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Toau

Video of us leaving Fakarava out of the North Pass:

Video of SV La Cigale as we’re both heading out of North Fakarava pass.

Toau, Tuamotus, French Polynesia:

June 18-23, 2018

Making our way about the Tuamotus with the prevailing winds, next stop after Fakarava, Toau.

atoll. Wait a minute, prevailing winds?! We left at 7 am in order to arrive at Toau’s east pass around 11am. That way we can see clearly into the water, looking for coral heads and shallow areas as well as timing the tide/current into the pass. All looked good from where we were “sitting”. As we left Fakarava, the winds switched out of the north, exactly where we wanting to sail to. To add more excitement into the mix, the current was heading out at Fakarava North pass. Let’s put two and two together: incoming wind (out of the north) + outgoing current = standing waves . Yay a circus ride!!! Apparently you can skirt the edges of the pass and bypass this “mess” but we decided to go straight on through, along with our friends on La Cigale. Don’t miss the video clip below!

Once out the pass we battled the headwind. We almost gave up entirely and turned back in when we would tack one way to head northwest and get pushed southwest, then tack to head northeast and head due east. It was painful. We decided to keep with our easterly direction and turn on the iron sail (aka engine) to aid us to arrive at the the east pass of Toau by 11am. La Cigale also used this method.

Toau’s pass was cakewalk compared to Fakarava north. Many people speak of horrendous passages through it, but we had it blissful. It is still nerve racking when you can clearly see the bottom 7-8 meters (25 ft) below you, and you can see almost every detail of the coral carpet. Not sure one can ever be at compete ease with that.

Once through Toau’s east pass, we headed south, along the eastern edge. We settled in the Southeast corner (ish), a relatively sandy bottom area. As a general rule of thumb, the southeast anchorages of most of the atolls in the Tuamotus, you’ll find more sandy holdings. This is due to the wind direction, blowing sand over and it settling within the atoll. There were some coral heads, but they were easy to spot and plenty of room to navigate around to find a good anchoring area. Here, with La Cigale, and 2 other boats in the distance, there was plenty of room. And it was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful!

Pizza making over on La Cigale.Barber Shop Shawnigan , cutting Xavier’s hair off the starboard hull. Coffee time on Shawnigan

After a few days inside the atoll, it was time to make our way back out and north to Toau’s false pass on the north end called Anse Amyot. It’s a false pass due to its pass like appearance, but no complete pass through. You enter as if heading through a pass and grab a mooring or anchor in the middle. Again the east pass was manageable when we heading out, with an incoming current of about 2 kts. We sailed on up to Anse Amyot and motored up to a Mooring, next to our friends on SV Summer. The “lagoon” , as many people call it, was beautiful, but windy. This is normally a very picturesque anchorage with brilliant colors popping out of the water, but the wind waves made the water surface difficult to see much color. That is until you jumped in. Despite the wind, we were determined to snorkel. It was beautiful!!! We’ve heard many stories of the fantastic diving here. The days we were there were not those days, but non-the-less still very amazing. Watch our video here or click it below:

Our 90 day visa in French Polynesia was already halfway through.

We could have spent at least another month in the Tuamotus exploring underwater and on land. But alas, it was time to head to Tahiti. The clock was ticking. Family was coming to visit us in Tahiti, Ellamae (our 10 year old) needed to fly back to the U.S for her time with her biological father, and we still had the Society Island group the explore. We did the math with distance to Tahiti and average boat speed (5kts). Tahiti was a very long overnight sail from Toau.

The benefit to Toau’s false pass is that one can leave “through” it at night. We estimated our passage from Toau to Tahiti to take about 36 hours, which meant a 3 am departure time was needed in order to arrive before dark the next day. We had tracked our way into the mooring the other day and paid close attention to all the details of markers and reef locations so that our departure would be “easy”.

At 3 am our internal alarm went off. Shawnigan, pointing to the southeast, was bobbing up and down on the mooring ball as the wind persistently blew 15 kts. Perfect wind conditions to sail off the mooring, but not the perfect anchorage. We made it out fine, but I wouldn’t say it was without standing on the edge of my seat. It was windy, there was a small current, it was dark. We had tied an extra line to the mooring we were on, not trusting what was there. We knew we would have to leave it when we placed it. It seemed pitch black with our navigation system lit up, hindering my night vision. We had our tracks in through the pass saved and ready to follow out. As the engined warmed up, we reviewed our exit plan.

