21 May 2010 | Between the French Marqueses and Tuomotus
We were able to get all of our supplies and picked up anchor at 4:30 for Takaroa in the Tuomotus. There are five groups of islands in French Polynesia: Marqueses (which we just left), Tuomotus (next group we’ll visit), Gambiers (southeastern islands that we won’t see), Australs (also off our planned path), and the Society (Tahiti and Bora Bora are part of this group and we should be there in a month). The Tuomotus islands are almost all atolls. From what I understand, the islands were once volcanoes surrounded by coral reef, but over time the volcanoes eroded and sank into the ocean, so now only the ring of coral reef is left. So all of these islands on a map is shaped like a ring, with a big protected lagoon in the middle. The cities are built on banks that accumulated on the coral reef and rarely are higher than a few feet above sea level which means you can’t see them until you are a few miles away. Takaroa is the closest of the islands, so that is our first destination, but beyond that, we are still trying to determine our path beyond that. We caught some good wind out of Nuku Hiva and through on the windvane. I was pulling our fishing line at dark and just before the boat I felt a little tug. We must have been dragging the fish for awhile because that was all the fight that I got out of it. We pulled in the skinniest fish I’ve ever seen. It was around 3 feet long, but wasn’t thicker than 2 inches at any point. It had some pretty nasty looking teeth and although we’re pretty hungry for fish, I doubted there was enough meat to make it worth cleaning it, so we through it back after a few pictures. That night, Diego and I were up talking during a watch change and started seeing some of the craziest bioluminescence that we’ve seen on the trip. It was as if there were floating strobe lights around the boat that just kept going off in random locations. It didn’t last for long, but it was much different that what we had seen before. The wind started to die, so we went back to the power autopilot. Thursday, we had light winds, so we raised the spinnaker. It was perfect wind for it and we sailed it for a few hours hitting up to 6 knots in wind that was never much more than 7 knots. We took it down before dinner because we’re still not comfortable with that much sail up a night. The sail catches a ton of wind and even a small gust of 10 knots really pulls the boat over, so it’s not worth the risk of sailing at night. Also, the atoll entrances are narrow, so you can’t enter at night. We planned our departure so that we’d arrive early in the morning. If we average more than 5 knots over the 440 miles, we’ll have to slow down so that we don’t arrive at night and we have the sun over our heads and can spot the coral heads as we enter. If we are going a bit slower that 5 knots, we have a large window of sunlight to deal with. The first entrance is from the west to the east, so it’s best to arrive around 11am with the sun directly overhead or high in the sky and behind you making it easy to see through the water. Back at sea, our main hobby is once again eating. When over half of your living space is a kitchen, it’s tough not to eat the entire time. We made some naan chicken philly cheesesteaks for dinner. We covered 125 miles, so just at our 5 knot goal. Maintaining this will put us at Takaroa right on schedule.