7/2019: Tahanea, Anse Amyot

7/1

In the morning we did some more snorkeling in the channel next to the island we were off of. The current was faster and there was a little class 2 whitewater section at the top which was fun to float through. Afterwards I went spearfishing for a while, having fun checking out the bommies and ending up with two nice parrotfish. One bommie had an octopus doing a rock impression on the top, who shied back in to its lair when I dove down to check it out. Later we went paddling together, with me on my paddleboard and Lisa in the kayak. We checked out the inside of the island near us and the one to the north of us, which several boats were anchored off of but which wasn’t as nice, no nesting birds that we could see. Next to the islands the paddling was calm and pleasant, and with the wind elsewhere it was pretty challenging paddling to the island from Magic and across the channel between islands, but a nice workout. In the afternoon I did some electrolysis experiments.

7/2

It was windy and rainy all day and we hung out on the boat.

7/3

It was pretty windy in the morning but nice and sunny so we explored a couple of the islands further south from the ones we’d seen already. These were nice with some nesting red footed boobies, crabs and so forth. It was fun being on the outside and watching the huge crashing wind waves hitting the reef and pushing lots of water into the lagoon.

7/4

It was very windy all day, gusting into the mid-high 30s. We wanted to go to shore to explore but it didn’t seem a good idea given the weather, even though we were so close by. I did a little spearfishing near the boat and got a small marbled grouper, but otherwise we hung out on the boat all day.

7/5

The weather was pretty nasty again in the morning, with strong winds (above 40 at times) and intermittent rain. Later in the day the rain cleared off, though the wind continued. I did some electrolysis experiments, and in the afternoon we went to the island to look at the goios nesting there for a bit. Lisa got a great video of a goio chick feeding, as its parent brought up small fish which the chick hungrily ate.

7/6

It continued raining all day, pretty heavily. Things improved later in the day but it was still windy and rainy and we stayed on the boat all day.

7/7

It was rainy in the morning but then the weather finally broke, and the afternoon was pretty nice. It was too late to move the boat back to the pass so we stayed in the anchorage, visiting the black noddies on shore for some more media.

7/8

It got calm over the night but was pretty cloudy and drizzly when we got up. We were determined to leave anyways so started heading back along our track towards the 7 anchorage. Not long after leaving the sky cleared up and we started making our way directly to our target anchorage near the west pass, then it got cloudy again and we rejoined our track. It stayed calm and was a pleasant passage, and we arrived late in the morning. At the anchorage we went out snorkeling right away, finding the pass ebbing and then heading to an area to the west of the pass and finding little current and lots of nice fish, including plenty of delicious-looking parrotfish. Nice sights included a big nurse shark sitting on the bottom I dove down to look at, and a big pufferfish also resting on the bottom. I got some photos of it with Lisa and the dinghy, then touched it and it didn’t move. After surfacing I dove again and started raising it up by the tail and it swam off. Very determined to relax on the bottom I guess. Back at Magic I went out to try to go surfing, thinking the swell was only going to get weaker as time went on. I started at the break I’ve surfed in the past on the west side of the middle pass, getting a couple dinky rides, but things were too small and too blown out to have much fun. I crossed to the other side of the middle pass to check out a new spot, as I saw some waves breaking over there. They were clean here and bigger, chest to head high, but the shoreline was very reefy and I wasn’t comfortable getting close enough in to take off on them. I think things were still just too small, and that I was having difficulty accepting that. It was still fun to be out in the surf and feeling the waves roll under me and look at the nice coral in the shallows (some good table and other corals readily recognizable). In any case, after a half hour or so I gave up and returned to Magic.

It was getting close to slack and we went out for more snorkeling. First we visited the area where we saw all the parrotfish before. There weren’t very many now but they were very trusting and I had my speargun this time, and shot two very nice parrotfish and a big goatfish in only about 10 minutes. Easily the best and easiest spearfishing I’ve done; all the practice lately on warier fish has been really helpful, and I feel that my freediving in general has improved greatly lately. Some other nice sights including a friendly eagle ray and several sharks that came by after I shot the first fish and then left. By the time we finished it was flooding and we did several runs down different parts of the west side of the pass. Each was extraordinarily good. The first we came across a big shoal of bigeyes with several sharks intermingled. I dove down (pretty far, 30+ feet) to check them out, and then the sharks followed me up to the surface. We had about 20 gray reef sharks swirling around us, not aggressively but clearly curious and really getting our attention. Several huge dogtooth tuna swam about on the seafloor below. Extremely cool and wild. The second run was closer to the middle of the pass; we saw many grouper on the bottom fighting over the space, getting ready to spawn again after the last full moon in June. There were a lot of sharks around, including two big lemon sharks on the bottom. When going out to the third run we saw a couple mantas at the surface and dropped in upstream of them. We came across one on the float, who came in to get a closer look at us. Lisa wanted to see more of them so I dropped her off upstream of a few and she got some really good looks at two which again swam in to check her out. It’s amazing how curious and friendly they are.

