Unsettled weather prolonged our stay Fakarava. We seemed to be in synch with our friends Benny and Price on Panache who had their lovely kids visiting from Canada. We’d transited the canal tied to Panache and have met up with them in many places since. Panache is notorious for good food and company, usually in the ‘Tiki lounge’ of their lovely, very spacious catamaran.We visited the little pearl farm/resort in Rotava, all buying a pearl in their lucky dip. Some were very lucky when their oyster was opened to reveal a large black pearl.
The resort was a lovely place for lunch, the delicious local poisson cru – fish marinaded in lime and coconut milk.
After a boisterous sail back into the wind we anchored for a few more days in Kauehi, a place we’d loved but had left all too soon.
Normally the 40Nm sail from Kauehi to Toau would have been an easy day sail, but not here in the Tuamotus. To ensure we coordinated our exit through Kauehi pass and arrival at the Toau pass at slack current, we needed 2 days to get from Kaeuhi to Toau, with an overnight stop in North Fakarava. Kauehi to Fakarava worked well, conditions were good and the passes manageable. When we tried to exit N Fakarava the next morning, the current was stronger than we’d expected– 5knots of current pushing us towards 1m standing waves in the pass. I am sure Sea Cloud would have coped, but we are pretty conservative. So, another night in Fakarava. The next morning we arrived at the pass at what was supposed to be slack current and had a manageable 4knots of outgoing current and only small standing waves. The winds were stronger and seas higher and more confused than predicted, or expected. After a few rather uncomfortable hours of sailing, we realised that we wouldn’t be able to get through the Toau pass that day. We kept sailing to Anse Amyot, a lagoon like haven on the NW corner of Toau. Anse Amyot has an opening to the sea through a small pass, but no opening into the main atoll of Toau and can be entered at any time. We could have come straight from Kaeuhi, as Panache did in one day, rather than take 4 days. Luckily we have lots of time.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from this gorgeous spot. Gaston and Valentine, the owners of the nearby motu have a small restaurant serving lobster and a few mooring buoys which they rent to yachts.
As there is a constant flow of water into the lagoon, the water was exceptionally clear, the coral beautiful and the fish prolific. It was incredible to see the colourful fish swimming around the coral head 9m below Sea Cloud.
We were often the only boat in the lagoon, but did have 2 rather big visitors during our stay, a very unusual sight in this part of the world.
Apataki, the next atoll north was a pleasant day sail away. The south pass was scary looking but easy at slack current. Pearl farming is big in Apataki, and the Chinese influence obvious. half
We anchored off the Apataki Carenage. The enterprising local family had turned their pearl farm and vegetable gardens into a boatyard, providing hurricane season storage for about 50 boats, mainly catamarans.
The anchorage near the Apataki’s north pass was fabulous. We anchored in sand about half a mile from the pass, taking care to avoid the numerous coral heads below.
The weather was calm and sunny and the drift snorkel of the pass breathtaking. The clarity of the water was unbelievable. The water under the dinghy was about 3m deep and you could see the coral so clearly.
Once in the pass we drifted along towing the dinghy, feeling as though we were flying, easily seeing the bottom of the pass 30m below us. The coral banks on the side of the pass extended for a few kms. It was so good, we did it again and again and we were the only ones there.
As the southerly winds came in, we headed out through the pass for a very slow overnight sail, ensuring we would arrive at our destination Ahe at daybreak and slack current. As we couldn’t average a speed of more than 4 knots, it was a change for us having to constantly try and slow Sea Cloud down.
Ahe is unusual for these atolls, it has good shelter from nearly all winds behind a reef, just off the main town. You just need to make sure you avoid the pinnacle like coral heads that rise from 10m below to scarily close to the top of the water. Fine for many boats, but with our deep draft of 2.35m, a real worry. As strong southerly winds were predicted, Ahe was a good place to be.
Good light is essential when anchoring. This large coral reef behind Sea Cloud is all but invisible in the wrong light.
Its Heiva time, the major festival season in French Polynesia. Most cruisers, and many of the locals are in Papeete for the huge celebrations there. We decided on having a few weeks more out in the islands rather than heading to the big smoke too early. Ahe has a population of 300, many of whom live on pearl farms on the small motu that surround the atoll. Heiva, is a small affair here, but has a 2 week calendar of games, races and celebrations. The locals are very friendly and welcomed us to their July 14 national day flag raising ceremony and opening of the Heiva games.
Our final atoll before Papeete is Rangiroa, a place with spectacular snorkelling and diving. But it is tricky, with the main anchorage exposed to any winds south of east. Unfortunately we’ve had south winds, with more predicted so our stay in Ahe has extended from a couple of days to over a week now. Luckily, it’s a very pleasant place to be.