And so it ends …

The Tuamotus Diaries #59, Day 126 – October 1st 2016

As I write this we are sitting at the expensive comfort of Marina Taina in Tahiti. We came here from Toau, after a rather straight-forward, overnight passage.

It’s been 125 days in the Tuamotus. 4 atolls, 57 entries in our Tuamotus Diaries, hundreds of pictures, and a number of life-changing experiences. The amount of time we had was enough to allow us to not bother about it – time – for a long while. And with that pressure out of our systems, the enjoyment of life got just so intense.

We loved each other, and enjoyed being loved by one another in levels that we had not done before. We have been able to feel our natural surroundings in a way we didn’t do before.

The decision to come this way was made about a year ago, almost trivially, over wine on a casual dinner with friends. And looking back now, it was amongst the wisest we’ve made in our lives.

And the coolest part? The Journey isn’t over – far from it.

I often write about what happens during our passages, but not so much about the details of them. Given it was a simple one, I will talk about it this time.

As mentioned above, the passage is rather straight-forward, without any hazards along the way – it is basically a straight line from Toau to Tahiti. Moreover, in Toau we stayed in Anse Amyot, which is a false pass on the lee side of the atoll. As such, it can be exited at any time – no need to fuss with tide times as for the other atolls. Similarly, tides are not an issue at the passes we intended to use in Tahiti. With that we could loosely chose our departure time to optimize for wind and time of arrival in Tahiti, our goal being to arrive some time during the morning.

The first question then was When to depart. The wind had been blowing strong for over a week, and the forecast was saying it would subside gradually starting Thursday morning. We had then two options:

  • depart on Thursday, enjoy more winds, but likely endure a higher swell from all the wind that blew during the week
  • depart Friday, with less swell, but less wind as well, plus running the risk of getting becalmed along the way

We chose the latter. The only caveat was that the wind was forecast to diminish to nearly zero by the time we arrived to Tahiti, meaning we might likely have to motor on the final hours approaching the island. A fair compromise for a smoother passage.

According to the forecast, the wind would be blowing at ~14kts from the East upon our departure, and then gradually veer to the East-North-East and reduce in strength to 8-10kts by the time we arrived.

We left Anse Amyot in Toau at the same time as the sun slid behind the horizon. In my heart, only the now-usual anxiety associated to departing on a passage at dusk. All feelings associated to leaving the Tuamotus had already been processed. In hindsight, my heart had already left this paradisiac place back in Fakarava.

Anyway, just after leaving the pass in Toau, we felt the swell. It was still there, but definitely at a manageable level. During the night, I steered a course some 20 degrees to the North of the straight line route – the rationale being to keep the wind nearly on a dead-downwind angle while it was still strong enough for it, and reserve some “southing” on our direction for later in the passage, for when the wind started to get lighter and veer to the North. We sailed all through the night just with our Genoa out at a tranquil pace.
During the first portion of the passage, sailed at night, the wind was still strong enough to allow us to sail dead-downwind. We did so, heading on a westward direction, some 20 degrees to the north of our straight-line route. We used our Genoa fully set, no Main, and averaged 6-6.5 knots, with winds ranging from 14 to 20 knots.

At dawn the wind had slowed a bit, the Genoa wasn’t all that effective anymore, and we set the Spinnaker instead. It reached the top of our mast before the sun was completely up from the horizon. Pesto jumped ahead and we resumed our average speed to the targeted 6 knots we had for the passage.

It was a glorious day of sailing, with just the spinnaker up, on a broad reach to a gentle breeze and the seas, which were now getting flatter by the hour. In the afternoon the wind started to veer to the North and got lighter, as forecast, and then we used the “northing” we had built on our track to maintain the wind at a broad-reach direction, thus keeping the spinnaker full. Had we sailed on a straight line since departure, we would now have the light wind dead astern, and wouldn’t be able to sail anymore, having to use the engine all through the night instead.
During the next day the wind diminished gradually, as expected. We brought the Genoa in and hoisted the Spinnaker – our largest sail and adequate for downwind angles. As the wind decreased, we adjusted our course to the South gradually, thus making the most out of apparent wind to keep the sail full. Pesto’s average speed remained within the 6-7knot range, as we desired.

The decision to keep the spinnaker up and sail during the night was made just before dusk. The sea was very calm, the sky looked steady and the forecast – which had been unusually consistent thus far – pointed for a hazard free night. It was indeed an easy one, with all four of us sleeping at the cockpit and just a few occasional checks required during the night. By sunrise the wind then subsided to a point that we were barely making any progress, the spinnaker deflating constantly and rubbing against the rigging. That was it. We had been able to sail for over 200 miles, and the time had come for our faithful Volvo Penta to do the honors for us for the remaining 20 miles towards Taina.
During the second – and last – night of the passage the wind kept its diminishing trend. However, we were North enough of Tahiti at this point to be able to sail closer to the little wind there was, thus maximizing the effect of Apparent Wind (a wind component created by the movement of the boat – similar to the wind that blows through the windows of a car as it moves). With that, we were able to sail all through the night with the spinnaker. Pesto’s speed decreased gradually along the night, from ~7kts to ~4kts at dawn, when the spinnaker started to collapse and we finally switched the engine on.

And so it ends. One tranquil, stress-free passage to wrap up the pinnacle of our Journey so far.


Go wonder what lies ahead …

THANK YOU for following our Tuamotus Diaries. This is our final entry, and we will now resume our “regular programming” of posts on the blog.

4 Replies to “And so it ends …”

  1. We loved all 57 entries of your diary and will refer to them on our passages when we get there. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Happy New Year! May all the dreams, hopes and wishes for the future come to fruition. Tonight we will hoist a tequila in your honour and salute your accomplishments in this past year. Hugs to all of you. We are still with you in spirit!

  2. Thank YOU guys for following us along this journey.
    We are looking forward to 2017, and the opportunity to sharing an anchorage with Coastal Drifter again !!!
    Have a wonderful New Year !!!

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