With 77 atolls sprawled over 130,000 nautical miles in the South Pacific east of Tahiti, the Tuamotu Archipelago is a stunning ocean treasure. It’s also dangerous.

I am just about to drop the anchor in 9m of jewel-like water in Tahanea Atoll, another perfect gumdrop in French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Archipelago, when I spot three black-tip sharks circling OCEAN, our Dolphin 460 cruising cat. Silly thoughts follow: What are they doing here? What do they want? And why now when we are in the middle of anchoring?

A half-boatlength ahead, Harriet is in the water in fins and mask, scanning for a sandy patch among a seabed peppered with coral bommies. Suddenly she signals drop here. I jump from the helm to the foredeck and press the ‘down’ button on the windlass, rust chips flying as the chain rattles out. The 20-knot trade winds blow OCEAN back quickly. I’m clipping anchor floats onto the chain, every 10m, as 50m feet of chain pays out. When I scuttle back to the wheel and throttles, I hear a cry from Harriet: “TL! Can you keep an eye on me? There’re sharks over here!”

The route OCEAN took through the archipelago


I stand watch on the cabintop as she swims back to OCEAN, her head swivelling 360 degrees. I’m watching for sharks so I can – what? Jump in? Launch the dinghy? The dinghy is in the davits. The men in the grey suits disappear just as Harriet hauls herself onto the port swimstep.

There’s nothing like a visit from Tuamotus sharks to punch up your adrenalin level. Maybe they sense a vibration, our primal fear. Other cruisers have told us: Hey, don’t worry. Sharks are not interested in your skinny kicking legs and fluttering swim fins. You don’t look, smell, or move like prey. Well, thanks to Stephen Spielberg, Peter Benchley, and Jaws, we are pretty much ruined when it comes to sharks. But during our two months in the Tuamotus, where beauty means danger, sharks became just another wonderment of a stunning immersion into nature.

The Archipel des Tuamotus, a territory of French Polynesia, stretches 780 nautical miles northwest, from 19° to 15° South, and features 77 atolls and in reefs. The Marquesas island group lies about 420 miles to the northeast; Tahiti is about 170 miles southwest. Back in 1988 when we crossed the South Pacific in freelance, our 28-foot Bristol Channel Cutter, we’d visited Rangiroa, the largest atoll of the Tuamotus, where we were dazzled by the 25m water visibility and the dolphins leaping in the standing waves of the reef pass. But even though the Tuamotus are well-charted, back in those pre-GPS days we did not dare take our boat into the midst of the atolls. Like the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British voyagers of hundreds of years ago, we saw a labyrinth of potential disaster.

In good light, Tuamotu atolls become barely visible about eight miles away – a faint greenish fuzz of coconut palms. Lights and navigational aids are exceedingly rare. The atolls are nearly steep-to, with 350m to 800m depths that shelve sharply immediately before the reef. Unpredictable currents trickle and swirl among the atolls. Reef passes into the atolls are only safely navigable with the right combination of visibility (no overcast, sun behind you, never at night) and current (more than 2-3 knots with or against you can be dangerous).

A manta ray at Tahanea

Armed with our paper charts of the Tuamotus from 1988, our near-new Raymarine chartplotter and multiple backup GPS handhelds, a 48-mile radar mounted at the spreaders, and two 40hp diesels turning three-bladed folding props, we decided to delve deeper into the archipelago this time and visit a halfdozen atolls. We waited for a spate of southeast trade winds to back into the east, and we departed the Marquesan island of Ua Pou for the Tuamotus.

Forty-nine hours later OCEAN arrived off Rairoa Atoll to a sunrise surprise: water was rolling out of the pass at five knots. We hove-to, waited for good light, and re-consulted our tide tables and the Tuamotus Tide Guestimator, a useful tool in the Tuamotus Compendium (https://svsoggypaws. com/files/#frpoly), a searchable PDF of cruising reports compiled (and updated) by seasoned South Pacific cruisers. The Guestimator calculates slack water and maximum tidal flow in a given pass using inputs of lat/long position, local time and tidal data, and a Wind/Wave factor (estimated swell height, wind speed, direction, and duration).

On freelance, Harriet had consulted the moonrise tables of the Nautical Almanac (in those days we navigated by sextant and dead reckoning) to find the time of slack water – when the moon was directly underfoot or overhead, water flow in the pass was minimal. Of course, the Nautical Almanac could not account for the effect of swells and wind like the Guestimator. Even with this modern tool, we concluded that calculating the flow in a reef pass is still a bit of a black art. We entered the pass of Rairoa Atoll against two knots of current, and we kept the mainsail up, the jib ready to unroll, and the anchor ready to go should the engines die, or the props become fouled.

