In late morning we went diving at the north pass, starting a little after the flood, and moving along over the excellent coral and seeing lots of nice fishes, nothing amazing. After some time back at the boat we went to an island next to the inlet we saw a few days ago. Lisa went paddleboarding to the inlet and around the area while I followed with the drone, getting some nice footage and trying out different ways of using the drone. Folks from the other boats in the anchorage met us on the beach afterwards for a scheduled barbeque, talked with them and had some really tasty food — goat, wild boar, shark, breadfruit — until shortly after sunset, when we had to return to Magic.
We went out diving again at the north pass, starting near slack and first swimming along the wall on the outside to the south of the pass. Very nice coral here, the nicest sights were a small and curious gray reef shark that swam in close to check us out, napoleon wrasse, schooling unicornfish and snappers, very nice. We ended the dive with half our tanks left so went for a second dive starting at the mouth of the pass. We drifted in on a pretty fast current, not seeing much coral but spotted a good sized shoal of bigeyes with some sharks around; we’d been looking for these after hearing from other cruisers and though we were only there for a few seconds it was nice to locate them. Back at the boat I went fishing in the reef for the first time, easily catching a couple bignose unicornfish from the group which has been hanging out by the boat waiting for scraps. I had one for lunch, very tasty and it was nice to have some fish without worrying much about ciguatera (these unicornfish eat zooplankton and are low risk for the toxin). Afterwards I went for a second dive in the afternoon to get more photos and videos of the shrimp gobies underneath, and finding a burrow with a couple very active shrimps and stayed with them the entire dive. Right after the dive I had to scramble to clean the boat up so that we could host everyone from the other boats in the anchorage for drinks and snacks, was a nice evening but I was a little tired and quiet.
I worked and did boat stuff most of the morning, using the satellite internet and such. In the early afternoon I went for a dive out the middle pass and about a half mile to the south, drifting on the current back to the pass as I went along a steep wall with some nice corals on it and excellent coral on the shelf above, including one area towards the end with extensive undamaged fields of stony corals. Lots of extremely curious red snappers, some swimming right over my head and one I grabbed on the fin, a very large unicornfish with a long, bent horn down around 80-100′, several sharks, more schooling smaller unicornfish, courting sailfin tangs, just really nice in general. Back at the boat we went paddleboarding, heading downwind towards the other boats in the anchorage to the north and visiting the inlet there we’ve enjoyed previously. Great sights there with a spotted eagle ray around the entrance to the inlet which approached Lisa very closely before darting away, and an octopus that Lisa spotted which I was able to catch and play with for a few minutes. Wind was light but still annoying, and Lisa stayed on the island next to the inlet to watch frigate birds hunting and a grouper catching a crab while I paddled back to get the dinghy (harder than it should have been, I was dehydrated and low on energy) and pick her up.
It was kind of gray and drizzly most of the day and I mostly hung out on the boat and worked. In the early afternoon I went diving under the boat for more time with the shrimp gobies, found another very active little group and it was very enjoyable observing them. Spent an hour and a quarter mostly just resting on the bottom, at one point a bignose unicornfish swam right up under my arms and pecked at the coil lanyard on the camera to see if it was edible.
Around dawn it was dead calm and I went out paddleboarding, checking out a little point and shoal area between our boat and the pass. There was a little blacktip feeding frenzy in the shallows as I approached, lots of sharks thrashing around on the surface, but it dispersed by the time I got there. I noticed what looked like a really nice little wave wrapping around the point and went over to paddlesurf, getting several excellent rides in the knee to thigh high surf. The bottom was mostly rounded rocks with very little coral, by a wide margin the friendliest wave I’ve seen in the Tuamotus so far. I was excited to go surfing there, and after a couple hours relaxing and working on the boat I went back using the dinghy, staying for an hour and a half and getting several very good rides, plenty of more times when I was able to stand up on the board but the wave ran out of energy. Just a great time, and nice to finally do actual surfing in the Tuamotus. With the warm sun and perfect water temperature, occasional blacktips swimming around, a school of parrotfish at my feet in the clear water, it was pretty blissful. After getting back to the boat we went for a dive outside the north pass, at the same spot as a few days ago (Lisa has been recovering from an ear infection and really wanted to head back here). We had an excellent dive, with great visibility as always, great coral, great fish, including a couple big napoleon wrasse, a dogtooth tuna, several sharks including probably the same small one from a few days ago again coming in close to check us out, schooling unicornfish, on and on. Back at Magic we worked on boat projects the rest of the day, getting ready for our upcoming visitors. Great day!
