Double Rainbow

A Journey: Tuamotus to Gambiers Part I

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. 

Underway

Underway

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!

Double Rainbow

A perfect journey 

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.

Moonrise

Moonrise. A perfect night journey.

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

Circling Amanu

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.

Circling Amanu waiting for sunrise

Circling Amanu waiting for sunrise.  Journey cut short.

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.

Entering Amanu Pass

Entering Amanu Pass

Once the tides settled down, we had a beautiful entrance into Amanu’s lagoon.  These photos are from the port side of the boat.

Amanu Pass at slack tide

Amanu Pass at slack tide

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.

Amanu Pass

Amanu Pass

We were greeted by the locals in two different fishing boats, super nice!

Locals welcoming us to Amanu

Locals welcoming us to Amanu

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).

Amanu Anchorage

Amanu Anchorage

Our anchor spot at Amanu.

Amanu Anchorage

Amanu Anchorage

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.

Toau: The Sister Island

Fakarava is one of the largest and most visited atolls in the Tuamotus.  It offers several magasins (markets), fuel, propane, fruits and veggies, and yacht services.  However, 25nm down the road is its sister island Toau which is hardly ever visited and a sweet oasis. 

This little atoll does not have any magasins or provisions or services.  It used to get a supply ship once a month but that has ceased as well.  Valentine and Gaston who live on the main motu near the false pass have a beautiful garden with tomatoes, bell peppers, pamplemousse, lemons, noni, avocado, and a few other items.  They open up as a restaurant during peak season (April-Oct) and offer cruisers fresh fish, lobster, and available meats.  Super friendly and always willing to accept visitors.

Valetine and Gaston's Home on Toau

Valetine and Gaston’s Home on Toau

They have a plethora of animals.  When we arrived at the dock 5 dogs greeted us with sloppy kisses.  They have cats and new kittens.

Tons of chickens and a family of pigs.

They even have a pet frigate bird named Mumu that has been with them for over 11 years!

Pet Frigate bird

Pet Frigate bird

Valentin is very religious and had a sit down with us discussing God and her beliefs.  They even have their own church for the 3 people on the motu.

She has a large collection of shells that she gifts to visitors and shares with newcomers.

Snorkeling

We had great fun snorkeling the pass during incoming tide.  We found several black tip sharks and lots of big schools of fish as we drifted in towards the bay.  The reef behind us was a treasure trove!

The reef had lots of large coral heads (bommies) with tons of varieties of fish around, and inside them.  I think you could snorkel here for days and see something new.

Our weather window opened up and we needed to leave.  It was a short visit to Toau but we will certainly return.  On a sad note, we will be parting with our good friends on Maple (Janet, Daryl, Ella, and Iris).  We met them in Bonaire and have sailed with them across many miles of ocean, visited many countries, islands, and atolls.  They will be heading to Japan in January, then Alaska, then Canada.  It was really hard to say “so long.”  Hopefully we will see them again as they have been an amazing blessing in our lives.

We will certainly need to come back to Amanu as we did not have a chance to go inside the lagoon.  We had too much fun exploring the false pass and visiting with Valentine and Gaston.

Events from this blog post in Toau occurred around the 3rd week of November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Marlin, The Big Catch on Toau Passage

We like to fish while under passage.  On the 140nm passage from Tikehau to Toau we estimated it to take us 25-26 hours at an average speed of 5kts with 12kts of wind from the North of East.  Of course, that is if we didn’t spend a bunch of hours trying to catch a huge blue marlin

We decided to leave Tikehau between 0900-1000 so we would not arrive in the dark.  Everything started out as planned, we raised the main to full sail and had a reefed jib as we exited the pass.  Within the first hour we were hit with strong winds (20-25kt) from a squall.  Matt took a reef in the main thinking we could shake it out after the winds died down and after we made our left turn around the atoll.

Weather routing gave a direct path (as the image indicates below) but they did not take into account that we would be sailing over other islands.  So, we went around Tikehau and avoided Rangiroa and Kaukura.

