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s/v Sand Dollar
Snorkeling in Raroia, May 23,2007
05/23/2007, Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

It's another splendid day in Raroia with fishing in the morning and snorkeling in the afternoon. I visited the landing site of the Kon Tiki which is infested with small moray eels in water 0-2 feet deep. No bites, thank God. The water visibility for diving is at least 50 ft and the sea life is rich. The reef sharks, said to be harmless, are nevertheless curious and intimidating.

All else is well.

Hanging out at Raroia
05/22/2007, Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Clear skies, light wind and no rain - perfect conditions for fly fishing and that is exactly what I did for most of the day. I concentrated on fishing the drop-offs for giant and blue fin trevally. Although I landed several nice fish the big ones broke off. During the late afternoon black tip reef sharks, which are present all day, became very active and seemed to like a red fly. Imagine that!. They are a real hassle to land and sometimes it is better to just cut the line. After battling two of then I decided it was time to quit and work on the boat.

Tomorrow I may snorkel unless the conditions look especially good for fishing. Sometimes it is hard to make these decisions.

Exploring Raroia on Monday May 21,2007
05/21/2007, Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Today I set out by dinghy to explore a small part of the atoll and to see if any fish would take a fly. The reef on the perimeter has breaking surf but no sand beaches. The bottom is all old coral with small, palm tree studded islands called motus every 500 yards or so. Between the motus water washes over the reef and forms channels which drain into the lagoon. This is where I concentrated my fishing. I saw no bonefish but did catch and release many 3-5 lb bluefin trevally, some small groupers, and a hard pulling species I could not identify. Several fish broke the line on the coral before I could see them so I can only guess what they were but, of course, they were huge. Enough fish tales.

The climate here is much more to my liking than that of the Marquesas. Being 400 miles farther south it is several degrees cooler and much less humid. The cooling trade winds blow constantly with no mountains to block them making the evenings cool and comfortable and the days tolerable. There are a few flies but no mosquitos or nonos. It has rained a couple of times for about 20 minutes since I have been here.

Tomorrow I work on the boat and maybe explore a little more.

Day 4 - Landfall in Raroia Sunday May 20, 2007
05/20/2007, Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

At 4:30 PM local time Sand Dollar dropped anchor at a beautiful palm tree-studded island on the east side of Raroia Atoll in the Tuamotus following a four day passage from Nuka Hiva, Marquesas. The second two days of the passage were very nice compared to the first two. I actually had to slow the boat down today in order to transit the entrance to the lagoon at the correct time, which was 2:30 PM. This is when the predicted current would be at a minimum and, I am happy to say, was correct. A Dutch boat arrived at the same time and we compared notes by radio and then proceeded through without incident.

Raroia is a typical atoll, 26 x 8 miles in size with a fringing reef, dozens of islands on the perimeter, and a large central lagoon with a single navigable entrance from the sea. There is one village with about 100 people and there are no supplies except black pearls. The anchorage, when the wind in up, is 6 miles from the village on the other side of the lagoon near the landing site of the famous Kontiki raft. There were five other boats when I arrived including my Swedish friends who have invited me to dinner tonight. Tomorrow I will blow up the kayak, grab a fly rod and go exploring the beach.

Day 3 - Good Sailing
05/19/2007, En Route to the Tuamotus

There have been no squalls for the past 8 hours and the wind and sea have both let up a bit. I am still sailing on a close reach but making 6.7 knots. Every now and then a big wave passes, the boat rolls more than usual and the leeward rail dips way down allowing water to ship into the cockpit. This typically happens just after I've settled down for a nap on the cockpit cushion. What a way to wake up! I have two sets of clothes now, wet and salty and just salty. Salt is now a way of life. I go to great pains, though, to keep it out of my Starbucks,

Today's noon-to-noon distance was 122 miles for an average speed of 5.1 kts. If this keeps up I will make Raroia tomorrow afternoon. There is only one entrance to the lagoon and, although it is sufficiently wide and deep, the current can run 8 knots. Therefore the entry must be made at slack water (when the tide is not running). This I have calculated to be about 1:30 PM. Also it is good to have plenty of overhead sun for spotting coral heads which might get in the way. I have Swedish friends on "Lorna" who are anchored there now and they have been emailing suggestions for safe entry.

Day 3 - Continuous Rain Squalls
05/18/2007, En Route to the Tuamotus

For the past 18 hours there has been one squall after another with wind varying from 10 to 28 knots. Right now it is blowing 18-22 which would be fine if I were heading downwind but my intended destination requires a close reach. This makes for a and wet ride and lots of rolling. If this continues I will change my destination to an island more downwind, ie farther west.

Yesterday afternoon all three lines had fish on simultaneously during a squall. I gaffed one, a skipjack tuna, but lost it in the process. In the meantime the other two got away. Two hours later, fishing with only two lines, a good sized fish struck and took line like crazy. As I was bringing in the other line to get it out of the way, a small 6 lb yellowfin tuna grabbed the lure. I was so excited because it was the perfect size and is my favorite fish. I was thinking about sushi while bringing the fish onboard and in a careless move on my part he slipped away. Bummer! The other fish was eventually brought in but it was a skipjack and I felt so bad about losing the yellowfin that I let him go. Today it has been too rough to fish.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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