Thursday, June 19, 2008

Left Ahe, now in Rangiroa

Raising the anchor at Ahe proved to be no problem.  It was laying on coral and just popped right up; no chain wrapped this time.  Four of us left at the same time; two came to Rangiroa and the other two left for other destinations.  The 89 mile overnight passage was calm and slow (on purpose to arrive at proper tide time).  We arrived about 1100 this morning and entered through the Tiputa Pass. 

Arrival time was planned for what was supposed to be the final hour of incoming high tide.  So the current in the pass should have been carrying us into the lagoon.  Well, the tide info must not have been correct because we had 3 knots of head-current.  The water was quite tumultuous.  But there are range markers on a spit of land inside the lagoon and they helped tremendously.  Bill lined up the range markers and plowed on through the entrance.  The ocean outside the pass was forcing us too far to starboard and he had to continually turn towards port (about 10 degrees at a time) to adjust course to enter in correct alignment with the distant range markers.  A few minutes later we were inside and all was calm.  This pass has 6 knots of current during normal weather and can have 8 to 10 knots of current during bad weather.  That is why it is so critical to time your egress during slack tides.  Most small boats cannot motor against a 6 knot current and make any headway, especially while being pushed sideways by the rough waves coming across beam of boat as when entering this pass.  We motored around the cardinal marker past the spit of land inside the lagoon and made our way to anchor near a ritzy resort.

Imagine our surprise to find The Maltese Falcon anchored here.  Last time we saw her was in St. Martin around February 2007.  We had no idea that she was currently in the South Pacific.  Shortly after we anchored the Falcon pulled anchor and motored off to another section of this huge lagoon.

Rangiroa is very large with a circumference of about 100 miles.  The interior lagoon is 45 miles long and 18 miles wide and is really more like an inland sea than a lagoon.  During a SE wind the waves inside the lagoon can reach 2 meters (6 ½ feet).  The ring around the lagoon is formed by 240 motus or small islands.  The motus are separated by about 130 channels which are called “hoas.”  The hoas are very shallow.  There are only 2 passes that are deep enough for boats to enter.  At the southwestern corner is the “Blue Lagoon” which I assume is from the movie of the same name.  The guide books simply say this is the home of the famous Blue Lagoon but do not mention why this lagoon is supposedly “famous” so all we can think of is the old movie with Brooke Shields as a young teenager.   Rangiroa is the most populated of all the Tuamotu.  There is a junior high school located here which they call a college.  I do not know what the normal school attendance is in the Tuamotu.  In the Marquesas, all children attended primary school on their home island and at age 10 had to go to live in a school dormitory on either Hiva Oa or Nuky Hiva to attend school.  They were only allowed to visit their homes during holidays.  That must be tough on kids that young to be separated from their families for such long periods.  I assume a similar arrangement is used in the Tuamotu.  The population on most atolls certainly would not support middle schools or high schools.

The anchorage in front of the Kia Ora Resort is very pretty.  This is a very nice resort and most of the guests are Asian, with a few New Zealanders.  The US hasn’t discovered this vacation area yet, probably because flying here is not that easy from the US, although it is only an hour’s flight from Papeete, Tahiti. There is WiFi internet access available.  We paid roughly $106 for 20 hours of internet service.  It worked the day we arrived but did not work at all the next day.   We will be leaving here Saturday or Sunday because we are supposed to be in Papeete, Tahiti on Monday and that is a couple hundred miles from here.  Hoping the internet starts working again so we can use up the pre-paid hours before our departure this weekend.  Another cruiser had dinner ashore at the resort recently and said a typical meal costs $90 - $100 per person.  That is not exorbitant.

Bill walked to the Gendarmerie and showed our clearance papers from Marquesas.  They don’t do anything with these papers but you are supposed to go to the office and show them that you are properly cleared into French Polynesia whenever you arrive in Rangiroa.  I was supposed to also go into the Gendarmerie but I fell and hurt my knee shore in Ahe and can’t walk so great right now.  It is nothing and should be healed in another few days.  Bill said the guy in the office was really nice and stamped our passports.  While Bill was gone I did laundry and ran the watermaker.  While I was hanging up the laundry on deck a couple of dolphin (porpoises) came right next to our boat.  Of course I did not have the camera on deck so could not get photos.  They slowly swam along the side of our boat and then slowly around the anchorage.  They were breathing very loudly and very often.  They were so pretty in this beautiful setting and clear water.  We are anchored in only 35 feet depth water here so we can actually see the bottom.  Of course there is coral down there to foul our anchor but we hope raising it won’t be a problem when it is time to leave.  There are supposed to be a lot of sharks in this lagoon but we have not  yet seen any.  The presence of sharks does not prevent anyone from diving or snorkeling.  The dive operators are quite busy here.

While Bill was ashore he visited a store and bought some fresh produce.  He got a head of lettuce, 4 tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 2 bell pepper, 5 carrots and 3 peaches, plus 4 freshly cooked egg rolls.  The total cost was $52 USD.

This place is so nice.  We could stay here for a couple of months, just exploring around inside the lagoon.  But we don’t have the time to spare, as we are supposed to be in Papeete, Tahiti on Monday.  Will enjoy our short time here.

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