Navigation here is challenging....
Thu 18 May 2023 02:29
It’s 17:40 and we have just anchored in Tahanea.
It’s nice to be here safely because the navigation is very stressful and challenging.
There are several issues to consider….
Firstly there is the entry into and exit out of the passes in the atolls.
The tide is ferocious!!! When it gets going properly it runs at around 5 knots and there are standing waves and white water so ideally one should enter or exit at slack water. If you can’t do this, personally I prefer to go through the passes against the tide - which is slow, but at least means you have some control. I fear going with the tide would mean you are hurtling along pretty much at the whim of the waves and some of the passes are quite narrow with sticking out bits of rock and coral. Not nice to hit at speed.
Secondly there are the Bommies. These are towers of coral which stand inside the atoll lagoon, sometimes as deep as 45m. There are lots of them and most of them hide just below the surface and are uncharted. They show up and you can see them by the colour of the water when the sun is high and behind you. If it's cloudy or you are sailing towards the sun they are invisible until you are on top of them…as we discovered yesterday when we hit one a glancing blow at about 6 knots. Fortunately we didn’t hit it head on because it would have caused significant damage. As it was, we have some scars on the keel and underbody but nothing terminal thank goodness.
Finally there are the limited daylight hours. It’s winter here so its now getting dark by 17:30. You don’t want to be going through the passes at night and you really don’t want to be moving around inside the atoll in the dark playing bumper cars with the Bommies whilst looking for your anchorage. Since the distances are such that it takes quite a few hours to move from one atoll to another, leaving one atoll at slack water, travelling to the next atoll and arriving at slack water in daylight is pretty much impossible. Tomorrow we will have to leave Tahanea through the pass at 22:00 (slack water) and travel 55 nm through the night to hopefully arrive at Fakarava around 10:00 the following morning when the tide should again be slack.
All in all,…not a lot of fun so I’m very pleased we are now tucked up for the night and I get soothe my shattered nerves with a very large rum.