5/2019: Anse Amyot, Makemo

5/1

The wind was less in the morning (mid teens) and I went kiting, having a lot of fun over an hour and a half, working on my transitions (42 total) which were feeling back to where they were at the end of the last season (didn’t do much kiting in the societies, oh well). In the afternoon we went to shore to see Valentine and Gaston. It was Gaston’s birthday, and we hung out until it started getting dark, having a very nice time.

5/2

The wind increased and it was back in the 20s most of the day. We went to see Valentine and Gaston again in the late morning. I brought dive gear and worked with Gaston to install a new mooring, replacing one that had broken some time back. This was fun, it was high tide and the water was clear with little current. A big shoal of scad came by at one point, and there were lots of big groupers and napoleon wrasse hanging around on the bottom. We all had lunch ashore afterwards, then Lisa and I back to the boat to hang out the rest of the day.

5/3

The wind came down somewhat to the mid-high teens, though pretty gusty. I went out kiting in the morning, it was pretty sporty using the big 13m kite in these winds but I had things under control and had a lot of fun, continuing work on my transitions (43 total) and practicing steering the kite around the bommies in the anchorage. Later in the morning we went to the homestead and got some gear for installing a mooring which Gaston prepared for us. We went diving together, with Lisa photographing the creatures as we swam around looking for a suitable installation site, then hanging around as I got the mooring gear from the dinghy and then installed it. This all went smoothly and was fun, and it was nice to see a boat arrive into the anchorage and pick up the mooring less than an hour after I finished installing it. Afterwards we saw that the shoal of scad was close to shore near the homestead, so went over there to finish our tanks in 15′ of water, swimming through the big shoal and looking at the coral and other creatures nearby. This was a lot of fun, the shoal was very thick and not too spooked (there didn’t seem to be many predators around). We went to Magic to put some more air in the tanks and dive again, then Gaston kayaked over and invited us for lunch. We went in and had a great lunch with him and Valentine, eating a jack and parrotfish that he had just speared and then baked, super tasty. By the time we finished the scad had moved somewhere else, so we went diving in the mooring field to look at the various big fish and nice porites colonies there.

5/4

The wind was light in the morning and we went diving around the fish finger. I didn’t bring my camera but was collecting crown of thorns starfish for the first time. I brought a chainmail glove, a gaffing hook with the tip filed down, a bucket and a fish bag. Things were a little tricky at first as I tried to put the starfish into the bucket and then transfer them to the bag, which was hard to do and I managed to get stung by a thorn on my right thumb which didn’t hurt much but left the area feeling tender the rest of the day (like a sea urchine spine, but worse). After the first two starfish I stopped using the bucket and just stuffed the starfish into the bag using the gaffing hook, while I held the bag with the gloved hand. This worked well and by the end of the dive I was doing it pretty efficiently; over the course of 45 minutes I collected 14 starfish in total (mostly limited by difficulty in finding them, there are a lot here but it’s not an infestation). The dive was nice otherwise, some good sights of unicorn fish schools, and a small turtle cruised by at the end of the dive. The starfish were too heavy to lift out of the water, and we didn’t have far to go to Magic so dragged the bag behind us, then back at Magic hoisted it out of the water on the dinghy davits to let the starfish dry out a little. I transferred them into three buckets, went to the homestead and dumped them into the garbage pit out back there (they might get turned into compost once they’ve dried out, not sure).

Lisa stayed on shore to help prepare for the dinner later, while I went back to Magic and filled tanks. Once that was done I picked up Lisa and we went diving with the scad again, which were hanging out in front of the homestead. We dove for a while in the shallows, swimming in and around the scad as they packed closely in certain areas to rest and swam around frantically when disturbed. There were several smallish tuna stalking the scad, they were pretty wary and I didn’t get a good look at them but I don’t think they were dogtooths (the normal tuna we see around passes and outer reefs). Other sights were some big napoleon wrasse and a very friendly stingray we spent a while with. Good visibility but the flooding current was annoying and kept sweeping us into things. After the dive we still had some time before dinner so I went paddle surfing for half an hour, getting several nice rides.

