Friday, July 14, 2006

Black Pearls, Grey Sharks

This landfall was a real challenge for us. With tide and light quality to consider, the window for entering is quite narrow. There is also the problem of low-lying land and submerged coral reef to add to the stress and strain of stopping here. Anyway, Nick timed last night's passage brilliantly and we arrived at Raroia at slack tide when the sun was rising. As it turned out the buoyage here is pretty good until you get to the actual anchorage where scattered coral patches make dropping your anchor a little nerve-wracking. After much deliberation we found our spot and were greeted/threatened by 5 small sharks swimming round the boat. Apparently there are many sharks in this lagoon but they're not interested in big game! Hmmm, not sure what I think about that yet. I may have a swim tomorrow, the water is certainly very inviting and of the clarity we haven't seen since the San Blas. At least I can see those man eaters coming!

We are the only boat in the anchorage which is a little surprising as we had had a tip off about the Kontiki Raft returning here for a festival on Bastille Day (tomorrow) and we expected a crowd. Alas the raft has been and gone and is now in Papeete probably with all the other cruisers.No matter, it is well sheltered here and the locals are friendly and interesting so we are quite happy. Black Pearl farming is the main industry and a boat full of young, handsome farmers came to introduce themselves this afternoon and tell us a little about the lagoon. There is ciguatera on the western reef which basically means any fish caught near it is inedible. Ciguatera is a toxin found in marine plant life which accumulates in the flesh of reef fish and their predators. Strangely, it is harmless to the fish, but can cause a severe reaction in humans. It cannot be smelt or seen in the flesh of the fish so it is best not to take a risk. The rule of thumb is to eat small, young, herbivorous fish or best of all, leave off the seafood until you get out in the ocean once again where the pelagic fish are ciguatera-free. Speaking of which, we caught a large tuna yesterday and have just enjoyed our 4th meal from it. We were both overjoyed at catching our protein fix.

Tomorrow for me is going to involve more sewing. The spray hood (which I repaired 4 days ago after someone leant very heavily on it!) suffered a bit of a blow-out during a particularly violent squall on our way here and needs urgent surgery. Nick is going to be helping the pearl farmers expand their music collections by copying our music library for them (after asking us where we came from, they wanted to know if we had an iPod and a computer and could they have some music?!). Nick is hoping that in return he may get a lesson in spear fishing from a professional, as so far his spear gun hasn't speared a sausage!

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