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Ferocious to Fabulous in Fakarava

63 days since we last had the sails up. Sailing around French Polynesia was now permitted 😊, so armed with a full fuel tank we set forth…. Freedom.

Nicola had the offer of being crew to Tahiti on the 67 foot discovery, and after nearly nine months on Saorsa and some great adventures decided to opt for a change. A great chapter of fun, experiences and sailing experience – thanks for all your help Nicola!

Our first stop was Ua Pou, a small island south of Nuka Hiva whose dramatic peaks we had looked at during our two-month stay in Nuka Hiva.

Ua Pou was beautiful, made all the more fun by our friend Esteban who came with us in his tiny boat and brought his guitar, smile and endless knowledge of what you can and cannot eat from the land.

A day foraging with Esteban is fun, we collected star fruit, mangos, limes, guanabana, and were given huge avocados by a lovely local who also makes scrummy rich dark chocolate. In the evenings we were treated to Esteban’s fruit cocktails, his charming smile and stories and some beautiful songs.

Armed with the fruits and rich memories of the lovely Marquesas islands we set forth on a four-day sail to the Tuamotus. A huge contrast from the mountainous lush Marquesas, the low-lying Atolls provide some challenging navigation, but once through the passes they have a reputation for some sheltered sailing within.

We made landfall in Fakarava, entered the pass bang on slack water and anchored off the village in the north of the Atoll. It was true – calmest waters since being in the marina in Panama, a beautiful night’s sleep looking out onto the palm fringed coral coastline, with stunning turquoise water. Just as promised. There were also a great of number of ARC boats rocked up as well – great reunion lunch and lots of catching up to do.

Just as we had invited a few boats over for dinner, the wind changed, the previously flat, calm waters started to whip up and the skies went dark. We cancelled dinner as it was not the time to venture out in the dinghy. This is our radar picture - alot of bad weather. An hour past and the crunching of the anchor began, a horrible, horrible noise. We had good 4G signal and I scanned the web for forecasts – nothing that looked this bad. The wind changed 180 degrees and we were on a lee shore and as the waves started to crash over the bow the crunching noises grew. Time to put on the instruments, get out our wet weather gear out and prepare for action. Then duga duga duga !!! – the snubber had snapped and the chain was paying out. Engine on, and into action. Karen and Lesley went forward, I manned the helm, - oh shit we were at the bitter end of the anchor, attached by nylon rope. Karen went to get the dynema but by the time we had both made it forward the bitter end had snapped and we were free. Now it was easier – we just powered off and got the hell out of there.

We motored around till the seas abated and listened to the frantic calls on the radio. We attached the spare chain, anchor and rope and after a few hours anchored again. Time for a cup of tea. We kept anchor watch, didn’t sleep a wink and were pleased to see first light. Sunrise brought some sobering sights, two boats crashed together on the shore, one was our friends’ boat. Another Arc boat damaged all along one side where they had crashed with another adrift boat. Some had bow damage almost identical to ours but worse as they had battled at anchor. An anchorage in shock, and exhausted.

The boats which had skippers who have sailed a long, long time, and around the world all said it was their worst experience. It certainly was mine.

Meanwhile our friend Esteban in his small yacht had got caught in the same weather phenomenon – “a microburst”, like a huge tornado pushing energy down instead of up. He thought he was going to die, set his EPRIB off due to the boat filling with water and spinning around. He called Mayday. No one responded. The following day he reached us on Channel 16 and we cancelled his Mayday with the JRCC. He made it safely into Fakarava two days later – grateful to be alive.

We spent three days diving to recover our chain and anchor. The chain had dug into a coral bommie and it took us a good hour of chiselling and yanking to free it, and another two hours underwater to detangle the chain and make it fit for lifting. A huge thank you to “the great Dane” (a young lady crewing on Sapphire of London), who offered to dive with me and was a lot stronger than I am, a gutsy, capable young woman.

That scuba kit is worth its weight in gold.

Karen and Lesley certainly have a tale to tell. We were all a bit shaken but got on with what needed to be done. Fab crew. Lesley was shaken big time and elected to stay a few days on shore to recover, but now is back on board smiling. Karen our “true grit” northern lass, did a fabulous job and just got on with helping to sort stuff out. Nicola was also in the same anchorage on another boat and came over to help us recover the anchor.

A great team effort and we celebrated hard once the anchor and chain were back on board. Lesley returned to the boat and did a great job of sorting the mess out Karen and I had made as we set about recovering from our celebratory hangover.

Back together and booked into Tahiti for repairs to the bow at the end of the month, we set forth in tranquil waters to spend a few days a peaceful anchor time for R&R.

Oh Fakarava!, we shall remember you, frigging ferocious to fabulous - and of course Estaban: