North Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotus…..

Dear F&F,
July 21-22, 2009

David & Mary sailed into the lagoon on \”Giselle\” yesterday, there are now 8 boats. Two nights ago we were invited to dinner onboard trimaran \”Migration\”, met Bruce & Alene who are divers without a compressor. They are the ones that \”diverted\” to meet us & go diving. This is Migration\’s 2nd season in the Tuamotus & they have really enjoyed it. Bruce is the chef & made Szechuan eggplant & Kung Pao chicken that was as good as any restaurant. He is from Long Beach & has been cruising on & off since 1999. Has lived in Sebastopol, No. Cal & knows Florence Ave., where my sister lives – small world. Alene is from Ohio & joined Bruce 4 years ago. They intend to get to New Zealand by Nov 1st for the South Pacific Cyclone season, so we won\’t have too long together.

We went ashore with Bruce & Alene yesterday morning. We pulled their dinghy (wet landing) up onto the beach right in front of where we are anchored. There is a dive shop. The French owner, Jean-Christophe was friendly & we decided to go with them on the 3:00 pm dive. The north pass is far (5 miles) from where we are anchored, too far & too rough to go in our dinghy. So we are willing to pay to go on their high speed dive boat. It is still a 25 minute ride. We have a lot to learn about pass diving – timing the current, etc. so glad to go with some experienced pros.

On shore we bought baguettes & croissants, some eggplant & green bell peppers. No fresh produce is grown in the Tuamotus. It is all flown in. It was pretty slim pickings & the prices high. I am sorry I did not fill my second fridge with fruits & veggies in the Marquesas. We just never quite got to shore for the 6:30 a.m. produce market there. When we did get to shore later in the day there was not much left. Mary said she got a great selection at 6:30 a.m. Oh well. We won\’t starve.

While on shore, we met a young French couple on a small monohull that are avid divers (with a compressor – which is very rare & means they are serious divers). They dove 6 months in the Marquesas & have been here in the Tuamotus 4 months. He briefly described their technique for diving the passes & agreed to have us over tomorrow morning to explain more.

We went with the dive shop at 3:00 pm. We were happy to see the couple crewing for \”Elvis the Gecko\”, Josh & Claire going for the dive also. Their boat has the family of 5 from the U.K. For some reason one dive master went with a group of 5 & Scott & I got our own dive master. Maybe because Scott told them he was an instructor & because we had our own equipment, not sure. But we were disappointed that it was not the right time to dive the pass. The tide must be coming in, and it was going out. So instead they took us to the reef outside the lagoon to a site they call The Coral Garden. Good name for it. Incredibly clear water, quite shallow, only 15-25 feet, eventually dropping off to over a 1000 feet over a huge area. It was teeming with tropical fish. We followed our guide out further where the reef drops down into a wall for a chance to see some sharks. We did see a few grey reef sharks, about 4-6 feet long. And bonus, one manta ray in the distance. We were very happy to have this guided introduction to the diving here.

When we got back from diving, it was fun to see Martin (of Elvis) & David (of Giselle) in the dinghy, following the 9 & 13 year old kids sailing David\’s small sailing dinghy, \”Mouse\”. David & Mary went onboard Elvis for dinner & en route they dropped me off a filet of mackerel that they caught. It was firm & delicious. Scott is not a fan of fish, so I made chicken curry for him, with enough leftover for several more meals.

July 22
At 8:00 a.m, we dinghied to Florant & Alexandra\’s small boat to learn about their diving experiences here. He showed us his photos & videos. His camera equipment is not as sophisticated as Scott\’s but the footage was still incredible & got us more pumped up for diving here than ever. They have already visited 14 Tuamotu Islands & plan to continue here for a few more months. They told us in detail how they dive the passes towing their dinghy themselves. They said they tried it with another couple following in a dinghy above, but with the wind & waves on the surface, it is difficult to see your bubbles & it can be very uncomfortable for whoever is in the dinghy. Better to just tow the dinghy. We do not have a light enough chain & anchor to do this. Our dinghy anchor gear was designed to stay put, not to swim with. \”Migration\” may have a lighter set up that we could use. We will still probably do some coordinated diving with them. They are keen to get to the south pass which is about 27 miles from here (inside the lagoon still). We want to get down there too, but are not in a rush. Florant said the South Pass is one of their favorite dive sites in all the Tuamotus. You can anchor the big boats close to the dive pass, which will be better for us.

We are getting ready to go again with the dive shop at 1:30 pm today. This should be the right time for the incoming tide so we can do the pass. The boat drops you outside the reef & you drift along with the current all the way into the lagoon. There should be many many more sharks at 80 feet in the pass. Scott will take his video. It has been raining on & off all morning & still overcast. The visibility below is much better with sunshine so we are hoping it will clear up. We have learned that the weather can change very quickly out here. A small cargo ship came in early & is just leaving 4 hours later. No idea what they delivered – fuel drums maybe? There are cars and a population of several hundred people here. There is an air strip with flights from Papeete several times per week, one hotel & a few pensions (French word for B&B or guest house). A couple with 3 children ages 4,7,9 went out snorkeling while we dove off the shop\’s boat yesterday. They are French, live & work in the Marquesas (she is a teacher, he an artist & homemaker) & flew here on vacation. It is fascinating to meet so many different people from all over.

I better wrap it up to get our dive gear ready. This is really getting to be more like what I\’ve had in mind for our cruising life. We are glad we have plenty of time to enjoy these islands. We would love to team up with Florant & Alexandra but will have to see which direction we each head as the days pass.

Cindy & Scott