Friday 12 June 2015

Tuamotus. Amazing!

Friday June 12th 2015

Ahoy there ! We are still traveling between atolls in the Tuamotus!! 

The sail between each atoll is usually done over night (as they are a close 40-60 nmiles apart and timing to leave one atoll in good light and/or tide, then arrive to the other in good tide or light) but we have to time our arrival just right with daylight to have the best visibility of the surrounding reefs. Sometimes this means slowing the boat right down or 'heaving to' (completely stopping) for a few hours in the night. 

An atoll is an old volcanic island which has eroded away leaving nothing but a thin rim of reefs with an interior large lagoon. Some of the breaks in between the outer rim offer us a safe passages (which thankfully have been well charted and marked for arriving sailboats. Still, when the time comes for us to enter the passage, it’s All Hand on Deck,  and quite exciting! 

Meg and Matt keeping watch when we enter the lagoon.


What you see when you look in towards one of these passages is a swirling, boiling soup of water , waves going in any and all directions and the current can be quite strong, it is an eerie feeling as your boat gets caught up into the current and suddenly your speed increases, you are being pulled in, and all your have to do is keep control of the boat , steer it straight and keep the engine going, just in case. Other than this little bit of steering control, you are quite at the mercy of the current for a few minutes, sort of like when the 'Millennium Falcon' gets pulled in towards the Death Star in Star Wars, except that instead of Storm Troopers and Lord Vader waiting for you at gunpoint when you arrive, you are welcomed by calm, ridiculously transparent, beautiful, aqua blue water. 

The dinghy dock at one of the rare "towns" found in the Tuamotus. This is the tiny village in Makemo.

The anchorages we've been to so far have offered great protection. The view never disappoints; the idyllic deserted island, palm trees, surrounded by 'bombies' (small reef outcrops). At night, the stars shine brighter than anywhere I've ever seen on earth and there is no one around! 

THIS is what we have to look out for while we are sailing in the  Atolls, there are many scattered all around us.

Because the water is so protected in these atolls, we have had some beautiful day sails. With almost zero swell, it is like sailing on a lake. Living onboard a monohull, we have grown accustomed to living while being constantly healed on one side, but these downwind sails have provided us with perfectly horizontal and steady ground to stand on, while still enjoying the fun of racing forward with the wind. The only think we have to be wary of are the many reefs, so one of us usually has to perch ourselves quite high in our rigging to keep a lookout. 

Mark finds a comfortable spot to look for reef. (Inside Makemo Atoll)

We have not been doing much fishing within the Atolls, as some reef fish have ciguatera (a type of food poisoning which is caused by an accumulation of toxins in the fish), but once back out in the deep, deep waters, we have thrown our lines in, but we have not had much luck recently, only having caught one large unknown fish who promptly jumped out of the water stealing our lure and swimming out of our reach before we even knew it happened! One day we were subjected to a particularly cruel teasing by a large school of tuna. They swam along side Amelie for over an hour, jumping on either side of us. We could see them clearly as they chased along side our hulls. We had two lines out and Mark even went to get a fishing rod and started to cast out towards them, and we caught NONE! Oh well, we still got to enjoy a delicious fish barbecue with friends on board SV Perry who were luckier and caught an enormous (5 foot) wahoo one day! 

Days have been filled with school, which is rapidly coming to an end (just a few more weeks before summer vacation starts!) and pretty spectacular snorkeling. It is amazing how quickly one adapt to sharing swimming space with sharks! There are just so many here! They usually come out to investigate when they hear our splash when we first jump in. They are pretty cool to see. Sure you get a rush of adrenaline (never fails), but then you see them gently swim on by. Occasionally they grant you a second or third visit to investigate you a little bit more, but nothing too alarming. We have mostly seen black tip (reef) and nurse sharks, usually in the range of 4-6 feet long, so not small, but harmless just the same. 

The reef fish are very colourful here, even more colourful, I think, than in the Caribbean, and there is a greater variety of all the species, just so many, its hard to describe. It is always a joy to experience this, it never seems to get old! 

A black tip shark in Tuamatous

Some colourful Clams in the Coral

‘Mark’, It rhymes with 'Shark'! A funny thing happened to Mark today as he was diving behind the boat (trying to retrieve a socket he had dropped while working earlier). He came up laughing telling us that a ramora fish (the kind you often seen attached to a shark's belly) was trying to attach himself to Mark (and or his weight belt) and I guess he was quite insistent about it. Mark had to push him away several times! We are slowly making our way across the Tuamotus, currently at Fakarava, on our way to the Society Islands (Tahiti) which we should reach next week. As always, we are sending you lots of love from this part of the world. 4Ms sailing 

Amelie IV anchored in Raroia

A tiny hermit crab, Raroia

View from the lagoon, with the Pacific Ocean in the background
Sunset, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

A close up of the Atoll, where we found the land crabs, Raroia

1 comment:

  1. I think I learn more from your blogs than I do from the Discovery Channel ; ) First off is that I'm going to have a substantial lump more of respect for Tuna when I eat it, considering it's apparently challenging to catch.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, you paint word pictures that are so brilliant that one need no photographs accompanying the imagination. Liking the swirling passages to Star Wars ... only a writer as talented as MC could pull that bit of brilliance off ; ) lol

    We are unquestionably watching, reading, praying, laughing and loving right along with you. Keep journeying. Keep writing. Keep laughing.

    Loving you from the heights of the skies to the depths of the seas ; )

    Us Up North