The Tuamotus Blues

On August 8th we sailed from Tahanea to Fakarava during the night. The distance was 86NM and that is too far to cover during daylight hours. As you need to arrive during daylight at the pass there is no other option than to sail at night. We had 25KTS winds and were going too fast so we had to drop the main sail and only used our genoa which made for uncomfortable sailing since the boat is not as steady. I was happy when it was 6 AM and we were ready to go through the pass. We moored, had breakfast and went to bed :-). We anchored the next day in a more sheltered part of the lagoon. Fakarava is an atoll protected as an UNESCO biosphere since 2006.

An outrigger sailboat with Sanuk anchored to the left.
The Tahitian pearl is French Polynesia’s largest export, making up over 55 percent of the country’s annual exports. We visited a small one in Fakarava where we received a brief explanation on how the pearls were cultivated. Definitely a difficult and lengthy process. No wonder they are expensive!:-(
The cultured Tahitian pearl comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors from black to white with shades of green, pink, blue, silver and yellow in between. We will definitely visit a bigger farm to see the whole range of colors.
The black lip oysters need to be mature for 2-3 years to produce pearls. Most of the pearl farms are located in the lagoons of the Tuamotu-Gambier archipelago.
A pearl cut in half. In the center is the bead, made of shell, that was placed in the reproductive system of the oyster. The oyster then forms nacre around the bead. It takes about 16-18 months to have a layer of .8mm around the bead. The .8mm is the required minimum by Tahitian law for export. In Japan and China there are pearls with only a .4mm and .6mm nacre layer. This makes the Tahitian pearl more expensive and difficult to compete against China and Japan, but their quality is higher! They can use the same oyster up to three times and each time the size of the bead is increased to get a bigger pearl. So perfectly round pearls from the 3rd graft will be more expensive, since bigger, than those of the first graft. A grafter is an expert  who enters the bead into the oyster. The whole procedure takes about 2 minutes. I will try to get pictures of this process on a next visit.
A lemon shark in the clear water of Apataki. They are no threat to humans.
Lunch at the waterfront with our New Zealand friends from the boat Aislado.

We left Fakarava on August 13 early in the morning (7AM) to sail to Anse Amyot on the atoll of Toau. The distance was only 39NM and easily covered during daylight hours. We arrived 7 hours later at yet another beautiful anchor spot!

Stefan took this picture while he was hanging at the top of the mast. You can see the solar panels at the back of the boat and Flipper behind,all on crystal clear water!
Picture taken at the top of the mast. On the left, the restaurant of Gaston and Valentine. On the right the two beacons which guide you into the pass when they are in line.

We planned to have dinner at the restaurant together with Aislado since they would be leaving for Tahiti on monday. Unfortunately Valentine was sick and dinner was cancelled so we organised a barbecue on Aislado together with Apparition (other NZ boat).

Surrounded by Kiwi’s 🙂 on Aislado. Hopefully we will see them back in Auckland in January 2017 !

We stayed a couple more days for snorkeling and relaxing and spent one evening at shore with Valentine and Gaston for “aperitive”. They prepared a coconut crab they caught the day before. It tasted a lot like lobster, very yummy. We brought beers and the last bit of rhum, amaretto and wine we had. We emptied everything. Valentine took her Ukulele and Stefan went to get the guitar we had. What a great evening with singing, drinking and eating our first coconut crab. Great memories….

The coconut crab is a hermit crab also known as robber crab or palm thief. They are the largest land living anthropod in the world.They can open coconuts with their claws but their diet is not limited to coconuts! They will eat fruits, seeds and also meat.
Valentine, still a little sick. We left our Belgian flag and guitar there….We will be visiting again end of October before leaving the boat at Apataki.

Monday, August 22nd a grey day in the Tuamotus and thus time to further update the blog. We are currently in Apataki. We will come back here in November to take Sanuk out of the water for the cyclone season till the end of May 2017. In the meantime we will visit family and friends in Belgium (yeahhh) and go on a roadtrip through New-Zealand. But now we are very much looking forward to the arrival of our youngest daughter (Emma) and boyfriend (Sebastien) coming to Papeete on September 8th and our friends (Katie and Karel) joining us for 3 weeks in October !!!


Map of Apataki atoll. We entered through the Passe Haniuru (SW) and moored there for one day. Then we motored to the carenage on the SE side of the atoll to Totoro where we are anchored now. We will leave the atoll through the NW pass, Passe Almonu. Captain Cook was here in 1774. I really admire these adventurers, sailing here without GPS, motor, depth sounder, etc it must have been scary!

Apataki when the sun was shining. View from the boat. The dark spots are the “bommies”.
We motored in between the 2 white poles and took a the only mooring (on the left). We had 2 meter water under the boat…I do not think we would have dared to do this a year ago! The dark blue and light blue is safe water, grey-brown is danger!
Looking from our mooring to the southern pass (Haniuru) at Apataki. We are just in front of the post office which was unfortunatly next to the village’s noisy generator! We were lucky since the supply boat had just arrived the day before and so there were carrots (4USD per kilo), potatoes, onions and even celery at the store. We have not had a real choice in fresh vegetables since we left mainland Ecuador at the end of April. Potatoes and onions are usually not a problem but to find carrots or tomatoes you have to be lucky! I got the last piece of Emmenthal cheese and did not look at the price! 🙂 A visit to the Carrefour or Delhaize will never be the same!:-))
A walk around the motu just next to where we will leave our boat in November till end of May 2017.
Stefan standing on the reef of coarse dead coral,behind him is the Pacific Ocean. A yacht stranded here on the reef in May of this year at night. A helicopter came to rescue the captain and his wife. The boat is at the carenage for repairs.



2 thoughts on “The Tuamotus Blues

  1. Spectaculaire foto’s vanuit de mast. Smaakt naar meer. We zien er naar uit om jullie drijvende caravan aan den lijve te ervaren! Stef moet wel eens een cursus “smile to the camera for dummies” volgen om het geheel “picture perfect” te maken. Hugs Karel

    1. Groot gelijk Karel !!! Ook een frustratie van de fotograaf.Hopelijk volgt hij je raad op en is het resultaat te zien op de volgende foto’s :-))
      Tot binnenkort !!!!

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