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Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Arrival at Tahanea Atoll
06/01/2011, Tuomotu Archipelago

We departed Makemo at sunset and sailed all night, so that we would arrive at our destination, Tahanea Atoll, in daylight and at slack tide. The Tuomotus present special challenges, as each ring shaped atoll has only a few passes to enter, and these passes can have huge, dangerous currents and waves, depending on the tides. So the general practice is to try to time the entry and exit of an atoll at slack tide, which is not easy, since this is not published. We try to time slack tide about 30 minutes after low or high tide, and when we approach the entrance, we look with binoculars at the conditions ahead within the channel. If there are large standing waves in the channel then we heave to and wait until the conditions improve.

We arrived at Tahanea around 7 a.m., but there was a still a very strong current in the channel. So we hove to, and waited a few hours until the tidal current reduced.

On entering the channel, we found the most beautiful anchorage. This place is like what everyone thinks of when they imagine Polynesia.

Like Makemo, Tahanea is like a large inland sea of perfectly flat, calm water. The atoll is large enough so that its waters extend to the horizon; you can't see all of it at once. The ring of coral surrounding it has palm trees and jungle like overgrowth, about 100 yards wide. There is no village and there are no permanent inhabitants, only copra (dried coconut) harvested by farmers who come out here seasonally.

The water here is so clear, you can easily see the anchor on the bottom through 40 feet of water. The bottom is full of coral heads, which the anchor chain can quickly get wrapped up in, so boats here use fenders to keep at least some of the anchor chain off of the bottom, to maintain some of the shock absorbing catenary.

This evening, John and I went out after dark to the tidepools at low tide, with headlamps, to hunt for lobster. We saw several, but grabbing one with your hands requires being very quick and takes a little practice. Also, grabbing these things and throwing them into a bag is a bit intimidating. After five of them got away, we managed to get one, and returned to the boat to have steamed lobster with garlic butter. We'll return the next day and hope to get several more with our improved technique.

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Lots More Fun In Makemo


After more than a week of hanging out in Makemo we are moving on today. Makemo turned out to be a great stop, better than any of us expected. Having the wharf to tie to was a huge plus. We also met lots of locals, especially the kids who were off from school the first week we were here. Another part of what made this a fun stop was the other four boats that we knew from other stops and had lots of fun with here. Had we been the only boat here I am sure it would not have been quite the same.
Reminiscing about life in California.
I joined the crew from Evergreen and Moondance for a dinghy trip across the pass two days ago. I had really been wanting to get over there as the area looked great with a nice white beach and reefs for snorkeling, but the current in the pass was too strong to kayak through (I had tried twice). We had a nice time hanging out on the beach for an hour or so, reminiscing about our sailing experiences in California and other adventures we had all had at home. I also found a few more shells to add to my collection.
Playing at movie night.
Friday night last week was movie night for the village. They project films onto the wall of a building near the harbor. The movies are free but they sell a delicious barbeque dinner to go with it. Between the two movies I entertained the rambunctious and noisy crowd with some Mozart, fiddle music, and Yankee Doodle. They were very appreciative and cheered madly (all the time) so not sure how much they actually heard, but they seemed to enjoy it. It definitely was something different, since I doubt they get violinists here very often.
Me playing violin after dinner.
The parties on Charade have continued nicely. Our last one included a few locals that Carol and Arno met by way of having some sculptures made. They brought some delicious plates of food and we and Charade also made some food. Carol specializes in deserts and made two great pies as well.
Bruce entertaining Victor and Arno.
After dinner Bruce played accordion and Pascale sang a few songs. I also played a few violin pieces. Having the musical entertainment at our parties really adds a nice dimension that normally does not happen at most cruiser get-togethers.
Carol and Thoma in Charade's galley.
At one of our earlier dinner parties.
The day after our big blow out on Charade with the local's, they invited all of us to their house for Sunday lunch. It was a huge affair, with tons of food. Victor barbeques the fish that he catches and it was great. He goes fishing daily and usually comes back with tons of fish. He drives his boat like a cowboy trying to lasso a cow, but with a harpoon in his hand. He herds the fish onto a shallow area and then hurls the harpoon at them while speeding along next to the fish in the boat.
Victor grilling the fish and beef.
Getting ready for lunch at Victor's house.
In between the parties and violin playing I have had time for three scuba dives. Yesterday, my third dive, we went outside the atoll into the open ocean and dove off the front of the atoll. We were down for almost an hour and dove to almost 80 feet. The coral there was amazing. It was the most coral I have ever seen. It stretched all over the place, like huge fields. Two dolphins swam quickly by us, plus we saw a big variety of fish.
Coral growing like a tree.
Ludo, the instructor, floating along.
More coral.

