Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hair Raising Entry into Makemo in the Tuamotus!

After heaving-to last night (which slows the boat down to just drifting at about 1 knot even in 20+ knots of wind), we entered the pass into Makemo Atoll this morning at 6:30 am. According to the tide tables this was slack current (ie. the slowest current and when the direction of the water flow changes from an incoming tide to an outgoing tide or vice versa). Depending on who you talk to, it was quite an exhilarating (Michael) or hair-raising (Barb) ride coming into the pass and made transit of the Golden Gate Bridge a cake walk. Because there have been a lot of waves breaking over the southern part of this atoll of 40 miles long by 10 miles across, and because there are only two passes for that water to exit on an outgoing tide, there actually was no slack tide nor a flood (water entering the pass). As such, we had 5-6 knots of current working against us in a narrow channel. In addition, the water was extremely turbulent starting about a quarter of a mile out of the pass and through it - like a scene of a bad storm out of a movie, with incoming waves crashing against the outgoing waves. On top of this, there were real whirlpools like I've never seen before and at times you could see them reaching several feet down. At times we were moving through the water (which was going in the opposite direction) at over 7 knots while we were actually only progressing over ground at 0.5 knots. At least we were still moving forward as we have rather powerful engines (150 horsepower combined in two engines) as compared to several of our other boating friends who have 30 hp engines. Our friends on Brittania that came in just a few minutes ahead of us were, at times, making zero knots over ground or even moving backwards while still moving through the water at over 6 knots with their engines at full throttle. We were completely exhausted once we got through it all, just from the stress.

Once we got through the pass, though, we were rewarded with anchoring in what is undoubtedly some of the bluest, crystal clear and calmest water we have ever seen. You can see the bottom and think the depth must only be 10-15 feet but realize you are easily in 30 to 40+ feet. The sky was perfectly blue with a few puffy clouds and amazing water - just like a South Pacific postcard. We ended up walking around the small town for a little while and then going for a snorkel. I hope to dive the pass here in the next day or so. It is supposed to be spectacular.

I guess this the kind of place that makes people dream of traveling to the South Pacific!

Michael (in Makemo, Tuamotus, French Polynesia)
At 6/2/2011 11:12 (utc) our position was 16°20.57'S 143°38.36'W


  1. Awesome! I'm sure glad I wasn't with you during all that turbulence. Do you have to repeat all that stress when you depart from there or do you stay there until...the waters calm down whenever that will be...
    Nonetheless, sounds like paradise, so stay awhile.

  2. How cool....Sounds like a great place to spend some time, and worth every hair raising moment it took to get there!

    Stay safe out there, and enjoy enjoy enjoy!

    T, P and J