Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lake Amid the Ocean

16* 37.6' South
143* 34.7' West
Makemo Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
May 24, 2010


Again, apologies for not writing until today. When we arrive somewhere, blog entries are just not the top of the priority list. At least I've gotten some great material over the last 18 hours.
Our crossing from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas was fantastic. We were able to sail for a good part of it, but did finally run out of wind and had to do some motoring. It important to time your arrival at an atoll as many of them you can only transit the pass at slack tide. We were aiming for about 1:00 pm and Brad and Jamie navigated us here at just about the right time. Our first big reef was well marked and since the sun was at our backs, we were able to get a good look at it.
The water here is incredibly clear. We are anchored off the town in about 45-50 feet of water and you can definitely see all the way to the bottom. There is another reef behind us and we checked it out yesterday as soon as we could. The coral is amazing - the dyed stuff that is sold as curios is really that color in the wild. We saw many different kinds of fish that we haven't seen before. I haven't laid eyes on a shark yet, but that is OK with me. They boys (all of them - big and small) were very excited about a ginormous moray eel that they spotted. It inspired Bryce's comic strip for this month's Capaz Chronicle.

WPC 021WPC 040WPC 027
Today we took the bikes into town and did a little exploring. There are nice, flat, well-maintained, cement roads here! Viva la French! Austin rode his scooter. It was a holiday here which seems to be the case every time we arrive somewhere. The bakery was only open for a couple of hours this morning and we just missed them. Fresh baguettes tomorrow - we are so addicted! There was a store open, so we picked up a few things and then, had our 9:45 am ice cream break! We rode a couple of miles out of town checking out the new school, the windmill farm and an ocean side beach. The wind turbines were actually our "land ho!" for this atoll. Quite a few of the homes especially as you get away from town have solar arrays. We are wondering if the French government has subsidies for them.

IMG_2174 Makemo1
I ended up riding toward the west end of the atoll while the boys headed back to town and the boat. The road mostly runs along the ocean side of the atoll, but in most places it is only about 100-200 yards to the lagoon edge. I didn't make it to the end of the road, but I think there must be another village because there were a few cars coming and going to somewhere. I also watched some boys spearfishing the outer reef with big pieces of re-bar. There are these little fingers of water coming in from the lagoon side that almost reach across to the ocean, maybe they do in certain weather, because many have little bridges across them. Many of these fingers have a house on them with a little dock or boathouse. I was surprised to see a 45ish foot powerboat moored in one of them.
None of us are quite able to wrap our brains around the lagoon part of this place. It is like a huge lake in the middle of the ocean. FLAT calm today, so calm I         made quiche for dinner (started it in the oven, put it in the solar oven and got the heck off the hot boat for another amazing snorkel of the reef right next the pass). If you look south, every once in awhile you can see waves break on the far reef (just reef to the south, no motus). The light on the water is pretty cool. At certain times of the day you can see in the water much better than others. The lagoon was so still this afternoon that it was hard to make out the horizon. The big squall clouds were reflected in the mirror of the lagoon making for a beautiful backdrop.
High ground, there really is none! That's why the wind turbines were the first thing we saw. I am surprised at how much growth there is. I was expecting one line of palms trees and broken coral! There are quite a few things that grow here - none of which you can eat except coconuts, but it still makes for a much greener place than I was envisioning.
I could keep going but I  don’t think that I could do this place justice. Besides that the genset just got turned off and I need battery power to send this out in the morning!

Beckel – the pearl carver


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Kat said...

I'm looking forward to seeing you pictures! It sounds amazing.

Kat said...

Oops, that darn sticky "r" key :-(

Your photos are eagerly awaited. I hope you are planning to give a talk/slide show when you get back.