In the morning I went surfing again at the same spot as yesterday. There was a little wind blowing onto shore today and the swell seemed smaller so waves were pretty intermittent but I got several good rides before heading back to Magic. Afterwards we went diving at a nearby bommie in the anchorage we’d been wanting to check out. We circumnavigated the bommie, staying in 20-40′ of water, seeing a nice variety of fish, moray, a couple golden trevally. The best sight was a lemon shark we spotted several times in the course of the dive; at first just saw its back as it swam away, then it was a little closer as it swam in parallel with us a little ways, then got a good look at its face as I spotted it swimming towards us before veering off. It seemed a little startled to see us and I wasn’t too worried, but it was large and not very friendly looking and for the rest of the dive I occasionally looked over my shoulder to see if it was around. Back at the boat I did some work, changing the compressor belt and so forth, then caught a couple bignose unicornfish from the boat. While cleaning them I noticed the lemon shark was now swimming around the back of the boat, as if it had followed us back after the dive. Creepy. It looked even bigger when viewing from the boat and I wasn’t keen on hopping in the water with it around. Anyways, relaxed and worked the rest of the day.
There was some wind in the morning and I tried going kiteboarding, but as the wind became pretty inconsistent and my kite kept sprouting leaks I never was able to get out, despite screwing around for hours. Bleah. We got the boat ready to go and I went diving to free the anchor, finding the lemon shark from yesterday toodling around on the bottom, hmm. I kept an eye on it and eventually it saw me and started off in another direction, thankfully. This lemon shark was destined to become a Magic legend, who we named Lemmy. The anchor was pretty well wrapped on the bottom but using the lift bag I was able to clear things easily, then got on the boat and we headed out the pass. Soon after leaving the pass we started sailing on a beam reach, very pleasant conditions. Good sailing continued through most of the night, though there were a some squalls that killed the wind and caused us to motor a bit, and one very powerful squall or set of squalls in the middle of the night that brought winds up to around 30 knots, necessitating going forward and putting in a third reef.
We were in high spirits as we approached the north pass at Fakarava in the morning. Winds were in the 20 knot range from behind us, and as we motored into the pass we couldn’t agree over where to take the boat, so Lisa took over steering and I went below to rest. I helped anchor and then went back below, and we talked for a couple hours about various issues that were leading to my bad feelings, many of them stemming from kiteboarding. Eventually we came to some resolution (I would try to avoid any negativity when setting up or working with my kite), went to the yacht services place in town for some gas, and relaxed the rest of the day.
We relaxed and worked on the boat most of the day.
I left a little after dawn to paddle around town. It was squally and rained on me quite a bit but still very nice. Afterwards we did some errands around town and worked on the boat.
After shopping for food and using internet in the morning we moved the boat to a mooring right off the airport to wait for our guests for the next week, who would arrive in the afternoon. After several hours of relaxing and getting the boat ready the plane finally showed up, we dinghied to shore to meet all six of them — Jane, Heather, Chuck, Kate, Rick, Cameron — and get them and their stuff to the boat. We went swimming under the boat, checking out some of the remoras that had attached themselves to Magic, then had a nice evening.