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Fete Des Meres
05/29/2011, Makemo Atoll

Today happened to be the French Mother's Day, and we celebrated it in traditional style at the house of some of the locals here in Makemo.

The locals gave Pascale a flower necklace (like a Hawaiian Lei) to wear for the day.

Many of the local women wore intricately woven crowns of flowers as well.

We went to local villager Victor's house, where he and his wife put on a feast which was huge and never ending, with barbequed meat, chicken, fish, and many side dishes. Here Victor cooks on his backyard grill.

The lunch, which started at noon and lasted all afternoon, was lubricated with their homemade "beer" - fermented pineapple juice.

Victor and a friend enjoy the grilled fish.

Besides us, the crews of Charade and Callipyge were there, plus with Victor's wife and children, there must have been 20 of us. We were delighted by their hospitality to us. They told us this was the first time they had invited over visiting sailors.

On the way back to the boat, it seemed all the island's kids had turned out on the wharf to try to push, throw, or drag each other into the warm water. It was quite a festive and happy scene.

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Music on Charade
05/28/2011, Makemo Atoll

We got together on board catamaran Charade, Bruce with his accordeon (Pascale accompanying with her voice).

And John played some pieces on his violin, while Arnaud, of Charade, observes.

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Diving At Last
05/25/2011, Makemo

[post by John] Me a SCUBA diver.
So, after bouncing around between tropical locations for the last 15 years, but never venturing very far beneath the water, today I took the plunge and went on my very first SCUBA dive. I always though SCUBA looked like an awful lot of hassle and expense when I could just jump in the water and see quite a bit by snorkeling. But after staying underwater for almost 50 minutes today and exploring the depths as the fish do, I see the benefits of also being a SCUBA diver. I joined our friends from another boat, Thomas and Laure. We were picked up from our boats by the dive boat and then we motored out about five minutes to the reef. After about one minute of instruction from the dive master, in a mixture of French and English, mostly just about hand signals to use underwater and how to inflate and deflate the buoyancy compensator, I flopped backwards out of the boat and into the water.
Thomas with his mask complete off.
Dive instruction.
I descended with the instructor to about twenty feet and after that I was on my own for awhile so I swam around and took a few photos of my classmates learning how to clear their masks. When my turn came I was a little confused since nothing had been explained to me before, but with some hand signals (can't talk underwater anyway, so no problem that I don't speak much French) I figured it out that the instructor wanted me to take out my mouthpiece and try exhaling without it. That was pretty easy. Next I had to remove my mask completely and then put it back on and practice blowing all the water out. This was a little harder but I managed it okay. After this it was back to swimming around and taking photos and chasing sharks. The deepest part of the dive was 35 feet. After we finished and were headed back to the anchorage the instructor complimented me on being extremely relaxed in the water for it being my first time diving. Everything felt pretty natural to me. Breathing from a tank was the only part I was not so sure about at first, but once I got my rhythm of one quick breath and slowly exhaling, I was set. I hope to complete my PADI certification in Fakarava, the third atoll we will visit in the Tuamotus.
Underwater life.
Swimming as the fish do.
The day after we arrived in Makemo we were joined by friends on four other boats. All the boats are tied to the wharf and it was a lot of fun helping tie up the new boats as they arrived. Lots of locals, and especially kids, were on hand to help as well. It was a bit of a party for awhile on the dock as everyone was really excited to finally be in the Tuamotus, not to mentioned being tied to a wharf for a change. Our friends on Charade caught a nice sized blue marlin on their way in and gave all the boats of bag of fish. That night all the French boats joined together on Charade for a huge sushi and sashimi feast. I provided entertainment during the cocktail hour. After dinner Bruce played accordion and Pascale sang and I played a few more piece on the violin.
Five cruiser boats plus Antoine's boat, Banana Split.
Helping Banana Split tie up.
Helping Moondance into the dock.
Saying goodbye to drifter Anne and her father.
Yesterday I went for a six mile walk exploring the atoll a bit. I did not find a whole lot of interest, but while I walked I kept busy trying to learn how to weave coconut palm fronds. I was not very successful but when I got back to the boat I downloaded a bunch of instructional information about flax weaving and now have completed a fish and a flower from coconut fronds. On the way back into town I opened a coconut and enjoyed some thirst quenching coconut milk.
Fishing boats passed while walking into town.
Local kids are extremely friendly.
Tonight I talked with two men on a boat from Padua, Italy. It was fun meeting some Italians and getting to practice speaking Italian. We met one other Italian boat a few weeks ago but they were not very friendly so no luck then, but these guys seem much more open to conversation.
Calou really attracts the locals, and even a guitar player.
This morning I practiced violin for about three hours at the foot of the wharf. There is a nice covered area with good acoustics and a terrific view of the bay. It turns out there is a movie night there on Friday which is very popular with the islanders. I have been invited to play before the movie starts. Also, a man drove up on his scooter, Felix, who heard me practicing today and asked if I want to play at the high school. So now, in addition to providing cocktail hour music, I have two engagements in town.

