We are anchored on the east side of Raroia atoll in the lee of a palm tree-covered island in the most beautiful setting I have ever seen. Life is amazing. We made it to paradise and are anchored in a postcard.
Ellie and crew are doing well and we had a great passage. We covered 425 miles from Ua Pou to Raroia in 2 days and 22 hours, an average speed of 6.1 knots. This is a passage that takes most boats four days and we did it in under three. There are three other boats that left a day before us and they were making landfall on the island at the same time this morning. The weather was great last night and we had a pleasant 14 knots on the beam and relatively calm seas. By the end of the passage we were both settled in to our routine and could have easily knocked off another 700 miles or so. I for one love it at sea (as long as the swell is somewhat behaved so we aren’t feeling terribly seasick) and truly enjoy the peace and freedom that can only be found out there. I spent yesterday afternoon on the bow getting soaked by the waves, watching the dolphins play in the bow wake and then the birds dancing in the wind before the sunset.
As for fishing, huge fish took my lure yesterday. I have concluded that I need wire leaders. I’ll buy some when we reach Tahiti.
Entering the atoll and then making our way to the anchorage was quite exciting to say the least. The gauntlet we had to run had three major obstacles: First was the pass, then the coral heads in the lagoon and finally we had to negotiate the pearl farm buoys. We entered the pass at what we calculated as slack tide, but apparently we were off and we had 4+ knots of ebbing current against us and three foot standing waves! I punched our engine almost full throttle and we were only making 0.5 knots over ground! Mind you we were also dancing port to starboard in the current while keeping the range markers lined up so we didn’t drift into the coral on each side of the pass! Allan warned us that the ‘pucker factor’ would be high and he was sure right! After about 20 intense minutes we entered the lagoon and the current started to subside.
Then we had to run the gauntlet of coral heads in the lagoon. Go ahead and use google maps to get a satellite image of this atoll and you will see what I mean. There are huge coral heads about a foot below the surface and they are spread across the entire lagoon. We timed our entry so the sun would be behind us and we were able to see the coral heads and judge the depths pretty easily. This obstacle turned out to not be so tough to negotiate.
Then as we reached the east side of the lagoon we saw a sea of red buoys and it didn’t take long to realize what we were up against. From the bow I hear Alyssa scream “Neutral!” and I took her out of gear and we watched in fear as Ellie drifted over a string of pearl farm lines. Turns out we had a ton of these things between us and the island and this same procedure went on for about 40 minutes as we passed over about 15 lines. Our shallow draft was hugely beneficial and we made it through the last obstacle unscathed.
We dropped our anchor in 45 feet of gin clear water in the lee of the largest island on the east side of the atoll. It’s a spectacular setting. We are looking forward to exploring Raroia over the next week. There are only 50 people who live on this atoll, there is no airport and the only way to visit here is by private yacht. It truly is an unspoiled paradise, just what we were seeking out!
Alyssa is whipping up a mango salsa for the potluck this afternoon with the other boats that sailed in today and I have to go inflate the kayak. The guys on the other boats just called and I guess we are going to the island to hunt some coconut crabs for the potluck so better run.
Lewis and Alyssa
May 14, 2014
Anchored: Raroia, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
16 06.14 S
142 22.76 W