Route to Toau

Route to Toau

It was a fantastic sail with 12-15kts of wind from the North, North East pushing us along at 8-9kts.  That is wicked fast for us when you consider we usually cruise at 5-6kts.  We figured it would not last and decided to enjoy it while we had it. 

The BIG catch

Matt had all three lines out and a teaser.  I did not think we could catch anything because we were going too fast.  However, around 1415 Matt noticed our teaser bungy bounce and pulled it in to find our lure missing.  Not a minute later the line next to it went “ZING!” We both looked up and saw a marlin dancing on the water.  And then off it went, unspooling thousands of feet of line and filament. And going, and going, and going. 

Since we were under sail, we had to depower the boat and bring in the other 2 lines before we could work on bringing the marlin in.  We reefed the jib and headed away from the wind slowing us down to 5/6 kts.  Matt started the slow process of reeling the beast in as I tried to slow us down even further without flogging the main or making an accidental jibe.  The pressure on the pole was constant between the power of the marlin and the forward motion of the boat making it challenging to reel the fish in.

Matt fighting with the Marlin

Matt fighting with the Marlin

He was a fighter!  Of course, I can’t blame him.  I must admit I felt horrible bringing him in and watching him suffer (what a bleeding heart).  But we will use all of his meat to feed the locals and other cruisers.  He will not go to waste and will not be a trophy hunt.

The Big Blue Marlin

The Big Blue Marlin

Once we got the fish close enough, we attempted to gaff him to help pull him onboard.  The trick is to get him close enough to use the gaff, but far enough away where his nose doesn’t put a hole in our boat.

Trying to gaf the marlin

Trying to gaf the marlin

It wasn’t pretty as the gaff kept coming out.  We had to stick him several times before we were able to finally bring him onboard.

The Big Catch

Marlin: The Big Catch

The Marlin

He is about 2.5 meters in length (7.5’) and 70-75 kilos (155-160lbs).  His nose came across our deck and his tail is off the last sugar scoop.  Who is tougher?

A picture of a full reel (top) and the unspooled reel (bottom)

We ended up filling (6) 5x large ziplock bags. I think each bag is 5gal.  Lucky for us the engle was empty so we had a place to put him.  We filled it up and still had to put two bags in the fridge!

Bagged and ready to go

Marlin bagged and ready to go

Are we sailing?

After several hours of going off course at 1.2-5kts we finally went back on track.  We headed back on course, reset the sails and we were off again at 8-9kts in 12-15kts of wind.  Sweet!  It took Matt another 1.5 hours to cut and clean the fish while I got us underway.

We finished up with the fish just as the sun was setting and as the SSB net was starting.  What great timing.  We both were too tired to make dinner, so we prepared the boat for the evening sail and set into our passage.

It was a totally smooth and fast sail.  We ended up depowering the sails again as we were scheduled to arrive at 0300-0330 in the morning (dark).  At dawn, we turned the motors on and made our way to the false pass of Toau.

Toau

Toau is known for its absolute beauty, remoteness, snorkeling, and serenity.  It is unique in that it has one pass that leads into the lagoon and one false pass.  The image below shows us (red arrow) at the false pass and it shows the regular pass on the right with the range markers and channel.

Tao

Toau

You may ask, “what is a false pass?”  A regular pass will allow yachts to enter into the atoll into the lagoon inside.  A false pass can either be from the inside of the lagoon to the outer reef or from the pacific to the inside reef.  The false pass at Toau allows yachts to enter from the Pacific to the inner reef (but does not allow us to go inside the lagoon).

Toau False Pass

Toau False Pass

We picked up a mooring ball provided by Gaston and Valentine (locals who also run a restaurant), took a quick nap and began our explorations.

Trip Details

  • Miles to Destination Total: 140nm
  • Total Miles Sailed: 142nm
  • Hours Sailed: 20:18
  • Moving Average: 7.1kt
  • Max Speed: 11.7kt

Events from this blog post occurred around the 3rd week of November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.