Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and their OVNI 395

22 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
21 February 2021 | Toau, French Polynesia
19 February 2021 | Toau, French Polynesia
17 February 2021 | Apataki, French Polynesia
15 February 2021 | Apataki, French Polynesia
13 February 2021
13 February 2021 | Rangiroa
11 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
10 February 2021 | Rangiroa
10 February 2021 | Rangiroa
08 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
07 February 2021
07 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
06 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
06 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
05 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
04 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
03 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
02 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
01 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Feeding time in Rangiroa

22 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
This is a video link to a short film made by our friend Alison on Venture Lady showing shark feeding near the pass in Rangiroa. Under water these animals were pretty calm and could not care less when we were snorkelling or diving with them. It's amazing to see the difference when you throw them some fish.


Tranquility

21 February 2021 | Toau, French Polynesia
We have now had a couple of days in Toau and it has been a treat. There are just four boats here, and it is super low key. According to owner Valentine, there are about 12 people living on the whole atoll. Valentine and Gaston themselves make or sustain a living through a combination of pearl farming, copra farming, fishing and trading with visiting yachts. On their motu they have a small coconut plantation, a tiny vegetable garden, three sex-crazed dogs and a sty full of enormous pigs. Valentine also has a tame magnificent frigate bird which adores her, crooning and clicking away at the sight of her.

The couple supply fish to some family '˜pensions' in Fakarava because the fish in this atoll are better eating; it seems there is more ciguatera in Fakarava. They have fish traps set out over the reef in the ‘false pass'. These are mesh fences in a wide V-shape that funnel the fish on a falling tide into a catch net, whence they just scoop them out. As a by-product, they also end up with sharks and napoleon fish in the traps, which have to be evicted. Valerie and Gaston have a few, very basic, rooms on the beach for paying guests but there is no sign of them being in use at the moment, probably due to COVID. There is no supply ship here; any necessities they don't produce themselves involves a 30-mile boat trip to Fakarava. It's that, or exchanges with visiting yachts; we've swapped medical gauze, rope and diesel for some pearls. G feels that K got the better of that particular trade.

The snorkelling here is awesome. The area of the false pass is a shallow reef covered in colourful bommies with really healthy corals and many species of fish. We enjoyed a long swim there today, and today's photo was taken there.

Immediately under the boat we have the usual three or four remoras, but there also seem to be quite a few big grey sharks that sweep around the bay. Their behaviour is different from others we have seen. They seem much more interested in people - we think this may be because they associate people with fishing, which to them means feeding. One of our friends here went spear fishing yesterday in the mouth of the pass. As he shot a parrot fish, it (the dead parrot) was immediately set upon by a frenzy of sharks just a few meters from him, still on his spear. He said it was almost as if they were lined up waiting for his shot.

This afternoon we enjoyed a game of boules in the shade of a big tree with our hosts plus the crew of the two other boats here. We have all been travelling together since Rangiroa. The British gave a good performance but were no match for Gaston who plays like he must be the Polynesian champion.

We will leave here tomorrow morning for North Fakarava.

Moving On

19 February 2021 | Toau, French Polynesia
Yesterday we sailed down to the south-east corner of the Apataki atoll in search of better coral for snorkelling. The area we were passing through is uncharted so we have to keep a good look-out and navigate using high resolution satellite photos looking for bommies (big coral heads). We sailed through field after field of pearl farm buoys. These are like lobster pots on mega-steroids. Thankfully they have left a channel through the fields for boats to pass. At some points we could see that we were sailing over the top of strings of oysters but they were set deep enough in the channel that boats could go over the top. We were glad to get through to the end of them. There is a staggering amount of infrastructure in place to produce pearls. In addition to the thousands of buoys, lines and moorings, each oyster field had its own support house on shore and then there seemed to be a much bigger central facility beside the south pass with enormous stacks of ropes and buoys and other kit. There must be good money in pearls.

We wanted to get to a different part of the atoll to try the snorkelling but sadly it was all very similar to what we saw in the north with very poor corals and very few fish.

So, in search of pastures new, today we set sail across the lagoon and out of the south pass for Toau - the next atoll to the east where we have had reports of good underwater life. After a really dreamy sail we arrived at the false pass in Toau (an entry to the lagoon but too shallow for big boats to go all the way through) where there are a few moorings looked after by Gaston and Valentine. They are the only inhabitants here and perhaps for many miles around. They look after the moorings and provide dinner for the occasional passing sailor. Alas for us, some previous sailors ate all the langoustine and they are not cooking for anyone for a few days until they get more supplies. So we will continue to dig into ships stores and enjoy the snorkelling and walks on the motu for a couple of days before heading on.

There are four boats here and everyone is suddenly discussing weather. It looks like there is some strong weather coming in next week so we will likely move from here on Monday to get to some shelter in Fakarava, also home of excellent diving.

Exploring Apataki

17 February 2021 | Apataki, French Polynesia
We have been through a slight culture shock here. It is so quiet and so utterly disconnected that it has taken a little getting used to. Instead of checking e-mails and news headlines when we wake up, we just take a book to the back of the boat and read, with a cup of coffee by our side and our feet dangling in the water. We know from past experience that when we reconnect the news will probably be just about the same.

Yesterday we went ashore and walked across the motu to the ocean side to amble along the exposed coral platform. The waves were crashing up on the reef and lots of little fish were chasing around in the pools left when the tide went out. There was some plastic rubbish (mostly fishing industry discards) but not as much as you would imagine. As we waded along in warm ankle-deep water, we were finding beautiful cowrie shells and big purple sea urchin spines that look like they could be made into jewellery.

