Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Makemo, Tuamotus

Makemo, Tuamotus
May 31 - June 4

On the advice of our buddy boat, Makemo was a must see although they had warned us that the anchorage in front of the village was awful. They were correct. We came through the pass of Makemo with no issues and two buddy boats following closely behind. It seems as though any time we get to a pass, it's "Hey Terrapin, why don't you go first?" We've started to refer to ourselves as the 'Sacrificial Lamb' when attempting to enter or exit a pass with a line of boats behind us. People usually have two things to say about the Tuamotus; it's absolutely stunning and getting through the passes requires perfect timing and can be tricky.

We've yet to "time" a pass perfectly and thus far haven't had any issues. Honestly, the whole idea of sailing through a pass at slack tide is starting to sounds like a myth. We have tide tables, none of them seem to be pinpoint accurate and so far we've just made our best guess as to when a pass is navigable. So far, so good.

We dropped anchor in front of the Makemo village next to the only other boat there, a French boat with a couple staring at us with the worlds largest set of binoculars. Not sure if she was trying to see up my nose or what, but at only 70 feet away the binoculars seemed a bit overkill. Excited to see a village bustling with almost 1000 people, we hopped in the dinghy and went to shore. We pulled up to the quay to see a few villagers plucking items off the supply ship that had just docked. To our surprise men were walking back into town with weed whackers? Where were the baguettes and beer? Weed whackers?

Most of French Polynesia closes from around noon till 2:00pm in the afternoon, their "siesta" break, yet there's always people mingling about. Today the village seemed vacant, not a soul around, we began to wonder if we had come on a holiday. A quick walk through town revealed large concrete paved roads, large enough for all 4 automobiles on the atoll. Almost everyone living on Makemo rides a bicycle - the beach cruisers type reminicent of those I rode up and down the boardwalk in San Diego. Local bikes have 3 wheels with large wire baskets mounted over the back two tires. Their baskets carry everything from barrels of gasoline, groceries, supplies, children to their beloved boom boxes blasting out tunes. Walking towards the lighthouse we unanimously stopped and took a huge whiff. "I smell fresh cut grass!" Within seconds we spotted the huge John Deer riding mower cutting along a field. Across the street from us, on the curb, was evidence that they indeed utilize weed whackers. Ever blade of grass trimmed to perfection. The entire island was pristine and every homeowner had a manicured front yard displaying pride of ownership. Just about every front yard had a small orange-yellowish flag blowing in the breeze. The flags had a sort of Polynesian design on them and appeared to resemble people sitting in an outrigger. We thought maybe there was an outrigger festival about to take place and that's where everyone had run off to. Later in the day we came across a long rectangular billboard with about four movie sized posters on it. Each poster had the faces of those who were running for some sort of official office. On the poster of what appeared to be the worlds happiest Polynesian couple was the emblem from the flags seen all over town. Dressed in colorful traditional clothing, the couple's bright smiling faces stared right back. The poster next to theirs was of a challenger, two French men. The one French man looked as though he had a flashlight shinning in his eyes, squinting, showing his teeth through a possible growl. The man behind him looked like he was desperately trying not to flatulate. Based on looks alone, the Frenchmen didn't​ have a snow ball's chance in Tonga at winning the election.

Back at the boat, it was time for a cold beer while watching new boats attempt to anchor in 25 knots of steady wind in what is quite possibly the worst anchorage spot in all of the Tuamotus. We had our first experience of a boat attempting to anchor on us. Not near us, not close to us, ON us. The entire time the catamaran was backing up on us, we sat in the cockpit both shaking our heads NO. The woman driving the boat ignored us, dropped anchor and then disappeared into the boat with her husband. We quickly exchanged a few words on the VHF, never changing from channel 16, expressing our concerns. The man acknowledged our concerns without ever committing to moving. Ten minutes later and we were hanging off the side of their catamaran in our dinghy, nicely asking that they move. I don't get people like this. I don't expect anyone to give a rats rip about my boat, but shouldn't people care about their own?

Paddling home after hanging out in their own lagoon 

Back in the cockpit, resuming our cold beer enjoyment, we sat back and watched the shit show. The man of the catamaran was not a happy camper, especially when he couldn't get his anchor up as it had gotten fouled on corral (he had never attached floats to his rode, hell, he never backed down to set his anchor). As he was stomping around, getting his scuba gear on, their boat was wildly sloshing around between us, another boat and the quay. As dickish as it sounds, it was nice to finally not be the boat on center stage for the shit show. Looking through the anchorage just about everyone was on deck as more boats attempted anchor. People yelling, boats dropping anchor and not catching, boats drifting all about. One of our friends was on the bow of his boat looking like a scene out of Titanic as another boat was drifting towards him ready to Tbone him. What a mess.

The next morning after not much sleep, we upped anchor and motored into a steady 27 knots to get to a more protected anchorage spot and away from any other boats. Within two hours we were tucked behind our private motu and back to a lake like setting. We spent the next few days enjoying being the only boat around and exploring our own fingerlets. The girls loved being able to take their kayak and hang out all day exploring their own private lagoons, finding their own oysters complete with pearls inside, combing through coral and snorkeling. Phil enjoyed spearfishing after confirming with locals that he didn't have to worry about ciguetera. He was only able to spear one fish that made for a decent sized taco, an extremely enjoyable taco.

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