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Reef fish
05/25/2011, Makemo Atoll

Francois and I did a scuba dive along the reef today, descending to 100 feet. We saw large schools of fish and some white tip shark.

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Calou at Sea
05/25/2011, Ua Pou

Here's a great photo of Calou departing the Marquesas, with the island of Oa Pou in the background. Taken by fellow sailors on Moondance.

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Arrival at Makemo
05/24/2011, Tuomotu Archipelago

We finally arrived in the Tuomotu archipelago at the island of Makemo after three days and three nights of sailing. The weather was mostly excellent with fairly consistent winds in the 15 to 20 knot range, though there were times when we had to motor and other times when we had to put in a double reef.

Delightful Sunset
Delightful Sunset

Like all of the islands in the Tuomotu, Makemo is an atoll, or a narrow ring of coral just barely above sea level with a protected lagoon in the interior. Makemo atoll is typical, the lagoon within being about 40 miles long. The ring of land surrounding it is about 300 yards wide.

Arrival at Makemo Atoll
Arrival at Makemo Atoll

On our arrival we were informed that we could tie up at the wharf where the monthly supply ship docks. When we arrived we saw a very peculiar little boat with no mast, no sails, and no engine; it was being sailed across the Pacific Ocean by a young French woman named Anne; the boat is propelled uniquely by a large kite. Anne required 83 days to reach the Tuomotu from Peru, though she only had brought provisions for 75 days, so she had not eaten for 5 days upon her arrival.

It turns out that Anne had previously attempted to row around the world in a row boat, had rowed across the Atlantic, and had stopped at our home port of the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon, California, just a few years ago.

We also were greeted by a famous French singer known simply as "Antoine", who is much beloved in France for his island style music and his sailing videos. He's sort of a French Jimmy Buffett.

Antoine, Anne, and me at Makemo
Antoine, Anne, and me at Makemo

Here's a picture of Anne's boat:
Anne's boat
Anne's Boat

The natives here are extremely friendly, even moreso than in the Marquesas. The island has a population of only a thousand, so the Makemos are very curious and eager to meet and talk to visitors (especially if one can speak French).

Every day, children from the village crowd around our boat, bringing us flowers and small gifts, and asking all kinds of questions, like where we came from, places we visited, what the passage was like, etc.

children from village bring us flowers
Children from Village Bring Us Flowers

The next day some other boats with kids aboard arrived from the Marquesas: French boats Charade (3 kids), another Beneteau (3 kids), and Evergreen (1 teenager). So the wharf has been crawling with children, from boats and dozens of children from the village, speaking French, swimming in the crystal clear water, and playing soccer.

The azure waters and wharf of Makemo atoll
The Azure Waters and Wharf of Makemo Atoll

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