Saskatchewan Highway or Tuatmotan Atoll Passage?

(Atoll East Side, Raroia, Tuamotus, French Polynesia)

I can honestly say I found something in the vast ocean of the South Pacific that reminds me exactly of home. More than interesting because at first glance (and second, and third, and every number after that) the palm lined beaches of the Tuamotus and the wheat field expanses of Saskatchewan seem to have nothing in common.

Today I was struck with a familiar feeling and before realizing it was transported back to the straight and never-ending roads of the prairies. The worn out joke goes, “Saskatchewan, the place where you can watch your dog run away for five days”. Well I never had a dog, but I did cover a lot of kilometres on a lot of prairie roads. At times your destination is mockingly sitting out there in the distance, well within you sights, though there’s no reason to put your shoes back on and ruin your roadtrip fen shui, because getting there is still going to take some time.

This is the feeling I had as we crossed the interior of the coral atoll Raroia. For the entire 8.3 nautical miles (15 km) I could see the small palm covered beach where we planned to drop anchor, though reaching the opposite side of the atoll took us almost 4 hours hook to hook.

The similarities don’t end at far yet visible aims, the atolls of the Tuamotu archipelago have potholes to rival even those of Saskatchewan’s highways. Large, angry, reach-up-and-ruin-you potholes in the form of shallow coral heads. These coral heads pepper the interior of the reef making for a beautiful landscape of glowing turquoise circles on an otherwise deep ocean blue plain. Yet don’t be fooled by their mesmerizing appearance, they’ll eat right through our thin, fiberglass hulls leaving us for fish food, forever shipwrecked on their dangerous backs.

These road hazards are what had me positioned on the bow watching for these beautiful foes and forever inching towards our new home port. A destination worth the wait. We had come to this east side of the atoll to check out its wares, but most importantly to find shelter from the upcoming eastern blow. These fronts that originate down near New Zealand waft in with a tell-tale wind direction switch to the north. Following the northern breeze the front is characterized by a strong, persistent blast from the southeast. A wind that Oceanna can more than handle at anchor, though it’s the swell that builds up across the previously flat five nautical miles of water that makes life more than uncomfortable. This is called fetch, and in any anchorage we look to minimize our fetch as much as possible. Everyone likes a flat house.

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On the lookout for those glowing reefs in the picture background.

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Happily anchored on the other side of the atoll we went for a stroll on the paddle boards.

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There were heaps of these beefy hermit crabs lining the motu’s shores. How do you think they’d fare in a hermit crab race?

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Here’s an elated Gregory thinking he’d finally found the elusive Coconut Crab! Unfortunately these aren’t them, but they were still fun to collect!

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Digging for crabs in the pokey brush. High-tech crab herding tool, the paddle, always in hand.

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Another one for the bucket!

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Heading for the mini pass out of this channel between two motus.

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Oceanna and I in the crystal clear shallow water. No need for a snorkel here, we could simply paddle over the shallow reefs taking in the life below.

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Sunset back towards the anchorage we had just came from.

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One more for good measure.

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