I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Atoll

The atoll is one of the most different, most beautiful, and strangest places I have ever been in my life. Upon approach it does not look like much: a clump of palm trees there, some low lying land over there. The pass, or entrance into the lagoon can be treacherous, with waves crashing on the reefs on either side. If the tide is incoming or outgoing and the wind is strong, there can be standing waves of ten feet or higher. After entering the lagoon the water becomes flat calm, although looking across to the other side of the atoll- 5 or 6 miles- the only evidence of land is an occasional spout of white water from waves breaking on the far reef. It is nutty. The scenery, coupled with the fact that this lagoon was once a legitimate, volcanic island like one of the Isle Marquesas, is trippy. Over millions of years the island actually sank under its own weight, and the crown of coral that grew around it is all that remains.

We arrived at the atoll of Makemo, one of the many Tuamotu archipelagoes, early Monday morning. After fretting about the pass for a few days, we entered it without a hitch. (The fretting was legitimate- boats have been known to sink from timing the pass wrong and getting tossed on the reef.) As we entered the pass I saw some waves on the right side that could be rideable, but gnarly. I have yet to go back and scope it out.

The water in the lagoon varies from deep blue in the deeper areas, to a brilliant aqua-marine in the shallows. This particular atoll is 40 miles long and 6 miles across (it was a decent sized island once upon a time), so while it is a lagoon, it is huge. We anchored by the town when we first arrived and met up with our friends from the boat Merkava, who took us in to tour the town.

The town was small, flat, and well maintained. The locals were very friendly and the "super-market" was well stocked- even if a package of romaine lettuce cost $14. I didn't want lettuce anyway. The egg rolls were cheaper so I ate a few of those. There were lots of dogs and cats laying around listlessly, too hot to bother with the newcomers. We tried to buy some baguettes and pain chocolate at the boulangerie, but apparently 9 a.m. is too late. After our tour of the town, we went back to the boat and headed over to the other side of the atoll where the anchoring is better.

The lagoon is generally pretty deep, about 100 feet, but there are giant coral heads that shoot straight up to a few inches under the surface. Thus, one has to be very careful when sailing across it. Other than the coral heads, this place is perfect for sailing- flat water and a nice breeze blowing across. Kite surfing is big here, and judging by the lack of surfing I have been doing, I might have to take it up.

We are anchored in a postcard. Straight up. Crystal clear water, blue fading to aqua fading to turquoise fading to white coral sandy beach. Yesterday we snorkeled around the boat and over to a few coral heads in the shallows. Lots of bright fish and cool looking coral. We checked out a Motu- a little island-like clump of palm trees and plants along the coral reef- you know, like the postcards. We walked over to the other side of the atoll and watched nasty, closed out, powerful, surgey waves break. Definitely not surfable.

Last night I watched "Shallow Seas" Planet Earth. It got me super stoked on taking a closer look at the coral and underwater sea life. Then the shot of the great white shark jumping out of the water and snatching the seal came on... if you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out. So you can imagine my enthusiasm when I went snorkeling today. Granted, there are no great whites here (I hope), but to a certain degree, sharks are sharks.

After scrubbing the hull today we went out in the dinghy about a mile into the lagoon to find a coral head to snorkel around. I was very prepared to see a shark, kinda. After swimming around the coral a few times and not seeing a shark, I was a bit disappointed and a little relieved. The coral was beautiful though. Fluorescent purples, greens and blues, brain coral, fish swimming in and out of the coral, with the deep blue abyss just to the side of it.

Soon enough Mom got out of the water so I asked Dad if he wanted to come in. He was getting read. Just as I put my face back in the water, there it was: SHARK. A beautiful, small (about 4-5 foot) black-tipped reef shark was lurking just below me. It really was a striking creature. Smooth lines, light grey skin and a black fin. It was not interested in me at all, in fact it was following about 3 inches behind some little tropical fish. I almost laughed, and had a degree of sympathy for the fish.

At this point I got out of the water and waited for Dad to get ready because I didn't like being alone with sharky, even if he did not care for me. I (bravely) got back in the water with Dad, who was in about 30 seconds, and after he saw the shark, and then another one, he got out. I'm not saying he's a chicken, but... I'm just saying I'm super brave.

Having had enough sea-life for a day, we went back to the boat where people we met in the Marquesas were pulling up for a visit. What a life. Every time I poke my head out a hatch I am struck by the beauty of this place. Every time I think of where I am in the world I can hardly fathom it. Like I said before, this place is a trip.
At 5/11/2011 4:02 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°42.57'S 143°27.87'W

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