Fakarava Atoll, its shallow reef pass marked by sticks.

Once inside Rairoa Atoll, the feeling was, simply, amazing. A wide expanse of board-flat, gorgeous water in a million hues of blue. Motus of white sand and swaying coco palms stretching away to the far side of the lagoon. The whisper (or roar!) of the reef. And loads of coral bommies. Some atolls have trustworthy marked channels across the lagoon, but otherwise a constant lookout, with clear verbal and hand signals to the person on the helm, is mandatory. We transited the lagoon, 13 miles in 18m to 30m depths, past bommies rising to within a few feet of the surface, to the southeast side of Rairoa and joined a half-dozen cruising boats anchored in the lee of a motu.

Courtesy of a friend of an island friend of an island uncle and two island aunties, we joined a pot-luck picnic at a shack near a cut in the reef. Out came the food, the drink, the fiddle, the guitars, and the ukeleles, as a pet pig, a dog, and a fiveyear-old boy circled around our feet. During the course of this afternoon, we made new cruising friends, learned a few phrases of Tahitian, and realized that in French Polynesia, ukeleles rule. Rairoa Atoll has a small airport but does not have a bustling tourist trade, and life has remained close to its Polynesian roots. People fish, cut copra, do some pearl farming. For many in the older generation, picking up a ukelele and singing is as natural as breathing. For over a week, we soaked in this special place.

We’d heard that Tahanea Atoll, a national park and seabird sanctuary about five atolls to the west, was a true treasure. The trick when going from one atoll to another is to time your departure and arrival when the reef passes are passable. We hatched a plan to leave Rairoa in late afternoon on a ‘go slow’ 100-mile overnighter, so we’d arrive at Tahanea in good light, when the pass would be ready (incoming tide). We plotted a course that would take OCEAN north of Taenga Atoll, around the west end of Makemo Atoll at about 0200, then between Katiu and Tuanake atolls, arriving at Tahanea around 0800. In theory, the trade winds would be less than 15 knots, the sea state slight, we’d have the chartplotter and handheld GPS units going, and we’d advance our position on our trusty paper charts.

Tahanea Atoll reef pass.

We left Rairoa, the sun promptly set, and we found that sailing among the Tuamotus on a moonless night is spooky. The darkness was the kind of darkness known as total darkness. We saw nothing the entire night but a sprinkle of masthead anchor lights on yachts in Makemo, poking above the palms. We had childlike faith in our digital position finders, but still – what if the GPS readouts were glitchy, a few miles off? We looked to our radar to add an element of reality to what otherwise was a video game delivered by satellites. The radar picked up the motus and the wrinkle of surf over the reefs, and with the chartplotter overlay selected, the radar helped confirm our position when it laid the radar return right over the chartplotter images. Which helped immensely as we eased through the six-mile gap between Katiu and Tuanake. We entered Tahanea’s Passe Teavatapu, deep, wide, and easy, in favourable light with a gentle one-knot incoming tide. Thank you, Guestimator.

Tahanea Atoll was lovely. A pristine 25-mile-long lagoon. Empty motus, nothing but sand and coconuts and coconut crabs. No tourists. No hotels. A few cruising boats. Manta rays gliding back and forth in the shallows of the pass. You think: After all the years of preparation, of sailing thousands of miles, well, here we are. Paradise. South Pacific Paradise. Yes, it really does exist. As the blight of fly-in tourism spreads across the globe, Tahanea Atoll, at least, may escape for a while.

We spent two weeks at Tahanea, revelling in one of modern life’s most underrated luxuries: time. What did we do with all that time? We read (see ‘The Things We Read’ sidebar), we sailed our dinghy, we went for walks on the motus, we tackled an odd job or two on the boat, and we drift-snorkelled the pass (motor the dinghy out the pass on an incoming tide, jump in the water, and the current takes you – and the dinghy – on a scenic ride back into the lagoon).

Next, we daysailed to Fakarava Atoll, National Geographicfamous for its diving, where we found that fly-in tourism had arrived. A modern airport has put the atoll on the bucket list of world travellers and put money in the pockets of dive shops and resorts. The main anchorage, packed with 50 yachts, feels like crunch time at the Bahamas. The flood of needy yachties is overloading the mom-and-pop magasins, and there’s a crowd rush when the supply boat comes in. That’s just what happens when a place becomes too popular, right?

Ukeleles rule! Rairoa pot luck dinner
Black-tip reef shark seen while snorkelling at Fakarava.

