Saturday, September 23, 2017

Back to the North Pass Tahanea

An atoll is basically a big ring of coral, but the pass is where the water both exits and enters into the lagoon. The pass of course is the only place a boat can enter as well. We needed to go to Fakarava, so we made our way back to the North passes of Tahanea. It was still a bit overcast so we were following a Pitufa track on our chart plotter (a track they made before with out hitting any bombies). But we were a bit confused when we saw a dark area ahead of us which we thought might be a reef. With a look thru the binoculars we realized it was a huge flock of Noddie Terns fishing. They were clumped so close together we thought they were a reef!

As we got closer we could finally see individual birds.

The sky was finally beginning to clear as the sun was setting on the anchorage in the North.

The next day we watch a boat heading for the pass thru the shallow turquoise water as the tide was turning to go out.

We wanted to explore the motu where we could see a shack had been built. When we arrived there were no people, but I would guess they were coming back at some point as it was a very well made shack! Note the large coral pieces holding down the aluminum roofing so they don't blow away in the wind.

They have a great view of the anchorage from here and you can see there are many boats here with us.

This looked to be the kitchen area

Which is adjacent to the dining table.

They had placed some fish net stakes on an area where the water washes in from the outer reef. There were no nets on it now thank goodness.

From the back side of the shack you can see the standing waves in the out going current. This happens on which ever side of the pass the water is going towards. And when it goes out, it usually goes out strong, because the waves from all around the atoll push water into the lagoon, but it can only go out at the pass.

This was an interesting coral formation with a tidal pool inside the outer reef.

As we walked toward the sandy pass we came upon this big dead tree that looked quite wind blown for its whole life.

It made a great cradle for this photo of our friends on Pakia Tea as they sailed into the anchorage from the South side of the lagoon.

We saw many strange coral formations on our walk. This one looked like private parts frozen into a piece coral, washed up in the sand.

The coral even understands the math formula of pie.

So many different types of coral in the sand.

The white dome turned over looked like someone's brain.

A dried out tide pool from when the water was much higher.

The little holes in this piece of coral looked like claw marks had dug them out.

Another cruiser had weaved a palm frond to put her coconut findings on, but the little hermit crabs had found it when she was not looking.

They are very curious critters about the size of your fist.

The pass is on the other side of that motu, but the water and sky are just so lovely.

One of the most important things we learned from Pitufa was how to use buoys to keep our anchor chain from wrapping around the many bombies growing in the sand. It works wonderful!!

Mike checks his work.

No more chain wrapping and no more damage to fish houses!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tahanea Squalls

Out here in Never Never Land, as I like to call it (because you have no contact with the outside world other than the Single Sideband Radio) one must still keep up with what the weather is doing. We get our weather info two ways. One is we have a Pactor modem that connects our SSB radio to our computer and we use a program called Airmail to receive weather faxes and grib files (shows what direction and how strong wind will be in a certain area). Second is our Inreach Messenger via Iridium satellite. With this info we decide where a safe anchorage will be and which side of an atoll to hide behind. We found out that the wind was going to clock almost all the way around the dial as a low passed near us, starting with NE winds then backing to NW, W, SW, S then SE. And all this was going to happen overnight! So that made it a bit challenging to find a safe spot. We decided to move to the #7 reef (looks like the #7 from the satellite photo). So off we go across the lagoon. As we are headed to the E from the middle Motus, we pass several Bombie Motus and other Bombies just under the surface. This means one of us is on the bow watching for light colored spots in the water, which is our main warning system, other than making note of where they can be seen from the satellite photo.
We passed this little spot sticking out of the water on our way.

We anchored at the bottom right side of the reef so we would be protected from everything except the beginning NorthEasterlies. The sky was getting darker.

We took turns standing anchor watch while we were on a lee shore. This means we staid up most of the night making sure the anchor held while the wind blew us toward the outer reef. The seas were not too bad, once the wind shifted NW because the 7 reef broke them up for us. Then next morning we got this photo of Pitufa anchored near us. Red sky in morn, sailors take warn!

Then the rain started coming down hard.

This motu will later block the SE wind for us, along with the outer reef. At least we can see it now!

The squall line finally passed us, and the rain stopped.

And the sea conditions settled down.

The weather was starting to clear and the birds were taking flight again.

The sun came out and gave us this lovely rainbow to remind us life is good.

After being stuck on the boat we were jonesing to get to shore and explore the motu. This one has nice soft sand under the palms as the dark clouds move farther away.

6 Great Capped Terns were resting on the sand bar, keeping a close eye on us.

We did not get very close, but they decided to fly away anyhow.

The baby plams sprout right out of rotting coconuts.

This motu has soft sand on the outer reef side and a dense jungle.

There were several incredibly twisted dead trees that looked like drift wood.

Mike finds a tree he can actually climb on! The jungle was too thick to walk into so we just looked at it from this perch.

Erosion is happening all the way up at the high tide mark.

There is a deep channel between us and the next motu.

We found a mooring ball tied to the bottom (for a boat??). Mike walked off the end of the sand spit to find the water just next to it was over his head deep!

The sand under the water turns it the most beautiful turquoise color!

This piece of crystal coral had washed up on to the sand and coral rubble.

I found this strange looking black rock with some shells piled on it.

It was white on the opposite side and looked like it had broken off of another piece of coral.

This small calcified sponge was interesting. Hard as a rock, it looked folded over on this side.

And hollowed out on the other side.

An old dead clam was still locked into the coral even though it is now above water.

Another beautiful and perfect Spyder Conch shell.

This broken one allowed us to see what they look like on the inside.

Mike found a very thick piece of green glass. Strangely it was the only one we saw.

We have seen several of these floating raft type contraptions washed up on the beach. We think it may be part of a pearl farm operation, but there are none on this atoll, so we are not really sure. Just more trash, sadly.

This Brown Boobie bird flew by us.

A couple more were soaring on the breeze.

The Masked Boobie has more of a light brown to white tint to his body feathers.

We found a coconut tree with a large batch of green nuts ready for the picking.

So we took our gaff thinking we could pull them out of the tree.

But that did not work so well. Crevice corrosion and sheer force broke off the rounded part. I told Mike “at least we broke it trying to gaff a coconut and not trying to bring some big fish on board!”

There is more than one way to skin a cat, I mean, dislodge a coconut! We found a two by four (funny how something like that appears when you need it!) and Mike took a swing and hit a home run.

With several whacks of a sharp machete, I got this perfect shot of slicing the nut open and the juice splerting out.

The rays of the Sunset were just perfect with our rum and coconut water cocktails!!