Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Slowing Down Enroute to the Tuamotos

Well, as Barb shared with you in an earlier post, we left the Marquesas for the Tuamotus on Sunday afternoon. We estimated that the 500 mile trip, at an average speed of 6 knots, would get us into the Makemo Atoll on Thursday morning. It turns out that instead we were averaging 7 knots and as such, still as of this morning, were expecting to drop anchor in the early to mid afternoon today. As sailing would have it, the wind began to die! We discussed trying to push on but with tricky passes into the atolls, the fact that the sun sets here around 5 pm and that we have never been into this anchorage before, we've decided to slow the boat down, hang out offshore over night and then make an early morning entry (as per our original plan) into Makemo. We've dropped our main and are now just flying our spinnaker making only 4 knots 30 miles from landfall. Overall, its been an awesome and very comfortable sail.

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 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

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great challenge - and sure gets your adrenalin pumping... and then, such satisfaction at success (we hope!)...
    Good luck!