Shark cruising near the sugar scoops

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 25 Apr 2010 02:42
We dropped our anchor in the lagoon at Makemo , an atoll within the archipelago of the Tuamotu islands just after 9am on Monday 19th April. We had hove-to for over an hour before approaching the passage within the reef, to wait for high water. It is advised that we enter and/or exit the lagoon an hour after high water or an hour after low water, when the water is slack. The wind was gusting 27knots.
Other than the day we left Ua Pou, in the Marquesas, we have been struggling to find enough wind to sail and for the most part have had to motor-sail. It was therefore somewhat frustrating that the wind came up on the afternoon of the 18th April and we were struggling not to sail at 8knots. At this speed, we would arrive at Makemo during the hours of darkness. In order to reduce speed, we put two reefs in both the mainsail and the genoa but still at times we were exceeding 6 knots as we hit one squall after another.
There were two mono-hulls at anchor when we arrived but both boats were independent travelers. One was occupied by a French couple of similar age to us and the other was occupied by a single Frenchman. He has been sailing around French Polynesia for the last year, spending the cyclone season in the Marquesas.
There are at least four supermarkets in the village as well as two restaurants. The latter are open between 11.30 and 13.30 and 1700 and 1900.
Today is the first anniversary of the day that Moe and Bev have been an item so they went ashore for dinner to celebrate. The rest of us stayed on board and had barbequed steak for supper followed by pancakes with maple syrup.
There is a lot of coral between our anchorage and the jetty and I for one am pleased not to have to make my way back to the boat in the rib, through shallow water, in the dark, when it is impossible to see the obstacles in the water. Young people have a different attitude to life.
The local people are extremely friendly and all of them to whom we spoke were able to speak to us in English, even the children. One man who originated from the southern part of France, stopped his vehicle just to chat to us.
There seem to be a great number of dogs here but none are aggressive. Mainly they lie in the shade and open an eye as we walk past.
We finished the last mango and the grapes yesterday but fortunately I was able to replace the grapes today and bought some pears at ?12 a kilo. We still have lots of sweet grapefruit, some apples and some bananas so should have sufficient fruit for us to be able to have fruit salad after lunch at least until we reach Tahiti when I hope to do a major shop for provisions.
We stayed two nights anchored off the village but the weather continued to be squally though the wind never exceeded 27knots. The sky was more reminiscent of England in the summer than the south pacific.
While swimming we noticed a great deal of steel on the sea bottom between our boat and our anchor so decided to move the boat and re-anchor. The timing was just perfect. Half way through the manouevre we were hit by a squall and all of us were drenched.
Having re-anchored, ensuring that the chain was clear of any rocks or other debris, we then noticed that immediately below our boat was a wrecked ship, equally as large as Tucanon, with a huge diesel engine attached. However, this did not pose us any sort of problem.
Next morning we moved the boat from the anchorage near Arikitamiro pass and made passage towards the other end of the atoll, some 25 nautical miles hence, anchoring near Tapuhiria pass, just opposite a copra shed and other buildings.
We tend to only have one person on watch but for this passage we had two and often more to look out for the coral heads of which there were many. Other than when the sky became cloudy, the larger heads were not difficult to spot but the smaller ones often could not be seen until we were almost on top of them.
As we anchored, three small, black-fin reef sharks came up to the boat and stayed in the vicinity. They were still there two hours later when Moe and Bev made an aborted attempt to swim off the boat.
We were out of the Lagoon by 6am but would not have wanted to have been arriving for the first time as the light was not ideal for spotting the coral. We were glad that we had already some knowledge of the area.
We sailed, using the parasailor, all the way, some 53 nautical miles, to Tanahea atoll. It took only seven hours as we had strong wind with us all the way, arriving at the pass to the lagoon 45 minutes after slack tide. This also coincided with a squall which hit us as we approached the pass and with the water looking as if it was boiling, 32knots of wind and a current of 3.5 knots against us, we entered the lagoon in pouring rain and heavy cloud. Fortunately the squall moved on quickly and the sky became blue making it possible for us to check for coral as we made our way to our anchorage.
No sooner had we anchored than a dozen black-fin reef sharks paid us a visit and stayed in the vicinity for quite some time. They returned again around 5pm, obviously looking for some supper but we all stayed on board the boat. Later, when it was dark, the sharks which are pink/beige in colour, looked quite white as they swam close to the boat. Perhaps they were a different variety as they did look bigger than those that had visited earlier in the day.
Next morning we moved to a new anchorage a couple of miles further south. The trip was not pleasant with the wind blowing force six, head on and waves breaking over the bow. The wind subsided by lunchtime though we did get a shower mid afternoon.
There were supposedly no sharks here and although the rest of us didn't see any, Bev insisted that she did see one whilst she was swimming.
Not a comfortable anchorage so next morning we returned from whence we had come and were greeted by three sharks as we dropped our anchor.
Taking the rib ashore we walked across a few metres of the multi-colored coral sand and stood in the warm shallow water on the other side of the atoll.

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