August 19, 2018 Rarioa Atoll (still here!)
19 August 2018 | 16 06.30'S:142 22.78'W, Rarioa, French Polynesia
So we are still here. It is pretty nice�.... That other boat left a few days ago to go back to the Marquesas for cyclone season (a little early I think but they had been here since March.
First, a quick Geology lesson for Sheldon, Payton and Atari! (and anyone else who doesn�'t know) (thanks to Elaine for this!)
We are basically sitting on top of an extinct ancient volcano. Atolls form when a Volcano breaks through the surface of the ocean. Corals begin to settle and grow around the �"new island�" forming a fringing reef. It can take as long as 10,000 years for a fringing reef to form. Over the next 100,000 years, if conditions are favorable, the reef will continue to expand. As the reef expands, the interior island usually begins to subside (wear down) and the fringing reef turns into a barrier reef. When the island completely subsides beneath the water leaving a ring of growing coral with an open lagoon in its center, it is called an atoll. The process of atoll formation may take as long as 30,000,000 years to occur. Remember, mankind has only been around to a very few thousand years�....shorter amount of time than it takes that reef to just get started�....
So, the Marquesas Island group are relatively �"new�" volcanic islands and have yet to form an infringing reef and the Societly Islands such as Tahiti, Bora Bora and so on are �"middle aged�", that is Tahiti still has the mountainous island in the middle of the surrounding reef. In a few years (ok, a few MILLION years), Tahiti will be like this Atoll, a reef with nothing in the middle but more living coal.
Thus ended the Geology lesson! And now a short History lesson!
This Atoll is where the Kon-Tiki expedition ended on the reef in 1947. Thor Heyerdahl and his crew built a raft of logs and sailed it to Polynesia after crossing the Pacific. There is a monument where they shipwrecked on a small Islet just about 2 miles up the east side of the Atoll from us�....of course, we paid a visit. See attached photo of the monument.
About a week ago we raised anchor and headed across the lagoon to the local village on the west side of the Atoll. The anchorage there is open to the east and a west wind was forecast for a couple of days. The supply ship had just been in so we decided to pay a visit and pick up a Data SIM card at the Post Office. There was also a �"hot spot�" at the post office so I got to do some normal emails and pay bills. The Post Office is only open for 2 or 3 hours in the morning so no place to use the hot spot except to sit on the sidewalk out front until the sun came around the building. It then became too hot but I found shade beside a backhoe next door and used the step on it as my table�..... If you got more than a 100 feet away the hot spot would fade out�....
Anyhow, everyone is super friendly and makes a point of saying hello (bonjour). We took a walk to the dump (necessary) to get rid of our collected trash and then walked around town. Picked up a few supplies at the store including a couple cases of beer! We didn�'t need much and the supply ship only comes to the Atoll once per month! Apparently everything sells out fairly quickly and we bought the island�'s supply of beer�..... (not really)
After we dropped things at the boat (we were anchored just off shore) we came back to continue to walk around town. Everything was nice and well kept, no garbage lying around and everyone�'s property was manicured. There were a few Bread fruit trees in various yards and we did stop and speak with a couple sitting outside who had said hello. We asked them if we could buy a couple of breadfruit from them and they said no. She then picked 2 and gave them to us but would not accept any payment except a big thank you from us and a hug. French people hug a lot it seems�.... Anyhow, that was a big deal. The only water anyone has is collected rainwater and power is strictly by solar panels that each individual has. No town hydro or water!
After spending the night we went to shore once more and then headed off back across the lagoon before the wind switched back to east. So; on our third trip across the lagoon we were following our previously laid �"tracks�". Of course, we still maintain a constant watch for previously unseen �"Bommies�" (coral heads), and we did see 2 that we had not seen before! One was just 35 feet off our previous track! WOW! That was a learning experience! This one was small but came straight up from over a 100 feet down and was only perhaps 15 wide and maybe 6 feet below the surface. We draw almost 7�.... Unlike most of the other reefs that are easy to spot in good light, this one was dark brown and just coral with no sand around it. We marked it on our chart plotter�.....
So, we are planning on leaving for Tahiti in the next few days, just waiting on weather. When we first arrived here we had fairly consistent trade winds from the east but over the last 2 weeks we have had a couple of troughs / cold fronts pass through with corresponding wind changes. BTW: when a cold front passes through here you have to remember that the winds clock opposite in the Southern Hemisphere than the north. So when that cold front comes through the wind goes from East to North to West to South and then back to East. Not a �"big�" deal? Well, you do need to plan your anchorages accordingly so you stay sheltered. The wind/wave �"fetch�" for us here anchored ½ way down the Atoll is 6 ½ miles north and also 6 ½ miles to the west and south. And this is one of the smaller Atolls. Many are up to 30 miles long inside�.... Oh; and that spinning around? Well, it is a concern. While we are fine with 15 to 20 kts of wind coming across the lagoon, (many folks are not but Hedonism is a heavy boat) the big issue is the small coral heads on the bottom. It is virtually impossible to find a clear spot to anchor in 40 feet of water and put out 175 to 200 feet of chain and not expect to get tangled up. Everyone does get tangled and it is a BIG problem. Sometimes you have to dive to free the chain that has wrapped around the coral head, other times you spin the boat in a circle to �"untie�" the loop you made around the coral head. A technic that some cruisers use is to �"float�" your anchor chain above the coral heads using fenders floating on the surface and tied to the chain. Sounds easy but it isn�'t. Sometimes you cannot see the bottom so, where is the coral? How high is it? And so on. So, as I am writing this we are expecting an �"around the clock�" wind shift as a front comes through. While we do h ave a fender out floating the chain about 75�' in front of us and is working with the current east wind, we will need to re-anchor later once the winds go north. That will involve untangling the chain from a head I can �"hear�" the odd time. The sounds runs up the anchor chain�...�...
So, with the fronts coming through once a week lately, we are going to pass on the stop at Makemo Atoll and go right through to Tahiti in the Society Islands. We will spend some time in Papeete, the capitol of French Poly to provision and visit. After that we will be heading to some of the better known destinations such as Moorea and Bora Bora. Better known means �"touristy�". I guess we are tourists�.... Currently planning on leaving here on Wednesday for the 3 day sail.