Timing our boat’s dance with the wind, we motored off the mooring in the correct direction, away from the reef 20 meters to our starboard. Behind the helm, my job was to quickly throttle up our RPMs as soon as we released from the mooring ball. We had our lines set up with two loops to either side of our bow. Christian released the first one, checked to make sure I was ready, and with a torch shining on himself he released Shawnigan from the mooring and hand motioned me to motor out. The wind was strong enough to require 1800 RPMs for ample steerage off the mooring to turn off the wind, past the other boats and out through the pass. At the helm, I focused heavily on our Navionics chart, attempting to follow our track out exactly as we came in. I will say, it’s a lot harder to do when you can’t visually see where you’re heading and only looking at a screen and compass. Christian was on the bow with a bright light shining, keeping an eye out for the surrounding reefs. Heart pumping, I was relieved when we made it out of the pass and clear of any reef danger. As we veered off the wind, toward Tahiti, we unfurled the Jib and turned off the engine. Ah, peace. All that was, was the sound of the wind, the slapping of the water from behind and the stars in the sky. Off the coast a few miles, we were in the clear of any obstacles and could relax.

Toau, thank you for your beauty. We hope to visit again? Maybe in less windy conditions next time.

SV Summer (Shannon 28) with Leo and Laurel aboard.

do you see the fish?

SV Tusi 2

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Kauehi, Tuamotus – French Polynesia

Tuamotus: Kauehi 1st of 3 Atolls visited May 31 – June 6th, 2018

As we left Nuku Hiva, not even an hour out, we caught a huge Wahoo! We hand reeled it all of the way into the stern and it shook itself loose.

Our passage from the Marquesas to the Tuomotus took 5 days. We probably could have done it in 4 days if we had left earlier in the morning, but we didn’t. After the first night it was clear that if we kept up the good speeds we would arrive to Kauehi South Pass entrance way to early in the morning. We didn’t want to be anywhere too close to that atoll in the dark, so we actually had to slow ourselves down at one point to make sure we didn’t arrive to early in the morning.

Kauehi was out first atoll we’ve ever been to. We were told by many people that it was one of the best In the Tuamotus. Our friends on SV Summer and SV Dol Selene were there already, waiting for our arrival. We ended up timing it just right . We arrived at the pass entrance at 11am. It was low tide and turning , but current hadn’t switched yet. We were still able to sail in without any Hic-ups. We were prepared for the worst. I was on the bow looking for coral heads and the girls were up in the ratlines doing the same. We had about 3 kts current against us, but the water was flat and we were able to move through just fine under sail.

One of the draws to Kauehi, is its relatively easy pass entrance and a well charted zone to navigate in and through to both the south east anchorage and the village. When sailing through Atolls, you have to plan your timing through the passes, for the current can be very strong and standing waves can occur. You also have to watch out extremely carefully for coral heads. Some are charted in up to date navigation plotters, but not all. As we sailed through the pass we were surprised how clear the water was and how a coral head 20 feet down looked like it was 10 feet down. We were going to have to get use to that!

We sailed all the way into the south east anchorage and onto the hook successfully avoiding all coral heads. That was exiting! We were happy to make landfall, greeted by our neighbors, and go for our first crystal clear Tuamotus Atoll plunge.

Kauehi turned out to be one of our favorite places so far. Clear, warm water to snorkel in, easy to hop on our SUPs and go for a good paddle, our first close encounters with larger black tip reef sharks, good cruising friends and beach bar-b-ques. A few more of the boats we knew arrived with kids (SV La Cigale and SV Counting Stars), so our kids were extremely happy about that too!

Over a period of about 5 days, we made daily trips to the bommies (coral heads) to snorkel, morning SUP and swim exercise, morning boat schooling and boat to boat social hours. What more could you ask for?!

SV Counting Stars in the Sunrise. The boys heading off to freedive some Bommies (coral heads).Leo and Christian played while Laurel and Josie played. Adult play dates!Ellamae paddles the Xterraboard over to other kid boats many play dates over on La Cigale. Bonfires, hermit crab collecting and releasing, and potlucks on the beach .sourdough loafs and sourdough pancakes!

and many amazing sunsets 🌅.

