Aluna Presently Floating in Space (Extended Post)

Note: This is the original post I wanted to post on our arrival here in Tongareva, but internet was so spotty that all I could do was post the couple sentences that were posted back then. So here is the whole thing. Then there are still two posts on the book from back in Nuku Hiva. I’ll be publishing those next in line and then start reporting again from the present.

Tongareva, the name of this vast atoll in the midst of an even vaster emptiness of Pacific blue, literally translates to South Floating in Space. It is a single skinny strip of coconut palm peopled coral rubble, maybe 300 meters wide at its most, at other places reduced to rust red and olive green reef rock, which is awash at high tide. This strip threads on and on for 44 kilometers, almost vanishing behind the horizon, eventually finding the other end of itself and enclosing a lagoon of an amazing size. Three passes give access for the waters of the open sea to come in and out of the lagoon. Only one, the narrow Taruia Pass on the West side is navigable for ships of any size. Two little villages sit on opposite side of the lagoon, Omoka just South of the Western pass, Tautua just South of the Northeast pass. For three days now Aluna has been bumping up and down at the rolly anchorage just off the worn and rusted wharf of Omoka. This sleepy village of happy fishermen sits on the windward side of the atoll and two days of squally weather with winds blowing across the whole 9km of enclosed water have transformed the peaceful lagoon into the choppy mess of short waves topped with little foamy whitecaps. We’ll eventually sail across the lagoon to Tautua, where a sandy beach on the leeward side of the lagoon promises a much quieter existence.

A mighty swell from the Northwest was the broom that managed to finally brush us out of from Nuku Hiva. It started to enter Hoohapu Bay on January 4, after we had spent the New Year days with yet some more generous Marquesan friends, feasting on poisson cru and more roasted pig overlooking Nuku Hiva’s airport on the dry terre deserte, the gentle slopes that run Northeastwards down from the 1200m high ancient crater wall, receiving precious little rain in the lee of it. That swell did what swells usually do, it swelled, and by the morning of the fifth it had grown to where it would raise Aluna two meters up and shake her dangerously from side to side with every passing roller funneling into the little bay. The wind was fickle and it took some nerve wrecking maneuvering to make it out of the tight stretch of water, since our cranky motors are once again not in a collaborative mood.

An overnight sail with some heaving to waiting for the morning light brought us 60 miles North to the South Coast of Hatutu at daybreak. Eiao sits next to it to the South West and there is a two-mile wide pass between the two islets through which we sailed and then continued down the North Coast of Eiao, where about half way down the Bay of Vaituha had been promising a possible shelter to anchor and explore the rugged island void of humankind. Alas though the same swell was entering that inlet as well, and with a vengeance, such that big white breakers were rolling onto the beach at the end of it and half way into the bay Aluna once again was heaving heavily up and down. It was quite obviously time to set out into the blue yonder and bring our extended stay at this oasis of human kindness to an end at last.

Six days later one midmorning the tips of a thin strip of palm trees became visible on the horizon. We were just eight miles from Caroline Island, or Millennium Island, as some pranky politicians decided to call it. Flocks of birds soon streamed towards us, very healthy looking brown and white boobies, black frigate birds, smaller, stubby black and white fluttering creatures too. As soon as Aluna rounded the heavily breaking surf off the Northern tip we entered the calm waters of the leeward side. A more than 100 meters wide ledge of ochre tidal flats extended seawards from the blinding white of the coral beaches, which in turn inland became green curtains of coconut and pandanus trees. A symphony of bird cries came floating towards us from there and every now and then a break between the islets allowed a peak through to the turquoise lagoon inside. A peaceful beam reach sail brought us to the Southern tip of the island within a little over an hour. Just as all the descriptions we had found throughout our research had stated clearly, there was no place sheltered enough to even think of staying. The reef ended seawards in wide rounded platforms, which dunked in and out of the wash. I brought Aluna at times within maybe twenty meters of those and the water underneath us continued dark and featureless, indicating the reef wall must be dropping almost vertical into the abyss. Sailing back up the to the Northern tip confirmed this unfortunate fact, not a single place with even hint of a possibility to drop a hook for the night. Bummer, I would have loved to spend a couple days exploring this place of unhindered wilderness!

Night was falling by now and once again Aluna’s bows where turned westwards, soon enough bouncing up and down again in the tumbling swells of the open ocean. The morning of January 16 brought up a similar strip of palm crowns on the horizon, but a black squall soon obscured everything around us. It engulfed us and lashed us with heavy winds and rain for an hour, while sailing along the Northern Coast of Tongareva, or Penrhyn, as English speaking folks like to call it. The downpour let up soon enough to sail down the short stretch of coast on the leeward side towards the pass into the lagoon in bright sunlight. The wind was not favorable enough to sail in through the pass, so we decided to drop the hook on the designated anchorage just to the South of it. Also it was Sunday and we had heard that the Tongarevans are seriously church going folks and don’t appreciate unholy activities on any Sunday, such as sailboats getting stuck on coral heads in the middle of their lagoon; just another reason to sustain our wait and see approach. Fair enough, early Monday morning we’re woken by very friendly people in aluminum fishing skiffs promising help to get into the lagoon.

It took two days to get that accomplished and more complications lurked ahead, but I’ll tell you about those in the following posts. For now we wanted to let friends and family know that we made it safely, are once again in good able and generous hands. Internet access is sparse, so don’t expect a media frenzy, but we should be able to keep you posted with posted posts in the blogosphere, at the very least textually, about our deeds and treats!

3 Responses to “Aluna Presently Floating in Space (Extended Post)”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Happy Valentines day My lovely wandering friends. May peace and good fortune be with you always.

  2. Fabiola Says:

    Hello guys, you are very brave, I admire your adventure spirit, and nice people like you find good people around, best wishes and hugs from santa cruz ca, fabiola

    • alunaboat Says:

      Hey Fabiola. Thanks for your flattering comment! Hugs to you too and we’ll send you a bag of warmth to finish off that winter in California!

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