Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Local Advice

Myself, returning from the bow after another successful anchoring mission: Alright! Who wants to go to the beach?!

Both Boys: Meeee!

Alisa: First, Eric, do your time out. That's going to happen every time. A four-minute time out every time you jab your brother in the penis.


Herself, going down the companionway to mete justice: I'm livin' the dream!


Of course we always solicit local advice - wherever we are, every chance we get.

A local couple, living at their camp on an out-motu while harvesting copra, stopped by Galactic in their pirogue the first day we were here. Elias whispered in my ear that I should ask about ciguatera. None at Amanu, they replied. I asked a couple times, in different ways. Yes, they confirmed, all the fish are safe to eat.

It was left to me to explain to Elias later how we take that first report as nothing but an encouraging sign. In Makemo, our ludicrous French will get us the response that there is no ciguatera. Someone who speaks French, and knows what to ask, will be told that there are two species of fish that the locals never touch. So the more informative answer is something along the lines of, "All the fish are safe. Except those two species that aren't."

And then there was Hao. The first person we asked, Ipo, told us that all the fish there are safe. The second person we spoke to, Anglophone Tony ("Why do you want your kids to learn French? It's an awful language.") told us, in his fluent English, that there was LOTS of ciguatera, and it was complicated, telling what was safe.

Then this couple at Amanu dropped another tidbit on us. Careful with that little one of yours, they said. Dangerous sharks here.

The family had already seen a handful of sickle-fin lemon sharks on their first trip ashore, and we had been wondering what the scene was.

In a lot of ways, we're pretty conservative when we travel. Having been warned by locals, we made the very easy decision to stay out of the water. We'll probably venture in at some point for a last Tuamotu snorkel. But all the endless jumping off the stern and the laps around the boat at anchor - such huge parts of our routine in the tropics - all that is on hold.

Which is a decided blow against our experience of Amanu.

In Hao, I had, in spite of myself, started to entertain an image of Tuamotu villages as jails. Of course, anyone's home place is paradise to them. But The motus are just so small, the villages so packed in, the poverty, at times, quite severe. To a continental visitor on an extended tour, possibility can begin to look scarce.

And then, if you aren't swimming... You can start to forget the point of the Tuamotus. This place, after all, is all about the water.

The boys began to devour our wildlife guide to Chile, hungering after continental levels of terrestrial biodiversity.

Luckily, our latest move to a new anchorage revealed the best walking, barring a road, that we have found in the Dangerous Archipelago. The outer reef on the northeast corner of the atoll has long berms of coral debris, almost level, left behind by cyclones of the past.

You can walk and walk there. And Elias found a glass ball - one of the hand-blown fishing floats that are the prized beachcomber's find in Alaska.

It's the first whole one we've ever seen in the South Pacific. And that inconsequential little delight - Elias was so happy to bring it back to his mom as a gift - will give us a moment to anchor Amanu in our memory.


  1. Congratulations to Elias for finding such a treasure!!! We also found a glass ball in the Tuamotos (in 1999 -- after much, much, searching. Is this a kid-from-the-PNW thing??) and it's still my most prized souvenir from the whole trip :) Very cool.

    And one quick story from Hiva Oa -- my little sister and I had met a group of kids at the local swimming hole, and invited them out to swim off the boat. We jumped and splashed and had a great time. The next day, we invited a different group of kids to come out for a swim from the boat. "Oh no, we don't swim in the deep water," this group told me, "trop de requins tigres". Tiger sharks. Great. I don't know if that was true or not but it certainly kept us out of the water!!

  2. So cool about the glass float! Local advice is invaluable, when it comes to ciguatera and sharks... something to seek out and heed. When we first "came out" about our cruising plans, a friend back in Seattle told us the story of when she was a little girl, watching as a playmate suffered a fatal shark attack in the South Pacific. Kinda stuck with me.