Tainui is anchored in the Tuamotus at Kauehi Atoll. 500 yards to starboard, 20 village houses nestle among the palm trees. The lagoon is fringed by dazzling white sand and its crystal waters are absolutely flat calm, a breathtaking mix of turquoise, aquamarine and cobalt. Pairs of snowy white terns dance in perfect synchrony. Flying low their underwings reflect the colours of the sea and are iridescent green. Ahh, the South Pacific.
After 5 days at sea we manoeuvered slowly between adjacent atolls last night and hove to off Kauehi Pass into the lagoon. It being half flood there was broken water across the entrance but it didn’t look too bad, so we proceeded boldly in. The northerly headwind freshened under dense cloud and soon heavy rain meant no visibility. “Strong ripples” is what the old admiralty charts call such turbulence, but with 3 knots of current under us we were soon through, into the lagoon and motoring against choppy seas. I had planned to anchor at the south end of the atoll but in this wind there would be no protection there, so we hobby-horsed north for 8 miles to the village. By the time of our arrival the wind had eased, the sun was out and we were captivated by what we saw.
Anchored in 20′ over sand we swam, sat and tippled. then slept. And slept. In 48 hours Jochen, whom we met in Nuku Hiva, flies up from Tahiti to join us here. We will stock up with limes, papaya and watermelon, then sail across to Fakarava Atoll, 35 miles to the west. From Fakarava it is only 250 miles southwest to Tahiti.
For once there isn’t much work to do on board. Our 25 year old light genoa has torn again and I will have to decide what to do about that. It is the third time it has given way and perhaps it is time for us to dump the dear old thing. For now, I will bag it and set up the heavy yankee. Our mainsail has survived some punishment – 6 weeks of intermittent heavy slatting in light airs – and has withstood it all well. I feel guilty about what I have put it through and give all credit to Port Townsend Sails and Carol Hasse, who built it for me all those years ago in Nova Scotia.
Mr Ford continues to demand huge quantities of engine oil and a rebuild or replacement engine is clearly inevitable. Still, after 12,000 hours of motoring that is not surprising.The experts tell me it is worn rings and perhaps the job can be done in Fiji. For now though, it continues to purr and as long as we keep the oil up we can continue without problem. I have to remind myself that all the great sailors came this way engineless, so it is not the end of the world.