Astra Blog: Marquesas to The Tuamotus 22.06.08 - 25.06.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Wed 9 Jul 2008 09:31

Astra Blog: Marquesas to The Tuamotus 22.06.08 – 25.06.08


We made a split second decision to leave the Marquesas Islands and head for the Tuamotu Archipelago. Whereas the Marquesas Islands proffered high mountain scenery, the Tuamotus consist of atolls, each only as high as the tallest palm tree. Some members of the crew were excited by the prospect of not having steep hills to be marched up!  


It was a pleasant and straightforward passage of 475Nm of fishing, reading, sunbathing and the obligatory scrabble! We started on a close reach, doing a comfortable 8 knots. Sadly this was not to last: after the first 24 hours the wind speed dropped by a knot for every 30 Nm travelled southwards.


Fishing proved profitable. We caught four tuna (two skipjacks and two yellow fins) enabling us to eat tuna twice a day on average and still have enough to fill the freezer. It was important to stock up as the fish within the atolls in the Tuamotus are likely to contain the ciguatera toxin, putting them off the menu. 


The radar continued to keep Jeremy baffled as it has taken to alternating between functioning and going AWOL without apparent cause. Ash suffered the bruising consequences halfway up the pitching mast: a photograph of the radar’s particulars was required for the purpose of a Furuno agent’s remote analysis.


While Ash bounced off the mast, George spent several hours researching the Society Islands, our next Island group after the Tuamotus. It is a complex task that involves trying to plan our whenabouts and whereabouts in the Societies (containing amongst others Tahiti and Bora Bora) to the extent that anchorages are entered into the itinerary along with prospective bars, restaurants, excursions, etc.


Charlie spent much of the voyage resting, icing, compressing and elevating his injured ankle in accordance with the Ship’s Doctor’s orders. Fortunately he was able to take a break from this regime to knock up a delectable quiche.


The weather deteriorated as we approached the archipelago. The wind slackened meaning that our ETA at the atoll was such that we would have insufficient light to navigate the pass and would thus have to spend another night at sea. However, the last 24 hours of sailing brought a profusion of heavy squalls, the first of which hit during Sally’s dawn watch. The wind tailed off from about 20 knots to zero over a number of hours before shooting up to 28 knots in a matter of seconds!  This very dark storm cloud certainly had a silver lining: staying with us all morning it enabled us to progress at 9 knots, getting to the pass in the early afternoon and well ahead of schedule with the sun high in the sky to facilitate threading our way through the coral heads and into the atoll of Raroia.


Navigating the pass required a little preparation. Jeremy started by briefing the crew as to their various responsibilities, what to expect when we entered the pass, and the need for all being ready and in position. As the churning waters at the mouth of the pass came in sight we were distracted by some enormous dolphins at the bow. These beautiful beasts seemed to be in distress and were attempting to use the bow to detach large remora fish who were hitching a ride on their heads. It took discipline to prise ourselves away from this spectacle and ready ourselves to go through the pass, into anything up to 8 knots of current. Jeremy helmed while Ash monitored the situation from the spreaders. Charlie checked to see that we were on the straight and narrow from the navigation station while Sally and George used compasses and visual fixes to assist the smooth running of the operation.


After a few stressful minutes we emerged the other side of the pass, exchanging the ocean’s waves for the placid lagoon on the inside of the atoll. The change in sea conditions was reflected in a change in the weather; at 1500 we anchored in sunshine and turquoise water off the village of Ngarumaoa.