Arrival in South Fakarava
15 June 2011 | Tuomotu Archipelago, French Polynesia
We arrived at the South anchorage at Fakarava again. It was an easy sail along the 40 mile channel from the north side of Fakarava to the south side. However when we arrived at the south end the marked channel ended and we were left to our own devices to find our way among the coral heads to the anchorage.
We chose to use waypoints provided by s/v Soggy Paws, which had previously been there. So we dutifully entered the waypoints into our navigation system and made our way towards the anchorage in what was about 50 feet of water depth.
I had mounted a masthead camera, and was watching it, when suddenly the image on the screen changed from deep blue to light beige. I immediately put the boat into full reverse thrust, but it was too late, a few seconds later there was a huge crashing sound as we had run hard and fast onto a rock hard coral head. The depth had gone from 50 feet to 4 feet in just a few seconds. And this was along a route that was recommended as a safe route!
My first reaction was to ask crew to check for any incoming water entering the hull. None was observed. Then we tried reversing off the coral head. We were stuck fast. So we took our stern anchor out with the kayak and dropped it off to port side, with it attached to the spinnaker halyard. By winching in the spinnaker halyard, we were able to make the boat heel enough so that we were free of the coral.
So we gingerly backed out of the hazardous area and found deeper water.
Lesson learned: never believe any "safe routes" given by prior cruisers.
Luckily there was no damage to the hull of Calou, save for some scratches in the bottom of the cast-iron bulb keel.
This photo, of a black tip shark, was taken while diving on the keel to inspect it for damage.