We got off the mooring a little after 6am and motored to town, picking up another mooring there. I went in with a few guests to get groceries and alcohol, with everything nice and efficient and we were back at the boat around 8am. In short order we left to motor sail to the south pass, running both engines and the jib and doing a little over six knots. Nice time, a little wind helping us and everyone hanging out on deck enjoying the weather and the trip. We arrived at the south pass area a little after 1pm, about a dozen boats and no moorings available so we anchored at the edge of the anchorage closest to the pass. We started getting ready to go snorkeling in the area off to the side of the pass, but I started having second thoughts about our choice of anchorage. The ebbing current was pretty strong here and it would make for a dangerous situation with people swimming in the water, and there would not be much to do for people who were not being ferried around by dinghy. I took the dinghy to check out the area on the other side of the anchored boats, furthest from the pass, and found a nice area that was mostly sand and was close to shore. We pulled the anchor and moved Magic over there, then everyone else went snorkeling among the bommies inshore of the boat while I tied Magic into a bommie underneath and moved the chain to avoid damaging the coral. Afterwards I snorkeled over to join the group; they had seen an eagle ray I missed, but there was lots of other stuff around to look at. The best sight for me was an octopus I saw peering out of its lair in a rock. I brought some people over to watch it, then did a few dives to evict it from its hole, getting my hand in behind it. It inked, swam off to a spot a few feet away and camoflauged, moved around among some holes but mostly staying in the open, then swam across the sand to another hole it had 20 feet away, grabbing some coral with its tentacles to act as a small barricade but still mostly staying in the open. Very cool encounter. There was a large shoal of fish below me as I swam back to the boat, then a nice dinner and an early bedtime.
After breakfast I did two checkout dives under the boat with the four divers in the group — Jane, Heather, Rick, Cameron — getting weight sorted and getting used to the equipment and swimming around a little to look at fish. By the time that was done it seemed like the ebb was finished, so I went out with Lisa and three guests to snorkel the pass. It was flooding pretty good and several dive boats were out and a bunch of divers were ashore at the dive center at the pass, a busy scene. We hooked to the mooring near the mouth of the pass to get ready, immediately seeing three eagle rays lazily swimming around below us. We started drifting in, seeing more and more sharks as we went and culminating with a large group in front of the dive center, similar to last year, really nice. Finally, we zoomed over the coral going back to the anchorage, and people continued to spend a while in the water until we started reaching the anchored boats. Back at Magic I tried to fill tanks but the starter handle on the compressor’s engine would not budge, and the oil fill cap seemed to be leaking so I opened it up and gasoline started pouring out. Shit. I asked Chuck if he knew what might be wrong and he did, the same problem having just happened to him with a snowblower the previous winter. Working together we got the oil and fuel drained, cylinders cleared of gasoline (remove spark plug and pull starter handle), carburetor removed and needle valve cleaned (the part which had either stuck or been obstructed by gunk, allowing fuel to pour through the carburetor and fill up the cylinders and oil pan). After a few false starts we got the engine running again, though it wasn’t running very well. This all took an hour or an hour and a half, and I wanted to get another shot at snorkeling the pass so had a quick lunch and went out with another group. Unfortunately the ebb had already started (an hour and a half or more earlier than Rangiroa, after ending earlier an hour later than Rangiroa — it was windy and swelly and a lot of water was being driven into the atoll). We went to the snorkeling area off to the side and went in, finding the same anemone and anemonefish as last year (still by itself, a lonely and tragic creature) and doing some snorkeling, but the current here was still pretty noticeable and we didn’t stay long before returning to Magic. Our guests swam to shore to explore while I replaced the carburetor in the compressor’s engine, which got it running well again, filled tanks, then paddleboarded to and around a shallow bench on the rim of the atoll, first solo and then with Lisa after meeting her back at the boat. Finally, we had a great evening on the boat with a raucous game of cards that went on until 9 pm (late night for us!). Whoof.
After relaxing in the morning I went to the pass with several of our guests to go snorkeling. The flood had already started and we repeated the snorkel from yesterday, coming in on the current and seeing the sharks; nice time with lots of sharks and an eagle ray in the shallow area of the pass. After returning to Magic it was pretty squally and we waited out a rain and windstorm for a bit, then headed out to dive the pass with Jane and Heather. When we got over towards the start area another squall was coming in. We waited out some rain, walked around the village a bit admiring the church, then went to the buoy to start the drift. It was very windy with a lot of chop wrapping into the pass from outside, large waves breaking nearby, dramatic. Prep for the dive went ok though and we descended into the calm water underneath, heading over to check out the sharks from an eddy while I clamped onto some dead coral to keep from being pulled away by the dinghy. Eventually we drifted further into the pass, enjoying the sharks (including eight or so silvertips) and other life — several titan triggerfish and supermale napoleon wrasse, trumpetfish, moray — and the dinghy stopped pulling on me so much, fortunately. After getting past the sharks we started ascending, and with the flood already starting to slacken and continuing strong wind at the surface nearly got pushed out of the pass and into neighboring shallow coral. I swam us back out into deeper water and then drove the dinghy back to Magic, getting sprayed constantly by salt water as we headed into the chop, winds in the high 20s. Conditions slackened after returning, then I filled tanks and went out for a dive under the boat with Rick and Cameron, using a reel and heading out into somewhat deeper water before returning to Magic. This was a decent dive site, not much coral but a fair amount of limestone structure for fish. Saw several blacktips, several gray reef sharks — one circled us twice before I swam after it to try to get it to leave — unicornfish, triggers, large grouper, and so on. Relaxed the rest of the day afterwards.
