Location: 1632.116S’ 14412.192W’
Date: May 17 – 22, 2015
May 17: Ran under the spinnaker to within a mile of Makemo before dousing the sail and motoring through the pass. There was a little rage going on, and we were a few hours early for slack tide, but current seemed minimal and we only encountered one knot against us as we muscled through. In the anchorage we floated our chain to avoid coral snags which plague boats in this region, attaching fenders at 10, 20, and 30 meters on 40 meters of chain in 13 meters of water. Being Sunday, nothing was open in town, so we snorkeled the lagoon and found significantly fewer sharks than in Raroia.
May 18: Spent the day snorkeling in the lagoon and went for a long run on the island. My legs haven’t been asked to walk more than 10 meters at any given point so they voiced their objections about an hour and a half run loudly. The town is cute, with people biking all over on trikes, mothers riding around with one naked baby standing on the crossbar and an infant swaddled in blankets in the basket in the back. Found some internet at the post office in front of the harbor. Later than night had our friends Martin and Lexi over for drinks. We met them in Galapagos, and they were on our Tangaroa radio net on the big crossing, but we missed them in our Marquesian island hopping.
May 19: Snorkeled outer reef and the pass. The undulating coral bed off the island was fantastic. In the pass a wall made for excellent snorkel drifting too. Went over to Martin and Lexi’s boat, Pao Hana for dinner and drinks again.
May 20: Haircuts in morning. Liza busted out the trimmers and scissors and gave Felix, Martin, and I all haircuts. It took a good deal of the morning and when we finally weighed anchor to sail north in the afternoon, the glare off the lagoon was terrible. You couldn’t see the coral heads coming, so we made it about ten miles north, then pulled into a nice beach and set anchor again. Along the trip we caught a 50 cm Green Jobfish, which turned out to be really tasty. We made a bonfire on the beach that night and cooked the fillets in the coals with potatoes, carrots, onions, and old bay. Heaven.
May 21: Flew the spinnaker on our morning sail to north anchorage. We pulled in and were immediately welcomed by our friends on Georgia, Continuum, and Free Spirit, but also the gray-green serpentine forms of black tip reef sharks. Dozens and dozens of them. I’d go so far as to say ‘shark infested.’ Apparently the two local guys up from the town in south Makemo had harpooned and cleaned a mahimahi in the anchorage.
To their credit they invited everyone in the anchorage to a seafood bonanza at the copra shack they were using for a week as their fishing camp. Vaienui and Jonah were in their late 20’s, local boys excited about showing off their culture and fishing prowess. When we showed up in the afternoon they had great green slabs of mahi grilling on chicken wire over oil barrels with palm wood blazing. On the grill they threw a dozen blue lobster and a local chicken they macheted on the spot. To top it off they caught a dozen coconut crabs the size and disposition of snapping turtles, a delicacy in the area and in Tahiti. They were bright blue and orange, really beautiful crustaceans. Several of them went into boiling pots of water. The cruisers brought side dishes, desserts, and lots of booze to add to the feast. The boys didn’t have plates or forks, so we brought some. They encouraged us to go for the local style and crack the crab legs with the back of a machete, split and de-vein lobster by hand, and dug into the steaming mahi with our fingers. It was awesome. They showed us how to tear open the coconut crab abdomen and scoop out the gray goop they they likened to foi gras. It was a massacre. Shells, legs, bodies strewn across the rough table and weaved palm table mat the boys had made. Everyone had a ball. We left the treats and booze for the boys and gave them some money for the amazing spread. They insisted that they couldn’t accept the money, that the food and firewood was free, but we wore them down and they seemed pleased with the gesture. We all sat on the dock under the starry moonless sky and talked in broken French and English. It’s a lot tougher to communicate at night when gestures are removed from one’s arsenal of translation.
May 22: Left Makemo Atoll today at what was supposed to be slack tide. The northern pass has a constant ripping current that we watched for three days before attacking. I lined up the boat with the two green navigation cans, unfurled some main, and ran into the melee with the engines roaring to keep some traction on the ripping water with the rudders. Deep swirling vortices pulled the bow this way and that. At some point we were making 13 knots. Weaved and staggered through the eddies until the pass spit us out like being shot from a cannon into a moderate rage. It was all very exciting.
Now we’re heading toward Fakarava under spinnaker, another atoll with some surfing potential. Should be there tomorrow morning after a quick overnight sail.