Kauehi – Tuamotos

Been away from the blog for a few days, so a bit of catching up to do (and then it could still take a week before I get to the internet to post it).

I ended up trying to fish anyway, and that afternoon I had something on the hook. It was a stronger pull than I had ever had before, and before I was able to give out enough line the line snapped. So, no fish on the menu that day (well, except for the sardines from a can).

On the way to Kauehi the wind got weaker and weaker, and one day it was just gone. There was too much well and waves to let the boat just float, so started the engine and motored for about 10 hours. Late that evening luckily some wind showed up, so at least I good let Arie (the wind vane) steer during the night watch. Next morning I was getting pretty close to Kauehi, with some hope I could make it in during low tide late in the afternoon. Then, when I was inside the boat, I started to hear high pitch sounds, first I thought there were new squeaks in the wind vane’s steering lines. But, after some thought I realized that it could be something completely different, so I go have a look on deck, and sure enough: a large school of dolphins coming around the boat. This is the longest dolphins have stayed with the boat: for at least 2 hours they were all around. And there were plenty of them. I spent most the time sitting on the bow, watching them circle around each other, spin and come up and breath. From the large group of dolphins, it was always the same 10 or so near the bow wave (well, not much of a wave, we were probably doing about 2-2.5 knots). These were the ones with the bigger back fins. The others circled around, always in small packs. It was a great show, especially now that the water was so clear, and almost no ripples or waves with the light winds. Have to go through the pictures at some point and see what came out.

Being occupied with dolphin watching I missed the opportunity to make the pass into the atoll for that day. I would have to start the engine in time to make a run for it. But decided against it, more fun watching the dolphins. They stayed with the boat until the atoll came in sight. And, suddenly, they all left and went their way. Late in the afternoon I came pretty close to Kauehi, but still on the north east side, where the only pass is on the south west side. Entering at night is definitely out of the question, so, we were going to float around till daylight. As there was no wind, not much steering was involved, just getting up every so often, to make sure that we were not floating too close to shore. At two in the morning the wind suddenly showed up and we started to make distance to the island. At about 4 I decided it was time to start aiming for the pass, being more than 10 miles away from the island. Got close to the pass at daylight, the weather had changed quite a bit, overcast and a threat of rain, even got my rain coat stand by. Closer in I could see the moon right above, meaning that it was getting close to high tide, so there would be little current running through the pass. Entering an atoll takes lot of anticipation, more mentally than anything else. So I started the engine, had the computer on for the electronic charts, all the waypoints in the GPS…. I was ready for it.

Going through the pass turned out to be easy this time: the current was still running in (so behind me), no big waves to speak of. And, as we altered course to make the pass, the wind was coming from abeam. So, we sailed in with no trouble at all. The depths came up quickly though: from no depths recorded (maximum range of the depth sounder = 200ft, about 60 meters), it suddenly was showing 50, then 40, but never got any shallower than 36ft, 11 meters). There was a little ripple from the current just inside the pass, and then it got deeper again. It was a great 8 mile sail to the town, wind was about 15 knots, and at first no waves at all. Unfortunately the GPS decided to get in a mood, it kept turning itself off, for no apparent reason at all. So, I was quite busy turning the thing back on, jumping inside to look on the electronic chart, look on deck for the location of the buoys. But, all in all, a lot easier than I expected. There were two big yachts anchored near town, so I find myself a spot near them. Still a good half mile away from town, but there were a lot a coral heads there, they actually stand out quite well in the turquoise water.

After lunch I took the kayak to shore. Just a little town, sandy streets, the potholes filled with ground coral from the beach. And lots of palm trees. Not sure if it was siesta or so, but there didn’t appear to be many people around. The store (Kauehi City Magasin!!) was only opened in the mornings, so no chance to spend any money.

