So… I wasn’t complaining in my last post about the first atoll we visited, just mentioning I had maybe expected a bit more vibrancy underwater. That disappointment? GONE! We had another stress free entry through the Southern pass into the Fakarava lagoon, coming in on a flood tide and no real waves. Once we were anchored Jeff and Melody caught up with their friend on Kiapa whom we had been trying to connect with since our arrival in the South Pacific.
Pleasantries exchanged, we piled in dinghies along with four young cruisers on Cariba and headed out to the pass for some snorkeling. After some discussion we decided to drift through the pass while holding the dinghy painters and we all splashed in. The water was deep and clear, so clear I could see a reef shark contrasted against a patch of sand 40 feet below (rough guess on the depth, judging distance underwater is less than an exact science). After watching for awhile I decided the shark didn’t seem to interested in visiting and I was starting to get distracted by the coral reef. Very distracted.
I will admit that I haven’t dove in some of the worlds famous dive spots, but it is hard to imagine they are more spectacular than the south pass of Fakarava. We swam along with a shallow shelf if coral on our right, that extended a hundred or so feet from shore than plunged down about 40 feet (again, rough guess). There was an explosion of life, color and coral. Small fish, big fish, a huge fish, long skinny fish, fat fish, slow fish, quick fish, oh and did I mention more sharks? And then there was coral in so many shapes and sizes, from blobs looking like brains of the sea to small tufts that looked like deciduous tree in the winter. All with fish teaming over, around and in it. I kept kicking myself over my decision not to stop and get a waterproof camera on the drive down to Mexico. Either that or I was clipping my leg with the my fin every time I spun around to check for a shark trying to sneak up behind me. Either way there was some self kicking going on.
We stayed in the water for a couple hours, working our way along the bank and admiring the teaming life all the way. We finally climbed back into the dinghy, pruned, a bit tired, exhilarated and relieved at our lack of shark bites. I do jest – the black tip reef sharks aren’t very interested in people, but while I was swimming by one it spun around and we made eye contact. Even knowing this is not a dangerous shark, that moment was still just a wee bit unsettling. No, it was not a wee bit water warming – just a reminder you are in there world now, and don’t you forget it. I also didn’t forget the gills are the sensitive spot and may have had a fist ready just in case that shark needed a beat down.
The day was completed with a beach party potluck set in motion by Cariba, who generously shared seared Ahi and sashimi from their 70 lb Tuna catch. Thanks! Other dishes completed the meal, along with drinks, sailor tales swapped and finally an impromptu closest to the pin Bocci Ball game with glow in the dark Bocci Balls. I sense an addition to the entertainment cargo Ventured carries.
The next morning we took a deep breath and set sail for the northern end of Fakarava. While the average depth was 90’ or so, there were occasional coral heads that lurk inches beneath the surface. These show up as yellow-brown spots in the water, and where we were sailing most of them seemed to be well charted. And sometimes they pop up at alarmingly rapid speeds, especially when sailing at 8+ knots. And then there are the pearl farm buoys, basketball sized orbs floating in the water, sometimes rather low and not all the neon colors I would paint them. Try spotting a half submerged black ball 100 yards ahead of you in wave rippled water – while rushing towards it.
That said – it was amazing sailing. The wind was up, and the water was flat because we were in a lagoon – granted a 40 mile long lagoon that is also 12 miles wide. It is so big we quickly lost sight of the mast of the 131’ sailboat we anchored next too. This mast was so tall when the lights came on at night I was snickering at them for leaving their tri-color light on rather than switching to their anchor light until I realized they had a red all around light at the top of their mast as an airplane warning. Snickering stopped. Especially since they are the first boat I’ve seen actually using an anchor ball. The crew is apparently on top of things which is for the best since the thong bikinis clad young ladies on board are probably distracting the owner.
We’ve now been anchored near the village and north pass for a couple days, doing some shore exploring and boat socializing. And did I mention there is Internet here? So yeah – there may be some time spent with that too. Some of it even productively as I now have my ticket home booked. So if you are in Seattle and looking forward to seeing me, your wait it almost over!