Taou – June 25th to June 30

We have been in Toau for nearly six days now. We arrived last Monday morning, June 25th at about 7:00 a.m. We were thrilled to be met at the entrance of the anchorage by our friends Michael and Britta on “Vera”. The family who lives here normally comes out to help boats, but they were not monitering their VHF radio at the time, and when we called, it was Vera who answered. Toau is an atoll, and like all the atolls in the Tuomotos, it consists of a coral reef that ranges from lurking just under the surface to as high as a few feet above sea level, surrounding a lagoon. It is considered a moderately sized  lagoon – several miles across. Some of the other atolls have lagoons that are much
larger, like the one in Rangiroa which is 45 miles long and in Fakarava which is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide! Most of these atolls are very sparsely populated, and Taou has only 40 inhabitants. The anchorage is not actually in the lagoon, but in a nice sheltered cove on the northwest side, just outside a break in the reef. The anchorage has 9 mooring lines chained to large pieces of coral and each one is taken by a cruising boat. It is an extremely safe place to be if the winds change direction, and rather unusual, as most of the other atolls have no moorings at all – people simply drop anchor and if the winds change direction one has to pick up anchor and move so as not to be blown into the coral. Gaston and Valentine are a married couple who run the operations here – maintaining the mooring lines, helping the new yachties, and arranging delicious fish dinners several times a week on shore. They also have a small black pearl business.The lagoon is full of fish, including sharks and lots of moray eels are sticking their heads out from the coral heads on the bottom. When the wind is not blowing too hard the water is crystal clear.

We had some very unsettled weather here the past few days with winds shifting to the north, then 36 hours of squalls from the west, and now a “maramu” — strong outherlies and rain. In the Marquesas, the wind never came out of a direction that did not have the word “east” in it. We are lucky to be where we are. We actually had to move to a different mooring on our second day here, as there was a large coral bombie about 100 feet away from the boat, and as the winds started switching around we realized that  ooner or later that big thing would be directly under our boat, and it was very likely to do some serious damage to our hull. This is a snug little lagoon but even then we were getting tossed around a bit. In the huge lagoon in Fakarava (next door) many boats
(including our friends on Intiaq) were suffering since this unusual wind shift left them anchored on the wrong side of things – too close to coral heads and the lee shore of the atoll. Mark chose Toau in part because it would not leave us in danger if an unusual wind shift occurred.

A few nights ago we had dinner at Gaston and Valentine’s seaside “restaurant”. They do not charge for use of the moorings, but the expectation is that you will come to dinner at least once during your stay and they charge a nice fat sum for that. It was a fun dinner – Vera was there as well, along with their very good friends on Roxi (a British couple who are supposed to be doing the circumnavigation with Vera, but who kind of fell behind in Panama when they decided to go hiking for a few weeks, and didn’t catch up with Vera until this week), an American boat captained by a very flower child-like young man, and some Austrian friends on the boat Esperanza. They serve a terrific  meal, but you have to like seafood – there was langostine, poisson cru ( raw fish marinated in coconut milk), parrot fish, and at least 2 other types of fish – plus coconut bread, rice, and a huge coconut cream pie for desert. Quite a feast. Yesterday as we tied up the dinghy at the very nice dock here we were surprised to see a 5 foot long dead shark sitting at the edge of the dock. Gaston had apparently caught it and had left it on the dock . I am not exactly sure what he intended to do with it, but we have seen them making necklaces out of all sorts of fish bones and teeth.

We expect to leave for Tahiti sometime next week, if the weather cooperates. We are in dire need of a real supermarket and a list of things for the boat. We are really going mostly to re-provision and then move on. Our visas expire on Aug 11 and we have to go all the way to Bora-Bora before we leave as that is where our “bond” will be waiting ($2800 in cash that we had to post to get a 90 day visa).