Around 2pm we headed to shore for the dinner which Valentine, Gaston, and their neighbor, Gabriel, had prepared. The crews from the other four boats in the anchorage came in as well, a total of about 15 people. We had a great time, everyone was friendly and upbeat about the trips they were on, excellent food with lobster, poisson cru, a pig that had been slaughtered the day before, several sides. Partway through the dinner a frigate bird which Valentine and Gaston befriended came by; they made friends with the bird over a decade ago and it visits regularly. It perched on the windowsill overlooking the lagoon and stayed there for hours, nearly until sunset. Lisa and I and several other cruisers petted or otherwise communed with it, though it was sometimes rather bitey (not painfully so). Very cool experience. We stayed until the sun set and then went back to Magic, what a great and busy day.

5/5

In the morning there was some wind (12-15 kt) but the wave looked nice so I went to try paddle surfing. With the wind the paddleboard was too annoying, and the surf was big enough that I could use a normal surfboard, so I went and got the new blue mini-mal and headed back to the wave. I just had reef shoes on and was too spooked by the coral to get close enough to ride (plus several minor scrapes just from brushing the coral) so went back to Magic to put on my wetsuit. I was feeling demotivated but went to try surfing again, but pretty quickly started having fun. In an hour and a half I got a dozen or so rides, several just a second or two but several others were really nice. The new board felt great and easy to ride, a really nice time out despite the challenging conditions. Afterwards we went diving with the scad again for a while, nice time with little current but more turbid conditions than yesterday, I spent a while stalking a napoleon wrasse to try to get media, the stingray was out following us again and there were a couple morays and glimpses of birds diving into the water after the scad. Their dives lasted a split second and were hard to notice at all.

5/6

In the morning winds were pretty light and we went out diving at the critter wall. At the beginning of the dive Lisa collected a crown of thorns starfish, but we didn’t see anymore the rest of the dive and went around taking pictures. Things were a little difficult early on with some wind above and a foggy mask, but after going to the surface for a minute to sort things out we got on track and ended up having a very nice dive, over an hour. There wasn’t much to see deeper on the wall here other than a few sharks and napoleon wrasse, so we spent most of the time in 25′ or less, nice coral up top. There is a section of wall here where the top is connected to the lagoon by a very shallow bar, and the water was pretty milky and surprisingly cold here, but the fish were loving it, big schools of humpback snapper and parrotfish. After the dive I went out surfing. The wave was bigger than usual but a little sloppy. In an hour and a half I got 16 rides, all of them good and several of them excellent as I stayed in the pocket going down the face of the wave. Super fun time, definitely my best session here ever, it felt great both to have the good waves and the skills to be able to ride them well. We relaxed most of the rest of the day, then went paddleboarding near sunset on the other side of the motu across the pass. Some nice critters out, several baby blacktip sharks that were pretty curious and a small eagle ray that came close a couple times and then spooked. Beautiful sunset and evening. Gaston had caught a couple yellowfin tuna earlier that day for the dinner they were having and gave us a couple huge chunks of them, which we had for dinner and a couple meals the following day. Absolutely delicious fish, both cooked and as sashimi.

5/7

In the morning I went surfing again at the break, staying out 1:45 hours and getting 20 rides. The wave was bigger than yesterday, nice waves were coming frequently, and I was surfing well, tons of fun. In the early afternoon we went to the back of the pass area to try diving with the scad again. They seemed to be further out than normal and there was a strong (for this area) ebb so we started the dive around the moorings. We never did see the scad (they might have moved on before we even got in the water) so we went down the north side of the pass area in 30-40′ of water, very cloudy conditions but some nice fish. The coolest part was near the end, as a small remora got very interested in Lisa, trying to attach to her tank and when that didn’t work, her legs and butt. It was very persistent, staying on for several minutes even after being brushed away, and afterwards still hung around and swam close to both of us. Very cool encounter. We spent a little time on shore later but mostly relaxed on the boat.

