Still on Manihi

In Voyages on 02/08/2010 at 23:30

We’re still on Manihi, a beautiful atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. We came here on an unscheduled stop since our complete steering system had systematically stopped working with first the primary autopilot, then the second, then the rudder and finally the steering cables. We came into this atoll with the help of Fernando (a local fisherman/baker/pearl farmer/watertaxi driver/leader of the Mormon church) who showed us the way while I was steering the ship with the emergence steering system, Arent was handling the throttle and Matty was on the lookout for coral heads.

After we dropped anchor and we were finally getting everything in order again on board, Fernando came by and told me to come with him immediately with all the broken parts. We didn’t really understand why or what, but I obeyed. He is the leader of the Mormon church after all, so what else should I do? He took me to the other side of the atoll after half an hour drive with a speedboat to a local engineer who had a complete workshop. He took the pieces out of my hands and started working on them immediately and two hours later I had a completely repaired steering system with brand new fabricated parts so we were fixed again. It’s amazing. Normally that would take weeks in any main port, but here on an almost deserted island it’s done in 2 hours…

The Tuamotu Archipelago is a wide expanse of volcanoes that have sunk into the ocean and have left a ring of coral reefs (the atolls) that mark the millions of years old edges of what once were massive islands. This Atoll is truly amazing. The lagoon is filled with deep water and coral heads that barely scratch the surface. The outer edge consists of a reef that is mostly above the water with large amounts of palm trees. These dry areas are broken up by submerged parts of the reef (well, about 1 foot of water) which turn the coastline into small islands. Many of them have deserted buildings on them since most people left the atoll for a different life on Tahiti. The village is not far from the ship and there are about 200 people living in the village itself.

We have been fishing with lines and spears and we have caught some coconuts. This is the way of the islands, so we’re happy to join in. The only problem is with the damn coconuts. They’re such hard work opening that I spent an hour with a hammer and chisel, only to get a small cup of coconut milk and a small meal for four people. But it’s well worth it! The waters around the ship are crawling with Blacktip Reafsharks which are completely harmless  (they grow up to 1.8 m long, eat only small fish and on occasion a bather’s big toe… J ) and we’ve been swimming with them a lot now. We also have some children that have attached themselves to the ship. These are remora’s  that normally attach themselves to large fish like sharks and have now decided that they like Helena a lot.

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