We left my beloved Iriru Pass a few days ago and headed to the south end of Raiatea. Once we got around the corner of the island I noticed huge waves breaking on the outer reef. As we motored by the south passes I saw gigantic waves breaking, waves that looked surfable - if you are a "pro" or "Kamikaze" as wannasurf.com calls them. We ended up anchoring by the pass at the end of the lagoon where it becomes impassible because there are too many coral heads to get through. We anchored in about 15 feet of water and took the dinghy out to explore.
Now I was still amped on my last surf sessions, so I was thinking I would be able to surf on the west side of the island, too. However, I was not feeling up to charging the 8-10 foot, top to bottom barrels that I was faced with. There were a few guys out, some getting shacked silly (barreled), and the other sitting on the shoulder looking a bit hesitant. Its funny, it would be my dream to be able to surf waves like that, but when actually faced with the reality of it I had no desire to paddle out. It just looked too gnarly.
I always feel a bit disappointed with myself when I chicken out of something like surfing gnarly waves, so I talked Mom into going for a hearty snorkel with me. We ended up swimming up current for about 30 minutes, only getting a few hundred meters from the boat because the current was so strong from so much water coming in over the reef. We didn't see too much of interest, but it was nice to check out our surroundings. Needless to say, the swim back to the boat was fast and easy.
That night I had trouble falling asleep. Just as I managed to slip into slumber I heard the beeping of the anchor dragging alarm going off at about 1:00 AM. Damn. I ignored it once I heard Dad get up, but when the engine went on and I heard the anchor chain being hauled in I jumped out of bed.
It was a pitch black night. No moon, no bright lights. Mom was at the wheel trying to keep us off the reef behind us, which according to the chart plotter, was very close. Imagine trying to re-anchor in complete darkness, surrounded by coral heads which could potentially sink your boat - your home. Not fun. Not fun at all. I was relaying between Mom and Dad, reporting depths and trying to shine the flashlight in the water to watch for coral. We finally anchored with 2 feet of water under the keel, very close to a little motu. We decided to keep an anchor watch, meaning that somebody would be up at all times just incase the anchor dragged again or we hit something (heaven forbid).
I took the watch from 5:00 AM until it was daylight, about two hours later. When it was light enough to see I saw that we were anchored very close to a big reef which we could easily have plowed right into during the night. Very lucky we didn't. Just as we were getting ready to pull up the anchor I felt a big THUNK and knew that we had hit a coral head, so as Dad pulled up the anchor I put us at full throttle to get the hell out of there.
We decided to go out the pass that I had watched the surf at the day before. It was wide enough, but definitely intimidating to sail through a narrow coral corridor with 8 foot waves breaking on either side - especially after four hours of sleep. After navigating the boat out of the pass I made myself some breakfast and then fell into a deep sleep.
I awoke in a nice, calm bay on the west side of Tahaa (ta-ha-ah), which is enclosed in the same barrier reef as Raiatea, but a separate island. My best cruising buddies, Mark and Yuka on Merkava, also joined us in the bay. We went snorkeling out by the reef in very shallow water. As we got closer to the barrier reef the current got stronger and stronger. At first I was able to swim, then I had to pull on rocks to make forward progress, and soon we were all holding on to the coral so as not to get swept away with the current.
It was actually pretty cool. I felt like I was in some action movie-hurricane scene, holding on to the rocks for dear life. Really, there was no danger except for the fact that there were urchins everywhere, some with up to 12 inch spines, that would not have taken kindly to me smashing into them. We saw some little fish and tiny shells that we would not have seen had we not been hanging on a piece of coral for ten minutes, but there were not too many bigger fish. No sharks either. Swimming back to the dinghy with the current was awesome. It was kind of like a pass dive where you can float effortlessly above the coral as the current sweeps you along, although it is much harder to notice things when going that fast.
Today is the 4th of July. We celebrated by inviting Mark (Canadian) and Yuka (Japanese) over for hot dogs (American) on baguettes (French) and cold Hinano beers (Polynesian). It has definitely been an interesting and multi cultural 4th, but good nonetheless. I must say, however, that when I woke up this morning there was a little part of me that would have liked to hang out at No Surf all day surfing and drinking cheap keg beer, or spend the weekend in Cayucos running amuck and sleeping in people's front yards.
It's all good, though. Every day is a different adventure. Some are more fondly remembered than others, but all prove to be a learning experience, and no day is ever boring. And who knows where I will be next 4th of July. Perhaps I will be with you!
At 7/5/2011 12:42 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°36.97'S 151°32.71'W
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