We headed next for Kauehi Atoll, hoping to find a laid-back respite. And we did (the atoll has only recently been opened to tourism). Kauehi is not only beautiful but also peaceful. We anchored well away from Tearavero, the village, and discovered, as at Tahanea, that we had no internet connection. Which was wonderful. No Facebook, no avalanche of awful news – no Trump, no school shootings, no inflation, no crazies with assault weapons, no Trump. We were hiding from the world. We had escaped, but we’d be back into the noise soon enough.

We could almost feel the people slipping away from Kauehi – abandoned homes, only one magasin, only fishing and copra, the supply ship maybe doesn’t come as often as it used to. If you grew up here, you’d go to Tahiti. And, strangely, Harriet and I began to feel the tug of Tahiti. Not that we wanted to go to Tahiti – we’d been there before, and we knew it was Civilization, with all of the usual thrills and ills. But we had a few things to attend to on OCEAN, and Tahiti has marine chandleries, hardware stores, sailmakers, riggers, and major supermarkets. But first, we needed to revisit Rangiroa Atoll, which had made such a powerful impression on us 35 years ago.

These days, it is not a good idea to return to a place you remember fondly, because things change. After a squally, bouncy overnight trip from Kauehi, we arrived at Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass – the first French Polynesia reef pass we’d ever experienced, so exciting, so dolphin-filled, so amazing. But now, every day, the pass is chockablock with dive boats, the tourists gawking at the dolphins. Several large, tourist-laden poweryachts came steaming out of the pass as we tried to go in. We made our way into the lagoon and found that 40 cruising boats had overstuffed the anchorage – last time, there were only three – and a four-star waterfront resort, with requisite overwater bungalows, had taken over the shore. Rangiroa Atoll was officially a Destination.

Anchored behind a motu at Fakarava.

We couldn’t leave the Tuamotus in such a disillusioned state. Our last stop would be Tikehau Atoll 45 miles to the west. Entering shallow Tuheiva Pass, where a 13m French sailboat had been thrown onto its beam ends on the edge of the coral, we anchored off an abandoned pearl farm, near a sleepy resort. After the frenetic pace of Rangiroa, Tikehau seemed relaxed and relaxing. No speeding dive boats. No blasting jet-skis. The tourism is low key. Possibly even affordable. But it was time to go. On to Tahiti! Only 162 miles.

The Tuamotus were outstanding. We felt grateful and privileged to be able to experience such oceanic riches. We hear that most of the atolls – after all, we’d only dipped our toes into six – remain largely untouched, and that their bird life and sea life continue to flourish. That includes our new friends, the black-tip sharks. BNZ

Dufour 44

Dufour has revealed the very first images of the new Dufour 44, announced at the 2023 Cannes Yachting Festival Press Conference.

The new 44-foot yacht is extending the work carried by the Dufour teams, naval architect Umberto Felci and designer Luca Ardizio since the launch of the Dufour 41.

It will offer the Dufour range even more light, more space and, of course, more innovations.


Southern Spars Technical Director

Southern Spars, is delighted to announce the newest addition to its leadership team, Bill Hughes, who will be joining in the position of Technical Director.

Bill’s extensive career encompasses aviation, the space industry and yacht racing, including three America’s Cups with Emirates Team NZ. He brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of driving technical excellence and innovation.

In this role, he will play a pivotal role in shaping the company's technical strategy and leading the development of cutting-edge solutions that will reinforce Southern Spars’ position in the industry.

Mark Hauser, General Manager of Southern Spars: “Bill will add tremendously to the already highly talented team and both Bill’s and Nick’s experience and professionalism will underline Southern Spars’ name for innovation and excellence in the sailing world.”


Sports Marine Nimbus Boats Global Dealer of the Year

At the 2023 Nimbus Boats annual dealer conference held in Croatia, Sports Marine was honoured to receive the Global Dealer of the Year award, surpassing 153 other dealers across 40 countries.

This award recognised Sports Marine's exceptional dedication, commitment, and success in promoting and selling Nimbus Boats, a brand renowned for its high-quality craftsmanship and innovative design in the boating world. Sports Marine has been Nimbus Boats dealers for the last six years and sold over 70 boats across Australia and New Zealand.

Sports Marine previously claimed the Global Dealer of the Year title in 2018.

Photo: Cameron Sutherland Sports Marine Sydney Sales Executive (right) and Max Sutherland Sports Marine Sydney Dealership General Manager (left), pictured with Nimbus Dealer of the Year Award standing on Nimbus C9.

Luxury brands hand-delivered

Luxury brands are enlisting with the Yachting Pages Delivers Service (YPD) to target the most prestigious superyachts in the world.

