Nuka Hiva is not without its charms, but... each night spent rolling in its uninviting harbor bracing against the bulkhead trying to sleep was another day lost on our 90 day allotment in French Polynesia. So when the transmission cooler finally arrived and was successfully installed, you can only imagine our disappointment when the anchor windlass failed to bring our anchor up onto the deck of Ashika.
It rained steadily in Taiohae Bay for 58 of the 60 days we spent there and so when we finally left, we were topped up with the best tasting water ever. Ashika was aimed at the island atolls of the Tuomotus. There are 76 of them and we had to choose just a few to visit based on our short time left. The sail was glorious for the first two days but tarnished by squall lines on the third and fourth days with the worst storms on the last night at sea. This was also the night we found a magnetic atoll. No matter that we tried to steer around it by setting a new course a half a dozen times, the small and deserted island of Tikei was a strong and relentless to pull for Ashika and we ended firing up our newly fixed engine to roar past little Tikei, Ashika's siren of the night... safely.
We are intmidated by the small passes into the island lagoons. The atolls were made about a million years ago by volcanos that had grown too heavy for the sea floor they were on and finally, mostly collapsing to whence they came, leaving just the ring of their caldereras above sea level. The island group is known as the Dangerous Middle being situated between the Marquesas and Tahiti and because so many ships have met their demise here; some because the caldera edges have been worn away by insistant seas and even more furious cyclones and are below sea level, invisible in the wrong conditions. But some because the entry into the passes can be extremely dangerous to navigate. All must be entered at slack tide because of the currents caused by water rushing in or out of these relatively small openings. And these tidal changes are somewhat difficult to predict depending not only because of the moon, but the wind and seas too. So we are (slightly?) intimidated by these transisions. Nonetheless, we've made two entrances and one exit without drama and we are currently anchored quite awesomely at the village of Rotoava in the Fakarava atoll.
Arrival at our first island, Kauehi (I know, how do you say that?... ka-way-ee) was a whole bunch of firsts..some good, some not so much. A great first was the best nights sleep since we left San Diego.. THREE MONTHS AGO! We have gotten so used to sleeping in short bursts that I didnt know where I was when I woke after my first 10 hour slumber. Another first highly recommended is snorkling a reef in crystal water. Not so amazing; The island is remote and impoverished. The people are very friendly but the packs of dogs are heart wrenchingly sick and underfed. The stronger ones picking on the weaker as the animal kingdom tries to survive their unfair birth-right. Fakarava (our current atoll) is more evolved I think, primarily because tourism is alive and well here. Cruise ships can negotiate the pass easily and this is ground zero for amazing diving in the Tuomotus. Can't wait.
Fakarava is about 30 miles long and vicariously 10 miles wide. We are in the north east corner and plan on traversing along the eastern edge south, stopping for the glory and sailing when warranted. They have wifi in the village here, so hopefully this afternoon you will have a blog update and another on our return from our southern adventure. I have to run now, Dois just found another octopus in the toilet! See you on the other side.