Thursday, July 05, 2012

Raroia, Tuamotu - Kon-Tiki island - Pass drift - 4th of July party

July 5, 2012
Raroia Atoll, Tuamotu, French Polynesia, South Pacific Ocean
Anchorage Position near Village: 16°02.4156'S 142°28.2738'W

 Giant Clam... this is a small one.
 Motu where Kon-Tiki raft crashed shucking Giant clams with locals Tatiana adn Regis.

 Kathy paddling a outrigger canoe.
We've been sharing lots of new adventures with our friends aboard s/v AUD hailing from Oslo, Norway (Previously, I called this boat s/v Peace, Love and Happiness erroneously as that slogan is prominently displayed on the hull, but on the stern it says s/v AUD. Anyway, the three Norwegian crew (Lasse, Mario and Chris) were keen to check out the Kon-Tiki crash site and our friends Regis and Tatiana offered to take us over to the motu in their panga. After checking out the monument we walked 200 yards in ankle deep water toward the seaward edge of the reef and since it was a really low tide we could nearly walk to the literal edge where the surf pounded with great furry. Kivahei the nine year old daughter of Regis and Tatiana walked the shallow reef with Kathy and I while we did a little shelling and found some beautiful cowries and some interesting sea urchin spines. Back on the motu from our walk we did some snorkeling and then Tatiana, armed with a huge screw driver, swam around and pried a half dozen of the beautiful Giant clams out of the reef. I would have preferred to enjoy their beauty amongst the coral, but Tatiana really enjoys eating these, so she shucked a few clams and we all got a taste. The abductor muscle was crisp and crunchy like a lightly salted fresh vegetable with a sweet flavor. The taste and texture was similar to Caribbean conch, but much more delicate and tender.

Next on the agenda was a few drift snorkels through the pass on the flood tide then the Norwegian guys did a scuba dive on the reef on the North side of the pass. Kathy, Kivahei and I joined the guys in the water and could easily see them at their maximum depth of 31 meters. I did a few free dives closer to shore where I found the bottom at 19 meters (62 feet). Then we wrapped up the swimming with another drift through the pass. Lots of grey reef sharks, grouper, parrot fish and absolutely huge Cubera snapper (very likely to be ciguatoxic). The current was running around 4 knots making for an amazing ride where you'd zip past the fish before they had time to notice your approach and take cover. One grey reef shark got a little annoyed when I dove down 12 meters (40 feet) and then the current pushed both me and shark along the bottom for quite a distance in very close proximity. Grey reef sharks are known to be territorial and when I surfaced the shark bolted from the bottom and zipped within about 2 meters (6 feet). Yikes!

We organized yet another party at Regis and Tatianas' home to BBQ some chicken and fish, this one under the pretext of 4th of July. Regis and Tatiana are great hosts and their friendship added a tremendous dimension to our stay at Raroia. We were sad to go, but the clock is starting to tick, tick and tock towards the impending cyclone season. We've still a long way to go this season and many new adventures ahead of us and not enough time.

The alarm sounded at 2:50AM this morning (July 5) and we reluctantly crawled out of bed to get the boat underway for Makemo, an 80 nautical mile sail. We had much debate about either going overnight (i.e leaving in the evening and sailing all night) or getting up at 3AM to sail a few hours in dark and then arrive just before dark. Since we were very familiar with the pass at Raroia we opted to use the full moon and take the little extra risk of leaving in the dark. Even with local knowledge a bright moon light and most of the navigational aids with working lights, it was still a little nerve racking moving around the lagoon in the dark. Several of the red channel lights were out and not a single green light was showing as we motored through the coral heads and pushed into the incoming current. Once into the deep water we decided to be lazy and motor-sail with just the jib until day light when we'd hoist the spinnaker. At the moment we are rounding the northern end of Taenga atoll and will soon douse the spinnaker as we turn to port bringing the apparent wind abreast of the beam for the remaining 32 nautical miles to Makemo. Looking toward the reef on Taenga I can see the hull of a wrecked sailboat high on the reef near 16°17.6' S 143°10.2' W which would be fun to check out, but Taenga only has a small boat pass (not navigable by a sailboat per Regis) and given our tight sailing schedule for today I can't drop sail to take a closer look. The wreck must be quite old given it's location far up on the reef ledge, indicating to me that it's been driven further ashore by several subsequent storms.

That's it for now.