Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pearls

Today we had delicious freshly baked baguettes delivered to Sea Turtle by Fernand, the Village of Manihi's baker. Fernand is a friendly heart-warming gentleman who loves people. He's the man about town as it seems he can fulfill your every need. Throughout our stay, he was able to provide boats with bread, panga rides in rough weather, washing machine for laundry, internet, water, diesel, news about island happenings, etc. Fernand is on the go 24/7 - he also operates his own pearl farm!

Fernand picked up Jordan and me and Bruce and Jeannie (SV Jabula) in his panga and took us out into the lagoon where he harvests his oysters.

Great view as we head to dive for pearl oysters (Jordan and Bruce)

We all got in the water with snorkelling gear to collect the hanging ropes of oysters.

Judy and Jordan in panga with oysters

We then motored to the location where Fernand demonstrated to us how he opens the oysters, extracts the pearl(s), and then performs his delicate operation of inserting a piece of oyster mantle and seed into each oyster - all under a very strict timeline of 1 hour before the mantle of the oyster perishes! So fascinating. And difficult. After watching him, he let Jordan and Bruce attempt the procedure. Not easy at all. Yet he does hundreds a day.

Jordan attempting the delicate operation

Fernand let each of us choose 2 oysters and keep whatever we found in them. We walked away very happy with our freshly harvested pearls, even though most that we chose were far from perfect (but Bruce and Jeannie found 2 large perfect pearls in their harvest). Fernand has the amazing ability to look at an oyster and state whether or not it will contain a pearl. He was never wrong. The tiny pearls are called keshis and they are natural pearls formed without a seed.

Our harvest

After pearling, Fernand took us to his house for a scrumptious lunch where he received a VHF radio call from a Russian boat needing guidance into the harbour. We went with him, and on the way, we stopped to chat with Fernand's jolly fishing buddies who had just caught gigantic yellowfin tuna, 1 was a good 80 kilograms (175 lbs).

Local fisherman with fat catch

Fernand also sent us home with lots of fresh oyster meat to cook and also fresh oyster foot or muscle (the equivalent to scallops) to be eaten raw or cooked. I didn't think I would like the raw scallop but it was delicious with lemon, salt, and pepper. Jordan didn't care for it.

As we were enjoying our feast aboard Sea Turtle, Bruce bit into a cooked oyster and suddenly felt something hard - he had found a keshi. What a great ending to a fabulous meal, fabulous day, and fabulous pearling adventures!

Jordan and Bruce went lobstering late in the evening but no luck as it was too windy and the waves were too high. Perhaps will try again when the wind abates.

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