The prevailing winds in French Polynesia are typically east. Guess where we need to go? South East. We had waited for a good weather window to head south and east from the Tuamotus to the Gambiers. It is a long passage, about 765nm as the crow flies which means closer to 800-850nm for a sail boat. This journey would take us 6/7 days if all went well.
We left Toau at 1430 in the afternoon with light winds, calm seas, and blue skies. It was a lovely start. We quickly got into a groove as we settled into this passage. Our first night was really nice as the moon was almost full and super bright.
Because we left in the late afternoon our 24hour periods will be funky (so day 2 is still part of the first 24-hour sailing period).
2nd Day – 1st 24 hours
We had 3 fishing lines and a teaser out. Not sure why as we still had a ton of marlin in the freezer. But Matt is a glutton for punishment. We got a hit on the smallest rod and reel (30). Of course, it spooled out and the line broke at the swivel. Crap! No big deal, Matt made another lure just like the first one and put the line back out (with tighter tension).
We passed Kauehi and Raraka (two small, uninhabited atolls). We are making as much “easting” as we can before the wind shifted to the east. Our goal is to pass most of the islands on their east side if possible. We did manage to avoid a rather large squall. And then we were rewarded with a double rainbow!
Trip Details: 1ST 24 Hour Period
- Miles sailed: 139nm
- Max Speed: 9.8kt
- Average Speed: 5.8kt
3rd Day – 2nd 24 Hours
It is always a bit challenging to change your sleeping habits on a 6/7-day journey like this. Matt and I take 3-hour shifts. Which means, he is on for 3 hours, then goes to sleep, while I am on. Rinse, repeat, rinse repeat.
We got another bite on the small rod/reel but the bugger got away. At least he left the lure behind.
Another pretty sunset.
And the moon came out to guide us through the night.
We pass several more atolls: Katiu, Makemo, Marutea, Nihiru, Tekokota, and Tauere.
Trip Details: 48 hours
- Miles Traveled: 142nm
- Overall, Miles Traveled: 281nm
- Max Speed: 11.0kt
- Average Speed: 5.9kt
We ended up dodging squalls all night and most of the morning. Keeps you busy and on your toes. We had a decision to make. The new weather update showed the east winds coming a lot sooner and lighter than anticipated. We could motor up and around Amanu, sail for 2.5 days and then motor the remaining 1.5 days to Gambier. Or, the other option is to head to Amanu, wait for daylight and hang out at this new to us atoll for the weather to improve. We decided to go to Amanu.
We slowed the boat down as our instruments were showing a 2200-2400 arrival which is not good. However, we did not slow it down enough as we arrived at 2400 with just the light from the moon. Our trip details at our arrival outside the pass.
Trip Details: 58 hours
- Miles Traveled: 55nm
- Overall, Miles Traveled: 336nm
- Max Speed: 11.0kt
- Average Speed: 5.7kt
- This was 9.5 hours after our 48hr mark
Since we could not enter the pass at night, we circled, and circled, and circled. The big circle is when we first arrived and took us from 0100-0500. We slowly motored closer to shore to get a look at the narrow pass. The guestimator showed slack tide at 0824 but when we approached at that time it was not navigable. So, we circled some more. The image below shows our creative journey outside the pass.
As you enter the lagoon there is a dog leg that you have to avoid by hanging a sharp right. Easy peazy. The sun was shing bright showcasing the reef, the tide was not bad and the winds were light.
Once the tides settled down, we had a beautiful entrance into Amanu’s lagoon. These photos are from the port side of the boat.
The starboard side has the church and main village of the atoll. A large reef extends beyond the concrete wall which has to be avoided (of course). We had 2kts of outgoing current as we entered.
We were greeted by the locals in two different fishing boats, super nice!
Sticking the Anchor
It took us 3 attempts to stick the anchor and avoid the huge coral heads. What a pain in the a$$! We have to float our chain, so it is dropping the anchor, setting it, pulling up the chain (70 meters), placing 7 floats (about every 10 meters), setting it again and swimming on it. The first time we were too close to two large bommies. The second time didn’t stick well. Raise the chain, remove the floats and try again. Third time is a charm. Ugh, but we are secure and ready for a nap.
We dropped our anchor in 15 meters of water surrounded by bommies (thus the floats). It is a “c” shape spot with some protection from the wind and fetch. You can see from the photo that we are not far from the pass or village. (Pass and village top of photo).
Our anchor spot at Amanu.
Our journey was not complete but we made it to Amanu. Be sure to check back on 25 February to see “A Journey: Tuamotus to Gambiers Part II” as we finally make it to the Gambiers.
Events from this journey occurred around the 3rd week of November, 2020. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.