Fun at Fakarava North, some Fun Facts, a crappy disaster averted
14 July 2016 | On passage to Tahiti
We're currently underway from Fakarava atoll to Tahiti. But in the meantime, here's how we spent some of our time on Fakarava...
We sailed from Kauehi to Fakarava on July 2, a trip of about 30 miles, entering the north pass a little while behind our friends, David and Kim on s/v Maluhia, and tied to a mooring ball off the town of Rotoava. Last year, the French government installed a dozen or so mooring balls, to which you can tie for FREE, in the anchorage in front of the town, helping to preserve the coral from the ravages of boat anchors. While in the north part of the atoll, we had fun in the town, visiting a pearl farm, attending some of the month-long heiva activities, and shopping at the local grocery stores. We also had less fun fixing our toilet.
The Tuamotu atolls are known for their black pearls, so we thought it would be fun to see how the operation worked. Stephanie at Fakarava Yacht Services set us up with a tour. The pearl farm, Hinano Pearls, is a small outfit run by a German guy, Gunther, and his wife and son. Gunther picked us up at the cement quay and drove us about 7 km down the atoll to where his shop hung over the edge of the lagoon. Eric and I learned some cool fun facts about pearl production...
Fun Fact #1: Cultured black pearls are not produced along the edge of the shell in the mantle of the oyster, where normally-occurring pearls would be, but rather in a small pouch that is part of the animal's reproductive system, after having also received a small bit of mantle from a donor oyster.
Fun Fact #2: The first time an oyster is seeded, it receives a tiny mother-of-pearl sphere, a couple of millimeters in diameter, very carefully inserted into the aforementioned pouch by a technician who is looking through a very narrow opening between the oyster's shells.
Fun Fact #3: When the pearl is removed, 18 months later, it is assessed for quality. If the oyster has produced a nice, smooth, spherical pearl, it receives a larger mother-of-pearl seed sphere, and is returned to the lagoon for another round. If it makes a crappy pearl, it becomes dinner at one of the local restaurants. Pearl oysters can be reused many times and in fact the one that Gunther opened for us was about 20 years old.
The town has a few small hotels, two grocery stores and a boulangerie, a post office, a soccer field, Fakarava Yacht Services, and at least three dive shops, stretched along the atoll for about 2 km. We enjoyed perusing the shelves in the stores and boulangerie, and left with a few baguettes tucked under our arms. The residents are very friendly, always waving a greeting, or saying "Iaorana" (hello in Tahitian) or "Bonjour" (hello in French). We enjoyed having dinner at one of the temporary restaurants set up for the festival on the soccer field, with the crew of Maluhia, all the while being serenaded by singers or a band playing Polynesian music.
Also while we were in North Fakarava, the line from our toilet plugged- no, not with what you're probably thinking it was, but with scale, a crusty substance formed over time by the chemical reaction of salt water and urine. No problem, we thought, we're experts, having done this very same, unpleasant job just over a year ago, on our passage to the Baja from Mazatlan. And in fact, the extraction of the 6-foot- long piece of hose from under and behind and around nooks and crannies, under and through cabinets, went quite well, emerging in record time. Eric took the hose outside, where it was raining (this is important as you'll soon see), and stepped onto the swimstep to begin the highly technical scale removal procedure - reaming out the hose with the long metal handle of our deck brush, and rinsing it in the water. Only he neglected to do one step that he did the last time he cleaned the hose...he forgot to tie the hose to the boat. He started reaming, and suddenly the hose, slick with rain water (see, I said it was important), slipped from his grip and went, Plunk! into the water.
I'd like to say at this juncture that one of us jumped immediately into the water, grabbed the hose, and brought it back to the boat. But I can't. Whether it's a relic of our living for so many years next to hypothermia-inducing ocean, or just being too slow, by the time we realized that we needed to jump in after the hose, it had already sunk beneath the surface, emitted two burps, and began its quick descent to the bottom, fifty feet down. For the next few minutes, we stood there, silently gazing down into the water as the rain fell on us, shocked at the sudden disastrous turn our project had taken. Crap.
We made a mark on our chart plotter, indicating the position of the hose, and made plans to dinghy to shore and walk to the dive outfits to see if we could hire a diver to retrieve the hose. In the meantime, I rummaged around in the engine room and found a couple pieces of the same kind of hose (we always save things as spares) that looked like they would be just long enough to replace the one that was on the bottom of the anchorage, IF we could find the right size connector. Next, I rummaged through our generous supply of hose connectors (thank you to Skip and Scott, SCOOTS' previous owners, for collecting most of them) and in fact did find one that would work. So we at least had a backup plan, in case we couldn't procure a diver.
Long story short, we walked a couple of kilometers in the pouring rain, speaking to representatives of three dive shops. One told us they had no divers available to and try another dive shop; the other dive shop told us they would call us on the radio to arrange a time (they didn't); we met the owner (Matias) of the third dive shop, DIVE SPIRIT (a bit of blatant recommendation here for them), on the quay, as he was returning from a dive and we were about to head back to SCOOTS in our dinghy. We went back to SCOOTS and installed the back-up hose, which fit perfectly and works just fine. Matias and another diver came to SCOOTS the next day, dove near the place we had marked, and brought us back our wayward hose! Our heroes! Eric tied the hose to the boat, reamed it out, and now we have a spare!
That's all for now. In my next post, I'll tell you about our trip down through the lagoon to one of Fakarava's southern anchorages, and the fun times we had there.