Un requin (shark) -- the dorsal fin doesn't show up well in this pic, but its tip is black, in contrast to the sandy tan color of the shark's body. Hence the name black-tipped shark.

Un requin (shark, in French) — the dorsal fin doesn’t show up well in this pic, but its tip is black, in contrast to the sandy tan color of the shark’s body. Hence the name black-tipped shark. You can see a bit of  black at the tip of the ventral fin, in the lower left corner.

Sat 7 May – Shortly after we had the anchor down and well set a little to the north of what cruisers call Kon Tiki Island, a couple of cruisers came over in a dinghy to greet us and invite us to a pot-luck beach barbeque on Kon Tiki beach later in the day. We didn’t have much in the way of BBQ material on board, but Matt put together a huge pot full of chicken and rice stuff. The gathering proved most pleasant and convivial — good company and conversation around a nice little fire — and we saw some people we had met in the Marquesas and also met several other boats.

Sun 8 May – Had some good snorkeling in a shallow little lagunita a little south of Kon Tiki Island and just to the north of the next motu down. Several coral colonies, each with several types of coral growing, and quite a few different kinds and shapes of brightly colored fish. I don’t know the names of any of the coral or fish species but could easily identify at least six or eight different types of coral and a dozen different fish. And, of course, black-tipped sharks, the biggest about 4 feet long. I’ve been told black-tipped sharks, which abound here, are among the least aggressive shark species, nevertheless, I decided to bring that snorkeling session to an end.

On the to-do list is snorkeling the pass, where the coral is more abundant and the fish population is much larger. The technique is to figure out when low-water slack occurs, that is, when the water is not moving through the pass in either direction, then dive/swim just as the incoming tide starts to create a little current moving from the ocean into the lagoon. You can tether yourself to your dinghy or not; either way you just drift through the pass on the current, move around a bit to see what you want to see more closely, then once in the lagoon clamber into the dinghy and head back out to the upstream (ocean) end of the pass for another lap. Three or four laps usually is plenty, and after a few laps the current typically picked up to a couple of knots or more anyway.

I did pick up a few coconuts from the beach. Man, is it a lot of work to get the husk off!

This is a really a pretty spot, a good anchorage, especially in SE winds (which we haven’t really seen any of yet). Unclear how long we’ll stay in Raroia. I’m wondering how different one atoll could be from another, in the same way that after a while many of the San Blas islands in Panama start looking like one another. Our FP visa expires on July 12, so that’s the hard stop.

A day or two later: Moved south along east side of lagoon to the southernmost motu. Someone at helm; someone standing lookout on the bow. Just to the south it looks as though you could sail right through and out to the ocean, but that would be a big mistake: the reef is continuous though there are no motus along that stretch and would quickly destroy a boat.

Walked around the reef, from the lagoon out to the edge of the incoming tide on the ocean side. Perhaps 500 yards across lava rock and coral at that point. Looks completely barren, like a Mars-scape, but it’s anything but barren. Far more biomass there, where the ocean meets the rock and coral and where trees and vegetation grow to within yards of the salt water, than on land. Saw lots of eels, seemingly the first wave of visible marine creatures to ride the tide in.

Found some strange white waxy stuff – smells and feels just like wax – speculating that it might come from a whale. Whale barf, other whale excretion? Who knows? Speculation is that it could be ambergris, possibly worth tens of thousands of dollars. [Several weeks later: The stuff was conclusively determined to not be ambergris. Tant pis (more’s the pity).]

Lots of sharks here – sometimes as many as six or eight at a time swimming around the boat. Once when I was working the dinghy off shore, a curious black-tipped shark, about 4 feet long, came right over to investigate what was going on.

It’s a very powerful, primal setting – I had the same feeling at the edge of the reef here as I had in a few places in the Galápagos during my 2010 visit: with the tidepools and sun and vitality of the ocean, these are the sorts of places where, billions of years ago, life could have originated.

A few days later still: Moved anchorage again, a mile or two farther along the same shore, on the eastern edge of the lagoon. Slightly different beachscape/coconut grove setting and reefscape, but nothing dramatically different. We’ve had a pleasant amount of breeze, in the 10-15 kt range, for the last two or three days. Despite our having moved around some at anchor, when we started hauling in the chain it came up with only one extra maneuver – at one point we had to let a bit back out and maneuver the boat slightly to one side, to move the chain away from a bommie and ensure that it wouldn’t snag.

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