All kite surfing photos by Mark & michelle Graves - S/V Cheers

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Day 1,827 - Toau, Tuamotus (16° 57.8S 145° 52.2W)
16:49hrs - May 31st 2012
High Five, Dudes!

Ordinarily cruisers don't particularly enjoy sailing upwind, especially if it's gusting to twenty knots, as it usually results in a rough, wet and noisy ride.
But for three days that's all I've been doing - sailing up wind, and I've loved every second of it.

We're anchored in the southeastern corner of Toau, a mostly uninhabited atoll, one that's quiet and secluded. There is no village down here, no hotels, no tourists, no shops or stores, just a few rusty corrugated shacks nestled away amongst the palm trees which are occupied only when there are coconuts to harvest. But southern Toau, we've discovered, is a kite surfing heaven.

It's a spot where east-southeast tradewinds blow steady and undisturbed over a flat reef, the lagoon is sheltered from waves, the water is warm, shallow and mostly clear of reef and rock, where there are numerous sandy beaches to launch and land, and it's where I have finally learned (much to the relief of my dinghy rescue mate, Chris) how to properly kite surf - to sail up wind.

There are five of us here carving white wakes across the lagoon and weaving colorful patterns across the sky, and it has been glorious. Our cruising friends on Namaste, Nomad, Nauticam, Estrellita and Cheers are all kite surfers of varying levels of experience, and over the last week we've probably all given more high fives than a group our age really should, and perhaps used words like 'awesome', 'gnarly' and 'chaar' a little too much. But when the kite surfing is this good and you're having this much fun, who cares!

Tomorrow we'll sail away and our friendly flotilla of yachts will scatter in the wind - one will be hauling their boat in the next week and flying home, two are bound for New Zealand via Tahiti, and another Australia. Who knows if we'll ever share the same waypoint again, or if the five of us will kite surf together, probably not, but I really hope that we do, because it's been one totally awesome and gnarly ride, dudes!

 
 




 


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Day 1,818 - Fakarava, Tuamotus (16° 06.6S 145° 36.5W)
17:22hrs - May 22nd 2012
Good Company

It's busy season here in the Tuamotus, which is a change of pace for Catherine and I, as cruising for us
is usually a rather quiet and mellow affair. We take it slow - island time on Dream Time - when we drop
the hook we don't consider raising it again for weeks.

But recently it's been all go. Not only are the reef passes full with more sharks than usual (last week we counted, OK, guessed, close to three hundred gray sharks in one dive) something to do with the lunar cycle I've been told. But the marbled grouper will soon be spawning here, too - thousands of them will
be crowding into the lagoons (which probably has more to do with the booming shark population).

And then there are the 'puddle-jumpers', a community of cruisers who are making their annual migration west across the Pacific. Flotillas of yachts of all shapes and sizes arriving in the Tuamotus, on their way
to New Zealand or Australia, as we were in 2009. Colorful flags representing countries from around the world are snapping in the trades: French, English, Canadian, Italian, American, Dutch, Australian - like a UN conference. Anchorages that we've had completely to ourselves are now full, and VHF channel 16 a constant stream of hails. In south Fakarava, one of our favorite spots in the Tuamotus, there were recently twelve sailboats, one mega yacht and two luxury motor cruisers anchored on the eastern and western sides of the pass.

So each day there's a flurry of activity with our cruising neighbors: Namaste, Nomad, Nauticam, Cheers, Estrellita. If the wind is soft we scuba. If the trades are steady we kite surf. If fresh supplies are getting a little low we spear fish and hunt for lobster. And in the evening we all crowd around a beach fire, cooking dinner over an open flame, drinking whatever we can find and swapping stories of sailing, old lives and new horizons.

Very soon many of these boats will be leaving for Tahiti, and then sailing further west, bound for the distant islands of Cook, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. The anchorages here will feel empty without them, and we'll be sad to see them leave. But for now, even though our schedule is a little more hectic than we're used to, we're enjoying all the good company.




 



Quick Fix: 16° 30.94 S / 145° 27.82 W

May 16th 2012 (day 1,812)
Conditions:  Wind: 8/ESE     Sky: Clear
                    Boat SPD: 0   (Anchored)

A Perfect Anchorage
Dream Time is anchored, or moored to an anchor, an old ships anchor to be precise, that we found at the bottom
of pass Tumakohua in Fakarava. Encrusted in coral and home to some colorful little reef fish, the anchor, which must weigh a few thousand pounds, lays in twenty feet of water
on the very edge of what is arguably one of the best drift dive channels in all of the Tuamotus.
It's a perfect spot - one where we have an ocean view out the pass, and can literally roll off the boat, snorkel over fields of crackling coral, and dive with hundreds of circling gray sharks riding the tides.
An even though we only have a 1:1 scope, we're not going anywhere, well, at least for a while.





 
 


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Day 1,804 - Tahanea, Tuamotus (16° 58.1S 144° 35.8W)
15:01hrs - May 8th 2012
360° x 60 minutes = 21,600 Nautical Miles

All the way round the world, that's the plan and all the way round, as the crow flies, is 21,600 miles.
By end of day tomorrow we will have reached that magic number, and in theory could be back home in New York. But we are actually only about halfway there, still in French Polynesia, on the other side of the world entirely from New York, but if getting home was the goal, then I feel like I’m already there.

By mile 21,600 we will be in Fakarava, a now familiar destination for us. We will be at the village in the north re-provisioning for another month of exploring the Tuamotus, searching for the perfect remote anchorage, with the prettiest beach and the best snorkeling. We are slowly discovering all the loveliest parts of the Tuamotus and as we sail from atoll to atoll it all feels as familiar and comfortable as weekend sailing in the Long Island Sound used to, except better.

We have been on this voyage for almost 5 years now and it feels like home. All of it - boat life, the ever changing languages, countries, cultures and people, from the most remote uninhabited atoll to the busiest city, it’s all home now. 

New York will always be home home, but I think after our 21,600 miles and 1,804 days, and despite not actually getting all the way round yet, we made it, we’re home.