Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fakarava to Toau

I just sat down at the computer and turned on the fan that provides some relief from the heat. The breeze it created blew across some gardenias from last night's dinner party ashore, filling the nav station area with their sweet, tropical fragrance. More about last night later in this broadcast.

On Thursday, the supply ship arrived in Rotoava, the small village we were anchored off of. That is the social event of the week with people gathered and milling about as the cranes off load their provisions, fuel and the special-ordered items. The cruising guides caution that things like fresh produce will be gone within twelve hours of the ship's arrival and they were wrong - within four hours the pickings were pretty slim.

Even though the pass at the north end of Fakarava is very wide, we wanted to time our passage through there at slack water, which was supposed to be at 0600. This meant getting up at 0430 and getting the boat underway by 0500 - the problem being that it's still too dark at that hour to see coral heads. Fortunately, the channel from Rotoava to the pass is pretty well marked and we covered the five miles to the pass without incident, timing the pass crossing perfectly.

Since the wind had been blowing at 20+ knots for the last several days, we knew the seas would be big so we elected to go up the leeward side of Toau, giving us a very fast broad reach in flat seas. The down side of that was as we crossed the north end of the atoll, heading for the anchorage of Anse Amyot, we had a beat to weather that rivalled any of the worst Baja Bashes we've done. I shouldn't complain as it was only about five miles of strong head winds.

Anse Amyot would have been a typical pass into the atoll but a coral reef prevents entry into the lagoon, making it a shallow bay instead. The low-lying atoll on either side are covered with coconut palms and the water at the south end of the bay the palest turquoise color. Since the bottom is badly fouled with coral heads, an enterprising couple who live here have installed strong moorings and we were glad to tie up to one instead of taking our chances with our anchor and rode.

Already on moorings when we arrived was the CSY 44 Soggy Paws and the Kelly-Peterson 44 Dream Away. Almost all the cruisers in the Tuamotus know of Soggy Paws as they have written a comprehensive compendium of cruising information for this area. It can be found at and is one of the most comprehensive cruising guides around. It was the first time we met Dave and Sherry, who recently arrived from Hawaii. They told us that Gaston and Valentine, the couple that live here, were cooking dinner that evening for those cruisers who wanted to have a typical Tuamotuan feast. Of course, we said that we would love to attend even though our cash reserves were getting pretty low. I borrowed 10,000 CFP (Polynesian francs) from Corie.

All of us went ashore at 1830, met Valentine and Gaston, and sat outside while they served us a delicious seafood foccacia as an appetizer. Avril and Graham from Dream Away have been cruising for ten years which included sailing up the Gambier river in Africa and sailing around Cape Horn. Their stories kept us slack-jawed. Dave and Sherry have spent quite a bit of time here and have helped Gaston install the moorings.

At about 0300 that same morning, Gaston had walked out on the reef with a bucket strapped to his back. He walked along with a headlamp on and picked up twenty lobsters, tossing them over his shoulder into the bucket. He also gathered about the same number of small crabs. Later in the day, he caught a large tuna. When dinner was served, there were huge plate of barbequed lobster and crab, fried tuna steaks, poisson cru (raw fish in coconut milk and onions - quite good but Ruthie's not crazy about it), rice and bread. For dessert, Valentine had made a coconut cake, which was tender and moist and very good. Gaston and Valentine ate with us, like one big family. Her English is pretty good and she has this tendency to say things with a look on her face of almost horror until it instantly melts into a gigantic smile with a hearty laugh. When the last lobster was eaten and the last tuna steak devoured, the last crumb of cake pressed onto a fork and disappeared, we said our good-byes for the night as we would close friends, kissing each cheek.
At 5/28/2011 7:08 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 15°48.19'S 146°09.13'W

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