I left to go diving in the pass with Rick and Cameron in mid-morning. We left about the same time as yesterday and arrived soon after the flood had started. It was sunny and winds were not too strong, great conditions for the dive. We followed the same plan as on my dive yesterday, drifting along and watching the sharks, with stronger current as we got to the shallow parts of the pass and surfaced. The neatest sight was several surgeonfish chasing a small shark around, got a close look at some of the silvertips, nothing else spectacular but it was really nice to do the dive in a mellow and relaxed way. Soon after returning to Magic I left again to go snorkeling with Lisa, Chuck, and Kate. We anchored the dinghy next to the anemonefish, finding some current pushing us into the pass but excellent visibility. We stayed in the water for 30 or 45 minutes, swimming upcurrent along the wall of the pass a ways, then drifting back to the dinghy. Got in close to a couple napoleon wrasse, lots of titan triggerfish foraging, with one of them being harrassed by some small wrasses, saw an octopus which Kate had spotted, several blacktips, just really nice conditions. Afterwards we crossed the pass and left the dinghy while we walked around the village and explored. After returning to the dinghy it was still flooding so we did a drift snorkel along the front of the docks in the village. A coral shelf at the top gave way to a 45 degree wall heading down to where the sharks would congregate, but we focused on the area near the surface and saw lots of life including dense shoals of snapper sheltering under the docks, plenty of sharks, and so on. As we got past the village structures we ended up in a small eddy area to hang out for a while. There were some neat things here like flounder and more foraging fish, but the coolest sight was at a crevice that some sharks were very interested in. Whitetips would go into the crevice one after another, sometimes two at a time, burying themselves deep in and wrenching their bodies around, sometimes dislodging the coral above them. Other sharks would try to get into nearby entrances without success, and all the while several gray reef sharks were circling, probably a dozen sharks in total. I don’t think they ever got whatever it was that was hiding back there (I suspect an octopus; one time I saw what looked like a cloud of ink around the crevice) but it was really cool to see them attempting to feed and how persistent they are when pursuing prey hidden in the reef. A wonderful snorkel, we were out over two hours and back at Magic I relaxed the rest of the day.
In the morning I left with Jane to scout the area around the pink sand beach to the west of the pass, which we had wanted to go to for a while but had never been. There is a large shoal area on the west side of the pass which we went around, then found a nice spot on the beach and picked our way over to a shallow bar separating the western region from the pass itself. The tide was low and it was too shallow to take the dinghy into the pass, so we headed back out and around to get back to Magic. After eating breakfast, I left to go diving in the pass with Jane and Heather. Very nice time, sunny conditions with not a lot of wind and good visibility. We stayed down longer this time, hanging onto dead coral at several points in the pass to admire the sharks from up close. Sights included five eagle rays — three, including a baby, at the start, and two later on — more silvertips, and a dusky shark. After lunch back on Magic we left with all eight people — six in the dinghy, and Rick and Cameron on the kayak and paddleboard — and headed to the west side of the pass where we had scouted earlier. The tide was higher and I could get the dinghy across the bar, so walked with the dinghy and rowed it as everyone else waded, swam, and paddled to the beach we had found earlier. Very beautiful area and lots of fun; sights included an eagle ray in the shallows next to the pass and a baby blacktip shark nearby. At the pink sand beach we all had fun for a couple hours, drinking beer, paddling around, collecting and husking coconuts. I used the drone a little bit, then flew our stunt kite a bit, then tried flying the stunt kite from the paddleboard to move around. I got some speed up but wasn’t getting upwind at all, and kept flying the stunt kite into the water or having it just fall in due to the light winds. Lisa tried with the kite and paddleboard afterwards, having a lot of fun before the wind died and the kite dropped back into the water. A little after 4pm we started getting ready to go. I went back to Magic with four passengers, taking the long way around, while the other three paddled back to the pass. After dropping them off at the boat I went to pick up everyone else, with the sun getting low in the sky and the current ebbing strongly I was concerned. Everyone got on the boat and we picked our way back through the ebbing current, barely making headway at times and at one point swamping the kayak, but eventually got back to the boat a few minutes after sunset.
