We hope to get to about three atolls here in the Tuamotus before heading on to Tahiti in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. Atolls, according to Charles Darwin's' theory of atoll formation, are rings of coral which are the barrier reefs of volcanic islands that sank to the bottom of the Pacific millions of years ago. They can be very difficult to see from a distance as they are often only a few meters above sea level and it is often just the few tall coconut trees that you see when planning landfall. Most of these reefs have passes which boats can use to transit into the very clear blue lagoons. However, we have to transit these passes very cautiously as (a) there is lots of coral to stay clear of and (b) they have strong currents particularly when swell comes over the reefs and can only flow out only through the passes as the tied ebbs. Sometimes the currents in these passes can be as much as 9 - 10 knots which means that if your boat can do 6 knots and you have a current against you you will be going backwards at 3 - 4 knots. If its with you you can have limited control as you are traveling at 9 - 10 knots without even using engines! That is why we need to time our entry. We need slack current (that is when the direction of the current switches and is therefore at its slowest speed) and we need the sun high in the sky preferably from behind us so that we can see the coral heads as we find our way to an anchorage.
The reward...rich in marine life in crystal clear blue lagoons (chance sighting of Brooke Shields), spectacular white sandy beaches and night skies void of light pollution. Also, most of these atolls can only be reached by smaller boats.
Michael (enroute to the Tuamotus)
At 6/1/2011 23:45 (utc) our position was 16°09.10'S 143°25.40'W