Saturday 28th July - No through road to Toau

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sat 28 Jul 2012 18:33

15:48.21S 146:09.13W

Saturday 28th July – No through road to Toau

The plan to leave on Wednesday evening for Apataki was ditched as soon as the Swan 57 Nakesa with Graham and Phaedra Applin and their children, Aston and Atlanta, pulled into the anchorage in Rotoava during the afternoon and anchored about 100 yards away.  We’d come across them in Nuku Hiva and had had a great evening aboard with them.  So, we kinda thought we’d do sundowners aboard Arnamentia and that went on for a bit as these things tend to.  So, planned departure was delayed by 24 hours to Thursday evening.  Then we had another thought.  Toau, the atoll just north of Fakarava has an inlet, Anse Amyot, on its northern coast.  From seaward Anse Amyot looks like an entrance to the lagoon in Toau but it is a false pass blocked at its inner end by a coral reef over which you’d be pressed to get a canoe.  Reports in the various pilots we have are very mixed when it comes to the attractions of the Toau lagoon itself.  The pass into the lagoon can be pretty difficult unless you get slack water dead right (that remains something of a mystery although we now seem to be getting it there or thereabouts).  Charlie’s Charts which may, perhaps, have the most up-to-date information reports that the pearl farm in the lagoon has been taken over by a Chinese run emporium in Tahiti employing a large Chinese workforce and cruisers are not encouraged to land.  Another pilot indicates that many of the reputed marks in the lagoon don’t exist any more.  And most of the lagoon is completely uncharted.  So, all in all it didn’t sound very attractive but we have no idea whether much of that’s just blather or not.  Whatever, Anse Amyot is a quite different matter.  It isn’t in the lagoon but is well sheltered from wind and swell and accessible at any state of the tide – unusual in the Tuamotus.  The entrance to the inlet is about 80m wide but the route in is marked with a well laid out and very obvious transit.  And, as we found out when we entered, the enterprising snack bar/restaurant on the shore has laid out moorings to make best use of the limited space in what would otherwise be a fairly tight anchorage.  The best thing about it from our point of view was that it’s 40NM from the Rotoava anchorage and only about 20NM from the pass we need to enter to get into Apataki.  So, the even better plan was to leave at around 0730 on Friday, get to Anse Amyot in the early afternoon, stay the night and time our departure so as to complete the remaining 20NM by the time of slack water at Apataki on Saturday around lunchtime.  Two nights in bed rather than one spent trying to sail very slowly downwind – which is not one of Arnamentia’s strengths.  Sounded like a better plan so that’s what we did.

Having picked up our mooring at around 1500 ($5US or 500XCP a night unless you’re eating at the restaurant when it’s free) we nipped ashore to the restaurant at sundown to see what was what and whether or not there might be any scoff in the offing.  As with so many of these places the answer re scoff was ‘Not tonight but now we know about you, if you’d like to book for tomorrow we’ll fix something ’.  Regrettably that does fit our Plan C (at least I think it’s Plan C we’re on now).  But, we were made most welcome and were treated to a very pleasant hour or two whilst we had a couple of beers with the party ashore and were entertained by a ukulele and a couple of guitars accompanying Polynesian songs about fish in the reefs or whatever.

It has been some time since we spent a night as peacefully as that on Friday night.  You get used to swell in anchorages.  But, there just wasn’t any in Anse Amyot.  It felt much as though we were in a marina but without the noise from the marina bar and the banging and crashing as the ‘boys’ from the big macho racing machine next door pile back aboard at 0300.  Never happened in our day – obviously.


The Restaurant at the end of the Universe – Anse Amyot     Nice wide pass into the lagoon?  In a canoe – perhaps.

Re-reading the blog so far I think I’ve underplayed the importance of fishing to these atoll dwellers.  There are large numbers of fish traps in the lagoons and so the fish can be harvested absolutely fresh to meet the air or sea transport that will convey them to Tahiti and its islands.  Moreover, the fish conveniently save you the trouble of having to catch them by catching themselves.  The importance of this has apparently increased in recent years as young Tahitians have migrated away from the rigours of fishing to more comfortable 9-5 jobs in the ‘new’ economy.  So, demand for fish in Tahiti and the other Society Islands significantly exceeds the supply available from their own fishermen.  Whilst on the subject of food, fresh vegetables and fruit (except coconuts, obviously) anywhere in these parts are astoundingly expensive e.g. about £14 for 2 grapefruit, 2 oranges, a small cabbage and a pound of tomatoes – but they did taste good after a couple of weeks of tinned.  Anyone keen to eat his 5 portions of fruit and veg a day here would presumably need to be on a very sizeable salary (not sure that’d be many of the locals) and get up pretty early in the morning to scoop what little is available (very largely shipped in) as soon as it becomes so.  Or, eat a lot of coconuts.  Which is what most do and in a pretty wide variety of forms starting with milk from immature ones.  Not many cows about.  One or two other things can be grown – Papaya amongst them – in the sand and there are also families (the restaurateurs in Anse Amyot amongst them) who arrange for soil to be shipped in from Tahiti by relations living there.  All that said, the Polynesians all look pretty well on it.  There are a great many very prosperously proportioned people around the place. 

We are just about to slip our mooring for Apataki where we will spend a few days before sailing overnight to Rangiroa to meet James and Mira on 2nd August