YPD’s service utilises established distribution networks, built and refined over the last 20 years, to deliver luxury gifts and marketing materials to superyachts at sea, in private marinas, and at international boat shows.

Nautical themed gins and rums, the world’s most luxurious toilet paper, Parisian perfumes, stainless steel soaps, glacial spring water – YPD delivers it all.

This year YPD has welcomed onboard Cartier, Stilla, and Huisman, which saw their gifts reach over 1500 superyachts in France, Spain, and Italy.

With clients including Porsche, Ferrari, Lurssen, Sunseeker, Lalique, Bvlgari and Sotheby’s, YPD’s goodie bags are eagerly anticipated.  The goodie bags also contained Yachting Pages Print, which is the world’s leading superyacht directory and the largest superyacht resource for yacht crew.

YPD is set to continue its service in Spain and Mallorca, Marseille to Elba, and Fort Lauderdale in the USA.


Adventure with Axopar

Eyachts Australia and New Zealand has announced the arrival of the Axopar 45 Cross Top and Sun Top models, redefining luxury adventure on the water.

At the stern, customisable layouts include the 'Open' configuration, offering a single lounge, or the 'U-Sofa' setup, featuring a U-shaped seating arrangement with an adjustable table perfect for dining, which transforms into a sun pad.

For overnighting, the additional 'Aft Cabin' configuration presents a sunbed with interior access via the cockpit. Or consider the 'Aft Wet Bar’ for alfresco BBQ socialising.

 In the cockpit, the main dining area is shaded beneath the sun top. The sofas accommodate 10 guests, and the 'Side Wings' provide even more seating. An internal wet bar and meal prep area is equipped with an induction cooktop, sink, and fridges. The helm station has two 16-inch Simrad displays, intuitive controls, and an integrated multifunction steering wheel, featuring trim tabs, bow thruster, and audio controls.

The Sunroof features a double-opening electric sunroof and ample headroom and. Both Axopar 45 models are equipped with three sets of roof racks for paddleboards, kayaks and more, while solar panels are an option. At the bow, there’s a spacious sun pad with the option to set up a table under the sun awning.

The forward cabin’s an extra-large double V-berth converts into an internal lounge and the fully equipped toilet and shower compartment has full headroom. Choose the 'Aft Cabin' configuration to double your sleeping capacity.

The windscreen configuration sets the Axopar 45 Cross Top and Sun Top models apart. The Cross Top’s windscreen connects to the sunroof, creating an enclosed helm area, while the sportier Sun Top’s sloped windscreen delivers a more wind-in-your-hair experience.

Axopar’s unique and innovative hull designs, the result of the collaboration between naval architect Jarkko Jämsén and Axopar, underpin their remarkable performance. This design not only provides unmatched stability, but also seamless handling and optimal fuel efficiency, even when facing demanding water conditions.

HanseYachts partners with Raymarine

Marine electronics manufacturer Raymarine has signed an OEM supply contract with HanseYachts, the world’s second-largest builder of sailing yachts.

Hanse who manufactures the popular Sealine and Moody Yachts brands are just the latest in a long line of top international boat builders choosing to partner extensively with Raymarine.

Using the recent Cannes Yachting Festival to unveil their new Hanse 410 fast cruiser, Hanse also took the opportunity to showcase Raymarine’s sophisticated new Performance Sailing system.

Combining Raymarine’s new Alpha Series display, Smart Wind Technology and RSW Series Wind sensors, with performance sailing upgrades to the company’s popular LightHouse operating system for Axiom chartplotters, the new system revolutionises tactical awareness and decision making for both club racers and cruising sailors.

Raymarine’s Performance Sailing products are available through Lusty and Blundell’s nationwide network of branches and leading marine dealers.

Oceanis 37.1: Sailing luxury

The Oceanis 37.1 is a breath-taking 37-footer that epitomises the cutting-edge design and engineering of the latest Oceanis cruiser generation.

The eighth model under the BENETEAU banner since 2017, this vessel showcases excellence in maritime innovation.

A collaboration between Marc Lombard and Nauta Design, the Oceanis 37.1 is a total re-design a beloved classic, the Oceanis 38.1. With a focus on elevated volume and enhanced performance, it successfully retains the hallmark user-friendliness that has defined the Oceanis series since 1986.

The Oceanis 37.1 surpasses expectations by redefining the possibilities of sailing luxury. Design, performance, and user-friendly elegance converge for an unparalleled sailing experience.

MAST VR showcase

Mast Academy NZ, the training centre for trades in the Marine, Composites and Textiles industries, has released its first virtual reality (VR) showcase for the marine industry.

