Tahanea - windy and calm

June 5, 2003, noon

At anchor, Tahanea, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia

LATITUDE: 16-50.96S

LONGITUDE: 144-41.59W


Dinghy anchored off Tahanea village (we walked ashore)

Dear friends and family:

This is the part where we wonder why we are here.  Out of the six days we've been here at anchor in Tahanea, two have been pretty nice.  The rest have varied from indifferent to downright unpleasant.  We're getting toward the unpleasant end of things now.  The problem is that the entire South Pacific is being subjected to unusual, stormy conditions, with lots of fronts, convergence zones, big seas and strong winds.  So we're staying put, and not venturing out onto the ocean again until this weather pattern changes for the better.  We hope that's pretty soon!


We've been spending a lot of time with Steve and Iretta from Rigo.  They came into this anchorage about an hour ahead of us, and for the entire time we have been the only two boats here.  We've exchanged theories and information about anchoring, weather, snorkeling, radar, world news, and cooking.  Some of the exchanges take place over the radio, and some in person, when we visit each other's boats.


Steve & Iretta

This morning I called Iretta up on the radio and asked for her recipe for "cold oven bread."  We enjoyed this bread -- along with her homemade yoghurt and homemade guava jam -- two days ago when we first visited their boat.  The bread uses some extra yeast, but the unique thing is that you put it in the oven when the oven is cold, and you have just turned it on.  It's hot enough here (84 degrees today) that any part of cooking not involving heat is welcome! 

Steve and Iretta have been living aboard their Hood 38 for the last twenty years, and have been cruising for the last five.  Most recently they came from the Galapagos Islands, stopping at the Gambier Islands on their way here.  They feel that they've only had one day out of ten with decent weather, since they left the Galapagos, and they're really wondering why they came.  We've done better than that, since nearly all of our time in the Marquesas was great weather.  In the Gambiers, Steve and Iretta picked up a lot of pamplemousse (yummy grapefruit), and made us a present of three of them the first day we were here.  In the Marquesas, the pamplemousse was said to be out of season, so we haven't had any for several weeks.  The gift was truly most welcome!

Yesterday was one of the two nice days.  We dinghied to the local village, which is apparently unoccupied most of the year.  One of our books says that it is only used when the copra harvest is underway. 

Building shell at Tahanea village  Visiting was somewhat like seeing a ghost town.  There was lots of evidence of recent occupation, but also lots of evidence of decay.  There were three or four usable shacks, with metal roofs.  One had stored solar panels, a freezer, sleeping platforms, a water collection cistern, and clothing. 

Hermit crabs were gathered around the base of some of the shacks, clanking their shells against the metal walls, and making quite a racket.  In fact if you sit still, you notice that the ground is moving -- seashells of various sizes making their way across the beds of broken coral, propelled by miniature hermit crabs.  (The island is just broken coral -- no dirt.  It's hard to imagine what is nourishing the palm trees which seem to grow quite luxuriantly).


Hermit crabs eating a coconut
Mark contemplating climbing a palm tree (he decided against it)  
We visited the little Catholic church, shut up tight against the elements, with little altars, pretty shells laid out in front of them, embroidered cloths, banners, a collection basket with a few coins in it, and a dog eared bible in Tahitian.  Iretta at the altar of the little Catholic church
Iretta, Craig, Steve & Mark on the ocean side of the atoll

Mark cautiously inspecting a hermit crab

Behind the church is a water collection cistern, and beyond that, mounds of broken coral, and the open ocean.  We walked down to the breaking waves and looked at the different kinds of coral, tide pools with strange creatures, and cowrie shells.  The cowrie shells have an opening too small for a hermit crab to get into, so there's not too much risk in picking one up!  The bigger hermit crabs have rather formidable claws, and you wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of them.  So we're very cautious about picking up most shells.


In front of the village, on the lagoon side, the water was flowing past at about 6 knots, as it entered the pass.  Because of the unsettled weather, lots of water pours into the lagoons from the ocean, right over the reefs.  So the water is always flowing out the passes, and the reverse flow (best for snorkeling in the pass) is nonexistent.  After low water, when the incoming flow should theoretically take place, the outflow us just somewhat less extreme. 

The Tahanea village "quay" - fast current beyond

Steve and Mark talked about going back to the village today to do some snorkeling, but the weather certainly is not cooperating.  Too bad, we could see lots of interesting fish, and the water had a gorgeous turquoise blue color, particularly striking against the white coral beach at the village.

Mark is still hoping to go fishing today, but the wind continues unabated at 20 - 25 knots.  I've finished with the bread now, so perhaps it's on to other projects -- sewing? practicing the electric cello? reading?

Best wishes to all!

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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