Tag Archives: tuamotus

Ta Ta Tahanea

After our 5-day passage, we arrive at the Tahanea pass with 4 knots of outgoing current.  Not ideal for our incoming arrival.  But we power up the engines and make it through the pass with no problems.  Yeah us!

Anchoring in Tahanea can be “tricky” as you have to avoid getting your anchor stuck or your chain wrapped around one of the gazillion bommies (little black marks in the photo).  In the middle of the photo is shows the pass where you enter the lagoon.  You can see there is an outgoing current at the time of the phot.

As we were approaching the Tahanea pass we saw a rather large cruise ship on AIS.  Super strange as these are not the “normal” cruising grounds for that type of vessel.

The World

A completely foreign occurrence happened the morning we arrived in Tahanea.  Typically, you will only see a small handful of other sail boats here.  However, a rather large, 196-meter cruiser ship entered the pass and dropped the hook right behind us!  WTF!  Seriously, why would you bring tourist here when there are NO services.  OMG What is this world coming to? 

The cruise ship is called “The World” and it is the world’s largest privately owned yacht.  All of the cabins are privately owned (like condos) and evidently you have to be worth over $5M to be considered for a cabin.  A 700’ cabin will run you about $300,000.  But you will be draped in luxury.  Lucky for us, they left around 5:00pm the same day and we had our anchorage all to ourselves again.  Matt said it “farts rainbows.”

 Boobies, Boobies, and more Boobies

As you know by now, boobies are a type of bird that are super common in French Polynesia.  There are red foot, blue foot, and brown foot boobies.  And they are all super fabulous

There are lots of nesting motus where the a large variety of birds mate.  We enjoy seeing them, but keep our distance so as not to scare them off.

The adolescent boobie (top left) was with a friend and they literally walked or rather waddled up to us.  I took the funniest video (check it out on my instagram account).

 The boobies in Tahanea nest in the trees and on the ground!

Some of the young adult boobies are super curious.  One little guy decided he wanted onboard Sugar Shack!

 Turtle Nest

On one motu we spied these tracks from the water to a spot below a tree.  They were turtle tracks – most likely a large turtle like a leatherback!  One set of tracks left the momma up to the nest and one set of tracks left her back to the water.

A little Relaxation Station

We head to a motu near the eastern most pass and discover a small village.  It is used as a communal area for locals visiting from other atolls.  They even built an outdoor seating area.

 Tahanea Anchorages

 The anchorages here are simply breathtaking!  It is so difficult to express in words so here are a few photos.

 And my favorite anchorage, called “7”  The reef makes a natural “7” in the lagoon.

Tahanea 7 Anchorage

Tahanea 7 Anchorage

So very beautiful.  Our anchorage near the pass at sunset.

We take our time migrating from Gambier to Tahiti (see migration post).   The migration began 25 Feb. in Gambier and ended on 26 March in Tahiti.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.


Amazing Amanu

Mother Nature provided us with another weather window to head SE so we had to leave Fakarava after spending only 2 days at this atoll.  But, when the weather presents a window, you take it and we planned to take it all the way to Amanu.  Typically, cruisers will sail North to South inside the lagoon and exit the south pass when they are heading S or SE.  It is about 30nm and relatively easy. 

However, we decided to exit the North pass which added about 11nm to our trip.  It is 5.5nm west then you have to sail the same 5.5nm back to get to your starting point.  But, once at the starting point, you have a good point of sail.

We sailed past the iconic Fakarava tower.  Do you remember when we posted about this before?  If not, search on our web for it – cool history.

Passing the Fakarava Tower

Passing the Fakarava Tower

We anticipated NE winds at 12-15kts with 1m seas.  The entire passage was estimated at 290nm down the North side of Fakarava, South side of Katiu and Makemo, North side of Marutea, then a “straight shot to Amanu.”  We were able to sail the entire way following our intended plan and bypassing all the islands along the way (which is always a good thing).  However, there was a huge wind shift about 80nm away from Amanu which was pushing us west of the atoll.  We decided to continue sailing, pinch as hard as we could (which means head into the wind as much as possible while still keeping the sails full), and reevaluate later.

