Re: some questions--sailing among coral reef atolls



My wife and I cruised thru the South Pacific from 1985 thru 1987
(not on our Amel but our first sailboat which was a 37' Searunner
trimaran). I believe that to navigate successfully among the coral
heads you'll have to rely mainly on your eyeballs. Since the waters
will be very clear, getting a bit aloft in the rig would be great.
Here are also a couple of other points to consider:
1. Have polarized sunglasses on to help see thru the glare of the
water surface.
2. Time your entrance thru the reef pass so that the sun is high
overhead, or even better, when the sun is bit behind you. Also
applies to traveling inside the lagoons.
3. Glassly or calm seas make it pretty hard to see what's below the
4. Atolls with passes on their east side may be especially dangerous
due to the unimpeded ocean swells hitting the outgoing tidal stream.
You may want to pick the islands/atolls that have entrances on the
northern or western side for an easier go. For example, Raiora in
the Tuamotus was easy as was Suvarov in the Cooks.
5. Time your entrance with the tide to minimize the ebb current flow
you'll be fighting at the pass. I don't think many (if any) atolls
have flood tides--just varying strengths of ebb tides.
6. Remember that if the water ahead of you is brownish (it's a coral
head) then expect to see less than 3 feet of water.
7. I have uploaded in the FILES section an article from an old Ocean
Navigator that covers coral reef navigation.

We saw no shortage of wind anywhere in the Pacific (other than off
the Mexican mainland coast in winter). I don't think you'll have to
worry about motoring across!

Best regards,
Richard Tate
SM#5 "Spice"

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