Dear friends and family,
We've arrived ... And man is it gorgeous. Of course, after the last few days, even the inside of Microsoft would appear gorgeous...
A fierce squall builds up behind us -
we sailed straight through it!
No sooner had I sent off our last missive (Friday night) when the weather started getting nasty. The wind piped up to 20 knots and veered into the SE, so we took first 1 reef in the main and then another, rolling up much of the jib as well. Saturday morning dawned gray with huge masses of angry clouds all around us. We even saw a funnel cloud starting to form out of the bottom of one cloud. The wind under the clouds was fierce, hitting 35 knots at times. Then came the sheets of rain, so hard that it actually flattened the waves and stung our skin. Sometimes the squalls would last for over an hour, and no sooner would we come out of one squall than we'd run into another.
When we finally emerged from the last squall (by now it was early afternoon) the wind came back and settled in with a vengeance, blowing 20-25 knots from the ESE. By this time we realized that we'd have to give up on our plans to visit Raroia, even though we had several friends there. But if we stiffened up we might be able to make Makemo (Taenga was closer but we don't have a good chart of it). So we slammed along at 6-8 knots under a double reefed main and similarly reefed jib, with a fist full of wind at 60 deg off the bow. Even taking a third reef Saturday night only slowed us down 1-2 knots.
One of Ocelot's problems is that large waves (like those generated by 25 knot winds) can slam into the underside of our "bridge" deck (our main living accommodation between the hulls). From inside, this sounds a bit like we just hit a reef, and the tables bounce enough that we dare not put anything valuable on them. Since this happens irregularly every 15 seconds or so, sleep is next to impossible. So nobody got much sleep either Friday or Saturday nights. On deck, enough spray gets around the dodger that we had to get into full foul-weather gear (and sit upwind of Arthur, who refused to go below). Boy, are we glad that's over.
Approaching the cut into Makemo,
our first Tuamotu Atoll
Makemo is a roughly rectangular atoll, 10 miles N/S and 40 miles E/W, with an entrance in the NW corner and another most of the way along the north side. Sunday morning we finally arrived at the eastern-most pass into the Makemo lagoon. We were lucky that the tide was such that we had no problem motoring up the pass, with Amanda up the mast to look for coral heads. Unfortunately, with the wind howling out of the SE, there are few protected places to anchor, and the lagoon is big enough that quite a fetch can build up. We eventually decided to hang off the pier just inside the pass, putting 2 long bow lines to a corner bollard. In a day or 2 we might go down to the SE corner of the lagoon and anchor off the reef, which should give us excellent protection, privacy, and myriad snorkeling options.
The water here is amazingly clear. Fish swimming on the bottom can be identified clearly from the dock. From the deck we can easily see the bottom in 65'. The islands along the north and east coasts are beautifully covered in palm trees. The boulangerie here is reputed to have excellent bread and even croissants. We plan to explore the small village here for a day or 2 before exploring other parts of the lagoon.
Fair winds -- Jon, Sue, Christopher and Amanda Hacking
s/v Ocelot in Makemo, Tuamotus
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