Monday, June 12, 2017

Rarioa, Tuamotus (Eye Candy inside)

Rarioa, Tuamtous
May 23-30


After three weeks in the Marquesas we were more than eager to get going. For us, Marquesas didn't quite make the cut. Fellow cruisers who had sailed the Sea of Cortez, understood our perspective. Cruisers who had never sailed the Sea of Cortez thought we were insane. How could you possibly cross an ocean only to be disappointed? It was best explained by, "It's like breaking up with someone after two years. There was no reason to split up, other than wanting to see what else is out there. The Sea of Cortez is a remarkable place, almost perfect in every way."



Given all the wonderful things we had heard and read describing the Tuamotus we were ready to set out on the 500 mile passage. The passage from Marquesas to Tuamotus was our best passage ever. With jib and jigger out and a steady 15 knots off the beam, we sailed our quickest 24 hour passage yet, sailing 160 miles in 24 hours.

Unlike sailing upon the Marquesas, there were no standing mountains rising out of the ocean, visable from 30 miles away. Rather, we took turns squinting through a pair of binoculars, "I think I see land. Maybe a palm tree or two." Sailing up to our first pass entrance was a bit confusing. There's nothing terribly obvious when looking through a pass and we relied heavily on our charts. Using our chart plotter and way points provided by the Soggy Paws Compendium, we sailed our way, zig zag, to the eastern side of the atoll and dropped anchor behind our very own motu. Paradise as we had imagined it!


Anchored directly behind our own palm tree covered island created a lake like sea state while still being able to enjoy the 15 knots of wind blowing over the boat. The girls would take turns asking us to "Turn on the AC", which meant opening the large hatch in the middle of the boat to allow the gusting wind to funnel through the entire boat. They got a kick out of standing in the middle of the boat with their hair wildly whipping around.

We spent the next few days kayaking over to our private island and exploring our newly found paradise for hours on end. On one side of the small motu was the inside of the atoll, a lagoon, the other side of the atoll (sometimes only a few hundred feet of separation) was open to the ocean outside, completely different sea states. The worlds largest hermit crabs live on this atoll.


After a few days of relishing in cool, gusting air, a lake like anchorage and watching hermit crab battles, we moved a few miles east and anchored near the pearl farm. The pearl farm is a Mon. through Fri. operation with about one dozen people (who all live on premise) working 7 hours a day. The pearl farm was well worth the visit and taught us exactly what the process is to create a cultured pearl. Using what appears to be dental tools, Chinese grafters carefully insert a marble of varrying size into an oyster. Yup...a marble. Once the marble is carefully placed, the oyster is then attached along with a dozen others to plastic mesh and later attached to a bouy that dangles in the open ocean. After about one year, once the oyster has had a chance to cover the marble with pearl, the grafter will extract the cultured pearl and place another marble into the oyster, and the process starts all over. The entire process requires more than just the grafters, other people pick up the oyster bouys at sea, some men crack open fresh oysters that hadn't already been used in the process, etc.


During the tour we attempted to buy some of the real (yet very small) pearls that the grafters had pulled out of the oysters while extracting the cultured pearls. The owner, Gigi wasn't willing to sell or trade with us. Everything, real and cultured pearls, were all to be sold in Tahiti. Period. While the entire process was intriguing to watch, we walked away in agreeance that we wouldn't be willing to spend more than $10USD for a cultured pearl or as we call them, "fancy marbles".

We were intrigued by who lives on an atoll in the middle of the Pacifc ocean, so we motored across Rarioa to its village. The small village had everything one could need; school, air strip, 2 grocery (this term is used lightly, very lightly) stores, church, cemetery, soccer field, post office, and cute houses scattered about, all for 250 inhabitants. Walking through town we met several extremely nice villagers, many whom spoke English. One lady whistled us over to her house and asked if we would be interested in buying pearls. She laid out on a towel covered table about two dozen cultured pearls. After a quick look, Jessica said she was interested but wasn't sure if she wanted to buy them there or in Tahiti. Once the children came out and grabbed hold of their mothers leg who was selling the pearls, it became clear to Jess. She bought a $10 cultured pearl and was happy to support a local villager rather than a shop owner in Tahiti. Emma was holding out for the real pearls. We stayed in the village to provision, hang out with the villagers and watched the local children play their daily soccer game at 4pm.

After a week visiting our first atoll, it was time to move on...the French have only given us 90 days to enjoy all of French Polynesia. Just before getting ready to set sail, Emma asked is she could go back to the village in search of real pearls. Phil and Emma went back into the village, negotiated a fair price and came home with huge smiles. Emma was happy with her purchase of 4 real pearls for $20. While making her purchase in the village, a man with about 2 dozen real pearls asked to trade his pearls for a headlamp. Not needing any more pearls and not sure if we had anything to trade, Phil said he'd check on the boat for a headlamp.

As we were getting the boat ready to set sail, the man from the village appeared next to the boat having swam out to us, all but begging for a headlamp with the promise of real pearls. Regardless of not wanting more pearls, we were making a trade! We gave him a headlamp that hadn't been used since we first sailed off and the girls received a handful of new pearls. With new pearls in hand and our anchor up, we were off to the next atoll, Makemo.

It's nice to be falling in love again with a spectacular area that offers endless beauty, crystal clear water, amazing sea life, an best of all, smiling faces of friendly locals.



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