Thursday, June 21, 2012

Toau blog

After just three days anchored off the village of Roatava near the north
 end of Fakarava's huge lagoon, we set sail for the atoll of Toau.  Several
 hours of pleasant sailing in perfect conditions positioned us outside
 Otugi Pass on the atoll's southeast side.  We had read reports of the
 channel through the reef being dangerous with strong currents and breaking
 waves often extending several miles out to sea.  Since our arrival did not
 coincide perfectly with slack tide, we did see a large area of water
 disturbed by the outflowing current.  Fortunately, negotiating the
 entrance proved easy enough by staying near the edge of the pass and
 avoiding the worst of the choppy water.  Once inside, we anchored off a
 picturesque motu among lots of irregular-shaped coral formations.  Once
 again, we buoyed our anchor chain to reduce the possibility of snagging
 and damaging the living coral.  We were soon joined by fellow cruisers
 aboard "Southern Cross", Gato Go", "Island Bound" and "Buena Vista".  The
 next several days would be spent snorkeling in the passes, beach combing and sharing
 good times with our friends.  During one morning's snorkeling excursion in
 the pass, where we let the incoming currents sweep us repeatedly through
 the entrance, flying like supermen over the colorful coral gardens, we
 were treated to an encounter with a large, curious Manta ray.  It seemed
 as interested in us as we were in it so we swam in its company for quite
 some time before it descended out of view.  We never grow tired of
 watching these amazing creatures "up close and personal".  Another close
 encounter though was a bit unnerving.  When separated a ways from Mark,
 Anne was approached by a sizable Lemon shark that came too close for
 comfort prompting her to quickly climb back into our dinghy and call out
 to Mark with concern.  When Mark approached and was informed of the
 presence of the shark, Mark's response was to say "cool... I want to see it
 ...which way did it go".  Maybe that was just another example of the
 difference between girls and boys or, perhaps, good commons sense or lack
 thereof.  Never the less, Mark was disappointed that he didn't get to see
 the magnificent creature.

 Soon it was time to leave the deserted motus near Passe Otugi and sail
 outside the atoll to a spot on the north shore known as Anse (cove) Amyot.
 The sail began with perfect wind and weather conditions that deteriorated
 as we approached our destination.  Dark clouds began appearing on the
 horizon all around us and soon we were overtaken by squalls with copious
 amounts of heavy rain.  We were, once again amazed by how quickly the
 squalls can materialize here in the tropical South Pacific and the
 intensity with which rain can pour from the skies.  Most often, the
 squalls pass quickly.  Unfortunately for us, the greatly-reduced
 visibility caused by the heavy rain was complicating our plan to enter
 Anse Amyot's narrow reef pass and moor in its sheltered water before dark.
 While waiting for the squall to pass, we hovered just outside the reef
 straining our eyes to see the channel markers ahead and the few other
 cruising boats already inside.  After a radio conversation with friends
 Craig and Bruce on the catamaran "Gato Go", who had preceded us by about
 an hour, we felt confident enough to proceed in.  Because of Anse Amyot's
 small size and shallow, coral reefs on three sides, anchoring there is
 difficult.   So, 12 moorings have been placed inside the cove by the
 couple who operate a restaurant there.   Our task would be to locate one
 of only two unoccupied moorings in the fading light and heavy rain and
 secure "Blue Rodeo" without hitting a reef or playing "bumper boats" with
 those already moored.  Fortunately, all went smoothly and before long, we
 were attached to a heavy mooring line by our nylon bridal and breathing
 soggy sighs of relief.

 Our stay at Anse Amyot would be made especially memorable by the charming
 couple, Valentine and Gaston, who live there and operate a small pearl
 farm and simple, open-air restaurant.  Other cruisers had informed us that
 the opportunity to have a meal ashore with them was not to be missed.  The
 morning after our arrival, we took our dinghy ashore for introductions and
 were soon invited, along with the other cruisers in the cove, to share a
 wedding anniversary dinner with our hosts that night.  Dinner proved to be
 quite the extravaganza with cruisers bringing dishes to share and
 Valentine and Gaston providing grilled lobster, octopus curry, and a
 seafood Paella.  When we arrived, a table for nearly 30 had been set under
 a backyard tree.  Dinner lasted well past our bed time but we had a fine
 time meeting a number of European cruising couples and doing our best to
 communicate in common languages.  Fortunately, English was spoken by most
 but we have vowed, once again, to devote some time and effort to learning
 to speak French.  During the meal, several small, but intense, squalls
 with strong wind gusts sent us scurrying for cover and crowding under a
 patio awning.  The next morning we would learn that a boat, sailed by a
 couple from Finland that we had meet at dinner,  had broken free  from its
 mooring and nearly ended-up on the nearby reef during one of the squalls.
 We all shuddered to think how close they came to losing their floating
 home.  After diving later to examine the failed mooring, it was determined
 that the coral head, to which the mooring was chained, had actually broken
 off sending the boat adrift.  Thoughts of this sort of thing can sure lead
 to some sleepless nights out here.

 Over the next several days, we did a few SCUBA dives outside of the
 atoll's reef where we enjoyed the clearest water we've yet experienced in
 the South Pacific.  The great visibility allowed us to view the dramatic
 contours of the coral reef and underwater canyons that would drop away
 into the nearby abyss.  Our only disappointment was not seeing any large
 sharks or pelagic fish cruising by in the deep water.  Is it possible that
 we are getting too accustomed to diving with sharks?

 Before leaving Anse Amyot, Anne would spend several hours ashore examining
 Valentine's assortment of beautiful, black pearls and watching her implant
 (graft) nuclei into live oysters around which pearls would form.  We even
 had the opportunity to open our own oysters and recover the small,
 iridescent treasures inside.  Rather than buy more pearls, Anne was able
 to trade men's shirts, scarves and food items from "Blue Rodeo's" galley
 for a few that will always remain as precious mementos of our visit to

 With a rendezvous in Tahiti with fellow "Pacific Puddle Jumpers" planned
 for June 22nd, it was soon time to prepare "Blue Rodeo" for another open
 ocean passage.  Our last day at Toau concluded with slipping away from our
 mooring, raising our sails and heading south west as the late-afternoon
 sunlight illuminated the atoll's palm-covered motus.  Tahiti here we come!


  1. So good meeting you at the rendezvous -- I have a least one great pic of Blue Rodeo smokng Charisma, which I will send you when I'm back on my home computer in NYC. Send me your email?

    Fair winds!

    Sarah Rose

  2. Wonderful photos and lots of interesting news. We are in Panama city traveling with Espiritu (Liz and Chris) They got hit by a tremendous bolt of lightning in the anchorage and lost all their electronics. We lost our SSB in the side flash impact. We will probably be here for a good while as we have lots of repairs to do. Looks like some of those dark clouds could deliver a sizable bolt. Miss you. Love Howard and Lynn