18th - 22nd July
We had a dreamy overnight sail from Makemo to Fakarava. Perfect sailing conditions; Force 4 winds from behind and what I would call "champagne sailing" - upright and slipping along nicely with our lovely newly cleaned bottom (thank you DJ Rumba!)
Entering the pass at the northern end of Fakarava was easy compared to both Raroia and Makemo. This pass is half a mile wide and the water at the lagoon entrance is deep. We entered under sail and then motored the short distance to the anchorage just inside the lagoon off a long stretch of beach with the town of Fakarava several miles along at the far end and the airport runway in between.
There were several boats in the anchorage when we arrived but we soon managed to pick a spot of what looked like a clear sandy patch. We dropped the anchor and set it before buoying the chain again.
We had a relaxing night onboard and a lie-in the following morning to catch up on some sleep before our next long passage.
Late morning we made ourselves a picnic of tuna pasta and set off to kayak ashore in our swimwear ready for a day on the beach. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon walking several miles along the beautiful deserted white coral beach with palm trees overhead and stopping to swim in the cool clear waters of the lagoon. It was a wonderfully relaxing way to spend our brief stopover in Fakarava and our one full days "shoreleave".
That night we cooked up some dishes ready for the next few days passage and unbagged our sails ready for an early start in the morning. Then we had an early night to get as much rest as possible in anticipation of a tough start to our passage to Tahiti.
We were woken in the small hours of thursday morning by the rattle and bang of the boat swinging 180 degrees as the wind shifted from north to south. We had been expecting this wind shift and fortunately we had the chain buoyed off the seabed with fenders so it was unable to wrap itself around any coral as it traveled in an arc with the boat. We had never experienced a wind shift like this when the chain is buoyed and we believe the boat swung very quickly without the chain dragging on the seabed. Fortunately we had managed to set the anchor in a very large patch of sand which made recovering it in a very bouncy anchorage at 0530am a little simpler. We managed to get everything up and back on-board without any hiccups. Because the anchor chain was buoyed and removing each of the fenders from the chain is easier with slightly longer arms; Jamie lifted the anchor whilst I helmed. Soon we had all our gear back aboard and were motoring back out through the very choppy; but fortunately lovely wide pass from the lagoon and back into the Pacific as day broke moody and overcast.
We had a very uncomfortable upwind sail in Force 5/6 winds for the first day and most of the night. Despite taking Stugeron I was feeling very seasick although the meds stopped me from actually being sick. After lifting and setting the sails I slept for most of the first 24hrs of the passage leaving Jamie on both watch and galley detail.
As we headed toward Tahiti the winds moderated a little and conditions became more comfortable. I surfaced from my sickbed looking a little less green and was able to get a bit more involved in life aboard.
Our nice clean hull and prop combined with the strong winds made for a very fast passage and we covered 240nm in just 42 hours.
As we approached Tahiti we could see the glittering lights of civilisation from several miles away. As we closed land we experienced a very heightened sense of sound and smell; I have never before smelt an island so fragrant from sea. It's not unusual having been at sea for a long time to smell "land" as you approach; the smell of grass predominantly. Tahiti, however, smelt like perfume; I joked to Jamie that I could smell the wealthy holiday-makers! We could hear the sounds of music drifting from the shores; it was late on Friday night and the inviting sounds of people partying pulled us to them.
Nearing midnight we approached Point Venus at the northern end of Tahiti and as we navigated ourselves clear of the reef we heard the distinctive sounds of dolphins guiding us in. We had chosen this spot knowing that we could arrive in darkness as it is a large open anchorage. I stood on the bow with a torch and we picked a spot to drop the anchor. We were able to drop and set the anchor quite efficiently into sand and without the problem of coral we didn't need to worry about buoying our gear. In the early hours of 22nd July we had our anchor down and despite it now being Saturday morning we had a very late Friday Night celebratory drink before climbing gratefully into bed.