Monday, June 4, 2012


As with most passages in the Tuamotus, our sail from Raroia to the
deserted atoll of Tahanea required careful planning in order to exit and
enter the reef passes when currents were manageable and the sun high
enough in the sky to allow us to see shallow areas in the water.  The 140
 mile distance between the atolls meant an overnight passage, but also
 having to keep our speed in check so as not to arrive too early.  With
 brisk trade winds pushing us swiftly along, even under reduced sail, we
 found ourselves approaching Tahanea several hours too early and were
 forced to heave to (stall the boat by pointing it into the wind with jib
 and mainsail tightly sheeted on opposite sides) in order to kill some
 time.  When the time came, entering the pass was without drama and we were
 soon in the protected waters of the lagoon approaching a small group of
 anchored cruising boats.  We had been communicating by radio with new
 friends Mark and Vicki, on the vessel "Southern Cross", who were already
 there and anxious to share with us what they had discovered about diving
 Tahanea's three reef passes.  While we maneuvered in the anchorage
 scouting the bottom through the crystal-clear water, for a sandy patch to
 drop "Blue Rodeo's" anchor, an ominous dark cloud moved overhead and
 proceeded to dump rain on us with such intensity that it seemed we'd be
 drowned from above.  The word torrential comes to mind when searching for
 adjectives to describe the deluge.  With the rain came wind gusts in
 excess of thirty knots and reduced visibility down to as few hundred
 yards.  We had no choice but to use our motor to hold our position, with
 bow into the wind, while waiting for the squall to pass.  Fortunately,
 within minutes, the small, but intense, storm moved-on and we were able to
 drop our anchor.

 The anchorage at Tahanea, like many in the Tuamotus, has a sandy bottom
 with scattered, jagged coral heads known as "bommies" rising up from the
 sea floor.  Anchoring in these areas requires special techniques to avoid
 damaging the live coral and to prevent entangling them with a boat's
 anchor chain in such a way that raising the anchor becomes impossible.  As
 we paid-out our anchor chain, we tied three of our inflated, vinyl, dock
 fenders to it at intervals so as to sufficiently buoy it up from the
 bottom and, hopefully, keep it from snagging on the coral.  As we finished
 the anchoring exercise, Mark and Vicki returned from a snorkeling
 excursion and told us what they had learned about the diving at Tahanea.
 Before long, we began to feel like "old friends" and plans were made to
 SCUBA dive one of the reef passes with them the next day.  As we settled-
 in for the evening, we finally had a chance to survey our beautiful
 surroundings.  The anchorage, at the edge of a huge lagoon, features water
 of swimming pool-clarity and patches of colorful coral that, in some
 places, rise to surface level.  It is exactly the tropical paradise that
 we had, for years, been dreaming about.

 Our dive the next day required that we take our dinghy about a mile and a
 half to one of the three reef passes where we hoped to drift with the
 incoming tide from outside the atoll back into the lagoon.  With four of
 us and all of our SCUBA gear crammed into our dinghy, we pounded through
 the wind-driven choppy water to our dive site taking copious amounts of
 water over our bow, nearly swamping the small rubber boat.  Fortunately,
 both wind and water were a comfortable 85 degrees so the incoming water
 was mostly a nuisance.  Prior to our dive, we went ashore at the ruins of
 a tiny village for some exploration and were greeted by a friendly cat
 that was the motu's only resident.  Although craving some human attention,
 the cat appeared healthy enough and was, no doubt subsisting on sea
 creatures, bird eggs, mice or rats and rain water.  Vicki knew that the
 cat was on the small island and brought along some powdered milk and
 mixed-up a batch for it to drink.  The grateful animal happily lapped it
 up.  With Anne's soft heart for animals, she had a difficult time leaving
 the cat alone and hoped aloud that some cruising sailor wanting a pet
 might soon rescue it.

 Over the next several days we would enjoy several fine dives seeing a
 multitude of colorful and interesting, tropical, reef fish, Barracuda,
 dolphins and dozens of sharks.  On one reef pass dive with friends Don and
 Deb from the vessel "Buena Vista", we had a bit of an adventure when,
 after enjoying a peaceful drift across a spectacular reef, we found
 ourselves in a current that pulled us away from the reef  into deeper
 water.  Fortunately, Mark was tethered to our dinghy during the dive by a
 long line which kept it nearby when we surfaced.  The current though had
 swept us away from the protection of land and into choppy water where we
 had to remove our gear, climb back aboard and motor slowly back into the
 lagoon.  We were thankful that our dinghy was of a sea-worthy design and
 powered by a reliable motor.  Afterward, we vowed that next time we would
 go to even greater lengths to assess the timing of slack tide and current
 when diving in the passes.

 Several more days were spent at Tahanea snorkeling, exploring the motus
 and enjoying the beautiful surroundings.  We wished that we could stay at
 anchor there for a month or more but, with so much more to see and being
 limited by the time limits of our visa, we were soon forced to move on.
 Such are just some of the bitter-sweet  challenges of cruising the South


  1. Hi Anne and Mark,

    Love how descriptive your blogs are, it's almost like traveling with you!!! Keep them coming, and have fun!!!! Ron and Peter say hi!



  2. Hola buddies,
    We miss you but are travelling with you with your blogs. today we are leaving Quepos and going to Drake Bay to catch up with Adam and Cindi.
    Love you guys
    Howard and Lynn