Monday, June 18, 2012

Anse Amyot to Tahiti

We had a great sail to get to Anse Amyot, at the opposite end of Toau atoll. We sailed off the anchor and right out through Otugi Pass, against a 2-knot flood current. It was a bit bouncy on the outside, but nothing bad, and the wind stayed steady out of the ESE at about 14 knots. We made 5.5 knots with a reef in the main and the small jib hardly drawing. These atolls are so steep-to that you could sail within a stone's throw of the reef and not get a reading on your depth sounder. The first depth contour on the chart is over 3000 feet! As we approached Anse Amyot we could see a forest of masts. We radioed for "any vessel" and Helene, a Dutch woman onboard the Marilelou, came back, advising that we were in luck as there was one mooring left. Her husband Kari, from Finland, came out in a dinghy to lead us in, and we soon found ourselves moored right between Buena Vista and Blue Rodeo. Several boats already familiar to us - Gato Go, Xe, and Knotty Lady -were also here, along with boats from Germany, Finland, Sweden, and France. One of the German boats soon departed, leaving room for Leysin, who showed up a couple of hours after we arrived. Anse Amyot is rather unique, as it is a "bay" in the outer reef. It is actually just a shallow pass, but only a pirogue or dinghy could get into the lagoon from here, as the inner part of the bay is ringed with a solid, shallow reef. Gaston and Valentine, the resident owners, have installed a dozen moorings for visiting sailors, and the expectation is that you will come ashore for dinner at least once during your stay. We happened to arrive for the celebration of their 13th wedding anniversary, so tonight was set as a potluck dinner, with everyone invited. Vicki gave them some Mardi Gras beads to help them celebrate. In the afternoon, we snorkeled over to the nearby fish trap which earns a living for Gaston and Valentine. It was teeming with angelfish, parrotfish, unicornfish, groupers, trumpetfish, and every other imaginable life form. There were two napoleons, three whitetip sharks, an eagle ray, a moray, and even a turtle! Only the grouper, parrotfish, and unicornfish are harvested - everything else is released. Still, it was sad to see how agitated the captives were inside their cage, and we had to resist the urge to get wire clippers from the boat and set everyone free. At the entrance to the trap, a number of octopus were lying in wait for the abundant prey, and Dennis from Knotty Lady came over to harvest a few for the potluck. We went to shore early to meet Gaston and Valentine, and the others who live here - Phillippe, Jean, and a second Gaston. Some of the cruisers have also informally joined the staff during their stay here - Kari helping with the moorings, Dennis helping with the fish traps, and everyone pitching in during the recent visit of the catamaran flotilla, when they put on dinner for 60! The cruisers contributed mostly hors d'oeuvres to the potluck. We had hors d'oeuvres and drinks inside. The locals provided most of the feast: grilled lobster, octopus curry, poisson cru, and grilled chicken. Jeanne from Xe made a huge cauldron of paella after the fish and chicken had been cooked. Consequently dinner wasn't even served until after 9PM, so Vicki and I were struggling to stay awake! The tables wouldn't fit inside, so we all sat outside. But a huge downpour had everyone scrambling to move the tables into sheltered spots, and most of us got very wet! Vicki and I decided to head back to the boat before dessert was ever served. Although there is not much fetch here, the anchorage is completely exposed to the SE wind, and the boats pulled hard on their moorings through the night. The next morning we learned that Kari and Helene had returned to their boat late in the evening and realized that it was dragging its mooring toward the reef! They had gotten there just in time to save their home. The next day Valentine showed us how to implant the oysters with seeds to make pearls, and how to harvest the pearls once they are ready. Quite a few of the cruisers had never seen this done before, and there was a lot of wheeling and dealing for pearls! On our third and last day in Anse Amyot, the winds died down a bit and ten of us headed out to dive the outer reef wall. While the visibility was absolutely amazing, close to 200 feet, there were very few large fish. After hanging over the "abyss" (the reef wall drops over 3000 feet nearly straight down), we spent the last part of the dive watching the aquarium fish on the reef top. The next day the winds were back up to 20 knots, so we decided it was time to head for Tahiti. The "problem" of such nice sailing winds was that we had to work to slow the boat down so that we could arrive in daylight. We couldn't sail fast enough to get there in one overnight, but we really had to drag our feet to stretch it to 2 nights out. These short passages are the worst - you don't have enough time to adjust to the motion and get into a proper sleep cycle. This was a pretty wet and rough ride, with rather confused seas considering that the winds were only 20 knots or so. During our final approach, we realized it was still going to be dark when we closed with the island, so we decided to anchor in the lee of Point Venus, where there was an easy anchorage with only a few boats to maneuver around. The next morning, Carol and Livia on Estrellita welcomed us to Tahiti with a crepe breakfast! We soon forgot the bouncing around and lack of sleep that seem to come with any passage. Later in the morning, Estrellita headed over to Moorea to find better winds for kiteboarding, so we moved a few miles to the Tahiti Yacht Club where we picked up a mooring in a nice sheltered cove. We are grateful that our good old boat has gotten us here safely.

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