The Tuamotus Diaries #9, Day 19 – June 16th 2016
Back on land, when we were running low on certain provisions, I would make a list, get in my car, drive to nearest grocery store, entertain myself while browsing the aisles, and drive back home with everything we needed.
Not quite the same here.
We were running low on some perishables and needed to restock. Our current direction is on a deserted beach though, and the nearest (and only) provisioning option is at Makemo’s village, some 15 nautical miles to the SW.
That still shouldn’t be a problem in itself, except for these two tiny details:
- Makemo, like most Tuamotu Atolls, is a minefield of coral heads – small, round-shaped formations that come vertically from the bottom up to just a few inches from the surface. Some are easily seen, others aren’t, and represent a major navigational hazard (aka: they can sink your boat)
- Two weeks before, we’d had a traumatizing experience at the anchorage just off the village, when gusty winds of up to 40kts got us from a direction we were fully exposed. With wind-waves of up to 1 meter and reefs all around us, it was a hell of a night.
But some items on the provisioning list were reaching critical level, and with the weather being as fickle as it is here, we could stay weeks on end tucked inside our safe deserted anchorage.
Well, it turns out the weather WAS settling, with nearly no winds forecast for the upcoming two days. Moreover, we had left a “snail trail” on our chartplotter as we had traversed the distance between the Village and the Anchorage three times now. With the benign conditions, plus the marked trail, the coral heads shouldn’t be a problem. What could go wrong?
So we left.
As soon as our anchor was up, the first surprise: our faithful chartplotter decided to do a memory-wipe by itself, and our “snail trail” disappeared ! I had lost our tested path in between the coral heads, and would have to thread a new path through them all over again.
Oh well. I set the autopilot, put Pesto on a slow speed, and went to the bow to be spotting coral heads – “Eyeball Navigation”, as it is known.
Then came the second surprise. The weather was TOO settled. No wind, the water still as glass, it was reflecting the sunlight like a mirror, making coral-head-spotting a very difficult activity. I had to slow Pesto down even further.
But that was fine – we were still making safe progress.
Moreover, after the first third of the way had been completed, a faint breeze started to blow, creating ripples in the water which made it less reflective and easier to spot the coral. Unfortunately, this benign breeze was the precursor of this wicked day’s third surprise: a squall formed over us almost instantly. Even being on deck all time, I hardly noticed it had formed but a few minutes before it got serious. Within minutes Makemo had been blanketed by dark clouds, and we could see heavy sheets of rain pouring near the Southwestern rim of the Atoll, some 5 miles away from us. With low light, navigation in the middle of the coral heads got even more difficult, and down came Pesto’s speed another notch.
But we were still making some progress.
Then, as we were on the final approach to the village, the fourth act (it was not a surprise anymore, for it was OBVIOUS it would happen exactly like that): it started raining. But, like, POURING. Visibility came to just a few hundred meters and it became nearly impossible to spot coral heads anymore. Luckily, we were close to the village already and all hazards were well charted.
We dropped anchor under torrential rain, and had to sit and watch the village just a couple hundred meters away – our provisions so close and yet so unachievable due to the wind and rain.
I took the opportunity to prepare some lunch, in hopes the rain would pass on the meantime.
And it did !
By the time we had eaten, the sky had turned almost all completely clean, the wind had gone away, and the water inside the Atoll quickly got still as glass again … go figure !!!
That afternoon we scouted the village’s three “Magazins” and bought what we could find. Not exactly all that we needed, but enough to allow for some creativity in the galley.
We were so efficient that we even had time left to snorkel on the reef in front of the willage.
The next day we raised anchor again, traversed the Atoll once more – this time in ideal conditions – and set ourselves in the shelter of “our” anchorage. Boy, it’s good to be back here !