We've been weathering out the thirty knot winds, tucked into the Northern anchorage of Toau.
A small "false" pass (no actual access into the main lagoon) named Anse Amyot.
|Map of Anse Amyot from http://www.cata-blackpearl.com/|
We sailed up from Fakarava, racing ahead of a few saucy squalls that did their best to paste us on the beam. Experience has honed us to these little assaults, so we reefed well ahead of time, avoiding the worst of the punch.
Pura Vida nosed on through the wind and sideways rain, and in a half hour, it blew over us.
We arrived at the pass, just before sunset, the sky cleared, we got our hook down and settled in.
It was a lovely evening, there were a few other boats in the anchorage, as we dinghied in to say a quick "hello" to the local family that lives here and introduce ourselves.
Everyone is anchored right in in their "front yard", after all...so we try to be as polite as possible.
Hunter made a small gift of homemade strawberry jam and some packs of vegetable seeds for their garden (excellent things to bring for trade or give as gifts as they are much appreciated and don't take up any space on the boat).
We kept the visit short, figuring they have been entertaining a slew of cruising boats in the past few weeks and even though they were super friendly, they did seem a little worn out from socializing.
After a good tickle-session with their adorable baby boy, and "oohing and ahhing" over the enormous boars they keep (I can't believe I ever agreed to let Kai go hunt for one of those things!) and cooing over the new batch of piglets hiding under momma boar, we headed back to the boat for an early night.
I woke up at 5 AM and stared up at the small patch of light coming through our hatch.
Something about the color of the predawn luminance told me things were not going to be so nice in a few hours.
"Oh boy-here it comes..." I whispered to Jon and crawled out of the bunk.
I put the kettle on, poured some beans into the hand grinder and took it up on deck, where I watched the blood and flame colored sun rise from behind black clouds.
The kettle whistled and I went below to make the coffee.
The front was predicted to swing around to the North for a few hours and then continue clocking around where it would really blow from the South East for a few days.
By the time I had finished my second cup of coffee, the sun was really up and the clouds had blown away and it was absolutely perfect.
I decided to go for a paddle board and check out the coral gardens that surround the anchorage.
As the kids wrote in the blog a few months ago, coral everywhere on the planet is being decimated.
All kinds of reasons for this-- global warming, the calcification of the seas, introduction of viral species-like the infamous Crown of Thorns.
Because of all this havoc, most of the time, the coral you find is often dead.
It's still supporting life but no where near the sort of abundance you see when its really thriving.
I was thrilled to see blooms of bright purples, orange, pinks and creams. lavenders and brilliant blues beneath me as I guided the board in a silent glide over the crystalline water.
Stand up paddling is the best for exploring coral reefs, because you can coast over very shallow areas and as long as you are comfortable maneuvering in tight spots, you can spend hours working your way through this incredible living maze.
Absolutely clear water and white sand surrounding the coral make for a spectacular, front-row view of the activities of many of the garden's otherwise skittish creatures.
|We commonly see the Napoleon Wrasse out here. Photo: roughguides.com|
It's really funny to be observed back.
You can actually see these animals looking at each other, like -- "Holy sh*#t, hey, Bill, check this out! That thing up there is looking at us... do you think it might be intelligent?"
After a while, they grow bored of me and go back to their own business--but I could look at them forever.
I went back to the boat and made a full report to my dive team about what I had seen and what areas I thought were best to pursue underwater. It was agreed that we would snorkel today and check out the area before deciding where to dive with the tanks. Plus, the weather was already starting to change and what was really in store for the next few days was starting to rear its unruly head.
That old seaman's rule of thumb;
"red sky at dawn-sailors be warned..."
pretty much always turns out to be completely freakin' true, as far as I can tell.
Kai and Jon headed for the mouth of the pass and Hunter and I dove around in about thirty feet, following a big Tahitian stingray and observing a buddy pair-up we hadn't seen before: Golden trumpet fish cruising on the backs of electric blue-pokadotted Coral Groupers. Whenever Hunter and I dove down to investigate them, the Groupers would give us a "tough guy" look, like they were warning us not to mess with their little buddy.
I surfaced and could see Kai waving at me from a hundred yards away. Right away I knew he had seen a shark.