We had a beautiful wisp of a rainbow hidden in the clouds and a few beautiful sunsets.

Shift in Weather and Plans

We continued sailing until we got 26nm from Amanu, then dropped the sails, turned on the engines, and headed into the wind and waves toward Amanu.  It was a rude way to finish a wonderful passage bashing into the waves and wind.  It ended up taking over 10 hours to travel 26nm.  

As we approached Amanu (and Hao which is only 15nm away), there were two boats in our path.  We were so close hauled that we did not have much maneuver room so we had to watch them closely.  We are the red arrow; the two boats are in green. The blue arrow shows you where we want to go which is clearly not where we are pointing to.  The joys of sailing vs motoring (you go where the wind takes you).

Once we arrived at the Amanu pass we had to wait over 3 hours for slack tide (where the tides are neutral enough for us to safely enter the lagoon).  Then we motored 3.5-hours upwind, to the North corner of Amanu.  We were tired.

The first 24 hours we made 176nm in 24 hours; the 2nd 24 hours we made 134nm.  Overall total mileage was 318nm (not including the motor across Amanu lagoon to the North corner).

Passage Details

  • ETA:  290nm
  • Actual Miles:  318nm
  • Total travel time:  55 hours (hook to hook)
  • Max Speed:  12.8
  • Average Speed: 6.5

Secluded North Anchorage

Matt and I had the entire North anchorage all to ourselves for Thanksgiving.  We have so much to be thankful for and are so blessed to live this life.

Sugar Shack in Amanu

Passing the Fakarava Tower

There are lots of motus to explore.  The largest one in front of us is really deep/thick so it takes a while to get from the lagoon side to the windward (ocean) side and is thick with brush and coconut trees.  Once you get to the windward side it is mostly coral and rock.

We decided to do a trash pickup day.  Unfortunately, a lot of the trash from the ocean washes up on the windward shores.  It is heartbreaking.  We find toothbrushes, razors, laundry baskets, fishing gear, shoes, flip flops, cans, propane bottles, floats, and tons and tons of plastic.  We can’t take it on the boat with us so we wrapped it up in a fishing net and left it high on the shore.  Hopefully a local will find it and burn the pile.

On another trash pickup day, we used a giant Make-A-Wish bag to collect the trash and then pile it behind a rock on the interior of the motu.  We created walls and piled heavy stuff on top so none of the trash would blow away.  This was 7/8 loads of trash which created a pile that was over 3’ tall, 4’ wide and 3’ deep.

To counter the awful trash, here is a beautiful picture of the sunrise over the motu.

Sunsets of Amanu

Sunsets of Amanu

Motu Fun

We found the “old village” which was really small ruins where some locals built up for copra shacks.  The only way you can tell this was an old village is from the rock formations that outline the small houses and the water wells that were left behind.

Matt was playing with the birds and one in particular took a liking to him.

Each motu has many faces.  You have the Liward side that faces the lagoon.  This side is usually small pieces of coral or shells and shaded by large palm trees.  The interior is usually a bit of a mess with fallen trees, coconuts, palm fronds, and brush.  The windward side, or the side that faces the ocean is usually large pieces of coral and rock (very little to no sand).

Star or Naval Anchorage

In the middle of Amanu is a beautiful little reef that the locals call the “naval” (aka middle of the atoll).  It is also called the star anchorage which is strange as it looks more like a boomerang to me than a star.  There is only room for a few boats and those that enter have to be careful as there are lots of bommies (coral heads) and shallow depths.   But if you come on a calm day, you will have the pleasure of enjoying this magical little spot. The red arrow is our boat anchored at the Star Anchorage (bottom photo) and red dot in top photo.

I tried to capture the reef by standing on the top of the bimini but I still was not high enough.  We wanted to fly the drone but it was too windy to launch.