After a lazy morning I left with Rick and Cameron to dive the pass. The flood was much later in arriving relative to yesterday, probably close to two hours; weather had calmed down from windier times early in the week, so this surprised me. It was still ebbing when we got out to Tetamanu, so we went ashore and waited nearly an hour, walking around to look at the town, surf break, wading around among the fishes at the little beach in town — lots of small perch I kept trying (unsuccessfully) to grab, a big napoleon wrasse swimming a few feet away, blacktips and so forth — before finally determining the flood had started. We started the dive, and for the first part there weren’t a lot of sharks. The main areas they hang out had a few, and there were a fair number swimming up the pass but not sticking to one area. It seemed like they go elsewhere during the ebb (consistent with what we saw last year) and then have a commute to do once the flood starts to get to their positions. Anyways, eventually we found a nice dense group of sharks that we hung out with for a while, then a long safety stop as we zoomed through the coral shallows and enjoying the scene, very nice dive after all. After lunch back at the boat we all went to Tetamanu to go snorkeling, two loads in the dinghy. I stayed in the dinghy as people got in the water. It was already slack (the flood lasted about four hours) and the ebb quickly built, with people swimming around the eddies near the coral shelf and dock piers as I watched from the boils and little whirlpools nearby. After 45 minutes or so it was getting pretty strong and people got back in the dinghy, with some getting a drink ashore before we all got back to Magic for the evening.
We got ready to leave the anchorage in the early morning, and were ready to raise the anchor by 7am. It was pretty windy and I had to dive on the anchor to free the temporary mooring I installed when we arrived. This took a little work and with the wind was stressful, and when I got aboard I was in a hurry to get the chain aboard and jammed the windlass in the process. Chuck and I pulled the rest of the rode in by hand, then fixed the jam as we started heading north. We started sailing and continued doing so all the way to Rotoava, with winds usually in the high teens, sometimes high twenties and occasionally light. It was cloudy all day with several rainy squalls moving over us, and when we arrived in Rotoava it was drizzling and stayed that way through the rest of the afternoon. This was one of the worst days of weather we’ve ever seen in the Tuamotus, and while it would have been better to hang out at anchor we had to head to the north pass so people could make their flights the next day. After arriving, everyone just hung out on the boat, and we went to bed early.
Did some errands in town — gas, propane, groceries, laundry — and had a nice lunch with everyone at a nearby resort, while our guests got ready to leave and then caught a shuttle to the airport from the beach nearby. Relaxed the rest of the day, it was great to have everyone out but got pretty tiring after a while.
We did some more errands in the morning and the outboard was acting up, stalling at idle unless the choke was used. I replaced the carb last year and was getting a little upset that the motor continued giving us problems and had to relax back at the boat. It was pretty windy and I wanted to go kiting, and after discussing we moved the boat a further quarter mile from shore so I could avoid disrupting traffic in the navigation channel and have cleaner wind. I went out with the kite I’d been using, but it was losing air pretty quickly and after a few minutes I had to detach from it and swim a short ways back to the boat, then fetch it in the dinghy (which was running better, fortunately). Back at the boat I still wanted to kite more, so dropped Lisa off on shore to have lunch and started repairing my other kite, the much newer Ozone kite I used exclusively last season, replacing some degraded valves with ones that Jane had brought down. After doing the repairs the kite seemed to be holding air pretty well and I went out, having a lot of fun as I practiced with the hydrofoil board, getting some short rides on the foil and getting worn out pretty quickly. After returning to the boat I went to release the safety on the kite, but it detached from me completely and started drifting downwind — the tether for the kite had released accidentally sometime while I was out, need to remember to check this — and I had to fetch it with the dinghy again. Still in high spirits, though, a fun time out. Relaxed and worked the rest of the day, but with the continuing wind and distance from shore it started getting rolly on Magic and we did not have a great night of sleep.
