Our last message to you outlined our tentative plans for the near future. Please disregard those plans as they have already changed. That is one of the positive aspects about cruising and taking one's home along…plans can and are often changed.
Three cruising boats (German, Dutch and British) had been waiting for a good weather window in order to leave the Gambiers for nearly two weeks. That weather window came and we decided to take advantage of it too. We also took a closer look at the charts and decided that, if we were going to see some of the atolls of the NW Tuamotos, we would have to skip the Australs.
With a very nice 10-15 knot NNE wind we left the Gambiers on Saturday, April 25th. Our course was 280 degrees and the steady NNE winds gave us good boat speed for the entire six days that it took to go over 700 miles.
The Tuamotos of Polynesia comprises the largest group of coral atolls in the world with the Gambiers at the SE edge. Of the 78 atolls in the group, only 45 are inhabited and the total population of all these atolls is only 12,500 people. Some of the atolls have an unbroken ring of reef around the lagoon, while others appear as a necklace of islets separated by channels.
The first atoll that we visited is Makemo, about 250 miles NE of Tahiti. There are four other atolls close by that we plan to visit before moving on to Papeete, Tahiti. We all know how those plans can go though, so please do not hold us to the letter.
The atolls usually have from 1-3 passes that allow boats into the inner lagoon. We made our first trip through one of these passes two days ago and it was quite an adrenalin-high. We had perfect conditions: Low tides due to the new moon, middle of the day to clearly see the coral and shoals, and just at slack tide according to the tide tables. Even so there was crazy water, all choppy and white - similar to the rapids of a river. We were trying to decide on which side of the pass to take this white water, when we realized that we needed to go right down through the middle of that churning mess. The rapids-like effect is created when the moving tide meets up with whatever winds there are. We were moving through the channel at about 7 knots and Sander had his hands full making sure that we stayed steady. We can't believe that it will ever be as scary again as it was the first time, because now we have some idea what to expect.
There is a small village next to the pass with three stores, post office, gendarmerie, schools etc. The people are all very very friendly and we wish that our French were better as they speak little English here. In the Gambiers there were a lot of people who spoke passable English and enjoyed practicing it so we did not have much occasion to speak French.
Only one other boat was here at anchor. Laurent is a single-hander from France. He bought his little fibre glass boat in Vancouver, went to Juno, Alaska on the Inner Passage last summer and is on his way to New Caledonia where he hopes to get a teaching position (bio-chemistry) long enough to earn money to refit his boat in Papeete. Then he will go east and round Cape Horn. Better you than us, Guy. He is a very nice person. Laurent says that teaching jobs are very popular in France. Those with science training are unable to get jobs within the pharmaceutical industry because there are so few of them so many people are trying to become teachers. I told him that they should try to emigrate to the USA as we really need them.
We have taken some lovely photos here at Makemo but will have to hold them until we reach an internet location in Papeete. Then it will be hard to decide which ones to send.
We are hearing from friends and family at home about the coming spring. Your messages are always so welcome. Enjoy the time each day, breathe in the smells of the spring flowers and enjoy the sites of the new growth for us. We remember it all and do miss it.
Jane and Sander aboard Satori