Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hi Everyone, This is a little late, Ann had someone email it to me but they got the address wrong so I just found it tonight when I checked my mail.
Ann and Barry are safely in Papeete on Tahiti now and have probably already gotten their boat hulled out today. I imagine when Ann gets a chance she will update us and add a few photos.

May 14, 2008
We are in Manihi, an atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago at 14 27 S and 146 02 W. We arrived safely on Monday morning and since then we have had just an absolutely wonderful time. I really feel like we have hit the South Seas now, there are palm trees growing on the coral and the sun shines and the sea is a gorgeous tropical blue colour. An atoll is a circle of coral, which has motus or islets within the circle, on some islets there are palm trees and the connection to the next islet may just be coral which may or may not break the surface. The atoll we are in is over 35 km long and 11km wide. There is a pass through the coral which you have to navigate to get into the atoll. These passes have a constant outflow of water. Water can enter the atoll at low tide over the coral so it flows out of the lowest spot, which is the pass. The pass to get in here was 75 m long and 40 m wide, we got as low as 3 feet below the keel when we entered. One Canadian boat touched bottom twice coming in. At the end of the pass there were standing waves of about 2 feet and we were quite worried about having to cross them but it was no problem. One of the boats left the other day and they were going over 9 knots when they left. Barry says this is supposed to be one of the easier passes to negotiate.
Once inside the atoll you have to stay to the inside edge of the atoll to avoid the shallow spots, you can spot them when the sun shines because they look quite white. There is pearl farming in the atoll so there are nets hung off of bouys all over the place so you need to stay away from them. There is a well defined path for boats in this atoll.
Now to the fun stuff, there is a wonderful family here which has made our stay an exceptional one. He is the village baker, there are about 800 people living on this atoll, and when we arrived he pulled up in his boat and asked if we wanted fresh baguettes!! Then he asked if we would like a tour of his pearl farm in the afternoon. We were a bit astonished at the price he asked, $25, but were told that it was worth while so off we went. The tour was unbelievable; he took us out to his nets and explained how the oysters start to grow. He showed us the oysters at each stage from very tiny to 6 inches in width. Then he stopped at one of the shallow coral spots and tied his boat up to a piece of coral and chiseled off a clam for us and showed us how to take out the bad parts and we all had a taste. We proceeded to his dock and the buildings where he processes the pearls. The oysters get pried open and a part of another oyster is cut up into miniscule pieces and this as well as small ball of abalone shell (which is manufactured elsewhere in the world) is inserted into the oyster. It was a very delicate operation and his wife performed the operation with precision tools much like a dentist would use only longer. You have to very careful not to pierce parts of the oyster or separate the muscle from the shell or the oyster will die. He said that he has over 60,000 oysters in various stages of growth and it takes a year and a half to get a mature oyster and then 6 month more to grow a pearl. He uses all parts of the oyster, he sell the shell to Korea and they use it to make mother of pearl buttons and jewelry, the actual oyster he sell for food and of course the pearls. It was a very educational talk which was conducted all in French. Fortunately one of the Canadians with us had grown up in Montreal and could interpret. I could understand quite a bit but when he got to the technical parts I was lost. At one point he said something about a gross femme and I could not understand why he would sell oysters to a big lady and I said so, but it was a gross ferme which means a large farm, we had a good laugh about that!
At the end of the talk he gave us each a coconut to drink and we sat and got to know the other boaters, there were 8 of us. Then the coup de grace, he gave us each an oyster and we got to see if there was a pearl in it or not. He said that if we got one, that was fine and if we didn’t that was tough. The guy was such a softie, that if you didn’t get one in your first oyster he kept opening them until you found one. Barry and I both got white pearl in our oysters and then for some reason he gave us another and there was a black pearl in it. So we had three pearls, I figured earring with the white ones and a single black pearl necklace. That was the best $25 I have ever spent.
The next morning he showed up at the boat again to deliver more bread and he asked us to sign his cruiser book and he had two small black pearls that he wanted us to have, what a guy! Then he invited three couples in the anchorage to his house for dinner. When we got to his house he gave us a tour of the bakery, he has been baking bread for 23 years and now his son has taken over the business and he looks after the pearl farm. He makes 400 baguettes a day. He has plans to open another bakery on a different atoll. At his pearl farm he is talking about opening a small snack and juice bar for the cruisers. He is also the Mormon minister in town. He has homes in Papette and on another atoll, he is quite the business man, but is one of the nicest people you could know. His wife cooked a wonderful meal for us, with clams and oysters, soaked in coconut milk. There was also chicken and New Zealand beef on the table as well as French fries and potatoes cooked in heavy cream and fresh vegetables. It was an unbelievable meal and when we offered to help pay for the meal he would not here of it. His son and daughter in law live with him and they had two small children.
We have one day left here in this paradise and then we are headed to Papeete. It is 270nm to Tahiti we are hoping to arrive on Sunday and have Monday to scope out the place and figure out what will happen when the boat gets hauled. Our friends Cathy and Brian from Tarun, another Bluewater Cruising boat from Victoria will come with us to Tahiti as well to make sure we make it okay. They are true buddies. It would have been nice to be able to visit other atolls but we really do need to figure out what is going on with the damage. I will upload pictures when we get to Papeete.