After leaving Rikitea we briefly visited the low, long island of Totegegie. It’s just a part of the outer reef that sticks out of the water with some pines and palmtrees growing on half of it, the ocean crashes against the beach smashing the corals to pieces. The other half has been cleared to make way for the airstrip. Two days later we moved on to the third biggest island of the Gambier: Aukena. Getting there wasn’t easy, because the whole lagoon between Mangareva and Aukena is filled up with buoys of pearl farms. The famous black pearls are the main source of income for the Gambier, so it seems the pearl lobby’s free to do whatever they want. In order to reach Aukena, yachts have to use a narrow channel between a reef and buoy fields–and even this channel is blocked by pearl floats in some places. Our friends on Irie were a little ahead of us playing ‘minesweeper’ and gave instructions on the radio, Christian was standing on the bow and so we reached Aukena very slowly an d carefully. The island itself is high and pretty, there’s an abondoned village in the south, just one man lives there to maintain the church and surrounding gardens. Strangely enough the church is only used once a year. Unfortunately I (Birgit) have caught a cold. In Austria Grandmothers warn the kids not to go barefoot or sit on stones in months with an ‘r’ in it, otherwise the ‘maRch calf’ will bite them. As a child I found that very strange, as all my bovine encounters had been very peaceful, but I accepted the fact. Because the Gambier islands are in the southern hemisphere, here it’s the months without an ‘r’ in them that are dangerous (fortunately there’s less of them ;-) ). Of course I wasn’t careful, living on a boat it’s just hard to avoid getting wet, especially when you don’t want to get your warm clothing salty during dinghy rides. Anyway, apparently the ‘june calf’ has bitten me, I’ve got a sore throat, runny nose and all the other symptoms I had already forgotten about and certainly didn’t miss during the last two years when we stayed near enough to the equator to always stay warm. The positive side effect of being too ill to go snorkeling, hiking or do other fun stuff is that I’ve started working on the new upholstery of our sofa, replacing the old torn leather with a light material bought in Panama: 4 cushions done, 8 to go! Christian’s also working on Pitufa, adding new gadgets. On the passage we were really annoyed by cupboard doors that kept banging our elbows while we were searching for things inside. They’ve now got little ‘open-holding-devices’–there’s always something to modify in order to make life more pleasant on Pitufa. Our friends on Irie (www.itsirie.com) had been worried about too much play in the ruddershaft, so today they moved their catamaran into shallow water, Christian put on his dive gear and pulled out the rudder from below in order to change the bushings. With Mark working inside on the upper bushings, Christian under the boat, Liesbet snorkeling to help Christian and me as an inbetween-communication centre the work went smoothly (what a suprise, usually seemingly simple jobs take on epic dimensions on boats) and within two hours Irie’s rudder had new bushings and our friends one thing less to worry about.

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