Another day, another atoll

Fri 5 Jun 2015 20:05
16:51.684S 144:39.925W
3 June 2015
After a couple more days in our private heaven
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we returned to the village of Pouheva, Makemo,on 1 June and moored to the dock next to Let It Go.  All the other yachts that had arrived before we went off five days ago are still here in the harbour, waiting for the wind to drop – wind we hardly noticed where we had been.  So, it felt more like a marina than a desert island.  After quick resupply of essentials (mainly bread and beer) we set off the next day to Punaruku, some 10 miles west inside the atoll, only to find that four of the other yachts have the same thing in mind.  No worries, there is room enough for all of us here – the atoll is huge, 35 miles by about 8 miles, roughly rectangular in shape, and full of bommies.  This time we had a new, improved lookout team, Bungles up the mast!
but after a couple of hours up there, he needed sustenance so a ham baguette and sprite were sent up
The other yachts quickly appreciated the advantage that we had and fell into line astern behind us
On arrival at Punaruku we went ashore to meet the locals
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The place was crawling, literally, with these large hermit crabs.  Apparently they are edible, but rather hard work for very little crab meat so we didn’t harvest them.  What we would like to find are the coconut crabs which are an even larger version of the hermit crab – so large that it can’t find a shell big enough and it survives without this protection.  Punaruku is a deserted village but there is not much vestige remaining; all we found was a couple of walls and a graveyard.  There is a large reef off the beach that provides protection for the anchorage as well as great snorkelling.  Tempted as we were to stay longer, the wind and sea had subsided so we decided to take advantage of the conditions and head off to Tahanea, some 50 miles from pass to pass.  This is rather a tricky distance to navigate, taking into account both the tides for the passes and the need to arrive and leave in good light.  The only way for us to do that was to take 18 hours to sail 50 miles, an average of only 2.7 knots.  Fortunately the gods were with us; once we were back in the ocean again, the wind dropped to 5 knots, just enough to fill our sails, and we sailed through the night in flat calm conditions and slowly making our way under a nearly full moon without the need to take actions to slow our progress.  However the dawn,
although spectacular, brought cloud and rain, and as we approached Tahanea the visibility and conditions were less than ideal.  However, we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins which had fun swimming and playing in our bows.  Always a lovely sight.  A quick decision was made to alter course from the main pass (under the rain cloud) to the eastern pass (in the clear) and we were able to make our way into the lagoon while stemming the 4 knot outgoing current in the narrow channel and then find a spot to anchor among the countless  bommies that dot the shore.  The water was crystal clear and the conditions glassy smooth making it easy to pick out the rocks as well as all the gorgeous fish.
Now this is what I call a secluded spot.  The atoll is uninhabited although there are a couple of “villages” comprising a handful of huts that are used periodically during the season to harvest copra.  The atoll seems much smaller although it is still 25 x 8 miles because there are few motus and mainly bare reef.  We are the only boat here and we are very excited to explore and to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the land and sea.
This morning at breakfast there was a large clunk as something bumped hard against our bathing ladder.  We rushed to see what had happened and saw a very large fish under the boat.  This was briskly identified by our on-board-marine-biologist, Lulu, as none other than a Bump Head Wrasse – very aptly named!!