It was a great little sail from Kauehi the thirty nm to Fakaravas north pass. Fakarava is a big atoll, with a small town (and a little internet). As a “wow factor” there are several restaurants including one which, according to the Tuamutos Compendium, is world famous in the Tuamutos for its cheeseburgers. Hmmm, now when you haven’t had a cheeseburger for over a year, you can begin to salivate just at the thought of a good one. We’re looking forward to it and are already planning which evening we want to go (YES- JUNK FOOD!). But first we have to get through the pass. Just like Kauehi, where we calculated wrong and got pasted by the maelstroms, we’ve used every method known to man to try to figure out the correct time to cross the pass. Meaning – when is slack water?
Our calculations say that slack water is at 2:00 p.m. and those that have read or previous blog will recall that we got before the crack of dawn to ensure that we could be here before two o’clock. We are here before two, almost to the second, but as we approach the pass, Dancing Hare, a huge superyacht comes up from the other side. We chat a bit on the radio and decide that he’ll enter first. We see that he puts the pedal to the metal and gets that huge ship up going over 8 knots.
Now friends, I have to tell you that that is not good news. Ha, ha. Let’s say it actually really bad news. If he felt the need to get up over 8 knots to force the pass, well then it sure as hell ain’t slack water. Of course we can’t stay out here forever, we’ll starve to death. Not only that we won’t get our cheeseburger. Only one thing to do, get all our rags up, rev up our diesel and plow on into the washing machine.
Did I write washing machine? Yes, I guess I did. It is not a mistake. There are maelstroms, tidalstreams, overfalls and standing waves enough for five boats. Fortunately our sails gave us three-fur knots and our diesel could pull the rest. We came through at two-two and a half knots, meaning there must have been seven knots of foul current. So much for hitting slack water. We must have hit it at the worst possible time. I had taken our Gopro camera out (now that our other cameras are shot) and given instructions on how to use it. Unfortunately, she turned it off when she thought he was turning it on so all we got was a half hour of the inside of our sprayhood.
When we got inside the lagoon and closed on the village, we could see Moggy an Australian catamaran that you might remember from previous posts. Further down the line we could see Tao, a Danish boat we know and a few other old acquaintances. So we would be doing some socializing.
We come to Fakarava to meet up with Bente, Vinni old work colleague, who will sail with us for a few weeks. Out of the blue , she wrote to us a few months ago, asking if there was room on board. There was and we quickly had an arrangement.
We drop the hook between bomies, lower the dinghy and sail over to town to inspect the village. Or rather that was Vinni’s agenda. Mine was to find the cheeseburger grill and determine when it was open etc, etc. The agendas didn’t conflict, but we were looking for different things. Here are three grocery stores (!) and a tourist office (well, apparently we have arrived in civilization). The tourist office is because so many cruise ships pass through. Fakarava Yacht Services is also here offering free internet, laundry services and lots of other services. When we got there and were using the net, Aldrich, the owner came over and asked if we had the sailboat Sal Delgado. Indeed we had, at Nuku Hiva. They sailed a couple of weeks before us. He said the authorities on Tahiti were asking for any news. It seems that they hadn’t checked in with their families back home when they were supposed to. They were more than two weeks late. I spoke with crew just before they left Nuku Hiva. We were all using the internet at Kevin’s when we got to chatting and they said they were sailing for the Tuamutos the following day. I told them that it was terrible weather down there and that the winds were approaching storm force, generating 4 meter waves. I said they should stay on Nuku Hiva for another week, open a bottle of wine, relax and enjoy the scenery. The Tuamutos will still be there in a week. But, the wife told me, her husband is a kitesurfer and he is just sick to try kitesurfing in the Tuamutos. So they were going, no matter what – he wasn’t going to wait
They sailed the next morning and we hadn’t thought about them until Aldrich asked if we had seen them.
UPDATE; UPDATE; UPDATE: Ten days have passed since the above (we’ve been in the south part of the lagoon) and I asked Aldrich if there was any news and he said no. No news means that either the boat is lost or else they have contacted their family and the family has forgotten to tell the Tahiti authorities that all is well.
It is never pleasant when a boat s lost. It could be us. Nothing out here is certain, and the Tuamutos are not called the Dangerous Islands for nothing. They are still dangerous today, though most sailors have forgotten that. Every day I ask Aldrich if there is any news – every day he says no.
Bente arrived and we sailed down to the southern end of the lagoon to enjoy a few days there.
There is no one here.
The water is transparent as glass, no waves, pure eye-dazzling white beaches, 85F water (a bit on the chilly side), palm trees and this is the type of south Pacific paradise featured on every poster you have ever seen. In fact it was so perfect that it was difficult to find anything to complain about. As a bonus, in this part of the lagoon there were almost no bomies, so we could drop the hook as we pleased.
