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Sep
22

Coral

Between Tahiti and the Ile Gambier the Pacific is adorned with almost 80 turquoise-white rings–the Iles Tuamotu. These atolls are the remnants of volcanic islands that have long sunk back into the sea, leaving only the fringing reef with its little islands on top behind. Many of the Tuamotus have gaps in their barrier reef, the passes that allow sailing ships to slip into the calm waters of the lagoons. Using those passes can be tricky at times, especially when a high swell fills up the lagoon there can be strong currents (on some islands up to 20 knots), standing waves and eddies. We were lucky, the entrance to Tahanea is fairly wide, we picked the right time (you have to take tides and swell into consideration) and slid effortlessly in. After a night in an anchorage right next to the pass we crossed the lagoon (Tahanea is 24 miles long and 8 miles wide)–a nice sail in flat calm waters, but Christian kept a sharp lookout from the bow all the time, because navigating here is not without dangers. On a satellite picture the lagoon looks like a dark blue night sky with countless stars glittering in it. These ‘stars’ are coral heads that grow from the 30 metre deep bottom of the lagoon almost vertically to the surface. We found a pretty anchorage on a sandy shelf next to SV Romany Star (we met Bonnie and Paul already in Tahiti) and yesterday we took the dinghies back to the nearest coral head together and did a dive around that ‘bommie’. What had been a threatening keel-ripping-off rock the day before, turned into an underwater paradise with colourful hard coral and swarms of unicorn, surgeon and parrot fish.

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