Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Tuamotus - The Dangerous Archipielago
Toau - Bad weather continues -
Anse Amyot - 31 May to 02 June 2010- (15.48.16S-146.09.12W)
We arrived in Toau after what we thought to be a rough passage.
Started very well but during the second half we had 20 to 25 kn wind and hips of squalls with winds of 30 to 33 kn and very confused seas.
But really rough crossing has been for our friends in Tutatis, they are coming 36 hours behind us and today in the morning were in the middle of a line of squalls with 40 to 50 kn winds. They were in hell for around 6 hours.
We kept radio contact with them until things improved. Now they are happily sailing in 25 to 30 kn winds. We realized we had a nice crossing after all.
I keep wondering if the famous Portuguese sailor, Fernando de Magallaes, that discovered and named this ocean as Pacific knew what he was doing. Anyway, there is the added problem that the forecasts continue to predict 15 knots winds and no warnings.
The bay here is good and well protected from the seas but not so much from the wind. Different than Marquesas which are volcanic islands with high mountains the Tuamotus are flat atolls that offer very little protection.
Not so long ago The Tuamotus were known as ‘The Dangerous Archipelago’ and not without good reason, this is a fantastic cruising area but it can also be very challenging.
Nowadays, even with the aid of electronic charts and GPS, sailing in and out of the lagoons is a challenge and very much is determined by the weather conditions. When the weather turns against you here, you quickly discover how exposed you are in the lagoon.
We found the charts generally good, but we heard that some of the islands can be off by 2 miles or more on the charts.
If sailing this amazing area is in your plans don't leave your last port with internet without the 'Tuamotus Compendium'. This is a "Compilation of Guidebook References and Cruising Reports" prepared and maintained by Sherry in Soggy Paws. Sherry and Dave are amazing cruisers and Soggy Paws website is full of information.
Anse Amyot looks very nice but we haven't left Zenitude yet. This is a good entry point for the Toamotus because you don't need to enter a lagoon which will be subject to tide times. There are moorings and they are well maintained by Gaston with the help of cruisers with diving tanks.
Since arrival we’ve been at the radio with Tutatis and once they were out of the woods we went to sleep. Nothing much to do anyway because the weather is still dreadful.
Wednesday morning we’ll sail to another atoll, Fakarava, and say goodbye to Murray. He will be flying from there to Papeete and from Papeete to Sydney. We will definitely miss him and his help. We sailed with him already 4500 of the 8000 miles of the trip. We still need to negotiate two 1000 miles crossings. The rest are short passages. Well, short now.
Perception is a funny thing, in the Caribbean 300 or 400 miles crossing is a hell of a trip and you prepare for a month. Here 500 miles crossing is "pedaco de bolo" (piece of cake) as our Brazilian friend Ze likes to say.
We are leaving and we haven’t had a chance to enjoy Toau with this weather. Ashore is Gaston and Valentine’s restaurant and residence. There are no other residents at the moment. The restaurant opens a couple of times per week, depending on the cruising boats in the moorings and it will not open with this weather.
We promise our hosts Gaston and Valentine, that we will definitely come back to enjoy this beautiful atoll and their wonderful hospitality.
The unicorns of Anse Amyot
Fakarava - We never want to leave this place
Rotoava - 02 June to 23 June 2010 - 16.03.59S-145.37.23W
We left Anse Amyot very early in the morning. It is about 40 miles to the North Pass of Fakarava and we didn't want to miss the beginning of the slack tide in the pass which according to our calculations was around 2.00PM.
Getting the times for the tides was a bit of a guess work. We were trying to put together the information we had from different sources until we finally got it more or less right with the program WXTide32 (free download from the internet).
For the area around Fakarava the tides in Rangiroa work more or less well. There is an excellent explanation on how to get tides for many atolls as well as how to negotiate the passes in 'The Tuamotus Compendium' from Soggy Paws, see link above.
As always, the weather being a big influence in the conditions of the pass. This time we had good weather, calm seas and we got there with enough time to spare. This is a wide pass and with reasonable weather is easy to negotiate. You need to get there with good light to be able to do the 5 additional miles to the anchorage and still arrive with good light to find a spot where to drop the anchor as there are sandy spots mixed with lots of coral heads.
We anchored off the village of Rotoava and with lots of optimism went ashore to find out which kind of transportation was available for Murray to get to the airport the next day. Well, there is none. The options are to hitch any passing car, to walk the 3 km, or to try a dingy ride, but apparently climbing the warf is a bit of a problem.
We were told not to worry, any passing car would take him, the non existent traffic didn't look very promising. We walked for a little while and yes, there were cars, once in a while one would pass by. So we set out to look for the next priority, the French baguetes, and yes, they do have them and they are magnific!
Fakarava - the road to the airport
The soccer world cup is here and Oscar is desperate trying to find a TV somewhere to watch the games. Argentina is playing 1:00 in the morning. The villagers, being French are into soccer and the guy from the diving shop in town tells Oscar “Don't worry, many people will be watching the game. You just walk in the street and when you hear a house watching the game ask them to let you watch”. So that is how Oscar, ends up watching the first game, in the middle of the night in a stranger's house. But this is French Polynesia and this is the way it is.
The next games are at more decent times, early morning and we manage to book breakfast for several cruisers at a very nice hotel. Life is good.
We did several trips to the beach next to the North Pass, white sand and lots of palm trees.
There is a reef with superb snorkeling just across the beach, thousand of different types of fish, big, small, colorful, we saw lots of white tip sharks, some small, some not so small, a surreal view of a shark hunting an octopus (not so good for the octopus).
Oscar did a dive with the local diver's shop that was fantastic. It is a drift dive in the pass, there is so much fish that for moments you feel claustrophobic.