This is the end of the world – there is no one here
Being here was hard work. We spent our days walking on the beach, snorkeling, swimming. God it is a tough life.
After four-five days we back up to the northern end of the lagoon. It was time to taste test those world famous cheeseburgers and the gill is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. They obviously make way too much money if they can afford to be closed four days a week.
SO TELL US! Were the burgers good? Dear friends when you haven’t had a cheeseburger, good or bad, in over a year, you relish and enjoy every morsel of a well-prepared burger. The grill is right on the beach, providing a view few restaurants in the world can match, the beers were cold and big and the burger superb. It doesn’t get any better than that. So we cast our vote for it being the best burger between the US and Tahiti. It was worth every penny it cost and higher praise than that is rare.
The days pass slowly out here. Bente had never learned to swim before but since she was coming out here she started taking swimming lessons. She’s still and beginner and prefers to swim where she can put her legs down and reach the bottom. She also brought along a snorkel and mask, even though she has never tried snorkeling. We take her close in by the shore so she can learn how to. She ends up being completely taken with snorkeling and wants to go every day. It is another world down there with coral growths and multitudes of fish. That why there is this little video of Bente’s first snorkeling.
Naturally, we had to visit a pearl farm.
Pearls are a big industry in French Polynesia. The one here on Fakarava gives you the possibility of choosing our own oyster and when they break ti open, you get to keep the pearl. IT costs $35. When the fellow was showing us how they opened the oysters, he pulled out a magnificent drop shaped pearl. Ok, so with that in mind we all ponied up $35 and chose an oyster. Look at the video and see what happened with Vinni’s oyster.
A couple of days before weighing anchor, the girls decided they were going for a walk while I got some things on the boat ready of the trip. Walking along the beach, they spotted an 8-foot nurse shark feeding and waded out and petted him. Yes, I did write petted him. Check out the video.
Before we set sail, we needed to fill our diesel cans. We’d used some on our way down from the Marquesas and it is always wise out here to have full tanks. Fakarava is just about the only place in Polynesia that has a nice big dock that you can actually dock at and wonder of wonders, there is a fueling station right there. Does this mean we don’t have to lug our jerry cans around I the dinghy and then around town to fill them? Unfortunately no – this is Polynesia. The gas station is closed. When I pointed out that there were brand new pumps there, still wrapped in plastic and when would it open? I was told that the pumps were set up over a year ago- no one knew when it would open.
There is no gas station on the island. If you gas or diesel, you need to buy it from the supply ship. As you can see in the video, you bring your jerry cans and wait at a table for the Captain to come. He then checks to see if he has enough, and if he does, he’ll sell you some. If not, then you can order and he’ll bring you some next week when he comes by.
If you look at the video, you’ll see that in the past, it was possible to buy drinking water from a tap here by the docks. You stuck your credit card in and then you could fill you jerry cans. No more. The island doesn’t have enough water so if you want to buy some you have to go to the Mayor’s office and see if he wants to sell you any
When you hear that, you suddenly become very, very happy you have a watermaker. We haven’t seen rain in over three weeks – so if you don’t have a watermaker – you’re on short rations indeed.
But we have no problems regarding water and we provision with veggies for the two days we will be at sea to get to Tahiti so it is time to leave. The supply ship also brings all the fesh veggies for the island. Everything is sold our after an hour or two and half the island is standing in the supermarket waiting for the veggies to be laid out.
Next morning, very, very early, we weigh anchor and sail the couple of hours over to the pass. The locals have told us that slack water only lasts about 15 minutes so we have to be on time. We’d anchored I an area with lots of bomies and the afternoon before I’d put on a bottle and dived down to see if we had any problems – better to solve them now than in the morning. Good thing I did. Our chain was wrapped tightly around a huge bomie and our anchor was hooked under another. It took me a good half an hour to free things up. Vinni took in twenty meters of chain so we could get away easily the next morning (we hoped).
Next morning we were able to hoist the anchor without incident. Wonder of wonders, we hit the pass exactly at slack water, although by the time we got through we could see the overfalls and maelstrom beginning to form……
We’re going to make a quick pitstop at an atoll named Taou to visit Gaston and valentine who are the only inhabitants. Bente knows some people who were there 5 years ago and they asked Bente to make sure to “hi” if he got to pass by. They’d had some wonderful days there diving and snorkeling.
It is only day sail from Fakarava and we arrived late in the afternoon after a routine sail. Bente is not used to ocean sailing and she began to feel the first signs of seasickness. Valentine and Gaston have set out mooring buoys for visitors because the lagoon is so narrow that there is not enough room to anchor. More about Taou in our next blog.