August 20-22, 2009
Apataki, Tuamotu Atolls
We had one more day of diving at Toau\’s coral garden. The following day we dinghied out there but had to cancel diving due to 6 foot breaking waves on the reef. The next day we decided we\’d had our fill of Toau, so slipped our lines from the mooring. There was not enough wind to sail, so we motored 17 miles to the south entrance of Apataki atoll. The only village is in the south, but we had heard that the good diving is 15 miles up the lagoon in the north. We took a few photos then continue north. There were no other boats. A couple of isolated beach shacks, but basically pristine sand/coral beaches, swaying palm trees & crystal clear water. We could tell the tide was coming in so went out the north pass then came right back in, just to check it out. Tomorrow we plan to dive there, towing the dinghy. It has the potential of being as good as south Fakarava.
Our only problem with this beautiful atoll was finding a safe place to anchor. There are many coral heads very shallow that we must avoid. The beaches drop off steeply. Not far from shore is too deep to anchor. So we wandered up & down the coast searching for a good \”campsite\”. Scott got in the dinghy while I managed the big boat to try to better see the coral heads & using the depth sounder check the depth, searching for a safe place to anchor. We must envision the wind coming from any possible direction & make sure we are safe with the amount of scope (length of anchor chain) we need to put out for a certain depth. Usually 4 or 5:1 ratio, meaning if the water is 40 feet deep we will put out 160 (4x) or 200 (5x) feet of chain. That makes for a wide swing, so we have to assess every bit of water that is in our path. The wind is very light & predicted to stay this way for a week, but we must be prepared for any possible change. Although the 5 hour trip was lovely, the 3 hours trying to find a safe place to anchor was hot & we got weary. At least we had plenty of daylight so were not stressed about putting down in the dark.
It is such a contrast to be completely alone compared to packed in with 8 other boats at the last place. I prefer this. There is always a concern that we could have a dinghy engine problem & might have difficulty rowing back to the big boat, with no one to radio for assistance. But that is just a worry. Like you can worry about having a flat tire on the highway at night. It will be a fairly long dinghy ride to the dive site, the pass. We are glad we bought 5 gallons of unleaded from Gaston. We are hopeful that what we see in the pass will be great. We could stay here a week if it\’s good.
We got the nicest email from Werner, a German dive instructor in Indonesia. He found our website by searching the web for diving websites, then subscribed. He wrote us, saying that he just finished reading every Ship\’s Log from start (Sept 2007) to current. I was flabbergasted & very flattered. That is a lot of reading! He says he is envious of our travels & told us of places in Indonesia where he thinks the mantas are also friendly like San Benedicto. We look forward to meeting him one day.
We are kicking back tonight. We\’ll haul out the dive gear tomorrow & hopefully have reports of great things tomorrow night.
Yesterday we were so gung-ho to dive that we loaded our gear & zoomed the 15 minute dinghy ride to the pass to watch for the incoming tide. We don\’t dive when it is flowing out because it can push you down as well as out & that is not safe when we are alone. If we lost control of the dinghy it would be hard to retrieve it in the open ocean. If we lost it with an incoming tide, we have a good chance to retrieve it inside the lagoon. We had to wait almost 2 full hours for the tide to turn. It was interesting to watch the whole process. Seeing the outside waves reduce and then the inside turbulence begin. Everything gets flat calm at slack tide & then within minutes it starts flowing the opposite direction, into the lagoon. That\’s when we dropped down, me holding the video camera, Scott holding the line to tow the dinghy. The current got very strong within 10 minutes. Visibility was just ok, not great. We did not see any sharks, but we were unable to stay at the deeper place very long as we kind of got blown into the lagoon by the strong current. We each grabbed on to a rock or piece of coral to stop & look around. I did a little filming, but it is too hard to manage clearing my ears, inflating or deflating my B.C., make sure I don\’t smash the lens port of the camera housing into a rock or scratch it on coral. This kind of adventure diving is always challenging especially the first time we dive a new site. There are old pieces of rebar sticking up on the sides of the pass which was also a concern to not bash the dinghy into them. These are old fish pens that no longer have chicken wire on them so no fish are trapped. It was an exhilarating dive. But the stress to enjoyment ratio was not good, especially for Scott struggling with the dinghy. We had such high hopes for this pass, but are disappointed.
The next day we dive on our anchor putting lift bags as needed to assist lifting when we are ready to leave. We explore the coral heads near \”Beach House\” which are pretty & alive with smaller fish.
Just before sunset a panga (don\’t know what the French word for it is) with 3 local guys came over, wanting to sell us some fish they just caught. Apparently they live in one of the shacks on the beach near us. Three brothers, one of them has a baby & there are older parents. So 6 people in one shack. Hard to imagine. The structures look so run down we thought they were abandoned. They were very friendly but disappointed that we did not want to buy a fish. We spoke in our broken French & their broken English. They will sell their fish in the south village. They said some is even shipped to Tahiti for sale. They don\’t see many boats up here, so we are somewhat of a curiosity. They mentioned sharks in the pass. We told them we didn\’t see any. They said they would be in the village today but would come show us the sharks on Sunday. We\’ll see.
Cindy & Scott