The Tuamotu’s, “The Dangerous Archipelago”


First Stop: “Manihi”
June 5th 2016
Daisy and Babe left Taiohae Bay early Sunday afternoon, for our 600 mile crossing to Manihi. Winds were light but initially just enough for us to raise the sails, although throughout the crossing the winds dropped so low we had to motor for half of the trip. It was an uneventful crossing, with sadly no sightings of whales or even dolphins, just an occasional flying fish and a Boobie, one which stayed with us all throughout the night, but was long gone at first light. For most of the crossing we were within sight of Babe, and kept in constant contact over the VHF. On the evening of the third night we headed off towards Manihi while Babe continued on to Rangiroea to collect their daughter who was flying in on the 10th.

The Tuamotu’s have a reputation as “the dangerous archipelago” due to the shallow seas around the atolls, all of which are only as high as their tallest palm tree with the roots being only one foot above sea level.
Thanks to the French Government basing their nuclear testing activities here for 33 years (1963 – 1996) the atolls now have quite limited and austere resources. The people have created themselves a more economic future with the development of the cultured Black Pearl, which is now the primary resource after tourism (also one of my main reasons for wanting to visit these islands).

We arrived at the Tairapa Pass (the entrance into the lagoon) just after four in the afternoon on Wednesday 8th June. The skies were heavy with cloud, squalls were visible all around the lagoon; with little sun the visibility was less than perfect for seeing through the water. I stood on the pulpit with the radio to watch and advise Bob of any raised coral heads or shallows as we made our way through. Traversing the pass was more than a little scary, as the depth was barely over seven feet in places and we draw six feet three inches, so it was really close.

Once safely through the pass and into the safety of the lagoon, we made our way to the anchorage and got Daisy secured before sitting back and relaxing with a beer. We were both exhausted after the trip, neither of us had managed to get much restful sleep in the last twenty-four hours and we were feeling the effects. I made a quick dinner of Coconut Crusted Shrimp with a sweet Chili Sauce, Crispy Sautéed Potatoes and sweet baby Peas. We watched a little television and fell into bed about nine, which was actually only eight-thirty, as we had crossed another time zone on our way here. We’re now 6 hours behind the States and 11 hours behind the UK. We enjoyed a long, peaceful, much needed nights sleep, in fact we slept until eight-thirty, a full twelve hours! We’re both usually up long before seven, so it just goes to show how tired we must have been.

It’s really quite beautiful here inside the lagoon, although the angry sound of the thundering waves crashing spectacularly on the shores surrounding the atoll are a constant reminder of the power of the ocean. Happily, I feel quite safe and protected here inside and excited to be here. I spotted several Pearl farms dotted around inside on our way in yesterday, I can’t wait to go pearl shopping.

Our first day in Manihi was spent much the same as usual after a crossing, arriving at a new location, doing boat chores! I tidied and cleaned around inside, gave the cockpit a much needed through cleaning and cleaned some of the stainless, while Bob spent the day installing the new heat exchanger on the generator. By tea-time (four O’clock) it appeared we finally had a fully functional generator, things were looking good, but only time will tell! I wouldn’t trust the damn thing not to break down again in a day or two. I officially hate Westerbeke Generators, ours has been an unreliable piece of junk for the last ten years, Bob has spent more man hours working on its repairs than all the other jobs on the boat put together. Happily, our water maker has been working brilliantly again since fitting the new membrain, so our water tanks are kept full and the water is crystal clear and drinkable. The new alternator fitted before leaving the Marquises has kept the batteries fully charged, so we’re in good shape. (until the generator goes wrong again!)

Day two, was going to be a fun day. After breakfast we took Whoops-a-Daisy (our dinghy) to look for a safe pass through the reef to the beach, after much searching, finding no breaks in the reef and not enough depth for us to motor in over it, we raised the motor and paddled towards the shore, with only an inch or two beneath us and the coral, it was not easy given the strong current, so eventually Bob got out and pulled us through. Once ashore we anchored “Whoops-a-Daisy in the sand and followed an inlet to the outer beach where the waves were crashing spectacularly onto the shore. It was exceptionally windy in this seemingly wild, isolated, untamed place. The shore was littered with beautiful shells, very busy hermit crabs and tons and tons of beautiful coral. I found some fabulous clam shells perfectly intact, and took just a couple to add to my shell collection (which, much to Bob’s chagrin, is growing). After an hour of exploring the beach both on the inside and outside shores of the lagoon, we did some snorkeling and I saw some of the most incredible (living) clams and sea creatures, the colors of which have to be seen to be believed. Then it was time to return to Daisy for a mid-day G&T before lunch. I served a Mackerel Escabeche, with a salad of cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce, a little potato salad, crusty French bread and a glass of chilled white wine, it was delicious…

Later that afternoon, the winds that had been blowing a gale all evening, had calmed a little during the morning, but early afternoon it kicked up another notch. We had forty plus knot winds throughout the night, and consistent twenty-eight knot winds throughout the day, thank goodness for the good holding here. Bob had gone to bed for an afternoon nap and I was making jewelry in the salon, when I noticed the sky had suddenly become very dark. Up on deck I was greeted with the sight of an enormous squall heading in our direction, it spread across the entire width of the lagoon, like a fearful black monster, from one side to the other and on out to sea, and it was traveling towards us at speed. I immediately woke Bob and we set about making the boat safe, closing up the dodger, putting all the deck cushions away, closing all the hatches, bringing Whoops-a-Daisy up on the davits, not the easiest task with her splashing and bouncing violently up and down in the building waves. Having checked the anchor and made sure all was well, we just beat the first of the rains as we ducked below. Bob put the tracker on so we could monitor the movement of Daisy as she shifted and strained against the growing winds. This is not what I expected from the Tuamotu’s, I guess I should have done my homework and read a bit more about them!

Post a Comment