Astra Blog: Tuamotus (Part 2) 28.06.08 - 04.07.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Mon 14 Jul 2008 18:40

Astra Blog: Tuamotus (Part 2) 28.06.08 – 04.07.08



Makemo 28/06/08 – 02/07/08


We had left Raroia just before dark in order that we would cover the 80Nm distance to Makemo by sunrise the following morning, so that we might be able to navigate the pass with the sun behind us at close to slack water.  Unfortunately the weather had other ideas.  The wind that had been very gentle when we departed quickly built and remained stubbornly between 25-36 knots.  Normally we would have been delighted, but it meant that we were pushed along at such a rate that we arrived in the dark at 0400 and had no other option than to find somewhere to anchor outside the pass.  This involved approaching to within 60 yards of the land to find water shallow enough to anchor in and then dropping the stern anchor as well to hold us off the beach.  After snatching a few hours anxious shut-eye Jeremy and Ash awoke at 0630 to try to up anchor and enter the lagoon.  Although they managed to raise the bow anchor, they were completely unable to move the stern anchor.  The remaining crew were called from their slumbers and while Sally held Astra in position, it took every ounce of strength Ash, Jeremy, George and Charlie could muster to lift the chain, CQR anchor and a large coral head to the surface.  The chain had somehow managed to wrap itself around the unfortunate bit of coral (which was luckily dead coral) and Ash had to be lowered into sea for an early morning bath to unravel the mess.


Having negotiated the pass without mishap, we anchored inside the lagoon at 0830 off the town of Pouheva.  Sally, Charlie and Ash wasted no time in heading ashore to find bread and investigate the town.  It did not take long before they found a shop that sold beer opposite a terraced area with seats and a table.   Delighted with this discovery, they radioed Astra to say that it was safe and before long all five of us were sipping cold Hinano with the locals.


It was not long before the conversation turned to pearl farming and the boss’ wife brought out her collection to show Sally.  The cheerful ambience continued to grow and before long we found ourselves surrounded by locals with whom we attempted to communicate in a variety of languages with mixed success.  The party was well underway by mid-afternoon and by sunset George and Ash had almost mastered Polynesian dancing.  Unfortunately hunger forced us to retire early to Astra.  However, we made up for this by doing it all again the following night!


Relieved that the weekend was over and that normal service was resumed, we managed to track down and book a dive with the elusive Scuba Makemo.  We were taken just outside the pass in about 20 metres of water and had a very pleasant dive in fantastic visibility.  We were treated to grey reef and black tip sharks, outstanding coral and many fish including a lion fish and some large skipjack tuna.  We were even joined briefly by a dolphin frolicking near the surface.


The following morning, we awoke early and motored around in circles so that Alfie could get to grips with the new gyro auto pilot Jeremy had fitted.  Fortunately he is a quick learner and it only took a few minutes for him to master the new system, which is lucky as there were ample coral heads that we were slightly concerned he might suddenly take aim at.  Once sorted we left Pouheva and headed 25Nm through the lagoon to the other pass.  To avoid the numerous uncharted coral heads, Ash spent 4.5hrs on the spreaders armed with radio, polarised sunglasses, sprite and a baguette.  Although MaxSea showed most of the coral heads surprisingly accurately, there were several submerged ones which we had to weave around and there was a near miss when Jeremy accidently wandered off below with the radio!


At 1311 we anchored safely just east of Passe Tapuhiria.  There is no village at this pass, but all went ashore to investigate and enjoy a much anticipated game of boules and some snorkelling.  The place was rife with sharks, but Ash, George and Charlie found them to be utterly indifferent to their presence.  Which is more than can be said for a remora (sucker fish) that desperately tried to attach itself to the snorkelers and had the three of them trying to outswim the little pest all the way back to Astra!


The following morning, Ash, Charlie and George gave Astra’s hull a much needed and very thorough scrubbing under the watchful gaze of a rather bemused shark which Charlie neglected to tell the other two about.  After a delicious lunch we re-anchored Astra in Passe Tapuhiria itself and took the tender to the edge for a high speed “drift snorkel” at fish o’clock (roughly 1630).  We were treated to many sharks very close up, some so close in fact that the more ‘sensible’ members of the shark snorkel expedition decided that it was time to summon the tender which was on standby a few feet away.  The roller coaster ride finally had to be cut short as the tide in the pass had gone from slack to flowing at more than 2 knots in just 30 minutes.  In the same time, the depth in the pass increased by five metres.  Not keen to find out what would happen in the next 30 minutes when the current would reach six knots plus, we decided to leave early and set sail for Kauehi.



Kauehi 03/07/08 – 04/07/08


In sharp contrast to our trip from Raroia to Makemo, we had a very slow sail to Kauehi in about 10 knots of wind.  The advantage of this was that we were all able to have a sensible nights sleep and arrive at a sensible time in the morning in daylight!


The village of Tearavero was very pleasant and the locals friendly, especially the policeman who got dressed up especially just to stamp our passports!


The next day we motored over to the pass to enjoy some snorkelling with the usual wildlife and managed to get some good shots with the under-water camera.  This was followed up in the evening with a top notch beach fire and bbq accompanied by a fantastic sunset.