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Kauehi Village

We waited for the morning net to finish before leaving the southern side of the atoll bound for the village on the north east side. We’d agreed to go along with Fine Gold so we could double up on spotting coral heads. Collectively, the three of us didn’t manage a good job as we struck one that was one inch less deep than our port keel. Shortly after that moment a squall came down on us cutting surface visibility to zero so we pointed into wind and motored along at less than one knot to wait it out.

Once the weather cleared we were back under way this time creeping along at three knots gradually increasing the speed as the visibility improved. Once we reached the track of our way into the southern area we turned and followed it back knowing we had a clear passage but still keeping a close eye on things until we hit the marked channel. On arrival at the anchorage outside the village we took three attempts to anchor as we were not happy with our positioning on the first two tries but once settled in we were fine.

We took lunch and rested for a bit. John went off snorkeling with the Bristol Roses who were in the anchorage while Helen & I went ashore. We met a few of the locals around the village who were all smiles and Bonjours which made us feel good being there. They had a pretty church with some unique (to us) decorations made of shells. We also spent some time with a chap who was making jewelry out of oyster shells which looked quite pretty although none were finished and ready for sale.

The town was small and we were done fairly quickly. We pleased a few children by the shore by handing them sweets/candy/bon bons we had in our pockets. Soon we were back aboard Dignity preparing for the evening. We’d promised to entertain Lileth sometime and as they had the same Vancouver 27 as Lileth, we invited Fine Gold over to dinner too. We heard from Jackster on the VHF and learned they’d taken a pounding on their passage from the Marquesas experiencing Force 10 winds at times and Force 8 for extended periods. While reporting themselves as chipper, they’d taken some damage and we felt they could do with some care and attention so we invited them too.

So we ended up with dinner for nine. We can just squeeze this number round our table which is nice. We had a great evening all together and we were glad to be able to introduce Fine Gold and Lileth as you don’t see too many 27 footers out here and they had much to share.

Looking at the tide predictions for the next few days we realized that Thursday/Friday this week were the last two days for a while where we had an afternoon slack tide into Fakarava with enough time to find a spot to anchor while it would be light. Beyond Friday we’d have to do an overnight passage to Fakarava and make a morning slack tide which is less attractive. Fakarava has a lot going for it so we decided to head out this morning. Slack tide was just before 9am but we decided to make the cut around 7:30am against the tide to buy us more time to reach the cut at the south end of Fakarava. We shared our thoughts with others and we ended up leading four other boats out of the anchorage and the pass this morning relaying information about our experience. Transiting the cut away from slack tide was again pretty easy. We encountered a 1.5 knot counter current while staying close to the shore. We experienced a minimum depth of 13ft which we reported to the vessels behind us and those approaching from the outside. The vessels that were uncomfortable with the depth went through a little more to the center saw 3 knot counter currents but all were well.

We are now en route to the southern end of Fakarava. The winds are light but progress is good. Four of the vessels (us, Sea Mist, Imagine and A Cappella) are on their way to the southern end while Bristol Rose are on their way to the north cut where they hope to meet up with Whiskers before they head north.

The Boating Life

The last 24 hours has been interesting. We started the day with a wash which meant running the generator. We turned on the water maker to catch up on the recent water used and that from the wash. Not long after running the water maker the circuit breaker tripped. It’s done this a few times since we repaired our last problem but always ran ok when the breaker was reset and the water maker restarted. With no other apparent issues I put this down to an over sensitive breaker. This time however the (original) motor connected to the recently replaced feeder pump started losing power and the pressure dropped out of the pump. Not good.

This was the beginning of a day of troubleshooting. The basic question was were we still being plagued by a problem which caused our original pump failure or are we seeing a problem that was created as a result of previously running the system with a blockage. Throughout the day I checked as much as I could, changed all the filters (again), checked and checked but the water maker persisted in only running well for about 5 minutes at a time – barely enough to replace the initial fresh water rinse it performs on start up.

I have a favoured hypothesis as to what the problem is. I suspect (but am not sure) that we damaged the motor at the same time as the pump assembly. Specifically I think it overheated and fused some of the coils. Until recently, when starting cold with the lowest resistance it soon trips the circuit breaker. Once warmed up the resistance was high enough to prevent tripping the breaker and the damage slight enough not to be noticed. I further wonder if running the water maker while charging, which resulted in a higher voltage than normal, running through the pump caused further damage and now the motor is close to death. I really want to be sure about this as this will now mean shipping out a new motor to us. Regardless, we’re now back to rationing our fresh water. Fortunately we still have some water from the Marquesas but not a lot. We have a full tank and a bit on board so we should be ok for a while.

On the up side, during the morning John and Lucy from Tyee (last seen in Las Perlas Islands, Panama) came by. They’re anchored about 1/2 a mile away and we hadn’t realized until now. It was great to see them. John invited us out to play with his array of kite boards which John and I agreed to do after lunch.

Before lunch we all went off snorkeling nearby where there was a lot more coral in shallow water. It was great swimming amongst the coral in the clear water. We all spotted a large grouper and Helen spied a black tipped reef shark – a small one so she had the thrill of seeing a shark close by in the water without the fear of being eaten.

After lunch and some more faffing around with the water maker John and I headed over to Tyee to see what we could learn about kite boarding. As we had no experience at all we were shown the practice kite which we played with for about 2 hours standing in a shallow reef. This skill has to be acquired long before trying to use the force of the kite to go surfing on the board. While we were there Kamaya showed up. This pleased the Tyee kids no end as they’d been without friends their size for a while. Tim was soon out on his kite board racing John out on the lagoon showing John and I what could be done with a lot of practice.

