Our entry in to the atoll of Kauehi in the Tuamotus was easy, we arrived at the middle of the tide with a 3 knot current running out, compared to an Australian east coast river bar it was a piece of cake. We anchored in the lagoon off a small run down village, where the only industry was coconut and pearl farm cultivation; there was one shop, but very limited supplies, as it depended on when the last supply boat had visited the island.
While we were there we were invited to one of the pearl farms to see the process of cultivating the black pearls for which Polynesia is famous for. We were shown how they inserted the small nucleus into the mother shell to start the growing process and the harvesting of the pearl after two years. From about sixty oyster shells that we saw, fifty percent were put back into the sea as the pearls were not big enough, three pearls were successfully delivered from the mothers, the rest had either rejected the nucleus or they had grown abnormally. Even the abnormal ones are kept and sold for the making of jewellery. Once a good pearl is removed, the mother oyster is impregnated straight away with another nucleus of similar size and she is sent back into the ocean for another two years until another pearl is born. She never gets a rest.
After taking us through the pearl process, then came bargaining. A pillow case was laid on the table and the pearls set upon it in various grades. Having made our choices the pearl farmers told us they did not want money but fishing gear and rum. We gave them lures and fishing hooks and our mates gave rum and wine. Everybody was happy with the deals.
After a few days chilling out we moved 30 miles to Fakarava the second largest atoll in the Tuamotus, 32 miles long and 15 miles wide. The village here is the centre of administration for the Tuamotus and all of 150 people live here. It has 2 shops and a bakery (where you could get fresh baguettes), a dive shop and two pearl shops. We did a reconnoitre of the pearl shops and were even more pleased with our pearls as the ones in the shops were very expensive and we thought ours were of equal quality.
The diving and snorkelling here is spectacular especially the entrance to the lagoon, where you can just let the fast current carry you through the pass, while watching a vast array of fish from grouper to sharks. Whilst snorkelling around one of the reefs our mates were behind Penny and watched as two sharks were following her. Fortunately she didn’t turn around so was blissfully unaware of their close proximity.( If she had have seen them the least she would have done is wet her pants!) Not that they would harm you. They are only reef sharks, some quite big but are very well fed and seem to be curious as to why we are in their garden.
Unfortunately our time in the Tuamotus has come to an end as time moves on and we have to keep heading west if we wish to get to Australia by October.
We have just completed 150 miles of a 250 mile passage to Tahiti and hope to get to Papeete by late evening tonight.