The Tuamotu Atolls - like bowls with a crack in their rim through which you can sail to the inside and ENJOY!!
16 30.36 S 145 27.36 W
We arrived here at this Tuamotu atoll called Fakarava on June 3rd. We timed the pass correctly and were able to enter the lagoon in an uneventful fashion as the tides had reached their slack water point. Attention has to be given to entering any of these passes into the interior of the atolls as current flow of water into or out of the atoll can make it quite rough with standing waves generated by wind against current. It was a great 50 nm sail over from the last atoll, Kauhei where we had initially made landfall after our 3 day passage from the Marquesas.
Had a great time the first evening with a shore side pot luck evening...about 60 of us cruisers...good food....great interaction...and a terrific Tahitian native host...he owns this absolutely, locally authentic small self contained resort…which he has self-developed over the last 27 years that he has lived on this little island on the rim of the atoll. He is a VERY friendly, genuinely nice person and just wanted the chance to interact with/welcome the cruisers "parked” in front of his home and to also get a rare chance to speak English which he does perfectly. He just opened "his home" to us for the evening with absolutely no interest in any recompense....a TERRIFIC location...e.g. lighted water beside the deck where we were all gathered with a number of sharks wandering through the 1 to 2 foot deep water...and many kids - and a few adults - wading in to mix with the sharks and other fish.....quite a scene. The morning before there was only 1 boat in this anchorage and they had just arrived to the empty anchorage that morning; by the time of the next evening, 30 hours later, there were 18 boats at anchor ....about 30 children between 4 and 12 and a mix of adults from early 30's to early 70's. This morning there are 21 boats at anchor as the sun came up……after a few departures and arrivals yesterday.
Yesterday, we had our first chance to experience the marine life as we snorkeled the pass a couple of times with an easy drift swim with the incoming current. There are hundreds of black tipped sharks that swim all around you….and a few white tipped. No concerns of them bothering you….you just have to get your confidence aligned with that reality. Initially there can be a bit of anxiety if you haven’t had the chance to get used to the underwater environment with sharks. This is an ideal location…..you can snorkel/drift swim with your dinghy painter held in your hand and drift all the way back to the anchorage…..and then repeat the whole experience again.
We are likely to be here in the south end of the huge lagoon of this atoll (the lagoon is approximately 12 nm by 33 nm...i.e 25km by 65 km...really a large body of water inside this coral rim) for a couple of days before sailing north 30 nm along the inside eastern rim of the atoll to the top of the lagoon where there is a "substantial" village (it has a little magasin/store, boulangerie/bakery, fruit market, black pearl/jewelery hut whose owner gives reportedly excellent tours of his pearl farm. And we heard on this morning’s cruisers breakfast club radio net that the supply ship from Tahiti arrived yesterday at that northern anchorage and therefore the store should be reasonably stocked (keep your imagination about the word "stocked" at a minimal level....a little bit of something is quite extraordinary in our world; have not seen any shop for even bread or eggs, etc for a couple of weeks. We have been fortunate to have an enduring supply of bananas, grapefruit, oranges, papaya, mangos...that we picked up from fruit trees and locals on our stunningly impressive, all day rental car drive around the island of Nuka-Hiva, in the Marquesas, just before we left that location 600 nm to the north-east a week ago.
We have about 200 nm of cruising expected within the Tuamotu Archipelago before we break off for a direct sail to Papeete, Tahiti for intended arrival there on or about June 15-16. There is a 3 day (June 18 - 20) Tahitian/Society Islands Rally organized for us that is marking that punctuation point on our otherwise unstructured calendar as we wonder this South Pacific collage of rocks scattered in a HUGE ocean. We will be departing French Polynesia before August 12th when our FP Visa expires. That will still give us 3 months to make our way to Fiji via Tonga or Samoa and reach New Zealand by mid-November for our planned 5 months there during their summer.