Manihi to Tahiti - 16:17.10S 148:03.18W

Alex Belmont
Thu 5 Jul 2012 00:29

The week seemed to pass really fast on Manihi. We thought we would only stay
for a few days, but of course couldn't get away. On our second day on the
island, we saw a catamaran wandering carefully through the lagoon and
eventually towards us. It turned out to be our friends Sarah and Chris on
Tumbleweed. The next day Doug and Zulayka on La Luz showed up, and the day
after that Robin from Katydid made it into the anchorage. We all had a
really good time hanging out, snorkeling, playing on the beach, drinking
rum, etc. No one really wanted to leave, but I think we're all ready to get
to Tahiti to do some surfing, and party a little bit.

Also hindering our departure was the fact that our anchor chain was terribly
fouled on big coral heads. Since we dropped anchor during a weird north
wind, and then proceeded to swing three-quarters of the way around a
complete circle, it was no surprise that the chain was stuck on some coral.
We could hear it scraping and grating as the wind shifted. After scrubbing
the hull I dove on the anchor to see just how bad it was. The chain made a
270 degree turn, wrapping around six different coral-heads before finally
meeting with the anchor. Sometimes you can dive and wrestle the chain free
from snags, but not in nearly 50 feet of water. I could follow the length of
the chain and get a good idea of how it was stuck in one breath. Diving 50
feet and pulling heavy chain around on the bottom is a different story
though. Anyway, with the good idea of how and where the chain was stuck, I
was able to free it all with a bit of work and some trial and error. I
worked on the bow and told Rose what to do at the helm. The usual procedure
was for me to pull up the slack and then tell Rose to put the transmission
in forward with the wheel to one side or the other. Then we would gradually
increase to speed of the engine until I felt the chain rumble and pull free
of the snag. I'd then take up the slack again and start on the next bit. It
was a tough process, but it could have been much worse.

After getting our anchors up, the three boats (Robin is waiting one more day
to leave) motored slowly down the channel towards the reef pass. You may
remember Moondance had a more exciting entrance than I would have liked, so
we all wanted to wait for slack tide before braving the pass again. We had
all given ourselves lots of time to get the anchors up, knowing it might be
really tough, so we got to the pass about 40 minutes early and after seeing
the water rushing out we decided to circle slowly until the slack-tide. A
local boat - a 20' outboard skiff - came and told us that it was a good time
to go through even though there was still lots of water moving. Moondance
went through first. It was a wild ride. We went screaming through the narrow
pass, whirlpools and boils trying to spin the boat around the whole way
through. It was fine, and all three boats made it through alright (though La
Luz took a serious wave caused by the overfalls on the ocean side of the
pass), but I don't think I would try it again without waiting for the tide
to truly go slack. There is a big difference between a heavy cruising
sailboat with a little engine and a light skiff with big outboards. I guess
the local guy didn't realize this when he told us it was the right time to
go. Next time we'll judge for ourselves when the time is right to attempt a

Beautiful sailing now - beam reaching at 5.5kts. Tumbleweed
has pulled ahead, leaving just a bit of their rig still visible over the
horizon, which is to be expected of a 42' light-displacement cat sailing in
the company of small heavy monohulls. La Luz is a bit behind us, but not by
far. Just about 25 miles until we pass between Rangiroa and Arutua, giving
us a straight and clear line to Tahiti. The GRIB we downloaded last night
shows good wind for the rest of the passage. Let's hope it's true so we can
make a nice swift passage to Tahiti.


More perfect sailing. Last night the wind went a little lighter, but we managed to maintain a speed of a bit over five knots. La Luz was able to catch up to us in the lighter air, and we sailed in close company under the full moon for a little while. They took slightly more westerly course than we did later in the night, and by this morning I couldn't see them on the horizon. The wind built a little this morning, pushing us along at a nice easy six knots. At this rate we should get a stunning view of Tahiti tomorrow morning as the sun comes up behind us. I don't think there will be any 4th of July fireworks over Tahiti tonight, and in any case I doubt we will be close enough to see them at that point, but I'll keep an eye out. Not a very French holiday to celebrate, but everyone likes an excuse to shoot off fireworks, right?

Exactly a year ago, I was rounding Cabo San Lucas aboard Orianne, just setting out on my first Pacific crossing, rushing to avoid a cyclone and dodging line squalls while watching the fireworks show over Cabo. What an exciting time that was. Since then I've sailed 12,000 miles. Wow, a bit surreal how much has happened and how far I've come in just 365 days.