05 March 2021 | Raroia, Tuamotus
What a relief to be back in the tranquility of Raroia, in the Tuamotus. You never can tell how things are going to work out but the trip to the Australs was probably our most unpleasant month in seven years of cruising. It was misbegotten from the start, based on a romantic fantasy and way too little research compared with our normal rigor.
The three day sail down was OK. We then spent the first two weeks in self-imposed isolation and the subsequent two weeks largely trapped on the boat by the awful weather. The combination of squally conditions, poorly protected anchorages, weird tidal currents and the aforementioned bommies made for pretty continuous stress. Scrabbling around on the foredeck in pouring rain and high wind at night to unravel the anchor chain floats is just not relaxing....
We wanted to get moving back north sooner than we did but a huge high pressure system in the 40's latitudes was pushing low pressure systems up and over us. In the end we left in a very skinny window between two systems. We planned it very carefully, studying the weather every day. We saw that the different weather models were converging on a forecast that would provide reasonable wind most of the way to the Tuamotus. It was only one day that looked like it might work. A day earlier and we would get beaten up by the not quite departed front. A day later and we would fall into a complete wind hole. It could easily have gone wrong. Modern weather forecasting is remarkable but not always reliable. In the event it worked out remarkably well, although the middle two days were very squally and it rained a LOT as we pushed through a trough that was stretched across our route. We had to motor for about six hours in all. The rest was pretty much a beam reach with 10-15kts of wind. Apa
rt from the impressive 35kt squalls to keep us on our toes it was a delightful sail.
What a difference! We are now anchored in 3m of water in good sand with no perishing chain floats to get tangled up. The water is flat calm, the sky is blue, we have some good company and we are very happy. Today we went for a snorkel with 2K and KP (yes - confusing....) on a bommie about 2km out into the lagoon. It was as good as we remembered from our first visit here eighteen months ago, with dramatic terrain and great fish. The picture is a Titan Trigger Fish. Normally they are too skittish to get this shot. When they are not skittish it means they are probably guarding a nest and contemplating taking a chunk out of you so I did not hang around.... Now we are relaxing with a drink in the windless evening under a cloudless sky.
Having sufficiently de-stressed we will probably start to make our way slowly up the Tuamotus next week. We would like to get back to Tahiti in time to have both our Covid shots before we head further west and we need to haul out and redo the bottom paint. We have really enjoyed our time in French Polynesia and will be forever grateful to the French for their gracious hospitality during this epidemic but it definitely feels like the vacation that went on too long and we are very much looking forward to Fiji.
Stay safe and GET VACCINATED!