We decided to sail to this atoll after abandoning our original plan to stop at Raroia atoll because the wind was unfavorable for that landfall. Kauehi was a good second choice: It has only one navigable pass, but it’s an easy one for coral pass first-timers, which we were. Initially, we anchored in the southeastern part of the lagoon. After about a week in this fairly isolated anchorage, the weather and wind changed and we moved to the northeastern part of the lagoon to anchor close to the village, Tearavero. We had better protection from the wind and chop there.
The small motu off of which we anchored. A motu is a small island. These are areas of the atoll’s reef that are high enough to have vegetation growing on them. We walked around this one in about an hour. Larger motus can have villages on them, and sometimes air strips. Most of an atoll is submerged reef, however.
Ashore on motu. A delightfully easy beach landing after the Marquesas. Velic is in the background.
Beach “sand.” These shells, and broken coral, make up the white part of the beach.
Close up of “sand”
Walking around the motu. This is the beach along the channel between two motus, looking toward the ocean. Most of these channels are shallow and have strong current flowing in and out with the tide. A deeper and wider version of this is what we came through to enter the lagoon.
This is the shell of some creature in the sea urchin family, similar to a sand dollar but shaped like a football instead of being flat.
Looking out from the ocean side of a motu. You do NOT want to approach an atoll from THIS side!
More views of the ocean side. Another, smaller, motu in the distance.
Another channel between motus. Looking toward the ocean.
Thousands of these hermit crabs on the motu, ranging in size from smaller than your little fingernail to about as big as your clenched fist.
An example of the interior vegetation growing on a motu. There’s not much soil, but a surprising variety of plants and trees can grow on the larger motus.
A chunk of natural “concrete” on the beach. This is a naturally formed aggregate of shells, coral and sand and is quite hard, almost as hard as actual concrete. Another reason to avoid the rough side of atolls if you’re in a boat.
Lots of these little moths or butterflies in the brush. Lots of other insects, too, of course. But Ruth was captivated by the colorful spot pattern on these moths’ wings, so Randy took a closeup.
We spotted a tree house near a fishing shack on the nearest motu. It was a nice place to hang out for a bit, in the shade and the breeze during the hottest part of the afternoon.
Randy, cutting into a coconut.
We brought water and snacks from the boat when we went ashore, but Randy couldn’t resist cutting down a fresh coconut or two!
Plastic trash. We find plastic trash on every beach. Mostly bottles, but other stuff too.
Randy sailing the dinghy around the anchorage.
And then the weather changed …
After about a week, the weather changed and the wind started to back from SE to the E and then to the N. Our anchorage became uncomfortable and looked to become unsafe, so we decided to pull up the anchor and move to the village anchorage, which offered some protection from the forecast winds.
The inter island freighter Mareva Nui approaching us soon after we had anchored off the village. We had been here only a couple of hours when the freighter showed up, steaming toward us. We weren’t sure how close it would come and whether we would need to move or not, but it anchored just beyond us and we got to watch the crew off load cargo and lighter it ashore. It was our evening’s entertainment.
Offloading cargo onto a flat barge that was powered by a couple of large outboard engines. This barge then motored to the village wharf, where cargo was put ashore. We wrote about this process in an earlier blog post.
Taking cargo ashore on the barge.
We soon rowed our dinghy ashore to explore the village.
The main street for the village. Notice the large black tanks, these two yet to be installed; every dwelling has two or more of these above-ground “cisterns” to collect rainwater from the roof gutters. Rain water is the only source of water for these dry atolls.
The small concrete wharf serving the village on Kauehi. Behind Ruth in the distance is a structure that is part of one of several pearl farms in this lagoon.
Notice the satellite disk behind the water cisterns. Roof gutters all lead to cisterns. Most houses, even the most modest, have satellite TV.
A new roof for the village mairie, or town hall. This village also had a nice school and a small health clinic.
Two very small stores, called “magasins” served the village. In them you could find a limited selection of canned and dry foods, some basic household supplies, and freezers with some packages of meat, vegetables, and ice cream. A few times a week you would find fresh eggs. No fresh produce, though a surprising bit of Americana once in a while.
Work boats typically are suspended under cover like this one, where they can easily be lowered into the water. Some boats are just pulled ashore, but most are stored like this.
A small outdoor chapel at one end of the road through the village. For some reason, we didn’t get a photo of the main village church, which was built in the 19th century of coral blocks.
The weather remained unstable for several more days, with winds from the wrong direction. We waited until we had a forecast of favorable winds to sail on to Papeete on the island of Tahiti.