Nine hundred thousand and one Oysters

Tuesday 5th July 2016

We are eating lunch in the Bora Bora Yacht Club and I am drinking wine from a delicate tall stemmed wine glass. We seem to have found civilisation. Bora Bora is packed full of luxury hotels, the tourist is king. The road that runs around the island and right next to our anchorage is busy, jet ski treks, full of honeymooning couples, whiz by and tourist boats rock us with their wake but for now we don’t mind, it’s just nice to sip our cold Savignon Blanc from a fancy glass.

Last weeks anchorage in Vaiorea Bay, Tahaa turned out to have more than just incredible sunsets, it was full of oysters. The  pearl farm whose bouys filled most of the bay had a jetty, thankful to the owner for his help in anchoring, we dingied over to see their pearl farming demonstration. It turned out to be very interesting. A spherical bead of shell, just smaller than the pearl required is seeded in the gonad of an Oyster with a piece of its mantle tissue. The mantle is the outer piece of flesh of the Oyster that creates the mother of pearl coating on the inside of the oyster shell or if enclosed in a small space with a piece of sand as in nature, or a piece of shell as when farmed, coats the irritant to create a pearl. The Pinctada Margaritifera Oysters that thrive in the warm, clear waters of French Polynesia have a black mantle that produces the dark colours of the local pearls. Once seeded the Oysters are left to create there magic in the cages on the other side of the lagoon. They are harvested after eighteen months, each oyster and pearl can go through this procedure three times producing a diversity of shapes, sizes and qualities of pearls. The farm managed an incredible 900,000 mature oysters with another million in its nursery.

Of course at the end of the demonstration is the shop, we perused the selection of jewellery, they are lovely but so expensive, we splashed out on just one, small, but top classed blue, black pearl.

View out from Bay Vaiorea

We returned to the boat, the sun now high in the sky, we grabbed our snorkel gear and drove the dingy the nautical mile back to Motu Tautau for the promised spectacular snorkel on the coral garden. We left the dingy anchored in the shallows off the northern shore and walked through the palm trees to the far end facing the outer reef. We then jumped into the channel between the islands. It was amazing, the gentle current pushed us back towards the dingy through a mass of mixed corals, it was great fun weaving though the bommies seeking out a route deep and wide enough to float through. 

Spectacular coral garden at Tautau

However the real wow factor came from the fish, there were millions of them and with no depth to escape, they just swim all around you. They were every shape and size from a few centimetres to a couple of feet long, in every colour and pattern imaginable, it was as if a teacher had given a group of six year olds a bunch of felt tip pens and asked them to design fish.We loved it so much we returned the next day to do it all over again.

Rick at the end of the Tautau channel

Back at the bay a Hallberg Rassy – Blue Raven had anchored next to us and they joined us for sundowners. As I think I have mentioned before, meeting new people is one of the highlights of the trip, when in real life do you invite people over just because they have turned up next to you for the night. We meet such a diverse bunch, from toddlers to eighty year olds, from New Zealanders to Swedes, from luxury Super Yachts to 30ft home builds and everyone has thier own stories to tell of how they came to be in this particulr tiny bay in the middle of the Paciffic.

The next morning we went a few miles up the lagoon to Tahaa’s main town Patio, again the water was deep but there were mooring balls to hook up to. We normally avoid mooring balls, we are bigger and much heavier than most of the sailing boats here but these looked robust and the breeze was gentle. We were keen to get rid of our rubbish and to the store, so we tied up and after an interesting ‘bilingual’ conversation between Rick and the Gendarme as to the bouys yacht size rating, decided to risk staying night.

The mooring held fast and early the next morning we headed off. The sea outside the reef had built to a three metre swell overnight and either side of the pass the surf was huge, a wonderful, if rathe daunting sight. Amazingly the pass itself was relatively calm and full of Dolphins, our exit was straight forward. Our twenty mile crossing, however, with the swell on our side, was very rolly and the entrance through the pass into Bora Bora quite hairy with cross currents, traffic and a three knot out flow against us. Still we made it and here we are sipping white wine, enjoying the view and discussing how we will spend the next couple of weeks on the island before the next big passage, 1200nm to Tonga.

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