Snapped mooring!!

The common sense rule is, “don’t use moorings… unless locals say it is good.” After this fateful night, we’ve changed it to — “don’t trust anyone’s opinion, always dive down to inspect the mooring; and never fail to run a secondary line!”

Here’s what happened. Locals had told us that our anchor spot outside the pass in Faaite was tenuous – if the wind changed to the north, it could swing the boat into the shallow reef. They were adamant: “The mooring in the pass is more safe! Even our cargo boat uses it!”

We weren’t concerned, but we decided to give their mooring a shot for a few hours in our last afternoon in Faaite… for a change of scenery.

We motored up to the mooring and were instantly sketched out. The current was flowing out of the pass like a fast river at 3.5 knots. We attached our line to their mooring loop. Normally we would have run a secondary line but nobody was very keen to get in the ripping current… you get it?! Ripping current?

Aldebaran jackknifed dramatically from the unusual forces. We debated the situation and decided I would stay on board while crew did their final chores in town. “At least the view is good,” I grumbled, and access was easy for the dinghy.

Well, one thing led to another and we decided to spend the night. Sabrina was not pleased with this and we should have listened to her intuition. But the argument was that even if the mooring failed, the strong current would simply sweep us out to sea. Not very comforting, ultimately, so we set various anchor drag and depth alarms to advise us of any changes in our location.

At 1am, the alarms went off!! Beep beep beep!!!

Michael was sleeping in the cockpit bunk and woke us up quickly, and we jumped to action, as Aldebaran drifted freely through the pitch black pass, with waves on either side! A very scary moment !!

In the first 10 seconds, it was disorienting to figure out where we were, with the confusing town lights, and our sleepy eyes. I was about to drop the anchor in the 60ft water to give us a moment; but by then Sabrina had turned on the engine and we had developed a sense that the current and wind were indeed just sending us harmlessly towards the open ocean — as we had hoped.

(The current in Faaite’s pass is nearly always outgoing, with only rare times calm or incoming; and the predominant trade wind also blows out to sea.)

We motored outside the pass and re-anchored in the dark at our old location. Next, we inspected the line still attached to our bow. The mooring loop was intact, but its line had snapped right through the middle due to the heavy load of Aldebaran in pulsating current.

This failure came as quite a surprise: usually lines break at chafe points or knots, not in their mid section. This was indeed a “cheap lesson” — always attach the secondary line further down, ideally to a solid shackle. If the current is too strong to do so, well, consider moving to another place. 😉

We felt fortunate to escape unscathed from that terrible situation, which could have resulted in a shipwreck. Shaken up, we tried to get some sleep before departing the next day, heading north to the atoll of Apataki.

The Great Dog-Tooth Tuna Hunt


 Johnny and Alex were sunburnt, sweaty, and tired of the outboard’s whine; and still no fish to show for the long day’s efforts of trolling the pass for tuna. They were getting a little… “fish-trated”. 

Solution: Ask the locals! 

Folks in the village of Faaite told us to meet Bruno. Turns out he is a champion spearfisherman from Tahiti who moved here two years ago. On their first outing, Bruno took the fellas to coral bommies inside the lagoon. Michael and Ben speared several beautiful groupers, without much problem from the blacktip sharks patrolling the area. 


Chef Boy MC hunting for grouper in the lagoon.


The real prize, however, was in the pass: Bruno took them to his favorite spot to hunt for the powerful dog-tooth tuna. The tide was perfect and they got lucky: there were no dangerous gray reef sharks (raira), and big tuna were spotted; although the fish were coy and kept their distance at first. 


Underwater perspective of the anchored dinghy and the crew taking turns spearfishing. In the tuamotos the rule is to spearfish with a buddy always to help disable the fish with a second shot (if its big) and to help haul in the float line that’s attached to the speargun. The spearfisherman moves away from the wounded fish in case sharks come to chase it down.


Then suddenly Alex saw a big tuna split from the school and circle back. He dove down and was incredulous: the tuna had approached and turned sideways, as if “presenting” itself for the hunter. Alex took a long shot… it hit the target!! Using his experience, Bruno had seen the situation evolve and was diving close behind Alex; within a few seconds he took a secondary shot to make sure the fish was quickly killed. This was important because the wounded fish would otherwise run and fight, attracting sharks from far and wide. 

The two spear guns tips,

now firmly embedded in the tuna 30 feet deep, were attached to the dinghy, which was anchored in the pass. Ben jumped aboard and hauled up on the lines with Johnny’s help, getting tangled in the chaos, but nevertheless with the team’s efforts the fish was landed within 25 seconds. Huge success!!!  


a solid fish!! Ben, Johnny, Alex, and Michael celebrate putting food on the table


“You got very lucky, no sharks!” said Bruno.  Yes, we got lucky… did I mention Bruno was a restaurant chef and filleted the fish in record time, with sashimi being cut before sunset? 

Now we dined with Bruno, who had never visited a cruising sailboat, or taken foreigners spearfishing for that matter… for the next few days we ate like kings and queens on sushi, grilled fish, seared tuna salads, and fish cakes for days… 


Bruno and Alex with the prize dog-tooth tuna


Thanks to Bruno for helping to re-stock our fridge and breaking our dry spell!!


Faaite’s Beautiful Reef

Sometimes there are hidden jewels in no-name places.. We sailed with the fellas back to Faaite, which is outside the tourist circuit, only 12nm across the channel from famous Fakarava, an atoll that attracts divers from all over the world.

We enjoyed gorgeous snorkeling in the shallows outside Faaite, with no one around. Sometimes it is lovely to have a spot to yourself even if it isn’t ” the ultimate ” destination.. it becomes ours when we explore and find something special on our own.

Sunrise departure? No worries. 

Silhouette of a motu, one of the land pieces that surround an atoll, before sunrise.

Leaving an atoll right at sunrise – in low light conditions in general – is a rare treat. Since we were anchored outside the pass in Faaite, we were able to simply pick up the anchor and head into the open ocean.

 We left early to spend time in Fakarava, one of the most famous atolls in French Polynesia, for the last few days of the visit by our dear friends Matt, Diyana, and Melanie.

There was no navigating treacherous lagoons with coral bommies; no dealing with weird currents in reef passes. Just hoist sail and watch the depth sounder quickly drop from 50 feet to 2000 feet deep in a matter of minutes. There’s no risk of running aground as you sail away into impossibly deep water…

The coronel at the bow after hoisting anchor, looking out at the horizon. Fakarava is just 12 nautical miles from Faaite, a two hour trip if we are averaging 6 knots.