5/8

In the morning we went diving out at the fish finger. The finger was a hubbub of activity with around 30 gray reef sharks swimming around and floating on the west-running current. Great visibility and a very cool scene, several napoleon wrasse and whitetip sharks as well. We stayed for a little while but the current was strong enough that we had to keep moving. Lisa was collecting starfish and got about five over the course of the dive; we had to thumb it with our tanks still half full due to the wind blowing on the dinghy carrying me away from Lisa and her having to swim hard to keep up. We were around the mouth of the pass after finishing up, wavy due to the ebbing current and a group of dolphins was playing in the waves. I tried to stay out of their way but they kept buzzing the dinghy, passing in front of it just a few feet away. They’re far more maneuverable than the dinghy, so if they get hit it’s their own fault I guess. After the dive we went in to see Valentine and Gaston, and ended up staying for over three hours, having a nice time talking to some German cruisers visiting the anchorage. We were planning on having lunch but I started getting restless and we went back to Magic so I could surf for an hour or so. I was surfing pretty badly, dinging my new board a few times and just not feeling in control of things. Later on it felt better, and I especially mellowed out after making a difficult drop in and getting a nice ride. I ended up with 9 rides total I think, an OK session overall. Afterwards we went back to the homestead and had a very nice meal with Valentine and Gaston, with some snails they’d just collected and several other courses.

5/9

In the morning we went diving at the caverns area about 1.5 miles to the west of the anchorage. We had a great dive, sticking mostly to the shallows and just seeing lots of fish activity, nice coral, very healthy reef. One weird sight was a round burrow about three inches across, which I looked down to see some short of very large crustacean retreating away. Afterwards I went surfing, going for 1/2 hour, then back to Magic to drop Lisa off at the homestead to do some stuff on shore, then another hour of surfing before heading in to pick Lisa up. All in all, more complicated than necessary. The surfing was challenging, as the ebbing current was very strong. I had to work out some adjustments to how I catch the waves there, but eventually got things figured out and got 14 rides over the 1.5 hours, some a lot of fun. After picking Lisa up we hung out on the boat the rest of the day.

5/10

In the morning we left to explore a motu about six miles away, picking our way through the shallows around the pass and then shooting across. The motu was small, a few hundred feet across, and covered with birds. Black noddies were nesting everywhere we could see, many at or near eye level, lots of little nests in the crooks of trees, many with brown eggs in them. We also found some faerie tern “nesting”: one bird was sitting on an egg which was in a crook of a tree just a few feet off the ground, with no nest whatsoever. There was also a faerie tern chick, but almost all of the activity was the black noddies. We stayed at the motu a couple hours exploring, photographing, and droning, great time. On the way back we popped up the motor and just glided across the shallows on the strongly ebbing current (lots of S swell right now). I had some time to go surfing later on; the swell had come down from previous days but I ended up with 10 rides in 1:10 hours, a few of them pretty excellent.

5/11

Hung out on the boat most of the day, relaxing and recovering. In the afternoon we went to shore to walk around a little while, spotting a baby lemon shark in the shallows on the reef flats facing the ocean, a first for us.

5/12

After spending a couple hours at the homestead in the morning I went paddlesurfing for 45 minutes or so in the afternoon. With the small swell and my poor skills I wasn’t having much luck, but did get one nice ride at the end. Afterwards Lisa and I paddled around the anchorage for a little while.

