Thursday, May 22, 2008

Arriving in Apataki

May 22, 2008--Last Sunday we moved back up to the anchorage at Rotoava because we planned to get a few things on Monday morning and then leave to anchor close to the pass, which would make it faster for us to leave Fakarava on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, during the night on Sunday the winds picked up to 25 knots in the anchorage with gusts over 30. The lagoon was pretty unsettled making it a boisterous and worrisome night with little sleep. The rain squalls kept coming through in waves and around 4 in the morning Steve and I are up on deck, scantily clad, in the middle of a rain squall, trying to drain some of the rain water out of the dinghy. We hoist the dinghy up beside the boat at night for security and also to reduce the growth on its bottom. We looked like drowned rats by the time we were done.

We had planned to go to the bakery early; however, the wind and rain made that very difficult. We enjoyed our coffee and waited for things to calm down. Around 9 o'clock we got in the dinghy and headed to shore. We made a quick run to the bakery and then to the grocery, and then an even quicker stop at the Black Pearl shop. When we got back to the dock, we saw a huge rain squall moving up to the anchorage so we decided to take refuge by the government building until it blew over. After a few minutes we thought it was all done and decided to run for it. Just as we pulled away from the dock another wave of rain hit, and it continued until we got back to the boat. So we looked like drowned rats for a second time that day.

The weather had been unsettled for a few days, so we decided to let things calm down on the outside before we left. We worked on chores Tuesday and got some things done that had been put off for awhile. Tuesday afternoon we went back into town for an ice cream (they have great ice cream in French Polynesia), and then Dave and Candy from s/v Chinook invited us over for cocktails. That night we hoisted the dinghy on the deck and were ready to go.

Planning the entrances and exits through these passes is a guess at best. We read everything, downloaded tides, checked tide books, and we still came into Fakarava on a large flood tide. The entrance was riled up so we wanted our exit to be less exciting. We almost left with Chinook around 6 a.m. but decided it would be better to go out on a flood. Well, we did go out at noon right in the middle of a flood tide again. This time, however, the entrance was much calmer, so we had no problems. Unfortunately, this leg would mean an overnight sail.

We headed up the channel between Toau and Fakarava sailing to wind the whole way meaning the wind was just off the bow--not the most comfortable point of sail. Then we had to head west toward Apataki, and, of course, the wind shifted with us. The last few miles, the wind was right on the nose so we had to turn on the engine and motor to the entrance. When we got there at 6 a.m., we thought that we had timed it for slack tide but weren't sure. As soon as we had enough light, we headed through the pass and found that it was definitely slack tide (we got it right) so we had no problems at all. The scenery was breathtaking, and the beautiful sunrise in the background made it even better. We had to carefully follow the buoys through the channel, which is a challenge since red and green buoys are reversed here, and then find a place to anchor. There are pearl farms here and oyster beds are everywhere. We did find a nice spot off a sandy beach where you can see the ocean waves breaking on the other side. We put the anchor down, covered the sail, and picked up a few things. We crashed for a few hours of sleep since neither of us got much of it last night. Sailing through these atolls is a bit unnerving especially at night. The atolls generally have dangerous submerged reefs on their south sides. We enjoyed a refreshing swim and shower, and then we went in to see the village. We found a place to tie up the dinghy and then just walked around the village for 30 minutes. It is a small village, but it is very clean. All the homes have bright curtains in the windows and well manicured grounds with flowering plants of various kinds everywhere. The people here are the friendliest that we have encountered so far--they all smiled and said hello.

We plan to circumnavigate about two-thirds of the atoll beginning tomorrow so I will leave that for the next blog.

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