It’s amazing how your perspective can change. When we kept the boat in Gorgeous Goole and then its downstream neighbour, Hedonistic Hull, the start of our summer holiday trip was usually a 3 day non stop sail to the south coast, usually the Solent area. The thought of doing 3 days was a BIG DEAL. What would we eat? Did we have enough fuel? What was the back up plan? Would we get enough sleep?

We left on Sunday for our first passage of any distance since the biggie from Panama. It would take around three days from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas to Takaroa, an atoll in the Tuamotus. We bought some veggies, put some stuff away, tied the dinghy to the deck, hauled anchor and we were off. No fuss. No big conversation. Our mindset was, it’s only three days. That’s what I mean about perspectives changing. 

The sailing itself to get here was very straightforward. Plenty of wind, probably averaging around 18 knots, wind on the port quarter, (think of over your left shoulder when facing the front) one reef in the main, one tack, point and go. We reefed the Yankee as and when the wind piped up a bit or died away but that’s as sophisticated as it got. 

We did however have to be really mindful as to the time of our arrival. This arrival would be more complicated that arriving into the Solent. Although I must remind myself of scary trips up to Goole on the river and that horrible lock in Hull. Lots of places have their individual gremlins.

The atolls here have passes into their central lagoons. The passes are often narrow, sometimes with a dog leg over a shallow patch, fringed by coral and are susceptible to fast incoming and especially speedy outgoing tides. Timing your arrival for high water slack is recommended. But working out when this is not straightforward. And can appear to be nigh on impossible.

It seems to me that there’s some science based on moon rise and moon set times and always, always, always a disclaimer that the wind, the tide, local variations, the atmospheric pressure, the weather for the last week, the price of fish etc etc can all influence when this time is. The top advice from most books and articles seems to be to ask a local. Great! 

We started with a slow scout of the entrance as we tried to work out exactly what the tide was doing. Dave had prepped a graph yesterday with moon phases, high water, timings and we estimated we were close to slack water. It was all very scientific, with a smattering of black magic. Our objective, a concrete dock just inside the pass where we would tie up and check out the lie of the land and the flow of the water.

Once past the first navigation mark, we were committed. The tide was still actually in the final throws of going in. A final dribble but with two strong coffees inside him, Mr Savage positioned the boat skilfully  and with nimble (ish) Parker working the lines, the duo parked neatly without any marital strife or shouty shouty pointy pointy moments.

We were met by three friendly officials in masks who asked where we’d come from as Covid is unfortunately spreading again in French Polynesia. We have our ‘out of quarantine’ documents from the Health Department in Nuka Hiva which they were keen to have copies of. A short walk to the local government building, a WiFi hotspot and pages whizzed off a printer. Sorted. 

It’s been quite a while since we’ve been tied to something solid. I’m enjoying it! No need to get in the dinghy and whizz across acres of water to get ashore. Luxury. 

Thin WiFi….so not many piccies!

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