Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A birthday in paradise: the Tuamotus and beyond.

From the Marquesas to the Tuamotus is about 500 miles: 4 days and 3 nights. 
Sunset at sea..

Our weather forecaster Bruce Buckley works from Perth. He emails updates and ideas for our passages; how to avoid thunderstorms, what wind strength and direction to expect. It's like having another crew member. 
So when he foresaw strong winds hitting the Tuamotus, we decided to stay a few more days in the Marquesas, in a secure anchorage at Nuku Hiva with plenty to explore. The month-long July celebrations were still under way, with pop up restaurants and traditional dance competitions. 

We then stole a march on our passage to the Tuamotus by crossing to Ua Pou, where we'd been a week earlier. Slightly south and west, this island was a good departure point.

Rupe's Hat and the 'knock knock magasin'
At Hakahetau, on Ua Pou, there's a tiny shop ('magasin' in French) in the front room of a nondescript house. You have to knock on the door and shout "magasin!!”, then they'll open up to sell bread and other basics. Rupe lost his favourite hat there or thereabouts the previous week. Hoping to retrieve it, we returned  to the 'knock knock magasin' and there it was, resting quietly on a table. Happy Rupe.  

Passage to Tuamotus
We headed round to the west cost of Ua Pou, closest departure point for the passage, but there was no internet signal. A major problem for Nico, who begged us to backtrack to a bay with a signal so that he could chat online with his boyfriend Pablo.  In exchange he promised to be the most responsive, diligent, hardworking crew ever throughout the passage, and happily do whatever was asked of him. Little did he know that in a few days we would be dealing with the perils of the Blocked Holding Tank….
We left slightly ahead of our friends Jenny Jamie and Paul on their  39 foot Lagoon catamaran 'Due West'.

After 3 great days and 2 nights sailing we arrived at the charming atoll of Kauehi. We charged through the pass in the coral reef with a 6 knot current running into the lagoon; big eddies and overfalls. Many of the passes through the reefs of the Tuamotus are tricky and dangerous, so for Rumpus with our deep keel, some islands aren’t accessible. Fortunately Kauehi was. 
Anchoring off Tearavero village, we explored ashore. Three churches, two shops, and some intriguing waterfront dwellings. One had a pig in a cage on stilts over the sea ('to protect him from the dogs') 
We met a pearl farmer with 6 huge live coconut crabs tied with nylon to the rafters of his porch. They dined on chunks of coconut scattered about. These crabs are allegedly delicious and increasingly rare. They can open coconuts with their huge claws; so they can easily sever your finger. 

Poo poo
Day 2, we motored out to the pass to tackle the Blocked Holding Tank on an outgoing current. This Poo Jam involved gloves, hoses, siphons, sponges, buckets, and nasty nasty smells.  Rupe emptied the holding tank manually through the inspection port. We then found that the through-hull outlet was quite blocked. 
Brave Nico dived under the boat with a wire to poke into the hole.....successfully releasing a golden cloud - and swimming super fast to get back aboard! 

Nico was keen to get to Papeete and onwards as soon as possible. Rumpus was heading for Raiatea. So, Nico decided to join the crew of Cannonball, a large sloop with a crew of about 10, due to leave for Papeete the next day. 

Enfin, sailing a deux.
Now there were just two of us on Rumpus. We motored 50 miles to Fakarava, a huge atoll with a lagoon 20 miles long and passes north and the south.
How to store your boat in a calm lagoon.

Pearl farm museum

Rehearsal for the evening's show

After a couple of days in the main village of Rotoava, we threaded our way down the channel to stunning  Harife in the southeast corner.  (Recommendation from Tom and Alex on El Mundo; the guidebook authors clearly want to keep this magical place secret). Agenda for Kristin’s birthday: snorkelling with the black tip sharks, paddle boarding and exploring the outer reef.

Yes this is a swing~

Friendly little black tip reef shark

coral, cowrie shell and intact lightbulb.

Wind and a rainbow on the ocean side

How to spend your 57th birthday. Super lucky. 

Our old friends on Due West and Freja came down the channel to join us for a little party on board with the last of our Caribbean rum, a fabulous birthday cake made by Merete, and a card and decorations from Jenny and Paul! 

The southern pass of Fakarava (Passe Tumukohua) is 5 miles from Harife. There are moorings there, accommodation in little island bungalows, a restaurant, and two dive operators. I recommend Tetamanu Diving. Two incredible dives in the strong current of the pass, with sharks and astonishing numbers and variety of fish.

The most picturesque dive centre I've ever seen: Tetamanu Diving.

Dive boat passenger

We were extra careful getting into our dinghy.
Leaving Fakarava...

Passe Tumukohua has a least depth of just under 3 metres. That’s about the same as Rumpus’s keel. Dilemmas and discussions about whether to spend a day returning to the north (deeper) pass or venture through the south pass. After wide consultation with locals, examining charts and aerial photos, and a generous helping of gumption, we braved the pass; exultation and relief!
Yay, we made it! Off to the Society Islands! 

1 comment:

Yang said...

This is like pearl of the nation. I hope my team will be able to have its team building there. IT would be a great day for us all. Cheers!

Our team: buildershamiltonnz.kiwi/