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Sunday, May 30, 2010


Somehow we've managed to spend an entire week at Kauehi, which is about 3-4 days too many. Several boats coming from the Marquesas have made this their first landfall in the Tuamotus, and I feel a little sorry for them. Yes, it's an easy pass for first timers, but there is nothing special about this atoll to warrant a visit. The water clarity in this lagoon is the worst we've seen anywhere else and the coral is mostly dead. We've managed to find a few nice, unoccupied shells, but the snorkeling has been mostly uninteresting. We haven't seen a single shark, but we've had remoras attached to our hull so maybe that makes us the shark.

We reanchored in the SE anchorage to position ourselves in front of what looks like an abandoned pension:

{GMST}15|56.668|S|145|03.572|W|South East Road Anchorage Kauehi|Kauehi Road{GEND}

There is a "road" leading from the pension seven miles to the village, which makes for nice walking or jogging should you feel the need. There's also a branch of road leading out to the berm on the ocean side for a good look at what the wind and waves are doing on the outside of the reef.

The deep, dark water in the lagoon makes conning less stressful for me since I can only see hazards that come to the surface. I'm more nervous in 50' of clear water where I can see every little rock and coral bommie, because it's much harder to judge their depth. On Friday we sailed directly to the village anchorage and there were many more hazards on that route than from the pass to the SE corner. The coral reefs were clearly visible well in advance, but a submerged pearl farm buoy and line caught me by surprise and we went over it without any problem. We skirted the rest of the buoys and crossed the navigable channel to anchor close in to shore:

{GMST}15|49.245|S|145|07.023|W|Kauehi Town Anchorage|Kauehi Village{GEND}

Before departing for Fakarava, friends told us that the mayor would return home at 5 PM for pearl sales and that he was particularly interested in getting a heavy jacket to wear in the cold weather (?!). So we looked in every compartment until we found John's beautiful, heavy, wind proof, North Face fleece jacket and an old Helly Hanson jacket both of which were basically brand new and unworn. I threw in a nice heavy sweatshirt as well, and hoped the mayor was a big man. We went in for a look around, hoping that the little store would be open. The posted hours at Magasin Tiaihau are 0600-1100 and 1300-1900, but I got the impression it's best to catch them open in the morning. Mayor Julien Tiaihau and his wife Nicole returned a bit after 5:00. Nicole opened the store and John went to do our shopping while I followed the mayor and three people from another boat to Residence Tiaihau which appeared to be the only home completely surrounded by fencing and a gate. In what we would call the car port the mayor opened a suitcase and spread a bag of pearls out on a cloth covered table. What a let down. These were mostly small (earring sized), rough, dull, and completely mismatched in color. One man found a nice pearl that he liked, but it was impossible for him to find a mate and he let it go to me. When we asked if he had better quality pearls for us to choose from the mayor told us that all the best pearls go to Japan (not Papeete). We asked to see larger sized pearls and these were in even worse shape.

I had been pulling aside anything that was even remotely round, blemish free, and with decent color on at least one side, until I had a pile of pearls with the nicest one (given to me by the man who couldn't find a match) set off from my pile. The other boat decided not to make a purchase, making a good point that it would cost more to mount them than they were worth. (I later learned from John that the woman had been told the pearls would cost $8 apiece!) I waited for the others to leave before beginning my horse trading, and the mayor's eyes lit up when I pulled out the jackets for him to try on. He is a tall, muscular man and he took everything I offered, even though I'd really meant for him to choose one of the three! The zipper was jammed by corrosion on the Helly Hanson (oops, forgot to double check everything before bringing it to shore) and we agreed to fix it and bring it on Saturday when we came in to get baguettes. Then the mayor took the good pearl away from my pile, put it in a little jewelry ziploc bag and put it in his suitcase. When I protested that I'd wanted to keep it for the man who didn't buy it, the mayor counted out my 35 pearls, scooped a few more from the reject pile, put them all in a little bag, and gave them to me. Obviously there was something special about that particular one which made me determined to have it, so I pulled a nice hat from my backpack to exchange for the pearl. Finally I understood that the mayor's biggest concern was that I should keep the pearl for myself and not give it to the "monsieur." We agreed to this stipulation with handshakes and smiles all around.

The next morning John discovered that the zipper on the jacket was beyond repair and he spent the entire morning ripping out the old zipper and replacing it with a new one. I'm not sure it was worth all the effort because he then discovered that the white plastic waterproof lining was flaking off and coming out of the mesh lining of the jacket. I just hope the mayor doesn't wear a lot of black... So now we've lightened the boat but not our wallets, and I have a small pile of black pearls which may never see the light of day, but we had fun doing it and I know the North Face jacket will serve the mayor well.

We've reprovisioned and taken care of chores like defrosting the freezer, vacuuming, cleaning the stove, and other cleaning chores. We took a list of supplies for Gaston and Valentine from Soggy Paws and we will be delivering those to Anse Amyot at Toau which is where we're headed tonight. We'll leave at 3 PM and sail overnight. So I'm off to get a swim before we depart!