23 Jul The Tuamotu Archipelago – June 7 to July 23, 2002
The Tuamotu Archipelago: Fakarava, Faiite, Tahanea, Kauehi, Toau, Apataki and Rangiroa
Passage to Fakarava: June 7-9 Starr made the three day passage from The Marquees Islands to the Tuamotu Archipelago. The passage was like a time warp; we had incredible starry skies with Jupiter and Venus in the early night sky, the Southern Cross and an upside-down Big Dipper (the North Star is below the horizon). We have our friend, Mike LaRussa on board which enables us to do four hour watches and, as usual, we listen to books on tape as we glide through the silent night seas. It’s really fun to listen to a classic sea story like Moby Dick while voyaging to our next island group. Winds are 22 knots for the first two days, diminishing to 10 knots the last day; and it’s a good thing, as we blow a hydraulic hose on Sunday morning and cruise the remainder of the way to Fakarava without our stabilizers. It feels good to be in the low-lying motus of the Tuamotus once again.
Rotoava, North Pass, Fakarava: June 12 – Don and I fly home to attend Brooke’s graduation from Kellogg in Evanston, IL. Mike LaRussa stays on board to “boatsit” Starr, at anchor off Rotoava at the northern end of the Fakarava lagoon. While we are gone Mike’s then-sweetheart and now-wife Johanna joins Mike on Starr.
July 1 – We arrive back on Starr.
July 2 – Mike and Johanna leave to continue their vacation in Moorea; today, our cruising life on Starr begins: before we went home we spent our time finishing the work left over from the shipyard (installing hardware, cleaning, stowing and organizing). Now we have finished with all of that and can sit back and enjoy life in the remote and beautiful Tuamotus. We begin to get into our morning routine: coffee on the flying bridge and then stretches and crunches, pilates and rubber-band exercises; breakfast of cold cereal and tropical fruit; chores; lunch; nap after lunch; and then swim or paddle our outrigger canoes. Oh, life is good in Paradise!
Tetamanu, South Pass, Fakarava: July 3 – __nm -We cruise the length of the large Fakarava lagoon to Tetamanu at the South Pass. Tetamanu is the home of Tila and Manihi Salmon on Motu Aito. Here they have built the perfect”escape to Paradise”. Small and intimate, last year there was only the main house and two bungalows, now Manihi is working to finish the bungalow #5 with materials dropped off by island packet for #6 while we are there. Tila is so surprised to see us; she never expected us back. Most cruising yachts pass through, stay a few days and then travel on, never to be seen again. She is delighted to see us and like a little girl, takes my hand and gives me French “air kisses” and a big hug.
July 4 – French Polynesia seems very lonely and remote on this American Holiday until our young friends, Ryan, Body and Matt (ages 25-27), arrive on Pale Fire. We first met them in the harbor of Hakahau on Ua Pou and then at the North anchorage of Rotoava. We are oh-so-glad that they arrived just in time to celebrate our common Americaness with a BBQ on Starr. No fireworks, but good company. We immediately adopted the three of them, since our boys were far away at home. During our stay at Tetamanu we dive the South Pass (some of the best diving in French Polynesia); fly fish with Brody in the lagoon; eat fish speared by the boys (we give them hamburger from our freezer); go ashore several times to have dinner with Tila, Manihi and their guests; and on her day off, Tila and I go paddling in our outrigger canoes. We read, write, and listen to music.
Faiite and Tahanea: July 9 – 50nm -we are off to Tahanea, stopping at Faiite for an overnight. We catch dinner, a big mahi mahi, as we are approaching the island. Everyone says that Tahanea is one of the most beautiful islands in the Tuamotus, and they are right. It is uninhabited except for a small temporary fishing camp. Tila’s eyes would glaze over as she told us what a special place it is, and then we learned that neither Tila or Manihi have ever been there and Tahanea is only __NM from Tetamanu. This is not unusual; most locals will go to Tahiti but rarely travel to their neighboring islands. The first night we anchor just inside the main pass into the lagoon. Most boats traveling through these islands never venture beyond the anchorages close to the passes into the lagoon, charted in Charlie’s Charts. As often as possible we like to move to anchorages in other parts of the lagoon, so the next day motor an hour across the large lagoon to a more remote anchorage. While the Tahanea lagoon is uncharted, we choose our time of day for maximum visibility due to the angle of the sun, drive the boat from the flying bridge, and manage to avoid the exposed coral heads which are clearly in view. It is a beautiful anchorage: paradise. We discover that our friends, Wayne and Doeann ________ from Bali Hai III are also anchored here. Manihi and Tila have described to us how to catch Coconut Crabs and we go ashore and set the bait for our “crab traps” (coconuts that have been broken open and hung in trees), and then return later that night, stumbling around in the very dark dark with no success. All I catch are a mass of nasty mosquito bites. The next day while paddling our canoes, we meet Antoine and Francette on Banana Split , a big yellow catamaran. We learn that he is French,a travel film maker by vocation, and that he has been to French Polynesia many times. We ask him what is his family name? He answers: “Just Antoine. Everyone knows me as Antoine.”
