May 2010 - Page 2

May 13-17, 2010

Passage to Tuomotos - 4 days; 21 engine hours; 450 nm--0 fishing lures!

Our passage from Ua Pou to Tuomotos brought lots of variety. It was our slowest passage ever. The first two days we sailed with the spinnaker in 9-11 knots of breeze, then the wind died and we had to motor for 1.5 days. Then the wind picked up to 17-19 knots in squalls. We unfurled the genoa only as we thought we might get there too early. We spent the night going 2-3 knots. In the morning we put up the main sail but had to tack back and forth with took more time. We had one moment of drama (of course) when I was at the helm to reef the main and I accidently tacked the boat instead. This meant that all three fishing lines trailing behind the boat got caught in the propellers!!! Chris cut them off but there was still the worry of having them caught in the starboard propeller, we will most likely need all our engine power to get through the pass. We spent that last two hours motoring directly into the wind and waves.

The Tuomotus used to be known as the "dangerous archipelago", because their many shallow reefs and strong currents made them very dangerous to navigate, especially since the islands could not be seen from a great distance. It was amazing when we first spotted Rarioa, all we could see were a few palm trees sticking out of the ocean. I thought people can't possibly live here, it's in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

Once we arrvied at the pass it looked like a boiling cauldon with many large standing waves. There was no way we were going through that so we decided to wait a half hour before trying again. While we were waiting Ryan spied a fish behind our boat, it turned out to be all three of our lures trailing behind the boat!! We brought them back on board, (Chris was very happy) Chris dived under the boat quickly to cut off the line while the rest of us looked for fins in the water, honestly you'd think we were from Australia with our concern about sharks! We motored with both engines over to the pass and noticed that it had calmed down considerably since the last time and we made it through at slack ebb tide with 4 knots against us.

Our chart plotter was exactly dead on. We have never had so accurate charts. The French have been making a huge effort to update all the charts for French Polynesia so lets hope all the charts are this amazing. Also there was bearing marks and excellent channel markers. the Tuomotus used to be "real" islands, however over time, they grew fringing reefs and the islands themselves gradually wore away leaving only the fringing reefs which are contintuing to grow. The coral atolls are on average only a few metres above sea level. There are 77 atolls scattered over an immense stretch of ocean. The Tuomotus were international news many years ago as it is here that the French government decided to do their nuclear testing on an atoll called Moruroa. The other things they are known for are pearl farming and having lots of resident sharks.


We made it to the anchorage, the reefs and coral heads were easy to see and the channel to the anchorage was marked (green and red opposite here then what we have been used to). It was on this atoll that the Kontiki raft finished its epic voyage from Easter Island in 1947. Some years later Thor Heyerdahl’s wrote and published his great advetnure story, and became an international bestseller. We have this on our list of reads now that we have been here along with South Pacific by James Michener.

About 25 ramoras and shark sucker fish immediatley took to living under the boat along with a few black tip reef sharks. The water is so clear you can see down 25 feet. Everytime we throw anything overboard the swarm of ramoras goes for it. It is very entertaining. But didn't make us want to jump right into the water and go for a swim.

On shore, there is one very tiny little grocery store with not much in it and one little confectionary store. We thought we would contribute to the economy and bought two packs of cookies, I'm glad we didn't buy more as it cost us $14.00 Cdn!!

Every day we brought in our skateboards and rollerblades. They had a nice paved road that had been recently built and it went around the whole village in a big square. The kids played with all the local kids every day. All the kids wanted to try our rollerblades and skateboards.

We met a local man named Regis with a seven year old daughter. He spoke English well. He told us to come tomorrow and he would show us around the pearl farm where he works. We didn’t put the engine on the dingy and have been rowing back and forth. There has been no wind at all, completely dead calm but we have been keeping our eye on the weather to see if it going to change at all.

