Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Chilling in Tahanea (Tuamotus)

[Kyle]The great thing about Tahanea is that is beautiful. It is the tropical paradise that lives deep down inside everybody’s dreams. Palms with fronds of green and gold sway in the trade winds atop blinding white beaches on uninhabited islands. Outside, the reef, the surf adds its tone to the soothing soundtrack. Inside, the boat rests in water so clear and blue that it looks like it’s floating ten feet above the sand, while multicolored fishes dart in and out of multicolored coral gardens below.

Rain and storms make for rainbows!

The other great thing about Tahanea is that that is it. There’s no airport, no town, no restaurants, no stores, no cell phone service and definitely no wifi. It’s the kind of place where there’s no need to feel guilty about waking up at 10:00, deciding it’s too hot to do much, going for a nap at 2:00 and then waking up in time to enjoy the sunset. If you get restless, you can go for a swim and if you’re really feeling ambitious, you can forage for coconuts on the beach. They make great snacks and getting into one will keep you busy for a while.

That’s pretty much what we did during our stay. We needed a break from the motion and from constantly worrying about how our anchor was holding. For the first five days, the only other boats around took the form of the shimmering mirage of the wiggling tops of their masts seen through the binoculars. We moved closer and then closer until we were sharing an anchorage with a handful of them. Just as we were all about to start socializing, the skies opened up and we all retreated to our boats. Half of the group left to go anchor nearer to the pass on the other side of the lagoon.

The front that brought the rain brought a wind shift that made it necessary for us to join them the next morning. We got lucky, sort of, and had no rain and good light for the trip across the lagoon. I say sort of because as we were milling around looking for a spot, the sky opened up and we were completely drenched within seconds. Free shower!

Since we were soaked anyway, it was no big deal to go out in the rain and set up the rain catchers. We had enough to do a big load of laundry, after which we dressed Begonia in a full set of laundry flags to celebrate the occasion.

Underwater Tahanea

We went ashore to have a look for some snack food and finally were able to meet some of the others who had done the same. We had this idea that we would come home via a drift dive through the pass, but the seas were too high and getting in through the surf proved to be too treacherous. We walked a little further and were finally able to manage the inner half.

As we were drifting back into the lagoon, half of the anchored boats suddenly left and followed each other out of the pass like a family of ducks. A monohull entered through the adjacent pass and anchored under sail. Nice move. I was a little envious. After a while, he pulled up anchor, sailed around for a bit and then did it again. A catamaran entered through our pass (the middle one) and did the same thing near the first guy. As we were swimming past, we noticed it was Aleen and Adrian on Pizza and Eureka. They had left Hao the same afternoon we did. We also noticed that it was Naked Thursday, so we suppressed the urge to swim over and rib them about taking so long.

After a lovely night sleeping on freshly laundered bedding that was sun dried in the trade winds, we emerged to find Aleen and Adrian already out swimming. They were catching fish for lunch and invited us to the beach to help them eat it. Adrian took the fish home and Aleen offered to help attach another float to our chain to keep it away from the coral. The trouble spot was right at my depth limit, leaving me only a couple of seconds to do any work. Aleen regularly free dives below 50m, so 15m was a cute little warm up for her. We gave her the float and after a couple of MINUTES simultaneously fighting against the buoyancy of the float and the weight of the chain to get them clipped together, she surfaced, sounding only a little winded. She don’t need no stinkin’ SCUBA gear…

Exploring and BBQ

At the beach, we learned that they had run out of wind leaving Hao, so they decided to stop at a couple of the islands along the way. It didn’t work and it still took them five days of the last twelve to cover the distance to Tahanea, giving them an average speed of about two knots. Their original plan had been to stay in Tahanea for a month, teaching kite surfing to passing boats, but instead, they were now planning on leaving the next day at the same time we were.

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