2014 Across the Pacific Tuamotu and Leewards


Malua left the Marqueses with a new crew.  We stayed longer than I had planned because the crew was waiting to pay for two wooden statues that she did not have the local funds.  In the end we sailed away.

The Tuamotu Archipelago was some of the best cruising I have undertaken in the true Pacific ocean.  Coral atols, palm trees and crystal clear water.  The scuba diving was out of this world.

The crew left to continue diving and I sailed on to Tahiti and the Leewards.  That was fun.  I again took on crew and that was a disaster.  I left that one with the authorities trying to explain the situation without money or an airticket.

The rule on entering a pass into an atoll is to do so at one of the high or low water slack tides and to do so in calm weather and the sun high in the sky. An easy ask if one has a direct line to the weather gods but if you are cruising and in company with other yachts you do the best you can, prepare your boat for all eventualities and eyeball with good prudent judgement the best strategy.
Malua left our first atoll entrance which had a lot of hype about how difficult it was with ease. It was no more difficult than a ocean river bar in Australia. My confidence was up and the guide book stated that the northern entrance to Fakarava is "wide and straightforward.... the flow normally peaks at 3 knots" What is did not say was don't enter when there is a 22knot wind on the nose and against the incoming tide with heavy rain squalls. And that is exactly what I found including a short wave chop which stopped Malua normal 5 knot forward progress right in her tracks. We took a line on the centre of the pass let out the stay sail for stability and some extra help and entered the maelstrom of the pass. Malua rose to the waves but came crashing down to stop dead in the water, the inflowing current would take her a few feet forward and then Malua would gather herself and lurch forward to again be stopped in her track by another set of waves. I turned the bows a few degrees off the wind and our speed increased. We where making progress but bang, bang the swim ladder had come loose and was swinging in the stern water. Grab the boat hook and secure that and when I turned again to look where we where, we are in relatively calm water making 5 knots. Through our second pass.
Now to do the pass on the falling tide. I calculated that the tide would turn at about 8 am in the morning. Just enough time to go ashore to get a few hot bagettes and to still make it at the slack water.
Great plan and I did find the slack water, almost no wind and definitely no rain and standing waves. What a dream to pass out the entrance and into the open sea. I had planned a 60 nm passage to Apitake which would be spread ove a full day and night so I could arrive at it's entrance at the low slack. I pulled up the main and set the genoa and soon I was cruising along at more than 7 knots. The plan was not working for I would have to lay ahull all night and behind me in the near distance the storm and rain clouds where gathering. OK what is plan B. I was to pass Toau atoll which has a false pass in its north. The pass at Amyoto states " the pass can be entered and left at any stage of the tide" I also knew that there are secure mooring buoys which one can pick up. It didn't take me long to calculate that I could make the anchorage well before dark so I turned Malua's bow to the entrance and started the engine, for the wind had dropped off prior to the storm hitting.
I entered the pass with just one knot of current helping me in towards the two leads and between the port and starboard marks. I was in and had the mooring line secured well before the sun set creating a wonderful rainbow ad the rain approached. I had finished my precooked meal and had a opened a can of apricots before the first splatter of rain forced me to close the hatches and retire to a warm bunk.
I was up before it got light and planned my move the 25 nm to the Apitaki entrance. As the dawn broke in the east I could just make out the leads I let go the mooring line and turned for the entrance to be assisted by a one knot outgoing current. A great stop, I was refreshed and looking forward to what lay ahead.
I timed my entrance to the Niutahi entrance in the SW corner of Apataki just right. The water was almost slack, no wind and what sun there was was high in the sky. Just follow the leads, turn to starboard when the marks indicated and follow the deep blue water through the last part of the entrance and I was through and heading for the other cruising yachts. On all occasions no mater how deep the water you have to keep a look out for the coral reef which appear from nowhere. They are easily spotted on a sunny day either by the light blue water or the waves breaking in the shallow water. The pearl form buoys are not that easy especially if the wind is causing a chop and you are motoring into the chop. I took the remote autohelm and sat on the top of the hard dogger to be more than 4 meter above the waterline. From here I could see the dangers and steer the boat through the field of buoys. Dropping the anchor amongst the coral heads was a challenge but I did that trusting the wind would not turn to the north.
I was soon in the kayak with a crew from Cygnus and paddling through the false pass to the end of the earth where the lagoon meets the open sea. Great experience, then back to a deserted pearl farm where I collected a set of empty pearl shells. Back to the boat for a quiet dinner and a good sleep. Two hour before dawn the wind rose and I felt Malua start to rise in the short chop and I found myself on a lee shore and a large coral bommie off the port stern. The anchor watch indicated that I was slowly dragging down wind in the soft coral shale of the atoll. Time to move again but not in the 25 knots of wind I found as the sun came up. I'll have to wait for the sun to get high in the sky before I chance a crossing of the atoll to quieter water. I made it to the NE corner and dropped anchor along side Little Explorers kids boat I had not seen in more than a month. The cruise was back on track and I was having fun again.


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