Friday, May 8, 2015

Land Ho!

Well for the second time in about a month we are making new landfall. After a nice and easy three day crossing, we have sighted the very low atoll of Makemo. Unlike the Marquesas, with their large majestic volcanic island height, the Tuoamotus are 77 coral atolls strewn across a very large swath of the Pacific Ocean, and they have barely any height to them. We could spot Hiva Oa on the Marquesas from 26 miles out, but at 11 miles out today, I still couldnt see anything, and was really hoping that this "electronic chart and GPS thing" wasnt just a fad and that we were headed in the right direction. Makemo finally showed up at 10 miles as a very low ripple in the horizon, and now at 8 miles out all I can see are rows of palm trees that seem to dot the ocean in the middle of nowhere. We passed Rairoa earlier in the night, which, for you history buffs, is the island where Thor Heyerdahl and crew drifted in to the reef to make their landfall on the balsa raft Kon Tiki, after drifting across the ocean from Peru, proving that early, early natives to these islands actually came from South America, as opposed to Asia and Melanesia which was the prevailing school of thought at the time.

Unlike Kon Tiki, we are sailing and now motorsailing, trying to time our arrival at one of the two atoll passes of Makemo, so that we can make it through the reef and in to the lagoon. You want to enter these passes on slack water, as the currents ripping in and out can exceed 10 knots, which is more than we can motor against. The only dilemma is that the prediction of slack water seems to be more of a black art than any science. The internet has provided lots of ideas, but mostly confirmation that its an educated guess based on many variables, and I have resorted to relying on French tide tables and a NOAA based spreadsheet, called the "Guesstimator", that a cruiser who has done this several times has created, and made available to others.

To help matters, and to interrupt this blog post, a big mother of a rain squall just blackened the horizon and poured down rain and increased the winds to 25 kots with a max gust of 32 knots. The kids helped me shut the hatches, we rolled in the jib and we rode downwind comfortably with a first reef in the main, letting the boat get a nice fresh water wash that it sorely needed. We have now made it to the pass at Makemo and have circled the pass once getting our first good look at what outgoing current does against the incoming wind and swell. We can visibly see a "river" of confused water and large random standing waves, and according to our Guesstimator we are 40 mins away from the right time to go in (it doesnt help that the Tuamotus are 30 mins behind Marquesan time!), and as we sit here bobbing up and down we can see the waves seemingly get smaller, or maybe thats what we are telling ourselves. I am glad we picked a large atoll with a well marked channel as we can see 6 channel markers ahead of us that we need to negotiate, and I am glad we have two big motors to help us do this dance- it should be a fun ride in!

Carlos: current position is Latitude 16 degrees 36.7 mins South and Longitude 143 degrees 33.9 mins West.

Otherwise, the passage has been good, and we have gotten our sea legs in the middle of Day two and have done a little verbal homeschooling, where we help read to the kids and ask them questions about what they heard. We cant get full lessons done, but they are generally high quality discussions and its fun to learn with them about the water cycle, the post Civil War Gilded Age and progressive reforms! On the fishing front, in our long worn battle with Wahoos, we are now (.5+.5): 2 in favor of the Wahoos- we have hooked two really big ones and brought them next to the boat, only to lose them at the last second, and then finally last night we got a doublestrike and Tristan and I successfully landed two small (two foot long) wahoos at the same time, that are filleted in our fridge for tonights dinner. We did land another large Pacific Bonito, which is a much nicer name than Skipjack, but threw it back looking for better eating fish.

We'll give you a later update after we ride through the atoll pass and get anchored! CHRIS

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