It was getting late and we headed back to Magic to clean the fish and have dinner, but this experience was extremely cathartic after all the stress of the storms lately. It’s pretty amazing how much life there is around the pass right now, especially compared to deeper in the lagoon.

7/9

In the morning Lisa used the drone to get some footage of the mantas feeding in the pass, and soon after we went out to try snorkeling with them. By the time we got out it was around slack though and the mantas weren’t around. There were some NE winds and it was squally with some rain, so after a brief snorkel we backed off from the pass and went to another area on the inside near the anchorage. This was pretty nice with lots of little acropora colonies on the bottom and nice small fishes. We stayed out a while and I got cold for the first time in a while, the water was pretty chilly for the Tuamotus. After some time relaxing on Magic we went paddleboarding in the nearby pool and then along the inside of the motu ringing the anchorage, very calm and a nice time. We were hoping to spend some time in the pass during the afternoon flood, but it turned late relative to yesterday and we just went snorkeling on the other side of the pass. I shot two parrotfish and a marbled grouper in less than 10 minutes, again extremely easy as they just relaxed and looked at me or continued eating while I lined up my shot. Finally, as it got closer to dark we went to shore to get some firewood and then to a beach fire / happy hour with the folks from several other boats in the anchorage, who all showed up today with the clearing weather. This was lots of fun and it was nice to talk to people, staying until 7:30 or so as things wrapped up long after sunset.

7/10

In the morning we headed out to dive the pass, trying to time things for the end of the flood and getting pretty close to that target. It was moving along nicely at the mouth of the pass, lots of nice pocillopora. As we got deeper in we worked our way over to the west, getting somewhat out of the current with cloudier conditions. Lots of fish around including many marbled grouper, no dense aggregations but they seemed to be pretty much everywhere we looked once we got away from the thickest coral (curiously, we saw a lot of marbled grouper getting ready to spawn in these coral areas last June). Lots of morays on the dive (six or more) and over the course of the dive we accumulated an entourage of red snappers and other fish that were just following us around. After relaxing on Magic we went paddleboarding again for a while, making our way to the other end of the anchorage and then walking around on shore to check out conditions in the pass, at the surf break, and some rather artistic cairns that people have constructed at the middle pass entrance over time. The wave looked alright and I went surfing afterwards, but it turned out to be pretty measly. I got 8 rides in an hour, but most of them were very short. Good to scratch the itch but not really very worthwhile otherwise.

7/11

We headed out with dive gear in the morning but there were dinghies from several other boats in the pass already and one of them reported the ebb had just started, half an hour or more before we expected it to. The SW swell has been high lately which was probably the culprit. We returned to Magic to drop off our dive gear and went back out to check out some areas on the other side of the pass. I went spearfishing at first and quickly got a big marbled grouper and two parrotfish, and then we looked at a small group of garden eels waving in the sand nearby. We checked out a second spot further from the pass and found a huge colony of garden eels that just seemed to keep going and going. We tried to get some media of them but weren’t set up properly without our dive gear, tripod, etc. We relaxed most of the rest of the day on Magic, going out for a nice short paddle near Magic and then having the folks over from Pitufa, another boat in the anchorage we’ve talked to several times while at Tahanea, for a nice happy hour on Magic.

