Friday, June 29, 2012

Anchored in saphire waters on the edge of the earth

June 29, 2012
Raroia SE Reef Anchorage Position: 16°10.0137'S 142°24.8347'W

Looking at earth from space, there's this blue hue where the earth's atmosphere transitions to the infinity of space. Tucked up close to the reef on the edge of Raroia atoll, Tuamotu we're hovering in sapphire waters that seamlessly transition into the blue sky beyond. It really feels like we're anchored on the edge of the earth.

The 10 nautical mile journey across the lagoon to the Southeast edge required good light to avoid the many coral heads and innumerable pearl buoys. Black pearl farming is booming here in Raroia and the lagoon is strewn with strings of oyster shells suspended by buoys. With our shallow draft we found it quite easy to sail across the pearl lines, but many of the buoys were suspended just below the surface and they'd be just under the bows before we'd see them.

We dropped the anchor in 8 meters over sand with isolated small coral heads at: 16°10.0137'S 142°24.8347'W where we have the barrier reef protecting us from the east and a submerged reef protecting us from the South should wind chop develop inside the lagoon.

Beach combing the windward edge of the reef and nearby we found very little plastic trash, mostly fishing related items like plastic fish totes, floats, a construction hard hat, the normal number of orphaned flip flops and lots of glass items such as bottles, jars and a number of light bulbs, both globes and florescent tubes. On the inside of the reef there are a large number of abandoned pearl buoy floats the same type as we'd commonly find on the remote beaches of Alaska and British Columbia. The brightly colored red, green and blue buoys within the lagoon will undoubtedly be salvaged and pressed into additional service at the pearl farms, but just the same I can see over twenty of them on the nearby motu. I might gather them all up so our view is truly unfettered.

Shortly after anchoring we spotted several Black tip reef sharks cruising around the boat. On our one minute trip to the reef we spotted many others in the two to four foot range. Wading near the literal edge of the reef the gentle ocean swells would rear up and crash heavily then spill the water toward lagoon. In knee deep water schools of bright blue/green Parrot fish would ebb and flow on the edge of the surf, sometimes within ten feet or less of our legs. Small reef sharks would also swim closely by within five feet. After our wading and beach combing we headed back to the dinghy which was high and dry, the tide having fallen. Dragging our aluminum bottomed dinghy across dead coral rubble made quite a racket. Apparently, the noise excited the sharks as they came in numbers from all quarters. One bigger guy ripped along close to the shore at high speed in water only half as deep as you'd expect with most of his body out of the water creating quite a stir. Others darted in close thrashing the water as we sort of freaked and jumped into the dinghy even though the dink wasn't even floating yet in shin deep water. Marveling at the number and curiosity of the sharks we kept a sharp lookout as we got the dinghy floating and instead of wading it to deeper water broke out the paddles. Sort of intimidating considering we came out here to do lots of snorkeling.

Our dinghy sprang a leak so we pulled the motor and hauled the dinghy up on the trampoline where we could flip it over to work on the hole. So while the glue is drying I guess we'll test the waters and do some swimming today.

That's it for now.

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