Next stop, Fakarava Atoll!

Up, up, and away!

After our crossing from Mazatlan to La Paz, our time spent in La Paz was relatively short. It was time to start making our way up, up, and away from the hurricanes before the hurricane season (June – November).  We’d planned on staying there as long as it took for me to do all of the online and other required work for my next travel nursing assignment during the summer. A few days of wifi at the Big Sur coffee shop was all I really needed and a day to re-provision. We got a little waylaid with celebrating Mike’s (SV Easy) Birthday and meeting a new kid boat called SV Secret Water. There were a few other boats we wanted to visit with too (SV Tribe, Waponi Woo, Orion, Bertie, Adventurer, just to name a few).  Oh the sailing social  life and how it ALWAYS makes you change your “plans”.Taj fearlessly jumping off the piling.

“new kids on the dock” Umbrella movement in La Paz.

🏖
By our 5th day in La Paz we felt the itch to continue on, but the pull to stay. I think this will be a common feeling as we continue to sail the world and meet amazing people in amazing places. Alas, we chose to leave with a “see ya later” instead of a “good-bye”.

The first week of making our way north, up the Sea of Cortez was faster than our journey up last season. Now that I had work lined up with pre-work classes and assessments schedule in San Diego for June 23, we had somewhat of a time schedule. Mike on SV Easy continued to buddy boat with us. He had already been up to Puerto Enscondido as well, so he was onboard with shorter stops up to that point. Our stops were indeed brief, depending on the wind and water conditions. If there were anchorages or animals we hadn’t seen, we’d take some time exploring, but otherwise we didn’t lag too much until we got up to Bahia de Conception.

First stop, Isla Espirito Santo/Isla Partida. We sailed all but an hour of our 10 hour day to Bahia Ensenada Grande. We got out the hammock  for a swing and dip in the water while we were becalmed, waiting for wind.

 S/V Easy

The anchorage at Ensenada Grande was spectacular! There we five boats after Easy and Shawnigan had anchored. The Mobula Rays, jumping everywhere, sounded like we were in the midst of a pirate ship battle field. The slaps and splashes from their jumping dance of courtship, feeding, or communication surrounded and echoed off the steep burnt red sandstone and sedimentary cliffs of the anchorage. This was the moment that  we felt the magic of the Sea of Cortez return.

After a relaxing morning aboard, with an abbreviated boat-school day, we took a fieldtrip to hike across the island to the other side. Along the way we explored the many different geological features the island had to offer. Various igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary formations all in one place! It was perfect timing for Ellamae’s science block of her curriculum.

Two nights at Ensenada Grande and we were off to Isla San Francisquito, but first a quick swim with the sea lions at Los Islotes before the wind picked up.

We anchored in the southwest side of the island in 58 feet of water with just enough scope for a few ohour “lunch stop”. SV Easy anchored just behind us. We new our window for swimming would be narrow before the wind picked up, so we made sure to be ready to play and ready to leave. The visibility was not the greatest and the sea lions were not in their most playful state, but we did get to swim and play around with them for a while. The kids had a blast! To watch their excitement and comfortable interaction with the sea lions was priceless. As we predicted, the wind filled in after 1.5 hours of being there. We quickly rowed back to the  boat and sailed off to Isla San Francisco (Francisquito).Screenshot (3)Screenshot (4)Me, Josie, bliss.Screenshot (7)Taj and the 3 Sea Lions.Screenshot (9)Nina looking down at me with camera in hand and the Sea Lion.Screenshot (11)Screenshot (12)Ellamae (9) about 8 feet down, looking for sea lions to swim with, relaxed and in her element.

Isla San Francisco was just as pristine as it was the previous year. The white sandy beach surrounded by crystal clear azure water makes this anchorage most picturesque. We stayed two nights here in order to hike to the top of the hill and to spear fish.  Taj caught some fish himself, just off the boat with a fishing pole. Mostly catch and release puffer fish, but he did manage to catch a trigger fish. Yummy GrouperMike, paddling to shore.Isla San Francisquito

Nina And Ellamae beat us to the top.

  Mike looking ahead at the steep incline toward to top. Christian with Taj on his shoulders not far behind.

