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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 19 - The End


sailboat on the water

5/4/23

Today is our last full day in the Tuamotu. Tomorrow afternoon we will have to fly back to Tahiti before departing for Hawaii.


We moved into town yesterday. Joshua and Rachel needed to grab some provisions for the boat and Josh and I wanted some wifi to handle some things.


Our sail over was really nice. I’ve really grown to love lagoon sailing. Probably because there typically isn’t much swell even if there is wind. I’m still a bit baffled how we can turn off the motor and still move through the water. Granted we have been moving at a slow pace.


Upsides of sailing: You can move your entire home across the globe to some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Downsides: You will be moving considerably slow.


Of course, there are more positives and negatives but I will write those later.


It was about three hours of sailing to get to town. I’ll remind you town really means the grocery and gas station. Immediately after anchoring we raced into shore in hopes we could make it to the grocery before it closed for lunch. Almost everywhere in French Polynesia closes for a few hours around mid-day. The only spots still open are the snack restaurants which are almost always closed all hours except lunch time.


We scurried in just in time. The store was full of people trying to finish their shopping before closing time. The AC was on inside which was a special treat. Apparently on days like yesterday when the small cruise ship is in, the store will run the AC colder. Whatever the reason we were appreciative.


Things on our list included: flour, canned butter, frozen fruit, boxed milk, canned peas, pesto, roasted red bell peppers, toilet paper, and juice.


Josh and I helped to gather the items one at a time, returning to Rachel for our next assignment.


After our trip to the grocery we went out for lunch at a local pearl resort. The spot we ate supposedly has nurse sharks that circle the in water tables but there were none yesterday. The boys each got a cheeseburger and Rachel and I got poisson cru. It was nice to go out for a meal. No one had to cook, or wash dishes, or make the boat heat up from the stove and oven.


Our lunch spot even had a public shower. There wasn’t warm water but it was nice to rinse off without having to hold onto a hose.


Josh and I stopped by yacht services to get wifi but no one was around. While we waited I attempted to make friends with the street dogs. None wanted to be friendly. Eventually we gave up and had Rachel and Joshua come back in the dingy to pick us up.


Back on the boat we lounged and attempted to use hotspots for minimal internet. I spent a few hours messaging with customer service to book a flight and lost connection just as things were happening.


We ate dinner, played a round of Rumikub, and went to bed.


5/5/23

First thing yesterday morning we sailed from our spot near town closer to the large pass. The wind was strong and we knew it would probably be bumpy but the plan was to only anchor a few hours while we dove and then sail back to town for a more comfortable night.


I spent the morning before our sail to the pass struggling to flush the toilet and doing laundry so I could have clean panties for the flight home. Apparently, I wasn’t pumping the flush handle fast enough. Joshua said, “you gotta pump it like you mean it.” My second and final round of bucket laundry went a bit smoother than the first but was just as sweaty. Life on the boat isn’t always the most glamourous.


Once we anchored near the pass Joshua and Rachel had to jump on a short call. Josh made breakfast burritos while they talked with a client about a potential project. I helped Josh get all the dive gear ready so once Rachel and Joshua were off their call we could get straight out on the water.


The wind was blowing hard in the opposite direction of the incoming tide. The meeting of the current and the wind created large, choppy waves spilling over with whitewater at the center of the pass. We hugged the edge of the pass as we attempted to push the dingy motor into the current and to the backside of the motu. Once out of the pass the small island protected a little pocket of ocean just along the ledge of reef. While surrounding waters toiled we drifted through the calm from the blue as it transitioned to reef.

woman swimming with sharks

Grey sharks met us at the surface as we approached the reefs edge. They didn’t race to the surface with as much force or numbers as the last time we explored there but it was nice to have a brief encounter.


The boys were itching to get in one last spearfish so we moved away from the sharks to a part of the ledge farther from the opening of the pass. We slowly floated along the ledge, keeping an eagle eye out for shootable fish. A few rainbow runners came b y but stayed too far out of range. There were some massive ukus that came in but the boys only had one fish on their minds.


