Rangiroa Cruising Notes: First impressions

8 May

We arrived in Rangiroa last week after our long 20 day passage against wind and waves from Hawaii. Rangiroa’s palm tree line was a welcome sight, and after waiting for a couple of hours outside the pass for slack tide we entered Tiputa pass following another catamaran that seemed to have the local knowledge. There were several dive Zodiacs outside the pass zooming back and forth and picking up their drift dive customers, but none were answering our requests for conditions in the pass on VHF so we figured if the catamaran can make way against the current that was still flowing out, we should be able to as well. A dolphin came to play in our wake as we braved the rip tides and after a short fight against a 3 knot current we were inside the calm, gorgeous sparkling blue lagoon.

Rangiroa, Rangi for short as the locals call it, is the second biggest atoll in the world and the largest in the Tuamotu archipelago and it spans 50 miles from East to West and 15 miles North to South. It is large enough that we can not see the other edge, the interior lagoon looks like a calm, flat sea behind our anchorage. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Tuamotus due to its famous pass dive sites where one can float with the current and observe the many species of pelagics traveling in and out of the lagoon pass. Rush hour here consists of sharks, dolphins, mantas and a myriad of reef fish.

The French Polynesia guide book touts Rangiroa as ‘the happening place’ in the Tuamotus, with the promise of everything one might need within reach: restaurants, bars, stores, diesel refueling, post office, banks, internet. Turns out the guide book was more optimistic/enthusiastic than realistic when describing the services available. We spent two days searching long and wide for the fabled WDG internet hotspot – we couldn’t locate it, and the locals smiled politely and told us the internet doesn’t ‘work so well here’ since the satellite uplink is less than reliable. So this blog post comes to you via our satellite uplink and will have to wait for the pretty pictures when we get to Papeete in a week or two.

We anchored off the Kia Ora resort, in the lee of the barrier island and a Motu which is supposed to have fantastic snorkeling. Kia Ora is one of those fancy over-the-water bungalow resorts so popular in French Polynesia, with a nice dock where we can pull the dingy to enjoy umbrella drinks at their bar while admiring our boat swinging at anchor and looking as the fish swimming under the clear cut-outs in the floor. After days of rough sailing it was a welcome break for both the boat and the crew. It’s such a treat to have a flat anchorage with only the occasional wake from a dive boat – almost like being back in a marina! Not to mention it’s one of the most beautiful water I have ever seen, with shades of deep blue water surrounded by gin light blues and vibrant greens on shore.

First order of business was checking into the country, which went seamlessly once we found the Gendermerie after a two hour walk half-way down the only road traversing the barrier island between Tiputa and Avatoru. It would have been an easier walk if we had anchored by the airport and used the dingy dock there, but we didn’t have our bearings yet. We also found one of the two banks on the island next to the airport to get some cash, and then got to work to clean up the boat after the long passage.

Three weeks in the moist salty air around the Equator, with squalls and salt water washing over every day had found every possible leak in our windows and was starting to take its toll. It was a race against time to prevent mold from taking over, and we had to throw away a bunch of clothes, shoes, and bedding that got ruined in the process. The water maker and washing machine were going on non-stop for three days and Bella Marina got a well deserved deep clean and shine. We still have some chores to do, including mending a tear in the main and repairing the generator which unfortunately took on too much of a salt bath, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We found the main town, Avatoru, on the other edge of the barrier island and proceeded to the Post Office in search of local phone cards and internet. The town is about 4 blocks long and 2 blocks wide, with dusty roads and everything closed for lunch and siesta between 11:30 and 3:00 PM which was a bummer because we got there at 11:00. A local guy took pity on us and gave us a ride in his pickup truck to the gas station, but is had closed early. Tampis… Come back later? At the Post Office a poster from 2012 was advertising 3G internet over the cell phone network, but the lady at the counter told me my newly acquired Vini card did not have internet. Or international calling… How about the WiFi hotspot? Not today, the satellite link is down. Any idea when it will be back up? Shrug, it’s been on and off for months so not sure.

Giving up on internet, we fought the tide current in the dingy to go back to the boat and wait until the gas station opened again. The gorgeously clear waters around the boat were alive with schools of fish and grey tip sharks (these are the friendly type) so we watched the show for a while then headed into a beach we scoped out next to the gas station to refill our jerry jugs. We made friends with the local family playing on the beach and gave the kids a ride in the dingy before heading back with our diesel jugs filled.

The anchorage off Avatoru is very exposed to wind and fetch so we headed back to the Kia Ora spot and re-anchored close enough to the resort to enjoy both the use of the dock and the gorgeous clear water perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

We had a couple of days of squalls and rain, but the weather is supposed to start clearing tomorrow and planning to start checking out some of the world famous dive and snorkeling spots around here, while tackling some of the remaining chores that need to be done before heading to Tahiti.

Maururu for reading, and Aloha from Octavia and Petter

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