To Tuamotus

Bill and Caroline
Fri 7 Jun 2013 17:22
A final farewell to the Marquesas and the journey to the Tuamotus begins with a weather forecast of lightish winds strengthening on day 2 of the 4/5 day passage. Sailing slowly away from the islands with S/V Spruce, clouds masked Ua Pou's impressive spires. The boulder beach (walked along the previous day looking for pebbles of flower rock - minerals crystallised in the rock look like flowers) had been breached by the torrent of water down the valley over night creating an outlet for the river into the sea. 
Heading for Kauehi, one of the atolls in the Tuamotus, chosen out of hundreds of atolls because of easier access in most weathers, fishing lines were trolling through the seas, bread was made while the passage of 500 miles slid slowly  by. Cooking lessons were undertaken and the resulting choc chip cookies consumed during night watch, it's important to keep up one's strength. Fishing was productive and the newly appointed cook undertook more duties producing a Rick Stein speciality. As predicted, the strengthening winds strengthened and then strengthened some more. The passive Pacific had turned and ahas providing an element of challenge and excitement….Sails were reefed and reefed some more until only a tiny scrap of genoa was driving us along, still at 7 knots (which is quite fast). Brown boobies flew around us, seemingly playing in the squalls. Decisions about landfall needed to be made and pilots, charts and information sources consulted and discussed with sailing companions, Spruce. 
Another atoll, Apataki, was to be the final destination with its northern pass through the reefs protected from the SE swell. The atoll islands, at first light and sight, resembled the San Blas islands of Panama. Long low palm covered islets with strings of white sand along the breaking surf. Timing, as ever, was essential, with low water just after dawn and slack water 5 hours after moon rise - the best (and sometimes only) chance to get into the atoll lagoon. Currents can run up to 20 knots through atoll passes  making them unnavigable unless entered at slack water. Entering just before slack water with only 2 knots of current was straight forward with the whirlpools, eddies and overfalls more of interest than concern. Once inside the atoll lagoon the protection from the seas and swell was noticeable, although the long atoll allows waves to build up over the length of the lagoon and a flat anchorage was not to be. It was however, very welcome after 48 hours of near gale. Just need to find the pearl farms now as it's not a good idea to park too close….