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A Journey: Tuamotus to Gambiers Part II

We originally started our passage from Tikehau with the hopes of making it all the way to Gambiers.  However, if you read “A Journey: Tuamotus to Gambiers Part I” you will see that we were thwarted and had to stop in Amanu for 10 days to wait for more favorable weather.  This blog post will be the second and final part to the Tuamotus to Gambiers passage.

Continuing our Journey to Gambiers

Matt and I left the South East anchorage at Amanu around 0930 on a Monday morning.  We needed to cross the Amanu lagoon, head out the pass, and travel down the atoll which added 16nm to our 450nm passage.  As we approached the pass to exit the lagoon, we noticed we had a 2kt outgoing current.  It turned out to be no problem for us as we exited.

The weather routing gave us four routes.  All of which had us turning left out of the pass and going between Amanu and Hao as it was the shortest distance.  However, that was a huge mistake.  We should have turned right, motored the extra 8-9nm and rounded the NE side of Amanu.  It would have given us a much better wind angle and prevented the horrible washing machine effect.

As we rounded Amanu, we encountered 3-meter waves coming from every direction.  It was a mess.  The waves were trapped between the two atolls creating a really uncomfortable start to our passage.  It lasted the entire length of Hao which is 33+nm long!  Rotten way to start the trip.  Especially because I never recovered from that moment forward.  I stayed in a state of sea sickness the entire trip.  Not my worst trip, but certainly not my best.

The first day we tried to make as much easting as possible. We were pinching (heading as close to the wind as possible) which forced us to constantly trim the sails to keep them full.  Sunset on first night.

First 24 Hours

  • 134nm Miles travelled over all
  • 337nm Distance to destination
  • 7 Max Speed
  • 6 Average Speed

Beautiful sunrise on day 2

On day two, we had calmer seas.  They dropped from 3-meters to 2-meters and were primarily on our forward quarter panel.  Still a bumpy, crazy ride.  Our course for the first 1.5 days was about 140-150T with an average of 12-18kts of wind from North of East.  We had to adjust course to avoid hitting a small atoll called “Tureia” in the middle of the night.  We had lots and lots of beautiful stars as the moon did not rise until 0100.

48 Hours

  • 290nm Miles travelled over all
  • 156nm Travelled in the last 24-hour period
  • 181nm Distance to destination
  • 4 Max Speed
  • 2 Average Speed

We were waiting on a wind shift to make our actual heading to the Gambiers.  Finally, during the 2nd night it started to shift a bit after Matt dwelt with 2 big squalls.  We finally had a course of 120T with winds at about 15-18kts from NE and 1.5-meter seas.  Our cross track was at +47 and we needed to widdle that down.  Happy to be heading directly to Gambiers with decent winds and smaller seas.

Matt took this really cool photo of the moon and sky as the sun was trying to rise.  If you zoom in you can see we are making 8kts of boat speed in 16kts of wind.  Pretty impressive.

72 hours

  • 466nm Miles travelled over all
  • 176nm Travelled in the last 24-hour period
  • 6nm Distance to destination
  • 6 Max Speed
  • 6 Average Speed

We entered the Gambiers pass with a reefed main and jib.  Normally we would take our sails down, but the wind was coming from the right direction and just pulled us nicely into the pass with no problems.  All in all, it was a decent trip.  We were able to sail the entire passage without the use of the motors (yea, save money on diesel).  Had it not been for the horrible beginning I probably would have felt better the rest of the trip. But, what can you do?

Final Passage Details

  • 73 hours travelled for entire passage – anchor to anchor
  • 481nm Miles travelled over all
  • 10.6 Max Speed
  • 6.6 Average Speed

Arriving at the Gambiers pass

Arriving Gambiers

Arriving Gambiers

Did you read “A Journey: Tuamotus to Gambiers Part I“?  Find out why we stopped and had to continue our journey 10 days later. 

Events from this journey occurred around the 2nd week of December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Astounding Amanu

This little atoll called Amanu has proven to be a true hidden gem.  The turquoise water is so clear that you can see 15-18 meters deep.  The corals are healthy, the motus are lined with beautiful, swaying palm trees, and the locals are friendly.

Sugar Shack at Amanu

Sugar Shack at Amanu

Amanu has gifted us with many beautiful rainbows (after a free boat wash).

And of course, gorgeous sunsets.

Amanu sunset

Amanu sunset

Sugar Shack seems to have found a little slice of heaven on the southeast side of Amanu.

Anchored in Amanu

Anchored in Amanu

Matt is happy here as well.

Kite boarders love this area because it is windy and shallow.  A young couple who have a kite school out of Fakarava were here with a charter.  They gifted us with many hours of free entertainment.  Pretty spectacular what they can do in high winds and seas. 

They were pretty far from us, but I tried to zoom in to capture them in the air.