One day we went in with an extra pair of rollerblades for Regis' daughter to try. But of course all the kids wanted to try them, it was a little chatoic. We went to the pearl farm and the big boss was there, the mayor of Makemo!! He had just got back from Montreal, he is working with some Canadians to put in the first wind generators (windmills) in at Makemo. These people are not as remote as we seem to think. So we talked to him for a while and he told us to come back tomorrow morning at 1000 to see the graphing of the oysters. Supposedly, this job is not for everyone, it is a very skilled job and the lady who was doing it here was brought in from China. The mayor of Makemo ran a small oyster farm in the village but farther down the lagoon we found a huge oyster farm. There were lines and lines of buoys in the water and a whole operation on shore. As we were dingying around the lagoon we saw traces of past oyster farms that have been abandoned all over the place. Quite a hazard to navigation.

On our last afternoon in Rarioa, we were invited by Regis to come over to his house for bbq'd pig. His friends had killed the pig that afternoon so they had a big pot out back and they had cooked the pig in it’s blood with rice. He gave us some Hinanos, the local Tahitian beer and we had a bowl. It was quite tasty actually I just couldn’t get past the blood part. Then we sat around and all of his friends played instruments like ukele’s and sang, I played the spoons. The house is right on the beach. The kids collected crabs on the beach and then had crab races with them. They had lots of fun. The next day we decided to give his daughter one pair of our rollerblades because she enjoyed them so much and wanted them so badly. She was very happy.

May 22, 2010 - Raroia, Garumoa Village, Tuomotos to Makemo, Tuomotos (Passe Arikitamiro) --80.23nm

It was an overnight sail to Makemo. You need to leave the pass at the right time and you have to arrive at the next pass at the right time so there is no dashing about between atolls, it all has to be well planned out.

Makemo is much larger than Raroia and the administrative centre of five atolls. The town looked kind of dingy and dumpy to me, I'm not sure what I was expecting.

We are starting major water conservation now. Water conservation#1. Only wash dishes once a day. Water conservation #2. No more rinsing with fresh water after swimming or snorkelling. Water conservation #3. Do not wash coffee cups until end of day. Label glasses with name and reuse all day. Water conservation#4. Wash hands with salt water at all times. Water conservation#5. No laundry.

We took our bikes in and biked to the airport. It was so calm that we were able to fit everything and all of us in the dingy at once. It was about 20 km both ways. Very flat but very very hot. Could see both sides from the road, the lagoon side and the ocean side. Pretty cool.

We went into the village to find Becko. We were told by our friends who were here last year to find this artist and get some of his carved pearls. He was covered in tatoos and he is also a tattoo artist. The same Polynesian designs on his arms are what he carves into the black pearls. After quite a lot of misunderstandings we ordered some and they were beautful, they are very intricate and detailed. He uses a dental drill and the work he produces is magnificent. We were glad we found him.

May 26, 2010 - moving to the Eastern end of the Atoll hopefully will be a more protected spot--11.47nm

Our calm anchorage is no more, the wind has picked up and the waves are rolling in. We hauled up the anchor in 20 knots of wind and along with Totem and Capaz, we motored into the wind and waves for two hours, however the farther east we went, the smaller the waves became. We dodged quite a few coral heads but they were pretty easy to see and anchored in the most spectacular spot, it was drop dead gorgeous and it was a calm anchorage. We put out 3 fenders on the anchor chain which seemed to work great in keeping our chain off the bottom. The water looks super clean here, this was a good idea. When you see a travel magazine for a secluded South Pacific island this was it (except the island part)!

We met everyone at the beach and walked to the end of the motu. We had a lot of fun beachcombing and collecting shells. I found a float for the anchor, 2 big plastic floats, one with a fishing hook on it and lots of pretty coral and shells. We walked to where the waves were crashing onto the coral reef. Pretty wild.

Chris went snorkelling with the guys to spearfish for dinner. He found 2 small fish. It was very yummy. On some atolls there is alot of ciguetera or there are some fish that you can't eat and some that you can but on Makemo there isn't any ciguetera, you can eat anything. Chris bought a spearfish in Panama and tried it out for the first time, he ended up spearfishing everyday and we never got tired of eating fish. It was so delicious and tasty. One night we had a potluck on Stray Kitty and devoured the last of our fish. The next atoll, Fakarava has ciguetera so we won't be catching any fish there.