On the beach, there are plenty of coconuts and Oscar learns how to select the good ones.
A French restaurant in Fakarava
Maryanne and Graciela ready for world cup breakfast
Oscar hard at work with a coconut
There is plenty of socializing as well with other cruisers, amazing how you keep bumping into the same boats in this cruising route. We visited a black pearl farm and were surprised by the skill of the guys working in there. We could stay here for ages.
In the meantime we are waiting for the ship that comes to the island once a week with fresh supplies. The fresh supplies don't last too long in the shop, if you are not there by noon there is probably just a few sad carrots left. We are also after cooking gas and gasoline for the dinghy.
For some reason this week there was no ship, and we start getting anxious. We want to find out what happened to the ship and when it will come, but all we get is a philosophical answer from the lady in the store who in broken English says 'oh the ship, it will be here when it comes'.
Toau - We are back
Anse Amyot - 23 June to 1 July 2010 - 15.33.50S-46.14.50W
We had a beautiful sailing day and arrived in the afternoon. Until yesterday Anse Amyot was crowded and all the moorings taken, but a weather window opened and several boats left to continue traveling west towards Tahiti.
The morning cruisers' net gives the count of free moorings, so we thought it was safe to go. With the increased popularity of Anse Amyot Gaston had installed 3 more moorings, and there is practically no more space to anchor.
Valentine has a tour guide dog. The dog will take you around the atoll to a spot where he fishes for you. It's about half an hour walk. You just need to be at the dingy dock at low tide and call for him. If he decides to take you he would be happily walking ahead of you , checking once in a while that you are coming behind, he waits if you are slow until he gets to the fishing spot, when you get there he goes fishing. You better know your way back because when he finishes fishing he runs back. I think he considers mission acomplished.
A group of us go snorkeling in the outer reef. This is quite another different spot crowded with fish. This place have coral and lots of crevases with sandy bottom, lots of caves as well.
There is a wall of coral that goes down quite deep. Some in the group, including Oscar are spear fishing. It is very easy to get fish, there are so many of them and they are not suspicious, garoupers would just stare at you, but Oscar goes crazy, because as easy as it is to get them as hard it is to keep them. As soon as he gets a fish, the sharks come to snatch it, and nobody wants to go into an argument with a shark.
Valentine's tour guide dog, leading the way
Oscar manages to save some fish for dinner. It is dark now but is time to clean the fish. The sharks are back! One of the fish drops from his hands, I couldn't get Oscar to grab it back, coward!
Cleaning fish in Anse Amyot
Apataki - Apataki Carenage, a family owned yard - Having second thoughts
1 July to 5 July 2010
After a week in Toau we have to keep going. We left Anse Amyot with light winds and we motored all the way, about 35 miles to Apataki.
The pass to enter the lagoon is a bit scary with about 2 knots of current, it is not very wide. We found the Garmin charts here to be accurate. There is a long way from the pass to the anchorage, so we had to enter as early as possible to get there with enough light to anchor.
The people in the Carenage are very nice, no surprise, they are part of Valentine's family. However the installations to lift Zenitude are too basic. There is no mechanic, and to take boats in and out of the water they depend on the weather. There is a nasty wind blowing and we can see why they have to wait for a calm day, we decide that it is not so urgent to haul out Zenitude. There is always Tahiti, not so far away now.
On July 5 there seems to be a good weather window to leave Tuamotus behind and sail to Papeete. Oscar wants to stop in Rangiroa but I am concerned that the weather will not hold and we have friends coming to visit in about a week's time.
We leave the anchorage and cross the pass 1 and 1/2 hours after low/high tide in Rangiroa, it is perfect timing as we crossed with no current at all.
Leaving wonderfull Tuamotus behind we set sails towards Tahiti.
We are having such a fantastic time. In these atolls anything becomes an adventure. Even buying bread. We went today to buy bread and when arriving at the beach to land the dinghy we see a shark between 1.5 and 2 meters swimming in less than one meter of water. After buying the bread, back on the dinghy leaving the beach there are 3 rays, one of more than 1 meter of diameter, also swimming in the very shallow area. Is not for lack of entertainment that we will leave from here.
This time the weather was perfect. Valentine was opening for dinner and we sign up for it.
She always prepares a fixed menu and sets a big table for all the cruisers that book for the night.
The restaurant is really her house and her hospitality is great. When she starts bringing dishes, everything is delicious, seafood dishes of course, which Gaston provides by fishing and diving.
That night she prepared a lobster pie, parrot fish with coconut, grilled fish and many other delicacies. Valentine and Gaston joined us for dinner, we had a great time and as she is also a soccer fun we are invited to watch the world cup games at her house.
Valentine cooking dinner
A week later the ship arrives. We get our cooking gas. We need to buy a big gas bottle with new fittings as none of our European butane bottle or American propane bottle can be filled or exchanged around here. The big bottle doesn't look too good in the deck but we have now enough cooking gas to get us to Australia probably.
Arrival of the supplies ship is a big event in town, half the village is at the docks trying to buy something, specially the store owners that need to re-stock their shops. Cruisers are after fuel, we can easily buy gasoline for the dinghy but diesel is a different story as you can only buy big drums. Nobody really needs that much diesel. We've been using very little of our diesel with so much wind during our passages since we left Panama. We can easily wait for Papeete.
So far we have enjoyed good weather, but when we try to go to the South anchorage a nasty wind develops and we have to come back, we were not going to get there with good light. By now we are contemplating hauling out Zenitude in Apataki, another atoll that we can visit while we check what kind of facilities they have in Apataki Carenage. Apparently they can haul out catamarans. Toau is in the way so we decide to make a stop over there before going to Apataki. Very sadly we leave this beautiful ato