Rangiroa was to be our last atoll in the Tuamotus. I’d love to have spent more time exploring more of this huge group but it would take years to do so properly. Next time with a compressor onboard……
One problem that I encountered when renewing my nav info for the year was that the wonderful Tuamotus Tidal Guestimator had not been updated in the Soggy Paws website. This was a bit of a blow. I managed to download the NOAA info on Rangiroa tides and then cross checked it against the WXTide32 programme I had and found that the two didn’t correlate. Typical.
We arrived at the pass of Rangiroa I thought about on time to find a great big dive ship waiting on the outside with the tide still howling out and big standing waves evident at least half a mile from the pass. I had a chat with the Captain who agreed with my data, added another reference which appeared to be as equally wrong. We agreed we would be waiting a while to get in. Remember my post on “The Vagaries of Tuamotus Tides” ?? It applied! After over an hour hanging around, a dive school rib came over and the local suggested we would be able sneak in if we stayed close in to the E side of the pass. Punching about 5knts of tide, thankfully in flat water out of the race, we were able to do so. The dive ship waited another 45mins before the actual slack.
The bay at Rangiroa was empty other than our old friend Soren of Taranga who had arrived a week before to do some diving with his new crew,Magnus, Fleming and Nico, a good bunch. We picked up one of the free moorings @ 14 58.930S 147 38.106W provided by the town just off one of the posh hotels. We quickly moved to another buoy 300m W in deeper water as the original, very close to shore was too sheltered from the winds and we weren’t getting power. We dove on the new one and found it to be heavy and in good order.
It was just as well that we did move. A couple of days into our stay we had a localised gale which roared in on us out of the W with no warning and nothing in the forecast. 30+ miles of fetch and 35+kts of wind gave us a short, very nasty sea and both Taranga and ourselves were thrown around violently. Our dinghy, down but padlocked on, snapped its security cable and I was required to get the canoe down, quickly surf down to the dinghy and stop it before it hit shore. Not much fun at all in the dark but we were lucky we felt the cable snap and were able to save the dinghy and engine from being smashed up. The gale blew itself out by the morning but the weather wasn’t settled Trades. The sky, at times, could only be described as steel in colour.
Eleanor and myself found a handy dive shop to fill our bottles and the Aquarium, a dive area inside the Tiputa pass, unaffected by the current which had a maximum depth of around 15m. We managed to get six dives in, gradually spending longer underwater as Eleanor’s confidence, buoyancy technique and stamina improved. A highlight would be the huge Moray eel that came out and nuzzled the camera, hoping it was food.
I also did a dive on the pass with the Taranga crowd. A little different to anywhere else I had been, you drop into the blue and descend to around 35m and hang 30-50m off the bottom, waiting to see what appears. We got a glimpse of a Great Hammerhead, solitary and huge, well below us on the floor and then were surprised when half a dozen Scallop Hammerhead appeared in full hunting order. When you can see the eye stalks you know they are a little close.
They charged in at us fast, thankfully realised we weren’t for eating and quickly turned away in search of better prey. Watching a full size Manta ray swim over me as we did our 5m safety stop at the end of the dive was magical.
Life around the anchorage once the weather settled, was pleasant. We became a roosting place for Sooty Terns and we watched the local kids practise on the big 6 mans canoes around us. There was a pretty good supermarket a 10min walk up the road where we could get bread at 0830hrs every morning and we got together with the Taranga crowd most days. We even ended up in the big hotel enjoying G&Ts at the beach front bar, eating a drizzle cake that the girls had made to celebrate Nico’s birthday. The only trouble with Rangiroa is it is too big and spread out. It certainly felt the most touristy of all the atolls we have visited. If we had more time and had explored away from the passes (and therefore the tourists), perhaps I would feel differently but other than the pass diving, I could enjoy everything here at any of the other smaller atolls.
We made friends with the owner of the cafe/bar/restaurant at the pier that provides pretty good free internet for paying customers. Lily is a character. A widow, her husband a French soldier killed in Afghanistan, she set up the place on her husband’s island rather than go to her home, Madagascar where they had met. She was a cheerful flirt and buzz-ball of energy and their son is in the same mould. Toue, Etan, his best friend and Hannah quickly came thick as thieves and had a great time. Hannah handled herself with aplomb whenever they said goodbye, done in strictly French fashion, in which Toue was very enthusiastic in doing!
Lou was very keen in moving on to catch the boat kids we had seen in the Marina at Tahiti. We said our goodbyes again to Soren and wish him luck in his next endeavour somewhere as yet unspecified in the Far East with the liveaboard dive boat he and his friends are planning. We will stay in touch and I hope to dive with him again one day.
Seeing no great change in the outlook but suspicious of the inaccuracy of forecasts in what we had experienced the previous week, we left to a forecast E at 15-20kts for the 210mile reach S to Tahiti. Life is never that easy. We came out and immediately hit 25+kts and that didn’t significantly change for the whole trip. With squalls hitting 38kts, lightening storms all around us through the night and an average of 25-28kts, we alternated between 2 and 3 reefs and charged along. Our second to last hour run of 10 Nm as the seas abated in the shadow of Tahiti and we approached the entrance to Papeete Harbour with 3 reefs and a hanky up is our best single hour run ever. Tahiti was largely hidden in cloud as we approached. Moorea looked magnificent!
We arrived at last light with the sun setting over Moorea 10Nm to our W. We crawled through the narrow pass by the airport, waiting for clearance to cross the end of the runway, to the mooring ball fields at Marina Taina and tied up.
The noise and lights of the city of Papeete told a story. Skylark, after looking after us for so long in the boonies, was back in civilisation.