22 April 2019: Les Sables Rose, Fakarava
Well we stayed where we were yesterday and probably had our most social day ever: breakfast on Cassiopee (banana and chocolate crepes … delicious); snorkelling and mid-morning chat on Mango; lunch on Chanto and then a sundowner dinghy drift with six boats to round off the day. After leaving Tumi about 8.30 in the morning we finally returned about 7.30 in the evening. Fantastic fun.
We are moving to the north end of Fakarava today in readiness for heading out the northern pass and on to Toau in the next couple of days and in the hope of getting some fresh supplies. We're not very hopeful about the supplies … the supply ship visits once a week on Wednesday so we might have quite literally missed the boat for last week's delivery!
21 April 2019: Happy Easter from Fakarava
We ended up staying 4 nights near the Tumakahoa Pass, it is scenically so beautiful and the snorkelling so awesome you never want to leave! We snorkelled the pass again on the 18th (fantastic) and had plans to do so on the 19th but the morning dawned wet and windy, and with the grey skies thrown in, the snorkelling wouldn't have been that good. So instead, in the company of four other boats, we motored an hour east to the famed Les Sables Rose, a heavenly pink sand beach backed by palm trees and surrounded by a turquoise lagoon, the stuff of South Seas fantasy.
We hosted sundowners on Tumi that evening, fitting thirteen into the cockpit, the largest group yet. When we waved off the final few some give hours later we were pooped but it had been a great night.
Yesterday I was taken paddle-boarding for the first time by friends on Mango. It was pretty hard work paddling against the wind and small swell but a good workout (my muscles are aching a bit today) but such a peaceful way to get around. We were scouting for a good site for the afternoon's beach BBQ and discovered that there was actually a fire pit and rudimentary seating we could use. Yet again Tumi saved the day being the only boat with portable BBQs and charcoal and twenty-two of us merrily cooked, ate, drank and made merry from mid-afternoon until well after dark. We were joined by three dogs, one boar, one sow and about ten piglets, snuffling around the bbq camp looking for scraps and things to eat … one pig rather liked the taste of Paul's toe!
Today is decision day. We have to be in Rangiroa by 27th April to pick up Jon and Hannah on the 28th and hopefully to buy some food before they arrive! We definitely want to visit Toau, just north of Fakarava, and visit the village on Fakarava itself (some 30 miles north of us) and had wondered about Ahe as well but time is running short. Decisions, decisions!!
17 April 2019: Fakarava, Tuamotos archipelago
True to my word I joined Paul this morning on a drift snorkel through the Tumakahoa Pass. Because of the strong current snorkellers and divers have to take certain precautions: snorkel on a flood tide when water is moving into the lagoon rather than out of it; choose to snorkel around slack tide when the current is at its lowest flow; attach lines to the dinghy and effectively drag it behind you so you have a means of getting back to where you want to be and not where the current wants to take you. And that's not to mention the number of sharks in the pass: it's not known as the 'wall of sharks’ for nothing!
As for the experience, all I can say is wow! Amazing! Astounding! The variety and number of different coloured fish blew my mind. It was truly like swimming in an aquarium, there were fish everywhere. Huge groupers, 2 to 3 feet long pipe fish, angel fish, parrot fish of the most irridescent hue and so many more. And as for the sharks, approaching an hundred, a mix of black tips, white tips and reef sharks up to about two metres in length swimming within a few metres of us. Sometimes it looks as though they are swimming directly towards you, which is a bit unnerving I have to say, only to veer away at the last minute. The whole experience was so good we repeated it three times, marvelling at everything we saw in the crystal clear water.
We went to explore the small village in the afternoon and we're pleasantly surprised how nice it is, the Victorian church in particular which has coral garlands and chandeliers decorating the ceiling and an altar made from mother of pearl. There are no roads, just palm-tree lined grassy avenues between the houses, all very green and verdant to say there is no natural water supply apart from rain. Solar panels provide much of the energy, and a cell phone ttower the communication, sticking rather incongruously above the palm trees!
Boats are obviously the lifeblood for the villagers, used to catch fish, reach the main village 30 miles north of here and receive supplies. The supply ship, which comes once a month, arrived mid-afternoon and several village boats set off to meet it, returning with timber, petrol, food and drink and even nuts for the pigs! Everyone in the village seemed to be involved in the fetching and carrying, rolling barrels of petrol away, stowing the food supplies.
It's interesting to see the rush of the water in the pass when it is flowing out … waves build up and swirling eddys stretch fifty or metres or more from shore. Definitely not the time to arrive or depart!