We also had an explore along the lagoon side of the motu, thick with palms and scrub, where we found some fallen coconuts. Most have been attacked by rats or crab, but some were still whole and ripe. We would normally not take these if it looked like the motu was farmed, but these look really deserted so we took a couple back to the boat and improved our technique for opening coconuts. Essential tools are the hacksaw, the electric drill, our heavy security bar, several knives and the first aid box. We now have shredded coconut and coconut slivers drying under the spray-hood, for cake and snacks.

Last night we had dinner aboard SV Venture Lady �" always a pleasure. Today it was back to more motu walking. We swim several times a day off the back of the boat and simply enjoy this very peaceful place. Tomorrow we will probably move to the south-east corner of the atoll before starting to think about our next move, to the nearby atoll of Toau.

Pastures New

15 February 2021 | Apataki, French Polynesia
It was time to leave Rangiroa but not before we had a chance to catch up with friends on SV Sea Tramp who we have not seen for a while. They arrived a couple of days before we left, on their way back to Tahiti.

We left the anchorage with SV Venture Lady and exited the pass (where we had enjoyed much diving) on the ebb, to be spat out into the ocean. It was a trip of about 80 miles which is just about possible as a day trip; dawn here is about 0500 and it's dark by 1900, which gives us in theory a 14 hour sailing day. However, it's absolutely necessary to go in and out of the atoll passes at slack tide, and once inside a new atoll we need good light to spot bommies and rocks; so we had to do this passage

The winds were mostly light but with enough north in them to make steady progress, despite getting messed around by a couple of large squall systems. As dawn broke we were approaching the atoll of Apataki, ghosting in at less than 2kts under staysail only to slow the boat down. That set us up to arrive for the slack water at the pass to enter. At 0630 we had just a knot of incoming tide to bring us in between the palm-fringed white sand shores; a couple of simple houses were tucked into the trees, bonfire smoke drifting from one.

Our first attempt to find somewhere to anchor close by was a fail, so with Venture Lady we crossed over to the north east corner of the atoll where we found a good spot with what should be excellent shelter. This is a seriously remote part of the world - there is absolutely no one here except us; no phone signal, no wifi. We are protected from the ocean by some tree-covered coral motus and are sitting on the inside of a large lagoon. The only sounds are the whistling of birds on the motus, the dinghy splashing astern and the muffled roar of the waves on the ocean side. Classic desert island stuff.

We are now off grid and doing this by satellite coms so there will be no pictures for a little while, but we will post them when possible.

Gallery Update

13 February 2021
Graham Walker
We have recently being doing a big update on the GALLERY section of the blog, adding photo from our various trips in Barracuda. There are some new sections on:
- Galapagos Wildlife
- Underwater shots from the Pacific trip
- General shots from the Pacific trip
as well as all the previous trips.

Kate feeding fish.

13 February 2021 | Rangiroa
Graham Walker
Yesterday we took some old bread with us when we went for our snorkel. You can see the result. Kate is in there somewhere.

The winds of change

11 February 2021 | Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
Oh, for a good night’s sleep. Two nights ago there was a swell from the east that caused the boat to roll constantly during the night so it was a bad night sleep-wise; we were ready for a better night last night but it was not to be.

Just after midnight, we realised that the wind had gone round to the SW (very unusual) and there was a large wave building up with the fetch across the atoll. There was no hope of sleeping, as our forepeak bedroom was heaving and pitching with the motion. This got worse; the boat was getting really thrown around in the wind and the rain was pouring down. We were both up, securing the dinghy and anything else that could move and getting the boat ready in case we needed to lift the anchor and get off the coral-strewn lee shore. We were keeping a very close eye on the two boats nearby, but luckily no one moved. With the radar (see photo) we were able to track the storm system that was passing over us for about two hours until we were happy that it had moved on and everything calmed down. It was amazing how quickly it turned our protected anchorage into a potential trap, but it left as fast as it arrived. One of the other boats in the anchorage found that once they swung round on their chain with the wind they were bumping their keel on a bommie – most unsettling.

And then this morning, we woke to a beautiful sunny day in the tropics and it could all have been a dream.

Fish of the Day - Saddled Butterfly Fish

10 February 2021 | Rangiroa
Graham Walker

The Aforementioned Car Ferry

10 February 2021 | Rangiroa
Graham Walker
Watch out CalMac!
Vessel Name: Barracuda of Islay
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go
Extra: One day at a time
Barracuda of Islay's Photos - Main
41 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
29 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
Starting in the Chesapeake, down the ICW to the Bahamas and onto Puerto Rico and the Caribbean
24 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
Barracuda's trip from Scotland to Europe, the Canaries, and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean followed by a trip up to the Bahamas and on to the USA East coast.
26 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
81 Photos
Created 30 April 2016
60 Photos
Created 16 September 2015
a pre-retirement holiday
19 Photos
Created 21 June 2015
some shots from our lovely trip around the Aegean with Ailie
8 Photos
Created 16 January 2015
9 Photos
Created 19 July 2014
2 great weeks with Steve and Bibi Rainey.
11 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
A long weekend with Catherine and David.
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda does the Western Isles of Scotland.
12 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Kate and Graham Chillin'
7 Photos
Created 18 July 2014

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