Saturday, July 22, 2006


We're off to Tahiti to sample "big city" life and restock the stores. It's approximately 230 nautical miles from Fakarava to Papeete - the capital. We cleared the Fakarava lagoon pass at 11am (Friday), so we should be in Tahiti early Sunday morning.

We'd planned an earlier departure, slack water was at 9am, but we were foiled when only 10m of the 70m of chain we'd put out came up before the chain was taut vertical to the bottom. We'd decided to anchor in deeper water (17m), in the mistaken belief that there would be less coral growth at that depth. It seems that our chain has an affinity for coral and had once again tangled itself around some growth. We tried the brute force method with the engine which only resulted in dipping the bow and creating some alarming noises from the chain. Now the disadvantage of anchoring in deeper water became apparent as we pondered how to free ourselves. Our anchoring spot had visibility of around 6m, that meant diving 11m down just to see the chain. Four attempts later (with long recovery periods in-between) and I finally spied the chain wrapped around the only coral growth in-sight. Now we knew which way the chain was tangled it was relativity straightforward to motor round and disentangle ourselves.

As we hoped, the diving in Fakarava was spectacular. We dove just outside the pass with outstanding visibility. For one of the dives we descended to 30m, circling down quickly to avoid loosing each other in the swift flow through the pass. At the bottom we grabbed onto a rock to hold ourselves against the current, regrouped and stayed in position for 5 minutes watching the 40 or so circling sharks and all the time trying to relax so not to use all the air in the first few minutes. Then we were off, being swept along by the current through a coral landscape, populated by more sharks, tuna, barracuda, and a myriad of reef fish, before dipping down again into a canyon full of sheltering fish.

On the way back from the diving, someone spied a large fin, which our dive boat altered course towards. It turned out to be a 2m tiger shark devouring a dead cat. Our fish identification book's entry for tiger shark reads: "The most dangerous tropical shark, responsible for many fatalities", whereas the reef and black-tip sharks we'd been diving with are merely, "generally timid, but considered dangerous" & "potentially dangerous". I forgot to mention that Ellen was on shark lookout as I dived to free the anchor chain.

We're still canvassing opinion on what to do about the reef damage we suffered. The current consensus is that we might as well wait and take advantage of superior facilities in New Zealand. We remain very thankful for the thickness of Kika's hull - but we don't intend to test it again!

We've re-learnt some useful lessons from our brush with the reef in Raroia, such as being prepared to clear out of an anchorage as soon as the wind shifts and the anchorage becomes exposed - especially if there's a coral lee-shore, and thinking for ourselves and finding our own anchorages rather than relying so heavily on information in the pilot guides; there was much less coral in the second anchorage we found.

Fakarava was a good place to convalesce after the excitement of Raroia and we've made a full recovery, although close encounters with coral heads still loom large in my dreams.

No comments: