On the 9th of May we stocked up with fresh eggs and potatoes in Rotoava, the main village of Fakarava, and sailed in the late morning out through the north channel towards the close atoll of Toau.
We were accompanied by our friends of the catamaran Funambule.
As the tide current was outgoing we didn’t think it to be a problem, but we encountered a strong “Mascaret” rip tide in the pass and our decks received a good washing by the overcoming waves. We had sent the kids below, and were wearing life jackets and harnesses connected to the boat, so that there was no risk of loosing anybody, but the boat was pushed impressively to the left side of the pass, so we were very glad to have chosen to enter the pass at its easter extremity. We hadnot at all anticipated this drift and an entry on the western edge of the channel could had ended close to the reefs.
The rest of the short journey to Toau was uneventful and we were able to enter the channel still against an ending ebb tide, by navigating close to the edge of the marked channel, outside of the Mascaret. Our early arival eased the eyeball navigation inside the lagoon, until an anchorage 1,5 miles south of the pass, in front of a nice beach.
The following week we had a great time with the Funambule family (Laurence, Franck with kids Marion and Quentin), Madeleine and Stan living in a hut on the beach, collecting copra,
Stan eating his birthday cake
and the Jambon-Beurre crew (Marie-Noel and Olivier with their daughter Clothilde).
We had not less than four birthdays to celebrate
Birthday couple with Olivier in the middle, who invited us on his 60 foot carbon fibre catamaran for the festivities
(Marion, Stan and ourselves) and spent much of our time fishing and eating culinary specialties:
– hunting lobsters and crabs on the outer reef during night (the lobsters coked and served with a handmade french mayonaise and the crabs cooked in delicious coconut milk)
– collecting the beautyful Benitier shells for the little flesh they have, but which was deliciously prepared raw with lemon and cooked with a cocos milk curry sauce
– “fishing” of the local “Varo” crab, which is sitting in sand holes in roughly half a meter of water and looking as directly escaped from one of the starwars films.
The “fisher” is vading through the shallow water and looking for the holes of the varo, which the animal tries to hide by building a kind of sand roof above itself in which it only leaves a hole big enough to look out for fish passing by to be grabbed with it’s claws armed with sharp needles. This can take hours…
Once the hole is found the fisher puts a stick with some fish attached to it over the hole and further tries to excite the varo by clapping with his hands on the water until the varo decides to grab the stick with one or two claws and the fisher grabs the claw from above, pulling the animal gently out of it’s hole.
The varo is cooked in the pan with butter and garlic… better than lobsters.
– spear fishing in the passes or outside of the coral reef. Here fish abound and you just have to choose which to take. Unfortunately there is the ciguathera fish disease, of which only a few species are safe. We focused on parrot fish and different carrangues, which are both delicious and safe. The spear fishing would be much to easy if only the fish would abound; the sharks do too. They are mostly small reef sharks of one to two mwters length.
Whenever you have shot the first fish they will occur to check what is going on and try to steal you the fish from the spear. Often they are around ten animals but if you pause a little bit most of them will swim away again. Now you have permanently to check the distances to the sharks between shooting again and as soon as you have a fish on the spear to bring it up to the surface very quickly. If you can hold the fish out of the water the sharks no longer feel them battling for their life and loose track of them. Unfortunately sometimes you don’t see a shark or are too optimistic about the time it takes to get the fish out of the water and he takes the fish from you, often in a big quarrel between several sharks. If they got too anoying or bigger species as the oceanic white tip appeared we moved on with the dinghy a few hundered meters and could restart.
The parrotfish were prepared as poisson-cru in coconut milk (raw) and the different carrangues made for nice sashimi or fried/grilled fish.
– line fishing: Oliver went out with Stan on his birthday and within anhour they caught two huge yellowfin thunas, by following the birds preying on smaller fish, which attracted the thuna below…
– birthday cake baking
The kids played on the beach and the girls chatted and wove palmleave objects. Madeleine showed e.g. how to make a ball from a palm leave or the woven palmtree shades used for building “walls” of the huts.
We also made a dinghy tour to a little “motu” (island ) forming a part of the reef, where we had a picknick and did some snorkeling.
On the 15th the other boats had to leave and we suffered some uncomfortably high waves which built in th lagoon, when a 30 knot depression passed over us, so we decided to leave as well and go to the Anse Amyot, a false pass, building a natural harbour in the coral reef, accessible only from the outside.
In Anse Amyot Gaston and Valentine are having a small restaurant/bar, promising cold beer, according to the navigational guide. Unfortunately they were not present when we arrived and after two nights we left for Rangiroa.