He had the really, really big grin on his face again.
I put Hunter in the dinghy and went to join the boys but by the time I got there, the four foot black fin had meandered on.
I sure got to hear plenty about him later, though.
There was still lots of action around, even without the shark.
Exotic moray eels poked out of holes, opening and closing their fang-y mouths (they can't help it, its how they pass water over their gills). My new favorite was the relatively friendly looking white-eyed moray. I found him sharing a hole with a group of lovely see-through spidery-looking shrimpy things that I can't identify, because I don't have internet or a book on crustaceans of the South Pacific.
Back on the boat, we all shared notes and squabbled over who got to hold the fish identification book while we pawed through the pages and tried not to ruin them with our salty, wet fingers, pointing and squealing about what we had seen on the dive.
The sky turned a blacker shade of cloud and the wind started to howl and clock around and it was time to start to tie things down and get ready for the show.
The "clock around to the North" thing took a bit longer than expected and we (along with the five other boats in here) were caught on a pretty uncomfortable lee shore for 12 hours.
The family that lives on this part of the atoll have installed mooring balls -so visiting cruisers anchors don't drag all over the coral heads and ruin all the fauna- but as any sailor will tell you, everyone feels better on their own gear.
Jon free-dove the mooring earlier in the day (we are sitting on the edge of the pass, in about 60 feet) and it looked good.
He had also been thrilled and surprised (and equally spooked) to intersect a kinda large shark (9 feet?) and a giant Manta on his way down to check the lines.
But as the winds increased over the afternoon and a long night of squally weather lay ahead of us, he decided to throw down our own tackle as well.
The night was indeed blustery and the next day was gusting up pretty good.
The kids and I decided to make a big chicken and chick pea curry.
The boat smelled amazing with all exotic spices roasting in the frying pan as Hunter pounded coriander seeds with the big stone pestle Moie gave me back in Marquesas.
It was shaping up to be a cozy reading day but first Jon needed to make some adjustments to our rig.
He was uncomfortable with the way our lines were running off our bowsprit and could tell our chain had wrapped a coral head and he needed to relieve the pressure and chaffe that it was putting on our gear.
I kicked on the engine and followed Jon's hand-signals, driving the boat forward and backward in the veering wind as Jon wrangled the lines free (watch those fingers!) and put new chaffe gear on our ropes.
A fairly uncomfortable swell was running in through the pass now, too, and all us boats were hobby horsing pretty good on our gear, so everyone was on deck checking their business and taking things seriously.
We were suddenly hit by a very big set of sideways waves.
I heard shouting from below decks.
White smoke started to billow from the companionway door.
"MOM!" Kai shouted."Somethings on fire!"
The delicious smell of roasted cinnamon, allspice and coconut kept me from panicking.
It was my curry sloshing inside the stove and catching fire on the flame burner underneath it.
I had forgotten to put the gimbal on the oven before putting it in.
I was at anchor, after all, you don't usually anticipate that one!
"What do I do???" wailed Kai.
"Turn off the green light!" I yelled back.
All the yelling carried over the wind to Jon on the foredeck, who looked back, and was understandably alarmed to see smoke billowing out of the cockpit.
"SHUT IT DOWN!" he said, rather assertively, thinking it was engine smoke.
I assured him it was all cool, just a sloshy curry and nothing major.
Jon told me to go ahead and shut it down anyway, as our lines were all clear and I yelled to Kai to flip off the engine room exhaust on the breaker panel, while Jon and I finished making everything bristol fashion above decks.
I came down ten minutes later and discovered the floorboards covered in water.
"What's going on? " I yelped at Kai, as this time I had no explanation and Panic! was threatening to rear its frizzy, high strung head inside me.
I ran to check the panel board and see if the bilge had accidentally gotten turned off.
I could hear the exhaust fan was still on so i flipped that off and barked at Kai about being careless when I noticed the water pressure was also now on.
I ran forward to check the kids head and their entire floor was underwater.
Hunter was having a playdate in her bunk with another boat kid and they hadn't noticed the water.
"Oh!" said the little girls in unison as they looked down at me, madly scrambling on my hands and knees to open the bilge hatch and get a look at the sea strainer.
