With the midday sun high in a cloudless sky, the colours around us, seemed almost impossible. We had motored Friday afternoon the few miles back east to the beautiful Hirifa bay. The sea was made up of the richest turquoises imaginable, the beach and sand banks shine a pearly white and the coconut palms sway a deep grass green. We were the only boat in the bay it was wonderfully peaceful. On shore I watched a small girl with her dog trailing behind her father as he does his chores.Tucked in amongst the trees lives one small family, each morning the husband jumps in his boat and goes north, presumably to work, returning around two. They laugh, sing and play each afternoon in the water. I know the reality is probably very different but from afar their life seems idyllic.
We had returned to this protected bay because the forecast was for the winds to pick up at the weekend and we were keen to lift our anchor chain from its torturous route around the coral heads, before the increase in breeze pulled us tight into knots. During the four days we had been at the anchorage at Fakarava South Pass we had swung back and forth through over 180 degrees, we could see we were completely wrapped around at least one bommie. So Friday afternoon we slowly, slowly teased the chain up, each time it pulled tight we let the boat drift over the top of it until in went slack. It took about twenty minutes but with a little help from the bow thrusters and occasionally the engine, we set it free without straining anything, hopefully without damaging the coral and without Rick having to go into the water to run the gauntlet of our circling shark friends.
In the morning we had dived the pass, I guess it was always going to be a bit of a disappointment. It was a good dive but it added little to the marvellous snorkelling we had already done. The only difference was, after descending to 28m we were surrounded by hundreds, honestly hundreds, of sharks gathered at the bottom of the pass, quite a sight. My dive was spoilt by a leaking mask that distracted me for most of the time. Rick assured me I hadn’t missed much, besides, a rare, large, but luckily not fully grown, black finned shark and a close encounter with the six foot long Maori Wrasse we had seen the day before. The dive finished with us swimming back into the shallows in front of the dive school. As we paddled across to return our kit, chatting about what we had seen, I suddenly realised this was where, just an hour before, we had seen a mass of black tips been fed from the kitchen. I whispered to Rick we are paddling through a shark pool, we giggle, again we reflect how strange it is that having your scuba kit on changes your perception.
Our plan was to go to the Rotoava on Sunday in the hope of finding some fresh food on Monday and then sailing a bit further north for a couple of days to visit one more atoll, before crossing over to Tahiti where we have a reservation at the marina for the following Saturday. However on checking the weather it seems the wind will last until Tuesday and then drop for the rest of the week. We make a snap decision to leave Tuamotu tomorrow through the South Pass on slack high tide.
We set off for one more snorkel to a patch of coral under the marker at the head of the bay. Unfortunately there is quite a wind blowing and we could find nowhere we were happy to anchor the dingy. I dropped into the water to have a look. The area is covered with incredible tree corals some almost five foot high complete with trunk, very interesting but not worth the risk, losing the dingy half a mile from Raya and land doesn’t bear thinking about.
Once back onboard we prepare for the 250nm passage. After over three weeks protected in the Tuamotu there is quite a lot to do. We rinse and tidy up all the snorkel and dive gear, lift the dingy on to the davits, check and organise the running rigging, make everything shipshape below and from our very depleted supplies rustle up a vegetable curry and bake some bread.
Sunday afternoon we leave Hirifa to arrive at the pass approximately an hour before the tide turns. With the high winds over the past couple of days waves have been breaking over the encircling reef, filling the lagoon with water. As this water can only leave via the few gaps that form the passes, the pressure of water out of the lagoon can dominate even over the incoming tide, we expect the water in the lagoon to turn the tide early. And so it turned out, we motored out through turbulent water, with two knots behind us, grateful yet again to be onboard our large powerful yacht.
With the tide times being what they are at the pass, to arrive in Tahiti in daylight means two nights and a day at sea, a tiring combination, the swell, as always on these westward crossing, was on our beam, no fish were caught, drizzle filled the air. Not our best trip but we are now safely tied up in Marina Taina on the west coast of Tahiti.
Now where’s the Supermarket?
We have some internet, hooray! So check out the last couple of blogs as I have added some photographs.