We finally completed our 5 day beat upwind from Tahiti. But, we didn’t end up in Amanu as expected. Our last day was the worst of all with 25 knots of true wind fighting us the whole way (meaning we were regularly seeing 30 knots of apparent wind) and very rough seas. We also had occasional squalls which caused even stronger winds. But, Tahina continued to bash her way through and after numerous tacks we finally arrived at Amanu around 1:30 PM on Friday.
It took us several hours once we could see the island to finally tack our way to the pass. They had a huge church and community center at the pass. This made us think maybe the population was bigger than it appeared when looking at the village in Google Earth. We went through the narrow pass and waved at the village people hanging out near the pretty pass and church. The houses looked less substantial than other Tuamotus islands we have visited. Tin roofs, few with glass winds (just wood shutters mostly kept open), and not many more structures than seen in Google Earth. It’s clear the church is more important to these people than their own abodes.
The winds were still 25 knots and inside the lagoon there was a 3 foot swell and lots of whitecaps. As we feared, the village harbor looked too small, and the entrance was plastered by the swells anyway. Since the village is on the western side of the island, and the winds were coming from the east, the anchorage outside the village was not useable either. So, we had to check out a spot protected by some reefs just SE of the village. Unfortunately, after scouting with Tahina’s sonar, we decided that spot was also not good. Too many coral heads and not enough room. The only other choices were to either attempt to find something on the eastern side of the lagoon (but, we had no chart data, and no really good spots looked available in our data).
So, we motored back out the pass and tried looking at anchoring in the lee of the village. There were too many live corals in the shallows outside the pass. So, that wasn’t acceptable either. The villagers must have wondered what we were doing. But, no one hailed us on the radio to offer any suggestions.
It was already 2:30, and if we left right away we could get to Hao before sunset. Hao was our alternate choice for watching the eclipse and it’s pass was just 16 miles away. Hao used to have an active French military base which housed personnel who conducted France’s atomic bomb tests on islands east of here. We checked the tides and it would be just past high tide at the Hao pass. We had heard it has very strong currents.
So, much to our disappointment, we raised sail again. The good news is that we had a fast sail on a reach and the waves were kind of with us. So, it was a much smoother and faster direct path. Such a relief from all the tacking to get to Amanu!
Once at the pass, we lowered sails and cranked up both engines to full throttle. Fortunately the current was coming out at an angle, and the pass was wide. We were able to avoid the large 4 foot ripples caused by the outflowing current, and half the current’s effects by staying on one side of the pass. Once in the pass we experienced about 6 knots of current. But, with both engines we still managed about 3 knots through that part of the pass.
The sun was setting already at 5 PM. French Polynesia has a large unified time zone, so although we were 500 miles east of Tahiti, we were on the same time zone. As a result, the sun was setting an hour earlier. The lagoon was well charted to the town and we had no problem getting to the anchorage and setting our hook.
More details to come, and I’ll have a few photos to post. [UPDATE: see photos in this album.] One good piece of news – they have an Internet provider in Hao. So, that will improve the chances of getting some blog posts up with a few photos.