Friday, June 27, 2014

Back in Good Shape -

There is a great cruiser buddy here with us that we are able to check and send emails through. We found the perfect anchorage! We have sand beaches and a huge sand shelf with occasional coral heads that are just perfect for the children to practice their snorkeling with the sharks, coral, and a cornucopia of tropical fishes. Then of course there are the hermit crabs, lizards, and other creatures that the children just love.

We will probably be here for a couple more days before heading off to undetermined locations.

So shortly after hitting the reef we started having difficulty steering. As we went out the pass at Toau I had to spin the wheel from one side to the other just to keep us going in the general direction that we wanted to go. Then when we used the auto-helm it was making a crazy sound, and sometimes just not working. When we arrived at the Apataki pass we ended up going nearly sideways a couple of times no matter how hard I turned the rudder, Then when we were sailing in the lagoon I had the rudder all the way over just to steer straight!  It was at this point that I decided that there might be something more wrong with the steering than just having one rudder.  So I grabbed the steering ram and pulled on it. I was able to move it about 45 degrees just by hand.  Not good!

After adding a bunch of hydraulic fluid the steering stiffened right up! It is really nice to be able to steer again!  Also the new system for the sails appears to be working great!  We were sailing with 20 knots with no issue.  We will know better when we get to Tahiti. I heard the boats going now are hitting 50 knots!  That will wake you up!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Half Moon Lagoon

Wow, this has turned out to be a super fantastic atoll! We have started naming the different places that we go. One of the children's favorite places is 'half moon lagoon'. There is a greenish lagoon with a moon shaped coral beach and an easy walk to the outer reef. You really have to be here to understand though.

Now on the list of what I have eaten: First there was the pencil urchin eggs/guts, not so good, but everybody was watching and I did not want to insult the host. Then of course there was octopus and other sea creatures in coconut milk. And to top it all off was the lobster and coconut crab. The other stuff I ate is not appropriate for polite conversation.

We also found the home of many lionfish - beautiful fish, with these beautiful spiny fins. To bad we can't look up online and see if they are dangerous. Well I am sure that I would know if a brightly colored, friendly fish, with a pleasant name like "Lion fish" was at all dangerous. Shannon loves to hold and pet them. 
I told her not to but she said "Who would put a poisonous way out here in the middle of the South Pacific". Well tomorrow we are going to see is the spiny things are sharp by poking them into Shannon's hand! We'll let you know.


Pearl Farm on Apataki

Then there was the pearl farm.  I’ve wanted to see a pearl farm since our arrival here in the Tuamotus.  There was one in North Fakarava, but it was run by the hotel owner and looked pretty industrial.  I've read that some places charge for a tour.  I'll pay for pearls, but I don't want to pay for a tour.  So as we made our way up to this new anchorage (not an established anchorage or in any guides) we came through a minefield of buoys.  This must be a pearl farm and this is not likely a tourist trap!!  We've read that the majority of pearl farms have gone under due to excessive taxes by the French.  We've also read that the Chinese have entered the market thereby lowering the prices of pearls due to increased supply.  Not sure how reliable our sources are and we don't have Internet to check things for ourselves.  So our friends on Hotspur and we took the dinghy down and checked this place out.   It was just what I'd hoped for. 

This was a native Apataki extended family of approximately 20 employees working the farm.  There is a Chinese man who is the "big boss".  He's only been here for 5 years that I could understand, this farm is well established (more than anyone could do in 5 years), so I don't know if he bought a failing business or how he came here exactly.  This was beyond my French skills and maybe a little delicate to ask the internals of his business.  But the local family seemed happy and everyone was working.  This is a 200-hectare farm with buoys farther than the eye can see!!  We saw how they get new oysters by hanging black strands of stuff in the water near other oysters and baby oysters just glom onto it. 

After about 6 months, they bring them in, sort them (some types are not pearl producers), drill a small hole in them, tie plastic string to them and attach them to a line, protecting them in a plastic "cage" from predators.  Another 6-8 months, they are ready for making pearls.  They bring them in, drive a wedge into them, pry them slightly open, and place a white bead of something in them (again, beyond my French skills, maybe glass bead, maybe plastic, it was hard anyway).  Then they tie them onto a plastic netting for protection and put them out for a year.  After a year, they bring them in, harvest the pearls and place another bead into the sac (must be placed properly).  They can do this for about 3-4 times, then the oyster stops producing pearls.  At this point, when the pearl beads come back out white or minimally coated, they open the oysters and harvest the meat for sale.  They also appeared to be sacking the oyster shells. 

It was perfect to get to see every step of the operation as well as be able to ask questions as we went.  Then we went and saw the loads of final products.  They don't all turn out perfectly round and smooth.  The irregulars were actually my favorites I think.  You can't get those in stores, only here.


Lionfish & other creatures -

We've been having a great time here!!  Courage found a great dive spot not too far from our boat that has a pass through from the ocean, so it gets fresh water and nutrients.  The coral is so alive, there are so many animals in it, and the water is crystal clear.  We've been there a few times; the first time was awesome.  We saw a lionfish for our first time ever in the wild.  Made a great opportunity to come read about it from our encyclopedia, etc, but without Internet, we have so many more questions about them.  They are fascinating and beautiful little fish.  The second time, we brought the kids, which was great, BUT, there was so much incoming current, it was impossible to go upstream or stay still without a handhold.  I tried swimming with the 2 girls from the dinghy to the dive spot and we were struggling to get past the anchor of the dinghy to the dive spot.  We had to regroup and make our way to some rebar and old fishing nets for a handhold.  The views were excellent again, the variety of wildlife was great, but we didn't see any lionfish.  I think they are too fancy and delicate to be able to be out in the main current.  I think they tuck away under rocks until slack tide.  Or are they out more at night, because this was a morning dive?  This evening again, Courage and I went for a dive and it was spectacular!!  We swam all the way up to the top seeing only one lionfish, then on our way back down they were coming out of the woodwork.  They were in every crack we looked in it seemed and even our free swimming.  I saw an octopus.  I found it myself.  Courage finds them, but I don't usually.  So that was fun, he was in a crack that you could see him from the side as well as the top.  And I got a video of some sea creature that looks like a rope with a frayed end.  The frayed end had tentacle like arms which were short, maybe 8-10 of them, and grabbed algae or something from the rock and rolled it up to his mouth.  When we scared it, it coiled up and retracted under the coral that the other 1/2 of it was in.  Funny little thing.  I've never seen anything like it before and have no idea even how to start looking up what that was.  It's not an eel.  It's not an octopus, it's not a shark, but what IS it??  It was maybe 1 inch in diameter and I saw about 1.5 feet of it.  It was striped longwise and it really looked like a braided rope with a frayed end.  Needless to say, we're going back again, and probably again.