Sunday, May 18, 2014

Anchored in Kauehi

I'm anchored in the SE corner of Kauehi, an atoll in the Tuamotus. It is absolutely beautiful here.

I last posted to the blog from Taiohae Bay in the Marquesas. I left there on May 8th, heading toward Kauehi where I arrived four days later. If you don't care about sailing talk, skip ahead four paragraphs. I was able to start sailing as soon as I motored clear of the bay as there was 14 knots of wind from the east. I started out on a nice beam reach in flat seas and in my log book I described it as "sweet, gentle sailing", doing mid six knots in 12 to 14 knots of wind. On my second day out I started to deliberately slow down as I wanted to time my arrival so that I arrived at slack water in the pass through the atoll into Kauehi. I estimated that the slack would occur at 9:10am on the 12th, three days away, so I had to average just over 5 knots for that time. The GRIB weather forecasts showed steady wind over the time I would be sailing, so finessing my speed seemed like it might work.

I rolled in my genoa to its second reef point, with a reefed main, in 15 knots of wind and slowed down to my target speed. By day three I started to encounter squall after squall. The wind was now behind the beam and I wanted to slow down some more, so ran with a double reefed main and rolled in some more genoa, still in 15 knots of wind. The wind increased and I eventually raised my staysail and rolled up my genoa in order to keep the speed low, doing 5.5 knots in 20 knots of wind. I had too little sail up for the conditions and the motion of Luckness started to suffer as the sail couldn't maintain the boat heal angle in the swell and so we were rolling quite a lot.

On the final day I was on time for my arrival. I had been rolling some genoa out to speed up and then rolling it away as needed. In the last couple hours a squall ran through and stole my wind and I ended up 35 minutes late to the pass. Oops.

During the passage I came across five other sailboats, which is a new record for me. I think a lot of people must have been waiting in the Marquesas for a good weather window and once it arrived a pulse of boats set off. I was the fourth boat of four through the pass that day. The first boat timed their arrival perfectly, reporting slack at a little after 9am. I went through 35 minutes later on a rising tide with the current running at three knots, with me, into the atoll. The pass was very easy to navigate. This is known as a very easy pass and that is one of the reasons I had headed here.

I motored directly to the SE corner of the atoll, which was deserted. I had the place to myself for two days and then boats started arriving and later departing. The anchorage here is in sand among coral heads, I'm still learning how to cope with anchoring in coral and will talk about that at some point.

After having anchored, I spent hours enjoying the sights. It felt like I had arrived in a South Pacific postcard. The views here are what I expected to see when I thought of the South Pacific. Its just stunning.

There is no swell inside the atoll, so the motion of the boat at anchor is much calmer than I experienced in the Marquesas. There have been a few 35knot squalls roll through, so it gets a bit lively at times, but generally this is a calm place to be.

I've been snorkeling and there are some nice reefs with good water visibility and lots of fish. There are sharks here. After all the anxiety I had built up waiting for my first shark encounter, it ended up being very calm and relaxed. The sharks are something like six feet long, black tip reef sharks. They come over to take a look and then keep on swimming. When snorkeling with others here you might hear someone yell over that they've seen a shark, and then the other snorkelers head over toward that area looking for it too. Its not how I expected to react.

I've walked around several of the motus, walking over to the windward side of the atoll and around back to where I started. The beach on the windward sides are all broken coral, very abrasive to walk on. The leeward sides are sometimes sand, sometimes rougher. These are geologically young islands, sand is still being formed here. There is quite a lot of litter washed up on the windward sides of the atolls, lots of plastic bottles and other pieces of debris. I was on a mission to hunt down a few pearl farm buoys, as I was going to use them as part of my anchoring system, a technique I had read about. The article I read suggested that you not buy a buoy for this purpose as all the atolls have lots of pearl farm buoys washed up onto their shores and to just go collect a few of those. I was pretty skeptical about this, but it turns out to be true. I walked around four motus and all of them had at least two of these buoys washed up onto their shore. On one of them I found ten. The buoys are made of hard plastic, about a foot in diameter. Its astounding to me that these buoys are so plentiful and I wonder how many of them must be set adrift for there to be so many washed up on the shores I happened to visit.

Between exploring the motus, snorkeling and joining the social hour on the beach at 4pm I've also been working on a few boat projects. My monitor wind vane control lines needed to be replaced as one of them started to chafe badly on the Antal ring that is leading it around a stanchion. The amsteel had eaten through the polished coating of the ring and got down to more abrasive material underneath, at which point the chafing accelerated. I've also been removing hard growth from the hull, removing rust from metal, etc. Generally keeping up with the chores needed to keep the boat in good shape.

My last neighboring boat left this morning for Fakarava, and I'll be leaving tomorrow, Monday the 19th for the same atoll. There is much more to pass along, but in the interests of keeping this post from becoming too long, I'll cut it off here. I'll forward photos when I next get access to the internet.

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  1. Lovely to hear about sharks and new sand and pearl farm buoys. Who Knew? Dan arrives 20th for my BD. God's sped and grace. Love, mum

  2. Just checked into your blog (from Tahiti) and saw you were here. Congrats and hope to run into you in the Societies!