To be used in schools, conferences and on career days, it has been carefully designed to offer a broad overview of the marine and composite sectors in a way that is engaging, realistic and authentic.

The new VR showcase is a part of MAST’s embrace of “edutainment”, a creative mix of education and entertainment that, until very recently, had only been available at wealthy universities and technology-rich schools.

The plan combines problem solving, understanding and scenario conceptualising in a way that appeals to hands-on apprentices who are used to working in practical working environments.

MAST is using highly engaging digital tools, videos, and augmented reality to recreate complex tasks, like dissecting an engine to study its parts. The combination of real-world experience and online study is proving a game-changer for the learning process and, according to Chris van der Hor.

“VR and AR [Augmented Reality] technologies are being integrated into all our workbooks and training resources and we are introducing interactive quizzes and 3D models for pre-assessment tasks and tests.

“This pioneering, blended delivery approach will enable us to create a more knowledgeable skilled workforce, ensuring a future filled with viable and profitable businesses for our marine and composites industries.”

Cule Marine acquires MarineXpress, Vibrastop

Cule Marine is a manufacturer of NZ-made aluminium boat hatches. Directors Scott and Ursula Hanson have recently acquired two more businesses, MarineXpress and VibraStop, which they have integrated into their existing operation in West Auckland.

“We are excited by the opportunity these brands present. Five years ago, we purchased Cule with the intention of strengthening the brand of New Zealand-made boat hatches by investing in manufacturing, technology and strong customer relationships.

“We intend to bring the same gusto to MarineXpress and VibraStop and we look forward to offering a wide selection of high quality, fit-for-purpose products backed by friendly, local service.”

Customers have access to the full product range through retailers and boat builders. or ph 09 835 9706

Palm Beach 52 Trans-Tasman delivery

Alexander Marine went the extra mile recently by delivering a 2021 Palm Beach 52 Sedan from Auckland to the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia – on her own bottom.

Alexander Marine are the exclusive dealer for Ocean Alexander Yachts and Galeon Yachts in Australia and New Zealand, specialising in the sale of new and premium brokerage motor yachts.

 Undertaken for the benefit of a repeat Alexander Marine and Palm Beach Motor Yacht owner, the delivery spanned 1,320 nautical miles. Alexander Marine sold the vessel some years ago and exported her from Australia to Auckland, so this was a homecoming for this immaculate vessel.

A crew of three were handpicked for the voyage. Departing Auckland, the four-day voyage took the vessel to the Bay of Islands, up around the tip of New Zealand, then northwest across the Tasman Sea to Lord Howe Island, where they took on fuel. The Palm Beach then embarked on its final 380nm run to the Gold Coast.

With careful weather planning the crew enjoyed good weather throughout the journey with generally calm seas, clear skies, and the light of a supermoon at night.

Sargo Boats for New Zealand

European Marine, the New Zealand agent for Spanish-built Sasga motor yachts, has recently added Finnish brand Sargo to its boat portfolio.

Sargo Boats traces its roots back to 1967, when boatbuilder Edy Sarin left Nautor Swan to build his own boats under the Minor brand, which became locally famous. In 2014 the family founded Sargo Boats and today three generations of Sarins produce around 100 boats a year, sold mainly within Scandinavia, especially in Norway and Sweden, but also exported to the UK and USA.

European Marine’s principal Leighton Henshaw explained that when he began looking around for another brand for the New Zealand market, Sargo ticked a lot of boxes. Tough, well made, fast, and designed for challenging Scandinavian boating conditions, Sargo’s range of all-seasons motor yachts struck him as the perfect fit for New Zealand boaters.

“These impressive boats are just right for New Zealand boating,” says Henshaw. “Solidly built and well specced from the factory, including bow thrusters as standard, they embrace the Scandinavian design ethic, with clean, functional exteriors, stylish interiors, and excellent use of space. They also look good and perform and handle really well.”

European Marine will focus on delivering four models from the Sargo range: a 31, a 33, a 36 and a European Boat of the Year nominee, the Sargo 45. The first boat, a Sargo 36, is due in New Zealand in November, with a 31 arriving in February next year, both in time for the Auckland Boat Show in March.

Although these will not be the first Finnish built boats to reach our shores, they are the first of this style of boat in Australasia, says Henshaw – proper weekenders with walkaround wheelhouses, dedicated bathrooms, and fully functional galleys.

European Marine will demonstrate the Sargo 36 out of Waikawa in the Marlborough Sounds following the boat show.

European Marine – Sargo and Sasga,