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Tuamotus, Ahe, July 20  2006   by Bart

A relatively short crossing of 4 days brought us to the Tuamotus, 76 atolls in the middle of French Polynesia. Only 22 atolls are accessible by boat specially with our draft of 2.70. 

Most atolls have one or more narrow passes. Those passes were what worried me a little. In the pass there could be a current of 3-8 knots. But we timed the entrance of the pass of Ahe well just when the tide was going to change so it was fairly flat and no problems at all. Once you are in the atoll it's mostly 20 to 30 meters deep except for the coral heads which pop up randomly. There was a marked channel to the village which was good because it was a cloudy and rainy day and the coral heads were not very visible. Outside the channel it was full with thousands of buoys, used for the pearl farming they do here.   We stayed only 2 days since the water was murky and you couldn't go anywhere because of the buoys. Remarkable was that although the motu (small islands) were the village was, was only 2 kilometers wide there were still a few cars. 

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Tuamotus, Rangiroa, July 23  2006   by Bart

Next we sailed 24 hours to get to Rangiroa, world second biggest atoll 20x40 miles. Just outside the pass we saw one of the first whales of the season breaching( jumping). The entrance wasn't that easy this time. This pass was harder to time because the current in the channel was influenced not only by the tide but also the amount of water flowing in from the waves breaking on the reefs of the atoll, sometimes making the current going out constantly. We went in when the tide was going to change within the next hour, the sun was up for a few hours so the light was good. When we arrived in front of the channel there were big standing waves and you could see a strong current. We went in anyway because it looked manageable and maybe the next hour could be even worse. Dagmar in front checking for coral heads while I was riding the standing waves with the motor working hard to go against the 5-6knots current. At one point we were going 7 knots through the water but the GPS was only showing 0.5 knots. Little by little we got in and suddenly we were in the deep water of the atoll again. We anchored close to town in 20 meters of water next to the Kia Ora Hotel with their hotel bungalow huts on pillars in the water. 

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We liked it directly here, lots of open water, relatively clear water to go snorkeling. Some wind to go kite or wind surfing and a small shop to buy some baguettes.

We snorkeled the 'aquarium' reef right in front of us, with colored fishes, Murray eels and even some black tip sharks in the pass. I kited a little with mixed success. For kiting you normally need a nice big beach to launch from. Since there wasn't one with wind, I launched from the boat. Dagmar holding the kite, and me swimming out the lines. The second time I went out I forgot about the solar panels where I ripped open the kite.

In 4 hours we sailed to the other side of the atoll to Fa'ama. Although an atoll only consists of coral on the older atoll small islands (motus) appear on top of the reefs. Rangiroa has many small islands Fa'ama is one of them, with small lagoons between the islands.  It didn't look real it was all 'bacardi rum', coconut and bounty. We went in the lagoons, around the small islands and on the coral beaches to have a look at the 'feos', coral structures that have been shredded by the waves. 

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The next days we sailed our way up to the east side of the atoll, anchoring for an hour in front of the ruins of the village of Otepipi, having a look at the still well maintained church from the 18th century and collecting some coconuts.

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Then we continue more east to Pink Sand Beach were we met our friends from 'Ragtime", an English couple just married last September, who got all the sea charts from England to Australia as a wedding present. We cruised around between the small islands and went to pink sand beach. It wasn't as pink as I expected but in the sunset it looked pink enough to me.

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Next day we went West again and made a short stop at Nao Nao, a tiny little island in the middle of the atoll. The island was maybe 10 by 20 meters but a nice reef in front made it an interesting stop. I went out with Soleil to sea the sharks which we heard were suppose to swim around here. It didn't take long before we saw a small Black tip. For Soleil the first time we saw a shark while snorkeling. Just after we saw a gray reef shark about the same size as Soleil. Dagmar was waiting anxiously at the Luna because she saw something really big close to the boat. 

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Next day we went back to the village at the pass. I had a nice kite session again were I saw lot's of small sharks all really scared for me ( who wouldn't be, for a not-in-control-kiter-Dutch-guy). Oh yes, Dagmar loves my Kiting because half the time something goes wrong and she has to rescue me, but today was a good day. In the evening we had tea with home made cake at 'Ragtime', another perfect day had passed.

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It was time to go again. Although those atolls were close to perfect, it's amazing how quickly they are boring too. It was time to go to Tahiti. We were looking forward to the big supermarkets, waves to surf and possibilities to repair a few small problems we had with the roll Genoa and a water pump from the motor. So we left July 31 towards Teahupoo, the famous Tahitian surf spot.



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