Back on Dignity we settled down for an early evening. I found it difficult to get to sleep worrying about the water maker. When I finally slept it was fitfully as we ended up with a night of thunderstorms. Laptops and hand held VHFs/GPS went into the microwave. Occasionally I would check. Around 1am I was woken by VHF chatter from Bristol Rose out at sea being pounded. Helen woke me early when we were in 40 knot winds. I called Bristol Rose to see if they were ok and while chatting our anchor popped and we were dragging. We quickly let out more chain and ended up stuck fast 0.2nm away from where we were anchored.

We learned that Fine Gold, nearby, had popped their anchor a few hours earlier and had ended up a mile away in very shallow water before getting back under control. They’re now anchored further away where they’re better sheltered from the wind. When things subside we may well join them as we’re too far out from the protection of the land for comfort.

Kauehi, Tuamotus

I was awoken by John at 5am for my regular shift. He had experienced some squalls during his shift and from the radar we still had some around us. Just what we wanted as we approached land.

In the light of the full moon I could just make out a line on the horizon – our destination Kauehi. Shortly before dawn I felt we had missed the nearby squalls or more likely, they had missed us, so I made myself breakfast. As I was halfway through my bowl of cornflakes we were suddenly hit by a squall. The wind came up fast and the boat started flying. Both nuts dropped and at least one had a fish on it. I left my breakfast and first looked after the boat by falling off 30 degrees to reduce the apparent wind from the mid twenties to high teens. The downside of this maneuver was it placed us on a course for the shore. The shore was a few miles off but I wasn’t keen on using up our margin in case we had prolonged bad weather and perhaps ran into difficulties.

The dropping nuts had brought John and Helen out. By now we were reeling in a fish on the starboard side which turned out to be a fair sized mahi mahi. Sadly, this one too got away as it got close to the boat. As they do, the mahi leapt into the air shaking vigorously and sufficiently to throw the hook.

Soon the squall had abated and I had the boat heading away from land this time a little off our course to build some more distance from the atoll. The next couple of hours saw the skies clear as we rounded the SE corner of Kaeuhi. We made it to the pass two hours before low tide and three hours before slack (where the water would be practically still). Looking at the pass from a distance the NW third was a turmoil of standing waves and eddies but the SE two thirds looked non turbulent despite moving out quite rapidly.

I decided it was worth trying to enter early as there was room to maneuver if we ran into trouble and the conditions looked manageable. I hoped to be able to sail through but I started the genset so we could apply maximum power if required. We sailed into the pass keeping close to the SE shore. The water was crystal clear and we could easily see the reef at the bottom. Once in the pass we were in three and a half to four knots of counter current. The wind decided at that moment to drop to nine knots and we ended up standing still. We were making four knots through the water but we were in no mood to just sit there and hope for the best. I engaged the motors and pushed us through into the broad expanse of water in the lagoon.

Once inside we were again sailing. In Kauehi there are two main anchorages. The first is the town across a cleared channel from the cut. There is also the ‘southern anchorage’ where we wanted to go first. This is not so much an anchorage but a long strip of land and motus behind which boats can shelter from the wind and swell with lots of distance between each boat. While the channel between the cut and the town is clear of obstructions, the broad expanse of water either side is not. Nor is it all surveyed so the possibility of sailing into coral heads or submerged rocks is a real one.

Still being the morning we could not head directly to the southern anchorage as the sun would be been in our eyes and it would be impossible to see any underwater obstructions. We therefore sailed the cleared channel nearly to the town before tacking and sailing across the lagoon which all eyes ahead looking for hazards. We had to tack twice more before we reached the anchorage. We had spotted a few coral heads along the way which would have done us no good if we’d hit them but we safely avoided each one. There were four other boats spread out across about a mile of the anchorage when we arrived. We picked a spot to ourselves and anchored just before midday.

We soon had lunch and a beer each having been again dry for the duration of the passage. After lunch we dinghied ashore to take a look around the small patch of land we were anchored behind. The land turned out to be a rubble of dead and broken coral which was in no way barefoot friendly. It took about twenty to thirty minutes to walk all the way around our little motu. At each end a shallow reef connected us to the next patch of land. I waded around one of these spotting two small black tipped reef sharks. We’d all decided it was worth building a fire out of some of the dead wood here and perhaps cook our dinner on it. We pulled together some firewood ready for the evening.

We snorkeled back to the boat where I spent a while scraping barnacles off the props and the weeds from the sides of the boat. Then it was time for an afternoon snooze. Later, John and I went ashore to collect more firewood and start the fire. While I was asleep Helen and John had prepared food to be cooked on the fire. The very dry wood was soon aflame and cooking embers building. There we met an Australian couple, Greg and Sheila, from Fine Gold who we’d passed on some info regarding the passage into the lagoon.

Once the embers had built John cooked up the potatoes, sweet corn, burger and fish which we ate back aboard the boat. After dinner we watched the movie Batman – Dark Knight before crashing to a needed sleep.

We now have about two weeks in the Tuamotus. It is a chance to finally slow down. We reckon on staying put where we are for at least three nights before moving over to visit the town for a short while. Our next stop will be the larger atoll Fakarava which has a bit more going on than here.