Teavero, Kauehi: July 13 – __NM -We leave Tahanea at first light heading for Kauehi, our favorite island in the Tuamotus from the previous year, with the expectation of arriving in time to go to church on Sunday morning. We share the anchorage on the back side of the village with three sailboats, Mike Brownlee and Donna Lemquist on Entertainer and Jim and Eleanor Hancock on Solstice, both boats from California; and Doug Larsen on Chica Pica from Vancouver/Victoria, BC. Upon arrival Don and I go ashore to say “hello” to our special friends from our visit the previous year: Xavier and Tania Chebert. Sunday is Bastille Day. After church, where the music is absolutely marvelous, we attend the “fete”, a children’s parade, singing and dancing in front of the City Hall. We have a party that evening on Starr for our new cruising friends which whom we are sharing the anchorage. Our new friends leave the next day and we hang around until Wednesday. We paddle our canoes; shop for fruits and veggies (tomatoes, cukes, carrots, apples and pears) when the island freighter, Vai Mae, arrives for a short stop to unload freight; visit the pearl farm on the local motu looking for our friends Patrice and Elvis from the year before (not there); and leave a pile of size small Starr T-shirts with Tania for” les enfants” of the village. We visit Rana’s house looking for pearls to buy with no luck. She tells us (in French and I can understand her) “Papa took the good pearls to Tahiti”. We motor across the lagoon and anchor at the pass in preparation for an early departure the next morning. The smell of flowers on the gentle breeze is a wonderful farewell to Kauehi.
Toau: July 17 – 39nm – Up at dawn, pull the anchor and off to Toau. Rain washes the boat on the way. We catch two large tuna: a double-hitter. This is not unusual. Tuna travel in large schools and when we are trailing two fishing lines and pass through a school of tuna, we most often hook two at the same time. We experience comfortable cruising with light wind our of the SW on our bow. By the time we enter the pass the wind has increased and we have to find our way through numerous coral heads to the charted anchorage. After setting our anchor in a safe place, the captain of a large Swan sailboat anchored near us asks us to move the boat. While we are surprised by this request, we make an effort to find another spot to anchor, but we are not comfortable with the many coral heads further south of us and we return to a spot close to where we first anchored. We learn afterwards that the Swan is a charter yacht and the people on board didn’t understand the difficulties of the anchorage and simply wanted more privacy.
The next day we go searching for Pamela, “The Pearl Queen”. We have been told by folks on a charter dive boat that we must introduce ourselves to her if we went to Toau. After taking the novie across the lagoon to the motu where she lives and farms for pearls, we discover that she is in Tahiti selling pearls. Instead we find Antoine in Banana Split, once again on the far side of the lagoon. We chat and learn that he has been around the world 2 1/2 times on Banana Split and that we makes travel films in partnership with Warner Home Video about tropical islands. He speaks excellent English and we invite he and Francette to Starr for dinner. When they arrive, they give us a DVD of his newest island film: Secret Caribbean.
Apataki: July 19 – 55nm – Another pleasant passage, even though the wind is NNE on our bow. It is sunny which is a big surprise as we have been experiencing cloudy days and rain showers. We are anchored inside the North Pass by 0400 and we snorkel around the coral heads near the boat: blue and green lip clams, lots of fish, some big parrot fish and some with a pinkish hue. We see a 10′ ray when we motored to our anchorage and some small sharks off Starr when we went snorkeling.
Rangiroa: July 20 – 75nm – Up at 0530; anchor up by 0600; there is a strong current running in the pass; we are through and on our way by 0645. We have a beautiful morning, steering from the flying bridge. The wind is behind us and it doesn’t get much better than this. In the afternoon the weather changes, the wind strengthens and moves forward and we have some rain. It is very windy by the time we arrive at Rangiroa. We are anchored by 1600.
July 22 – Two of our best friends, Magne Stensvik and Laura Curcio, arrive in the morning. Magne is the son of a Norwegian fisherman from Ballard, and he and Laura have taken both of our Skookums either up to Alaska or home for us.
July 23 – We spend the next morning exploring on shore, introducing Magne and Laura to friends we have met on previous stays in Rangiroa, and then Don and I fly home for our niece Jessie’s wedding.