Grunting, as a form of communication, is not, by and large, easily translatable into the written
word. This may explain the surprisingly few porcine writers of our age. It also explains why I have
not written an update lately. You see, the longer I am part of the boating community the greater is
the deterioration of my ability to use more than one syllable words in any coherent fashion.
Grunt, big seas bad. Snort, prices high. Mmm, dinner good. This amounts to an intellectual
conversation amongst cruisers after long, sleepless, passages and days spent in blazing,
mind-numbing sun. We are reduced to the most basic of statements which become our mantra.
Winds, grunt, grunt, seas, grunt, grunt, ice cream - ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh (cruisers jumping up and
down clapping their hands excitedly).
Tragically I do not believe that the Nobel Literature people take kindly to this reduction of thought.
Hmmm, unless I write an entire novel in grunting stream of consciousness. I'd probably get a
Macarthur or NEA grant. However this is an update about the Tuamotus and not the world of
The Tuamotus are a smattering of atolls tossed into the Pacific ocean willy nilly in between the
Marquesas and the Society Islands (of which Tahiti is a member). But what, you ask, is an atoll?
Well, imagine an island that has been attacked by the worlds biggest doughnut maker. A giant
thumb descended from the heavens and, splut, poked a hole in the center of each island leaving
behind a ring of palm tree clad reef surrounded inside and out by turquoise water. Oh yes, and
sharks, lots and lots of sharks. Think of them as the sprinkles on the doughnut atoll.
Pearls are big business here. Black pearls that is. Innocent oysters are pried open and seeded
with a round plastic mold. A bit of oyster saliva later and you have a pearl that ranges in color from
deep gray to slightly off white. The most interesting aspect of these pearls is that they appear to
have the ability to make otherwise reticent people come unhinged.
Trading for pearls is a hot topic. The pearl farmers sell the good pearls to places in Tahiti, Moorea
and Huahine. These become really expensive souvenirs for honeymooning couples. The leftover,
imperfect pearls are then traded to salivating cruisers for citrus, alcohol, perfume, gasoline and
whatever else the islanders find difficult to procure locally. The French Polynesia government
frowns on trading for pearls. They carefully regulate the black pearl market in order, at least this
is their claim, to avoid imperfect pearls from being allowed out of the country. I'm not entirely sure
why this is a problem. Its not like the imperfect pearls will infect other pearls. "Oh my God Kitty,
your heirloom pearl necklace has been fraternizing with an imperfect black pearl! Its picked up a
PTD (pearly transmitted disease)!" Rather, gasp, it probably means that the government, like
Debeers and diamonds, wish to keep the price artificially high. I know, shocking isn't it?
Rather than get involved with the pearl mafia, we have been puddling about the atoll looking for
shells and diving.
Oh, okay, Richard has been diving. I have been practicing snorting water and spitting out my
regulator. For those of you who do not scuba dive, here is a quick recap. First, you strap a tank
filled with life-giving oxygen on your back. Donning a clear mask you then plunge yourself under
the non-life giving water (unless you sprout gills) and proceed to hope the little hoses connecting
your mouth and the aforementioned oxygen do not fail. No, really, this is what we do.
An important part of this activity are certain handy skills. One is the ability to lose your mask, put it
back on and clear it of water without swallowing the sea, bolting to the surface (bad, you tend to
blow up, pressurized gas expanding and all)
and generally becoming an invalid. Sadly, this skill has eluded me lately. My brain has decided
that taking off a perfectly good mask underwater is ridiculous and it should stay put at all costs. If I
insist on removing said mask my nose decides the proper response is to punish me by inhaling
resulting in the water snorting, regulator spitting, bolting behavior.
So, there I am, sitting in 4 feet of water practicing breathing underwater without a mask. Inhale,
exhale, DO NOT BREATHE THROUGH NOSE, inhale, exhale, sigh. I finally work up the courage to
attempt the bottom sitting, mask removal and replacement. I sit, Richard is watching me. All the
kids on the beach are watching me. The other cruisers are watching me. A large grouper swims up
and watches me. There he sits smugly breathing through those gills of his. His big brown eyes
gaze upon me in contempt. I hate him. All breathing and such. Eventually I successfully perform
the magic mask trick a couple of times. Grunt, ice cream, where is the ice cream!!!!
By and large, kayaking across an aquarium should be a pleasant, but not overly alarming event.
However, we are in Anse Amyot, things are different here.
On a still day Richard and I glided across the crystalline lagoon. As we pass over the coral heads
we can pick out individual fish in all their colors. Its so peaceful and beautiful that it hurts.
As we approach a motu, we decide to anchor the boats in 6 inches of water and wade to the
beach. Dun nunt,...um...did you hear that? For a brief moment I thought I heard the Jaws theme.
Hmmm, must be the palm trees. Anyway, back to wading. Splash, splosh we make our way through
the shallow water. Awww, look, a tiny shark. Its actually an 18 inch black tip shark. They are almost
cute at this size. We laugh, "ha, ha". Um, dude, its circling. Isn't that amusing, the little guy is
curious. Hey, wait, its coming towards us...fast. Suddenly Richard screams and leaps about 4 feet
into the air.
It seems the cute little guy went straight for Richards toes. Suddenly we are plummeted into an
Alfred Hitchcock movie. The tiny little sharks kept coming, we counted 10 at one time. Reverting to
schoolyard behavior, we threw rocks to scare them off. However, they didn't scare for long. After
swimming pell mell away from the rain of terror from the sky, the critters swam a lazy circle back
We finally made it to the island. Upon landing a council of war began. Clearly it was us or the
miniature versions of Jaws. Richard fills his pockets with rocks, Jen grabs a large pointed stick.
The plan? We wade back to the kayaks bobbing serenely in the turquoise water. Side by side,
Richard keeps an eye on the devils we can see, Jen spots the new members of the terrorist
squad. After a looooooooong wade and amidst much rock throwing and stick brandishing we make
it back. Yes, two grown adults then leap into their kayaks terrified of tiny black tips. Um, snorkeling