Our next stop in the Tuamotus was Makemo, west of Raroia. Although only 70NM away it’s impossible to do the trip as a day sail because of the need to time exit and entry through the passes at slack tide. So we opted to do a slow overnight sail to Makemo, pottering along at 3-4 knots and arriving at the pass just after dawn and just on slack tide. Trying to time slack tide is something akin to a black art, with lots of mumbling and muttering while hunched over various tide data, but mostly it comes down to guestimation – and amazingly we seem to have got it right so far.
Makemo is one of the more populated atolls, with a boarding school for secondary students from neighbouring islands and several small grocery stores, a gendermarie and post office. We really only stopped here to pick up some essential items (beer and bread!), but while we were here we got to watch some of the local activities that are part of the annual July festival of Heiva – canoe races, soccer matches, and the more traditional spear-a-coconut-on-a-pole contest.
We were also entertained (and a bit alarmed) by the anchoring antics of a fellow cruising yacht who came racing into the anchorage and proceeded to drop their anchor right in front of us – way, way too close. Bruce politely pointed out that they would swing into us if they stayed there, so they moved, came back around beside us (still too close) for a second go. During the process of trying to set their anchor they accidently reversed over their dinghy. Oops!
We offered to help but by then they were too stressed and embarrassed to accept any offers of help. Eventually they got their dinghy dislodged from under their stern and went down the far end of the anchorage, much to our relief. Ah, we’re a merciless lot, cruisers. We know what it’s like to be the source of other people’s mirth, but it’s good entertainment value when you don’t have TV or internet!
The anchorage off the township wasn’t comfortable or safe in south-east or south winds so after stocking up on supplies we motored to another, more protected anchorage about half way up the eastern side. Usually it’s not safe to fish inside the lagoons because of the risk of ciguatera poisoning, but we had it on good authority from the local gendarme that there was no ciguatera in the Makemo lagoon, so we put a line out in the faint hope of catching something in between dodging bommies. Just as we were approaching the anchorage and a particularly tricky bit of navigating I noticed a lot of commotion at the end of the line. We’d landed a very very fine fish indeed, which we later identified as a Jobfish. It was way too big for two of us, so we invited Rehua over for a barbeque on board Toucan. It was one of the tastiest fish we’ve ever had, and we made short work of devouring it between the six of us.
It was another pretty anchorage but without any accessible diving we were keen to move on to our next destination, Tahanea. We thought we’d have to do another overnight passage to time the passes but a fellow cruising boat “De Ware Jacob” had been to Tahanea before and told us the pass was easy and well-lit, and with the forecast for good wind we decided to give it a go and make it during daylight hours. By now there were four boats heading to Tahanea and so of course the race was on!
We handicapped ourselves by getting the zipper on the mainsail bag stuck, so by the time we’d got the main up the other boats were well ahead of us. But with 20 kts gusting 30 on the beam Toucan romped along at 9-10 kts and did us proud, overhauling the two monohulls but not quite catching Rehua (damn it!). We got to the main, middle pass at Tahanea at 3pm which was about 1 ½ hrs after slack high and the water was fairly boiling by then. Luckily the eastern-most side of the pass was calmer and because it was a fairly wide pass we left the sails up, put the motors on and got in quite easily with about 3 knots of tide against us. From there it was just a short way to the very pleasant anchorage on the westernside of the pass. This atoll is now a marine park with no permanent residents although there was a village here some time ago that we’ll go and explore in the next few days. With three passes close together and more reef walls outside to dive on, we can’t wait to go underwater exploring….