Logbook: Fakarava (South Pass)

Fakarava atoll, W of the S pass

So much happened in Fakarava that I took hardly any photos. We are two anchorages past this as I write and I’m still recovering. It is difficult to believe how much cruising has improved, and then become even more awesome, and then topped itself again, since we started cruising warmer waters. We loved cruising British Columbia, but this is what we dreamed of for years. First we arrived in Mexico and had our giddy moments at Cabo San Lucas where the water was warm and clear, the air was hot and the sky was sunny. We loved our time in the islands near La Paz. The arrival in the Marquesas stunned us and yet…the Tuamotus are better. This is something we had read again and again in other people’s blogs – that things get even better when you go West. A lot of people also said they wish they had more time for the Tuamotus and I can certainly see why.

The entrance to the S Pass was much easier than we had worried about. It isn’t a straight entrance, you have to choose a channel when you are most of the way through, and we saw a least depth of 12 feet. On the other hand, the CM93 charts were accurate to what we experienced, the water is crystal clear making eyeball navigation easier and there are markers everywhere.

Napolean Raz - Fakarava
After transiting the pass and channel, we tried going to the West of the pass to anchor and got the bajeezus scared out of us by the coral heads. They were not difficult to see. The problem, rather, was that the water clarity was so incredibly good that day that things that were 20 feet under the surface looked like they were 1 foot down. We went back to the East side and dropped our hook in coral rubble – which feels gross and not reassuring for holding. After talking to some other boats, we gathered our courage, used their tips, and dropped the hook securely on the W side of the pass and stayed there for 10 or so days.

I’ll post separately about the kiting we did there but the short of the story is that we fell in with a handful of boats that all had kiters aboard and who had all been in the S Pacific for more than one season. They were all “approximately our age” and were all addicted to one sport or another, whether it was diving, free diving, spear fishing or kiting, or all of the above. These are the boats from which we made our tropical apprenticeship and whom we are still following about. They are: Namaste, Nomad, Dream Time, and Nauticam. In addition, we were able to hang out with two other Puddle Jump boats: Pandion and Cheers.

We took our kayak to the pass about dozen times and went to the ocean side during an incoming current. From there, we would drop into the water with a rope in our hand tied to the kayak and drift back into the atoll with the current. We saw a million fish, beautiful coral and way more sharks than we needed to. There are black tips that are fed by the restaurant on the E side of the pass who come over in case you have food. There are white tips mostly inside the atoll and there is a swarm of grays that usually live deep in pass at 100+ feet…except when they don’t. We saw them at 30 feet as we flew over them in the current and we also saw them hunting a fish ball which was wicked cool and terrifyingly sharky.

Carol and a black tip
We got nervous a lot. We jumped back in the kayak a lot. Gradually, over time, we stayed in the water longer when they were around and became more savvy about their behavior. Certainly after watching our friends spear fish in the middle of the white tips taught us that if there weren’t biting them then, when they were dripping fish blood, we were probably relatively safe while snorkeling. Thanks to friends, we did a short shallow dive to knock the rust off our diving skills. It had been 4 years since either of us had been diving.
We had fires on the beach, birthday parties, reef hunting expeditions, dinner and drinks on various boats and in general it felt like adult summer camp in paradise. The conversation flipped between English and French so often that poor Carol often found himself speaking the wrong language to the wrong person.

3 comments:

  1. Okay I'm horrible at posting comments, but make no mistake I read every post and every post blows my land-locked mind! I love loggin in to my reader just to see what you posted. I'm just in awe.

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  2. Thanks for helping to keep our dreams alive. It is cool and rainy in the Pacific Northwest and your descriptions of how you have enjoyed cruising in BC, then Mexico and now the South Pacific are greatly appreciated. We love the Salish Sea in the summer but can hardly wait to compare the cruising grounds as you have.

    I also appreciate your experiences with the sharks. I know that will take some getting used. It sounds as though you have successfully tamped down your fear and learned that the risk is lower and easily manageable using common sense and local knowledge.

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