Thursday, September 4, 2014


It's easier to count the ways that sailing and mountain climbing are different than the ways that they're similar.

Mountain climbers, for instance, might eventually grow fat and lazy, but they don't do it while they're actually climbing.

But their are some similarities. In particular, there's the "go or no-go" question.

Do you leave the relatively palatial tent on the glacier for the uncertainties of the climb? Are the conditions good enough? Is this the time?

Do you leave the security of a harbor for the uncertainty of navigating among unfamiliar hazards? Are the conditions good enough? Is this the time?

They're much the same question. And if you do make the decision to wait for better conditions, there's the corrosive inactivity that follows, allowing you to second-guess and rue your identity as one of those adventurers manque who are not seizing the day.

But then again, there's no point in going when the conditions are poor. (Almost) anything is easy on the right day.


After months of mostly settled weather, a long strip of inclement conditions extended from doldrums to horse latitudes, and parked itself over the southern Tuamotus.

We have thus far been some combination of lucky enough and smart enough to avoid much drama in this archipelago of our dreams. (Touch massive wood.) Based on an informal survey of hard-luck stories, there are four ways for a sailboat to get into trouble in the Tuamotus: you can fail to get your anchor back from the corally depths, you can screw up a pass transit, you can get caught on a lee shore in the middle of the night by a wind shift, and you can fail to see a bommie while moving around inside a lagoon.

The first one is mostly a matter of skill, the second a matter of patience, but numbers three and four are more condition-dependent. Unsettled weather brings wind shifts and rainy days without good visibility for seeing coral. So when the weather model started to forecast squalls and downpours, we figured we'd just as soon wait to make the transit from Hao to Amanu. No sense in having a drama.

The darse d'Hao - the old military harbor where we were tied up - was getting a bit stale, so we elected to investigate the report in the American DIY sailing guide of a good anchorage near the pass. That turned out to be much too corally for us (see way to get into trouble #1), and a couple hours of searching resulted in no place that we cared to drop the hook on the north side of the atoll. The south side looked to offer great anchoring, but it was also more than 25 miles away, and the squalls were gathering on the horizon. The guaranteed security of the darse was looking pretty inviting.

So we returned there to wait out the unsettled conditions. Day after day the weather model promised shifting wind and null visibility, and day after day turned out to be mostly fine. I worked, Alisa held school for the boys, we took long bike rides, we chatted with our neighbors on Momo.

Finally, we had enough of paying attention to the weather model. So even though yesterday dawned with less promise than most, weather-wise, we cast off the lines. We were spat out by the pass and covered the 15 miles of open water to Amanu in little more than two hours. That pass was narrow and pumping against us, but we managed not to fall under two knots over the ground while steaming in, and navigating around the obstructions in the lagoon was no drama. We quickly left the village of 120 people behind, and found an anchorage on the northeast corner of the atoll.

There are no other yachts here, and last night we saw no lights of any kind. Amanu has the reputation of offering the same combination of tropical paradise and relative solitude that we enjoyed so much in Tahanea. This is very likely to be our last stop ever in the Tuamotus - let the delights begin.

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