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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 1 - The Crossing


sailboat bow
photo @moore_rachel

A little Introduction

The following series of blogs are direct passages from the journal I wrote in while sailing with friends for nearly six weeks in the remote Tuomotu islands of French Polynesia. I wrote the following so that I could look back on this trip when I am old and grey and be able to remember and visualize exactly what it looked and felt like.


Ultimately, these entries compile to form one big book of a lot of nothing. Each day we spent full of time in the water and experiencing the incredible beauty of the islands, however there is no end point to find or complex deeper meaning behind what is written. This is simply a recount of my experiences in and on the ocean.


Meet The Crew

Agape

sailboat on the water
photo @moore_rachel

Agape wasn't only a vessel to carry us from atoll to atoll in the Tuomotu. She was our home and our safe space for the journey. Meaning "unconditional love," Agape exemplified that definition in boat form. No matter the conditions we experienced on the water we could have confidence in her ability to keep us safe and ready for the next day's adventure.


Rachel Moore

Rachel is an extremely talented underwater photographer and ocean lover. She used her savings from her modeling and scuba diving careers to buy Agape with her husband Joshua. Now she is passionate about highlighting the stories of those researching and fighting to conserve our oceans through her lens. She is an incredible water woman, role model, and friend.


Joshua Shankle

Joshua is an experienced waterman, spearfisher, and writer. His goal in life is to spend the most possible time in the ocean and the least possible time working. A goal I also share. He used to work on offshore oil rigs while he was saving up to buy Agape with Rachel. He is also a talented coconut harvester.


Josh Munoz

Josh is an avid sailor and has been part of some incredible sailing expeditions working as both crew and photographer. He is an extremely capable speafisherman and a freediving instructor. He is the most himself when he is climbing up a mountain or in and on the ocean.


Me (Taylor Cunningham)

If you're reading this there is a good chance you already know who I am but long story short I'm a human that loves the ocean. I am lucky to call underwater photography and videography my profession. These entries are written from my perspective.


4/2/23

We spent last week in Moorea staying with Kori & Pierrick. It was nice to see them in the off season and get to hang out a bit more.


It is odd not seeing whales while being here. I miss looking out on the horizon and seeing the puffs of white mist shooting up from the ocean. It feels strange to go from an ocean full of whales in Hawaii to French Polynesia (where we normally spend time during whale season) where there are currently none.


We are waking up today some ways away from Tahiti. I think I can just now see it in the distance behind us. Rachel and I took the first sleep last night so the boys took over watch. Rachel and I chatted as we occasionally peered around the bow for anything unusual. We had long conversations about life and love. I think there is something about sailing, especially night watch, where you are so bored you might as well talk about something actually interesting. There is no point for small talk. Plus, as Rachel put it, you want to truly know your friends.


We watched the moon set behind us as the sky became dim. At first sailing under the moon seemed like sailing during the day. It was bright enough to clearly see the horizon.

sunset from sailboat

Once the moon set the milky way dust broke through the sky behind the spattering of stars. Occasionally one would race across the blackness.


At one moment, we spotted lightning in the distance and talked about the possibility of a squall and what that meant. It dissipated into the distance.


Now we sit, enjoying the first glow of the morning. A warm breeze blows as we move along a deep indigo ocean.


The boys just woke and we are attempting to sail without a motor.


4/3/23

Yesterday was long and hot.


It was tricky. Even in the shade I got a little pink. It seemed like somehow the heat would just find you no matter how you hid.


We slept a lot. I read only a little. Mostly because every time I did it would put me to back to sleep.

sleeping on sailboat

There is a still, quiet isolation during the crossing. Josh says this is his favorite thing about sailing.


I find I have a hard time staying awake if my mind isn’t busy. The sea is beautifully calm. At one point the whole surface was glass reflecting the sunset. Maybe the gentle rocking is what puts me to sleep.

peeling onions on sailboat

Rachel and I spent a few minutes peeling the onions yesterday. I guess it helps to keep the moisture out so they don’t grow mold.


We had a salad for dinner and watched a beautiful sunset. The clouds were illuminated by the sun and they reflected down to the ocean in orange stripes that danced in contrast to the dark blue.


Upon complete darkness, we decided we weren’t totally full. We snacked through a pupu platter as if we hadn’t just eaten dinner.


I tried to stay up for conversation, but I was helpless to a heavy head and even heavier eyelids.


Rachel and I slept more through our watch last night. Each of us taking alternating forty minute naps. I called sleeping quits once I saw the pink of the burning ball of gas that’s been cooking us for the past day and a half.


“Diamonds dance out into infinity

Each alternating their glimmer as the horizon breathes

Pockets of indigo flash up and down

All together in unison except also intricately distinct.”


4/4/23

Yesterday was an almost dead flat day. In the morning we sailed intermittently as squalls moved through. We were sailing…but painfully slow.


One squall came through where we actually picked up some speed. Wind was blowing close to 17knots for a second, but it didn’t last.


The boys took advantage of the rain and showered as the drops turned into streams, cascading like tiny waterfalls off the bottom of the main sail.

showering in the rain

After a wet first half of the day, god decided it was baking time. The wind died off leaving a shimmering, texture-less ocean. The last few days are what motor boats would dream of. I’m learning sailors prefer something different.


Although we motored a lot, Rachel and Josh say the winds hardly favor moving from Tahiti to the Tuomotu so our crossing was just slightly less than ideal.


This morning we pulled into the atoll. As we moved through the pass I sat on the bow looking into an aquarium. The turquoise lumps and bumps of the bottom skirted by, occasionally the breeze disturbing the sharpness of my view.


Our anchorage is tucked behind some palm trees in an oasis of sand and pockets of reef. Small Napoleon wrasse greet us.

tropical anchorage

Now we wait for the tide to change so we can go and dive the pass.

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