Thu 6 Jul 2023 02:21
16 03.5S 142 21.5W
After a pretty hard pushed 3 days and 3 nights at sea with anything from 7 to 33kts, we arrived in our first atoll of the Tuamotos called Raroia.
It was interesting to follow other boats on marine traffic, many set off the same time as us and most ended up bearing off and heading further west, presumably for comfort given the 3m swell and wind just forward of the beam. We really did feel super comfortable in Moonshiner, at times we were down to 2 reefs in the main and stay sail, but I think we'd have been fine up to 35kts like that.
We had a few breaks on the way, the batten came loose from the harken track, the stack pack now has a very long tear in it, and the saloon table ripped out one of it's fastenings...more jobs!
As mentioned in the last blog, it's all about arriving at slack tide to pass through the narrow channel into the middle of the atoll. We have a 'Guestimator' which someone clever put together to calculate the flow rates and times of the HW and LW at each atoll. Depending on recent weather patterns, this can have a big effect on both timings of HW/LW and tidal flow because of waves crashing against the coral on the windward side and filling up the centre of the atoll.
Some of these atolls were used by the USA and France for nuclear testing as late as 1996! Check out the photo online of the nuclear bomb dropped on the Bakini atoll in the 1940's, it's pretty horrific what went on, especially when you see how beautiful and full of wildlife these remote atolls are.
We actually sailed very quickly and had to slow right down in the latter 12hrs of the passage reducing down to just a main with 3 reefs in order to arrive in the light. You can only really see the atoll about 4 miles away as they are only about 2m above sea level with a few palm trees on...what a contrast to the Marquesas which we could see 60 miles away! As we approached the pass, you could see an unbelievable line of overfalls where the tide was still pouring out. Now was definitely not the time! We watched and waited, 3 other boats joined us, and then one of the catamarans went for it but very quickly turned around. Eventually they had another go and suceeded, feeding back some advice over the VHF. We were definitely aware of our fairly underpowered engine and weight but had a bash despite significant ongoing outbound flow. As we approached, we had to keep her nose straight into the flow or we'd have been spun back around. We had about 5.5kts of tide and made 0.5-1kts SOG. It was pretty painful as we edged slowly forward aware of the coral ledges either side but equally exciting! Ben was very good at reading the water and directing us through the best route. The other two boats followed behind us, with one catamaran going straight over the overfalls, we thought he wasn't going to make it!
Once through it was eyes peeled for coral heads, none of which were charted so thank god we had good light. We headed to the eastern side to anchor behind the coral to protect from the fetch. The colour and clarity of the water is quite something, we anchored in 5meters right behind a little slip of sand with a single palm tree. The wind was still blowing 20-25kts but we had a great holding in flat water looking out to the pacific.
We couldn't wait to get back out foiling, especially with the nice flat water and clean wind (though Ben prefers the waves). The Swedish boat (Halberg Rassy 45) who we'd met on the previous anchorage arrived having set off just after us from the Marquesas. We invited them over for steak night which cost us most of our whiskey and a very bad head the next day!