Tuesday, 29 June 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.
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.