Everything looked normal. No spurting water.
Where was that water coming from?
"Do you guys have a hole in your boat?" asked Hunters little friend.
"I sure hope not, honey" I answered as calmly as I could.
I scrambled back on deck.
"Jon..." I said. In my "controlled" voice...
"We have an issue. Water on the boards . I don't know where its coming from".
I thought I sounded pretty chill, given the circumstances.
Jon came down stairs, calm as the Dalai Lama and looked me in the eye before looking at anything else.
"Tell me exactly what you know" he said, like the soon-to-be hero in an adventure movie.
I tried to organize my highly unorganized brain patterns...
They tend to go backwards or upside down and then backwards, even at the best of times.
"...the smoke was from the oven. Kai turned off the propane. That stopped the smoke. I came down and the exhaust was on, I turned it off. I saw the water pressure was on, I turned it off. I went to look at the forward through hull 'cause that's where the water seems the worst.. It was fine... and that's... when i got you."
"Did you turn it off?"
"the water pressure?"
said Jon, immediately making sense of what did not make any sense at all to me.
He went forward to the kids' head.
"Turn the water pressure on", he seemed to say from his backside as it was all I could see sticking out of their tiny bathroom.
I turned the water on.
Fresh water streamed from their tap
Someone had left a tap open and when the water pressure was accidentally turned on (instead of the exhaust off) fresh water flowed freely (and unobserved by little girls playing dolls) into the kids bathroom. And over-flowed their sink ( which was filled to the brim already with Hunter's pilfered bottles and debris, otherwise known as "potions)" and at the same time, their bilge pump had clogged (with recently shorn Barbie hair).
Three little kids, "cooped up kids" on a boat, in the rain, and the end result was, that in fifteen minutes, we lost what took Jon two days of constant humping to load into our fresh water tanks.
We were nearly empty again.
After a five minute freakout, I did what all parent-sailor-Boddhisatvas do...
Remember the laws of impermanence:
cultivate Buddha nature:
(pour a rum!)
Be grateful that no one is hurt and the boat is fine.
Repeat the mantra, "This is cruising.."
and start mopping up.
The rest of the day was an uneventful, if soggy, Fourth of July.
Another boat in the anchorage invited some of the US boats over for drinks and we all plowed through the wind and waves to their boat for a cocktail and a toast to the good ol' USA.
I was happy to celebrate (one of my) homelands and took a minute to be genuinely grateful for all that we have there.
Out here on the edge of sanity, you do realize the things you take for granted and sometimes maybe do not appreciate enough...
or a country that you spend a lot of time being frustrated by, but deep down really do value what they set out to be, if they could only just please address the big issues and stop arguing about the easy stuff, like gay marriage...
At the risk of digressing, I will share a little "quick fix" I developed for supporting or denouncing large and complex agendas in a snap... (maybe I should pass it along to Congress and help those folks move things along more smoothly)
SUPPORT things that sound nice.
Do NOT support things that sound stupid or mean.
See, these words are ugly together; they invoke fear and terror (and a god-complex) and I cannot get a good feeling anywhere I look in that duad.
Where as... "Assisted Death" sounds like a helpful thing, I imagine a friendly hand to hold, on an otherwise dark and tremulous path. (Angel complex, maybe, but still it seems much more benign).
Now, GAY MARRIAGE... sounds like Carnival!
I want to be invited to THAT party!
These two words take major guts to say (even more in combo), so if two people have the courage to stand up and say these words aloud, to each other, and the rest of the world to boot...
Well, toss me the bouquet, sister!
As a card carrying member of the tribe of true-love and lifetime commitment, I just can't see why anyone needs to argue about such an obvious addition to human rights and happiness.
Now, stay tuned, for the NEXT BLOG, which will be very very exciting!
JON, promises to recount his latest daily "wow that was lucky" adventure of getting closely inspected by a roving pack of giant SHARKS, who decided to check him out, while he was spearfishing ALONE OUTSIDE THE PASS, IN THE CURRENT SQUALL WE ARE EXPERIENCING!!!!!!!
Ah well...it's certainly never dull.
(And I'm gonna go have that rum now.)
...and some more video entertainment for you...