Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 9 Apr 2011 05:15
Position: 15 14.24 S 147 19.66 W
At anchor Rangiroa Atoll
Wind: East, F4 moderate breeze easing to F3 gentle breeze later
Weather: mostly sunny, warm
Day's run: 42 miles

This morning, after rowing ashore for some fresh bread, we got underway without any more dramas and proceeded to work our way upwind to the south-eastern end of the lagoon. It was a very pleasant day's sail, sailing from one side of the lagoon to the other, the water was clear and a deep shade of blue indicating commensurately deep water. As we approached the reef edge the water would show a lighter shade of blue and the depth sounder would register between 17 and and 20 meters of water. When the water is deeper then about 25 meters for some reason the depth sounder is not showing a reading which later in the day caused me a minor problem. I was aiming for a motu which had a a bit of a southerly trend to it and therefore would provide reasonable shelter from the east to south-east winds overnight. As I approached about two hours before sunset there was another boat at anchor there so I assumed my choice of anchorages for the night was sound. A problem with all these atolls is that they are mostly uncharted so they can only be sailed during daylight hours with good visibility and preferably with the sun high in the sky. I perhaps pushed my day's run a notch too far for as I closed the motu's shoreline the echo sounder was not reading, the water was a pale blue and I thought I had plenty of water. All of a sudden the echo sounder decided to register and showed only five meters. I tacked immediately and as I did so felt Sylph gently touch bottom. We were moving slowly at the time and didn't actually stop but I was a little annoyed with myself and as I looked astern I saw a coral head showing just below the surface. Obviously the water was not as clear as I thought.

I continued on a little further to anchor in 3.7 meters of water and once the anchor was down I climbed the mast a short way to make sure there were no other coral heads nearby. Once satisfied that my swinging circle was clear I jumped in the dinghy and rowed over to say hello to my neighbours, a nice French couple in their English boat, Sea Eagle, sailing under a Belgium flag. Their boat is an elderly fibreglass boat with similar lines to Sylph but smaller at 34 feet length, so they were doing things very simply, I felt I had met kindred spirits and we had a short but enjoyable conversation.

Tomorrow I will check the hull for any damage and then decide whether I will explore further on or perhaps just spend the day here. My chart indicates that there are numerous coral heads at this end of the lagoon and as I do not have much faith in my echo sounder at the moment, not that the echo sounder is terribly useful for picking up coral heads but they normally do not grow in depths much greater then 12 meters, and if the water visibility isn't very good then seeing them might be a real problem.

All is well.