After doing a little shopping in the morning we left for the south pass, motor sailing close to the wind and reaching it in late afternoon, nice weather and a good time out. I dove to install a temporary mooring, and we had a nice evening hanging out on the boat. It felt great to be back at the pass.
Early in the morning we left to go diving in the south pass before it stopped flooding. Not a huge number of sharks, except a large group towards the end which we saw from the safety stop; the weak current had them roaming around a lot I think. The best sight was an eagle ray that both of us got very close to, just a few feet away as it lazily cruised around, very cool. No other standout sights, but it was just a great dive with excellent visibility and light current letting us really enjoy the area. In the afternoon we headed to Tetamanu so Lisa could try using the internet and I could try boogieboarding on the wave there. There was a decent swell and I got a couple good rides, but on the last one got greedy and went in too far and got a couple scrapes on the coral. Mostly just lessons learned: I need a full wetsuit to really minimize my chances of injury, and a way to mark takeoff areas (some floating line attached to a dive weight?) would make it easier to get my bearings on these reef breaks. Finally, a little after 5pm I left to do another dive in the pass. It had started flooding and I waited a little at the mouth of the pass for it to get darker, then went in for an amazing experience, a total rush. As I dropped in there was a large shoal of scad exiting the pass, glinting in the light as a dozen or so sharks swam among them, occasionally trying to take one. I stayed here a little while, then moved to the central part of the pass and picked up the current for the usual drift dive. The entire dive there was at least a dozen and as many as fifty hunting sharks around me. Zooming every which way, almost constantly cruising right past me but never touching me, their behavior is very different from during the day but still respectful of me. They seemed to be attracted by the light but didn’t seem to benefit all that much from it; many times I saw them cruise right past fishes hiding in the coral, and when they did chase after a fish they would have to be just inches away, like they are relying on their electrical receptors rather than vision for the chase. Maybe the light is good for bringing out and disorienting the fish in the reef. Quite a few times I saw them chasing after fish but did not see any successful strikes, several times I saw groups of whitetips digging around in crevices and caves while dozens of other sharks circled. Once, towards the end, a shark pursued a fish so vigourously it crashed into and broke a piece of coral right in front of me. All in all, the dive was unforgettable, and while I won’t rush out to do it again I definitely want to see more of these passes at night.
In the morning we went diving in the pass, a little closer to the middle of the flood than yesterday so more current and lots of sharks at their usual places. Other sights were a couple eagle rays, including a small one probing the sand for food. After the dive we went to see the anemonefish, but it was mysteriously absent so we snorkeled a little in the area before crossing back to Tetamanu and more snorkeling along the coral shelf there, several friendly napoleon wrasse in the shallows and the other usual sights. Most of the rest of the day we hung out and worked on the boat, except for a nice time paddleboarding together in the late afternoon.
In the morning we did two dives in the pass. The first one was great, with a pretty strong current there were huge numbers of sharks in the pass, as many as I’ve ever seen there. After a surface interval in Tetamanu we did the second one, with Lisa using a new smaller tank and myself using the rest of mine. We stayed shallower and there was still some current, mostly watching the fishes and coral in the shallows but looking at the sharks and a group of eagle rays as we got deeper into the pass. As we passed one group of sharks a divemaster from another group swam over right in front of me and motioned Lisa to get further away from the sharks — despite there being two rebreather divers from another group right there in the mix with the sharks — behaving aggressively (far more so than the sharks!) and pissing me off. This reminded us of a similar incident a couple years ago at San Benedicto, and another reminder to avoid participating in or being around guided dive groups. I worked a few hours after getting back, then tried to go kiting, but a combination of fairly light winds and being behind a small motu prevented me from getting enough power and I wasn’t able to get out. To make up for this I went paddleboarding for an hour and a half, travelling east along a series of motus, seeing several sharks and going ashore to check out a copse of trees with lots of nesting black noddies.
In the morning we did another pass dive, more great time with the sharks but no great sights otherwise. Back at the boat I tried to go kiting, doing a drift launch off the dinghy for the first time, which went well but ran into a couple problems (anchor didn’t hold, board wasn’t attached to the dinghy and fell out) which caused me to abort, and afterwards there wasn’t all that much wind anymore anyways so didn’t try again. Worked on the boat most of the rest of the day, then had dinner with the crews of a few other boats at a nearby pension.
