Though arriving in the Tuamotos in French Polynesia was like finding paradise on Earth, we were close to having a catastrophic arrival. On the day we were due to arrive, my brother woke me up and told me that we had lost all power, that there was no wind and that we were drifting towards a huge reef surrounding an atoll (roughly a 5 km long reef). Definitely not what you want to hear at 2 am. No power meant that we couldn’t start the engines and with no wind, we couldn’t sail away. The waves were pushing us closer and closer to the reef. I got all hands on deck and by hoisting every bit of sail we had, we managed to inch forward and avoided hitting the massive reef. When the sun peeked over the horizon a few hours later, the solar panels managed to charge the batteries sufficiently, so that we were able to fire up the engines and could get safely into Fakarava. We even caught a nice Mahi Mahi, so the slight delay was good for something:
We stopped briefly in the northern anchorage by the town, to buy some baguettes and to say hi to Nikita and Liquid Courage, before we continued to the south pass, where the real action is.
I enjoyed the best free-diving I’ve ever done going on drift-dive after drift-dive. The coral there was vibrant, colorful, active and filled with life. We saw an abundance of sealife, to the point where it was overwhelming. It really felt like you were swimming in a huge aquarium. Of bigger fish, we saw giant manta rays feeding, spotted eagle rays cruising by, a lot of sharks, Napoleaon fish, giant groupers, tuna and LOT’S of colorful coral fish. We would ride the dinghy from the anchorage to the pass and drift either in or out depending on which way the current was flowing.
After one drift-dive, we had to rescue Mike and Sammy, because their outboard failed and they were faced with the daunting prospect of paddling against a 4 knot current. It wasn’t easy for us to make any headway when we were towing them, because my 5 hp Yamaha isn’t the most powerful puppy on the market, but she did the trick.
Though the free-diving was amazing, the scuba diving blew me away. When we dropped down to the bottom of the south pass, we saw things I’ve never seen before. The groupers had gathered in fantastic numbers to mate and it’s no joke when I say that there were way over 20,000 covering the coral like a living carpet. That was still nothing compared to when we met a virtual wall of sharks.
There were black-tipped, white-tipped, silver-tipped and gray sharks in incredible numbers. They were just cruising around and sometimes got a little bit too close for comfort.
Besides the spectacular diving we hung out with other boats we had met over the last few months: Quartermoon, Liquid Courage, Nikita, Haze and Go Beyond. As has almost become a tradition, we did some awesome bonfires. Everyone brought some food, we brought our BBQ and then we had a proper cook-out with delicious food and ample amounts of beer and rum.
The weather did turn a bit windy and rainy on a couple of days,so then we invited Haze and Liquid Courage over for dinner, drinks and games… and a bit of dancing.
Oh yeah, and someone who had “never” played poker before ended up doing not too badly.
Without hesitation I can say that the Tuamotos are the most awesome grounds for sailing I’ve ever had the pleasure of sailing in. Besides hanging out on South Fakarava, we also hung out more in the North anchorage, where we had a couple of spectacular dives. Then we headed over to Tuao where we spent another amazing week. In short, I love the Tuamotos and can’t wait to sail back with my next boat 🙂