Musings and Ramblings by the Reef

The Tuamotus Diaries #42, Day 82 – August 18th 2016

We are currently anchored in Hirifa, a beach at the very SE corner of Fakarava. This is a truly beautiful place. From the NW comes the 30-mile long motu that forms Fakarava’s Eastern protection against the open ocean. This is a strip of “land”, some 200-300 meters wide, covered by palm trees, scrub, and small human developments here and there. Where it reaches the SE corner – where we are now – the motu comes to an end, and from the corner stretching to the SW lie 5 to 7 miles of reef which is permanently half awash by the sea. This reef is around 500 meters wide, and forms wide pools of crystalline water, with bright colors varying from Tan to Emerald Green, according to the depth. Really beautiful.

Today I took the paddleboard to explore one of these pools, which reaches deep in the reef almost all the way up to the open sea. Departing from Pesto, with depths of around 25 ft, the water was of an intense Royal Blue, and as I paddled toward the reef, and the depth fell accordingly, the water color changed gradually to lighter shades of Blue, then into Greens, and finally reaching Tan, where the tip of the board’s fin started to touch the gravel at the bottom. There, both the wind and the sea water, which sips through the reef into the atoll, were from the opposite direction, and I had to paddle hard to maintain momentum. But the white foam and the roar of the open ocean outside were of an irresistible allure to me, and I kept on going. Paddling hard, I drove into an inlet which went further into the reef. The water was now flowing strong, almost like a river, and I paddled as hard as I could, trying to reach as far deep into the inlet as possible to reach a small motu which lies almost by the ocean. Once there I pulled the board over the beach and walked the remaining 200 meters toward the surf line.

Below, a video while paddling over the sandbank:

With my feet already complaining of stepping on the crushed coral, I finally reached the extremity of the reef, just a few meters from where the ocean ends, and sat by a small tide pool. Sitting there, I realized I had not taken a camera, nor were looking for any kind of animal or plant, wasn’t planning to take anything with me, nor to leave any cairn or other proof of my presence. All the paddling and walking on crushed coral had been for the lure of being closer to the sea. The sea has always drawn me a great deal and yet, now that we are full time cruisers, I still can’t say that I thoroughly enjoy when I am doing passages, which is when I am the closest to the sea. The constant attention to the boat and the elements, peppered by the ongoing threat of seasickness have always stood in the way of my full enjoyment of our passages. Not that I dislike them – to the contrary. But I haven’t reached a point yet where I am truly on my own when we are out at sea. And I truly hope to reach that stage one day.

My thoughts kept going as I listened to the homogeneous rumble of the sea and breathed the purest air, and I relished the fact of being here. The Tuamotus have always belonged in a sacred place of my imagination, somewhere beyond dreams, an ethereal type of aspiration, almost forbidden given the difficulty of reaching it. And sitting there, at a place which encompassed all the elements of what the Tuamotus meant to me, I realized how difficult it had been indeed to arrive here, the way we did. Frankly, the seamanship part of it was probably the least of the challenges. Not to minimize it, for I reckon it was quite a feat to sail halfway across the Pacific and am utterly proud of it. But I think we did our homework right and, whereas we didn’t count with or had particularly any special Good Luck, I also realize we had a definitely welcome dose of “lack of Bad Luck’, which helped in what was a successful passage. But the point is, the most difficult part of getting here was to let go of our previous status quo, to plunge into this new form of life which has in turn led us to reach here, to BE here. Many a time we don’t realize that by not letting go of something we already have, we are in fact forfeiting the opportunity of getting something else which might be of an even greater value to us. Tangible and Intangible are indeed two things hard to measure against each other.

The time came to go back home, and now with the wind and tide with me, I crossed the reef in no time – too fast indeed given the beauty of it. The day, the time, the light were perfect and the water was sparkling in colors I don’t usually see, even here. Tomorrow we leave early morning toward Rotoava, 30 miles up the atoll. But I am confident we will have the opportunity to come back here at least once more before moving on from Fakarava. I really hope we do.



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