Motus around Amanu

We explore lots and lots of motus.  So many that I cannot name them all because they don’t have names on our charts.  We walk from one motu, across small bodies of water to another motu and carry on until we get tired.  The terrain on the motus differs wildly.  From afar, there appears to be beaches. 

But very rarely do you find sandy shores.  The shores are usually covered in coral.  Broken coral, ranging in various sizes, and shells cover the shores. 

As you get to the windward side of the motus the coral is much larger.  These can be a little harder to walk across. 

And of course, you cross over many bodies of water in between.  Sometimes, during low tide you just have the sea bed (top left photo).  Often times you have ankle deep water (top right).  And other times you have a little sand (bottom right) and yet other times you have hard packed coral in between the bushes (bottom left).

The terrain of the motu

The terrain of the motu

We crossed over several low water crossings, using sandy spits to navigate to shore.  Some where above water, some below by 1′ and some as much as 3′.

One lone palm stood out on a motu.  We had to go visit it.  Do you see the palm way in the distance in the top photo?

A Whale inside the lagoon

We spotted two whales inside the Amanu lagoon!  What a treat.  Unfortunately, I did not have the large camera out to get good shots of this graceful creature.  But I did grab a few shots with my phone. 

She was about 100 meters (one football field) away. 

A whale inside the lagoon

A whale inside the lagoon

I loved watching the tale gently glide under the water only to see the spout shortly after.

The beautiful whale tail

The beautiful whale tail

Amanu has surprised and wowed us! 

Events from this blog post occurred around the 1st week of December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

The Arresting Beauty of Amanu

Matt and I spent several days exploring the motus all around our anchorage.  We found little passageways between the reefs that allowed us to bring Sweetie closer to the motu.  The first day was really blind ambition.  We had set out with no water, no money and a curiosity to see the small spits of land that make up the ring around Amanu.

On our first adventure netted lots of sea treasures.  We only collect shells from the beach and always make sure they are uninhabited.  The strange thing is that most of the really beautiful shells are occupied.  We gently put them back where we found them and walk away with a pout.

The water is still warm, but not as warm as in Tikehau.  We explore all the way out to the reef (can you find Matt in the photo)?

We walk across dead coral, shards of coral, and broken shells.  Some areas are shallow water where you have to avoid the millions (not exaggerating) of sea cucumbers.  I swear Amanu is the breeding ground for all of the world’s sea cucumbers.  Ick!

Walking across shallow water proves to be more challenging then you’d think.  Between trying not to step on the sea cucumbers, walking around the coral and avoiding the holes.

We found a road that looked like it would lead to town.  But we had already walked a few miles with no water and since we had no money, we decided to walk to town another day.

The Town of Amanu

The next day, we headed out more prepared.  We had water, money, Band-Aids, and a burning desire to see the town of Amanu.

We decided to take the road into town and walk the beach on the way back.  It did not take nearly as long to get town as we thought but then again, we went straight there instead of exploring the motus (since we did that the day before).  The walk around town and round trip ended up being about 4.6miles.

The town is super small and consists of the following:

  • Magasin (market) with only basic dry goods (no fresh)
  • Le Maire (mayor’s office)
  • Clinic
  • OPT (post office)
  • Two cemeteries
  • Church
  • Many abandoned relics

There are a few roads, but we walked all of them and around the entire town in about 10 minutes.  Very small with loads of friendly people.

We came across several cemeteries. I know it is morbid but I am always fascinated with cemeteries.  Here we found several amazingly gorgeous, hand carved crosses, with lots of shellac.

There were lots of abandoned buildings dating back to the 1800s!  I sure wish we had the history on these buildings.

The church is right by the pass. It is an old building, but behind it you will see modern technology at its best (solar panels).

The Pass at Amanu 

We hung out by the pass leading into the Amanu lagoon and watched a few boats come in during slack tide.  The top two photos show the entrance to the pass.  The bottom photo is the center of the pass.

Amanu Pass

Amanu Pass

We walked along the wall that follows the pass. 

Matt along the pass

Matt along the pass

Toward the entrance is a surf break where the water was so clear you could see the reef through the waves.

By sheer luck, we ran into the mayor, Francois.  He is the youngest mayor in all of French Polynesia and France!  I believe he is in his late 20’s and he was marvelous.  He also happens to be the nurse on island!

Me and Francois, the Mayor of Amanu

Me and Francois, the Mayor of Amanu

Amanu Fun Photos

Can you see Sugar Shack across the reef and lagoon in the background?

Can you see Sugar Shack?

Can you see Sugar Shack?

Matt taking a break on our walk back to the boat on day 2

Sugar Shack is anchored in the middle of a “C” shaped reef.  It is amazing to see the reef appear during low tide and disappear in high tide.


Events from this blog post occurred around the 4th week of November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.