A few days ago we left the south-east corner of the atoll. Rather, we tried to leave, and then as we were pulling up the anchor it got stuck on a little coral formation (called a "bommie"). We nearly tore the windlass out of the deck trying to get the anchor up. I was at the helm and I could feel the chain jerk taut and the stern start to come out of the water when we tried reverse to free it. This was about 7 a.m., and we were anxious to get going because we had to cross the lagoon with the sun behind us so we could see the coral heads that would probably sink a boat if it hit hard enough.
The anchor was stuck. Dad wanted to deploy another anchor to take the stress off the stuck one to try to un-stuck it, and it was a drag to get it out and rig it up, etc. I decided to try to dive the anchor to see what was wrong with it, but we were in 40 feet of water and I can't free dive that deep. I tried anyway. As soon as I jumped in the water I saw a shark and I decided I would make a terrible breakfast, so I was okay. I went down to inspect the anchor but the damn shark kept swimming around it, so I kept my distance. I realized the problem with the anchor and was able to give directions from the water so that the boat was freed. Hooray!
We made our way across the lagoon keeping a sharp eye out for coral heads. They have aptly been renamed "mofo's" by Mark on Merkava, and the Tuamotus are now the Tuamofos. We pulled into a beautiful anchorage on the opposite side of the lagoon just inside a long reef that sticks out like a finger from the shallows into the deep water. There was more sand and fewer bommies so we anchored easily.
Yuka and I immediately went snorkeling at the reef and saw tons of black tipped reef sharks. I got a few good pictures that I will try to post when we get internet again. Yuka and I decided we would go snorkeling again later in the day. The sun sets here at about 5:15 and is totally dark by 6. We recruited Mom and Mark to go with us on our afternoon snorkel, which ended up being a dusk snorkel because we got in the water around 4:30. Dinner time. We didn't see too many sharks, only 2, but we saw an eel, 2 octopi, and tons of fish. There seemed to be lots more activity in the evening.
Last night Yuka taught me how to make sushi and we had a delicious sushi dinner on Merkava. We did not have any fresh fish because the fish in lagoons can carry ciguatera- a poison that can accumulate in and kill humans, and we didn't think it was worth it to take the risk. Nobody was brave enough to grab an octopus or eel either. The sushi was superb nonetheless. When we got in the dinghy to go back to Rutea the moon was so bright and the water so clear that we could see the bottom- about 25 feet deep.
Today we moved to the entrance of the west pass. There is only one small sandy spot to anchor in, so Merkava and Rutea are about 20 feet apart. It is kind of fun, we can talk to each other from our boats and throw beers back and forth easily. This afternoon we set out to snorkel the pass/entrance. We thought we were going to hit it at slack tide, but our tide information is wrong and there was a few knot current sucking out when we got in the water. Fortunately Dad stayed in the dinghy and floated next to us so we could hop in the dinghy before we got sucked out to sea (or saw something scary that required a quick evacuation).
The coral in the pass is amazing. The shelf, which extends a few meters into the pass is covered with little fish, and then drops off steeply into the pass. Lots of white tipped reef sharks were swimming along the slopes, along with every brilliantly colored reef fish I could imagine. The only problem was that the current was so strong that I floated by everything too fast. Even swimming my hardest against the current I was getting sucked out. It was like an elevator. Or a moving sidewalk. When we got to the end of the reef we got in the dinghy, went back inside the pass, jumped back in the water and floated back out. There is so much cool stuff to see I could have done it all day and not gotten bored. The scariest thing I saw, aside from some pretty big sharks (which is more thrilling than scary) was a big barracuda, just sitting in the pass watching us. Oooooooooo, Barracuda!
Tomorrow we are leaving Makemo and heading for Tahanea. It is a nature preserve... which probably means that the stories will be the same: snorkel, shark, fishes, coral heads, etc., etc.
At 5/16/2011 2:32 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°26.70'S 143°57.26'W
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