After all the fun at the S end of Fakarava, the weather gods decided to spoil things by bringing in the first foul weather of our time in the Pacific. A big low came up out of Southern Ocean and whilst the islands to the S of Tahiti got the majority of the rubbish, we had two and a half days of nastiness too.
The day before it hit, we left Pokokora Yacht club at 0700hrs and ran N the 8 miles to Rotoava, chased hard by two boats who obviously had been thinking about the free buoys at the village too. Not that any of us would admit to any feeling of competiveness in the constant trimming and the occasional suggestion of taking shortcuts across questionable depths as we charged up. We got the last one, much to the disgust of the next boat in, 10 minutes behind us. I will admit to feeling a little smug as we tied on to a well cared for 30 ton buoy, knowing we would be fine on it and not having to worry about wrapping chain around a bombie as the wind twirled around as the Low passed through.
I can’t say it was tremendously comfortable aboard and Lou and the kids generally got ashore to spend time at Fakarava Yacht Services or the Pink Slushy Bar, trying to avoid moving during the frequent periods of torrential rain. However, when the wind went into the S and we had a 30mile fetch, I was very glad not to be one of the boats that had chosen to anchor in the NE corner. We spoke to a few of them and all required an anchor watch as they got severely bounced around, the seas breaking on the reef 100m behind them. Mary Ann II’s dinghy became awash, losing its oars in the process. John and I dived to recover them in 40’ of water. I was a little disappointed about our lack of bottom time as we landed directly on top of them. My dive computer registered a dive time of three minutes.
Once the wind went back to the E, we had a wonderful calm. It took two days for the weather to right itself and reestablish the easterly trades.
In the calm, we cut hair and kept the fish under our keel well fed. Lou hasn’t bought a mirror so I’m still getting away with my rough clippering – Vidal I am not……. We discovered a craft fair that the locals had set up for themselves and we had a great time learning how to weave coconut leaves and make flower headdresses. Lou came away with a small black pearl necklace at a somewhat better price than you would find in the shops. Halvard bought out the entire stand of necklaces for men and then we had a go at making our own from oyster shells, the dremel and a saw. We shaped out a hammerhead shark and a more typical hook type affair that Polynesians would then decorate with a tiki and a single pearl. More practise required but both turned out pretty well.
We took the chance of some last minute shopping and then, joy of joys! Another kid’s boat appeared in time for Halloween which was to be our last night at Fakarava. El Nido with Olivia, David and the girls Kali and Gaya, are a Belgium boat who have been out only 7 months. They decided early to concentrate their time in the Pacific. Since leaving Europe the first place they have really slowed down being French Polynesia. They will sell and return home in 2018, intending to sail no further than Australia – much like ourselves.
The kids had a fantastic time, all dressed up and the locals thought it was great that the we had got involved. This was the first time Fakarava had celebrated Halloween and boy, did they go to town. The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven with the quantity of sweets the wonderfully friendly islanders handed out! The parade started by the school and travelled the length of the village. Hannah and Eleanor were filled up with yet more sweets by Halvard and Ann-Helen on our way home. We will be dealing with sugar rushes for days.
We had a day at the SE pass which proved to be a very easy entrance about an hour after low slack. Wide and with plenty of water underneath us, we sailed in, sticking to the S side of the pass and anchored at 15 55.973S 145 53.188W in 20’ of water. David, Olivia and I returned to the pass and dived on the edge of the wall, looking down the 2000’ drop-off. We saw some huge tuna, schools of snapper, good reef fish and the odd Grey Shark. The outside wall and sides of the pass had good coral but the centre stretch of the pass was all dead which suggests that it has been swept clear in the past. We tried to drift through and turn S towards the boats but the bottom current had a strong surge which pushed us N. We came up, tired of the effort required just to keep us on the side of the channel and found even with 1+kt current that we had only managed to reach half way through the pass. Sadly my dive computer went wrong too and ceased working at 20m down. I wasn’t happy. I finished the dive latched on to Olivia like a puppy dog. Although I have changed the battery, it seems that the original battery leaked and has damaged the internal components. I tried it against another two wrist computers and it lasted just 15 mins and was under reading depth by about 20%. I’ll be writing to the manufacturer.
El Nido’s recovery to us was short lived as Gaya, their 5yr old, found out to the cost of the nail on her big toe and a lot of blood that the anchor locker is not a place to play hide and seek…….. She was very brave but a bit lucky that that was the extent of the injury. Hannah was mortified. Thankfully, cuddles from Mum and the odd sweet or two from the Halloween collection seemed to help matters and after a calming period, we went back to El Nido for a very pleasant evening.
The next morning, with no time to waste, we moved on up to Anse Amyot, a false pass at the N end of Toau. As we left the SE pass, supposedly at the end of the outgoing tide but probably a little early, the standing waves were the worst we have seen. Breaking and up to 8’ in height, it was very unpleasant and it was obvious why some of the guide books don’t recommend a visit to the inside of this atoll. Thankfully we were able to keep close in to the S edge of the pass, right by the reef, avoiding the really nasty stuff but we had to go 1.5miles offshore to get around the race to head N. Our view is that the slack periods in the pass we observed were fine for transit. As always, you just need to time it correctly. The photo below hopefully gives you a feel of the foulness we managed to claw past.
We raced up the E side of the atoll under parasail with El Nido following up behind us and the 20 mile trip took just over 3hrs. It was a lovely, easy, lazy ride and we needed to touch the Parasail’s sheets once only. Touching 9kts at times, even the speed machine El Nido with her asymmetric flying, gybing back and forth, couldn’t beat us in. I just love that sail!
We picked up one of the moorings, right by the reef and arranged for us to have dinner ashore with Gaston and Valentine, the owners of the pension and the buoys, the next night. Mary Ann II arrived the next morning, quickly followed by Wilhelm who, on finding the doctor would not be at Fakarava for another month to fill any more steroid prescriptions for Halvard’s duff knee, saw no point in staying there. It took 15 minutes of chat between us to arrange one last dive with them, John and El Nido on the wall a mile W of Anse Amyot. It was a good dive but what are called caves in the Toamotus Compendium proved to be interesting depressions instead and my torch was not required. We saw lots of Moray Eels and a few enormous tuna floating in and out of our view, a little off the wall.
After seven months of constant cruisers, Valentine wasn’t keen to set up one of her famous banquets but Gaston provided fish and a BBQ pit, we provided the rest and we had an excellent night. We choose not to eat the Jack and the Parrot fish although Gaston said both would be fine and proved it by munching through both of them. We stuck to the Red Big Eyes which were good too
The girls found a huge bowl of misshapen black pearls from the days Gaston ran a pearl farm and Valentina gave each of the kids three from the bowl the girls are holding up! The kids’ night was rounded off by way of a funeral that was held for the poor departed soul of a Hermit crab that had been stood on. It was buried with full honours.
The next night we had one last BBQ on the beach with Halvard cooking an enormous lump of beef that they had picked up at Fakarava. Everybody had some and there was still slices left over. With the crews of El Nido, Mary Ann II, Wilhelm and another UK boat that arrived that evening, Asolare with Peter (78 yrs young) and Charon on board, it was a lovely way to sign off our travels in French Polynesia for this year. The goodbyes were long but cheerful on our last morning and we hope to see Wilhelm, who also will haul out at Apataki, just before we go.
We headed towards our final destination, Apataki, on 5 Nov. It seemed strange to think that it will be our last sail of the year. We decided to make it a good one.
Up went the Parasail!