and daily visits to the local Carrafour (French supermarket) – just to marvel at the array of food available and to buy fresh baguettes every day. We have been starved of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Tuamotus and actually had tomatoes and salad items flown into Fakarava to allay the cravings! The lack of decent internet connection (thus this very late post and lack of communication) is now sorted and sated.
We look forward to welcoming the Steffos and Mare Kirk on to the boat in early July – our first visitors since Sal, Will and Theo left us in Antigua in January!
Addendum – apart from our wonderful crew of Malcolm Bamford, and Lloyd and Sarah Clark who helped us safely across many nautical miles of ocean!!