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kauehi ~ wild things

Posted by on October 8, 2013

July 3 – 5, 2013

The weather during the first part of our stay in Kauehi had been absolutely picture perfect with sunny days, little wind, and a calm anchorage.

Being anchored at the southeast end of the atoll offered great protection during the normal east to southeast trade winds. However, there was a low pressure system coming our way, and over the course of a couple of days, the winds were going to clock through the entire spectrum of directions. We would also receive very squally weather with the system.

Since the atoll is about 12 miles long from northwest to southeast, any strong winds that blew from a northerly direction would cause the waves to build across the lagoon in our direction. We knew the wind change was coming, but we decided to stay in the southeast anchorage on a wait-and-see basis.

I woke early in the morning to the wind howling. Wil was still sound asleep, so I went to check the conditions outside. It was blowing 30 knots, and our anchor chain was stretched straight out. We were in about 15 feet of water and stern to a bunch of large coral heads and the beach right behind the coral. With every gust of wind, we pulled closer the coral. There was only potential for disaster.

I got Wil out of bed, so we could talk about our options. The wind was currently out of the north to northeast. We knew we should really head for the village at the northeast end, but the wind would continue to clock around to the northwest, then we would again be exposed. After much indecision, we finally decided to re-anchor in deeper water further away from the shore. We hauled up the anchor and did just that. In the meantime, while some boats decided to sit tight and weather the storm, there were several boats already making a dash for the village.

Over the next couple of hours, the wave fetch began to increase, and the boats were really starting to yank on their anchors. The wind wasn’t even completely around to the north and northwest yet. Things were going to get a lot worse, so we finally made the decision to move northward. As we were pulling away, s/v Yindee Plus radioed over to ask if we were “tucking tail and running.” No! No! We were just going to find a better place to anchor.

As we headed north toward the village, we were still not feeling right about the northwest exposure of the village anchorage. I was constantly looking for other options, and decided to head slightly out of the way towards a little, lone motu (Motu Toe Toe). As we neared the tiny island, Wil agreed that we should give it a try.

We came in close to scope out the anchoring situation. The island itself offered protection from the north. While we wouldn’t be protected from the northwest wind, there was a shallow reef that extended out from the island providing protection from the northwest wave fetch. We knew we would be fine with the wind, so less wave fetch was the priority. We tucked up behind Motu Toe Toe and sat back to watch the show.

Motu Toe Toe ~ our own little piece of refuge

Suddenly, over the VHF we heard that there was trouble. Yindee Plus had their windlass pull right out of their deck (the bolts had sheared off completely, and it was left hanging only by the electrical cables), and their Rocna anchor was twisted like a piece of scrap metal. The weather was too horrible to trust anchoring with their spare anchor, so they needed to leave Kauehi immediately and sail forTahiti, a two-day sail away! Next, we heard Interlude on the radio. They’d broken their bowsprit. Their bow roller was non-functional, and they were unable to anchor. The Interlude girls would also have to immediately exit forTahiti. Sailing out into squalls with 40 knots of wind was the lesser of two evils for Yindee Plus and Interlude. We all felt badly for them.

The wave fetch in the southeast anchorage had gotten so bad, and when both boats had tried to lift anchor, they found their anchor chains wrapped around coral heads. Every time their bows went up with the waves, there was no give from the chain, and their boats received damage. s/v Liward had waves breaking around them, but they were able to get their anchor up without any damage and head for the north end.

It didn’t take long before all of the other boats that had raced to the village anchorage were now moving out again. A local boat was moving around the corner from the village, and everyone was following him. They all tucked in near the main shore just south of the village. s/v Somerset33 came from the southeast anchorage and tucked in next to us behind our little motu.

looking from our motu, towards the other boats hiding out from the storm

Even though the weather was stormy, and we were over a mile away from the rest of the boats, Steve (s/v Liward) had Colin over for some guitar instruction. Wil took Colin over to Liward, and when they arrived, there was a “School of Rock” sign hanging from their dodger. Colin spent a couple of hours with Steve learning 48 new guitar chords, and a couple of new songs. Many thanks to Steve for all his time spent with Colin! Colin will be forever grateful.

We all hunkered down for the stormy night. As each squall passed, the wind would howl and slightly change direction. We had our AIS anchor watch turned on, and I slept with the iPad next to my pillow. Every time the wind picked up, I’d look at our position on the Navionics app, see that we were still in position, and fall back to sleep.

The next morning brought a new and beautiful calm. After a bit of remaining rain, the clouds parted, and the wind subsided, returning to its prevailing southerly direction. It was safe to return to the southeastern anchorage and resume where we left off in this tropical paradise.

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