From Isla San Francisco we sailed straight to Punta San Telmo (2519.866 N, -11057.684 W) . The anchorage more of your “roadside anchorage”, but it did offer enough protection from the south south westerly winds.  Mike did an awesome job setting his anchor under sail for the first time. This wasn’t the only “first time” among us, we finally busted out the flopper stopper for the first time. We were getting quite of a wrap around swell from the south. Mike already had his flopper stopper out within an hour of anchoring. He was rocking notably much less than we were. I somehow finally convinced Christian to set up the Magma flopper stopper. It came with our boat when we bought it in 2012, but we had never used it. As we sat anchored much more comfortably, we both laughed and agreed that we shouldn’t have waited so long.  We hiked on shore a bit and settled in for a nice evening in an empty anchorage.  Not too long after a lovely sunrise, we set sail for Bahia San Marte. S/V Easy sailing off the hook!

Bahia San Marte was pretty sweet. We sailed off and back on the hook, as did Mike.  The cliffs that surrounded us were majestic. The cliffs looked rock climbable (hint to anyone looking for new amazing places to climb). Mike took his paddle board and we rowed the dinghy over to them to check out a cave that was highly recommended in the Shawn and Heather Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser’s Guidebook.  It was pretty cool. This was just the beginning of Baja’s cave exploring for the crew aboard SV Shawnigan.              Mike making is way back from the very back of the cave.

The next day we sailed off and back on the hook again to Agua Verde. One of our favorite places so far, in large part due to the quaint village where you can restock on some provisions as well as purchase fresh goat milk (seasonal) and goat cheese directly out of the farmer’s house. The local tienda, or little store, offers fresh fruit and veggies and other essentials. They rearranged it since the last time we were there to hold more products. Everyone in the village was very welcoming. Side note, there are petroglyphs in the area that was visited last year, but we didn’t this time around. See our post from last year for details here.  As per usual with our anchorage visits, we swam around to cool down and discover the underwater ecosystem around us. We found a little underwater cave/arch with sea fans and beautiful light. Nina and I dove through first and with time, Ellamae dove through her first underwater tunnel! The same day, Taj dove down to 10 feet! Our kids are turning in to fish!Shopping at the local tienda in Agua Verde.

Hammock life

 

 

Screenshot (16)Taj on his 10 foot dive.Screenshot (19)Relaxing in the cockpit after a swim.Screenshot (18)Taj on his kayak in Agua Verde.

Isla Monserrate was calling our name. We hadn’t been there before, the wind at the time wasn’t unfavorable, so why not? The sail there was great. We were in the swing of anchoring under sail, so we did it whenever we could. Mike was getting in the groove of it as well. We settled into the anchorage in time for lunch. Christian was having a bout of low energy, crummy feeling from his Lyme disease, so I took Ellamae and Taj to shore to explore along with Mike while Nina stayed onboard with Christian.  The wind picked up more than we were hoping for that evening. It was offshore, but it put a damper on exploring the underwater realm.Screenshot (20)Our 2 boats, Easy and Shawnigan, sitting pretty in the deserted anchorage.

Thankfully the next morning, Christian woke up feeling better. We set for a 10 mile sail for Bahia Candeleros. Another great day of sailing off and back on to the hook. We found ourselves anchoring in Candeleros with only a few with other boats, one of which was our friend John on SV Summer. Candeleros is known for its beachfront resort with day passes and wifi access. Word on the street says that they have gotten progressively uptight about letting cruisers come in and use the facilities. We chose to bypass these amenities this year. Truth be told, even if we wanted to partake in the resort luxuries, the wind was howling out of the west and straight into the anchorage. Needless to say, we were not leaving the boat for any reason, except to swim when there was not any wind during the early daytime hours.  In the morning, we did snorkel. The water was quite chilly, about 68F. The visibility was about 20 feet, so not optimal either, but we still enjoyed swimming with a huge group of the fasinating Mobula rays. 2 nights in Candeleros was enough for us this time around. Next stop… Loreto!Overnight anchorages overview map: From top left to right: Ensenada Grande, Isla San Francisco. Bottom row left to right: Punta San Telmo, San Marte, Monserrate (picture above), then Candeleros.

More Photos:Screenshot (13)Ellamae and Taj up close and personal.Screenshot (15)Hawlkfish

 

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