Next day the wind had picked up even more, had wanted to go into town in the morning. Maybe to see if the post office (open between 7:30 and 9:00) would have internet, and have a look at the store. But it was too choppy out there, taking the kayak into town would have been a big workout, and worse: I would have gotten all soaked. So I spent my mothers birthday (sorry, no call, but a card was sent in the mail) on the boat. The neighbors came by, and they had some weather information: the wind was supposed to be a little less the next day. Also, I was still waiting for Sayonara, had promised to wait 2 days in Kauehi, though, I suspect Peter had also been stuck with little wind, and once the wind was there decided for a direct route to Tahiti.

Yesterday was a big event in Kauehi City! The supplies boat came in. Recently an air strip was built (actually had seen one plan land when I was sailing north of the island), but a lot of stuff still comes by boat. Lots of activity suddenly, a launch was shuttling between the dock and the anchored supply ship. Off loading was done by hand, plenty of people available. It looks like the Kauehi now has a new cement mixer, and many other construction supplies. Paid a visit to the store, now open, the store manager was unpacking the supplies that had arrived that morning. Still not a whole lot to choose from, but, was able to buy some chips, for a change of diet. Fresh vegetables might have to be bought some other place.

Yesterday afternoon I left to make the pass around low tide. The wind was still pretty strong: 15-20 knots. Picking up anchor was a big deal this time. I have a manual windlass, which has its pros and its cons. Pros: it has two speeds, and it never fails, blows fuses or burns out (as long as I don’t burn out). Cons: it is manual. Picking up the first 20 meters of chain went reasonably well, had to run between engine controls and windlass (on foredeck) a few times, but I was getting there. Then it started to get really heavy. And the last 15 meters of chain I had to use the low speed on the windlass, which takes forever. Even when I got the anchor off the bottom, it was still going heavy. At least the wind was not blowing us towards the coral heads, so, that helped. When I finally got the anchor at the surface it was evident why it had been so hard: there was a huge piece of coral/rock hooked on the anchor, must have weighed at least 100kg. I have helped other boats (from the dinghy) in situations like this, pushing/lifting the rock off. But, there was no help around anymore. Had a few attempts with the boat hook to lift the rock of the anchor, but the rock was too heavy and the boat hook too flimsy. Stood there puzzled for a while, thinking about ways to get this rock off. Then I thought, maybe it will come off when I drop the anchor? So I let the anchor free fall (with the extra weight that was going real fast), and sure enough, gravity and water resistance did their job: the rock came off.

So, sails up and go, I had put a single reef in the main, but that should have been a double reef. We came flying down the lagoon. On the calm days before Kauehi, I had swapped the yankee for a bigger genoa, guess that is why the wind has been blowing so strong lately (the weather seems to always counteract my sail changes, mostly with an unknown delay). But, it was on there now, so we just had to deal with it. Made the pass before low tide, obviously, because the current was pushing strong behind us. Through the pass we were doing 8 knots. Just outside, when at least you are over the shallower part, there was a good amount of confused seas. The current running through the pass runs into the current that runs along islands, add to that some strong winds, and you got quite a spectacle. It was quite an experience.

Destination was Toau, an atoll not too far away. Had all the waypoints plotted, coming into the pass, around the corner to the anchorage, on the computer, in the GPS and on paper. Well, planning had not included this much wind. Basically I was almost at the pass at midnight, meaning I would have to linger about (heave to) for another 7 hours at least. Decided to keep going and find another destination to go to. That was quite a puzzle: these atolls are quite far apart, and not all are a good destination. For some I don’t have detailed charts for the entrance (not going there), and for others the entrance seems to be very narrow and shallow. Than, you can only enter during daylight, and at slack (high or low) tide. That leaves about 2-3hours a day when you can go through a pass (if the tides fall unfavorable, there might be only one convenient slack tide during daylight).

After some puzzling, chart plotting and planning, I have come up with Ahe as the next destination. But, by the time I get there, the slack water has already past. So, I will go there anyway and try to make a judgement when I can see the seas near the pass. If it doesn’t look good, I will change plans again, and go to Rangiroa. Going straight to Rangirao would not work anyway, can’t make it during daylight. So, that is what I am doing today, going between atolls looking for the right pass to enter.

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