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Friday, August 23, 2013

Tahiti to Tahanea

We departed Baie Phaeton, at the isthmus between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, at first light on Tuesday. John had specifically looked for a weather window of next to no wind to get us back to the Tuamotus. In the usual prevailing wind pattern it would be a salty wet bash - which Nakia and her crew do not particularly like. After motoring out of the protective lee of the island the seas were short but close together and we knew we were back on open ocean again.

We got what we wished for and this may have been the most expensive passage, relatively speaking, that we've ever had. John had gone to the gas station and filled one 6.5 gallon jerry jug full of diesel fuel to top our tanks and it cost him about $45 US! Although we tried to sail when we could - even when it meant doing one knot of boat speed - we ended up motoring most of the way here. But when we sailed it was absolutely beautiful, especially at night with the boat gliding along in the moonlight reflecting on the flat surface of the water.

How calm was it, you ask? It was so calm that:

We set our coffee cups down on the table or counter and they didn't tip over (well, John still held on to his out of force of habit; I seized the day and felt like I was living on the edge)...

I sat in one of our plastic patio chairs in the cockpit to watch the sunrise...

We saw a fish swim under the boat..

John saw his reflection in the water as he leaned over to take a...hmmm, uh, you know...

The silence was deafening each time we pulled the kill switch and got some relief from the noise, heat, and vibration of the engine. It made for lots of tippy-toeing around by the on-watch person at night while the off-watch tried to sleep in all that quiet. Woe to the crew who opened a new packet of crackers for a midnight snack. Those plastic wrappers are noisy!

Even though we were paralleling the atoll of Tahanea before dawn when we could see the palm covered motus along the coral reef, we still had another four and a half hours of following the reef to the main pass entrance. As we closed with the pass we watched as huge rain clouds began to form. We had missed the beginning of an ebb tide after high slack by about three hours, and the current was already churning up the far side of the entrance. John wanted to know if I wanted to stay outside the pass and wipe down the boat in the rain but I didn't want to give the current a chance to get any stronger so we headed in. Of course at that moment the clouds converged to block the sun and it started to rain. Fortunately it wasn't so heavy that visibility was impaired, and it was still calm. John hugged the SE side of the pass on our port side to stay out of the current while I stood on the bow making sure we weren't going to hit anything. I glanced up occasionally to watch a rock on shore 120 yards away as we passed at a snail's pace with as much as four knots of counter-current slowing us down. But after only 15 minutes we were through the worst of it and I was wiping the salt and grime off the boat with the fresh rain water.

We finally killed the engine and had the best sail of the whole passage. Unfortunately it was backtracking two hours across the lagoon to the far SE end where we had started - only this time we were inside the reef. We had counted four boats at anchor as we went by outside after sunrise and now we could see two more. The boats are spread out among a handful of atolls for privacy and we split the difference between two of them. I was a bit frantic as John directed me forward out of deep water and over the sand to drop the anchor in seven feet of water (plus two that the depth sounder doesn't know about). That just goes to show how long it's been since we've been in clear water (I'm out of practice). And I thought Tahiti was pretty great - this is way mo' betta! We already have a male Napoleon (Humphead) wrasse in residence who was happy to come to the surface for our fish scraps (see dinner plans below).

Here are the stats, plus or minus a bit since I haven't slept much in three nights:

Motored 42 hours for a total of 222 nautical miles.
Sailed 36 hours for a total of 102 miles.
Average speed over total of 78 hours and 324 miles was 4.1 knots.
Fuel consumed: 25 gallons at $177? We're hoping for around six tenths of a gallon per hour since John kept the RPMs at 1400 which is not much above forward idle speed.
Fish caught: A 20 lb skipjack tuna, the one and only time John put out a line. While the meat looks a disgusting dark blood red, John marinated it in soy sauce, sugar, and garlic chili sauce, and pan fried it. Tonight it goes over cous cous cooked with a sauteed onion and a can of Veg-all.

Ziggy's already had several laps around the boat enjoying our new found calm and quiet (not to mention all the fresh fish). Now it's time for us to get in this beautiful clear lagoon and go for a swim!