Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Anchorages... Fakarava, Tuamotus, June 8, 2010

Anthem anchored inside the south pass at Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotus
June 2010

Over the past eighteen months we've anchored in some pretty amazing places and met some pretty amazing people, including single-handed sailor, Jack, aboard Anthem (Cabo Rico 38).
We "flew" with Jack through the pass on an outgoing tide just minutes after we dropped the hook and I took this shot.

I should explain... the south pass of Fakarava Atoll teams with sharks (mostly friendly) and the most incredible array of exotic fish. As the tide rushes in and out through the narrow passes into the lagoons of the coral atolls in the Tuamotus, divers and snorkelers drift through with a sense of flying over the coral. It's truly out of this world.

Each week when we can wrangle a wifi connection we'll post an anchorage shot from the past. Hope you'll enjoy revisiting some of the most amazing anchorages with us.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards

Galapagos lizards are many and varied.  My favourites are the little lava lizards with their gorgeous orange throats and multi-coloured scales.

Marine iguanas are good swimmers.  While snorkeling we saw them swimming down to the rocky bottom to graze on seaweed.

Lazy land iguana

Snackin' - nasty surprise ending for this lava lizard.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Sea Lions Everywhere

What would the Galapagos Islands be without sea lions? Less smelly in parts but not as much fun.

Sea lions hang out wherever they like; in dinghies, on boats or on the boardwalk, sometimes even on the rocks, the beach or in the water!

On land, adult sea lions won’t let you get too close but in the water, they’re curious and swim right up to us. The young ones don't appear to have any fear of humans but they may give you a stern talking to if you get too close.

A highlight of our time in the Galapagos was swimming with some very playful sea lions.

Tuamotu Atoll Survival

Check out Owen's latest video.  shot on location.; click here

Arriving in the Tuamotus, June 1, 2010

A bed of coral, view from the bow as we left Fakarava through the south pass

The 4 day passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus was a challenge, with alternating light winds and squalls with wind gusts in the forties. The highest we recorded was 46.8 knots. That makes for a busy passage with frequent sail adjustments, putting in reefs, shaking them out, full sails, minimum of sails, the whole works. At one point we were doing about 6.5 knots of speed under bare poles when we were trying to slow down to make landfall in daylight. The grib files downloaded before we left did not hint at these conditions. We found out later that the French forecast did. Vive Le France - we'll be brushing up on our french weather language.

Nights were difficult even though we were reefed down. In the dark we couldn't see what was coming. On the last night we were tossed from side to side as the wind direction shifted 180 degrees. During a period of about a half hour we felt as though the wind was pinning us down. We still do not know exactly what hit us except to say the conditions were extraordinary. The South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) has moved over the top of Tahiti and the Tuamotus. We'll try hard to avoid it as much as possible.

As we neared the atolls we tried to slow to enter in daylight. Kauehi was a welcome sight on the morning of the fourth day. We entered the pass on a full tide and 25 knots of wind on the nose. We pushed the engine hard for only 1.6 knots of speed against the wind and current.

Bristol Rose is the first boat from the left, Kauehi Atoll, Tuamotus

Finally, inside the lagoon, the anchorage was one of the most calm and restful we've ever experienced. We were anxious to see Lilith. Jackster, Inspiration Lady, Anthem, Wonderland and others were still out there making their way to Kauehi, having left the Marquesas a couple of days after us. Jackster came in the next day, having experienced similar conditions to us.

Richard and Krista, s/v Lilith, exploring Kauehi

Anchored beside us later in the day, Lilith seemed more like a giant to us than her diminutive 27 feet suggest, a little boat with a big heart. Krista had radioed us in the early hours of the morning during one of the wind squalls with "What are you doing out on a night like this?". Good question, we really had to laugh. We were only about a mile apart through the worst of it. It was good to hear another voice and we kept a close lookout for each other and stayed in radio contact.

Pearl farm

The black pearl industry is in decline in French Polynesia. We visited Gunter's pearl farm on Fakarava where we got to see up close the grafting and harvesting process. The black pearls are grown inside the black lipped oyster, hence it's name. The pearls come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. We could not resist purchasing one or two of the beauties.

The shark dive boat heads out to the north pass, Fakarava. Diving with hundreds of sharks is a guarantee!

Making our way through the pass at Kauehi we sail easily out of the lagoon in better conditions than when we entered.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Underwater, Chasing Sharks

Snorkeling the south pass at Fakarava in the company of blacktip sharks.

Living coral, close up

The sea bed in the pass is crammed with coral and fish of every color

All underwater photographs are taken by Elliot, who is not afraid to chase sharks for a picture!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Strike While the Wifi is Hot!

We can't blame this tropicbird for hitching a ride into Papeete. The weather was not the most pleasant during the last night of our passage from the Tuamotus to Tahiti.

It was a surprise to share our cockpit with a tropicbird. Poor thing wasn't feeling too well after hitting the mizzen mast and falling into the cockpit with its beak full of baby squid. After pooping all over the place and having a rest during the night it flew off as the sun rose and we sighted the island.

Sunrise reveals dark clouds all around us.

We've been busy in Papeete. Moving Bristol Rose from the anchorage at Marina Taina the 5 miles to the dock in town has helped us to get a lot done.

I don't want to jinx myself so I'll just whisper my joy at finding a connection that I can work with. Wow, it's been a long time, months, since we've been able to cruise the internet without cursing.

Diego checking out the surf breaking on the reef at Marina Taina, Tahiti

Time to catch up with all the things to do while connected, like email, blog updates, banking, forwarding mail, ordering stuff, you know, just being normal. We know what it's like to live without wifi - difficult.

A fine collection of dock party animals

Flora, the best party planner we know. Alex's 26th and Elliot's 21st. Thanks Flora.

Guys, you might want to think about sharing your birthday cake with the other guests.

Tom, Kim, m/v Emily Grace with Di and Gerald, s/v Whiskers, mixing it up for the camera

Alex and Ross, s/v Bubbles. We wonder how Ross is doing back at work now.

No reliable means of communication and then there's the worry of family and friends when we are silent for too long. Thanks for keeping an eye on us. Not being able to communicate via airmail through the SSB has been a big problem but we think we have a solution worked out until we can buy a new computer (with an English keyboard).

The market in downtown Papeete where you can buy fish to eat, shells, pearls and pareos to wear, fruit and vegetables, flowers, a cold drink, breakfast, lunch, carvings, etc.

So while we're in a hotspot, I've scheduled a few posts for coming weeks including an "anchorages" series, images from our time in the Galapagos, plus Elliot's underwater photographs.

Surfin' Galapagos

Nick getting in deep

Checking the break at Corolla, San Cristobal, from our bow

The water taxi drops us right on the line up

Robert, after almost 20 years without a surf!

Robert from s/v Freedom

Thanks to Ross aboard s/v Bubbles for the great surfing shots.