7/12

Lisa’s birthday! In the morning it was very calm. After some paddling, during which I klutzily managed to fall off the board twice and scrape up my legs, we headed out to try diving the outer wall of the atoll. We found the pass flooding, surprisingly, so changed plans to check it out instead. We did one run towards the west side of the pass, where we usually do our drift dives and snorkels, having a nice time but not seeing anything unusual. We still had plenty of air after getting flushed past all the pocillopora and went out to do another pass, but started on the outside and too far to the side to feel much current. This was a little stressful as we didn’t want to be on the outside when the current changed, so aborted. We did a third dive that was pretty similar to the first, very nice coral and fish but nothing spectacular, and finishing with half the air still in our tanks. After we surfaced Lisa noticed some mantas nearby so we went snorkeling with them. We did several runs through the pass and saw a lot of mantas, more than I can remember seeing here last year. Maybe a dozen or more, it was hard to tell how many were around because they were pretty spread out. Lots of milkfish, scad, and surgeonfish scattered around the pass enjoying all the plankton, little orange dots in the top few feet of the water column. A big silvertip cruised on the bottom as well, all around a very cool experience. After some time back at Magic and with the ebb running pretty good, we went back to the pass to look for the group of bigeyes we saw a few days ago. We did some looking around with the dinghy (flat water and very clear) and snorkeling (nurse shark and several gray reef sharks that were interested in us), but no sign of them. In the afternoon we went to shore to have another beach fire with the folks from several other boats. We’d found an assembled fire while hiking a couple days ago and planned on using that, but there were no-see-ums around and we ended up going back to the same place as the last fire. We stayed until well after dark (I got very tired), with some wandering around the reef flat while mildly inebriated to look for lobsters (they were around even though there was a lot of moonlight, and a guy from another boat found some, but I didn’t have a flashlight and didn’t find any myself). Nice time.

7/13

We were planning on leaving today but changed our mind after seeing how calm conditions continued to be. We had a nice paddle in the morning around the anchorage admiring some nice acropora colonies in the shallows and all the fish around (a big barracuda came by the boat). Soon afterwards the pass was flooding and we did two drone flights to look at the mantas in the pass. On the second one there was a cluster of at least eight mantas right near their bommie on the other side of the pass, with the folks from Agape, another boat in the anchorage, anchored next to them and enjoying the scene. After getting the drone back we headed right out with dive gear, trying to snorkel near the bommie as well but finding that the mantas had mostly dispersed. We saw them on the other side of the pass and did a few runs over there, with at least a dozen and probably more like twenty mantas feeding on the surface and swimming around below. A pretty awesome sight. We did a dive floating past several of them, and then after seeing some of them return to the bommie, we did a second dive where we got into the lee of the bommie and then worked our way along the side, clinging to dead coral. Several mantas came by and hung out above us feeding in the current, very similar to our experience diving here last year and really cool to see again. We didn’t get back to Magic until the early afternoon and relaxed most of the rest of the day, seeing the folks from Pitufa and Agape some more.

7/14

After getting up I went spearfishing so we would have something for breakfast. The first fish I shot was a parrotfish who managed to break free of the spear — it wasn’t a good shot and went in between the dorsal fin and spine. It didn’t look very injured but wasn’t swimming very fast and we went into a ten minute battle of wits as the fish swam from bommie to bommie, with me diving down to try to find it among the passages. After narrowly escaping me several times it managed to get pretty far away and I gave up. There was a nice marbled grouper sitting there staring at me, so I shot it, then went back to the dinghy to find a bunch of fish swimming around and shot two more of them. Definitely feeling like a predator. We were planning on diving with Agape and seeing the mantas again, but got concerned as the wind had started in the night from the north and was gradually swinging around and increasing in strength, coming from the west and right into the anchorage as we got ready to dive. We went diving anyways after the flood started, drifting from the mouth of the west pass and into the lagoon, with nice sights like the usual pocillopora, one manta, a nurse shark, and a nice school of barracuda. After finishing the dive we found the wind had increased to the low twenties from the south/southwest. With the flooding tide there were good sized waves building in the pass which we had to navigate past, then found Magic rocking pretty good in the building swell. The motion wasn’t bad though and we stayed put while the anchorage cleared out and people had to find other places in the atoll to sit the weather out. It felt nice to have a catamaran. The wind decreased in the afternoon and continued shifting to the southeast, making things very comfortable in the anchorage.

7/15

Over the night the wind dropped to about 5 knots. We got ready to leave the anchorage, flying the drone and diving under the boat to fix the anchor and see the crystal clear water and all the fishes that have gathered around us the last week in search of food scraps. Very beautiful scene. We pulled the anchor and motored out through the pass. For a while the seas were very calm and we motored, with winds coming up in the late afternoon from the south and staying through the night, allowing for slow and pleasant sailing.

7/16

We arrived at the north pass of Fakarava in the early morning and had a bumpy ride over to Rotoava with the south winds. Went out for a nice lunch and relaxed the rest of the day.

