Sailors are a superstitious lot: It’s bad luck to set sail for a voyage on Friday; whistling makes the wind blow harder, and bananas onboard are a no-no.
And now there’s another one: setting sail on Sunday 13th October. Because if you set sail on Sunday 13th October, this is what will happen:
- One of the solar panels will fall off
- Your hat will blow overboard
- The front hatch will leak water (although, to be fair, it wasn’t tightened up as much as it should have been.)
- The button will fall off your shorts
I suspect, however, that the real cause of these nautical misfortunes was that we were bashing to windward in a lumpy sea from Moorea to the Tuamotus. This was not the ‘gentlemanly’ downwind sailing we have experienced most of the time in the Pacific. Sailing close-hauled in a feisty wind and 3-metre swells is singularly unpleasant. When Lady Jane’s bow crashed into the waves, seawater launched in the air and landed without ceremony on her motley crew cowering in the cockpit.
Twenty four hours of this was getting tedious. Fortunately, however, the wind eased on Monday and so did the sea state. We were glad of the respite – even though it meant we had to use the engine to get to the Tuamotus. At this point, Neptune appeared in the clouds to show us who is the boss around here:
Our destination was Anse Amyot on Toau. We chose this because – unlike most of the other islands here – there are no tidal restraints to get to an anchorage. And after a passage like that, we didn’t want to hang around waiting for slack water.
On Tuesday 15th October, we arrived at Anse Amyot and attached ourselves to a mooring buoy close to Gaston and Valentine’s dock. And, after reattaching the solar panel to its mount (now riveted in place, rather than held on by screws), we lowered the dingy and went over to say Iorana to Gaston and Valentine. We found them both folding the laundry while being watched by Momo – their tame, and very large, frigate bird who sat on his perch by the water’s edge. Valentine took me to him and showed me how to stroke him without having my fingers removed. Momo might be tame, but he still retains the sharp beak of a normal frigate bird. Not wanting to appear the chicken, I stroked his chest, Valentine said ‘He likes you.” I thought thank god for that.
After taking a quick stroll around their village, we bought a couple of lobsters that Gaston had caught on the reef. Gaston cooked these for us so that we could have a lobster takeaway that evening. That might sound extravagant, but there’s no Just Eat service, and lobster is in better supply than chicken tikka masala around these parts.
Pigs and bees and fish named Maria
The next day, we returned to land for a walk around the motu. We met the pigs and saw the beehives (from a safe distance). And when we returned to the village, Valentine introduced us to the napoleon wrasse that occasionally drifts into the shallows. Much to Maria’s delight, they named the wrasse Maria, after the Tahitian name for the species – Mara. Unfortunately, neither of us had a camera with us, so we missed the chance to record Maria’s namesake.
Before heading back to Lady Jane, we bought some local honey from Valentine. And in return, she gave us the gift of a beautiful cowrie shell, a pack of frozen and filleted parrotfish, a bottle of beer, and breadfruit just plucked from a tree and cooked on the barbecue by Gaston. Very generous.
Gaston and Valentine’s family were due to arrive on Friday, and all of them were going to Fakarava for a couple of nights. Valentine asked us if we could make sure the dogs had enough water, and that the pigs were OK. Not too much of a hardship for the motley crew, so we did just that. We ensured the dogs’ water bowl was full and fed the pigs coconuts. And I’ve picked up a new skill: chopping coconuts in half with a large axe.
Circumnavigation and sharks
On Friday, we explored more of the motu and saw reef sharks in the shallows and hermit crabs everywhere. Then, on Saturday, we took the dinghy to the other side of the lagoon and circumnavigated, on foot, what appears to be an abandoned motu previously active in copra production.
It was great to spend more time here than we had previously. We would have liked to stay longer but had to leave on Sunday morning to get to Fakarava’s north pass in time for slack water at 3 pm (Fakarava has diesel, internet and shops). So, we made one last trip to the village to feed the pigs more coconuts and give the dogs more water, before lifting the dinghy and motoring out of the lagoon at 0900. And, on the subject of coconuts, here’s a coconut crab retained for a special occasion: