Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Snorkeling at Kauehi

We are still anchored in Kauehi, though on the way out, so to speak. Anchored by the pass just off the palm lined beach, which is unfortunately a lee shore most of the time. The thing is, we are near the pass where the best snorkeling can be found (on the south east side of the atoll). With the current north easterlies, this is at the end of an 8 mile fetch and we had a pretty bouncy night last night.

You need a whole set of new skills in these atolls, due to the coral heads and deep water, particularly when anchoring. Sailing in the atoll should be very pleasant because of the shelter from swell and the steady winds. However, someone must always be either perched on a ratline halfway up the mast or at least standing on the cabin top, to keep an eye out for uncharted coral heads. These can come up out of great depths (at least 100 feet).

When we anchor now, we use floats to lift the chain off the bottom about half way along from the anchor to the boat. The theory is that this helps prevent wraps around a coral head. The floats are salvaged oyster farm buoys we found on the beach and we have 4 now - 2 large and 2 small. They are hard plastic spheres - 12 inches in diameter for the smaller ones and 20 inches for the larger. The only feasible anchorage on this side of the pass is on a spur of shallower water that pokes out a few hundred feet from the beach, where we are anchored in about 50 feet. We are still quite close to the shore, but just a few hundred feet away from our spur, the bottom drops immediately off to 80 or 100 feet.

There are still have plenty of veggies and fruit on board from the Marquesas, which is a good thing as we would otherwise be on a steady coconut diet. Apparently some vegetables are grown on Fakarava - a large atoll to the south east where we intend to sail next. We will leave here this afternoon about an hour before dusk and sail overnight so as to arrive mid-morning. The passage is only 35 miles, so you would think we could sail it in daylight. However, if we left in the early morning at slack water, we would arrive a bit late in the day to safely navigate the coral lined pass into the lagoon.

While we wait, we will snorkel off the boat and toward the pass. There is a coral forest that runs along the shore here, with yellow, dun, and black corals in grotesque forms. Packs of brilliant parrot fish swim along the reef and great ugly groupers peer out at us from most of the coral heads. Rani now swims with a short pole ready to prod any curious shark. We have seen many black tipped reef sharks in the shallows here, though none have come closer than about 15 feet. The visibility here is quite good - 40 to 50 feet anyway, but varies with the tide, clarity improving an hour or two after the tide begins to flood into the lagoon.

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