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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Toau to Apataki, atolls in French Polynesia - Day 45 – 51

We enjoyed a wonderful potluck with a clutch of kid catamarans, one lovely family from Colorado Springs, Colorado! The kids were younger than Carolyne, but she seemed to enjoy her time with them. This group comprised of US, English and Australian cruisers all plan to end their cruising in Australia, in hopes of selling their cats there. For the past six years we have heard that Australia is "the place" to sell your boat – so far, it has continued to remain a seller's market in Sydney and Brisbane for quality, maintained vessels and we wish our new friends the best of luck!

It is time for us to move again. We have thoroughly enjoyed Toau and its wonderful inhabitants. Specifically, Gaston and Valentine. They have been so wonderful, even allowing us to use their rainwater collection for doing laundry, swapping fish for cookies or bread, allowing us to frolic with their piglets and puppies, and visit their fish traps. The moorings there at Anse Amytok are 700 francs ($8 US) per night. They are well maintained and the weather was moody so we were glad to have secure moorage. Gaston and Valentine offered to trade goods in part for some of the expense. They were interested in ground coffee, Tylenol, paper towels, liquid laundry detergent, olive oil, polarized sunglasses, cigarettes, fishing hooks and lures... but mostly - wine, beer or rum! Their "restaurant" was open sporadically and the meals cost 3500 francs ($40 US) per person.

The helicopter I spoke of previously that landed on their island was looking for marijuana after someone filed a complaint – a disappointment to the officials who flew all the way from Tahiti and found nothing to set ablaze. Valentine explained that when the officials find a "plantation" (over 50 plants) that they burn the crop, but no one is arrested because the jails in Tahiti are overfilled. Smaller crops may or may not be destroyed. A handful of plants isn't considered illegal. I just finished reading 'The Chaperone' by Laura Moriarty and am reminded about the futile efforts of abolishing alcohol during America's Prohibition in the 20's. The cost to send a helicopter to remote locations has to be hefty. Sure seems like a huge waste of tax payer money to me for any government to authorize a helicopter to be sent on a fool's errand.

Since Carolyne's teenage friend on sv Lil' Explorers still had not arrived, Carolyne and Jim spent the last afternoon at Toau on the beach, apparently tormenting the wildlife. Jim thought he stepped on a shell – but the shell that looked like a "wizard's hat" quickly turned red and angry. Unknowingly while wading to shore, he had disturbed a pair of octopuses. The one that met Jim's shoe became infuriated and changed himself from the cool and subtle colors of the coral into the image of a raging red devil. And as Jim hustled out of the water and the octopus charged. So taking the manly approach to save face, my husband plunked a few pieces of coral next to the livid invertebrate as a warning. The octopus responded by looking Jim straight in the eyes and then with extended arms, began violently smacking the top of the water, beating it into a frenzied froth, no doubt a signal to Jim that he was in for a serious octopus whoopin'! Before Jim could top that (probably with a large boulder sized piece of coral), the blazing octopus stomped off, indignant but the winner, into a hidey hole. The ruckus alerted a small shark that zipped around the shallows before Jim could wreak further havoc on his 8-armed enemy. Carolyne called her father off the octopus-revenge-hunt to study a 3' long jelly-like worm she found, that when touched slinkied itself into a tubular glob. Jim was so revolted that he forgot all about his nemesis at the waterline.

We left in the morning and headed to Apataki, the next atoll. Thanks to locating a flurry of excited birds in the sky dipping into the ocean, we hustled over a large fish boil and caught... yet another skipjack tuna. Clearly the fish fairies are toying with us. We let this one go even though he was quite large. Although not bad eating, the skipjack is just not the same quality as a dorado, yellow fin or wahoo (as if you have not heard me whine about this previously). I don't mind waiting since we still have a little beef left in the freezer. But since we didn't catch another fish the rest of the day, we will probably keep the next skipjack we land (since that is all we can seem to catch) and look for a palatable way to grill it. Carolyne did make a very tasty tuna casserole with the leftovers from the last one we kept.

We timed our passage to the Apataki atoll to coincide with the slack tide at the entrance at Pakaka. The water was crystal clear, the sun was shining – we could see coral heads miles deeps. We passed by the village and entered the lagoon. Navigating through oodles of pearl moorings was easy enough and so we anchored in front of a cluster of coconut trees. Carolyne went swimming and we enjoyed being the only sailboat. But because a large, barely submerged coral head was so close to our transom, we decided to uproot and find a less hazardous spot for the night. On the way, the tide flow was incoming and we were shocked at the rapid speed of the water entering the lagoon. Churning wavelets rushed in for miles – we thought we were seeing a raging river. We anchored where our friend John on sv Nakia anchored back in 2010 (see the Soggy Paws Compendium) and spent a blustery night... glad that we moved.

I will talk more in detail about the black pearls and pearl farms later. We expected to find some good deals; we are pretty surprised how expensive they are. Apparently the French government has taxed the doodle out of the farms. Many pearl farmers have gone under, including the one on Toau. The pearl farms that still exist don't sell 'cheap' wares unless they are spectacularly inferior. Perfectly shaped lustrous pearls without pits, divots, scoring or other natural imperfections sell for... well, too much for us. We heard a story about a cruiser that purchased a black pearl for his wife that was not perfect but was the size of an eyeball – he paid nearly $1,000 US for it! That's sadly not in our cruising budget.

We have had no internet since leaving the Marquesas. We are still relying on Sailmail for posting and will have no photos until we get to Tahiti. Please bear with us if you have emailed us and we have not responded.

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