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Toau Letter

Toau Atoll, showing our tracks and 2 anchorages
Toau Atoll, showing our tracks and 2 anchorages
Click on the map to see all of the Tuamotus

Thursday, 7 August 2003

Dear friends and family,

We decided not to wait for the prize-giving and closing ceremonies on Fakarava but sailed to Toau Atoll on Saturday, August 2nd, having a nice spinnaker run for 15 miles and catching the Toau pass just at slack water.  In Toau, we again ran into our friends on the 2 big Swans ($wan$), 57' Cowrie Dancer from Perth and 60' L'Ondine from Sweden (who retired when Microsoft bought his company).  L'Ondine's dive compressor wasn't working well so Jon went over to see if he could help them.  When they got it working again, Jon magnanimously offered to help drain one of their scuba bottles so they could more thoroughly test their repaired compressor...

In the end, 5 people went diving, including Jon and Chris.  Sue and Amanda decided to operate one of the 2 support dinghies.  We started south of the pass on the outer reef, which fell off steeply (almost a wall) to the deep blue.  Visibility was well in excess of 100'.  Sue, snorkeling above us, thought she could easily snorkel down to us, not realizing we were 70' down.  The water was that clear.  The coral was profuse and the fish were amazingly friendly, often swimming unconcernedly only 3-4' from us.  There were also several small (4-5') gray reef sharks cruising back and forth.  None of them were aggressive, but one kept a close eye on us, circling around and often coming to within 15' of us.

Ocelot & Cowrie Dancer in Anse Amyot, Toau Atoll
Ocelot & Cowrie Dancer in Anse Amyot, Toau

When we felt a bit of current pushing us up the wall, we knew we were just off the pass.  We drifted up and just at the mouth of the pass we saw several larger (7'+) gray sharks circling and waiting for the current to bring them supper.  We watched them for a while but they didn't put on an eating performance for us.

On Monday, August 4, we had a delightful sail up to the north end of Toau.  We shot out through the pass and through the vicious rip that had developed just outside.  Then we had a calm and peaceful 20 mile sail to the cul-de-sac of Anse Amyot.

A delightful pot-luck feast at Mama's open air restaurant
A pot-luck feast at Mama's open air restaurant

The families ashore in Anse Amyot are very friendly.  They've put down about 12 moorings and they enjoy including yachties in their fishing and harvesting operations.  The day after we met them they invited us to come lobstering with them.  The lobsters here are much like the spiny lobsters we had in the Caribbean.  They have no claws like Maine lobsters, but the spiny protrusions on their carapaces are very sharp.  Catching them involved walking along the very broad outer shelf of the atoll, out by where the very gentle waves were breaking, looking for likely looking holes.  When a potential lobster hole was found, they would stick their gloved hands in (sometimes up to the elbow) feeling for lobsters to grab and extract.  My mind kept wondering if my hand wouldn't find a moray-eel instead.  The light gloves we wore would be no protection from a moray bite.  All my training says to never stick my hand where I can't see it, so I gave my (nice) glove to one of the local kids, offered to carry the bag of lobsters, and looked at the coral.  In a couple of hours they caught 8 lobsters.

One day when a couple of the local kids were on board talking to us they mentioned that their mother runs a little restaurant, where very elaborate meals could be had for $30.  When we explained that we weren't like the charterers on the next boat over, and that we didn't have a job to go back to, they proposed a second option:  to come join them for a pot-luck dinner at no charge.  This was exactly what we were hoping for.

Amanda shows off her guitar style to the brothers
Amanda shows off her
guitar style to the brothers

Mama has about 7 kids and they build them big here, so we brought 2 big pizzas, cool-drinks, beer, and a box of wine.  Another cruiser brought 2 trays of brownies and some corn bread.  Mama produced crab legs, Poisson Cru (raw fish marinated in lime, spices, and fresh ground coconut milk), octopus, fried fish, and a huge bowl of rice.  It was a huge feast.  But the best part came afterwards.  Amanda had brought her guitar (of course) and played a few pieces while we sang.  Then they came out with their own guitar and a ukulele, playing several pieces while the girls danced.  The girls (about 12 and 14) also tried to teach us how they can wiggle their hips that way.  The guys showed us a couple of hakas as well.  Later on they put on some CDs and the kids all danced in the moonlight on their big porch.

It was one of those memorable evenings that cruisers crave.  Too often we just sit on our boats, visiting different lands but seldom interacting much with the local people.  The gracious warmth of these people in including us in their everyday lives was so wonderful for us.  One of them took Chris on a guided tour of their little island.  We were talking to one woman about her pearls (they have a small pearl farm) and she mentioned that they didn't have any decent sunglasses.  Sue gave them a couple spares we had and they gave us 2 huge black pearls.  They do a lot of fishing so I gave them 2 of our lures.  They weren't shy about coming to our boat and inviting us when they were about to do something they thought we'd enjoy.  We have to leave soon but we'd like to come back and spend more time with them.  These are special people, to give us such wonderful lasting memories!

Fair winds to all -- Jon, Sue, Chris and Amanda Hacking

Click here to go to the Toau Destinations page.

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