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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5/21/2012 Raroia, Tuomotu Islands, French Polynesia

5/21/2012 Raroia, Tuamotu Islands

We dropped our anchor in front of the small village on Raroia after a 72 hour, 423km passage from the Marquesas. It is my 51st Birthday and arriving at our first atoll is a pretty spectacular way to spend a birthday. Being an atoll means we had to enter through a pass, at slack tide, with the sun behind or directly above us -slack tide so there is no worry about making the gap in the reef without being dashed upon the rock and sun behind us so we could into the clear water well enough to avoid the same. We made such good time on this passage we had put on the brakes for the last 75 miles in order to run the pass at the right time. Our friends Ann and Mark on Blue Rodeo were no more than 20 minutes behind us and as Bill and I were taking down our mainsail they buzzed us singing Happy Birthday!

Our first reef pass turned out to be very much like running the rapids in BC and Alaska- read the charts, pick the right time, have a strong engine, be ready for difficulty and then hold your nose and jump. We closed all the windows, put the storm doors in the companion way, waited and watched the tide slacken and then rode it right through. Yea! Then we picked our way through the channel markers (all of which are backwards and or different from those in North America) and dropped our anchor in 60 feet of beautiful blue water.

The Tuamotu Islands were once known as the "dangerous islands." The islands are in fact atolls -chains of small islets around a lagoon,some with entry passes many without and so are very hard to spot from sea. They are sand and coral desert islands with palm trees that stand roughly 50 feet high. They don't loom out of the clouds from miles away like the Marquesan and Hawaiian islands but instead appear out of nowhere to the doom of many a voyager. They often have no fresh water supply, there is little other vegetation, no mountains or fruit trees or goats and pigs. This atoll has only a handful of residents and most work the black pearl farms. In the days before GPS most cruisers passed by far to the north rather than risk hitting a reef. Raroia is in fact where Thor Heyerdahl ended his Kon Tiki voyage when he hit the reef here. Now with the widespread use of GPS more ane more cruisers come here for the solitude and for the reef diving and coral gardens.

Friends on Buena Vista are due tomorrow and along with Blue Rodeo we will be traveling through the island chain for the next several weeks. For now though it's time for a piece of birthday chocolate and a nap.


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