In the morning we did our last Fakarava pass dive for a while, going close to the middle of the flood and seeing lots of sharks in the strong current. Most of the rest of the day I worked and did boat projects.
We left in the morning for Makemo, seeing a little shark feeding frenzy from the boat (blacktips vs. needlefish) on our way out the pass, motor sailing most of the day and then motoring into the fairly light winds through the night, conditions nice and mellow but rather slow going.
Winds increased to 12 knots or so in the morning, and rather than continuing to bash we changed plans from the east pass of Makemo to the west one. We arrived there in the morning, and found the current ebbing pretty strongly. We were able to make progress in, and slowly motored into the beautiful pass, coral shelfs on either side. Lisa was steering, and as we got deeper in the current got pretty strong and there were a lot of eddy currents pushing the boat around, but she did a great job of managing everything and we eventually got all the way in. We anchored a half mile or so to the east, but once it started flooding we found that the current was sweeping past the boat, and with the opposing wind from the southeast things were wavy and uncomfortable. After a little while of this we pulled the anchor and moved further away from the pass, finding a nice sandy area closer to shore adjacent to some bommies. We relaxed here a while and in the afternoon I left for an excellent dive around the pass. I started on the outer wall to the west of the pass, drifting in the gentle flood past great, shallowly sloping coral, several juvenile gray reef sharks hanging around and lots of other life. After a while of this I started getting sucked into the pass, and went down its west side past steep and then vertical relief, not as great coral but better fish, lots of whitetips, red snapper, a few napoleon wrasse. After another while of this a gap appeared on the west and I got sucked down the west arm of the pass, just as I saw an aggregation of fifty or more gray reef sharks gathered on the bottom (no predation, they just seemed to be hanging out like at Fakarava) and plenty more sharks in the distance. Just a superb dive, no single amazing sight but so much variety.
The wind was up in the morning and I left to go kiting after a quick breakfast. I was continuing to practice with the hydrofoil board, and started getting the hang of riding around on it close to the water. The wind stayed good (though a little light) and the kite stayed inflated, and I had a great time out. Back at the boat we went diving together, doing a similar plan to what I did yesterday around low water. Diving a little on the outside, then entering the pass and slowly drifting along, ending the dive shortly before reaching the shark aggregation I saw yesterday. Beforehand though, there were a lot more sharks than I saw yesterday, lots of both juveniles and adults on the outer parts of the pass.
I went out kiting again after breakfast. Winds were stronger today, low to mid teens, and using the hydrofoil started feeling better and better, still riding close to the water most of the time but trying out getting higher up. I was out for a while as the kite slowly lost air before finally collapsing as I nearly got back to the boat. I had to swim back and deal with a huge tangle afterwards but had a great time overall. We went out to go diving at a similar time relative to slack as yesterday, but the ebb was going stronger than we saw when we started yesterday (stronger winds prolonged the ebb) so we spent the dive around the outer wall and the mouth of the pass rather than getting into it. Worked most of the afternoon, repairing the kite and so forth.
I went out kiting yet again after breakfast. Winds were lighter today, 11-12 knots, which would normally be too light for me to stay upwind with the board I normally use. I didn’t have a problem on the foil though, and stayed out for nearly two hours as I continued to practice and improve with it, having lots of fun (the kite stayed inflated, too!). In early afternoon we went to dive the pass again, this time starting towards the beginning of the flood and closer to the mouth of the pass so that we spent the entire dive slowly drifting down it, before getting sucked into the west arm of the pass. Lots of great life, several gigantic napoleon wrasse, a couple great barracuda, a scrawled filefish that was very interested in us for a while. More disconcerting were some gray reef sharks that were overly interested in us. Along the wall of the pass, one in particular stayed with us for a few minutes, circling around and being nosy but not aggressive. Eventually it left, but we were feeling a little flustered as we continued and reached the large shark aggregation at the west arm. This time they were not on the bottom but were mostly hanging out in the upwelling current rising from the floor of the main pass and entering the west arm. Easily a hundred sharks, which we got to watch briefly before the current bore us away from them. After relaxing at the boat a bit we went to shore to find some hermit crabs for the boat, a neat and relaxing hike.