28 June, 2014

Let the cruise of Polynesia begin

The temporary crew Lizzie flew out of Fakarava yesterday and I breathed a huge sigh of relief not that she did not contribute to the sailing or the provisioning of the boat. She was more than generous in the latter area (Thanks Lizzie) but she just did not fit into the cruising community and like it or not I got tired of making excuses to my friends as to why she did not join us on a bike ride, beach BBQ or just a walk on the beach and I was sick of being reminded of the meals we had with others by the wine she gave not the food we enjoyed. I dropped her at Annabell's resort and dive centre where she enjoyed herself diving and being the centre of attention.
Well I am alone again on my boat; yes it is clean to my standard and my chart table has my things on it in the places they have been for the years. I can also sit in the captain's chair when I like not when it is free. Those that have been on Malua will understand these comments.
I left S Fakarava after four days of fantastic fun with all the friends on the other cruising boats. We dived with the sharks, snorkelled the pass both in and out, took photos, kyaked to the kite surfers and had some of the best days of the season. Thanks everyone for a great time. Now let the cruise of Polynesia begin.
Prior to today I have had a few great days with the kids boats on land expeditions, on the beach, snorkelling with the manta rays or just hanging around together but these will be a topic of a further post.
Having decided to leave S Fakarava and go to the northern part of the Atoll I first had to extricate my anchor from the coral heads and rocks that I had laid the anchor chain across. The wind had swung over the past few days and from the surface one could see the anchor chain snake lying between the coral heads in 10 m of water. I dived down to check which way the chain had rapped itself around the first coral head. It was clockwise so back on Malua I steered a course to undo the chain but as I moved forward the chain would not come off the head. Stop. Over the side again and dive down in the crystal clear water to see again. Not clockwise but the other way. So back on the boat and start again but this time the other way round. Success at the second attempt. Only 30 more meters of chain to go.
Slowly I pulled the chain in. Bang the nose of Malua dipped into the sea as the chain snagged another coral head. Over the side with the snorkelling mask. OK, this time it is definitely clockwise but wait there is more … after the first snag ahead 20 m the anchor is wedged between two coral heads with the chain through the valley. Plan, take a bearing ahead and behind and go for it and the weight of the boat will pull the anchor free.
Back on Malua I twist and turn and gain more chain until I only have 17 meters left and the stuck anchor. Return to the wheel put the engine ahead and wait to find out what happens. Malua moves forward, I take in chain, the nose dips but then rises again and we are free. The chain came in as fast as the windlass would wind and I was off to the northern part of the atoll but I had wasted more than a hour so my arrival would be in the dark!
I had a easy time following the channel with no reefs or pearl farm marker buoys to worry about however I still had to take a path past the pearl farms in the north area before I could follow my past route to the anchorage. The sunset was glorious but with the dark came the danger both from the hard bits of the uncharted coral reefs and the large plastic buoys of the pearl farms.
Don't fear the night, switch on the light. has been a mantra I have been quoting all through this cruise. On went the steaming light plus my very powerful hand held search light. I was doing fine spotting the buoys off the bow so I would steer to port and they would pass astern. As my confidence grew and the miles to the destination dropped to less than three I thought I had it made. Out of the darkness just in front of Malua appeared a set of buoys. I could not turn right or left. The only thing I was able to do was slam the engine in to neutral and coast over the line between the buoys. Malua lurched, came to a stop and I could see in the clear water abeam of the rudder the strong rope and the bags of pearl shells. I was caught in a web of ropes. Just then a wave came from behind and Malua's stern rose and we were off again towards the safe anchorage. I was doing great at about 3 knots weaving my way either to port or starboard but I must have entered the middle of the field because I found myself in a maze of multi coloured buoys. I did not know which way to turn. Beam me up Scotty I want to get out of here.
Make a plan and follow it, is the rule. I did and before I knew it I was in the fairway again and steaming towards the place I had anchored before. What a relief to be in clear water again. Is there a lesson to learn from this …. Yes, always have a crew on the bow to guide you through the uncharted waters of the Tuamotu atolls. Will I learn that? Well, that is the story for another post.
At 6/26/2014 3:13 PM (utc) our position was 15°48.42'N 146°09.16'W

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