Friday, August 10, 2007

August 9, 2007 - Rangiroa

Our first morning anchored in the southeast corner of the lagoon I woke with a start. It took me a minute to figure out what had woken me up. Nothing. The boat wasn't rocking. The halyards weren't making any noise against the mast. The dinghy painter wasn't slapping on the water. My pre-coffee brain slowly absorbed these environmental clues and quickly shot back questions. Why weren't we moving? Why was it so quiet? Were we on shore? I stood up to stick my head out of the hatch over our bunk and look around. The water was a mirror. The was no wind. No wind means no wind chop in the water. No chop equals no movement. No movement equals no noise. It was the quietest moment we've had on board in months.
Living this close to nature, in all of its wonder and capriciousness, the weather has a tremendous effect on our experience of a place. It took a while for us to make the connection, but we've finally become savvy enough to ask other cruisers what their weather was like before we make travel plans based on their reviews of a destination. Based on our first two days here, during which the wind was light and the sun constant, I would encourage every cruiser coming through the Tuamotus to check out this anchorage. It is stunningly beautiful. But if we hadn't had those two days before the high winds, clouds and squalls set in, I wouldn't be recommending the spot.
Can you see the stingray in the picture below?
One of the dozens of motus that surround this anchorage.

Unlike Apataki and Ahe, where the beaches were coral rubble, the beaches here are pink sand, giving the spot the name Les Sables Roses. The first two days that we were here the wind chop and swell that turns the coral into pink sand had subsided, and the water, although cloudy from all the particles suspended in it, was still clear enough to snorkel. We came across a drop off near our boat that had multitudes of large fish swimming about. It was a happy hunting ground for my spearfisherman. After the wind picked up, the visibility in the water was so reduced that we couldn't find that drop off again, despite two attempts.

When we first dropped anchor off of Sables Roses, Sten announced that this was the kind of spot that he could spend a month in. But two days after the weather turned, with the windward side of the reefs explored and our snorkeling options exhausted, we were both ready to move on. During the past few days we had seen several boats approach our anchorage and turn back, presumably deterred by the coral fields that we had navigated on our way in. With a break in the clouds around noon today, we upped anchor to motor to a motu off of which we had seen several of those boats anchor. I could understand why they turned back. It was so much harder to read the water on a windy, cloudy day, with surface chop and small clouds casting shadows that looked a bit like submerged coral heads. We're hoping that the weather calms down again so that we can have a few more amazing days here before moving on to Tahiti.

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