16 April 2019: Fakarava, Tuamotos archipelago
Another overnight trip, this time sailing thank goodness, brought us yesterday morning to Fakarava, the second largest atoll and one reknonwed for its diving and snorkeling. There are two passes into the lagoon and we decided on the south one Tumakahoa which, while considered more tricky, got us straight to the diving action. There used to be a village here and the old coral chapel, built in 1867, still remains but most of the inhabitants have left for the north of the island. A few remain to work in the two pensions offering accommodation and food to the increasing number of divers coming to this remote outpost to dive the pass.
Three other World ARC boats were already in the anchorage and it was nice to catch up with our Aussie friends on Resolute 2 and Cabana. Ken, the skipper of Ressie, was celebrating his 60th birthday and we were invited to join the Tahitian themed party that evening. Donning our most suitable outfits from our somewhat limited wardrobe we had a hilarious night, kicked off by Ken turning up dressed as a transvestite Tahitian dancer, complete with make-up, coconut bra top and sarong. He looked a million dollars!! He’s very kindly taking our torn parasailor to Tahiti for us for repair on the 17th April so there is a chance it will be ready by the time we arrive.
Today Paul went off snorkelling in the pass with friends off Mango with me deciding to stay on board given the number of sharks in the water all around us! They're black tips and supposedly don’t have seals (and therefore humans, a similar size) on their menu but all the same I was very apprehensive. Given the strong current in the pass, the technique is to drift-dive (snorkel) by taking the dinghy to the outside of the pass on a flood tide and then, attached to the dinghy by a line, drifting with the current along the reef back into the lagoon. They repeated the experience twice and all returned to Tumi blown away with the fish and corals, urging me to give it a go tomorrow. I've said yes … in for a penny, in for a pound.
14 April 2019: Tahanea, Tuamotos archipelago
An overnight motor saw us arrive at the remote and uninhabited atoll of Tahanea, a series of palmtree covered motu surrounding a crystal-clear lagoon. We anchored off the old deserted village, apparently still used in copra harvesting season, and within thirty minutes were visited by a local man, the only inhabitant of the island, who notes boat names and keeps a tally of how many yachts visit the island, presumably on behalf of the authorities as he completed official looking forms. In 2018, 50 yachts visited … we said it was remote! It turns out Makemo, our previous landfall, got 41 visiting yachts last year, a very small percentage of the global number of sailing vessels.
Unlike Makemo which had a reasonable size village with decent-looking modern facilities (school, church, health centre and even basketball court!) Tahanea has no such luxuries. The island used to be permanently inhabited but the harsh landscape of coral made it impossible to sustain life. No obvious dock or roads for transporting produce exist and quite how the one inhabitant survives is beyond us … presumably he fishes, eats coconuts and periodically receives a delivery of dry goods. A very simple and lonely life but one he chooses.
After a few hours sleep on arrival we felt refreshed and while Paul checked the dinghy repair (it had taken but as is typical with leaks in a seam, another one had appeared alongside it so he patched that one too) I started preparations for hosting dinner on board that evening for two other boats. Given there were four other World ARC yachts in the anchorage we felt a bit bad that we couldn't invite everyone but Tumi isn't big enough to accommodate 15 people for a meal. So we dinghied over to our immediate neighbours to make our apologies and suggest an alternative: we would provide the food and but host our dinner party on their much bigger yacht! Torsten, the German owner, jumped at the chance and so all fifteen of us enjoyed a great evening with the added advantage that we didn't have to wash up (in fact Torsten has two, not one, dishwashers on board so it was soon all clean and tidy with minimum effort). Given all the big yachts and catamarans on the fleet with their little luxuries, it sometimes makes us feel like the poor relations! But whatever the boat size or sophistication we're all enjoying the same amazing adventure and everyone is great fun.
A beach BBQ was proposed for yesterday afternoon …. providing someone had a portable BBQ. At last, Tumi and we came to the fore … maybe no dishwashers or washing machines, but two portable BBQs so the fifteen of us were able to enjoy a few hours ashore! Everyone took along their own meat to cook and drinks, plus a large side dish to share, and alongside the clear waters, watching black tip sharks and a shoal of beautifully coloured Parrot fish, we chatted and laughed our way through a delicious feast.
The next leg to Fakarava is about 75 miles and the timings of slack water both there and here on Tahanea give 12 hours grace. Two of the boats are left at first light this morning but we and two others are going to enjoy one more day here and sail overnight this evening. We’ve changed anchorage to.one just off a reef the other side of the entrance channel, very Robinson Crusoe. Palm trees,, blue skies, turquoise seas, you get the picture. Once Paul's Reiki clinic is finished (two clients yesterday, two more today) we will enjoy snorkelling the reef and having a relaxing afternoon in this little slice of paradise.