7/17 – 7/24

Hanging out in Rotoava. We went jogging and out to lunch a couple times, and I went kiting once, having a nice time. There wasn’t much to do though and it started wearing us down, though — we had trouble moving on because we wanted to have internet access for managing some work going on at the Boise property.

7/25

We were finally able to extricate ourselves from Rotoava and left in the afternoon. On the way out of the pass there were thousands of birds in one area with fish hungrily jumping around at the surface (though not at our lures). There was a nice wind and we sailed slowly through the night.

7/26

After a nighttime gybe we arrived at Anse Amyot early in the morning, picking up a mooring. Soon afterwards we went out diving on the outside wall, in the area we usually go to. There were several crown-of-thorns starfish spotted on the dive, but mainly in areas we hadn’t been clearing them from when we were here last. Otherwise, the fish life was very nice, one school of very friendly / tolerant parrotfish especially, and it felt great to be diving again. The swell looked nice and I went surfing afterwards. I had a great time, getting 20 rides in 1:20, the swell wasn’t the largest I’ve seen but waves were coming consistently and I was doing a good job working them. Finally, in the afternoon we went in to visit Valentine and Gaston for a few hours, eating an impromptu lunch together, very nice to see them again.

7/27

We went diving in the morning, starting inside the pass and then making our way to the outer wall, clear water with a gentle flood coming in. Excellent fish life on the dive, some nice schools of barracuda, jacks, entertaining triggerfish and some marbled groupers. On the outside we found an aggregation of 30-50 gray reef sharks hanging out next to the wall at 120′ or so. I went down to 100′ to get a look at them, very cool to see this many. Lisa went to the homestead to pick some noni while I worked, and then we had lunch ashore with Valentine, Gaston, and the folks from another boat that arrived yesterday.

7/28

Things were pretty stressful on the boat in the morning due to several external factors, eating up much of the morning. To try to feel better we went snorkeling next to the boat, lots of chromis and cornetfish around and pretty reef scenes. I tried spearfishing and got one parrotfish quickly, with about 10 sharks moving in soon afterwards and swimming around excitedly, some pretty big gray reef sharks among them. After they left I shot a second parrotfish which got off the spear and hid under some coral, with the sharks coming back and descending onto the coral, whitetips squirming around and trying to get at the fish. I took a couple more shots later but the sharks seemed attuned to the sound and would rush in immediately afterwards, even if I missed. This got old and we went to the mouth of the pass to do some more snorkeling. I got a couple fish quickly, with little attention from the sharks, then we went to check out some of the more exposed snorkeling areas here — there was little current and very clear water so it was a good time for this. The nicest sight was a big cluster of anemones. Lisa counted 15 rocks with anemones on them in a small area, with some of the rocks having several anemones. A fair amount of clownfish and dascyllus among them, a very nice scene. Things felt better on the boat after the snorkel, and in the afternoon I went out kiting for 1:15. It was windy at fish (18-19 knots) and from the ENE which made the wind in some areas turbulent, generally hard to manage with the big kite. The wind came down to the mid teens afterwards and shifted east, making for very pleasant conditions, and I was feeling good coming back to the boat and having a nice afternoon/evening together.

7/29

Things felt stressful again but we went diving to try to feel better, having a nice time on the outer wall. We saw the big group of gray reef sharks again, shallower this time and in the spot where we’ve seen them in the past. One baby gray reef shark came up several times to check me out, very cute with its small body and oversized fins. We were able to spend a little while checking them out from nearby, which was nice.

7/30

In the morning we decided it was time to head back to the Societies. We spent some time ashore with Valentine and Gaston, then headed out a little after noon. We had nice wind and sailed on a broad reach through the night.

7/31

The winds increased into the 20s, with some squalls pushing it up to 30 knots apparent. Despite a triple reefed main we had some trouble with it overpowering the autopilot and turning the boat up into the wind. After this happened twice I dropped the main entirely, and we continued sailing with just the jib, which was pretty manageable. The waves were still getting pretty big, and a couple times they hit the aft part of the boat wrong and sent quite a lot of water into the cockpit, the first time this has happened on Magic. Some water got into the boat through improperly secured hatches facing the waves as well. Generally things were fine but I was kind of seasick most of the day; we haven’t done a passage like this in a while and I wasn’t used to the motion, trying to read and so forth.

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