Hello from Anse Amyot!
We are in another idyllic location - not quite inside the atoll of Toau, but not quite outside either. There is a false pass on the northwestern end of the atoll, and it is here that Gaston and Valentina, and their relatives, have established a small paradise that they willingly share with cruisers, even setting up moorings in the false pass so that you don't have to navigate anchoring. We are currently sharing the anchorage with two aluminum French boats and Shine, the family we have buddy boated with for a bit and had a great time with.
After South Fakarava, North Fakarava was a bit of a let down visually, though we certainly enjoyed some internet access (catching up on the Warriors!), and fresh baguettes. One day we rented bikes in the afternoon, along with the "Shine" family, and biked about 10 miles along the only paved road on the atoll. We made it down to the pearl farm we visited earlier, and the small grocery store that was next to it, that had cold ice cream, water and beer. It was fun to do a "Land activity again" and to bike big "beach cruiser" bikes carefree on a wide open road with almost no traffic at all. I'm especially proud of Amaia who made it the whole way on her own bike, with smaller 20 inch wheels it was quite a haul!
We had met "Shine" in South Fakarava for the first time, and had sailed down the Fakarava channel together- we have similar 47 foot catamarans which helps keep our sailing edge when we are sailing in company. In North Fakarava they invited us for a pot of curry and we enjoyed a great evening with Patrick and Ana and their kids George, Xesca and Archie (their oldest son Max is off crewing on superyachts and making real money!) During the evening the kids decided to go back to our boat for a movie, and somehow in the dinghy shuffle our dinghy was cast free, something we unfortunately didn't realize until 90 minutes later when Heather and I were about to head back. We were lucky that Shine has a very nice 13 foot dinghy with a steering console and 30 hp engine and they offered to help us search in the pitch black night. Using two flashlights and approximating the wind/drift current we slowly scanned a corner of the atoll, the most treacherous part being coral heads that we couldn't see. It felt quite hopeless after a while, and I was about to call it a night when we spotted our "family car" sadly bouncing on a coral shelf and being pounded by wind waves. We careful maneuvered it free and towed it home- elated to find it and our new engine, but cautious about the damage that had been done. Fast forwarding to today- we are on our third day of trying to find and patch all the holes to have it hold enough air- its probably a 50/50 proposition right now - certainly a bit troubling for one more of our most important adventure vehicles.
Having done a quick provisioning run right after the supply ship came in on Thursday morning, Shine and Family Circus raised our anchors for the 40 mile sail down to Toau and Anse Amyot. The breeze was almost perfect and we enjoyed a fast fun sail, using our gennaker and even patching up a two foot tear in our asymmetrical "Womper", and flying it successfully. We were gybing back to our destination, when one of our fishing reels started clicking wildly! Fish On! Setting the hook, I saw the fish jump and knew we had finally hooked a dorado again. We reeled it in fairly quickly, with Heather masterfully slowing the boat down both with the engines and the sail angle. Tristan handled the final few feet and I gaffed and boarded the largest iridescent green Dorado we had caught to date. It was as tall as Tristan and weighed in at 28 lbs. We quickly entered the false pass and picked up a mooring, and as I cleaned the fish we were circled by many sharks who patiently waited for scraps.
We are on our fourth night now, enjoying so much that is offered. We had Shine over to our boat for an amazing night of Farkle and Dibble games. They enjoyed learning these new games, and even Amaia and Alina participated in Dibble and charcoal marked faces by the end of the evening. We'll have to get some photos uploaded soon! The snorkeling is quite fantastic right next to the boats and the beaches are fun to forage around, but the stars of the show are the compound that Valentina and Gaston have - and for our kids - five 3 week old puppies, three adult dogs, and several piglets with two day old piglets. Our kids are regular visitors every day! The compound is shared with a few family members, and is completely self sufficient, catching rainwater and using a diesel generator and solar for power. The operate a part time restaurant and we made reservations a day ahead, and on the morning of we heard part our dinner being caught and silenced. Cooking the meal for the three boat crews attending was an all day affair. In the afternoon we joined Gaston and his nephew as they went over to their fish trap on the other side of the pass. It was actually quite a fascinating experience, as the pen was completely full of many different kinds of fish, as well as a few uninvited predators. As we arrived to watch, Gaston used a very long harpoon/spear to hit and pull a large 4 foot barracuda out of the water before spearing a 5 ft moray eel. Some of us put our masks on to watch from in the water- and Gaston moved to the entry pen where a reef shark was patrolling the water. Standing from the boat he speared the shark behind the head and landed it in his boat and then he jumped in to the pen with what looked like a garbage can made of chicken wire. He simply cornered the fish in to a corner, but the "can" down and hoarded 15-20 fish in to it- it was amazingly simple. We followed him back as they cleaning process apparently has a fun shark feeding aspect. The kids were fascinated as he gutted and cleaned fish, attracting sharks with the scraps, with the highlight being when he tied the barracuda to a line and we watched as 15-20 sharks thrashed around, getting a bite. It was quite a spectacle to watch, including instinctively pulling your kids just a bit back from the edge of the deck. The most astounding thing might have been the two medium size dogs that patrolled the dock, barking at the sharks, before one of them jumped in and chased them away! Apparently she does this all the time, and she stood on a shallow coral reef, barking at any shark that dared get close. It was great to see, and certainly not what I would have expected to happen!
We cleaned up on the boat and Shine dinghied us back to shore, as we are still without a functional car, and we sat down around a beautifully decorated, large square table with the other crews. The food came out quickly and was astoundingly good! A focaccia appetizer, coconut rice with parrot fish poisson cru, fresh pork in oyster sauce, BBQ pig, coconut bread, delicious french fries, pig cooked in its blood and a really wonderful moist cake to chase it down. It was all amazingly well prepared in a small kitchen and completely delicious. After dinner we were slowing down, and the kids were playing next door when our hosts invited us outside in a circle where they were tuning their ukeleles. With their nephew visiting, they were short a ukelele or guitar, and our kids headed back to the boats to get three ukeleles and two guitars. I was happy sharing the rhythmic duties with Gaston as he and I played the spoons and an empty 6 gallon water container. Our hosts played and sang some beautiful Polynesian and French tunes, under a starry night sky. They urged us to play our own songs- but unfortunately between us we had a very very limited repertoire- Xesca and Mykaela both strummed and sang some beautiful songs, but mostly our hosts strummed away, drinking their homemade, well fortified beer. It was great to see our older kids engaged and glimpsing at a very cool part of another culture. I hope they remember nights like that.
We probably wanted to leave today or tomorrow but the weather forecasts show "reinforced trades" that should calm down in a few days. Its only a 230 mile run to Papeete, Tahiti from here, but we will try and get the best window we can, knowing that we need to get to the Big City soon to start working on our more serious repair projects. Walking on a Sunday sunset beach stroll tonight, we were thinking what a shift it will be to leave the very remote and deserted Tuamotus and head to Tahiti and the next islands, where remote, small anchorages are much harder to find with all of the development and population. I am sure it will be welcome in some ways, but we will miss places like this for a while.
Hope you are all doing great and supporting the Golden State Warriors! CHRIS
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