Thursday, May 20, 2010

Leaving Tahanea

The distance between Fakarava and Tahanea is only 50 miles--normally an easy 8-10 hour daysail. However, when complicated by the fact of needing to wait for slack current in the passes--every 6 hours or so--and the fact that there is only barely 12 hours of daylight here, it's nearly impossible to do as a daytrip. Visions was able to make it as a daytrip, but they easily make 8 knots.

We opted to make our hop as an easy overnight. We picked a great weather window--the weather was fine and the wind started out about 12 knots from the SE and was forecast to die off from SSW during the night. Using Gram from Vision's 'current predictor' spreadsheet (which takes an available tide point, makes an adjustment for an estimate wind/wave factor, and also some minor adjustments based on personal observations at that pass, we had an easy out of Tahanea.

We sailed off our anchor from our favorite anchorage at Tahanea (Taha5) about mid morning, and used Vision's waypoints to go direct across the lagoon to the middle pass. We could easily see the coral patch reefs that Visions had mentioned to us, and also noted dozen more on our chart. Because 'Janet', our autopilot, was in a cranky mood, we wandered quite far from the intended route at times, and so got to explore more of the lagoon. The water in the middle of the lagoon is quite deep--100-125 feet. The coral comes up to within a foot or two of the surface. Each patch reef is more than just one coral head, but really a small patch reef--usually something like 20' wide and 100' long, with light brown/yellow coral. In decent light, they stand out from half a mile away. If there was any significant chop in the lagoon, there would probably be disturbed water over the heads to make them visible, too.

We had a beautiful sail across the lagoon. Sunny skies with 12 knots on the beam, and we weren't in a hurry!! We circled inside the pass once to take a close look at conditions in the pass, then headed out, still under sail. We did turn on the engine as we entered the pass, just in case, but it was not necessary. There was a little chop on the west side of the pass, but the east side, still in 50' of water, was smooth. As we got outside, we were greeted by a large pod of dolphin. They raced to meet us, jumping out of the water ensemble in their haste (sorry, we didn't get the camera on deck in time to catch this beautiful sight).

The current was still in full ebb and pushing water out the passes close to a mile offshore. But with a SE wind, the north side of Tahanea was calm, and we had a very nice sail close in along the coast in calm water.

Next stop, Fakarava, 50 miles away.
At 5/19/2010 7:36 PM (utc) our position was 16°30.28'S 145°27.36'W

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