Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The only reason Mark and I started our Tuamotu cruise in the atoll of Apataki is because they have a haul out facility here and we planned to take Irie out of the water to improve a few things under the waterline and to paint her bottom again. Yes, we did this a little over a year ago in Panama, to avoid having to do it again in French Polynesia, but the Pacific Ocean is a harsh environment for sailboat bottoms! The passages are long, taking a bit of paint off every trip, and the growth of algae and other green slime is gigantic, especially in the Marquesas. So much so, that we had to spend 1-2 hours a week cleaning the waterline and scraping Irie’s bottom, in the dark, seasick making harbors.
What we had in mind was to enter the lagoon of Apataki upon arrival, spend a few days on a mooring of the boatyard to rest and acclimatize and then get hauled in the beginning of March. It didn’t quite work out that way. For ten days, we moved to all corners of the atoll, dealing with crappy weather and uncomfortable anchorages. We learned they couldn’t haul boats in anything other than NE to SE winds – it was blowing hard from the N and NW those days - and not too strong at that. And, that they actually couldn’t haul boats at all presently, because the storms had kicked up coral on the boat ramp that needed to get cleared with the tractor, which was waiting for a replacement part.
Super crappy 6-hour motor trip from the village to the NW of Apataki
At the village dock, we had a stable, horizontal experience which didn’t last long due to weather. After a hair rising and uncomfortable six hour trip, we arrived at Apataki’s NW shore and found flat waters for a couple of days, until the wind shifted a bit to the east and we were rocking again, all the while having to listen to the chain grating over coral or rock, 55 feet down, and stressing about getting the anchor or the chain jammed in its crevices. It was too deep to see what was going on. With difficulties, we managed to retrieve our anchor, which was wrapped around two coral heads, and no damage was done. We later learned that our neighbor broke his massive windlass while trying to up anchor! The reward for last week’s hassles were some patches of reef which were incredibly colorful and teaming with fish, making them worthwhile to explore and snorkel.
Finally some colorful and healthy reefs!
It was a beautiful, sunny day when we sailed the 17 miles from the NW corner of Apataki to the boatyard on the south, traversing the lagoon. Google Earth helped us plot a course around the reefs and the visibility was great. All the conditions were perfect for a fun and relaxed sail to our destination; the only downfall being all the pearl farm buoys along the way. Having to hand steer, be on the look-out in the blazing sun for three hours, straining our eyes and avoiding floats cannot be called “relaxing”, but it was a lovely sail apart from that.
Constantly watching for pearl farm floats
Once we picked up a mooring ball in front of Apataki Carenage, we soon found out that this part of the lagoon is as choppy as ever. Irie was bouncing all over the place, making sleeping difficult. As a result, we can’t wait to get hauled out of the water, which must be a first in history! Nobody looks forward to spend a week or more on the hard, where it is humid and hot, with no breeze and with plenty of mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies. But, hey, at least the boat will stop moving for a change. Imagine not having to hold on each time you walk around your house and try to be productive… I think that is worth some extra sweating and scratching at this point!
Apataki Carenage, the “prettiest” boatyard in the world
NW shore of Apataki
One of the many giant clams
In the Tuamotus black tip and white tip sharks are abundant. This picture is taken from the beach.
Cooling off (and keeping the sharks company) after cleaning the bottom of our dinghy
Regal angelfish – so pretty…
Roundhead parrotfish (initial stage)
My coral garden – a short swim away from Irie
Going for a walk near the “carenage” – the beaches are made of dead coral
Our new friend Anaho