5/13

The pass was flooding lightly in the morning and we went for a dive around the pass itself, having a very nice time. The water was pretty clear and coral was decent, with lots of great fish sights. Four eagle rays, a big napoleon wrasse and several smaller ones, a couple whitetip sharks, a filefish, various other nice critters. The best sight was a rock that was covered with anemones, to the point where it looked like one giant anemone. Dozens of anemonefish and a hundred or so dascyllus accompanied them, very engaging with lots of other nice fish around. While we were around the anemone a small remora kept attaching to Lisa’s legs and butt again; she brushed it away and it tried coming over to check my legs out, see how hairy they are, then head back to Lisa. Eventually it did try attaching to my board shorts, which was neat, but it still didn’t seem very enthused. In the afternoon I went kiting, but only stayed out about 15 minutes. The wind was kind of NE and the anchorage was in the motu’s wind shadow, and while the speed was enough to get out it was rather turbulent and the kite kept getting backwinded and falling into the water. I had to relaunch several times and did eventually get back to Magic on the kite, but it was a pretty close call (fortunately, Lisa was getting ready to come and pick me up).

5/14

In the morning we went into shore to see Valentine and Gaston. While Lisa stayed ashore to do some tasks I went and removed a couple old moorings, then installed a new one in the same place as one of the removed ones. A nice flounder went past while doing the installation, which was neat to see. The tide was flooding and water inside the pass was very clear, so we went diving with the scad, which were hanging out in the shallow area we’ve dove with them before (lately they’ve usually been roaming around the anchorage, making it hard to dive with them). This was a nice time, great visibility and nice to see all the scad flashing around in the water. There was a mixed school of twenty or thirty big fish following them around, mostly rainbow runners with a few bonito. After some time back at the boat we went in for a nice lunch, then in the late afternoon I went kiting. The wind has shifted to the east and was very nice in the anchorage. I stayed out about 1:15 and worked on foil transitions (40 total) and riding upwind/downwind, lots of fun.

5/15

In the morning we went diving at the fish finger, looking for crown of thorns starfish to collect. Lisa collected a couple, then we found a group of about six. We collected all of them but both got pricked in the process, very annoying. We thumbed the dive after twenty minutes and headed back to Magic to recover.

5/16

We hung out on the boat most of the day, resting and relaxing. In the afternoon I went paddle surfing for a little while, which was lots of fun. The waves were pretty small but I got several good rides, and almost felt like I knew what I was doing.

5/17

In the morning we went diving out at the fish finger, little current and a nice time. A nice school of milkfish, lots of unicornfish and snapper, fun reef scene. Lots of crown of thorns starfish, making me regret not bringing the stuff to collect them. At the end of the dive we found a cute little jellyfish scooting along in mid water above the reef. I went paddleboarding afterwards, but pretty quickly got caught by a steep wave and wiped out, losing my hat (whoops). I went back to switch over to surfing, and got six nice rides in about 45 minutes, before things dried up and a squall moved in. Very nice. In the afternoon Valentine and Gaston came over to the boat for lunch, with a delicious lasagna that Lisa prepared and a few sides. We had a great time for a couple hours, then they went home and we relaxed the rest of the day.

5/18

In the morning we went diving at the fish finger to collect some more crown of thorns starfish. We tried a new system which worked out pretty well, where I had three bags for putting the starfish in, with a limit of five per bag. After filling a bag I tied it off to the floating line close to the dinghy, where it sat out of the way the rest of the dive. I was able to collect 15 starfish this way, with things going pretty smoothly and no injuries, which was nice. After the dive I put each bag into one of three buckets we had on the dinghy. Lifting the starfish out of the water this way wasn’t too bad, though they’re still pretty heavy. After the dive I went surfing, getting 13 rides over 1:30 and having a lot of fun. Later on we disposed of the starfish at the homestead, hung out for a little while, then back to Magic for the rest of the day.

