Sunday, June 10, 2012


Our seven- hour, day sail from Tahanea to Fakarava’s south pass was one of
the most pleasant we’ve had since leaving Mexico.  Sailing downwind, wing
on wing (jib poled-out to one side with main sail on the other), we were
pushed steadily along by winds of 15-20 knots, surfing slightly as each
passing wave lifted us from behind.  While under sail, we were joined by 3
hitchhiking Boobie birds that landed on top of our solar panels.  They
peered curiously down at us while taking a break from over-water flying.
The 50 mile passage was completed by 1:30pm positioning us to enter
Fakarava’s enormous lagoon through the reef pass with ebbing tide and
about 2 knots of current.

Once inside the lagoon and clear of the shallow reefs that guard the
entrance, we proceeded cautiously to an anchorage about one-half mile east
of the pass.  Even though the bottom there has little sand in which to set
an anchor and large coral heads that are notorious for snagging anchors
and chain, it is the closest to the pass where the best SCUBA diving takes
place.  We anchored there amidst several familiar boats, using three
inflatable dock fenders to buoy our chain up from the irregular bottom.
When we were settled, friends Mark and Vicki, who had arrived two days
earlier and had already done two dives, were quick to share what they had
experienced.  After a less than perfect experience trying to do a drift
dive through the pass while towing their dinghy, they had signed-up for a
few guided dives with a commercial dive operator (Top Dive) located on a
motu near the anchorage.  In addition to providing transportation to the
dive site and invaluable, local knowledge of the tides, currents and
bottom topography, the operator’s small, but modern, facility had fresh
water showers and tanks for washing gear after each dive.  As soon as we
had launched “Blue Rodeo’s” dinghy and attached our outboard motor, we
headed to shore to meet with Matias, the personable, French, dive master,
and sign-up for a package of dives.  The package was fairly priced and
unused dives could be done at a later date at any of their other
locations.  Mark especially welcomed the break from the daily chore of
filling SCUBA tanks, transferring gear back and forth from our boat to the
dinghy and having to rinse off salt water from everything each afternoon.

Over the next several days, we and several cruising friends did 4 SCUBA
dives in the pass.  3 were with Matias and another was unsupported.  During that
one, we towed our own dinghies using 100’ long, nylon lines.   The first dive
took us to about  80’ in an area where the coral reef transitions to a
sandy bottom.  We timed the dive to coincide with the beginning of the
flood tide and were rewarded with the spectacle of hundreds and hundreds
of sharks gliding by in the current just a few feet from us.  Matias later
explained that rising current in the area gave the heavy, muscular sharks
an opportunity to glide along with minimal effort and rest while being
cleaned by smaller fish.  We all did our best to control our breathing so
as to produce few bubbles while exhaling and allow the sharks to come
closer and closer.   We recognized Black Tips, White Tips, Silver Tips and
Greys and, even though they were just a few feet away from us, we felt
no threat from them.  In fact, they showed not the slightest interest in us.  The
dive lasted about an hour and when it was finished, we felt exhilarated and filled
with excited anticipation of what we'd see on our next dive.

 During a dive in deeper water the following day, we encountered 2 large
dolphins that appeared to be engaged in courtship behavior with one
swimming upside-down below the other.  We were again treated to the sight
of sharks and tropical fish of every shape and color imaginable.  After
SCUBA diving each day, we would spend hours with our friends snorkeling in
a shallow area known as the "swimming pool" near some bungalows and an open-air
restaurant built over the water.  In the crystal-clear water we would see numerous sharks,
many varieties of tropical fish and two large Napolean Wrasse.   One, whom the
locals have named “Jo Jo", was the size of a car door and was often
accompanied by a smaller one known as “Josette”.  They would follow our
dinghies into the small cove and swim in 2-3’ of water, sometimes with
their dorsal fins exposed to the air.   They were often within arm’s
length of us swimming back and forth and, seemingly, posing for pictures.
The curious creatures have bump-shaped heads with magnificent coloring and
markings and human-like eyes that followed our every move.  We never tired
of seeing them.

While most of our time anchored near Fakarava’s south pass was spent in
the water snorkeling or diving, we also enjoyed socializing with other
friendly cruisers.   A very special evening was spent sharing a pot luck
dinner with crews from 7 boats aboard the spacious catamaran “Gato Go”
owned by friends Craig and Bruce.  It was quite an international affair
with the USA, Canada, France, Britain and Switzerland represented.

All too soon, it was time to move on and we motored just two miles to
another shallow anchorage on the other side of the pass for a day of beach
combing before heading 28 miles north through the center of Fakarava’s
enormous lagoon to the village of Roatava.  There we would find a few
small stores in which to by some fresh fruit and vegetables and internet
access for the first time in many weeks.  While catching up on computer
work, we resisted the temptation to delve into news and current events from
the States.  While we do certainly miss our family and friends back home,
we don’t miss the nearly-constant barrage of negative news stories that
seemed to be an inescapable part of our lives there.

Please note:  The fine underwater photos on this post were taken by our good friends Bruce and Craig from the catamaran "Gato Go" during dives we did with them.


  1. Hi guys,
    what a great blog. We are so glad you are enjoying everything so much. The photos are great. We need to see a photo of your mugs though. We are in Golfito, Costa Rica...definitely the rainy season. Lots of lightning. One of our sailing friends got struck and lost all there electronics. Some thievery going on in this bay so must keep everything locked tight. We plan to leave for Panama on Friday. We are with 6 boats from the Salvador rally. Adam and Cindi will be leaving us soon for there trip to Ecuador.
    We really miss you...Love Howard and Lynn

  2. Hi Mark and Anne,
    Catching up on your blogs this morning and kudos to you for such great posts and wonderful photos. We appreciate your efforts to keep us all informed (read envious) of your adventures!
    Look forward to sharing all that with you in person some day!
    Miss you both, Dave & Marisa