Atoms and atolls

Sun 8 Jun 2008 21:24
Date Sunday 8th June, 9am, Vicky still asleep!!
Location: Rangiroa, 14:54.3S 147:44.2W
Strong winds are keeping the 'our' cruising fleet here in the various atolls of the Tuamotus, all are wanting to move on to the fleshpots of Pape'ete on Tahiti. This is a little stressful for 'Fleck' as we are on a tight schedule to get to Tonga in a month, A lull is forecast mid week, but then strong winds return, and we may eventually have to get used to them, and steep seas. Personally I had quite enough of hat sort of thing three days ago, of which more later.
First these Atolls, like many first time visitors I had no idea that they were so big, but so empty: like the space inside an atom. Atolls are saucers of coral growing on eroded old volcanos. Growth at the margins, with the nutrients of the ocean is better and results in the rim of land enclosing the central lagoon. The encircling land is divided up into chains of islands called motus, with passes between which are typically less than a metre deep, but sometimes, fortunately, big enough for us and the island supply ships. All at the right state of the tide (See previous episode), of course! Here on Rangiroa the lagoon is more than twenty miles across, so you can't see to the other side, and it is like being in Dover Harbour, but with no harbour walls!!
Rangiroa is also 'developed' with a population of three thousand; and black pearl culture (we have visited a farm) is a major business, after tourism. We park our dinghy at the plushest hotel each day, and yesterday hired two of their bicycles to explore the Motu. There are over the water bungalows to rent at $750 per night. We get the same view for free, but at least the honeymooners don't get seasick!
Our overnight passage from Ahe was straight forward until we approached the 'pass' here at breakfast time, and were met with a wall of breaking waves across the entrance. Hasty recalculation from our almanac tables showed that we might be out in our approach timings by 8 hours and we spent the day 'hove to' out at sea in inceasingly uncomfortable conditions. Squalls brought strong wind and rain, periodically obliterating all the landmarks we needed for navigation. Just before dark the visibility improved for a time and we charged, over by now fairly flat water, into the lagoon. But at the anchorage (see above) it was nearly as rough and windy as 'outside'. Yachts were tugging at their anchor chains like demented dogs on their leashes!
I suspect that readers will not be feeling especially sorry for us. Indeed the swimming is excellent, and life is quite gregarious as we get to know more of our fellow travellers. Mostly folk are on the same time schedule, thus we keep meeting up whenever our paths cross: we are likely to be told that the Island that we chose not to visit was the best ever, and all that sort of gossip!
There is fresh food here on the island, and we have got used to the price hike, we even afforded a snack bar lunch out yesterday, with wonderful views across the water and tropical fish and rays feeding below, just like being on your own yacht!!
Richard and Vicky