A little ways through our drift, we came across a gargantuan school of soldier fish. The fish looked like a huge shadow moving over the reef. Sharks and predatory fish broke pockets in the school exposing the teal reef hiding behind the black mass. We watched as the fish moved together and apart like some sort of amoeboid blob.


Joshua took a dive and made an attempt at an uku. He missed. Josh and I had started swimming his direction when we heard the gun go off. Suddenly, I looked down to see a handful of huge dogtooth cruising below us. Josh was focused on looking out for Joshua and hadn’t seen them yet. I called out to him and he tossed out his flasher in an attempt to attract the fish closer. He took a dive and waited for a clean shot. The doggy stayed just out of range.


The same group wasn’t deterred by Josh’s dive and made their way over to Joshua. He had quickly reloaded his gun when I yelled out that the doggies were around. He managed to land a holding shot in one of the fish. I immediately dove down to block the grey reef sharks that were already hot on the fins of the dogtooth. I swam as fast as I could but the sharks beat me to the prize. I watched as two grey reef sharks ripped the fish in half just below my fins. A cloud of blood and scales showered over the sharks that weren’t quick enough to snag a main bite. The tornado of tails and fins twirled up in the water column before the tight spiral broke apart and the sharks split into every direction.


A few large silvertips and a massive silky shark joined the hoard of grey reef sharks that were still coming in from the distant reef. They likely had heard and smelled the commotion and wanted a part of the action.


It was sad to lose our fish but if we couldn’t be the ones to eat it I’m glad the sharks did.


We drifted for a bit longer but the sharks would likely have made it far too difficult to land any fish. One porky grey shark was circling below us and the dingy for the entirety of the rest of our dive.


I sat up on the boat for a bit to soak up the sun and spotted bottlenose dolphins hunting in the distance. They did a quick swim by as they chased the fish but none of us saw them in the water. We had spotted the dolphins last time at the pass but they seem quite elusive as they weren’t interested in checking out humans.


The wind had shifted directions and our once protected bubble was now tossing and turning with wind generated waves. We drove out just around the corner to check on the boat, anchored behind a baumy in the lagoon. The pass was even more extreme than when we had first drove through. We made the call it was best to get back and move the boat back into town for a calmer anchorage. As we traversed the lagoon waters back to the boat, Rachel and I put on our snorkel masks to keep the saltwater from our eyes. Each time we made it over a wave the bow would crash down sending a bucket’s worth of water onto our heads.


Quickly we prepped the boat to move and started the way back to town. Motoring into the wind we rocked up and down through the chop.


Back at a calm anchorage in town we spent the rest of the evening playing games and having drinks. I cooked pizzas for dinner as Rachel’s ultimate winner request and we chatted about our experiences over the last month or so.


Present

We ended our trip by saying goodbye and heading to the small airport on the atoll to head back to Tahiti and catch our flight home to Hawaii.


There are many things I will miss from our time sailing.

- The constant presence of sharks. Whether it be when we are in the water diving or just watching them swim by at the anchorage.

- Being able to live completely presently. We had no where we had to be or anything we had to do. There were no deadlines or scheduled activities. I wasn’t worried about what needed to get done or considering the future. I was fully just enjoying the moment I was in.

- Waking up on the water. And having constant access to some of the healthiest and most abundant parts of the ocean in the world.

- Hanging out and sharing time with other passionate, ocean lovers. I find both Joshua and Rachel extremely inspiring for a multitude of reasons and I feel lucky to say they are also friends.


There are also some things I have taken home from our time sailing that I have been trying to implement more in my life.

- Living with less and finding happiness in experiences and sharing time with friends and family, not from stuff and things.

- Being happy for friends and others’ experiences and successes even if you want the same. Genuinely being stoked for others even if you are jealous of them.

- Appreciating the quiet moments in life.

voyages of agape

This trip was truly a special experience and I can’t thank Rachel and Josh enough for sharing their home with us and showing us around such a special place.

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