5/19

The wind shifted overnight and it seemed like the boat had moved, so in the morning I went diving to inspect things. We were still on our mooring, but the chain above it had hooked around a limestone feature. I spent some time getting that untangled, then some more getting a float down to the mooring to raise the chain off the ground when it’s calm and hopefully avoid such things happening again. Afterwards I went surfing, doing terribly for a half hour and struggling to get a couple lousy rides. I realized I was low on energy and hadn’t had any breakfast, so headed back to Magic where Lisa got me some cereal. I went out surfing again for an hour, getting 10 rides this time and having a nice time with the small waves. The lack of energy was definitely the issue earlier. We went in to the homestead to attend the church service, which Valentine and Gaston did mostly in english for our benefit. Singing and reading from the bible (which I haven’t done in decades), which was nice. We hung out afterwards, then I went to Magic to work for an hour while Lisa stayed and did some filming, then I headed back and we hung out a while longer. Their sort-of-pet frigate bird Umu Umu was there sitting on the head of a chair and enjoying lots of attention, we all had fun petting him.

5/20

In the morning we went diving at the fish finger while I collected crown of thorns starfish. We ended up with 15 more, though they were getting hard to find as we went through areas we’d visited already. Nice views including a second finger further east with several bulky gray reef sharks hanging around and some nice plate corals at deeper depths. I managed to stick myself in three fingers while handling the crown of thorns due to carelessness, two at one time during the dive and then once at the surface. Two healed quickly but the third finger puffed up considerably over the following days due to the injected poison. I still went surfing afterwards, the wave was nice and I ended up with 17 rides over two hours. We hung out on the boat a while and then I dropped Lisa off on shore to get rid of the crown of thorns and make a brush fire.

5/21

In the morning the wave was even bigger and I went surfing while Lisa took some photos. I had some trouble at first while trying to catch the larger waves, which were too far out from the place I was waiting at to be able to get onto effectively. Eventually I figured things out a little better and ended up with 21 rides, including waves both inside and further out depending on what I saw breaking on the other side of the pass. This was lots of fun, some of the best waves I’ve seen here though I wasn’t surfing super well. Afterwards I dove to remove our temporary mooring and we moved Magic to one of the permanent moorings in the pass. We did some tidying up on the boat and I took a nap (still recovering from the crown of thorns injuries yesterday) and then we went in so Lisa could practice launching our new drone and fly it around the homestead to get some media. We hung out with Valentine, Gaston, and Umu Umu until close to sunset, having a nice lunch. It’s pretty interesting to watch Valentine and Gaston interacting with Umu Umu, he loves them and their attention and they love him, far more than the more conventional pets (dogs and cats) at the homestead.

5/22

After saying goodbye in the morning we left the anchorage and motored / motor-sailed east towards Makemo. Winds were light or off to the side most of the way, which was nice, though going was still pretty slow due to a west-running current.

5/23

We continued motoring, with winds increasing, some squalls, and needing to use both engines most of the day and through the night.

5/24

We arrived at the east pass of Makemo around 6:30 in the morning. It was ebbing and there were some waves outside the pass, but things on the inside didn’t look too bad so we started heading in. Currents were strong and at times we were only making about a knot over the ground, but we were able to make it in without much trouble and headed to the village anchorage. The water was nice and clear and we went swimming and then diving together under Magic, Lisa looking around at the critters while I set up a temporary mooring to keep the chain from getting too tangled on the many, many heads of limestone here. We went to town for some groceries and relaxed the rest of the day.

5/25

We went diving in the morning at the nearby bommie — there is a lot of SW swell pushing water into the lagoon and the pass is ebbing all day as far as I can tell — and had a nice time. The nicest sight was an octopus sitting at the entrance to its lair and peering at us, pretty friendly until I got close to look at it and stick my hand in its lair to see how well secured it was. Other sights included several pipefish in shallower water, and some nice schools of parrotfish, unicornfish, and butterflyfish. Afterwards we did a few trips to shore to get a bunch of fuel, then hung out on the boat a few hours before paddleboarding around the anchorage in the late afternoon. Conditions were pretty calm and it was a very nice time out.