We ended up waiting in Amanu for a weather window a lot longer than we anticipated.  Either the wind was right on the nose, or the seas were unbearable (3 meters in 5/6 second intervals) or there was tons of rain and storms.  We did not want to be out in either condition.  So, we waited over 13 days to get a decent weather window to make the 3-4 day passage to Gambier.

Us waiting around….

The  last blog we find boobies in paradise.   Events from this blog post occurred mid-November.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Tranquil Toau

We had to leave Tikehau way too soon.  We really wanted to enjoy a week in Tikehau but a good weather window to Toau presented itself and we had to take it.  Our goal is to get to Gambier by early December (it is mid-November as I write this blog).  You are probably thinking, well, Christine you have 2-3 weeks, what is your rush?

You see, we can’t just hop on our boat and go to our destination (like a car, or plane, or train).  We have to wait for a good weather window that doesn’t have a lot of rain, or big seas and is not on the nose.  Unfortunately for us, the prevailing wind is SE and guess what direction we need to go?  Yep, SE.  So, we do the waiting game and when a window opens up we jump on it.

The passage to Toau was really nice.  It was not as brilliant as the passage to Tikehau, but it was nice. We had decent winds, no big gusts, less than .05m swell and only one three-hour period for a squall.  We reefed both sails and weathered through the squall, then unfurled the sails and continued on.


  • Total Miles:                 173nm
  • Total Travel Time:     28.34
  • Motor Time:               2.5 hours across the Tikehau lagoon and 2 hours across the Toau lagoon
  • Max Speed:                10.0kt
  • Average Speed:           6.1kt

Man Overboard Drill

I will spare you the details, the dermatologist froze about 15 “spots” off my body.  They were not cancerous, but they were suspicious and she wanted them gone.  That required me to stay out of the sun which is really hard when you are under passage.  I bathed in sunblock, put Band-Aids over each spot and wore long sleeves, long shorts, and a huge hat.

My hat has a strap under my chin and for the most part stayed on my head.  But, I happened to turn backwards to look at a silly bird going after one of our fishing lures and whammo – the hat went flying into the ocean.  We were under full sail (no engines) and had 2 fishing lines trolling behind us.  Seriously what a pain in the a$$!

We hit the MOB (Man Over Board) button, doused the jib, tightened up the main and made a slow turn to avoid tangling the fishing lines.  I grabbed the boat hook as Matt kept a watchful eye on my floating hat (yep it floated). 

As Matt maneuvered Sugar Shack near the hat, I grabbed it with the boat hook and we continued on our merry way.  Ugh…this is our track doing the MOB exercise.  I guess it is always good to practice your safety drills.

Man over board drill

Man over board drill

We had to dodge several islands and could not hold a direct course.  We went around Tikehau and Rangiroa, but then dipped to the bottom of Arutua and Apataki.  Then ended the passage on the top of Toau and around to the SE passe, through the passe and to the SE corner where we could hide from the upcoming SE winds.


This beautiful little atoll is pretty remote and typically does not get a lot of cruisers visiting as the resources are non-existent.  There are no magasins or refueling options here.  Several locals live on the outer motus and process copra for a living. 

Beautiful Toau

Beautiful Toau

Shelling in Toau

Matt and I go on two long walks a day exploring the different motus and “shelling.”  You might have forgotten, but a motu is not an island but rather a group of smaller islands (or motus) that surround a large lagoon.  You have to enter designated passes in order to enter the interior of the atoll.  On the windward side of the motus are reefs and lots of sea treasures.


On the biggest motu near us we discovered a lot of pearl floats.  We use these to float our chains, but we already had 9 on the boat.  So, we made a Christmas tree.  I know a little early as it is only mid-November, but it sure is prettier than having them strewn all over the motu.

We found a few small patches of actual sand…usually the motus are covered in coral, rock, and shells.

We were spoiled rotten in Tikehau – did you read our last blog?   Events from this blog post occurred mid-November.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.