Isle Amanu & Makemo
05 April 2017 | Makemo Atoll, Tuamotu's, French Polynesia
We raised anchor and left Iles Gambier 9 March via the NW pass (accurately charted including red channel buoys) after stopping off at Ile Taravai to collect fruits from Herve's family to take to his uncle on Amanu. Such fruits (banana's, oranges, limes, pompelmouse) are sought after as the grounds of Amanu and other coral atolls are not so fertile. It was a 76hr/465nm passage of 10-15kt winds from the ENE/ESE on our beam with a 1m swell. It was quite squally during the nights with occasional day time ones - neither throwing a significant punch but we sailed with either 1 or 2 reefs in any event. With the moon at its fullest it made for a pleasant night sailing.
We arrived at the Amunu (Passe Fafameru) at 22:30 and hove-to till the morning to make the pass with slack water at 10:15. At the time, the supply vessel Maristella III was unloading cargo from outside the atoll onto to small launch boat and I radioed them to confirm the slack water time (11:00hrs) - even though they just charge thru with full current. The pass was easy enough to negotiate and while not completely slack (approx 3kts of current against us) it didn't affect Emerald at all. At the end of the channel we made a right turn to avoid the end reef which was easy enough to see. However there was 20kt E winds blowing inside the atoll and we checked out the small shallow channel into the town's harbor and determined it was too dangerous to pass with a cross wind and the swell. We then went 3/4nm further along to another noted anchorage however it was a coral bottom and we couldn't get the anchor to stick. There was just no sandy patches in this area and it was still fairly exposed to the E winds with squalls on the horizon. Previously I had scanned the Google Earth images (Ovitalmap) for other potential anchorages but none met any safe criteria. So erring on the conservative side, I decided to return and exit out the pass back out to the ocean and head for Makemo. Our time at Amanu was 1.5hrs!
It was then a 162nm passage from Amanu to Makemo's Arikitamiro's (east) pass which we did overnight. The 2nd reef at night chafed thru at the boom end so when I discovered this we raised the sail completely. My mistake for missing a few of my daily checks!
We arrived at Arikitamiro pass at 16:00hrs, 1.5hrs before the proposed slack water (17:30 hrs; ww.shun.fr; Navionics) and moved in to sight the pass prior to entering. The water was slack (no white caps - earlier than predicted so we went proceeded thru with no current, 25-30m WD, rounded the stbd side cardinal mark and anchored just west of the long jetty with reasonable shelter 16 37.6S 143 34.3W; 7m in sand with good holding and a few bommies about. We were then greeted by 3 local lads in their boat out collecting coconuts, offered us some freshly caught fish and I gave them a bundle of bananas - we just made our first friends! A few minutes later our cruiser neighbor dropped by also offering us some freshly caught fish - it was just too much for the three of them! We're off to a good start here in Iles Makeno! We also checked in with the local Gendarmerie as is expected.
Makemo village is very pleasant with smiling and helpful folks. There are 4 magasin's (grocery shops) with OK provisions until the supply vessel arrives every 3-4 weeks. Great baguettes including whole wheat ones were found at the 'Boulangerie'. Croissants at the other magasin. There is a small pizzeria and a restaurant where you need to order your dishes the day before. Internet via manispot beams out to the anchorage, is reasonable fast and blocks of time can be purchased online. There is an ATM at the postoffice. We didn't check about fuels. Amongst other dives, we dived the Arikitamiro pass 4 times on an incoming tide, the last few times drifting while towing the dinghy behind us with a 35m line - this worked out well enough. We did a lot of snorkeling, photography and spearfishing. There is no ciguatera in Makemo. After spearing one nice grouper that we ate him up with a seafood paella along with cruisers from SV Ednbal - great evening.
Interesting note on La Post (post office) where you can change currencies for XPF (Fr Poly Franc). I went into change USD100 and they told me the x-rate was 0.95. I asked to look at her computer and saw that rate was from Dec 2014! She said that's all she had (?). So I pulled out my iPad and showed her the XE rate of today (1.10) and lo and behold she made the exchange at that rate! No commission, no service change. Ummm.
The Makemo atoll is quiet and beautiful with its protectorate reefs and motu's, clean clear waters, abundant of coral fish with some pelagic's. Many coral fields, bommies abound but, again, and unfortunately much of the coral is dead or dying (bleached, warmed). We later sailed down to the far east end of Makemo to a pretty and well protected anchorage (16 39.286S 143 23.573W) just off the motu of Veverega in 1.5m of water and then ventured off to the islands and met amazing Tuamotu hospitality with Hubert and his enclave as they invited us over for a fresh fish lunch - magic! We explored along the reefs and the large tide pools. We also had some fun feeding the blacktip sharks our old fish skeletons from the back of Emerald. We ventured over to Makemo's south motu's and explored the tide pool at night with flashlights - always fascinating and surprising.
We left Makemo in a slack tide for Tahanea on 28 March. This such a 'WOW' atoll, very special a will live in my memory forever.
I thoroughly inspected all our reef lines and reattached the broken 2nd reef line - basically cutting off the frayed end and rerunning it via the boom sheaves, sail sheaves, etc. I also needed to preinstalled the messenger line which undid itself in the winds.
It was time to have our OceanSafety liferaft inspected and rectified (3 yr validity). We took the liferaft from its aft mount and took it ashore onto the large shelters concrete slab which is Makemo's community hall, and we pulled the painter and watched the raft inflate. Then we waited for 4 hours to see if there were any leaks which there weren't any (zero loss of pressure). I went around and inspected each of the seams, connections, emergency kit. No anomalies and the raft was in excellent condition. I then replaced the gas cylinder and slowly repacked the raft back into its canister. I have spares of these including the rubber canister seal which was placed. So a good days work here! Certification? Well, Ive been to Viking on a few occasions when servicing our construction ships lift rafts and witnessed their procedure. So I figure with that experience, that I can rebuild engines and maintain my own boat to great condition, Im qualified to rebuild a 4 man life raft!
The port side 6mm s/s steering cable fatigued and parted - at a most inopportune time of course. I removed all the inspection ports to view the steering cable system and went about removing the broken cable. Once I assessed it had fatigued at the first horizontal turning sheave and confirming the sheave was fine without any burrs or sharp edges, I went about replacing it with a dyneema line which will eventually now become the permanent solution. Once we get to Papeete I will make up 4 properly (2 spare) assembled pre-stretched HTS dyneema steering lines, replace the temporary port side one and also replace the starboard one. Dyneema is stronger, cheaper and offers a more reliable alternative. Why did the original one break: fatigue - wear and tear after 23k nm; only 21cm of cable passes back and forth over the sheave; sheave diameter could have been larger; occasional jerking of the helm when going into reverse.