5/26

It was calm in the morning but then got windier mid morning, leading us to cancel our plans to head to the east end of the atoll. Instead, we we went into town to walk around and look at the strongly ebbing pass and a couple kids on boogie boards at the village break (looked like fun). Afterwards I got ready to go kiting, but the wind was coming down and I aborted before leaving Magic. Instead, I went across the pass to try surfing over there, at a spot I went to a couple times last year. There were some alright waves coming in, a decent size but with short period and little energy. I still got some nice rides, 11 in 1:20, riding into very shallow water and dodging limestone and coral right under the surface.

5/27

We were planning on heading to the east end of Makemo but instead of light winds we had pretty strong and somewhat gusty east winds, high teens with some periods of low 20s. I went out kiting for an hour and a half, having some difficulty with the wavy and windy conditions but lots of fun, using the big spaces available to do laps between a bommie near Magic and a bommie near the pass, half a mile away. Over the course of the session I did five of these laps, good practice for both riding close to the wind and riding downwind (harder than it seems on the hydrofoil). Early on I fell off the board while going downwind, and it caught the water and whipped back into my face, giving me a 2cm cut next to my eye. I kept going though and had a lot of fun before returning to Magic pretty tired from the challenging conditions. We relaxed on the boat the rest of the day so I could heal.

5/28

It was still kind of windy in the morning and we stayed put at the boat. Around noon the winds started shifting to the north and decreased to around 10 knots. The sun came out and we took the opportunity to motor sail to the east end of the atoll, a pleasant and relaxing trip. We visited this spot in 2017 but not last year; it was deserted except for a couple copra shacks and very beautiful and wild.

5/29

The wind died during the night and it was very still all day. Clear water around the boat let us look down to the bottom to see the fish and coral as plain as day. Beautiful blue hues all around us. In the morning we went diving REDACTED at a bommie a couple miles to the west. It was nice to see the interior of the lagoon. The bommie here resembled the ones near the pass in many ways: nice coral in the shallows around the top, with scattered coral of various types at deeper depths but mostly sand, limestone, and algae. It’s interesting / perplexing why the lagoon has so much less extensive reef development compared to the reef slope areas, despite having (it seems) many of the same species of coral and fish. Several small stands of acropora had hermit crabs perched on them, strange. Fish life was decent, some good schools of unicornfish, a blacktip shark visited us several times, and so forth. After the dive and some drone flying we went out paddleboarding, while I tried to go spearfishing off the paddleboard. I got a unicornfish and a marbled grouper, though dealing with the paddleboard was a pain and the grouper got away and swam under a coral head. I went back down and shot it again but my hand got pretty chewed up extracting it. Still getting the hang of this. Afterwards we continued paddleboarding and having a nice time enjoying the lagoon and the calm weather.

5/30

In the morning we were visited by some of the copra farmers on the nearby motu, one of whom, Gabby, we’d met when coming through a couple years ago. They gave us a few parrotfish they’d just caught and cleaned, and we gave them a few beers. We left in the dinghy to visit a set of islands five or so miles away along the southern edge of the atoll. These were nice, with one cleared of brush and a small unoccupied building, and the other pretty wild with some nice bird life — a couple nesting boobies and several faerie terns flying about. After exploring the area we flew the drones some to check things out from the air. Further west we’d spotted a ship that had run aground on the outer edge of the atoll. I flew the drone over to check it out, it looked like it had happened very recently, the boat looked to be in decent shape and still had all its equipment. Hmm… We were pretty tired when we got back to Magic and hung out the rest of the day, with some paddleboarding in the late afternoon.

5/31

We went diving at some small bommies close to Magic, checking out the coral cover and the life on the reef. Not much coral except in scattered places, which was interesting, I don’t know if the substrate on the bommies is a problem or not (a fair amount of sand and algae). In the afternoon we went to shore to talk to a couple of the copra farmers, though Gabby had returned to the village earlier in the day. We had a short but nice chat (our french is rather shockingly poor) then walked around for a bit before heading back to Magic.

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