Saturday, May 26, 2007

Raraka Tuamotu - Day 1

The last day of the passage here was a little more eventful... The wind died so we were motor-sailing. The oil cooler for the transmission seems to have corroded through and let the cooling salt water into the transmission. We spent a couple hours draining and rinsing the inside and finally filled it with new oil again. It seems like it will work for short periods now. We had to bypass the water cooler and the oil lines for the transmission to do it. I can probably get a new one in Rangaroa or at
least Tahiti.

We sailed slowly on to the atol, and the wind filled in this morning. We had picked the GPS waypoint for the entrance to this atol from Google earth, while we had the internet in Nuka Hiva. Big mistake. Of course we had the radar on and all so it wasn't dangerous, but when we were one mile off the island, we still couldn't find village or the entrance to the lagoon. I broke out the computer chart program, Noble tech, and looked at the charts more closely and realized that Google earth is not accurate
by about 5 miles! After anchoring, I verified our position in Noble Tech, and it is exactly right! I was used to Mexico, where the charts are several miles off, so I did not trust them. HA!

As we were about to enter the pass (50 meters wide by 5 meters deep, the only way into the lagoon that is 10 miles in diameter) 3 local fishing boats appeared. One asked if we spoke French. Since we don't, they went to hand waving and sign language and had us follow them. They led us through the pass and all the way till we dropped the anchor. Talk about personal service!

We snorkeled the anchor. In 45 feet of water, we could all but see the anchor from the boat. I swam over toward it and half way there I could see that the chain is wrapped around 4 coral heads and never quite straightened out. Oh well, it is definitely not going anywhere. It may take an extra few minutes to unwind it all when we leave, but that is later!

We went to town and asked about a store. "Sure, its over there", again in sign language and my 3 words of French. When we got there they had "lolly-pops, a case of English peas, a case of canned mackerel and a few other cans". That's it! The supply ship is due Sunday morning. We really didn't need anything anyway, thank goodness. They are al awaiting it too.

When we got back to the boat, the friendly guy with the directions to the "magazín" showed up in his boat. Quite an affair. It is a 16' Vee bottom run-about, but with a special hand-made deck. He has a standing steering helm right in the bow. While going he is standing right up in the bow, he can lean over and spear fish directly over the side of the bow. It has a 90 HP outboard with cable steering to a stick in front of him, like an old crop duster airplane. He said spearing dorado is easy!

Anyway, he asked if liked to eat fish. So he took us and our goggles to a fish trap near the entrance passage to the lagoon. he jumped right into the pen of the trap and motioned us in too. The final pen of the trap is maybe 6'x8' and 7' deep. Donnie and I herded the fish around as he selected 2 fish for us. There were maybe 100 fish to choose from. Parrot fish, black Jacks, 2 kinds of red "reef fish", red snapper, angle fish, trumpet fish and an eel that he speared and threw out. He then helped
us out of the trap and filleted the fish. When he dropped us back at the boat we had him aboard for a beer and he invited us over to his house tomorrow.

I think the fish were "black Jacks", and they were excellent fried.

There are rumors of coconut crabs and lobsters here... maybe we can get him to take us on a hunt!

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