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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 2 - Introducing the Tuomotu

sailboat keel


After sleeping on benches and poorly stuffed cushions for the last few days my body is starting to notice all the places I’m not so young anymore.

I woke up lower back aching and feeling like my joints hadn’t moved in years. A sort of sailing rigor mortis.

Had to hurry and pause this entry. A rain front came through so I needed to grab everything we had drying from the day before. There is nothing worse than putting on a soggy wetsuit.

Anyway, because of my body feeling like a Barbie doll, you know how they only can move at the hips and armpits, I decided to do some yoga this morning. I searched for a spot with the least amount of tilt in the deck. It took a couple of tries before settling on the bow. I tried to plant myself dead center so at least I would be leaning equally on each side.

That’s how I spotted the rain in the distance. Turned out to be a whole lot of hullabaloo for an approximate thirty seconds of rainstorm.

Josh and I decided to sleep outside in the cockpit last night. We deemed it was way too hot in the coffin (what we nicknamed the aft cabin).

I slept fine. It was nice to not worry about having to be up in time for a shift on watch. The moon was full and lit up the night. The clouds were just barely illuminated, like little fluffy night lights peppered across the sky. In the breaks in the clouds stars shown as brightly as they could. Each one desperately trying to compete with the light of the moon.

moon over the ocean

Around 5am I rolled over and Josh pointed out the moon setting behind us. An orange ball stuck out behind maybe four little whispers of vapor. Parts of the sphere shown bright while the patchwork of craters along its surface lived in a slightly deeper orange hue. I admired it for a second and then closed my eyes again. With no luck falling back asleep I waited and watched as the sun kissed moon sank below the horizon.

It was good we got plenty of rest last night after the long day we had on the water. We spent around seven hours exploring yesterday.

After pulling into the anchorage we had a brief break to get our things together before the tide would bring the clear ocean water into the pass.

The few days of sailing left me yearning to get in the water. You can’t really jump in for a swim when you’re on the move. Immediately after finishing all the post-anchoring chores I made a swift break for the teal swimming pool under the boat.

The water was warm. It felt like receiving a hug from a loved one you hadn’t spoken to in a while.

As someone who normally dives in a wetsuit, there is something beautiful about the sensation of water moving across the skin. I would prefer diving this way all the time if it wasn’t for my uncanny ability to freeze and seek out jellyfish.

I did a few laps around the boat. It felt good to move my body and to be in the ocean. I wonder if the fish in the lagoon could sense my joy. They all seemed to swim up and check me out.

Once the flood tide started we gathered our gear and loaded up the dingy to head out to the pass.

We started just outside along the wall. Upon entering the water, we were greeted with a ledge of coral falling off to the depths. It was impressive to see each coral head attempt to occupy as much space as possible. Each extending until they practically touched the other and leaving no room for the sand to see the sun.

freediver over reef

As we drifted along the ledge uku, jack, and other large reef fish curiously passed by. The urge to shoot them was only settled by the presence of almost always at least one grey reef shark. That being said, shooting a fish seemed more promising along the ledge vs. in the pass where the sharks seemed to appear and multiply as if they are preforming a magic trick.

two grey reef sharks

My favorite sightings on the ledge were the Napoleon wrasse, little sea anemone, and tiny pyramid butterflyfish. I would help pull the dingy around since we didn’t anchor but take a quick break from my duties to dive down for a closer look at what caught my eye.

grey reef sharks circling

Just before entering the pass we drove over to a spot where the strong current begins and so does the abundance of sharks. Jumping in the water we were greeted by the cutest shiver of little grey reef sharks racing from the bottom. Most were a few feet long, some only a foot, since they were just babies. A large silvertip joined the group, dwarfing the reef sharks as it rose through the school. A new species for me but with the familiar swimming movement of a bull shark.

The pass was like a brilliant lazy river. Except at the switch of the tides it really wasn’t lazy at all. When you would dive, you felt like you were flying. I raced just a few inches above a coral-filled sea floor, no kicking required, and thought to myself, “Surely this is what it’s like to be a dolphin.”

diver over blue reef

Josh shot a dogtooth tuna on our first drift through the pass. It was cruising just behind a coral baumy where the current eddies and little prey fish gather. His shot was good but the tuna strategically wrapped itself around a coral head and using the tension on the line managed to rip himself free, taking Josh’s slip tip with him.

It was a bummer to lose the fish. I was proud of Josh for getting a shot in him. He was big and I know how badly Josh wants to land a dogtooth. It was questionable whether he would’ve had it if it hadn’t broken free. The sharks were quick to try and make our potential meal theirs.

We repeated the pattern twice, maybe three times more. Ledge, pass, baumy.

healthy coral reef

We ventured back to the sailboat tired and hungry. Rachel threatened if she didn’t eat soon she was going to lose it. I think we all felt the same.

She whipped up a salad and we followed it with some carpaccio.

Josh managed to land a blue jack on one of our drifts along the ledge. I think we will plan to use it for ceviche today.

We ended the evening racing to make it to the beach to take advantage of the perfect light to grab some photos and so Josh & Rachel could fly their drones.

sailboat at sunset

Turns out we were actually racing to be attacked by no-see-ums. If you aren’t familiar, they are tiny bugs you can barely see that live in the sand but emerge at sunset to feast and ruin any hopes of enjoying the view.

We quickly decided we needed an escape and hurried our way back to the boat.

moon through palm trees

Josh and I got comfortable outside to watch a movie before bed. I picked out one of his favorites.

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